Before the Bad Times

Submitted into Contest #63 in response to: Write about two characters going apple picking.... view prompt

1 comment

Fiction LGBTQ+

They walked hand in hand through the orchard that was blazing with color in the dappled sunlight, sacks of apples in their free hands. Emily, with her long legs and tall, brown suede boots, had picked the delectable Jonathans that were too high for most people to reach. Liana had scampered under the low branches selecting juicy Granny Smith’s that hid under leaves and behind knobby branches. Her short, blonde curls shone and her cheeks were as red as the plump apples in her beloved’s basket. 

“So what’s for dinner?” Liana asked, shuffling along in the leaves that adorned the path to make them rustle. “And do not say lentil soup again. I’ve farted all I care to this week.” They both laughed. 

“Don’t worry, I’ve had about all I can take of your gas,” Emily said. She reached up to an overhanging bough and effortlessly plucked a plump golden delicious. She rubbed it on her jeans and took a huge, loud bite. “Maybe apple pie?” she asked with her mouth full of crunching. “Apple crumble?” “Apple brown betty?” 

“Maybe apple brown Emily?” Liana asked with a chuckle. She looked up at Emily and was struck by the pangs of sun on her dark hair and the merry look in her brown eyes. It was all too perfect; the colors of the sky and trees, the aroma of apples and decay, the incandescent joy in her heart. 

Emily smiled and grasped Liana’s hand more tightly. Her heart was filled with the same joy, but then she thought, We’re living in the time before the bad times. So many awful things will happen to us, but this is before them all. She tried not to let her anxiety rule her, but it was hard knowing how fleeting her happiness felt.

Emily stopped short. Looking around slyly, she pulled Liana into a cusp of branches that provided a screen from the path. They were deep into the orchard and sounds of children hopped up on cider and doughnuts had faded. “Kiss me, you rogue,” Emily whispered.

Liana grinned. Emily loved to play slightly silly games tinged with swashbuckling sweethearts. “You’re mine now,” Liana said in a rough voice. She reached up to pull Emily’s pale oval face and thin mouth to her own. She kissed her like a backwoods stagecoach robber, like a high seas pirate, like a ruffian of the lowest order. 

When she broke the kiss, Liana felt like dancing a jig on a chest full of gold doubloons. And speaking of booty… she grabbed Emily’s ass with both hands and squeezed. Desire surged through her body like the warm wind that flowed over them. “I love you,” she murmured into Emily’s ear and to the world at large. The trees surrounded them with a woody embrace. 

With no warning, the largest branch concealing them was wrenched open and they stood exposed like the beating heart in a broken ribcage. Two men peered in at them, one with a dark and threatening expression. “Well now, lookit this, Frank. Some sweethearts out stealing a kiss in the apple orchard,” the one with a stained blue t-shirt and craggly face said. 

Frank said, “Oh go on, Wayne, leave them be. They aren’t hurting anyone.” His button down checked shirt and expensive looking jeans looked out of place next to Wayne’s.

Emily looked wildly around for an escape. They were trapped, penned in by the branches. Of course. The end of the good times. I knew it, she thought. 

The one called Wayne said, “Hey now, I’m just being friendly. These here seem like friendly ladies. Seems like y’all are some good kissers.” 

Frank kicked at some rotten apples. “No, Wayne,” he said quietly. “Don’t do anything stupid.”

“Don’t do what?” Wayne said. Emily and Liana could smell the sharp stink of him and see his bloodshot eyes. “I just want a little old kiss is all. These queer gals are more than happy to oblige, aren’t you?” He took a step closer. 

Frank made a motion as though to stop him, but did nothing as Wayne stepped into the cave made by the branches.

Emily would not let anything happen to Liana. She thought quickly. “I go high, you go low,” she said, very quietly. Liana looked at her in surprise. “Meet in red delicious. NOW!” She grabbed the nearest branch and swung herself up. The branches were close together and she easily reached the next tree over. She glanced down to see Liana dart under a low branch, then another and another, before running headlong down the wide path on the other side. Wayne and Frank looked too surprised to follow either one of them. Emily climbed and swung her way to the end of the aisle before she leapt out of the canopy and ran.

As Emily ran with clenched fists and adrenaline filled veins, she thought only of Liana. At last she skidded to a halt at the red delicious area close to the barn. Liana wasn’t there. Her heart squeezed. No. God, no. Please.

Then Liana stepped from behind a tree, a gloriously crimson red delicious balanced on her open palm. “How about an apple, my pretty?” She giggled, but was panting.

“Holy crap, Liana.” Emily's hands were on her chest. “Hell. Damn. Damnit!” 

Liana stepped closer to her, a serious look on her face. “Don’t get started on the ‘bad times,’” she said. “Nothing happened.”

“We were just almost attacked!” Emily said. “Killed! Raped!” Her voice was high and her face flushed. “That wasn’t some kind of game, Liana. That redneck was not joking around.”

“Emily. I know. Of course I know. That was terrifying.” She brushed her shining hair out of her big blue eyes. She took Emily’s hand. “But we’re ok. You made sure of that,” she said with a smile.

“We could have been killed,” Emily said. 

“But we weren’t. You saved us,” Liana said. Suddenly, she dropped to the leaf-strewn ground. 

“My God, Liana! What’s wrong? Should I call 911?” Emily pulled at Liana’s hand, which still held hers.

“I’m fine, Liana said. She took both of Emily’s hands in her own. “I love you, Emily. WIth all my heart, I do.”

“And I love you. But are you ok?” Emily asked.

“I’m on one knee,” Liana said. “I’m on one knee and I’m asking you to marry me.” She saw Emily’s shocked face and hesitated, but went on in a confident voice. “It’s not just the adrenaline, babe. It’s this day. The utterly perfect joy and the fear and near disaster. It’s all that we shared today and will share in the future. Marry me and we’ll always rescue each other, no matter what. Be mine, my love. Forever.” She looked crestfallen for a moment, but with a grin she seized the ruby apple by her foot and held it out in lieu of a ring.

Emily just stared at her. She’d been nearly attacked and proposed to in the space of 15 minutes. Her heart was pumping hard again as she considered. This is the time before the bad times, she thought. But she took the apple, and said, “Yes.”

October 15, 2020 15:42

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1 comment

Lavinia Hughes
14:54 Oct 23, 2020

I saw the different types of apples as a metaphor for different varieties of people in the world, some straight, some gay, but all of them good in their own way. Rotten apples would be, of course, the intolerant people. Well written.


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