I look out the window, staring at the vines arranged in colorful green alleys. Grapes are growing from them. Grapes we’ll use to make our famous wine. Wine the young people will drink. It doesn't make any sense to me- everyone knows what alcohol does to you. Why consume it?
It’s the late summer, meaning the vines are at the most vibrant stage of the grape season. Yet soon they’ll get duller. And by the time winter comes around, the grapes will start to go bad and they won’t produce good wine. Near the beginning of school, they’ll be completely gone.
This cycle reminds me of Papa. He was so vibrant, all smiles and waves and humor. Soon after he was at that point he started to get sick, and then my beloved Papa was gone.
To outsiders, it seems like this grapevine cycle would take a while, but Mama, Jadyn and I have to wait eight months for the grapes to grow. There’s so much anticipation that it seems like we’re waiting for heaven on earth. Yet it only lasts for about half the time we spend waiting. I try to treat this season like I should’ve treated Papa- I make the most of it. Willow Vineyard is a special place this time of year.
I don’t get why we call our vineyard that. There isn’t a single willow tree on our property. I asked Mama about it once, but she didn’t seem to understand. She said, “Willow Vineyard is the name of this beautiful place, my girl Georgia. Don’t you go doubting that.”
But the name is Willow Vineyard’s only flaw. Because like I said- it’s special during these months. Now is when we pick our grapes. Mama is out there right now, gathering as many as she can fit in her basket. Though she’s been out for a while- she should be back now. I’ll go do some picking this afternoon. It’s one of my favorite things to do. I know where the best grapes are. And it’s not just the grapes that are in full bloom. The trees are stretching their branches up to the sky. The flowers are sharing their vibrant colors. I spot a goat nearby.
I spend the mornings inside. I love to look out our small house’s floor to ceiling windows. The shadows are long in the house, stretching out west since it’s the morning. Every vine nearby creates a shadow, blackening the house’s wooden floor.
“Georgia!” Jadyn calls from behind me. “Whatt’ya doin’ up so early? You woke me up!”
“Sorry,” I mutter, although I’m not sorry. We countryside folks are supposed to rise with the sun, and it’s not entirely my fault that I woke Jadyn up at eleven a.m.
Jadyn reminds me of Papa. Papa also slept in every day. It drove Mama crazy, and we laughed about it every morning. I thought it would never end. That every morning for the rest of my life I’d be joking about Papa, cackling along with the rest of the rest of the family. That it would never come to such a halt.
Jadyn is my older sister, twenty-one years old. She was a high-school dropout and worked at the Vineyard instead.
“Well, I’ma go make some breakfast,” Jadyn decides. “You want some?”
I shake my head. “I ate three hours ago.”
Jadyn crosses multiple shadows as she makes a beeline for the kitchen. I keep staring out the windows, looking over the valley. The wine country is expansive, and the Songs are just to the east. They own a vineyard too, and they would probably be our nemesis if Weston, one of their sons, wasn’t Jadyn’s boyfriend. But between our vineyard and the Song’s, the grapevines stretch out endlessly.
While Jadyn is making breakfast, Mama comes back in.
“Mama!” I exclaim. “You’ve been gone a while!”
“That’s cause I was out gettin’ the mail,” Mama explains. I squint at her. Mama doesn’t like going to get the mail. She has to walk a long way.
Mama dumps the mail down on the shadowy table. Dozens of envelopes fly down, but one catches my eye. It’s from Yale University, for me.
I quickly open it up, and when I pull it out…
I’ve been accepted.
A smile crawls across my face. I applied months ago, and I had to wait. Mama and Jadyn don’t know, though. Mama doesn’t want me going to college. She says she wants me to stay and pick the grapes or even take over Willow Vineyard. I could barely convince her to let me go to school, and that just took up half of my time.
Oh no, I think. What’ll I tell her?
“Mama,” I say slowly.
“Yes, Georgia?” she asks me.
“Mama…” a beat of silence follows, but then I spit it all out. “I’ve… been accepted into Yale University.”
“You applied?” she asks. She’s taking this about as well as I thought she would.
“Yes, I did. And… I’m going to go there.”
“You aren’t. You’re going to help, back here at Willow Vineyard. You aren’t going off to some fancy school to learn how to be a scholar.”
“Georgia,” Jadyn says, “what’ll it be? It’s Yale, or us.”
“The thing is,” I whisper, “while I love working here, I want to get to decide my own future. Work my own job. I can still be in touch with you, can’t I? And in the summer I can pick as many grapes as you want me to. And in the winter I can come home for Christmas. It’s not as big of a change as you’d think.”
Change is a strange thing for me. Change reminds me of Papa. He was different every day. Sometimes he was excited and happy. Sometimes he was deep and open. But he was never mean. Never angry. He would hear you out, whatever you had to say. That was what made him so vibrant.
Mama sighs. “I just can’t lose another family member. Can’t you understand that?”
“You won’t lose me,” I say. “You never will. I’ll write to you every day. I’ll FaceTime you everyday too, if you ever figure out how to work a phone. If I’m unlucky out there, I’ll come back to Willow Vineyard. I just want some more options.”
“Georgia,” Mama whispers. “Georgia, Georgia. I just want what’s best for you. And you’ve never lived around so many people before. I just thought… you wouldn’t be able to handle it.”
“Don’t worry, Juniper,” I say quietly.
“Excuse me?” Mama exclaims. I never call her by her first name.
“That’s what Papa would say. ‘Don’t worry, Juniper.’ I’m sure he’d be saying this, right here and right now, if he were still here.”
Mama sighs. “But you’ll come back?”
“Of course,” I say reassuringly. “I would never abandon Willow Vineyard. I would never abandon you.”
Mama sighs. “All right. You can go to that weird school if you want.”
I smile, looking out the window once again at the endless grapevines. It’s my last grape season. “I’m gonna go out and do some picking,” I declare.
While I’m out, gathering as many grapes as I can, I look around. Birds are in the sky- sparrows, I think, circling through the sapphire sky. Trees are dotted throughout the vineyard. Not any willows, though. I should really tell Mama to plant some, so this place can live up to it’s name. I can see Mama and Jadyn through the windows of the house. This place is so full of life.
Life reminds me of Papa. He made good use of his time here. He didn’t look back at the past or dream into the future. He kept up with the present, and got all he could from it. He used his life well. I wonder if the birds are trying to do that. To fly free, to venture through all corners of the air. I wouldn’t be surprised.
This place is beautiful. But I want to live. To not be confined into this place for the rest of my life. To try other things.
I pick more grapes off a vine. Soon Mama and Jadyn join me. We should do this as much as we can, when it’s the three of us.
Thank you, Papa, I think to myself. But not to myself, really. It’s like I’m stretching my mind to who knows where. I really hope Papa can hear it. You’ve changed me, and I think it’s for the better.
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Wow. Great story! I loved the descriptive words it made it so vibrant and made me felt like I was there in the house. Quite inspirational way different from the one I'm submitting. I never thought a story about shadows could be so bright. Great job!
Thank you for the feedback! My dad works in the wine business so I know a lot about vineyards and that kind of stuff (he dosen't grow grapes, but he has friends who do because of his job so I know.) I hope you will submit your story soon!
Oh yeah I really should do that :)
One question- Was this inspired by a book? :) Just wondering because your writing is so so so amazing The imagery is what really blows me away- wow. The descriptions were beautiful and the story was breathtaking. The end felt sweet and I applaud your talent to end off a story so nicely! I'm excited to find another kotlc fan! Keefe is definitely my favourite :)
Thanks! No, this wasn't really inspired by a book. I actually started with just the setting (because of the prompt) and made up the plot as I went along. AND YES KEEFE IS THE BEST! (I mean the character.)
Also what's your favorite kotlc book? Mine is book 8 (although many disagree.) Everything was weaved together well and the plot was awesome.
Oooh cool! (HE IS!) Mine is probably either book 4 or 8! And people disagree? Wow I didn't know. Books 8 is so good with all the Fitzphie going on and you know- the Neverseen plot twists!