Faded Overalls

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

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Fiction Friendship Teens & Young Adult

North Carolina is 1,332 miles away according to the online map I’m looking at. The flight time isn’t too bad, but driving would be an all-day event. Possibly longer the way Sarah drives. She insists on stopping anytime she sees something that looks fun and, preferably, inexpensive. It makes for a great adventure when I’m in the mood for it yet a long trip when I’m in a hurry. I took it for granted, though. I never thought we’d live so far apart that we couldn’t take random road trips. I expected the business of work, marriage, maybe even kids someday, but not distance.

Sarah has been my dearest friend since elementary school. We have been here for each other through everything: field trips, periods, first kisses, heartbreaks, prom, graduation, the freshman fifteen. In fact, I introduced her to her husband, Phillip, a transfer student from the East Coast who wrote poetry about the sea. The first few years of their marriage, they stayed here, and we tried to make Phillip love the charm of the Midwest, the comfort of country air and freshly mowed hayfields. His art suffered—he loved Sarah but yearned for his home.

It’s been 10 months since they moved, and I hadn’t seen Sarah and Phillip since. Finally, finally, she messaged me last week to tell me she was flying in to partake in our annual fall festival tradition, and I felt what could only be described as glee.

I’m still elated as I pull into the gravel parking lot of the Harvest Farms Fall Festival. I park, and Sarah gets out of the car. We’re matching in overalls and flannel shirts. Her hair is pulled into a low ponytail—it looks longer than the last time I saw it. A little lighter, too. It must be from spending her summer at the Carolina beaches.

“It’s your turn to pay this year, you know,” she says, nudging me as we approach the ticket table.

“I remember. I wouldn’t make you pay after you flew all the way here, anyway.” We pick up a couple baskets and head for the orchards. I could spend all day here. I love being surrounded by the thick bunches of trees, apples dangling from the branches, waiting to be chosen.

I can hear Sarah take a deep breath. “I missed this,” she says, closing her eyes. We stand for a moment and listen to the sparrows and bluebirds chirp. Sarah is the first to move down the path, stopping to look intensely at each tree. It’s always her goal to gather as many “perfect” apples as she can find.

“Mom’s been talking nonstop about making a cobbler from some of our apple fortune,” I say, picking up an apple someone discarded. Still whole, only slightly bruised. I toss it in my basket.

“Maybe she’ll let me take some home. Phillip loves apple cobbler,” Sarah replies, reaching into one of the trees. She pulls out a round, deep-red apple and smiles at its beauty before gently placing it in the bottom of her basket.

“It’s too bad Phillip couldn’t make it.”

Sarah snorts and moves to another tree. “It’s not. I needed to come back here by myself to, I don’t know, really appreciate it?”

“Without worrying about entertaining him?”

“Exactly. He’d want to just go buy apples at the farmer’s market.”

“Really? I thought he’d value the experience for some sort of poetic inspiration.” My basket if filling much more quickly than Sarah’s. It always does.

“He’s been here once. I think that’s all the inspiration from the orchards he wants.” Sarah laughs. “Now take him to an ocean, and he can stay there for hours. Not rivers, though. Not again.”

“Remember when we went on that float trip?” We both groan.

“My gosh, I didn’t think he’d ever shut up about it. ‘It’s so muddy. What if there are snakes? What if we step on a needle?’”

“Think he’d do okay now that he knows what to expect?” I ask.

“I wouldn’t count on it. Somehow drifting peacefully down a river where you can see the banks is scarier than floating in a never-ending ocean.”

We laugh and pick in silence for a while. The atmosphere starts to feel more somber. Quietly, Sarah says, “I miss being here.” She stares at the tree in front of her as she talks. “Phillip loves it by the beach, but I’m not a beach person. Sand gets everywhere, there are sharks. People are always like, ‘Oh, you must feel so relaxed all the time,’ but it’s not relaxing at all for me. What kind of person doesn’t like the beach?”

“The shark concern seems pretty legitimate.”

Sarah laughs and then sighs. “It’s not just that. He has this whole other life there. Family, old friends. I’m happy that he has that. He’s so excited to share it with me, and I love him for it. I just don’t think he understands that I don’t have that anymore. It’s taking a toll on me. I’m not good at meeting new people—”

“Is anyone in their mid-twenties?” I interject.

“No, I don’t think so! Because no one seems interested! Or even if they are, they’re busy with work and kids. And of course we don’t have kids so there’s a whole other networking opportunity missed.”

“Ah, yes, you have responsibly declined the lifelong commitment of bringing a child onto this earth at the cost of social advancement.” I smirk, and she mimics throwing an apple at my head.

“You know what I mean. It’s just hard. I miss you like crazy, too.”

“I miss you too.” I knew the distance hurt, but I didn’t realize how much until I said it aloud. I glance at my best friend in her patched-up, faded overalls. She’s still looking straight ahead, trying to hide the fact that her eyes are welling up with tears. I set my basket down and pull her into a hug, and we cry together, grieving the loss of each other’s presence.

October 13, 2020 20:29

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2 comments

Pepe Bellerin
18:20 Oct 20, 2020

I thought this was a very sweet story that hit uncomfortably close to home. It's very genuine and conveys tenderness really well. The only thing I'd say is the third sentence of the first paragraph was a bit confusing to read at first - is there a comma that could go there somewhere? Otherwise I really enjoyed it, great job :)

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Paige Leppanen
03:50 Oct 21, 2020

Yep, probably could've made that flow better. Oops! Thanks for the feedback :)

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