Apple of My Eye

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

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Drama Romance Fiction

WARNING- SOME mature language -cursing-.




  Fuzzy and warm in my honey cashmere hoodie, a grin grudgingly gains ground on my stiff face. A glance at the oval mirror above my oak wood dresser saps the hearth-like coziness from my chest.

Boots plop on the creaking chestnut floor outside my bedroom door.

"Ali," calls out James, my little brother. My heart flutters every time he squeals my name with his mouse-on-helium voice. The brass door handle twists and turns. I hasten to pull the silky hoodie over my short ponytail and tighten it, covering the left side of my face, just as he figures out the correct way to open the door. He splats onto the floor, a puddle of oversized boots and a baggy yellow rain coat. He pushes himself up, little arms trembling with the force.

"Mommy said born rudder," his handless sleeves struggle to lift the drooping hood from his eyes. "I think you need to harry."

I chuckle at the attempt and trace circles on the smooth touchpad inset on my powerchair's arm, finger gliding over it like a figure skater on glass ice. The chair rotates in tune and accelerates as I slide my finger forward.

Orange and yellow leaves twirl through the air, entering through the open front door, like flamboyant guests invited to a banquet. Underneath my powerchair's hard rubber wheels, the leaves crunch like saltines. A murmur trembles my belly, wonder how many apples I'll munch on while no one's looking.








Emerging from the house, I'm greeted by laughing strangers whose cameras flash in my eyes.







The door slams shut.

My heart leaps.

I blink several times; the strangers vanish.

In the minivan out front, up the driveway, mom and dad smile at me.

"Come on, come on harry Ali," my powerchair leans a fraction of an inch as James clutches the back; his pointy chin pokes from underneath his drooping yellow hood.

"Hang on little guy," I tap my finger twice on the touchpad and we dart up the driveway.

"Weeeeeee," he squeals tingling my eardrum.

We come to a slow stop and he jumps off, waddling into the eggshell white minivan. I navigate to the ramp and raise a thumbs up. The hydraulics buzz, lifting me into the van's belly.

"Pray-sush cargo seccor Sir," James yells, helping me with the powerchair restraints.

"Good job private," Dad salutes him. "Now time to secure yourself, on the double private."

Dad smiles at me through the rearview mirror. I send him a smile back, hopefully it looks as genuine as his.

"Alice," calls Mom. "You should take it slow on that chair,"

I pull the hoodie laces a bit tighter and gaze out the side window, watching trees pass as the van accelerates down the road.

In my peripheral, I see Dad give her the look and turn the radio on, filling silence with soft music.

"Hey sis," James whispers, or tries to.

"Yes James," I pull my sleeve over my knuckles and rest my nose on them.

"Are you gonna, you gonna dance at the dance tonight at the dance,"

"Little excited about the dance huh kid," I smirk, he is so innocent, almost too innocent.

"Laura is gonna play the villain."

Too late kid, role taken.

"You mean the violin."

"Yeah, that's what I say."

"No, I don't think I'll be dancing anytime soon," I stare at my navy blue sweatpants, hiding legs that demanded attention from hundreds of flashing cameras, seas of sparkling lights. My heart lurches at memories of cloudless, starry nights just outside airplane windows, so close I could almost reach out and —.

The minivan whips right, then left before straightening.

"Stray cat, stray cat, were ok Alice! Alice were ok," yells Dad over the screaming.

My screaming.

I lower my crossed arms. The left side of my face burns as I pat dry the tears with the inside of my hoodie. It takes a few moments, but I'm back in the van.

Everyone is quiet.

Mom turns in the passenger side seat, eyes wide and lips quivering, staring at me.

She slaps dads arm, but it's uncalled for. I can see his chest heaving through the rearview mirror.

"I'm okay, I, just trying to spook James is all," I lie.

"Mission accomplice," he squeals.

Thirty-one long minutes later, we pull onto a dirt road, rocking gently through the open, vine-covered gate.

I wrap my arms around James, squeezing him like a tiny, giggling teddy bear as the ramp lowers us with a buzz.

A man in indigo blue denim overalls, which hang loosely by one strap over his red and black plaid shirt, stands with his back turned to us. James slides off and waddles straight to the man's legs, slinging his little arms around the mans knees. The man turns from the wicker baskets he is arranging on the table. He snatches up James, who squeals with renewed vigor, and swings him in a circle.

"Hey James," my teeth chatter from the small pebbles passing under my wheels. "James you can't just attack strangers like — ," the man and I freeze. I swear my heart just fell out of my ass then tried to climb up my throat.

"Again, again," James demands.

The man puts him down, to James' whimpering displeasure and turns to the table. He returns to the tiny cross-armed tyrant and gifts him two wicker baskets. James struggles, but finally manages to grip both whicker handles in his sleeves. They bounce in his hands, a yellow penguin flapping towards me. He jumps onto the back of the powerchair, sliding the basket handles through the powerchair push bars.

"Up, up, and away," James declares, tapping the top of my hooded head.

I tear my eyes from the man and we start rocking down the dirt road.

"Go fasser Ali, fasser."

He looks the same. Yet different. A bit more hair on his face. He's grown into his clothes. His eyes are.

"Wow Ali look," James' sleeve almost slaps the side of my face. He's pointing to the sunset. The sky is on fire, orange and red like the trees surrounding us.






Thick, dark-red liquid drips from my hands, pooling on the pavement as I hang upside down.






"Ali!"

I jump.

"Ali look, the dancing, the dancing," James points to a large group of tables arranged around a raised platform in the distance. He jumps off, sprinting to the groups of jovial grand dads and grand maws, skipping grandchildren and grinning parents, setting up tables, Mic stands, and fall dishes wrapped in cellophane. I see Mom and Dad wave. Mom shakes her head at the bobbing yellow raincoat dashing at them. My lungs shudder, watching his little legs kick up globs of brown dirt behind him.

"Excuse me miss,"

Oh my god, no. My stomach stabs at my, at my, I don't know what it stabs it just stabs.

"Ma'am, I count two baskets but only one person," his deep voice, it prickles up my spine.

Ma'am? Wait, my hoodie. He must not recognize me. Thank God.

I trace circles on the touchpad until I face him. His sleeves are rolled up, revealing toned and veiny forearms.

"It's only one per person," he leans over, his apple cider sweat-mixed scent showers over me. He grabs the two baskets off the push bars and leans back as I bury my nose into my sleeve-covered palms, smothering the aroma.

"I'm afraid I'm going have to take one."

Yes please, go, leave.

"And join you on your apple pickin,"

DAMN.

He places one of the wicker baskets on my lap.

"Uhh, no thanks Sir, I'll be — ,"

"Sir?" his reddish brown brow cocks up. "Well, all is fair."

My hands start trembling, why the hell are they trembling.

"I did call you Ma'am first," he flashes his teeth, white as ivory limo paint contrasted against his olive skin.

My chin dips into my chest keeping its contents from bursting out, but my eyes stay glued to his quivering dimples.

"Your parents didn't tell me you lost your tongue in the cra —," he cuts the word short and puckers his face.

My mouth hangs open under my sleeved hands, ready to speak, but I can't remember how.

"Uh, so," he scratches his back, lifting his elbow to his face and my nostrils flare at his heavy scent clinging to the soft breeze. "Well Alice," He holds out his hand.

Damn it, he does recognize me.

"Yeah, sure," I barely mumble, ignoring his hand and scratching the powerchair's touchscreen.

We head off the main dirt road and into the apple orchard.

He walks close to the trees as we pass slowly by them.

I remember us, racing bare foot through this field; cool grass cushioning our little heels like stringy, green carpet. The wind sprinkling flavor on our rapid, but deep breaths; a curtain sewn from the sweet and sour odors of fallen apples fermenting on lush, wet earth. My stomach murmurs loud. He cracks a smile, gazing at the ground. I can't tell if he's recalling the same memories or if he's just laughing at me. It must make him feel good, knowing that I got what I deserve. Knowing my life in the fast lane had swerved his proposal, only to skid off easy street and slam into reality.








I can hear them. Laughing. Taking pictures. No one helping. Just fucking watching me crawl out. Struggling to stand on legs I can't feel. Pointing. Yelling. "Can't run from us now,", "Give us a pose now,", "Would you like an apple now."








"Alice," his hand shakes my shoulder.

I jump.

"Would you like an apple now?"

"What?" I push my fingers against my pulsing temple.

"An apple? Thought you might be hungry," his eyes are soft yet intense.

"No," I say quicker than I mean to. "I mean, I can get one myself," I accelerate forward, away from his piercing stare, to a branch drooping low with a few, fat green apples. I reach for the lowest one and pull. The branch stretches down, but tugs back like James fighting Mom's attempts to replace his yellow raincoat with a proper one. It slips from my tired fingers. I reach up again and again it slips my grasp.

It's getting dimmer, but I still catch his shadow elongating on the grass.

His tall shadow stops behind my small one. I switch off the automatic brakes as he begins pushing forward.

"You know Alice, when you left."

Oh no, no don't do this, not now.

"I...well I had a lot of hate brewing in me," his voice becomes hoarse. I can hear him clearing the lump in his throat.

"My Pa, he let me be for a long while," his words drip like molasses and the bitter resentment is just as thick. We come to an old tree, it's leaves a dull brown in dusk light. He parks me in front of it, the dark brown bark is gnarled and its branches, thin and fragile, crackle in the wind like an old hag cracking her boney knuckles.

"After I was done hating you, me, him, everyone and everything in this town, he came to me," he searches for one and upon finding it, he pulls it down and holds his hand out to me. I hesitate in thought, but my finger slides up, propelling me forward at a snails pace.

"He brought me here, to this very tree and he said,"

I reach up. Our finger tips touch and I pull back, a child touching a flame.

"He said, when you pick apples," he pulls the branch down which bends, surprisingly, like rubber in his grasp.

"You can tell which ones are ready for the pickin."






He drops to one knee.

I glare at him.

He reveals a small black box.

I smother his hands with mine before he can open it.

Around us, the people gasp as I shake my head and try to lift him.

He looks utterly confused.

I can't breathe.

I can't stay.

I run.

Never looking back.







His hand grips mine and I'm sitting in the powerchair again. Tingles flow down my arm and flutter through my chest, his hand is warmth on a cold day, his grasp, gentle, yet firm, like Dad's welcome-home hugs. My breath runs away so quick I dread I'll never catch it.

"The ones that are ready, they don't fight, they don't struggle," he brings the golden-bottom red apple to my open palm and cups his hand around mine. The apple dangles just above my trembling fingers. He lets the branch swing back and the apple falls, resting in my palm.

"The ones that are ready. They just need a firm hand for them to land on," he nudges my hand.

My teeth sink into the soft red flesh like a white-hot knife through butter, its juices squirt the roof of my mouth. The rich pulp melts against my lips dripping ripe sweetness onto my tongue. I pull the apple from my mouth, making a loud, wet slurp that ignites my cheeks.







We're in the barn, children and it's night outside.

We sit on a comfy stack of hay, both dressed in dirt stained overalls.

He hands me his frayed straw hat.

I accept it and peck him on his dirty cheek.

He blushes a mad red, climbs up a wooden beam and turns towards me.

"Alice," he proclaims, the long blade of grass in his mouth swaying with every syllable. "You gon be my ol' lady one day."

"Oh, mista, I'd be so inclined to except your proprosol," I clasp my tiny hands together and give him my best actress side look.

"Huh?" he furrows his bushy brown brows.

I shake my head, forgetting his father doesn't own a T.V. .

"I do," I exclaim.

He jumps off the beam like a wild monkey, falling and disappearing into the hay stack.

I shriek and dig up tiny handfuls of hay. I find him, face down and roll him over with all my force. His eyes are shut and my lip quivers.

He jumps up, grabs my shoulders and plops a wet one on my lips.

I smack him across the face, but my pudgy little hands don't phase his widening grin.

He runs to a corner of the barn, retrieving something wrapped in brown paper from his dad's toolbox.

He runs back to me and opens the paper. Inside is a golden-bottom red apple and he holds it out to me as if it were a precious stone.

I bring it to my mouth and bite into it. It's so good I give him another kiss.

"Oh, Alice. You're the — ."









My eyes burn as he pushes me down the dirt road. The sky is dark and we move closer to the sounds of laughter and music still in the distance.

I trace the scar on my face, covered by my hoodie. It stretches from the bottom of my brow and branches out around the corner of my lip, ending under my chin like melted plastic.

I can hear the towns people laughing in the distance, imagine them dancing, smiling, enjoying the life I tossed to the side.

Dreams.

No.

Delusions of being on T.V., of being famous.

All added up to this.

A fucking wheelchai —.

Something rumbles from deep within.

I hold my breath but it surges with more ferocity.

It grows.

It pulsates.

It escalates.

The flailing beast claws my throat.

Rupturing out.

Gripping and pulling my eyes outward.

Turning my fingers rigid.

It drags the breath out of me.

Crushing my chest inward.

Ending, in a violent, choking wail.

He's there in an instant, pushing the hoodie off my head, cupping my cheeks burning in his calloused hands. His eyes, filled with confusion and worry, stir the jagged knife in my heart. I barely hear him ask, "what's wrong Alice?"

My will shatters and the words spew out in a shriek.

"I'm a monster!"

He pulls me close as I fight him in vain, my strength ravaged by the beast.

His arms squeeze me.

They shelter me and finally I surrender, digging my face into his chest and let it all go.









Time melts away in his embrace and I hear nothing. Nothing but the strong beat of his heart mixing with distant strings of a crying violin. A duet drenched in woe. He's seen what I look like now and tomorrow I'll leave. My plane ticket waits for me on my night stand as it has for three moonless nights. A one way trip to anywhere but here.

I push off his sturdy chest.

"I'm leav — ."

His lips press down on mine and gravity slides off my shoulders like a silk nightgown.

He lifts me off my chair by my waist and, releasing our lips, we both breathe deep the crisp night air.

I drape my arms around his neck as his warm body presses against mine.

Gently, silently, we sway side-to-side in-tune with the slow melody of the distant violin.

"Alice."

"Yes."

"I'm gonna bake some pies for the ol' folk tomorrow morn, would you care to join me."

For the first time, in a long time, I can't remember the past, I can't imagine the future.

"That sounds...good."

"And hey."

"Yes."

"You always were and always will be, the apple of my eye."


                                                                                                            ~FIN~

October 15, 2020 04:11

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1 comment

Ashton Noble
05:34 Oct 15, 2020

Hope you've enjoyed this, it's my first attempt at romance. Let me know what I did good and what I did bad. Bless you and yours.

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