Appleslice Sunrise

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

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Happy Romance

I stared out the window of the taxi at the turning trees flashing by. The trip from New York to Albany last night had been exhausting, and now I was on her way to The Orchard at Fallen Leaves in Woodstock, Vermont to meet up with my boyfriend, Roger. 

Actually, he wasn’t my boyfriend. I didn’t know what he was. We had decided to take a break for a week or two while Roger moved to Boston to become an environmental scientist and I worked on a fashion show for a new Celia York line. 

That had been five months ago.

The driver pulled into the long circular drive in front of the main lodge. The converted barn was painted a tranquil apricot orange with the classic white trim. The doors were propped open, letting the crisp morning breeze flow through the building.

I stepped out of the cab and wrapped my Burberry trench coat a little tighter around my thin frame. My ankle boots clacked against the pavement as I entered the sunlit lobby. The woman standing the front desk took notice of me and asked,

“Can I help you?”

“Yes,” I replied. “I’m looking for Roger Townsend. He’s doing a research project here.”

The woman looked down at her computer and pulled up a map, turning the screen for me to see.

“Dr. Townsend is in Orchard 5, out here,” she pointed to a spot about a fifteen minute walk from the main lodge. “I can have someone drive you out on a golf cart,”

“No thank you,” I replied, shoving my hands in my pockets. “I can walk.”

“Alright,” the woman said. “If you go out that door, it’ll lead you to the path. Just keep going straight until you see a wooden sign that says Orchard 5.”

“Thank you,” I moved towards the door, a gust of wind greeting me as I stepped out. 

I strolled down the path, taking my time and thinking about how this interaction might turn out. My phone buzzed in the pocket of my white jeggings, and I pulled it out. A picture of a man in a silver suit and the name Preston Gibson flashed on the screen. Preston worked at Celia York with me, and we had gone out once last week before Cody, Roger's little brother who was also living in New York, reached out and told me that Roger wanted to meet up.

I stared down at the call, and finally pressed ignore. I put her phone away and continued on down the path, breathing in the cool Vermont air. Colorful fallen leaves crunched under my feet as I admired the passing orchards. The smell of clean air was something my nose had become foreign to.

A small, handpainted wooden sign poked up through the ground and the layers of vivid leaves. I sighed and stepped onto the dewy grass, glancing up and down each row, trying to find Roger. 

I paused. 

The sound of a pen scratching on paper nearby led me to the back of the orchard. I gasped as I gaped at my surroundings.

Soft, green, rolling hills stretched as far as the eye could see, some hidden underneath seas of picturesque autumn trees. Scatterings of leaves ranging from banana yellow to tiger orange to crimson red blanketed the other spaces. Pure, brilliant, morning sunlight shined down at the earth, enveloping everything in a basking glow. It glinted off of the wet leaves and illuminated Roger in a warm, romantic, backlight.

He glanced up at me, lowering his clipboard and giving a small smile. I ambled towards him hesitantly, parking myself a few feet away from him and watched him work.

Roger plucked an apple from the tree standing stagnant in front of him, and inserted a little white test stick into the juicy flesh. He waited, stroking the smooth skin with his fingers, and withdrew it, sticking it into a small device. It beeped and flashed a series of numbers on its screen. Roger dropped the apple into a basket at his feet, put his clipboard on the ground, and spun around to face me.

“Hey,” Roger stuffed his hands into his khakis and rocked back and forth on his heels.

“Hi,” I replied awkwardly, playing with my hands and focusing on the two yam-colored criss-crossed ruffles on the front of my shirt. “So, how have you been?”

“Good,” Roger responded quickly. “And you?”

“Good, good,” I answered.

We both sighed and examined our shoes, not wanting to look the other in the eye.

“You still wear that,” Roger observed, pointing to my high ponytail.

“Yeah, it’s kind of my signature look,” I said, fingering the ends of my hair.

“How’s Mocha?” Roger asked. Mocha was the chocolate-colored miniature goldendoodle Roger had surprised me with for my birthday a month before our break.

“She's fine. I swear she’s getting fluffier every day,”

Roger chuckled and looked up, his warm brown eyes melting my awkwardness away.

“So, what project are you working on now?” I questioned, inching closer and crouching down to inspect an array of leaves he had laid out on a page of white cardstock.

“We’re measuring how much sunlight affects the colors of changing leaves and the juiciness of an apple. I’m also testing how much morning dew affects the nutrition of an apple tree.” Roger replied, sweeping his chocolate brown hair out of his face and rolling up his sleeves.

“Cool,” I said as Roger knelt down to check a device stuck into the ground at the base of the tree.

“Yeah,” he gave a small laugh and darted his eyes back and forth between me and the clipboard.

I sighed and my smile faltered.

“We really need to talk,” I pleaded, and Roger’s smile fell.

“Yeah,” he whispered after a pause, running his fingers through his hair. The sun had positioned itself higher in the sky and evaporated the dew off of the grass. We slid down to sit, and I put my hand on top of his.

“What happened between us?” I asked, looking at the ground and hugging my knees to my chest.

“I don’t know,” Roger replied, staring down at his hand and stroking the top of mine. “We just got distracted and drifted apart.”

“I missed you,” I whispered, and gripped his hand, tears starting to form in my eyes.

“Me too,” Roger looked up and put my cheek in his hand, wiping away an escaped tear. “Can we try this again?”

I laughed and nodded, more tears escaping my eyes and rolling down my cheeks. A carefree trademark smile spread across Roger’s face and he stood up, offering his arm to me. I grab it and he pulls me up off of the ground. Roger starts to pack up all of his equipment, stuffing it all in a navy duffel bag. He slung it over his shoulder and picked up two empty wooden baskets.

“I get to pick some of the apples in the orchard as a favor. Help me?” he asked.

“Sure,” I smiled and replied, taking one of the baskets from him. Roger grabbed my hand and kissed it. He lowered our hands slightly, his warm brown eyes connecting with mine. I raised myself onto my toes, kissing him on the lips. Soft at first, then harder. 

I dropped my basket on the ground and slung my arms around his neck. The warmth of his breath made me feel tingly. Roger wrapped his arms around my waist, pulling me closer to him. I could feel his abs through his shirt, stiff and strong.

We broke and stared at each other, silent.

A million words flew between us, yet our mouths stayed closed. Everything felt perfect now. A moment of pure bliss. Pure content.

All of a sudden, Roger’s apple basket came plunking over my head, squashing my ponytail. I whipped it off and saw Roger running jogging backwards, a big goofy smile on his face.

“Ponytail ain’t so perfect now!” he grinned.

“Oh, you’re gonna pay for that!” I smiled and ran after him.

He turned, picked an apple off of a tree, and tossed it at me. I shielded myself with my basket and heard the apple thunk inside.

“He shoots, he scores!” Roger threw his hands up in celebration.

I took an apple from a tree and threw it back at him. Roger caught it and took a massive bite.

“Mmm. Delicious. Thanks!” he said, his mouth full.

I laughed and started running towards him. He made a face and spirited down the path in the direction of the main lodge, clasping his duffel which was falling off of his shoulder.

“Can’t run very fast in those heels!” he shouted over his shoulder.

“Oh yeah?” I challenged, speeding up and kicking dust in my wake.

Roger skidded to a halt and caught me in his arms. He tapped the tip of my nose.

“Oh yeah.”

October 14, 2020 20:46

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