A Life Lived in Apples
by Carrie Mills
The ladder leans against the old apple tree.
“You’ve still got a cracking pair of legs honey.”
He reaches his hand up my skirt to squeeze my thigh, holding it there a moment before letting his fingers trace their wicked way back down.
“Hands to yourself old man; I’ll fall off this ladder if you keep that up.”
I push aside leaves and find a nice-looking apple, testing the weight before a twist sees it yield.
“Do you remember planting this one, John?”
“Sam chose it, didn’t he? Let me see… Apple Scrumptious.”
I pass the apple down for him to place in the basket with the others. He smiles up at me and the light through the leaves is kind to his face.
I move down a rung, unsettling the ladder and having to grasp the rails. John drops the basket to catch me on reflex, letting out a sharp breath because of the sudden movement.
“I’m ok John, I’ve got this.”
“Bloody back. I should be the one up there, Bess. What kind of man are you left with?”
“The only man I have ever needed. Now, pick the basket up, there’s a nice little crop here and I’m not leaving them to the birds. Sam and Grace will be waiting with the kids. I think I’ll make them a crumble to take home.”
Creaking, he bows to pick the basket back up, checking for bruises. He takes a moment, and I see memories push aside the pain from the knots in his limbs.
“Do you remember the time he fell off there? I had to carry him all the way back to the house, howling and carrying on like the world would end.”
“He’d broken his arm. Of course I remember. Gave me the fright of my life to hear the pair of you. Both hollering and you as white as a sheet.”
This year’s harvest is nearly over. How many more will we have?
I move to the last rung and hesitate with my foot suspended above the ground. I can hear John’s breathing coming in rasps and whistles as he watches me.
We used to bite into apples, laid out dappled in the shades of summer. The sound of the children’s laughter weaving amongst the trees. I used to have my own teeth. John used to have hair. He would turn the colour of chestnuts in the sun.
I step down onto earth that meets me with a sigh. John takes my hand, and we carry our basket of apples back to the house and the family we made.
The maggot at my core twists while it eats. Too deep to cut out, they said.
A leaf falls from an apple tree, and I lean against John, the light fading behind us.
About the author
Carrie Mills was born in Wales and is now living in London with her violinist husband and two children. Coming out of the fog of early parenthood she found her love of reading had bred a passion for writing. Her day-to-day life revolves around books, music, and food. Recently published in Horrified Magazine and Terse Journal, Carrie writes poems and short stories alongside her novel in progress. She can be found on Instagram @carriemillswrites.
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