Apple Orchard

by Kate Harland

There’s a somewhat delicate and complicated thing. A precious and knowing thing that         I have kept with me. A thing that’s forgotten ’cept for when it’s remembered and whole bunch of light bulbs go off all in a row. Little bits all lit up like sugary breadcrumbs in the moonlight making a memory path to her. Her candy eyes, showing me where to go when the thing takes over and I need to find my way. Lanterns flare and the huge bonfire that is her keeps my dark warm and keeps her alive. So much that no matter what, no matter how hard I try, I can’t quit thinking about that night down in the apple orchard when she whispered that she wanted me and loved me for real. Real real. Not just ‘they have best friends since kindergarten’ real.

And how I kept pretending to be asleep cos the thought of her hair in that pale leaf-tinged light made her look like one of them paintings in those big, heavy art books in the library. And how the ladies in them paintings couldn’t have really been ladies because their tits were on show, but then maybe? Because they were still heaps elegant. And how her tits must’ve looked like them, all firm and round and rosy like the apples that weighed down above us.


Like that’s a thing. It might be for someone else. For others. Because there has to be two for an Us. But not for us. Cos you whispered to me and I stayed sleeping my pretend sleep which I think maybe you hoped wasn’t fake. Cos your thing was that we’d never been an Us. That you didn’t really want to be. Your secret was for you only, even though you knew what my passed-out breathing sounded like and you knew it wasn’t the sharp, shallow silent hiccups that it was while you whispered. You wanted to tell me but only not really cos that’d make it real.

You picked an apple above me you knew wasn’t ripe just so you could brush those painted tits across my eyelids. Then took a bite. So loud it made the leaves shake and the drowsing birds ruffle feathers. But I didn’t stir. My fake slumber held my eyelashes interlocked, but yours were open, looking at me. Eyes like moonlit candy. They blinked at me and your lungs emptied from denial.

A swallow then a second bite. Even louder. And closer. Too close. I tasted apple juice. Mixed with your spit. It dampened my eyelids, fluttering them open to see you. A single bead of wet hung off your pouting lip. And I woke up and saw the excitement on your face become tears and snot and terror that dribbled onto my cheek.

You saw me awake and gulped. Your jaw clenched and trembled the repentant moisture bead off your lip and into my gullet. My mouth open to calm you. To share with you my reassurance and desire. None of which I got to speak, for all of it was choked back by that one drip. And you didn’t understand. You only heard me cough. And you yelped. Because you thought I was embarrassed. Or angry. Or confused. But I wasn’t. I wanted you.

I wanted to make us an Us thing. Like what you were scared of, only not scary. Not a strange and criminal thing. Not a thing that’d make us grounded by your mum and dad, or my mum and dad. Not a thing that’d have us caned at Sunday school. But a different thing. A loving and right thing that only we needed to know about. And that’s when you dropped the apple. And sat up. Your knee grinding my girly parts and I gasped. And you screamed.

A racked sobbing sort of scream that made me clamp my hand to your mouth. Not because I wanted to silence you. ’Cept I sort of did because you were being so loud. And ruining the gift you had just awoken in me. Your starry eyes got huge, and stared at mine, pleading. And mine must’ve been too. They had to be, my body was that desperate.

And I waited for you to do something. Something like you’d been doing. But you kept screaming, that’s all the fight you gave. Screamed ‘til you stopped. And your eyes closed and you fell back. I thought that maybe that was it, that it was my turn. So I sat up, sat over you, and unwrapped your silky church shirt with the lace trimmings and the daisy buttons. And rolled up your white singlet a little.

‘Can I keep going? Are they like they are in the paintings? Mine aren’t even showing yet. Can I look?’ but you didn’t say anything, and I thought maybe you were nervous so I didn’t keep rolling up your singlet. I kissed you over it instead. The cotton rough on my mouth. It wasn’t right though. Not quite. So I lay down on you and kissed your lips. They smelt of apple and you were delicious. The best thing I would ever taste.

But you didn’t kiss me back. You only lay there, still and silent and acting like I wasn’t even there. And it’s my fault. Because I woke up. I stopped pretending. And I shouldn’t have woken up. Cos then we’d have even some form of an Us thing, but there will never be an Us thing. And I didn’t know that until you screamed on me. And your cries dripped into me. And it didn’t matter before then because I didn’t know what it’d be like to have your nipples not quite in my teeth.

And then you weren’t breathing. You wouldn’t even breathe on me. Wouldn’t allow me even that. I wasn’t asking for much. I could not ask for an Us. Just as long as you to breathe on me. Breathe. Or scream. That would be alright. Scream. Or plead. Or cry. I woulda gone back to sleep. For real this time. And you could just’ve looked at me. Just opened your eyes. Please just open your fucking eyes.

The lights in the distance began getting closer. And the heat of the bonfire being carried on sticks. And I thought about the warmth and how you didn’t have it anymore. How your eyes wouldn’t open. Not for real. But they will open, and light the memory path in my mind. Candies in the night sky.

The crowd got there and my dad wondered why your shirt was open and your dad said its cos I tried CPR. And see, there’s my lip stain on your lips from where I tried to give you mouth to mouth. And look at me, poor thing, too sad to speak. And you, poor thing, unable to breathe.  They wrapped us up in blankets and pondered what could have happened. That you must’ve choked on apple. They carried us back to the bonfire where everyone was in their best and they didn’t ask me. They never asked me. And that’s the thing. Isn’t it? I didn’t speak.



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