In The Shade Of An Apple Tree
He heard green leaves crunch as he walked toward the girl he loved. She stood in the shade at the river and waited with her body facing the water. The light wind caused ripples in her shirt.
“How did the talk go?” He asked.
She stepped out beneath the sun and turned to face him. The eye contact caused him to blush.
“Sally? How did the talk go?”
“It didn’t go too well,” she whispered, her voice barely audible over the wind. “I don’t think it went too well.”
“I’m sure it couldn’t have been so bad.”
She shook her head and turned away again. He turned his head too.
“Oh, it’s awful. It’s as bad as it could be.”
“Nothing is as bad as it could be. Go on, tell me about it, I’m sure it isn’t so bad.”
“It is. We won’t ever see each other again,” she said. “It’s just so unfair; we won’t be able to see each other.”
“That can’t be true,” he said. “It just can’t.”
“I refuse to believe it.”
“You have to.”
“I refuse to.”
“What good will that do?”
He looked carefully at the ground and kicked a few rocks near the stump of an apple tree. He picked up two rocks and hurled one of them into the river. It crashed against the stream and a splash of water rose into the air. He was about to throw the second one but then he had an idea.
“I’m going to go and talk to them. I can talk some sense into them. I thought they liked me just fine.”
“You can’t,” she said. “It won’t do any good. It will only make things worse.”
“Things can’t get any worse,” he told her.
“Talking to them will make things worse.”
The breeze slowed down and she sat on the picnic table underneath the tree.
“I wish I brought something to eat,” she said, brushing a few leaves off the table. “I’m so hungry.”
He took a breath and the air tasted bitter in his mouth. He wanted to go and talk to them, but she didn’t want him to. Why didn’t they like him? He was respectful in their house. He always remembered to clean his plate from the table. He never called late at night.
What should I do, he thought to himself, and when he couldn’t think of an answer, he said it out loud.
“I think you should come over here and eat an apple with me,” she told him.
“But there aren’t any apples.”
“We’ll just pretend.”
He stayed beneath the sun and looked at her in the shade. Her hair was golden and her eyes were green. Twice she moved her hair out of her eyes. “I don’t see much point in pretending to eat apples,” he said to her. His voice dropped.
“You never see much point in anything. Here, come and take a bite.”
The sun was starting to set across the other end of the river and a brisk autumn chill sank into the air.
“You love me don’t you?” He said. “If I could remember all the times you told me you loved me.”
“Of course I do,” she said. “This isn’t what I want. I really do love you. You were my first…everything.” There was silence. “You’ll always have a place in my heart. And you love me, right?”
He nodded and she smiled. “Tell me you love me.”
“I love you.”
She liked the sound it made like she liked the crunch of an apple.
“Please do me a favor. If you love me you would. Please don’t talk to my parents about this. It really would only make things worse.”
Perhaps she was right, he thought, maybe it would only make things worse. He agreed.
“Come over here and sit on this side,” she said. “So I can remember what it feels like.”
He walked into the shade and sat on the bench next to her. She smiled and was happy to be there with him, just once more. He didn’t have to know, it was easier this way. His skin was smooth against her fingers and his breath was warm in her mouth.
I really do love him, she thought, this will be nice to remember.
Shawn Rubenfield, creative writing major at SUNY New Paltz, was awarded the 2010 Vincent Tomaselli Award in the Creative Writing of Fiction as well as other awards of distinction for fiction and poetry from the college's writing board.
Motivation: The style of this piece was influenced by Hemingway's iceberg theory and written narrative, especially in his short stories.