The Apple Trees
He walked down the path, remembering the first time he saw the apple grove.
It was a day in spring, and cool, and the apples were in full bloom, white arms lifted against a blue, sunny sky. It was in a little hollow, with a natural berm on one side and a post and rail fence on the other, but no gate. She tugged his hand as she led him into the orchard. He remembered how red her cheeks and nose were from the cool when she turned to check on his progress, and how pale her hair looked in the afternoon light.
“Hurry up! Come on!” she urged. “I know the perfect place!”
“I’m coming!” he replied. “So where is it?”
He let go of her hand and watched her clime a path halfway up the rise behind the grove, to where a large shelf of rock jutted out. Jumping on the rock, she turned around in circles, her scarf and golden hair dancing around her as she leaned her head back and raised her arms to the sun.
“Here!” she said. “Come join me!”
He scrambled up the trail while she spread a cloth she had stashed in her backpack and sat down.
“Do you come up here often?” he said, dropping down beside and a little behind her.
She nodded. “It’s nice and peaceful. You can’t see the street from here. It’s easy to think you’re somewhere far away from town, out in the country, just you and the sky and the trees. On a good day, when the wind is right, I even see deer coming through the orchard.”
“Better not let my brother know. He’d try to be out here next deer season,” he said.
She thought for a moment, then smiled.“Oh, I don’t think so. It’s still in town here.”
“Lucky deer,” he said. He moved in a little closer and wrapped his arm around her. She looked up at him, surprised, but smiled, and leaned against him. The wind picked up a little, and blew a strand of her hair across his face. It tickled, but he didn’t want to move and spoil the moment.
“I really like it here when the trees are blooming,” she said. “Everything’s so beautiful/”
“Yeah,” he replied, but it wasn’t the trees he was looking at.
She turned and looked at him. Her eyes were blue with hazel rings, and he thought he could fall into her eyes forever. She reached up, and touched his cheek. His hand slid up to her neck, and surprising even himself, he kissed her, gently, softly.
Suddenly, they both pulled back, as if surprised.
“Do it again,” she whispered.
Shaking his head, he walked down the road. So much had changed since he was here last. The town had grown, and houses had popped up everywhere. He found the old rise, and even the rock slab. Pulling his coat closed against the cool autumn wind, he walked out on it. Today, beneath a gray sky, he cast no shadow.
Thinking about his life, he thought about the irony of casting no shadow.
Instead of an apple grove, there was a park here, with a slide and swings and things for kids to climb up on. He suspected she would have liked it, knowing the apple trees had to go. Like she did.
He watched two children at play for several minutes, then thought of deer and youth and went back to his car.