I bought apples this week at the store. The fall is the best time for them, no matter where you live, and this particular batch of Granny Smiths yielded more than a week of avoiding the doctor. Don’t know if I’ll do anything else with it, but here it is. Now, I can go back to business as usual. 🙂
The first bite of the green apple was as tart as she expected, but the faint taste of something artificial, something wrong made her pause a moment before she began to chew. The memory of her grandmother tossing a basket of beautiful, ruby red fruit to the pigs sprang to mind, the old woman’s horror at the gift so palpable that Calla could not forget it, though she’d been a tiny girl at the time. No apple of any color had graced the tables of any one in the kingdom that she could ever remember, just peaches, grapes, cherries, berries of every kind and the vibrant citrus that hung like miniature suns from the trees in the royal orchard. The law banning apples was some political thing her grandfather dreamed up to punish a distant and long forgotten foe, because the trees wouldn’t even thrive in the warm climate of this southern place. Neither did dwarves, because Calla had never seen any of those, either. Grandmother said the little people lived in the depths of the Seven Mountains, and that someday she herself would take Calla to see their mines. But now, Grandmother was sick and no one would be taking anyone anywhere for a long time. The servants were whispering about Calla’s brother becoming King soon. A royal funeral and coronation in the same week, they said when they thought Calla wasn’t listening. No one seemed to mind speaking freely around the young princess and she was glad of it. It was the only way she heard about anything going on with her own family. There was a story Calla’s nurse always told her at bedtime about drops of blood, apples and kisses, but Calla knew that was just a fairy tale. Her grandmother maybe had been beautiful once, but never the fairest in the land. No one could have or would have tried to kill anyone with a poisoned apple.
Calla pulled herself up onto the brick wall to eat the apple and swing her feet. The sky was forget me not blue, a breeze ruffled the tall grass along the roadside. Birds were singing in the trees She liked being alone; eleven was old enough to be left to her own devices now that Grandmother was ill. No lessons, no books, no stuffy rooms inside the castle. Just freedom, and solitude and the thrill of the forbidden apple. The next bite was a pure blast of tart sweetness. Calla closed her eyes while she chewed, letting the sun bake freckles into her pale skin. Her brother wouldn’t care if she was the fairest in the land or not. Only Grandmother cared about Calla’s white skin, just like she was the only reason apples weren’t allowed past the borders of their kingdom. Poor Grandmother, Calla thought, so afraid of harmless fruit.
The warm sun and the droning bees were competing to see which could make Calla fall asleep fastest. She tossed her apple core into the forest and leapt down from the wall. The deep, wide shade of a large oak tree beckoned, and Calla drifted toward it, sinking down to snuggle between the large roots. She yawned once, then twice, eyes too heavy to keep open for another moment. Just before sleep claimed her, Calla wondered if the apple in her grandmother’s story was as good as the one she just finished had been.