“Have an apple, Love,” I tell you, choosing the largest one from the silver bowl on our breakfast table. The apple sits on my palm, a peace offering.
“Not now,” you say. I’m shaking – the fruit, my hand. It’s that fight we had last night. You said that I offended your father by being “confrontational.” A chill has set in between us.
“We need a vacation,” I tell you; “Summer’s almost over and we haven’t gotten to the beach even once.”
“I’ve had a lot of cases to work on.”
“I know, Darling. But it would be heavenly to spend some time together. There’s a new resort that’s offering special rates. A reviewer called it a ‘garden paradise.’”
“Paradise?” You shrug, “I never did believe in such a place.”
They ran among the beautiful flowers, laughing. Tired now, he was lying on the grass, sleeping. Flowers. Grass. He had taught her those words; “Wake,” she said, but he was too asleep. She looked around.
There was a tree that he said they must stay away from. It had things hanging on it. “Fruit,” he had said. She liked it when he taught her words; “We are not to eat them,” he had told her.
“Why?” she asked.
He said that someone called, “He had forbidden it.
“Forbidden?” She did not understand that word.
“You must learn to obey,” he said. His voice had something in it that made her afraid.
“I hate it when you sound so cold,” I tell you.
“I’m not cold. But breakfast isn’t the time to start a discussion. I have to get to the office.”
I toss the apple toward the bowl, but I miss and it falls on the carpet his parents gave us. I hate that carpet, all those garish flowers and snake-like vines. I feel as if I’ll get tangled in them and fall. “I’m sorry,” I say. Sorry about the apple, the carpet, the way I seem to spoil things.
“It’s okay, honey.”
Honey. In some religions that’s eaten with apples for a sweet year. I burst into tears.
“For God’s sake, don’t make a drama out of this,” you say.
He was still sleeping. She walked over to the tree. The fruit was shining in the light; “Sun,” he had said.
He knows so much, she thinks. I know so little. I want to know more. I want to know why He said not to eat this. Something inside her whispered, “Eat. He will not know.”
Reaching up, she touched a large fruit. The color was so bright. “Red,” he had told her. He liked to give things color.
She pulled at the fruit and fell with it in her hand. “I hurt,” she called to him. But he did not hear. She pressed her lips against the fruit, something sweet flowing into her mouth. She ran to him, rubbed the sweet over his face. He opened his eyes, “What have you done?”
“For you,” she said. Her fingers were on his lips, opening his mouth.
Grabbing a napkin, I crawl under the table to retrieve the apple. I’m remembering the rug we made love on the first time. My bedroom. My parents were out for the evening and trusted us, as if we were too young for the fire raging inside us. Afterward we saw blood on the rug. My mother would know. “Cold water will take it out,” I told you, remembering the booklet she’d shown me, for “girls who are about to become women.”
But the water didn’t work and my father yelled at me, “Whooore! He made me feel ashamed,” I told therapist after therapist. “As if there were something evil about being a woman.”
He took a bite of the fruit, then another. They laughed, passing it back and forth between them. His hand moved over her, down, wondering as if he had not seen her before. She touched him. It was getting bigger. She leaned down and kissed it. He pulled her against him and lay on top of her. She felt her body joining his – this man she was from, for. There was a roaring sound, a wind rising against them.
“Hide!” he said, pushing her away. He pulled leaves over both of them. “It was the woman,” he called out; “She made me do it.”
Was there something bad about her? She wanted to ask why he said that, but she couldn’t speak.
“We don’t talk to each other,” I tell you. “You’ve been so busy; you don’t really see me. Even when we make love….” I fumble for words; “It’s not the way it was between us at first.”
You’re silent, hiding behind your coffee cup; “I love you.” Why is it hard for me to say that?
“I love you, too,” you say, glancing at your watch; “Listen, I have an important meeting. We’ll talk tonight.”
“Sure.” I hear the sigh. You pick up your briefcase, fold the newspaper under your arm, plant a kiss on my cheek. I watch you go out the door.
They took nothing with them, only the leaves they wore. The gates closed behind them and she knew they would never go back. There was water on her cheeks, “Tears;” He had taught her that, too.
She heard his voice saying, “It was the woman, she made me do it.”
And she thought, he was told he will have to work “by the sweat of his brow.” What does that mean? He will come home so tired he will not want me. Your fault, he will think. I must try to please him, have food for him.
He was walking away so fast. Had he forgotten she was there? What would she do all alone?
I take out the vacuum and go over the rug until I’ve erased every sign of the apple. Later I’ll shop for your favorite foods, pick out a choice steak, buy the Merlot you like best. What would I do if you didn’t come back, were struck by a car or a brick falling from a building? Or if you simply walked away from my silent rages? I would die without you.
Or would I?
Maybe I’ll skip the shopping and drive to the beach, not lose this last of the summer. Walk barefoot on the sand the way I did when we were first there together. Lie with the warm sun caressing my body. Lie there longer than we ever do now, for you worry about sunburn and the traffic “building up.” I will wait for the hour I love best, when the sun gilds the horizon and fiery colors light the sky. I won’t worry about getting home in time to start dinner – or maybe not getting home at all.
He turned around when she cried out to him. “What?” he asked.
She ran to where he stood, put her arms around him. “Love,” she whispered, knowing the word without his teaching. “Better than the not-knowing,” she said, her lips close to his.
She saw the not-loving in his eyes. Silently she followed him down the rocky path that led away from their garden.
Of course, I won’t go to the beach. That wildness belongs to a time we’ve lost forever. Instead, I’ll bake the apples into your favorite pie. I’ll make it the way you like, lots of sugar to disguise the tartness.
Anne Hosansky is the author of five books and a dozen short stories published in the US, Canada, England and Israel. Recently a story was featured in “The Carolina Quarterly;” another in “The Tulane Review.” Currently a memoir piece is scheduled for the British magazine, “Moxy.” As a writer I’m drawn to people who are wounded (isn’t everyone?).