Picking Apples – an extract

There was not a breath of wind. From where Keryn sat under an overhanging branch the dam was quite still and like a mirror, reflecting blue sky and green leaves. She touched the top of the water with the tip of her toe and watched as ripples moved out over the dam.

“Mommy”

She turned around slowly, her eyes having to adjust from the dazzle on the water to the shade under the trees. In the cool dimness she could make out the figures of two young boys of about four years of age. They wore only shorts and were playing in the mud created by a bucket of water and the sandy ground beneath the trees.

Two muddy faces turned to her, two rows of white teeth grinned. They had succeed in making a muddy castle, with turrets of mud dripped into wobbly stalactites. It leaned to one side, was propped up with leaves and twigs.

“Lovely” she said, smiling then, tipping her sunhat back to show her face to them.

“One more swim?” she asked then, moving her body forward, sliding down over the smooth ring of mud around the edge and slipping into the water.

The two came crashing, pushing and shoving, slipping down to her. She took one in her arms, his muddy fingers printing a brown hand onto her arm. The other clambered onto her back, hand tangling in her hair, clutching her neck.

They played for a while, both boys taking it in turns to splash out from her for moments and then turn, clutching, for the security of her body. Their curls gleamed, one head of sun streaked locks wetly clinging to his back, the other a halo of drops clinging, angelic, both faces smiling, golden skinned. They giggled, squirmed, clung to her. After some time she dragged them both, suddenly heavy, desperate, to the waters edge.

“Not yet – more swimming”

They stood on the edge, shivering suddenly. The shade was cooler , the breeze felt chilly against wet skin, but she was already seeking out her sandals with her toes, half hidden beneath fallen leaves. T-shirts were found, buckets and spades. She pulled her long apricot coloured dress over her wet costume, her long hair clinging, her hat pulled low.

“Come , come,” she called and they came running, each finding a hand, the bucket handles worn like bracelets, knocking against knees, wet towels trailing from little hands along the dusty red road.

“Chrissie needs to get home. Celine will be finished soon. We can come again tomorrow.”

The two little boys stumbled along next to her, suddenly hungry, weary. Glancing down she thought they might have caught the sun a little, even in the shade.

“We will go again. You know we will. Maybe even tomorrow.”

But there was no sureness of that. Summer was only beginning. The days were not always hot yet, but Keryn seized every one when they came. She loved the heat. The hissing grass, the dazzle. The memories of a grey northern climate were still very much with her. The chill on her skin, the dreary light, the ice.

She skipped with them, the red dust rose around them. They moved faster up the road, passed through her favourite dip, arum lilies to either side, five large oaks. No stopping to pick today. She remembered some lillies wilting in a vase, but there would be no replacing them today.

“We have no time,” she said as little hands pulled in hers, reaching out towards the lillies.

“Come, come.”

Soon they rounded the corner, a last little hill and there was the house. Hidden behind three rows of apple trees, still blooming, but also bearing the first little fruit, peeking out amongst the leaves. The front door was open, the little dog barked and ran out to meet them, stopping at the gate.

“Look, Celine is all ready – waiting”

Down the garden came Celine, her bag over her shoulder, her overall removed, heels on, a touch of lipstick. She smiled, then frowned at one of the boys. Keryn knew the frown was for her really.

“Chrissie, look how muddy you are. “ She reached the gate, opened it, reached down to him.” and wet”.

“I know” Keryn rushed past her, ‘its my fault. Let me get some of Sams’ dry things,”

but Celine was moving quickly.

“ I’ll miss my lift,” she said,’its okay.”

“Wait for me, I’ll give you a lift.”

“Its okay”

Celine was already in the road, Chrissie running to keep up. He was looking back, his wet t -shirt flapping.

“Sorry,” called Keryn, reaching down, picking up Sam, who was rubbing his eyes now, leaning his head on her shoulder. They disappeared from view.

“ Come my man,” she said turning her attention to him, “bath time for you. Before Daddy comes home”

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