Spring is in the air, redolent with the bittersweet smell of apples and change.
Spring wind carried the scent of apples through the windows, so strong it seemed that they were close enough to bite. Firm, crisp flesh and fresh juices just a bite away, red and golden skin breaking beneath teeth to spill sweetness over lips and down chins.
Amaris sat at the window, one hand resting against the glass, her amber eyes drawn to the branches hanging heavy with fruit. Like the wind, still carrying winter’s teeth to nip playfully at ears and noses, her gaze was deep and chill as she watched the new leaves stirring. Behind her, the radio played one of the latest pop hits, her husband humming along to its beat as he rattled plates. The sound of sizzling fat reached her ears, but the only thing she could smell was apples.
In the reflection of the glass, dim and distant, she could see him moving around. Cutlery clinked softly, and from elsewhere in the house came the sound of laughter and Sir Pupperfoot barking excitedly.
Amaris didn’t need to look to know; she could picture the worn wood of the kitchen table, the places set out with chipped china. Two coffee mugs, stained with use, mismatched forks and knives, the old glass butter dish with a chipped corner. A spray of apple blossom, unseasonably fresh, in the beautiful china vase from last year’s anniversary. A tear slid down her cheek, evaporating before it could stain the wood of the window frame.
Gladys’ footsteps thundered into the kitchen, loud on the wooden floorboards, and Amaris managed to tear herself away from her vigil over the apple tree to face her daughter. A smile tugged at the corners of a mouth worn down by time and pain, and she managed a step forwards. Her hand reached up to cup Gladys’ cheek, to hold her close, but her daughter stepped right past her, oblivious, and Amaris’ hand dropped to her side once more.
She watched sunlight soak into her daughter’s ebony hair as the young woman rested her hands on the windowsill, pushing the window wide to catch the fickle breeze laden with sweetness. Tears, glittering like priceless gems, fell to soak into the old wood, spattering on the back of her hands, and Amaris watched in silence as her husband stepped over to cradle their daughter in his arms. Behind them, in the garden, the apple tree strained against gravity, reaching for the golden sun high above.
Amaris longed to join the embrace, to wrap her arms around them both and wipe away the tears now sliding down both sets of cheeks. But there were only two places set at the kitchen table, and an apple tree in the garden, with a headstone at its roots.