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Peaches & Pears
July has colored my cheeks in with a crayon named “sun.” The wheels on my bike come to a halt, piercing my ears with needles of squeaks. I throw the bag which carries tonight’s dinner for Dad and I on the ground, sighing with relief as it hits the dirt.
Shadows of leaves, pears, and peaches cover me like a summer blanket—one that would provide an escape from the heat rather than comfort from the cold. A light breeze teases me but disappears before lending me a break from this fever. As I reach for a low-hanging pear, my calves long to stretch further, so I oblige, and reach up as high as I can.
It shouldn’t be much longer.
“Leola!” Carlo shouts with gleaming eyes as he hops off of his bike.
I drop the pear and run to him, embracing his familiar warmth. We pull back, giggle, then squeeze each other once more.
“Missed ya,” squirms out from behind my smile. Carlo picks a pear and motions for me to sit next to him underneath our pear tree.
“Do you think you could peel a pear?” he chuckles.
“Maybe if it’s ripe enough,” I ponder. “Let me try it.”
Dad picks up the last piece of sushi on his plate with the chopsticks that Mom always used. He stays to keep me company while I finish up, but I’m not sure I want it.
“Ever think of trying to get outta here? Somewhere outside of Quincy?” he asks right as I take a bite. Thinking while chewing, I decide that it could be good for both of us to start a new chapter.
“Yeah, might be nice,” I suggest while finishing my bite. "After all, it has almost been a year since Mom left."
He picks up his plate, then heads over to the sink without saying anything. I watch him sulk down the hallway and turn into his dimly lit room.
The lights flick off, and as I lay in bed, something feels off. This morning, I felt nervous, yet eager to see Carlo for the first time since school had ended.
In an effort to distract myself, I reflect on my day. Almost immediately, the cashier from Marty’s, the local grocery store, glides her way into my mind. I try to remember what the name on her handwritten name tag read this afternoon. All that comes to mind is the admiration I had for her neat, yet effortless script.
But this growing pit in my stomach doesn’t feel so familiar. Was it the sushi? Was it Dad’s somber egress after dinner? Could it be that Mom was brought up? Dad and I don’t mention her often.
Heavy and full, my eyes crack open as the early August sun greets them. The night floods back as I pour two bowls of Raisin Bran and set them on the table.
“Morning,” Dad groans as he sinks into his chair.
He nods. I grab two spoons, the carton of milk, and I meet him at the table. I can tell he appreciates my presence, but I know he’d prefer a quiet breakfast. I would too. Our spoons clink against the ceramic bowls that Mom made when she was in college. A day doesn’t pass where we don’t use them.
As we eat, I try to process my strange lullaby. I fell asleep before I could untie the knot, but all I know is that I cried trying. Neither the sushi, nor the chat I had with Dad seemed to have made me feel so twisted.
Carlo and Me
The two fruit trees on the outskirts of the only park in Quincy look rather exhausted this afternoon. They must feel the same heat as the rest of the town. On my bike ride over, everyone that I passed looked so tired and droopy. Except for Fiona. Fiona from the grocery store. That name cost me a bar of chocolate, but Carlo will enjoy it as long as it’s not melted by the time he gets here. Carlo never seems to let the heat damper his mood. I always tell him to meet me five minutes earlier than I’d like, since he can’t ever seem to arrive on time. It’s something I’ve grown to love about him.
“No way! I was just looking at chocolate when I stopped at Marty’s on my way here!” Carlo exclaims as he spots the half-melted bar sitting in his place under our tree.
“Just a little something that reminded me of you,” I say with a soft smile and a hard heart. A rock pounding through my chest.
“Leola, I’m sorry I’ve been so busy this summer. I really wish we had more time to spend together,” he expresses, hands reaching for mine.
Even on a day so sweltering, I freeze.
A moment later, somehow already on my feet, I manage to voice, “I need a second.”
Rushing as calmly as I can so that Carlo doesn’t panic, I reach the peach tree and collapse beneath it. I glance in his direction, and his eyes are locked into the earth in front of him. Carefully, he holds the limp chocolate bar in his hands, unwrapping liquid which soon covers his fingers.
Feeling the safest I’ve felt in this park, my eyes meet the leaves and fruit that I’ve never studied as I sit beneath this new tree.
Spoons clink. The Raisin Bran isn’t as palatable as it usually is, and Dad agrees. We both dump our half-eaten bowls into the sink, and I pour two fresh bowls of Cocoa Puffs.
The chocolatey taste that coats my tongue is quite pleasant, but the moment is crushed when I think about my most recent encounter with the godforsaken flavor.
It’s the third day in a row that I’ll have been to Marty’s. Tonight we’re having pre-packaged sandwiches for dinner. Fiona’s line is long, but I will wait.
I place the sandwiches on the counter, and she doesn’t look up from the register. Panic surges through my veins as I fear she knows what I’m thinking. Her head rises, and our eyes rush together, meeting like magnets. Clink. Neither of us can pull away.
Miss Fiona smiles, peaks underneath the counter, and glances back up. She asks me to turn away as she bags my purchase, and warns me not to look in the bag until I leave.
A butterfly must inhabit my chest. Trapped, it flutters, and flutters, and flutters until I get home from Marty’s. Inside my large, brown paper bag, there’s a small, brown paper bag.
I unwrinkle the tightly crinkled top, and peer in.