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Image by Artyom Kulikov


April 28, 2020

Orchard Lane was shortlisted for the Fleur 'Apple Tree' Flash Fiction competition in late April 2020. I'm typically averse to popularity contest voting methods, but I got enough votes to take out third place.

The prompt was an image of an apple tree and a haiku about apple trees I don’t really need to include here. 500 words or less. This continued a pattern of stories with a dark edge I can never seem to escape from, so embrace instead.

Side note: I finished this story a couple of days before I was made redundant during the pandemic.

Orchard Lane: Work

The girl became sick in the Spring, around the same time the dozens of apple trees lining both sides of Orchard Lane began to blossom, like blooming, wooden vertebrae.
The boy had watched from his room as the buds burst from skeletal limbs and blossomed into flowers. He thought it looked as though thousands of tiny, pink marshmallows had transformed into bleached coral.
The sweet bouquet drifted across the lane and into the boy’s bedroom, in an invisible, fragrant cloud. The scent had branded his memory on that first day of high school, when he was the new kid, and she, the most beautiful girl he’d ever seen.
Knowing he’d recently moved in across the street, she’d suggested they walk together.
The girl and the boy walked home that day, and every day.
Though painfully shy, he’d almost come out of his shell on the final day of the semester and reached out to grab her hand.
By the time the sickness had fully consumed her, the inflorescences had grown so thick the boy could no longer see her bedroom window from his.
He stood hopeless.
The days and nights passed with agonising slowness.
 It was the postman’s idea to include a couple of apple blossoms in the letters, that so far, had remained unrequited.
The boy plucked fallen petals from tufts of grass, scattering them in the empty envelopes.
He cringed as the death rattle reverberated across the street, twisting between the petals and finding its way to his ears. Despite the night time chill, he couldn’t bear to close his window, knowing the only thing worse than hearing the death rattle in her chest every night and morning, would be its cessation.
One morning, he awoke to silence. 
His heart skipped. A knot formed in his gut as he ran downstairs.
The boy stopped short at the front porch.
Silhouetted against the apple trees, the girl stood, looking tired and frail, but smiling.
An invisible string drew them towards each other.
A new season had begun.

Orchard Lane: Text
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