This story is the first part to a series that will be revealed each day, for the next three. The story’s chronology moves backwards, and please return tomorrow for what happens next.
She dressed the brimming apples with buttery lattice-works and cinnamon. Her thumbs smoothed the dough into the edges of the pan as she cooled her breathing. Her lip quivered when she rounded the edges and waited for the other baked goods to finish in the oven.
She nervously ran to the fridge only to find an empty carton of eggs next to a half-empty carton of milk. The timer went off and she quickly retrieved what was done and continued the motions.
A man walked in and found her whisking sweat into a glutinous batter. He loses his bags to the entryway and comments on the sweet aromas. The tension in her face melts, and they sit across the kitchen counter avoiding contact. The air is filled with remnants of almond flour and the dull ticking of a timer for the oven.
He smiles through the puzzlement in his face as he notices the myriad of items she has crafted, and reminds her of the lavender cake they still had in the fridge that he suggests they give to her brother. She stands pushing herself onto the counters, dipping her fingers into the rich ganache, he follows. She says it’s fine and asks him for the baking book on the back shelf of their bedroom for the raspberry blondies recipe she made last May. A basket of apples divides the space between them. He tells her that he will, but he never does. He handed her a cross-bred rock that she skirted aside.
They stay there until dark, eating the crinkles and muffins, smiling at the occasional office mishap the man decided to share. The words are never forced, but don’t seem to fit as she clumps the maple dough onto parchment. He offers to help but she declines, she hated others in the kitchen with her. She powdered the muffins with sugar until he commented on the layering. Sprinkles fell onto his coat, eventually dissolving when they hit the molasses stretching across the granite surface.
The sun seeped into the windows illuminating the creases in her face as she drove home from work. The wrinkles blended into one another lightly folding her skin into itself. Old rock played on the radio, and she picks up a call from her younger brother who shares news. She congratulates him and reminds him she has an appointment and hangs up the phone. She veers off the side of the road. The dust kicks up behind the tires and a man in the distance honks his horn. She kills the ignition and allows her gaze to follow the curbside and nearby park.
A ripened apple tree is beyond the ridge of the road, and the supple branches dangle close to the ground. Nearing cars on the highway look at her as they drive by and kick up patches of the earth towards the car. She rolls up her window raising the volume of the music until it’s all she can hear. The light fades out as she remains motionless in the front of her car, hands still on the steering wheel aimed at the lowest golden apple.
She later went back to this tree and gathered the fruit for Thanksgiving pies that year. Twenty years later she also brings her niece to the tree where she teaches her how to read. They act out scenes from Alice in Wonderland as they dip the apples into caramel sauces the girl’s father made. He ends up selling jars with sea salt at the town market.