Hi c: This is the first chapter of my story, following on from the prologue I posted recently.
The actual story’s called ‘the simple wonders of a willow tree’. Enjoy, and please tell me what you think. I really appreciate the feedback.
Chapter 1: Society’s love of apples
I open my eyes to a pictured view of sun lit strokes. The heat pressing against a huddled field of golden shaded willow trees. The sound of my faint steps sprinting across the thick straws of emerald grass, are faded by the dull thuds of a metal cane thrashing against the trees. I look up to feel the wisp of the wind Curl through my windblown hair and to hear it’s soft whistle glide beneath the flight of a bird’s wing. The trees hover over us in a protective manner as the heat sears through the flaws in the ongoing sequence. Pink brush strokes the sky as the sun sets a shadow amongst the surface and the Raspy sounds simmer to a diminish. Short steps cloud the hushed ambience and as I turn, my eyes narrow in on a barren field with no source of further breath incoming.
I call gently hoping to see a flick of his auburn curls or his wide golden eyes staring back at me yet the view remains still.
I amble deeper into the ends of the forest and as the wind sprawls against the trees, i hear a sudden shake and I notice the tip of a child’s boot peer from behind a slight tree.
“hmm, where has Harry gone?” I whisper softly as I walk closer to the tree with a muted trail.
I can hear the slow shakes of his breathsand chills of the grazing wind wisp through the bronze leaves lifting them around his frame.
“Harry? Now why are you hiding behind this tree?” I ask as I tickle him and he responds with a gleaming laugh. I can feel the sense of life uplift my lips as his wide eyes crinkle with joy but my smile fades as he turns and reveals the hoary metal structures of his left leg deepen into the scars of his weak bandage strewn skin. My opaque smile covers the hidden sadness I wish to scatter aside and my hands move away from him as I force them to remain stationary in order to concede the shaking inside.
“I’m getting better at this game, it took you longer to find me this time” he murmurs fingering his lean cane that is decorated with several dents. I lean against the tree and my fingers trail down the markings of the tree trunk where enfoldments have been made, my head tilts as I read the engravings that we have crusted into the wood. Harry’s words beside his marking of height are all of good things such as previous birthdays or embarking adventures, all things he wishes to remember. Yet my side are all things I wish to forget, I marked dates that I thought then would escape my mind and come burden upon the forest. I shake my mind of the memories and I can’t help but smile as Harry’s eyes shine with timid pride.
“so it did, but still it wasn’t very nice hiding like that when I needed your help” I say as sternly as possible but he smiles and his hand opens up to reveal a ripe apple.
“truce?” he asks shyly and in response I accept the apple and toss it in the basket.
I walk through the opening of the meadow picking apples from the branches wanting to close my path, whilst Harry follows closely behind picking flowers, intertwining them with strands of grass and placing them into his rusty green wheelbarrow.
“how long is it now?” he asks impatiently as he hurries along the seemingly endless fields separating it from the ever so slight beauty it beheld.
The escaping sun shimmers upon the evening sky glowing upon the yellow leaves shaking in their branches.
“not long now, are you almost done?” I say as I continue to pick apples and drop them into the overwhelming pile in the basket.
“yes, can we see them now, please?” the rough touch of hope seaming into his innocent question causes me to nod reassuringly in his direction and I find myself walking closer to the end of the forest as he pulls his wheelbarrow behind him and follows.
I say nothing and neither does he as we enter their home so hidden from the rest of the meadow but still yet the most beautiful aspect of it. I see his touch let go of few bouquets as he places them upon those forgotten graves choosing flowers he sees as the most precious to place upon deserted lives.
Their fragile posts lie at the far end of the meadow distant to any other. I kneel down in front of my mother’s grave stone and my brother replicates my movement though his eyes are fixed on my father’s tombstone. My fingers trace the simple words upon the carved stone, ‘mother’, is one word I will never be able to recall so clearly as any other and my fingers fumble on the hold of the small basket in my hand. I turn my eyes away and watch Harry observe his parent’s names cautiously.
“did they have to go?” he asks as he frowns with discomfort upon the sight he cannot recollect
“they had no choice Harry, they left because it was their turn but they still cared” I say thinking about my words ever so carefully before I answer
His frown lessens and he looks on with only a brink of sorrow
“sometimes, I forget what they were like, I try not to but then everything becomes so blurry that it feels like it’s lost” his eyes are closed as he speaks not wanting to see my reaction though with the simple gesture of my hand upon his is enough for them to reopen.
“they were good people, Harry, they cared for us, they always did. When you think your forgetting just remember they were good and they cared” my voice remains impassive but I try to show the truth of my words and the sadness in his eyes appears to cascade away through soft tears.
“would they be happy to see us here with them?” he asks
“they are always happy, when we visit, when we smile or laugh”
“how do you know, for sure?”
I gesture for him to listen
“hear that soft sound in the shadows, the one that is never truly overheard by the wails of the wind?, that’s their laughter, their joy, that’s how I know they’re happy because they still see us as we grow. we just have to wait until the day we can see them again. We can wait can’t we? Since we have each other.” I whisper as I listen intently to their soft spurs of laughter forcing a smile in me.
“yes, I have you, and we can go on adventures with mama and papa too, they’ll just be watching over us is all” he says with a strong sense of hope brimming in his voice.
I smile in asset
“Now, what flowers have you chosen to replace the weak bunch?’ I say as I toss aside the crispy petals of white roses into the trail of the wind.
He places one blossomed calla Lille upon each of their graves
“I hope mama and papa like them’ he says with a smile in his voice and as his words come to a close the melodic sound of the birds brings us out of our reverie signalling the end of the working week.
“it’s time” I say as my heavy breaths overpower the words, the sounds of the birds are still too faint which shows that work has only just ended. I walk towards the tiny well near the gate and place the apples into a wooden bucket with holes and press down the heaver that pulls the string attached to the well, to cause a stream of water to pour over the bucket of apples. I rinse the apples by placing them into a more light weight basket and let go of the string that is the works of my invention.
Harry offers to hold the basket while I put on my boots and rub my hands in the hope of creating some warmth. I take of my jumper and hang it over the fence, my hair flows wildly in the wind as my fingers run through the thin crimson strands of my dark hair. my black shirt adorned with lace strengthens the touch of duty in the atmosphere now that it is no longer hidden. I press down my dark, leather braces, smooth out the creases in my skirt and pull up my white socks to my knees. My collar flickers with the glimmering strips of our flag. Perhaps, the sense of patriotism should overcome me yet I gaze upon the role with a sense of hollowness.
“Do you think they’ll be happy today?” I ask my brother
He gives me a reassuring laugh and hands over the basket of apples
“everyone smiles when you arrive like you make them happy” he says gently
“People need food Harry, but sometimes an apple is just the tad bit dissappointing.” I say though my words are muffled by the sounds of the thrushes. I hurry past the gate, holding Harry’s hand as I do and clutching onto my basket with the other.
I focus on my tread as I walk, hoping the sense of calmness will overwhelm my jitteriness yet nothing comes. I finger my soul on it’s chain around my neck , as the basket hangs on my wrist. The silvery lavender coloured butterfly twitches as it attempts to escape it’s net but it cannot, it remains trapped on my black chain. I must remember happy memories, those that remain so clear in my mind. Harry’s birth, his Frequent story telling, his care for smaller creatures everything that makes things seem good. Then I breathe.
“the butterfly’s escaped” he says gazing upon it’s fragile wings as it flies upon the daisies
I laugh a little, no longer fretting for what might have happened if the butterfly had remained trapped on my necklace.
“come on Harry, it’ll fly back” I say as I let go of the no longer entrapping net.
“Magic” I hear him breathe and sigh in awe as he gazes at the butterfly gracefully hovering above clouds.
We walk along the promenade where fresh people linger for the end of work gift and the thrushes continue their melodic sounds. As the Notes become frail and are close to vanish, I let go of Harry’s hand and usher him to go play with the other children. I see his face beam as the souls are set free and almost all the thimbles escape. I remain ignorant on the meaning behind each individuals thimble or soul as I should call it though most of us refrain from using that word, the regulators are far more wise on deciphering the silent codes, as each thimble that trembles ever so slightly is given a stern stare though only brief. As the thimbles travel back to their hosts, I continue to walk as gracefully as I can ahead as my butterfly hovers over me. I give the most pleasurable smile I behold as I hand out the apples to workers on the farmland. The land boys are smothered in sweat, sticky red crusts upon their skin with their coarse hands gripping the sweetness of hope the red fruit deceivingly brings. Though of course I cannot admit to that. Maybe there’s more truth in a simple apple than I know of. The land girls are of similar presentation though they show more sense of pain in their emotions, I feel as-though I am a silly sunflower in a field of distraught roses. If only I were not apple keeper, I would be beside them right now, feeling what they feel, seeing the world how they see it. rather than being considered an outsider who has been excused. I can’t feel their sadness just their hope, their smiles, their pride, there is nothing more behind it, I must remember that for it is all I know.
Olde Ben, the land owner of the great strip of work, acknowledges me and though I am not supposed to, I hand him an apple,
“what’s this for? I don’t think I need as much encouragement as them boys over there. They only time they seem to work properly is right before the apple keeper arrives” he says humourly, fingering the apple in his hands
“these apples must be very special to have that affect on them” I respond hoping not to have been too serious in my reply. However he smiles with a glimmer of fatherly admiration as he looks over to the workers cleansing their cuts with humid, drenching water.
“they work very hard, these apples are a nice gift but they deserve a lot more, they do” he says with a far more sad note to his raspy voice, all good humourly conversation suddenly lost to the wind.
“a lot of people around here do sir, yet you treat them so well, I’m sure their thankful for that” I say firmly and his friendly smile reappears
“take this Cole, for yourself, you’re far too bony, it’s not good, you got to eat something” he says sternly as he gestures me to accept the slice of bread in his frail, wrinkly, scar stricken hands
“thank you sir, but I can’t accept it” I say with every ounce of gratitude as my words decline his gesture, yet he opens up my hands and forces my fingers to pry over the thin slice. I try to elude him but he walks away yet not before saying thank you once more for the apple.
I can feel a smile breaching my lips as I mindlessley hand out apples declining any more offers of bread from the young workers.
“thanks for the apple” I hear a quiet voice murmur from behind me and turn to see a red haired boy, smiling at me with such familiarity.
“I hear You deserve it .” I say with the same recognition in my tone. His head tilts in response as he registers the undertone to my words.
“I don’t know about that. My life feels pretty easy compared to say his right now” he snickers lightly as he inclines towards a boy around our age scraping off the dry, crimson crusts from his skin.
“I take it that being commodity carer isn’t as challenging as it seems?” I ask sarcastically, already knowing how both our roles are equally futile in comparison to the land workers who work tirelessly to provide us with our colonies’ trade, wheat. While me and sage act as Propaganda puppets who are the faces of our colony and our purpose acts as simply raising the hopes of our fellow civilians. At least that’s what I know.
“All I do is organise the trade, and not even completely until I turn 17 in a few years, but I definitely think it’s harder than an apple keeper’s role of once every week handing out an apple to anyone whose fresh faced and working” he says with a mirrored touch of sarcasm in his tone. I laugh in response because it’s true, I get paid in food to hand out apples as if it were gold but in this case it seems to have a similar sense of precious value. All workers get paid in food, it is the only way we can be paid. money is a resource that is difficult to possess, so every land worker gets a certain percentage of what they have produced, a small sum of vegetables, commodity workers get resources which they then trade for food, and I get apples and the gifts from workers which I don’t like to accept, so mainly apples and the occasional bread from olde Ben. I look at sage once more and I realise how much I have missed his ironic smile as it remains a link to my more favourable childhood memories.
“It’s rewarding, for me that’s satisfying enough. Anyway, How are you and the little ones?” I ask as I step closer to observe him more clearly, his flushed cheeks are not as hallow as they were and his healthy colouring appears to have returned showing his renewed strength. Sage as a child, sage now, he’s still the friendliest person I know. Becoming commodity carer meant he could get far more food than before to substitute for money, for not only him but for his younger siblings.
“I think the pay is what made us better, I guess I shouldn’t complain as much. But You look so different, so tired, I thought things would have been better for you too?” all sense of sarscasm and humour is lot in his throat.
“age does change a person. But hey I hear you’re a black shirt now? When did that happen?” I say casually ignoring his questions
“yeah, I changed around the same time I got better. But how are-
His words are cut off by the sounds of the bells ringing on every side of the street, the pavilion lights in the far end brighten as the bell sounds greater and the flag flies up on the centre pole. There are no other sounds besides the bells, the flickering of lights, and wind thrashing against the flag. No other sounds until I let go of my basket and the few remaining fruits of hope are scarred on the ground.