February 10, 2020


Work clothes drying in the sun. Near Roseisle, MB; August 2019. Canon AE-1 / FP4

"Did you love her so much, then?" My sister Reinette, with her high cheekbones and her glossy curls. My sister the harvest queen, lipsticked and crowned with barley, with a sheaf of wheat in one hand and an orange in the other. That's how I'll always remember her, you know. That clear, perfect picture in my mind. I felt an unexpected prick of jealousy close to my heart.

"The same way you loved him, perhaps," said Paul calmly. "The way you loved Leibniz."

The fools we were when we were children. The hurting, hopeful fools. I spent my life dreaming of Tomas, through my married days in Brittany, through my widowhood, dreaming of a man like Tomas with his careless laughter and his sharp river-colored eyes, the Tomas of my wish--you, Tomas, only you forever--Old Mother's curse made terrible flesh.

"It took a little time, you know," said Paul, "but I got over it. I let go. It's like swimming against the current. It exhausts you. After a while, whoever you are, you just have to let go, and the river brings you home."

"Home." My voice sounded strange in my ears. His hands over mine felt rough and warm as an old dog's pelt. I had the strangest picture of us both, standing there in the failing light like Hansel and Gretel, grown old and gray in the witch's house, finally closing the gingerbread door behind them.

Just let go, and the river brings you home. It sounded so easy.

"We've waited a long time, Boise."

I turned my face away. "Too long, perhaps."

"I don't think so."

I took a deep breath. This was the moment. To explain that it was all over, that the lie between us was too old to erase, too big to climb over, that we were too old, for pity's sake, that it was ridiculous, that it was impossible, that besides, besides--

He kissed me then, on the lips, not a shy old-man's kiss but something else altogether, something that left me feeling shaken, indignant and strangely hopeful. His eyes shone as slowly he drew something out of his pocket, something that glowed red-yellow in the lamplight. . . .

A string of crab apples.

I stared at him as he drew the necklace gently over my head. It lay against my breasts, the fruit glossy and round and shining.

"Harvest queen," whispered Paul. "Framboise Dartigen. Only you."

I could smell the good, tart scent of the little fruit against my warming skin.

"I'm too old," I said shakily. "It's too late."

He kissed me again, on the temple, then at the corner of the mouth. Then from his pocket again he drew a plait of yellow straw, which he placed around my forehead like a crown.

"It's never too late to come home," he said, and pulled me gently, insistently toward him. "All you have to do . . . is stop moving away."

Resistance is like swimming against the current, exhausting and pointless. I turned my face toward the curve of his shoulder as into a pillow. Around my neck the crab apples gave off a pungent, sappy scent, like the Octobers of our childhood.

We toasted our homecomings with sweet black coffee and croissants and green-tomato jam made to my mother's recipe.

An excerpt from Joanne Harris' beautiful novel, "Five Quarters of the Orange" page 305-307.

Old girl crosses over. I snapped this out the back seat window of our car. Near Roseisle, MB; August 2019. Canon AE-1 / FP4

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