Winter Fruit - Trista Payte

 

     We were living next to Vera for almost a year before she spoke a word to me. But I noticed her well before that. Actually, I heard her.  I was jogging through the lonely landscape of our property, isolated both in body and mind, when I was startled by a sharp bark of laughter. There, behind the fence on the western side of our property, was a very tiny, very grey, old woman mumbling into the sky. The trees, I realized. She was talking to the trees.

 

     She stood in an orchard, amongst rows and rows of striking, magnificent trees, stoic and still sentinels beside their matriarch. The trees bared fruit of some kind. It hung from their boughs in pear shaped clusters, but the skin looked rough. Avocados. I would have jogged past, but was startled still when she threw her head back and laughed zealously, as if she had just been told a terrific joke. I stopped to listen but couldn’t decipher her words. As I peered at the cloud of dark, green leaves, my mouth began to water. Thinking I needed breakfast, I jogged home, leaving my strange neighbor to her trees.

 

     Jogging is my time for thinking. Usually its simple things: what to make for dinner, or what my next home improvement project should be. But that day I stuck on the one subject I didn’t want to entertain. It gnawed away at its cage, reawakened and hungry.  I tried to push it back, but it was insistent, like a phantom kick in a vacant womb.

 

     Where had my happily ever after gotten derailed? Things certainly started out alright. A good childhood with stable, loving parents. Marriage to my college boyfriend. We settled down into a perfect little house on a cul-de-sac full of fresh, hopeful couples exactly like us. A place to grow. It was the spring of our lives and we were about to bloom. Only we didn’t. There were little buds cropping up all over our community, in every house but ours.

 

     My desire for a baby, once small and secondary, became all consuming.  Frustration and desperation came off me in waves. I was walking, breathing pollution--an eye sore in an otherwise picture perfect place. The other wives in the neighborhood stopped inviting me to their events. Thorns of resentment grew around the perimeter of our home--soon no one would cross them. Frost settled upon us; nothing grew beneath it.

 

     When a second spring had hit the neighborhood and once again skipped our doorstep, I hardly noticed. Our season was a permanent winter. I hardly left the house anymore. Then Jonathan received an option to transfer. His company had decided on a westward expansion, and as one of the top performers in the district they had offered him one of the two prime locations, Denver or Los Angeles. Our skin warmed and our eyes filled with starlight. Our fairytale was reborn.

 

     Oh, California. Paradise of mild weather and beautiful people. A land where we would find a little privacy and some much needed anonymity. At least that is what I envisioned.  We were both craving space and solitude, and the realtor told us of the perfect property, if Jon didn’t mind a commute. We purchased the 30 acres in a small farming community northwest of Los Angeles. It looked expansive and green--the perfect place for us to restart our fairytale.

 

    A week after we moved into out western paradise, I stood on the porch of the newly remodeled, renovated and revamped ranch home, drinking my coffee, watching Jon’s car get smaller and smaller. He disappeared down the long, winding dirt road that was our sole connection to the main highway. Off to work he went. Looking out into the distance, I felt it. Solitude. I knew there were neighboring houses, I had seen them from the road coming in, but from our house they weren’t visible. Just trees, fields, and fertile, open land as far as I could see. So different from suburban Pennsylvania. There, I could look out my window into my neighbor's and know what they were watching on television and having for dinner. I felt renewed. How could I feel barren when I was surrounded by such vigorous and untamed life?

 

     But soon freedom gave way to unbound frustration. Jonathan’s job was demanding; I was alone more often than not. I had three passions in cultivated from our old Pennsylvania life: jogging, cooking, and crafting. I attempted to fill up my loneliness with these. But the house was near perfect and it wasn’t any fun to cook for myself. I began to jog two times a day, and then three. Anything to fill up the solitude. It was one of those jogs that led me to the woman I would later know as Vera.

 

     But I didn’t give the old woman much thought after that first sighting. I was too busy reacquainting with a forgotten passion. First I made lists of names. Girl names, boy names, family names. Then I designed a nursery. The process involved digging through old magazines and books, then meticulously pasting my findings into a scrapbook. I designed different rooms based upon the different names, giving a different theme to each, based upon what I was certain would be their character traits. I planned a life for children that did not yet have one. Of course, I told Jonathan nothing. He was stressed with the new position at work, his hands full building our finances. It was my job, I decided, to build our child.

 

     When I ran out of lists to make and magazines to dissect, I ran. I added evening jogs to escape the smothering dense quiet of the empty house and the taunting tick-tock of time. It was on one of these that I found Vera again. She was perched on tiptoe, stroking one of those firm, green orbs dangling heavy from a tree limb. Soft whispers crawled from her throat as she caressed. The intimacy between her and her fruit stirred a feeling within me, long dormant, as I watched. It felt inappropriate somehow to stay and watch such a moment, so I kept jogging. But the image of her long, slender fingers, caressing the fruit so tenderly, stayed with me. It also jolted me into a realization. Jonathan and I weren’t having sex. Forgotten were the days when he’d given me more than a cursory good bye kiss on a cheek or a one-armed hug goodnight. A strange heat rose in me, from feet to face. I was jealous. Of the fruit.

 

     Early the next morning, I rose and ran to where our property touched hers. Several yards back from the fence there was a dense line of shrubbery and juvenile trees that suited my new purpose. I cleared the ground of burs, rocks, and crisp dead leaves and settled down onto the hard, cracked earth, staring through the foliage towards the fence line. Time passed. Maybe I fell asleep. Then Vera was there, singing softly. The tune was bright and cheerful, the words foreign to me. She moved from row to row while I crawled on elbows and knees beside the tree line, belly kissing earth. Sometimes my skin would catch, but I was careful not to cry out and I did not stop. I could not stop. The song was reaching into me, pulling out long-forgotten pieces and nourishing them with its melody. It grew dark, and Vera disappeared, her song fading into the dimly light horizon. I went to wipe my dirt and bramble-crusted hair from my face and realized I was crying.

 

     Time passed. Soon I was watching every morning. Always a quiet observer, I never disturbed Vera or got in the way of her work. She rewarded me by revealing the secrets of her horticultural gift. She walked amongst the rows of trees, her hands outstretched to stroke a trunk or rub a fat, waxy leaf between two fingers. She sang, hummed or spoke to them constantly. Sometimes her words were soothing, other times admonishing. The words weren’t in English, but it didn’t matter. Their beauty translated.

 

     One night while Jon slept, I dragged a large, weatherproof box with two blankets, a pillow, some water and snacks to my spot. Later I added an all-weather parka, a small umbrella, and a towel. Then a yoga mat and a sketch pad. Spare clothes. Sunblock. Chapstick. Toilet paper. Necessary comforts. A day of watching could be ruined by chapped lips.

 

     The spot consumed me. Sometimes I forgot to eat. I didn’t always get home in time to make Jon dinner either. It wasn’t my fault. When Vera would sing, time would stop. And the avocados--those rich, lush, perfect little replicas, the very essence of life itself! I couldn’t tear my eyes away from them most days. I wanted to climb over the fence and touch them. I wanted to look the old woman in the eyes, know what she knew. But I only watched. And yearned.

 

   I might have watched forever, if not for the dancing. One cold, damp morning, I lay snuggled in a cocoon of blankets, sketching an avocado flower plucked from the ground on my side of the fence, waiting for Vera. I heard drumming. Or maybe I felt it. I looked up from the sketch, and peered through the bushes with squinted eyes. There she was, coming up one of the pathways. Each heavy step added to the dust cloud already threatening to envelop her tiny form. Her usual singing, now a deep and throaty chant, rumbled through my entire body. She reached the last tree before the fence, stretched her arms towards the immense canopy of green above her, and began to dance. A dance unlike anything I knew. She swayed. She jumped. She spun. Her dance rocked her entire frame and shook the earth beneath me. She would reach towards the trees and then fold in half, as if trying to contact their roots, their life unseen. Her small, bare feet were a whirl of movement, all the time pounding a rhythm of life and love into the soil. The trees stirred. My soul sang. Enchanted by her movement and seduced by her power, I let a deep,  quivering moan escape past my lips.

 

     I clasped my hand over my mouth, too late. Vera stopped. The wind whispered through the leaves above, lifting her billowing, greenish-grey dress upward, revealing sinewy, slightly bowed legs. She turned, looked straight through my cover into my eyes, and grinned mischievously. Then reaching down for the hem of her gauzy skirt, she pulled it up between her legs, tucked it into her back waist band and, in one swift movement, sprang up the nearest tree. Leaves rustled overhead, like laughter. The sound came from all around me, revealing nothing. 

 

     I sat. I waited. And I watched, wondering if she would come down. When darkness dropped down from the sky and Vera still hadn’t, I rose to my feet. My legs were shaky and my head was in a fog; I wondered how long I had been crouched down, frozen and motionless. I stared at the fence for a moment but couldn’t approach it. I turned and walked on wobbling legs home to a questioning husband. I had no answers to give. He slept on the couch.

 

     The next day I awoke to find an empty couch. I didn’t care. I had somewhere I needed to be. I laced my shoes and sprinted across the property. And there she was. Back on solid ground and waiting at the fence, cradling a large woven basket that nearly eclipsed her from my sight. I stopped running and stood still, shaking and silent. I was chilled by the morning air on my sweat drenched skin, but I was also embarrassed and afraid. Her face folded inward like a sun-browned apple, then opened back up in an enormous burst of white.  “Come, girl. I have gift for you.” Her voice was rich and sweet, a balm on my ragged soul. She bounced the basket up and down in her arms as though soothing a colicky baby. Whatever was in that basket, I wanted it. Needed it. I walked over to the fence and she tilted the bounty towards me.

 

     It was filled to the brim with avocados. Verdant, massive; they beamed at me from their woven cradle. The basket was tremendous, containing at least 35 avocados, perhaps more. I looked down over the rim into her eyes, bright green and shimmering, like the leaves on her precious trees.  I inhaled her smell--fertile soil, or a garden after a heavy rain. She thrust the basket into my arms, and let go. They were mine.

“Avocados are aphrodisiac,” she sang out, and then chuckled softly to herself. “You know, for the sex?” Then she turned and strode off, humming softly to herself.

 

     “Wait!” I called after her. “I-I’m Diana. It’s nice to…”

    

     “Vera,” she called over her shoulder. You may call me Vera.”

 

     I stood still, watching until Vera was out of sight. My face was on fire, my throat, constricted and dry. What had she said? For the… sex? How could…? Well, she did talk to trees. Perhaps she knew everything there was to know about avocado lore and she just happened to share that particular tidbit with me? Or maybe my desperation was so strong that she could smell it. I wondered for a moment what desperation might smell like. Overripe berries, or wilting flowers? I peered into the basket again. There had to be 50 avocados in there. They weren’t all ripe, which was good. It was going to take a lifetime to eat them all.

 

     I carried my unbalanced load back to the house. So many avocados, it was overwhelming. I plucked one from the basket, and squeezed gently. Firm yet yielding, perfect. I grabbed a knife and sliced it open. Its flesh was absolutely gorgeous--bright green rim, lighter at the center. Creamy and flawless. I removed the seed, grabbed a spoon and gently pierced its flesh. It melted in my mouth. I stood at the sink and shoveled spoonfuls of the silky flesh into my mouth, in rapid succession, until I was left with a thin, hollow skin. I threw the remnants onto the counter and grabbed another, then another. I couldn’t stop. I didn’t want to.

 

     Jonathan arrived home as I was licking the skin of my seventh clean. I sat cross-legged on the kitchen counter, surrounded by the carnage of my avocado massacre; pits and skins lay around me like shrapnel. I had abandoned cutlery. It was much easier to simply scoop the fruit out with three curved fingers and deposit it directly into my mouth. He shuddered when he entered our kitchen and found me there, soft, green globs up to my elbows, avocado remnants smeared across my cheeks and nose, pit grasped in my teeth. I spit it into the trash and gave him a large, green-tinted smile. “Honey, you have got to try one of these avocados,” I blurted out.

 

     Jonathan looked down at the basket by my feet, still overflowing with the fruits of Vera’s labors. “Where in God’s name did you get all of those?  Diana, are you nuts? There’s got to be forty avocados in there. We cannot possibly eat all those.”

 

     “They were a gift. From Vera.”

 

     “Who the heck is Vera?”

 

     “Our neighbor… on the west side; she has an orchard and…”

 

     “I just don’t understand why you would bring all of these home. Di… you don’t even like...” He stopped and stared at me, a lopsided grin slowly spread across his face. “Wait. Weird craving?”

 

     I knew what he was trying to say. Excitement became fury. “Of course not! How could I be? Issues aside, you’d have to actually have sex with me, Jonathan.”

 

     His face turned white, then purple. I looked down at my hands. The avocado was drying, turning an odd shade of grey that reminded me of decay. My stomach dropped. I thought of Pennsylvania, how we had stopped talking to each other. How he had started sleeping in the spare bedroom. “Jon!” I called out. But the space where he had been standing moments before was empty. I stood, viewing the mess. It could wait till morning. I went to bed, but not before I had one more avocado. Sliced and off a plate this time. With a fork, in case my husband came back. He didn’t.

 

     The next morning I went into the kitchen. It was spotless. There was a note from Jon:

 

 

Hey Babe,

Sorry about last night. I know this move has been hard on you, with me working all the time. I left you a present in your craft room. I was going to show you last night, but... Well, anyhow, have fun with it, I thought it would help you settle in. I should have thought of it sooner. I’ll bring home Chinese tonight. Try not to o.d. on avocados in the meantime.

-J

 

 

     A present for me! I ran down the hallway to my craft room, my body quivering with enthusiasm. I threw the door open and gazed around the room. My eyes fell upon a small, pink laptop, screen open, another note placed upon its keyboard.

 

 

D-

I bookmarked a couple of sites, including one called meetup where you could look for local events to attend, maybe meet new people? I want you to get out, or at least talk to people. I’m not trying to push, doll, I just love you… and I thought this could help.

See you tonight.

 

 

     A computer? I didn’t even use the desktop in Jon’s office. Not because I couldn’t, but because I didn’t want to. I reread the note in my hands. "I want you to get out, or at least talk to people." I crushed his command into a tight ball and threw it at my gift. Then I sulked off to the kitchen to fix myself a big bowl of comfort.

 

     The basket was on the floor in the corner of the kitchen. I snatched it and heaved it onto the table. Holding out the edge of my t-shirt with one hand, I piled several avocados into it and walked over to the counter where I dumped them and went back for another load. Eight gorgeous globes spun on the countertop. I reached out and took one, and squeezed it. I smelled it, and rubbed its rough surface across my cheek. Then I bit into it. Hard. My teeth cut through the skin and into the soft flesh beneath. I sucked it down my throat, swallowed, and spit out the skin. It landed on the spotless tile. Standing there, I glanced around the shining kitchen, noticing the work Jon had put into its maintenance the night before. I took another bite, skin and all, and spit what I couldn’t chew onto his pristine white countertop. Fuck him.

 

     I ate three more avocados in the same fashion. Soon the floor and the counters were sprayed with green flecks and chunks of blackened, half-chewed avocado skins of various shapes and sizes. Bored with my game, I retrieved a knife from the drawer and sliced up the remaining avocados taken from the basket. I threw the chunks into a bowl, then licked my fingers clean. I needed a drink. There was a bottle of white in the chiller; I opened it, took a large sip, then reached back into the bowl. A fistful of avocado found its way into my mouth. More wine followed. My head swum. I needed to sit. I took my bowl and bottle and stumbled toward the hallway, smiling at the mess I was leaving behind. The finishing touch was a long green smear of my trailing fingers as I flipped the light switch on the way out. 

 

     I walked back into my craft room, set the new computer on the floor, and sat cross legged in front of it. I placed the half eaten bowl of avocado in my lap, the almost empty bottle of wine to my right. I powered up the computer, then opened up a bookmarked site. My face grew warm. “I’m adjusted!” I yelled at the laptop. Deep breath. Gulp of wine. Handful of sticky fruit. I wiped my hand on the front of my shirt and typed "avocado" into the search bar. Wikipedia appeared, I clicked the link. One sentence in particular caught my attention:

 

               The Aztecs thought of the avocado as fertility fruit.

 

     I typed Aztecs next to avocado and hit search again.

 

               The avocado is believed to be an aphrodisiac.

 

     I soon discovered that Aztec, Mayan, and Incan cultures all believed that avocados were imbibed with special powers. All three also thought that avocados nourished the body externally as well as internally. I even found an old legend which told of the necessity of locking up young maidens during the height of the avocado season, for protection from the ravenous men in their community. The deeper I dove, the more convinced I became that Vera’s avocados were going to revive my marital bed.

 

     The wine took its toll--eventually I passed out on the floor, curled around the avocado crusted bowl. I awoke to loud slamming and banging. I shot up, disoriented, and in the glow of the laptop I saw the overturned bottle and remembered where I was. The mess, in the kitchen. Jon must have found it. I ran down the hallway and slid into the kitchen. It was even worse than I remembered. Avocado was everywhere.

“Baby? I am so sorry, I-I will clean this up, I promise.” I slunk over and wrapped my arms around his waste, breathing in his smell. So fresh and electric, like the air before a storm. I kissed the back of his neck. He stiffened.

 

     “You stink of alcohol, Diana. Take a shower. Go to bed. You aren’t in any shape to deal with this.”

 

     “I don’t want to deal with this,” I purred. “I want to-”

 

     “I don’t.” He pulled out of my grasp and walked away, grumbling under his breath. Something about the ceiling. I looked up, and understood. How had I managed to get it up there?

 

     Dejected, I shuffled off to the bathroom and left him to clean up the avocado slaughterhouse. After he ate dinner I tried to seduce him again, with a clean face and brushed teeth this time, but to no avail. I went to bed aroused and rejected, while he stayed in his office, officially to finish up a report, unofficially to avoid me.

 

     I tried to settle myself down by glancing through my baby nursery scrapbook, but I wasn’t in the mood for that kind of fantasy. My sexual tension was so intense, my skin felt wired. I couldn’t wait for Jon. I stripped off my clothes, piece by piece, watching myself in the bureau mirror. Once I stood completely bared, I switched off the light and gazed at my nude, moonlit body. I climbed into the bed, letting the sensation of cold sheets on warm flesh wash over me. Touching myself felt strange, like caressing a stranger. I ran my hands over my attention-starved body, slowly. I heard a humming, and began to rock in rhythm. Vera. Harder and faster I rocked to her song until my entire body broke out in harmonic vibration. During climax, I tasted avocados in my mouth. I fell asleep dreaming of cascading white flowers.

 

     In the morning I awoke calm and clear. I decided to make peace by cooking breakfast. The house smelled delicious; I knew Jon would succumb, to me and the avocados. Instead he grabbed his thermos, filled it with coffee and turned towards the door, without even glancing at me.

 

     “Breakfast, baby?” I prompted.

           

     “No time.”

           

     “But I made you an omelet.” He was silent. “Are you still… mad…?”

           

     “I’m just not hungry, babe.” He came over and kissed the top of my head. “I know you are trying to use up those avocados, but I’ve got to go, I’m already late.”

           

     No amount of cajoling was going to get my avocado omelet into my husband. After he was gone I angrily picked at the omelet and then opened it and ate the avocado. Then I ran. It was later than usual, so I did not expect Vera. Yet there she was, standing at the fence line, waiting for me. I jogged over, and we stared at each other, soundless. Finally, I broke the silence.

           

     “They didn’t work. My husband won’t eat them.”

           

     She chuckled and reached out to caress the nearest tree. “Sometimes timing off. Males and females don’t flower together always. Patient, girl. And some manipulating too, eh?” She grinned, patted my head, and left me standing there. I stood for a few moments, staring up into her trees. They looked luscious, so healthy and full of life. I began to reach over the fence towards the nearest tree, then drew my hand back. The fence was a boundary I couldn’t cross. I didn’t want to break the spell. I inhaled deeply, turned and headed back to the house.

           

     I spent the entire afternoon on my little pink laptop researching avocado recipes, and turning over Vera’s words in my mind. One in particular. Manipulation. Then I stumbled across the perfect way. Dessert. Jonathan can’t resist sweets, and he wouldn’t expect avocado in one either. It was the perfect ruse. Avocado Lime Pie.          

 

     Jonathan was thrilled that I made him the pie. So thrilled that he ate the entire thing. He even dipped his fingers in the pie pan and licked the remaining morsels off his fingertips, a very un-Jonathan thing to do. It was working! I rushed off to the bathroom to freshen up and get myself ready. But when I came out, my husband was sequestered in his office, again. I shuffled off to the kitchen, grabbed an avocado out of the basket and began to absentmindedly peel it. I had been so worked up over the prospect of sex that I hadn’t eaten much dinner, or any of the pie. I sliced the fruit into a bowl, and took a bite. I was angry that Jonathan ate the entire pie. I didn’t even get to taste it. I went over to the fridge to find something to go with my avocado. As I was bent over, rummaging through the crisper drawer, I felt Jonathan push against me.

           

     “What did you put in that pie?”  

           

     “What? Just something Vera told me to try.”

           

     “Who?”

           

     “Our neighbor, Ve-”

 

     “Thank her for me later.” He spun me around and kissed me so forcefully my toes curled. I reached up and wrapped my avocado-coated fingers in his hair. We tumbled down the hallway towards the bedroom, clothes dropping like petals. In the bedroom, we folded into a pile of tangled limbs. Rediscovered our rhythm. Bloomed for each other. As I lay panting afterwards, snarled and twisted on Jonathan and our sex-damp, earth-scented sheets, I whispered, “Oh, Vera… oh, I owe you a pie”.

           

     The next morning I was up at four AM for my run. Jonathan was still snoring loudly on his side of the bed. I practically flew down to the dividing line between our land and Vera’s, but she wasn’t there. I waited a while and then jogged on, and came back by on my way home. She still wasn’t there. I was disappointed, but not terribly surprised. She was by no means predictable. I thought about waiting, but I was hoping to catch Jonathan in the shower. Perhaps the pie’s magic hadn’t worn off just yet. I sprinted the rest of the way home.

           

     The doorbell rang around three AM the next morning. I opened the door to see Vera standing in the shadows, her frail form nearly indistinguishable from the gray, lightless morning air. She was draped in brown, with just her tiny, pale face poking out at me. Her eyes were dark but her smile put me at ease. “Avocado,” she said. “Of your own.” She thrust her slender, smooth hands across the threshold, revealing a water-filled jar with a large seed balanced precariously upon toothpicks crisscrossing the lip. Its smooth, curved bottom just grazed the liquid surface. “For baby. It bring her luck.”

           

     I’m not sure if it was because it was early and I was tired, or if it was joy or gratitude, and yes, love, for this odd little woman that I hardly knew, but I began to cry. “No baby. I can’t… thank you, you really have done so much for us--for me. But on this you are mistaken. No baby.”

           

     She smiled, reached out, and gently patted my abdomen. “Soon, baby. Soon.” She turned and stepped off my porch into the darkness of the early morning. I watched her disappear into the haze. Then I carried the jar into the kitchen and placed it upon the darkened window sill. I ran a finger across the avocado pit’s silky surface, wondering if I would be able to keep it alive. I really wasn’t very good at taking care of plants. It was nothing more than big old seed right now though, and it looked pretty hearty. This would be my new baby, I thought. And I would have Vera to help me raise it. I smiled at my new addition and then left the kitchen in search of my jogging shoes.

           

     Later, as I ran past her trees, I slowed to see if I could spot her. There she was, several feet down one of the rows, dancing wildly beneath the trees. She was laughing and spinning, her feet moving so fast they hardly seemed to be touching the ground. “Hello!” I called out to her. “I wanted to thank you for the seed. You left so fast this morning…”

           

     “Did you know that all Hass avocado trees are descended from a single mother tree?” she asked me. “One tree! Amazing!” She spun out of sight, but I could still hear her laughter. It followed me all the way home.

 

     The next several mornings I didn’t feel up to running. I didn’t feel up to doing much of anything. But after four days of loafing around I realized that my avocado supply was gone and suddenly I needed one. I grabbed the empty basket and walked towards Vera’s house. I thought this time, for once, I would use the front door.

 

     FOR SALE. The big bold red letters screamed out from the sign in the front of Vera’s house. I stood in the road, dumbfounded. Vera, selling her house?  Was she is some kind of financial trouble? I took a step towards the porch.

 

     “Can I help you?” I turned to see a suit-clad gentleman holding a stack of flyers. He stuffed them into the box attached to the for-sale sign.

 

     “I was looking for Vera,” I mumbled into my chest.

 

     “Who?”

 

     “The lady who lives here?” I didn’t mean for it to sound like a question.

 

     “Ma'am, you must be mistaken. I’ve been looking for a buyer for this house for years! I sold that one in half the time,” he said, while pointing in the direction of my own house. “Are you sure you have the right address?”

 

     I couldn’t reply. My mind swam. Where was Vera? Did I get lost, was I at the wrong house? I spun in a circle, dizzy, without bearings.

 

     “I’ll give you my card, in case you know someone who might be interested in buying. It’s really an interesting property.  The avocados are better than any I’ve ever had, and they seem to grow even when no one’s there to tend to them! Must be a really hardy type of tree.” He reached into his pocket and held out a card. I stared at his tan, manicured hand. I could feel the burn of fresh tears.

 

     “Well, uh, anyhow, I better get going,” he stammered. I was making him uncomfortable. A car horn blared, making the both of us jump.

 

     “Oh! That’s the gentleman who bought the house next door I was telling you about. Great guy, works in… consulting of some sort. Hey, sir!” he called out.

 

     I didn’t need to look, I knew it was my husband. I couldn’t speak. Not to this strange man who was our Realtor. And certainly not to Jon. I dropped the basket and ran.

 

     I stumbled onto our lawn. A tidal wave of nausea burst out of my throat and the contents of my stomach spilled onto the earth. I’d just seen her. Last night? Last week? I wasn’t sure. I’d felt so sick lately. I ran up the steps and burst through the kitchen door. I needed to see. Yes. There, glittering in the sunlight, were tiny, delicate green roots, streaming from the bottom of the seed. It had sprouted.