“Leave him,” the apple said, “you deserve better.”
“Who am I without him?” she asked. She slid her back down the rough tree to rest in the grass beneath it. The silhouette of the apple hung on a thin stem inches from her face.
“The woman you used to be.”
“He would never let me leave.” She closed her eyes.
“You have to do something.” The apple shook, discontented in the breeze. “You’re not the only one he hurts.”
She struggled to recall life before Todd, before the fruit. She thought she used to have a cell phone. Yes, a phone with numbers in it. Who were those people? Those friends? Susan, Jess, Erica? What happened to them? What happened to that smokey night club they used to patrol, looking for men? The coffee shop where they debated the merits of those same men over warm drinks and brownies?
She remembered the lime. It was the last night she spent with Susan and Jess. The lime slurred, pregnant with coconut flavored rum. It said that she shouldn’t let Todd insult her friends. But maybe, she thought, Todd was right about them. Maybe Susan was too involved in her personal life. And maybe Jess was dramatic
“He’sh wrung,” the lime hiccuped, “hee’sh mean, shtick with your friends.”
She downed another shot and let the music muffle the lime. Susan and Jess were gone by dawn. But Todd was still there.
Todd seduced her with grapes in the beginning. He fed them to her like she was Cleopatra. Each one tried to say something but she shut them up, swallowed them whole. Her teeth punctured them, popping into each one down to their tiny seeds. Sometimes he peeled the layers of skin off for her, slipping each moist, soft grape between her lips. She devoured them as he devoured her. She let herself get lost in the pleasure, the love. He made her feel beautiful.
No grape had ever done that before.
The watermelon ran red up her arms during the barbeque. It was their first wedding anniversary. Marks of red juice in the shape of fingerprints lined her wrists. Erica was still around then, the last to give up on her. Erica saw the marks and she got that look in her eyes, tried to tell her this wasn’t right. She told Erica it was an accident, it was just the watermelon. She was hopeful, wanted to believe that this was the love that would nourish her for years. The watermelon refused to take the blame.
“Erica is right,” the watermelon said, “it wasn’t an accident.” She spit its black seeds onto the cement.
“She isn’t right. He loves me.” With one bite she shut up the watermelon. Erica didn’t return to the next barbeque.
They ate watermelon again.
The banana tried to remind her of the girl they ran into the day she and Todd were shopping. It said that the girl wasn’t really an old high school friend, she couldn’t possibly be Todd’s age because her breasts were too perky and her eyes too bright.
“No, you’re wrong,” she told the banana, “some people just age better than others.”
Of course, it suffered. Smashed against the bathroom sink. Bruised, pulp seeping from beneath its skin. The banana paid for questioning him. The banana was a suspicious bitch.
The clementines were delivered at Christmas. She caressed the sides of their ripe, sun-kissed faces. She could feel how vulnerable they were.
The clementines were young. Playful. They couldn’t understand. As they found their voices they began to ask questions. The card from her mother said she wanted the whole family to visit and why couldn’t they? Why couldn’t her mother call any more? Why should he get so nervous over what they may talk about? She tried to tell them to stop asking but they didn’t. She couldn’t protect them.
They paid for their words, they suffered for their wishes. She spent hours cleaning up sticky fruit juice, her tears falling on the permanently stained hardwood floors. She kept finding white seeds between stair banisters, baby teeth fallen from the split mouths of the fruit. It was her job to protect them. And she would.
After that everything citrus tasted like blood.
She washed her hands and looked at the grapes on the kitchen table. They had soured. Some were withered juiceless bodies. All showed signs of silent decay. The thought made her smile.
She reached for the apple, plucked it easily from its precarious position on the branch. She polished it with the edge of her shirt. She ignored the age lines in her hands. The apple would suffer if she didn’t do something. She couldn’t allow that. The bruises on an apple never fade.
She took a bite.
Katrina Ray-Saulis is a Maine writer who refuses to live too far from the ocean. She is studying creative writing at The New Hampshire Institute of Art and working on a short story collection. Katrina lives with her wife in an apartment much smaller than their book collection. She thrives off of coffee and books and uses sitcoms to quiet her overactive mind.