There’s a neat row of mason jars at the top of her pantry.
Abuela’s jars, each filled to the brim with her marmalade. Carefully ladled and labelled with their year. Tied up with ribbon and a neat square of recycled cloth. She’s never opened a single one but kept them like small glass memories; sugared ones laced with bitterness. She buys commercial jars instead, with bright brand names and lids that pop! when twisted. She buys these and sets them in the fridge — front and centre where her husband can find them.
He likes his toast dark.
She spreads butter over it in the mornings with a surgeon’s precision; glides the sticky preserve over the top. There’s barely any rind. Not like her abuela’s, full of chunk and flavour; juices would drip down her arm as she separated supreme from membrane and weeded out the pith. It was important to remove every trace of the white, she would advise. Abuela’s marmalade won hearts at the Feria de abril de Sevilla every year. People would claim it was the best they’d ever had, would ask for the recipe as she laughed her belly laugh and waved off their requests.
“No puedo,” she’d say, “I will keep it until my grave calls for me.”
He likes his whisky sours. She spreads foundation over bruises that blossom each day and remembers steady hands squeezing juice over a bowl. Abuela’s never trembled.
Her husband’s always shook.
She stops before the carefully arranged pyramid of polished citrus at the market; takes up one, then another and turns them in her palms. Her abuela would take her into the streets during the winter, when her mother would pack their things and they’d return to boulevards of swaying palms. She’d hand her a basket and they’d stop beneath the naranjos, collecting armfuls of oranges that littered the roadside, their dimpled skin ripening where they lay.
She lifts each to her nose and inhales; stows a dozen in her trolley and wheels it on.
On the anniversary of her abuela’s passing, she selects her dozen oranges and stops at the markets; buys fresh squid, prawns and parcels of chorizo sausage wrapped in butcher paper. She cooks all day and her abuela is alive again, at her side as they make chorizo a la sidra and chopitos. It is her childhood again, the windows in the kitchen thrown wide and the perfume of the azahar drifting in.
Her husband marinates in his temper. When he hits her this time, she strikes the table and oranges roll across the kitchen floor in every direction. She watches them and imagines she is beneath the palms. She is ripening where she lays.
She spreads butter over his toast in the morning with a surgeon’s precision.
He leaves for work and she draws a chair to the pantry. Carefully takes down each of abuela’s jars. Her ring is a token on the counter, left in place like payment beside a bowl of oranges.
Jacqueline Carter lives in Melbourne, Australia and when she’s not preoccupied with the stories she weaves in her head, she works as an administrator and spends her time being an unabashed fan of all things pop culture. Previously, Jacqueline’s had pieces published in Fray and Project Calm as well as various online anthologies such as FewerThan500 and Inside the Bell Jar.