I don’t know quite where this one came from, it just did. Enjoy!
The Ground Where She Used To Walk
“So…” I say as we step further into the orchard, where the branches of the apple trees are bent low with fruit not quite yet ready for picking. “When are you going to tell Grandmother?”
Lia doesn’t answer me right away. She looks up, searching for bits of sky between the branches, fingers trailing over the bark. “I don’t know…” she says finally, wrapping her arm around the trunk like it’s a waistline, nearly skipping as she rounds the tree. Dancing, but not with me. “Some things just need the right moment, you know?”
“Yeah, I know,” I say. It’s what she always says when she’s refusing to face something.
She flashes me a smile, leaving her dance partner and striding to the next one, fingers across that bark, too. Her hair is pulled back into a braid, a green ribbon tying it together near the end. The same ribbon weaves in and out between the reeds of the basket in her hand. Inside is the midday meal and drinks that we’re taking down to the workers, to our uncle and those cousins old and strong enough to work the mill. In two summers’ time, I will be, too. Lia gets a pass because she is different, because she draws eyes and smiles from everyone who sees her, because they all love her.
I’ve always been her favorite. The littlest cousin. The one she dances with, the one she tells her secrets to. That’s why I don’t smile when I see her anymore. Unlike the others, I know she doesn’t see the mill or the orchard when she looks into the future; she sees the open road and the pack hidden under her bed. I don’t blame her for it, but I do blame her for lying to me. For saying she’ll tell Grandmother, when we both know I’m the one who will tell her, when Lia is already hours away.
“Come one, race you there!” she says and takes off, ribbons fluttering behind her in the air.
I let her disappear ahead of me, out of the orchard and down the road a way. I should get used to it, after all. Soon, the ground where she used to walk will be all I have left. I wait, count slowly in my head. Eighteen, nineteen, twenty, twenty-one… Twenty-four is as far as I get, then I can’t take it anymore. I run after her.