Grief Like the Apple Tree Grows Crooked Not Straight

E. E. Rhodes

Crumble

It’s your face in the mirror, even though there’s no one left to see. Your fingertips touch mine on the glass. Cold. Like the other side of a winter death.

I tell Tam it’s your fingerprints I leave.

Harvest

I hear your voice in the night. Tam asks what the matter is, says I was crying in my sleep. I tell him you were shouting. Calling my name.

He holds my hand in the too quiet dark. Mumbles something soothing. Sorry, I tell him. Sorry, she woke us again.

Fruit

I sit at your desk opening the drawers. Each one smells of you. Apples and autumn, and a hint of clove. I drown in the me-myself familiar scent.

I leave the drawers open while I make lunch in the kitchen.

Later, I close each of them one by one. Like a morgue, I tell Tam. Just like morgue drawers.

Pollination

Tam brings figs home from the farmer’s market.

I tell him you found wasp grubs inside one once. After that you would always say figs tasted like an anticipation of death.

I stew the figs with honey, and add cream. Tam says they taste like life. I tell him I agree.

I want it to be true.

Blossom

I leave a branch of apple blossom on your grave. We haven’t chosen the stone yet. None of us know what it should say.

People think I’ve some special insight. But it’s not true.

You’re ever farther from me. As I go on. Almost alone.

Bud

I tell myself I can start over. Grow into something new. I tell Tam this over supper. He nods. Asks what I need.

A future. I tell him. Not just a past.

I try not to show how fragile I still feel.

Branch

The solicitor says you’ve left me your flat. I know this was probably more by chance than anything else.

Philip phones and whines. Says it should be his. Talks about the shelves he put up.

I remind him he left, before you did.

He always thought I was a pale version of you, no substance of my own.

I tell him not to phone again.

Tam smiles when he passes me a glass of wine.

Trunk

I don’t think of you for three days straight.

Tam asks if it’s a new lipstick. It is, I tell him. And a new dress. And a new haircut.

It’s my face in the mirror.

It is.

You wouldn’t approve.

Root

We take all your things to Oxfam. Or to be recycled. Or to the dump.

All I save is a face that looks the same as yours.

Seed

Over coffee, my boss asks what it’s like to lose a twin. I tell her to ask me again when I have.

But, I talk about you in the past tense.

The lipstick leaves an unfamiliar pink smile on the cup. I fit my mouth to it again. And again. And again.


This story was a runner-up in the ECHO themed flash competition from September 2021.

About the author: E. E. Rhodes is an archaeologist who lives in Wiltshire, in England, with many books, a tolerant partner, and at least a couple of mice in the wainscotting. She can be found on twitter @electra_rhodes and has had work published in a range of anthologies, journals, and collections. She’s currently working on a flash novella set in Wales.