I watched as she moved around the kitchen, arms filling up with fruit. She’d been sick for so long, I’d been the one making us breakfast. Toast usually, all that she could stomach, sometimes pancakes, plain, not even buttered.
But, the day before, we’d seen the elderly man with his banged up farm truck on the side of the road selling oranges when we were heading home from another bad appointment. He’d cut one in half right there in front of us and when he opened it up, the insides looked like the sun, they were almost perfect. “In the morning,” she’d said “I’ll make us some juice.”
I pulled the step stool from behind the trashcan and took the thick green glass juicer down from its perch. She sat at the wooden table, still wrapped in her white robe, and started slicing the oranges, digging her nails into the skin, little drops of juice running down the palms of her hands. Her nail polish was chipped a bit, little red flakes.
I watched her cut and twist the halves upon the juicer, the juice gathering in the cup below. I breathed in deep, smelling the memory of eating oranges on the beach in Georgia last summer. The wind mixed the scent of citrus and salted air as the storm came in and we’d run so fast back to our shitty hotel. I exhaled slowly, feeling my heart pound in my chest, my feet still bare on the floor.
She moved so slowly now. I handed her two purple glasses and she filled them with the freshly squeezed juice. “I’m tired,” she said “I need to lay down.” I followed her to the couch with our glasses, setting hers on the coffee table.
I stared out the window and watched the mountains evaporate and turn to oceans of blue. All the birds fell out of the sky, diving beneath the sea and reappearing at the surface with a small fish. I thought about her swimming. Her beautiful arms moving through the water, her body, so gracefully being carried out to sea, her strength bringing her back to land against all the currents. When she got to shore, her nose was bleeding. “I’m gonna shut my eyes, just for a few minutes,” she said. I took a sip of the juice she had used so much of her energy to make. It tasted like some kind of new forever.
It’s been so long since I’ve had something good to drink. I can’t drink orange juice anymore and I can’t eat oranges either. Just the thought makes tears come out of my eyes and people tell me I look like I’m crying. Sometimes at night I can hear a man sobbing, but when I look around he is gone.
I watch for the elderly man with the banged up farm truck. I miss her so much, I want the old farm man to cut one in half for me and I want it to look like the sun and I just wanna say they’re almost perfect.
Rebekah Morgan is a writer living in good ol’ Eastern Tennessee. Previous work can be found in Fence, Hobart, Joyland, Maudlin House, and Tyrant Books, among others places.