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The Orchard of Hope
The moon was shining upon the figure, shadows flickering back and forth, as a hand reached up high for the desired object. The apple was swiftly thrown into the worn out basket. She ran through the orchard full of fruit, her dress slowing her down. She looked ahead, wondering if she should take the chance. She didn’t; the garden of vegetables were too close to the farmer’s house.
She heard a noise and slightly turned her head. The lights of the house flickered on. Silently, she ran out of the orchard, all the way home, not stopping until she reached the door.
She grabbed a small lantern from the lop-sided wooden stool by the side of the door. James, her five year-old brother, sat huddled up in a corner with many blankets wrapped around him.
“James? Are you awake?” she asked in a small whisper but received no answer. She looked at the clock with the broken glass front that had once belonged to her parents; she pondered for a moment. Her older brother, Michael was late as usual. He was three years older than she was, 15. In his effort to support his family, he worked long and hard hours in the town, several miles away.
She put an apple beside James but as soon as she turned around, he coughed.
“You are awake. Hope your not getting sick,” she whispered.
“Jacquie…I’m hungry,” James said weakly.
“Have the apple…I brought it for you,” Jacquie replied softly. He grabbed the apple from her hands. Her hands met with his. Suddenly, warmth flowed through her body for a moment until he let go. Only then, did she realize how cold she was.
An hour later, her brother walked in.
“How’d it go?” was the first thing he asked. She pointed to the basket full of apples. “How’s Jamsie?”
“He’s okay. He might be getting sick though,” Jacquie told Michael. Michael eagerly took a bite out of one of the apples. “Will you help me carry him into the bed?”
“Sure.” He picked James up and placed him on the small, rickety, bed, the only one they had. “Here you get in too.”
“No, you should,” Jacquie protested.
“No, I’ll be fine,” Michael replied. She obeyed him sliding in, next to sleeping James, her eyes already beginning to close. Next thing she knew, the sun was blinding her.
When she awoke, Michael was gone and James was up playing with some stick figures he had made. She looked at the clock and realized it was 11:00 in the morning. Sliding out of bed, her feet touched the cold floor, making her wish they had a rug but instead, all they had in their small shack was one bed, blankets, and a broken stove. Outside was a rope tied to the trees, which dried the few clothes they had. A small rock circle was below, where the occasional fish were cooked. Rarely, did she get lucky to catch a fish with the crude fishing pole, which kept snapping. But, Jacquie was always very handy and made another one quickly.
“James? We’re going to go fishing today,” she announced. He cheered at the thought of having something to do. Jacquie went outside, James following her. She shivered as the wind blew her brown hair into her face; it was a cold morning. After successfully lighting a fire, she tried to cook a tasty meal with the few ingredients she had. Instead, she ended up with a bland corn bread like cake that made James frown.
“Sorry. We’ll get some fish today,” she said meekly. Later that day they did just that.
Jacquie grabbed her fishing pole with one hand, James holding the other tightly. They both wore small jackets that needed to be replaced. The river wasn’t far from their small shack. They silently walked on the dirt path towards the river. Once they arrived, James helped Jacque set up. She sat and waited. After only a few minutes James became impatient.
“Why are you so bad at catching fishies?” James asked in irritation.
“It takes time,” she replied, trying to suppress a giggle.
“Let me try,” he replied. “I’m a big kid!”
“Maybe next time, Jamsie,” Jacquie told him solemnly.
“Why can’t I?” he whined.
“Michael will show you how to fish next time…I promise,” she replied. Her arms jerked forward a bit. She started reeling the fish in; it was small but it would do. The fishing rod snapped and the fish fell on the grass, flopping back towards the river. “Don’t let it get away!” James proudly scooped it up.
“I got it! I got it!” he exclaimed in joy. She gave him a hug and they began walking back. Their short trip ended with a small success. She cooked up the fish and they ate it for lunch, feeling a pang of guiltiness, knowing she hadn’t shared with her older brother. Afterwards, she lied down on the bed and dreamed of being rich and not having to worry. She dreamed that she had a different life, but awoke from this care-free dream with the smell of smoke in her nostrils and James sobbing.
“James! Are you alright?” she exclaimed flying out of bed, trying to find out what had happened.
“I burnt the apples,” James replied.
“How’d you do that?” she asked, relieved he wasn’t hurt. She pushed the crooked door opened, to see James hovering over the fire.
“I wanted to make apple pie, like Daddy!” James exclaimed, upset. She laughed.
“That’s not how you make apple pie…Michael can show you sometime,” Jacquie looked in the basket to discover that Max had used all the apples. It would be another night trip to the orchard.
Once it became dark, Jacquie ran off to steal more fruit. She followed the twisted dirt path until she arrived at her final destination. She had been down the same path so many times that she could have gotten there with her eyes closed.
She turned her head from both sides to makes sure no one was around. It began to drizzle so she quickened up her pace, swiftly grabbing apples from the trees. Thunder roared. Jacquie ran under the tree for shelter, sliding her back down the trunk until she reached the ground. She was sick of this life and was sobbing loudly. Why did everything have to be so hard? A light shined on her. Was this death? Had she been struck by lightning? Of course not, she was in an orchard, sheltered by a tree. Still, that didn’t keep her thoughts from running wild.
A figure came closer. A man taller than she was, walked toward her, shining a light at her face. He had a frown and opened his mouth. She was ready to sprint; her face could not be revealed. He got closer and closer until finally he was close enough that she could see his face. Gray hair covered his forehead with shining blue eyes, keeping her attention from all the wrinkles. She froze in fear; she’d done this millions of times but never had she been caught.
“Now, who are you?” the man asked loudly. He shined the light directly in her face, studying her. “Oh, you’re that girl who takes food from me every night.” Her cheeks turned pink with embarrassment. He started to raise his other hand. She flinched but was surprised when he brought his hand closer to show a basket full of meats, vegetables, and fruit.
“Take this home. And this.” He handed her an over-sized coat. She did something she had not done in a long time; she smiled. This smile was brought to her face because she knew there was hope.