A short story by Rue Baldry
My dearest William,
You are right. I was saving those plums for breakfast. I’m not sure what we are going to have now. At least you left the note, I suppose, but I’ve onlyjust seen it and now it’s too dark for me to go out and pick more.
First thing tomorrow morning I was going to slip out of bed while you were asleep, push my feet into my freezing slippers and creep quietly down the edges of the stairs, avoiding the squeak in their centre. I would have cradled those plums out of the ice box to arrange them on that plate your mother gave us, the one with the sage-coloured ivy pattern, because that green sits so well behind the dawn hues of plum skin. That plate was then going to be left to rest on the far side of the table, away from the stove, so the fruit could warm up gradually in its own time. They are so much nicer at room
temperature. Next I was going to fill the kettle and get it on the stove before returning upstairs to dress. Don’t suppose I’ll bother with any of it now. I will sleep a little longer and let you rise on your own.
I was looking forward to sitting opposite each other sharing those plums, before you went off to work and I started on the household chores. We had the possibility of starting our days with sweetness, and, perhaps, a moment of reminiscence about other plums we’ve eaten together.
I am glad that you enjoyed them. All of them. Straight out of the ice box, cold and un-plated.
Tomorrow afternoon, as I did today, I will pull on my boots, cross the lawn and walk into the long grass of the orchard. The wet blades will soak at the skirt over my knees, seeping damp down to my petticoat. I will lift an empty basket over the gnarled, twisting lower branches of the apples trees.
Brambles will scratch red marks up my arms, which will make today’s look pinker, faded.
I will test the softness of each bruise-purple plum to isolate those which are the most perfect in that moment. I will lie them, again, gently in the bottom of my basket, as careful as a new mother.
I’ll leave my wet, grass-cross-hatched boots on the back doorstep. The stone flags will freeze my feet for the two steps on the way to my slippers.
Tomorrow, though, unlike today, I will not put those plums in the ice box. I will leave them on the ivy-ringed plate while I make myself a cup of tea. Then I will bite into veined, tooth-clinging flesh to gobble up every one.
With deep love,
Your darling wife x
Publications in which Rue Baldry’s short stories have previously appeared include Postbox Magazine,The Nottingham Review, The First Line, Pif, The Incubator, Mslexia, The Honest Ulsterman and The Mighty Line. She was the 2017 Bridge Award Emerging Writer. ruebaldry.wordpress.com/