Peaches in the family orchard lampoon your sister just as your mother’s culpable God does; sickly sweet with golden skin that makes one’s thumb itch to curl into ripe flesh, but not all pretty and young are as they seem, so imagine instead rotten fervor meeting your fingertips as nails scrape into decay, decomposition; this is rancid, this is blight, this is mold spreading up your hand to eat away at your golden skin instead, how could something so pretty be filled with dry rot?
So, naturally, you avoid the family orchard when you can, instead choosing to ride a bicycle that is soft blue hand-me-down into the fields beyond, where there are dirt paths leading you to green expanse with no trees, no signs, nothing but clouds and the golden nymph that bathes in them.
There are no peaches here. Here you ride the bicycle christened Bailey, a name that Camilla had bestowed when she had been a good, ripe sister.
This time, though, you’ve been asked to deliver some of those rotten peaches you can't bear to look at. You take a detour off the delivery into the green fields, because the putridness these peaches are swollen with seem to waft up through the fruits’ skin and congest your nose; the smell of pine and grass hopefully will help. You dry retch still, pedaling faster.
And then you see her, fly-away baby hairs backlit by the sun akin to the soft glow of peach fuzz, skin smooth and bright like fresh fruit.
“Hello, Amelia,” Camilla says, as if she’s been waiting for you.
You nearly fall off Bailey.
The bike stops, feet saving you from an unfortunate fall, and you stare. Unapologetically, of course, because you aren't the sister who is rotten, who is rancid and decomposition and mildew and all things noxious. You stand. Stumble. Reach out and then pull your fingers away from the allure of her warmth and soft peach of a face, because you remember the mold that consumed you before.
“I’m assuming Mom still doesn’t want to see me?” It’s phrased like a question, but Camilla says it like a statement, admittedly rightfully so.
You don’t waste time on something that is already apparent, so you demand instead, “How did you find me?”
“Lisbeth said you seemed to like the fields, so I guessed.”
“And if I wasn’t here?”
“Then I’d guess I’d have to look in another field.”
“Mom would be happy with you if you spent half the time you wasted trying to find me studying the Bible,” you say. It’s true, too, because your mother says nearly every other day that the reason your sister turned out so simply spoilt and worthless was that she knew no religion, knew no God.
“The Bible has done nothing but take my family away.” Camilla cruelly curls her smile, and you imagine the maggots finally meeting air as they eat out of the dimples of her grimace, holes of decay and mildew.
“You got pregnant, Camilla. That’s not the Bible’s fault.”
“It’s the Bible’s fault Mom did not speak to me about pregnancy, and it’s her God’s fault for leading into abandoning me, for exiling me.” Uncurl goes the smile, and instead, there is simply melancholy, maggots pouring out.
In the handles of Bailey, you’ve written your name. Next to that is Camilla’s. You’ve tried many times to cross it out, but the marker never quite works. You’re not sure why you think about this now, but it’s there, and you glance at it shamefully.
“Her name is Addison, you know. She’s two now. Her middle name is Amelia Kate.”
Despite yourself, you wonder about Addison Amelia Kate. What is her last name? Does she like the color blue, like the hue of Bailey? Is she a dollhouse sort of child or a hide-and-seek one? Does she fall victim to silly peek-a-boo games? Does she like running barefoot, jumping on couches? How small would her hand be if it pressed into your palm?
“Fun,” you say, like the very core of you isn’t being gnashed away at, like your niece's name doesn’t swallow your pit of a heart and spit it out in pain.
“Would you like to meet her?”
“She’s your niece, Amelia.”
You pick at a loose thread in your overalls and yank. “No. She would be my niece if you were still my sister.”
Camilla sighs. She says nothing in return.
You bury your head in your hands, crouching into your denim knees to wonder more about Addison Amelia Kate, and even a little of Camilla. You wonder if Camilla cooks Grandmama’s peach pie for Addison, if she puts nearly as much whipped cream on top so they look like the ones you two had once eaten when young. You wonder Addison’s first words, wonder how Camilla’s managed to raise a child on her own after being kicked out of the house, banished seventeen and with child. You wonder which bedtime stories Addison gets, if you ever cameo in any of them. You wonder if Camillia will teach Addison to ride a bike, just as Camilla had once done with you.
Most of all, you wonder what Addison Amelia Kate looks like. Does she also have a small peach face? Does she have the same peach-fuzz baby hairs? Does she too allure people come out, touch her golden skin, feel her warmth and brightness?
Is she, too, destined to rot, or does she instead burst with fresh sweetness like Camilla once had?
You pry your head from your hands when you feel your blunt fingernails pulling blood from how hard you’ve been pressing questions into your head. You glance at the ruby drip, head burning with pain and questions, and you decide to fuck it.
“Camilla!” you call because maybe, just maybe, you do want to see Addison Amelia Kate, want to see your niece, the daughter of your sister — "Camilla!"
Camilla is gone. The only peaches in sight are in the sack strewn over Bailey, who is lying back on two dirt paths some distance away. Camilla's peach face and golden fuzzy baby hairs are nowhere to be seen, and in panic you start to wonder if any of this experience was real, or if it was your mother's God now rotting you as well, planting decay in you so that the maggots may take you too; or, perhaps He is simply exposing what’s already there, the rot within you that filled the hole when Camilla left, the rot you refused to face in favor of endless green fields. Whether or not Camilla was truly here, you don't know, not for sure, and that —
Your eyes burn; it’s not the rancid peaches.
Your fingernails dig into the sack and grip a peach, golden and beautiful, and you press it to your lips, open, feel teeth sink into rot and mold and maggots and everything in between, and feel yourself decay too.
Fareeda Naduvil is currently studying at Solon High School in Ohio for her high school degree. Co-founder of a creative writing club in her school and president of the Intrinsic Art one, she loves to spin prose, tend poems, raise art. She is currently working on turning sixteen and surviving tenth grade, with a plethora of new work to come.