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The Apple Children

Updated: Jan 22

Reunited at last, young Georgie and Penny walked down the grassy hill arm in arm, humming together in time to the beat of their merry prancing. The cool autumn air biting at their faces was never the most pleasant welcome back to the dreary village they called home—a stark contrast from their respective summer getaways further south. Still, the girls gripped tighter to the large picnic basket between them, eager to soon put it to use.

"Have you been to this farm before, my love?" Georgie looked back to regard the imprints of their matching boots left behind in the earth. "For such an esteemed baker as yourself, you have to have at least passed by and admired such beautiful land." And beautiful it was: as they approached the small farm in the valley, they were greeted with all the bounties of the late September harvest, and they realized how nice it was to be home.

"Never." Penny, the more intuitive of the two, stared on in astonishment. "Why, I guessed this part of town to be quite desolate, and never would I have thought such a spot as this to bear any vegetation." And yet, they witnessed in front of them a thick rainbow acreage of berries, fruits, vegetables, and flowers, all plump and ripe for the picking. "Some miracle this is!"

"Quite," Georgie replied. "A miracle, indeed!" Still, it wasn't long before her eyes feasted upon the most entrancing sight of all.

"By God, that apple tree has grown quite a lot!"

Basket still in hand, she dragged Penny towards the only source of substantial shade around, its thick body decorated with gorgeous pink pomes in between its leaves. "Have you ever seen anything like this? Why, this will be perfect for dessert!"

"But Georgie, we've plenty of brambles already in the basket." Wrapping her cape tight around her body, Penny shivered slightly in the cold. "I'm not used to taking what's not already ours."

"My love," Georgie protested, "brambles are no match for nature's true finest!" She broke away and leaned back into the tree, then slid down to park herself between its strong roots. "I'll carry them myself if that's what it takes."

"Are you sure?" Penny, too, neared the tree, but not before stopping to peer through a window or two. "If that is so, let the owner of this farm tell us himself that we may indulge! Woe, he is not to be seen."

"Why must you worry so much?" Georgie watched the darling girl from afar and wholly admired the view, crossing her legs in satisfaction. "What, with all this delicacy, who would mind if we were to reap as well?"

She saw nothing inside but darkness, but Penny remained wary, unable to completely ignore her wandering mind. However, after some time, she finally let up for the moment, returning home to her lover's caress. "You really wish to have apple pie instead?"

"I know you've made it before," Georgie cooed, fingers trailing over Penny's soft ones, "but we can use the berries, too. I just need..." She pulled Penny closer to seat her in her lap, pulling the basket out of her hand. "I need the apple of my eye and some apples in my pie, so that I may take them with me everywhere I go."

"I'm here with you now," Penny reassured her, looking into her eyes before falling into her arms.

"Please," Georgie pleaded, "may we never part again."

Penny savored every moment of pleasure she could before breaking away. "If this is your wish," she obliged, "it will be yours." She rolled out onto the grass, looking up into the infinite sea of leaves and fruit. "And we can go to camp together next year. I'll be old enough then."

"Forget it," Georgie snapped, standing upright. "All they teach you in the Upsy-Daisies is how to knit and make friends with children. They never even let us have time alone without a Sprout Sister." A dark shiver crept along the back of her neck. "Those witches think you'll go crazy and make a weapon out of yarn. So I quit after this year." After dusting herself off, she began taking from the tree. "But our summers will be much more exciting."

"Surely," Penny added, watching Georgie's arms fill with more and more fruity deliciousness. "I don't know if I can bear summer school another year."

"Then you won't have to. Mark my words." Georgie emptied her earnings into the enclosure of Penny's hood. "I'm going higher up," she declared, then swiftly swinging herself into the branches.

"Don't soil your dress," Penny spat, "or I'll have to scrap it into aprons." Upon lifting her eyes once more to the apples in the tree, she soon noticed one oddball that hung lower than the rest.

"Is this one supposed to be here?" she asked, concern seeping back up through her body—and disgust along with it. "It's the only one touched..." She examined the claw marks that sank down into the apple's core region.

"Probably an animal," Georgie called out from above. "Are you grabbing it or not?"

"But why would I?" Penny watched the elfin girl continue to climb until she could no longer be seen from below. "Out of all the apples here, you want me to take that one?"

"In all the time I've come to this place," Georgie called out, "none of these apples have ever been harmful—I bet it won't even look that bad when you show me." She could sense Penny's growing anger before Penny had her chance to chirp back. "I already know what you'll say to that, and it's really not that big a deal. Seriously, what are you waiting for?"

Penny let out a frustrated sigh, eyes darting back and forth between the apple and the ground. "You really ought to stop teasing me, you know. You don't really know where those marks came from—you could get sick."

"That's a risk I'm willing to take. I taste test everything for you, so it shouldn't matter much to you." Finally, her legs dangled towards the ground, and they continued to lower. "Unless...too cold to nurse me back to health?"

"I said stop teasing." She kicked the dirt, and with a huff, she yielded to the enticement. "I'll grab it." It couldn't have fit more perfectly in the palm of her hand.

"Not teasing." Georgie mimicked her annoyed tone. "You're just full of—"

Just then, a forceful rumbling startled them both from the ground; the once sturdy tree shook and thrashed its leaves around, causing the suspicious apple to fly out of Penny's hand into the dirt. Georgie and her apples came crashing down, only to be delivered from sure harm by the girls' trusty picnic basket. "I'd do it again," she groaned, knocked from fatigue.

"AAAAHHHHH!!!!"

Georgie shot up just in time to witness the tree crashing down, too—right towards Penny. Penny froze, overcome with fright, and Georgie dashed to her rescue, the two rolling slightly further down the hill. The severed tree hit the ground with a loud thud behind them, smooshing any of Georgie's hard work left behind.

"I don't know what just happened," Penny cried. "It must have been from the quake, or something. I didn't even know it was possible to feel a quake so strong in this part of the country."

"Penny..." She held Penny close, slowly but surely shaking the fear from her eyes. "I'm sorry...are you alright?"

Penny was relieved to see no more damage done to her dearest than a few faint scrapes and a completely tattered dress hem. "I told you not to soil your dress. Goodness, look what you've done."

"It'll be fine." Georgie pressed her lips to Penny's sore, red cheeks. "But for the record, I am sorry. Though, now I have something to carry the apples in. Give me your cape to wear." She stripped Penny down to her red gingham overalls and began plucking the remnants from the ground, placing them inside her new makeshift bindle.

"Take that one, too."

All but one. "What?"

Penny craned her finger towards the last fruit on the ground, the only one that had deceived her all day. "Take that one, too. You wanted me to grab it so bad, and now you're leaving it?"

"Well, I don't know...what if I—" Her words were met by Penny's blank, disapproving stare. "Oh, whatever—you win." Georgie snatched the last apple from the dirt and didn't bother looking back at the tree. "I'm ready to go home now, if that's okay."

Penny retrieved the basket and was first to start marching back. "Couldn't have said it better myself."

The girls got straight to work once they arrived home, much to Georgie's delight. "This is great for us," Georgie raved, having traded in her survival rags for her favorite tasting—no, baking—clothes and kitchen garb. "When's the last time we baked together?"

"Hilarious, this one." Penny slowly assembled the contents of the wicker basket in the sink before dealing with any other fruits—perhaps from apprehension more than anything. "Normally we leave the baking to me." She placed the basket aside, then walked over to the other girl, dropping a kiss to her nose before waving an accusatory finger in her face. "I don't let you anywhere near the oven after that little stunt you pulled on my birthday."

Georgie's cute little pout quickly morphed into a sinister grin. "Didn't like the sendoff? We weren't going to see each other all summer. I had to make your party memorable somehow."

Penny couldn't help but smile back. "Sounds like it was quite the challenge," she teased.

"I can totally redeem myself," she retorted, "just watch." She pulled the blanket stick closer towards them on the counter, loosening its knot and reaching inside. "Hey, what do you know? This one is still good." She pulled out the wayward half-apple, which, sure enough, had retained its structure. "Still don't think it's safe?"

"Give me that!" Penny snatched the apple out of Georgie's hand, turning and examining it in her own. "I don't understand," she whispered in disbelief. "The inside hasn't gone brown or anything. So these apples haven't gone bad...have they?" She turned to Georgie in search of approval. "Are you absolutely sure?"

Georgie shrugged. "I don't think the Daisies would give me the ribbon for Best Apple Picker in the Tiny Tulips Triathlon if I couldn't spot a bad apple."

"I don't see what that has to do with anything. And knowing them, you were probably the only girl in the group who even dared to climb high enough for all the good apples, anyway."

"Maybe I was," Georgie triumphed, "but you wouldn't know. You just had to be there."

Penny continued eyeing the apple, not fully convinced. "Well, I have a better idea than willingly eating suspicious looking fruits. If the seeds are still intact, at least..." With that, the seed in her mind had been successfully planted. "I'm going out to the garden. By the way, the first step to baking fruits is washing them."

"Hey, of course I knew that!" Georgie whined, yet Penny had already gone away, only returning from the outdoors after planting the forbidden fruit deep into the earth.

"There," she sighed, satisfied with herself. "That should do it. You think it'll make it to next summer?" She washed her hands to return to her station but then froze for a moment, water still running. "That in the summer, we'll do this again?"

By then, Georgie had gathered all of the rinsed fruits on the counter, where they awaited their commitment. "To answer your question: I don't know if now's the time of year to be planting." She helped herself to another berry—yes, another—before wrapping up the last of her apple slicing. "But if they're as good as these brambles, I'll never question Mother Nature again."

"I'm only trying it out. I mean, you literally wanted to eat it! Forget questioning Mother Nature at that point—you'd be begging her for mercy."

Georgie rolled her eyes, but she couldn't deny the truth. "Fine." She reached over to turn off the water, leaning slightly against the counter. "And to answer your other question," she said, facing her lover, "yes, I very much hope so. Next summer will be much more exciting."

Penny wiped her hands on her apron, and before long, a smile returned to her face. "I always win."

"Is that a challenge?" Overcome by a newfound hunger, Georgie poured the contents of the cutting board into their already prepared pie tin, with her remaining filling ingredients next in line. "Alright, then. If you want to make your berry pie, go ahead. I'll make the apple, and we'll see whose is better in the end."

"Wow, I thought this was a team effort?" She folded her arms, acting disappointed as she refrained from laughing at Georgie's awful mixing. "I'm shocked."

"You know, I can be a good baker like you. You just keep doubting me."

"I never said I doubted you." Penny squirmed, too overwhelmed to hold back her expertise any longer. "Move over, you're doing the lattice wrong." She took over the project, settling her hands on top of Georgie's from behind and helping her to place each strip of dough neatly in its proper place. "There, like this."

"I call sabotage," Georgie protested with a smile, wiggling deeper into Penny's arms. "You even went so far as throw out one of my ingredients."

"Second step to baking fruits: there is no 'I' in 'team.'"

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