O-M-G! It’s December! And with that, we have our twelfth and final (?) chapter of “A Girl From the Apple Orchard.” I usually do not say that I am proud of myself for anything, but I AM PROUD OF MYSELF for sticking to this project the entire year. As the year progressed, I stopped writing anything on here that was not AGFTAO, which means that if it was not for this self-imposed challenge of writing one chapter every single month, there would probably have not been ANYTHING posted these past few months on this blog.
In January, I was very excited, but also somewhat scared – of the unknown, more than anything. I did not know where the story would go, if I would feel motivated enough to carry it for so long, etc. Twelve months later, I could not be happier that I made the decision to do this challenge.
1) We meet Laura on a Saturday, deep in thought in her home office where Roy thinks she is writing her book. Instead, we learn that she is trying to write a letter explaining why she is about to leave. Her thoughts take her far away, and only a loud noise brings her out of the trance. Upon investigation, Laura learns that it was only wind that slammed the previously open window shut. Relieved, she tries to write, but nothing satisfactory makes it onto the paper. A pile of discarded balls of paper surrounds the trash can. Roy returns home with groceries to make dinner. When Laura confesses she was not able to write anything, he comforts her by saying she will do better next time. [AGFTAO Part 1]
2) Roy returns with groceries on another Saturday afternoon to a quiet home. Assuming that Laura is writing, as per usual, he unpacks the bags and begins to make plans for dinner. After a while, he grows slightly agitated and looks for Laura in her office. In the dark room, all he finds is what looks like a gift bag placed on the desk. In the meantime, we learn that Laura is on a moving train, but we are unsure of her immediate plans. Her fellow passenger – a young boy keeps swinging his legs and kicking her in the shins, but his mother does not even seem to care, excusing him as: “just a kid.” Laura gets up and walks out in search of a more peaceful seat. Then, we jump back to Roy who is finishing reading a letter from Laura. There is a teddy bear for Tommy in the gift bag. When Tommy runs into the room and tells Roy he is hungry, Roy puts the gift away and tells his son they will get pizza for dinner and watch TV. They leave the room, the letter, and the bear behind. [AGFTAO Part 2]
3) About a week or so later, Laura fires her gun reflexively and kills an enemy combatant, which leads to her being chased by his compatriots. As she runs away, she trips and falls down a hill, but manages to get up quickly and runs towards the forest where she hides and tends to her injuries. Unfortunately, shortly after, she is apprehended and taken away on horseback. Her captors bring her in before a woman on a throne. [AGFTAO Part 3]
4) Once Tommy falls asleep, Roy laments the fact that, just like him, Tommy might be destined to grow up without a mother. In the shower, he finally allows himself to cry. In the living room, he pulls out a hidden piece of paper containing wedding vows. Afterward, he rereads the letter Laura left behind in hopes of finding some comfort but it only makes him sadder. Before going to bed, Roy wonders why all the women in his life end up leaving one way or another. [AGFTAO Part 4]
5) Laura finds herself in front of a woman who is stylized differently but is undeniably her friend for whom she was looking. ” Queen Naayelli,” the locals call her. Although Laura is pleased to see that their mutual friend – Jason, was right about the fact that Olivia was not dead, she finds herself confused with how unperturbed the queen is by her arrival. Laura was hoping for a warm welcome, but instead, she gets thrown into a small, dark cell for the night. The next day, Olivia comes to meet Laura in her cell, but, to Laura’s surprise, she continues to act coldly and does not ask about Roy or even Tommy. The chapter ends with Naayelli calling in the guards as she is leaving, to presumably inflict some pain on Laura. [AGFTAO Part 5]
6) When another day goes by without Laura making contact, Roy runs out of reasons to excuse her actions. Instead of taking care of his son, he starts to rely heavily on the babysitter to help with Tommy as he goes out drinking with his mates. We witness Roy undergo a change. He starts being more and more selfish, pointing fingers at everyone around him and being especially resentful towards women. When his babysitter quits, Roy leaves his son with his co-worker and goes to a bar to meet someone. There, he has a hard time finding a woman receptive to his questionable charm until a full-figured red-head joins him. They have a grand ‘ol time. The only problem – she is gay. [AGFTAO Part 6]
7) Roughed up by Naayeli’s men, Laura continues to be stuck in the dark cell while the Queen formulates plans on how to best deal with the new prisoner. After a couple of days, Laura wakes up to Olivia in her cell. A look around the room reveals the presence of a table with various tools that could be used for torture. The sight of a hammer prompts Laura to recall a traumatic event from her childhood. Having come back from school one day, when she spots her dad dead on the floor and his killer rummaging through his things, she grabs a hammer. She uses the element of surprise to her advantage and kills the murderer. Olivia confirms the gossip Laura did not want to believe in – she killed her partner and allied herself with the enemy. We part with Laura as we learn that Laura is holding the hammer after Naayelli had left the room. [AGFTAO Part 7]
8) Roy hopes for a lone night of drinking at home, but when Tommy is brought back early by his friend’s parents, he is forced to edit his immediate plans. The father and son duo spend a pleasant evening eating pizza and chatting. At bedtime, while reading to Tommy, Roy starts reminiscing about Laura and recalls her maternal abilities. He realizes that her creativity makes for a perfect trait in a parent, meant to inspire curiosity and open-mindedness. In Laura’s desk, Roy finds a note with her scribbles that are initially hard to decipher. After some stellar detective work, he learns that in that note Laura was trying to tell him that Olivia – Roy’s first wife and Tommy’s biological mother is still alive. [AGFTAO Part 8]
9) Laura detests the fact that the Queen is living life in the fast lane while all she has to look forward to are regular lashings, and Roy and Tommy are stuck without a wife and mother. She struggles with her thoughts on how and if to use the hammer when Olivia returns and unlocks her bindings. Once unrestrained, without hesitation, Laura loops the chain around Naayelii’s neck, taking her as a hostage and stunning the guards for a moment. Seconds later, Olivia frees herself and begins to fight the soldiers. Laura joins in and the female duo ends up incapacitating the watchmen and making their way out of the dungeons. When on horseback, Laura learns that Olivia still deeply cares for Roy and Tommy. Out of an abundance of caution, Naayelli leaves her friend behind on the outskirts of a nearby town as she searches for a phone to call for help. When she is gone for hours, Laura starts to question her friend’s allegiance again. [AGFTAO Part 9]
10) Roy attempts to contact Jason in order to find out more about his previously-thought-of-as-dead wife but the number had been disconnected. When Tommy witnesses one of his father’s bouts of anger, we catch a glimpse of the duality of being an imperfect human and trying to be the perfect parent. To make up for his unruly behavior, Roy sets up an impromptu picnic in the backyard for him and his son during which they search for shapes in the clouds. It is then that he gets a brief phone call telling him that she will return soon. Before Roy can pass that message onto Tommy, a black bag gets thrown over his head, his arm gets pricked, and his eyelids grow heavy. He awakens in a house which he does not recognize. Thankfully, Tommy is there, too – unharmed. A note on the table echos the words of the woman on the phone “… will be home soon,” but Roy does not know whether it is Laura or Olivia coming back. [AGFTAO Part 10]
11) While waiting for Olivia to come back, Laura reminisces about how her life with Roy and Tommy came to be and wonders how all of their lives are about to change. She saddles the horse and starts making her way into town when she finally encounters Olivia who is to lead them into a meeting point where Jason will be waiting. On their way there, they barely talk, with Olivia only making it perfectly clear that she is back in Roy and Tommy’s life and Laura’s help is no longer needed. Laura’s reunion with Jason is bitter-sweet. She is happy to see him but mourns the other men in her life. In the meantime, Roy is informed that his wife is on the way and once she gets there, they will have to move for safety reasons. We end the chapter with Olivia coming back ‘home’ to a son who does not know her and a husband who looks over her shoulder in search of Laura. [AGFTAO Part 11]
At an undisclosed location, two years later…
“Come in,” Laura called out, gently stroking the cyan envelope in her hand.
“Wow, you look gorgeous as ever,” Roy blurted out.
Laura’s dress was the color of pale fuchsia. Getting married a second time did not warrant a white one, she figured.
“What are you doing here?” she asked, blush adorning her cheeks.
“I had to see you,” Roy replied as he closed the door behind him.
She nodded slightly. A gentle smile danced on her face. “I did not know if you were going to be able to make it or not,” she said, unable, or unwilling to meet his eyes. “Are Olivia and Tommy here, too?” she asked, biting her lip.
“No. Olivia thought it would negatively impact the progress Tommy had been making in therapy and at home… with her… I did not know until the last minute if I would be able to come, either.”
Roy noticed the envelope in Laura’s hands and his heartbeat’s speed increased. “Did you read it?” he asked. “I sent it in case we wouldn’t be able to talk.”
Laura looked at her name written on the front of the envelope with nostalgia and shook her head. Roy always made the letter ‘a’ a capital one when writing her name. At first, she thought it was strange, but then, she began to love… like… it. LAurA. “I guess I don’t need to, now that you are here. Tell me all about how things have been!” She handed the envelope to Roy and pulled him onto the sofa in the middle of her changing room.
“It feels like it’s been aaaaages since I last saw you!” she said, suddenly with more energy.
“Yes. One day I just came back home and you were gone…”
Laura lowered her gaze. She prayed that one day she would be sure she had made the right decision leaving that day. “I’m sorry,” she whispered.
“Are you happy?” Roy asked, looking at Laura’s ring finger. The gold band shone brightly. ‘Jay’ was a lucky guy.
Laura nodded. “I just came in here to freshen up. The wedding reception is truly spectacular,” she beamed. “Will you be staying for long?”
Roy smiled. “Last time you were the bride, I thought I would stay forever. Fast-forward a few years and here we are – at your wedding to another man.” Roy stood up and chuckled.
Laura was clearly uncomfortable. Her eyes drifted from one side to another.
“Kidding. It’s all good.” Roy reached out his hand to help her stand up from the sofa.
They both smiled politely, uncomfortable as if they were strangers.
“They didn’t think me coming was safe, but I had to. I had to see you one last time and to tell you how things have been since Olivia came back… She’s really trying, Laura. We all go to therapy – together and individually. She makes grilled cheese sandwiches for our Sunday picnics and even writes little lunch notes for Tommy and me.”
Laura nodded as she listened to Roy speak. Her gaze was fixed on the wall in front of her.
“Again – all the best to you and Jason,” Roy said before walking out of the room.
“And you…” Laura said quietly as she turned away from the door. Tears streamed down her cheek. She always had a crush on Jason, but she could not forget the time she had spent with Roy and Tommy. She had hoped that a letter from Roy would give her clarity. Instead, it made things worse. In the letter that she DID read, he professed his undying love for her and expressed his hesitations regarding Olivia. He had thought that she wasn’t fully forthcoming about her past and her plans for the future. Tommy had kept asking about Laura.
A knock at the door made her jump.
“Come in,” she answered, drying her cheeks hastily.
“Have you been crying, my dear?”
“It’s nothing. I’m fine. I’m good. Let’s go.” Laura straightened her dress and led Jason out of the room, through the hallway, and out into the apple orchard where a handful of guests were dancing.
“Making babies BEFORE the wedding night?” Laura and Jason’s neighbor – one of the wedding participants – asked and winked as she passed them by with a cocktail in hand.
Laura’s face fell.
Jason knew that on a day like today Laura would think back to her life with Tommy, but he had no idea how hard that would be on her. They were going to adopt a child of their own. He had already planned on surprising Laura with that idea the following day.
“We’re going to be happy here,” Jason said, pointing at the house and the yard surrounding them.
Laura nodded, closed her eyes, and lifted her face towards the sky. She liked it there. The orchard was her favorite place. It was where she wrote, just like her mother did when she were young. Laura often wondered how different her life would have been if her mother was with her in a physical form, but among the apple trees, she swore she could feel her all around. The rustling leaves was her mother whispering words of advice, wisdom, and comfort; the breeze was her warm embrace; the bird songs – her kisses.
“Yes, we are,” Laura agreed.
Tommy entered Olivia’s office without a knock out of habit. It used to be where Laura wrote and where Tommy would come to watch her at times. He was too young to know that it was longing that he had seen in Laura’s eyes when she sat at that desk, but what he did know was that her eyes lit up when Tommy would ask her about her stories.
“Who’s this?” Tommy asked. A man he had never seen before stood by the window where Laura’s desk once stood.
“He’s our neighbor. He is moving out. He just came to say ‘Good-bye.’ Did you not, Franco?” Olivia gestured towards the door.
Franco tipped his head and left.
“Honey, can you not tell Daddy this mister was just here? He will be very said he missed him. I don’t want to upset him,” Olivia said, brushing Tommy’s hair off his face.
The boy hesitated, but nodded in agreement.
“Good. Now go play in your room. Mommy’s got work to do.” She waved him away dismissively. “And close the door behind you.”
Olivia allowed Roy to go see Laura just so she could have some time to meet with Marco. “Who said a woman had to choose either staying at home or having a career?” she asked out loud. Having a family was never ‘enough’ for Olivia. She always wanted more. While initially she had to go dark to save Roy and Tommy (she was not THAT ruthless!), she grew to like being a ruler and not having to worry about others. They worried about HER. If it wasn’t for that stupid Laura – always so noble – she would still be sitting on a throne, all of her needs taken care of. At home, she could barely sit on her ‘throne’ in the toilet for three minutes before either Tommy or Roy would come looking for her.
She knew she could have both, but she would need Roy’s support. She could not have him pining for Laura, as that would allow for variables in her plan that she would not want to have to handle. Olivia did not think he had it in him to leave Olivia for Laura out of worry for Tommy, but she could not bet on that. “Laura must disappear from this equation…”
The following day…
“Christine and Bruce merged their lives together forever.
Or until a dead spouse returns…
Laura sat back in her chair with a smile, proud of the book she wrote.
“Write a story inspired by the word ‘merge.'”
– prompt used for this CW piece.
P.S. As always, you are more than welcome to use this prompt to inspire your post. If you decide to write something, be sure to pingback to this post so that I can get an alert and check out your piece. (A post on how to do pingbacks can be found here.) If pingbacks are not your thing, feel free to simply leave a link to your piece in the comment section below. The more, the merrier!
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