Drastically out of place, she sat herself down on a small board laid over the raised garden bed. The sun beat down in a way it never did in the place she’d grown to call home, and she closed her eyes and listened to the hum of bees, and the quiet rustle of wind moving through the trees. The mid-June heat made the smell of strawberries warm and sweet, like fresh jam; she reached pale fingers into the green leaves, and plucked out the glistening jewels hidden in the damp shade. Mildly rough, the seeded exterior of her first bite made her tongue ache in remembrance of things both sweet and not; she felt the flesh of the fruit give beneath her teeth, and the simple joy that filled her brought tears to her eyes. They mingled with sweat, and rolled over her cheeks, leaving tracks through the blood and dirt dusted there.
“I’m tired,” she said, to the hum of the bees, and the warmth of the June sun. “M’so fucking tired. Y’don’know what it is, to carry this. Or maybe y’do. Maybe y’do, n’that’s why you’re gone.”
Another bite, so ripe, the juice of it staining her fingers. She peeled off her gloves and dropped them aside, no longer concerned with what they covered. Scarred hands showed, so pale, so very white, save for where her skin is stained with the fresh and alive pink of the berries.
Another berry. Boots were unbuckled, unlaced with shaking, eager fingers. She kicked them off and peeled out of toe-socks, stretching her legs, arching her feet, flexing her toes, squinting with the sheer physical relief that comes of being uncovered in the heat.
In a flurry of beaded sweat and garden dirt, she pulled off, tore off, flung off her sleeves, the vest, the shirt, the skirt, the cami and scarf and underpants. The violence of her wardrobe was lost amidst greenery and vegetation; in her pink skin, she was merely another berry in the garden.
Carefully, then, she crawled down into the bed, sinking hands and knees, then hips and breasts into leaf and stem and soil, breathing above the canopy one last time, and then exhaling as she laid down against cool, damp earth, stretching limb and finger between stem and bush, leaf and berry, laying herself between the rows, and the breath she took there was thick with the scent of the ground, fertile and welcoming, full of promise.
From below, she reached up and picked the fruits, and ate of them until she no longer felt empty, waiting for him in the last safe place she thought he might come, salting the red flesh with her tears.
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