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Secrets, Lies and Apple Pies
The pie dough betrayed me by clinging to my mother’s well-worn rolling pin like a creature in a sci-fi movie. I had combined it with such high hopes only to have it transform into a sticky, gooey mess. The hardcover cookbook opened to a page entitled “Easy-As-Pie” sat across the counter mocking me. I grabbed it and read it again, “Two cups of this, four tablespoons of that …” Who knows where my brain shorted out? Ever since the accident, I couldn't concentrate long enough to do my own hair. Most days I went around looking like a middle-aged Raggedy Ann doll. Flipping the good-for-nothing cookbook closed, I poked at the rolling pin in disgust. As I figured it, this defective pie dough and my brain these days had a little too much in common. I darted my eyes around the empty kitchen hoping to hide what my daughter would call an “epic fail”.
Without thinking, one mischievous dough-laden finger found its way into my mouth. “Oh!” I gagged trying to keep as quiet as I could despite the sickening salty taste. I lunged for a paper towel and started scrubbing my tongue. I wanted to give up. Honestly, what was I thinking? I ought to walk away and hide like I have with practically everything else in my life from my marriage to my home to my best friend. If only I could duck under a blanket and escape into hibernation. Defeated, I leaned my forehead against the cool granite counter as the all too familiar pricking of a headache edged at my temples.
I never could make a decent pie crust even before the accident. Cupcakes, no problem. Cookies, sure, why not? But a homemade pie crust, not happening. I used to toss a package of the pre-made refrigerated kind into my shopping cart and call it a day. However, a trip to the store was out of the question since I gave up driving.
I would have liked to have wallowed in this position for the rest of day. And I would have, if it wasn't for my desperate need to keep his first failed attempt between me and the stone walls. I lifted my head to peek around my mother’s civil war dated farmhouse, my childhood home and my hideout during my never ending period of recovery. When all appeared quiet, I began the offensive task of prying the dough turned maximum strength adhesive off the rolling pin. When I had detached most of it, I gathered up the evidence and dumped it into the stainless steel trash can at the far end of the kitchen. Just when I thought I was in the clear, the metal lid slammed down with a loud clang. I froze mid-step and listened for signs that my mother or my two children had been disturbed from their Sunday morning slumber. Beyond the hum of the 1950’s style robin-egg-blue refrigerator, there was nothing more than a peaceful silence.
My hands, still caked with pie dough, were beginning to feel like I had dipped them in cement. Shuffling across the pine floors, I made a bee line for the sink. After scrubbing long enough to finally regain the ability to move my fingers, I allowed my gaze to drift through the kitchen window. On this early October morning, a dreamy mist obscured most of the orchard aside from the first set of trees and the silhouette of a man. I knew I shouldn't stare, but I kept my eyes fixed on the sight of him as he lifted a crate of apples onto the back of the farm’s old Ford pick-up truck. Closing my eyes, I pictured him lifting me. I shouldn't have known how it felt to be this close to him, but guiltily I did. With a sharp inhale, I recalled how those strong arms had held me.
“Working hard?” My mother startled me from behind causing me to jump and splatter soapy water across my shirt. I have sworn on several occasions that the woman once worked as a magician’s assistant. I had no proof, but when my sister and I used to be up to no good, she’d appear out of thin air. It was freaky.
“Mother! What are you doing up?” I said turning off the water and reaching for a hand towel.
My mother examined me through her reading glasses like an owl would spy on a defenseless mouse. “Would you like some help?” she asked, or more like suggested, grasping her wooden rolling pin and frowning at the bits of dough still plastered to it.
“No,” I answered brushing by her to return to my post at the counter.
Looking around her kitchen turned disaster zone, my mother asked, “Does this have something to do with your sister?”
“Maybe,” I said avoiding eye contact. Over the past year, my sister had been selling pies out of the orchard’s small farm store. “I thought I could help fill a couple orders for her, that’s all,” I added with a shrug.
“Braeburn.” My mother said my name like she was speaking to a naughty child. “When I spoke with Dr. Gold, he told me that this type of sequencing can be extremely challenging.”
“And just when did you speak to the fine doctor?” I replied. There’s definitely something going on between my mother and my nuero-psychologist. My mother’s cheeks flushed and I was reminded how youthful despite her age my mother often seemed.
I was beginning to think I had successfully changed the subject when my mother recovered by inspecting the last remnants of the pie dough - if you could call it that. She peeled off a small piece and rolled it between her two fingers. I crossed my arms in front of me and lifted my chin as if I was the world’s most renowned pastry chef. Only I hadn’t anticipated that my mother would call my bluff by popping the little ball of dough into her mouth. Knowing from experience what a bad idea that was, I yelled, “Stop!” except it was too late.
“Oh!” My mother gagged reaching for a glass and filling it with water. She coughed down a few gulps and said, “Oh, that’s awful.” She was fighting to catch her breath like she was having a heart attack.
“I tried to tell you not to eat it!” I yelled thinking, oh crap, why did she have to sample it?
“What are you trying to do? Help Gala or kill off her customers?” My mother asked through a coughing fit.
I wanted to tell her, well it didn’t kill you, so I think Gala’s customers would survive. Instead I went with, “Yeah, that’s exactly it. I figured since I help put her on bed rest, I’d finish off her pie business while I’m at it!” As soon those words left my mouth, I regretted it. My younger sister was eight months pregnant. Our recent fight apparently had put her over the edge. Now she needed to stay off her feet for the remainder of her pregnancy which meant canceling orders just as her pie business was beginning to take off.
Before my mother could respond, I quickly changed course. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it. How is Gala doing?” My thoughts turned to my father who would have been heart broken by our bickering. A third generation orchardist, my father had come up with the idea to name my sister, Gala, and me, Braeburn, after apple varieties. I could hear him calling us, “The apples of my eyes,” so clearly even though it had been nearly twenty years since I’ve last heard his voice.
“She’s fine,” my mother reassured me. I nodded in relief. Then, my mother seized this opportunity to share some advice of the unsolicited, unwelcome kind. “You ought to stop hiding your head in this kitchen and see what that husband of yours wanted.” I was in no mood to listen to another one of my mother’s infamous lectures on how I should conduct my life. To prove my point, I made a show of placing my hands over my ears. Unfortunately my mother failed to get the hint as she continued, “He came there to talk to you, Braeburn, whether you want to believe that or not. He insists there’s something you need to know. It wasn’t Gala’s fault you went running away like he was made of poison.”
“If you haven’t noticed,” I said dropping my hands and walking back over to the island counter, “this isn’t a subject I feel like discussing at the moment.” Pulling the glass canister of flour toward me, I added, “Or ever.” I snatched a measuring cup and held it up as I explained, “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a lot of pies to make.”
My mother walked to the sink where she stood with her back to me while washing off her rolling pin. Here we go, I thought, the silent treatment. Turning off the faucet, my mother walked her rolling pin over to me and held it out. I resisted the urge to yank it from her as I politely took it and ever so gently set it down to the side. Then, I proceeded to measure two cups of flour into the large bowl in front of me.
The heap of soft, white flour reminded me of a snow drift. For the second time that morning, a switch flipped on in my mind and a movie began to play with me in the lead role. I rubbed my hand over my forehead reviewing what previously had been a solid block of darkness. For the past year, the memories of my car accident, of that entire day leading up to it, had been a total blank. Even the slightest trace of a recollection seemed locked away in a remote, inaccessible location of my brain, never to be found; or so I had believed. Considering the flour in front of me, I ran my finger through it until it collided with the edge of the bowl. Again, I felt like I was adjusting a camera lens; like I was bringing a blurred image into focus.
I looked up at my mother. Her lips were pursed together like she had been sucking on a lemon. I continued to stare with what must have been a very odd expression, until finally my mother shook her head from side to side asking, “What?”
In my softest voice, I said, “I remember.”
“What?” A flash of recognition lit across my mother’s face. She pulled off her glasses before responding in a hushed tone. “You remember? How much?”
“All of it. I can remember … all of it.” I squeezed my eyes shut and whispered, “Even some things I’d rather forget.”
What does Braeburn remember? And what secrets are her husband and best friend keeping from her? Delicious deceptions await you!
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