It was October in that little northern California town not worth naming. Pine needles covered lawns and a cool wind blew in from the west. In a week or two it would start snowing, and it wouldn’t stop until mid April. She walked down the familiar road to the local high school and watched as that familiar blue Chevy pickup truck pulled into the parking lot.
She walked slow, hoping he would catch up to her. But instead he stayed a few feet back and they both just went along listening to each other’s footsteps. This had happened too many times. She wanted to turn around and say hi, act like they were good friends. Or maybe she wanted him to say hi first because then she wouldn’t embarrass herself. But nothing happened. She wondered if he still knew her name.
That night she stood in her family’s kitchen cleaning cherries. Her uncle had brought them when he came to visit. But now they had begun to mold. She sorted through them, meticulously discarding any that did not look perfect. Some were obviously not edible, covered in mold or deformed and discolored. But others looked ok from a distance, maybe they were too soft or had a small tear. She wondered briefly what would happen if she ate one of these bad cherries. Probably nothing, she assumed, but better to be safe than sorry.
She ended up throwing half of the cherries away. She watched them sink into the garbage and disappear under used plastic bags and other discarded food. But the cherries left everything they touched stained with their deep red juice. She cleaned up the kitchen and tried one of the perfect looking cherries, it wasn’t as good as she expected.
The next day she walked to school again. It was colder than the day before and she thought the snow might come sooner than expected. Once again that blue Chevy pulled into the parking lot and he started walking behind her. Today though, she tried to walk fast and leave him walking alone. He would never say hi because he would never like her. And she would never say hi because she was too scared to know.