Serene - 392 words
Sarah Van Name
The lower branches of the orange tree are stripped bare from the six- and eight-year-old neighborhood ruffians who gallop triumphant through the streets in the early evenings. I watch them pour like rivulets of water from their separate doors and flood past, blood orange juice dripping down their sharp tan chins. But the best thing about the Villa Delle Arancia is not the oranges. It’s the roof where one can eat them, if one is me.
The roof juts out in front of the window of the room I share. Too many times I’ve been out here as the sky is slipping into that dusky red and Barbara, the Italian housekeeper, has called up from the drive, “Scendi! Ti ucciderai!” But I don’t, and she turns away, muttering, “Ragazza sciocca, queste ragazze Americane…”
It is, maybe, during supper time that the place is most perfect. I can peer in through the windows of the slim long apartments and see the big Italian families eating their meat and bread and cheese, the black-haired mothers passing serving plates back and forth. And I sit serene, knees bent, my hands sticky and red with juice and staining my legs.
One such night, when the weather was getting cool, I heard the first door slamming and, like a choir of bells, the rest followed. The scrawny boys fled their dinner tables and raced down the alley, and I saw the tree branches shake and sway as they grabbed the oranges they could reach. Just as they disappeared around the corner, a last door opened and closed like a late entrance to a symphony.
A little girl, her hair braided down her back, ran forward and stopped under the tree. The branches were stripped. She looked at the tree, at the end of the alley where a cloud of dust was settling from the boys’ feet. Her eyes started to water.
“Adriano,” she wailed, “torni, torni, ho voluto un’arancia.” But no one came back around and the noise of their shouts faded.
“Gabriela,” I said, and until then I hadn’t even realized that I knew her name. She looked up at me, red-nosed and sniffing. I plucked an orange from the high branch; she held out her hands, and I dropped it into her open palms and watched her scurry like a windblown leaf down the street.