The Smell Of Oranges
The falling snow moved Isabelle to tears. It had arrived so slowly and gracefully and settled firmly on the path outside the house.
She’d been sitting on the edge of her grandma’s bed for what felt like an eternity when her mother popped her head around the door.
‘What are you doing in here, darling? Are you OK?’
She wiped away her tears. ‘Yes, of course, just making the bed is all.’
Her mother wrapped a frail arm around Isabelle’s shoulders and tapped the bed sheets. ‘You’ve done a wonderful job, well done, love.’ She kissed the top of her daughter’s head and slowly guided her out of the room and downstairs.
‘I’m just going to get some fresh air,’ Isabelle smiled and released herself from her mother’s embrace.
It was bitterly cold. Tomorrow marked the official start of Spring, yet there was nothing to show for it. No peeking buds or strong stems announcing their presence to the world. The ground was flat, dry and icy.
Around the house a soft, white blanket lay undisturbed, except for one streaked footprint that had been her own doing. Her boot had slipped as they’d struggled to carry the body out of the house earlier that morning. Even the fresh flakes were refusing to cover the frightful mark. It would be there forever, an unwelcome reminder of a final snowy resting place.
When Isabelle returned through the kitchen door, it hit her again. The smell of oranges. She’d tried to discuss it with various people at the wake but her mother had kept interrupting. ‘It is nothing more than your mind playing tricks on you, darling, you know it’s been decades since she was able to grow anything.’
The smell allowed her to recall that mischievous five-year-old version of herself. The one who would get palms slapped for sticking dirty fingers into her grandma’s freshly-made mixture. Isabelle would run off, simultaneously crying, chuckling and stuffing sticky fingers into her mouth. ‘It’s not to be eaten, Isabelle!’ her grandma would cry, chasing her upstairs and eventually showing her how to apply cream to her rosy cheeks. ‘Here, look – like this,’ she had whispered, delicately dragging her soft hands across her granddaughter’s face.
When the very last piece of fruit had fallen forty-three years ago, on a sunny Sunday in June, her grandma had turned to the family and said, ‘Well, I suppose that’s the end of that, then.’ She’d simply turned and walked inside with the last orange tightly wrapped in her palm, drawn to her chest.
Today, whilst five generations of women sat downstairs, stuffing their faces with beige food, Isabelle couldn’t stop thinking about the overwhelming smell. As she walked up the tiny staircase again, this time her heart was thudding. She’d never been so desperate to hunt something out. Her eyes were wide, her nose poised. As she opened the door once more to her grandma’s bedroom, she paused and looked out of the landing window. The snow was getting heavier and it brought harsher tears to her eyes. So much had been lost even the clouds were weeping for them.
She knew it was there before she’d even set eyes on it. A well-made bed, a lace cushion, a lilac throw and a white pillow, on top of which sat a perfectly round, plump orange. There was no time to consider where it had come from or who had placed it there. It was impossible. She held it in her hand and wept.
Perhaps, after all, everything was not lost.
Rebecca Rimmer is a UK-based writer and award-winning blogger who lives in the Warwickshire countryside.