This story is by Michelle R. Terry and was part of our 2017 Winter Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
How to Make Peach Wine
Wash peaches, quarter, remove stones and any brown patches
“Baby, will you help me pick some peaches and get them to ripen? Put them in a special place inside so we can make peach wine?”
Bo selected several buxom ladies from a wayward spot beyond the low hanging fruit and handed me the booty. The air hung with hints of an ending summer, and my heart dropped with the plummeting sun that speckled the trees in his backyard. How long do I have?
His hands, my favorite, were woven both with grooved lines belonging to a laborer, and smooth surfaces yoked to a poet. I couldn’t focus on the peach he was picking because my Rhiannon soul was peeling off his shirt.
He caught me gawking, soft-tossed a careless smile and asked, “Aren’t you going to help me?”
Leave the skin on and remove all of the reddish colored meat around the stone
How did we meet? We remember different versions of the same story. He said, “I first saw you from a distance. You used to jog by my house.” I said, “No. It was at the ball diamond. You walked over to the fence to visit with a mutual friend. And, I don’t jog—I run.”
In the end we recollected the feeling our first meeting more so than the details. The low-level frequency coursed through the limestone water table that flowed between our homes. We each buzzed in the other’s orbit—coaching ourselves that it was the excessive overhead power lines making the brain noise. We dodged the lightning and thunder for years before our storm clouds crossed on a wintry day in January.
“Hey, Theresa! You should come jog on my trails,” he texted.
Run. When did I give him my number? How did he know that I had just laced up my shoes? He must have sensed my tangled insides looking for a place to unravel. Winter days often left me restless, and my bones ached for a place to land.
Place peach quarters in nylon straining bag and crush peaches – extract as much juice as possible
Invigorated. Breathless. We never touched. We danced like this from the lingering snow on Bo’s trails through the June blooming of the roses in my garden. His poet words and insights juiced me through endless days of minutiae. His singer’s voice felt laced with cocaine, and the plans he made for our future floated me through evenings and into the wee hours until the next sunrise.
How long do I have? This question surfaced with each sunrise and sang me to sleep long after sunset closed the blinds on my on-paper-happy home.
Except for the yeast, add dry ingredients to the primary
I wanted to suck the marrow from his body; to borrow or steal his life force. We were the same person in separate, combustible bodies. The only barrier from a full-on prairie fire was the presence of one fourth finger band between the two of us and promises I couldn’t break.
Add hot water and mix thoroughly
I hadn’t planned to kiss him, so I kissed him the moment he first offered me his lips and then feigned indignant surprise. The way he said I was his everything—the way he devoured my mouth told me he was telling the truth. And with a silent promise like that, how can a person stop from voluntarily flinging themselves head-first into the volcano? Certainly, not me.
Cover and let sit for 24 hours
He said, “Therese, We can do this. One day at a time.”
But, how long do I have?
After 24 hours add wine yeast
A barred owl guarded my forest garden and greeted my restless melancholy most evenings. I looked for him each day and pretended that his eerie presence and subsequent calls were meant for me. On the nights the owl wasn’t at my house, I’d get anxious and fear that his absence meant something sinister. And then Bo would text and say the owl was sitting outside his bedroom window.
I’d gazed out that window in a languid stupor more than once. My feet still tangled in sheets absent of warranted remorse. Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you all? The owl asked the question, and my mind pecked out the answer like Braile in my brain. Nobody cooks for you. The other two other men in my life—one with my blood, the other with my ring—were picking through leftovers or ordering pizza.
Ferment for 3-5 days
Like Poe’s heart, the beats in my chest repulsed me, and I wanted to tear up the planks beneath my cheating feet. I chose the Solstice as my deadline. Bo, a study in Stoics, granted my wish. We resolved to ignore the kinetic energy kept barely in check by 1.87 miles of asphalt and school zones. End-of-summer promises to let the other move on, forget, but never regret.
We worked and did our days and thought about the things that didn’t remind of us anything. We smiled like nothing was different and interacted with the people bouncing around in our lives.
Rise, promise, repeat. Until…
Baby, I miss you.
Who can resist making love outside in the rain with thunder and lightning pulsing in the atmosphere between two charged bodies? Certainly, not me. Bo cupped his hands under my thighs, and we locked in an embrace that would have made it difficult for an onlooker to discern where one body ended and the other began.
Rack in 3 weeks and again in 3 months
If you can, let it age a few more months or up to a year
How long do I have?
I didn’t call or talk to Bo for weeks after the lustful chaos in his driveway. My son was all but graduated, and my husband carried a hollowness reserved for a man in love with an unreachable and cruel woman. I left my ring on the kitchen counter, next to instructions for pot roast. I made my son’s bed with fresh sheets.
I laced up my Adidas and ran to Bo’s house. My body was fresh from the exertion as my insides leaped with an eagerness to share the news. Where is he? When he didn’t come to the door, I walked to his bedroom window and saw his face. His emerald eyes fixed, intent, and boring into the woman beneath him.
The cadence of life is both beautiful and cruel. It takes patience to wait for fate to change its course. Like the peach tree pit sitting on the ground yearning for soil and sun and weather to break through its shell to the sweet, life-giving insides. Until that time, it sits like a stone and awaits the happy ending. Or life breaks through the exterior to control its destiny.
I sprinted back home, slipped the wedding band on my fourth finger, and started the pot roast myself. My men—one with my blood, the other with my ring—arrived at our happy-on-paper home as the sun set on another day. “Hey honey, how long until dinner?”Not long.
1.87 miles to the south, a man was peering out the window. For a moment, he thought someone was gazing in, but couldn’t find the apparition when he peered left and right. The barred owl called for his mate—a sorrowful sound that delivered a punch to Bo’s guts. How long was I supposed to wait?
He looked at the sleeping beauty laying in his bed—perfect curves, a cherubic face framed by a mass of caramel curls. It felt like fate threw a nasty change-up as a tune filled the sound system with one of Theresa’s favorite songs:
In your house I long to be
Room by room patiently
I’ll wait for you there
Like a stone
I’ll wait for you there
Beauty raised her grey-green eyes to meet his. Still flustered by the song, he asked her, “Want to share a bottle of peach wine? The batch I’ve been working on is finally ready.” She threw a snoozy, purring laugh into the air. “Didn’t I tell you? I don’t care much for wine.”
He moved his eyes back to the forest that filled his bedroom window. He listened for the owl. Looked for signs and storms and a woman. You should let it age, Bo. Spring would bring more fruit, and he knew someone who loved his peach wine.