The Temptation of Sweetness

forbiden fruit
My favorite place in all the world is Ashbury’s peach farm, not because his dog is friendly or his gun ain’t loaded, but because his peaches are so juicy they drip down my chin and stain my T-shirt yellow. You’ve never tasted a peach so sweet as an Ashbury peach. You can eat the windfall, or the fresh pick and you won’t find a worm in any of them. I think they must be like Eden’s peaches. You know, the kind Eve skipped over when she got a taste for apples. If I were her, I’d have stuck with peaches.

I’m sucking on a peach, thinking on Eve and her master transgression, when I see Ashbury’s Hell Hound come sneaking up. It ain’t no Pit but it’s still got bite. I’m about to get treed when I see James Ashbury and he’s smiling real big.

“You gonna call that hound dog off?” I got one foot in a tree, both arms hugging the trunk, my half eaten peach stain’in my T-shirt pocket. I feel his eyes on my bare legs moving up to my peach stained shirt.

“Maybe I will.”

“Or maybe you won’t!” I yell, climbing up onto the first limb, my feet dangling over the old dog’s head. Looking out on the orchard I marvel at the acres on acres of peach trees. Looking back down I see James and that smile of his. He’s cute enough but his father’s no friend of mine.

“Mazy Reed, why are you always stealing our peaches?”

“Because, James Ashbury, you grow the best peaches in the whole county?”

“Well, you’re right there. We grow the best peaches in ten counties. Now, why don’t you hop on down here and I’ll tell you what’s even sweeter than our peaches.”

I spit a pit down at the dog. I wait and watch to see what James’ll do next. That boy’s eyes don’t leave me. Neither do the dog’s.

“You gonna call that hound off?”

“Yes Ma’am.” To prove his word he whistles the dog away.

I don’t leave the tree ‘til I’ve had another peach. It’s no good getting caught if you haven’t eaten your fill. Slowly, I slide down the trunk ‘til I feel the cool grass and hard dirt under my bare feet. The sun light’s all soft and yellow coming through the heavy leaves above.

“So you gonna tell me what’s sweeter than peaches?”

“Well…” James drawls out. He’s cute. Damn, he’s cute. I remember him when he was a senior in high school. I’ll be a senor this year but none of the boys in school can compete with James. He’s fine.

“Well?” I ask, “You said you’d tell.”

“That’s right. I did.” He walks slowly up to me like I’m some sort of wild animal that might take fright. Then he leans in, and ever so slowly, he kisses the juice off my neck.

“Now, you behave!” But my words don’t come out as serious as they were meant to.

“I’m behaving,” he whispers. His lips make their way to mine. It’s a sweet kiss, a peach flavored kiss, the kind of kiss you dream about all your life but never really think you’ll get. It’s the kind of kiss that goes on so long that you lose your breath and forget everything you though you knew about life and living and kisses. When it ends, you just want it back again.

“Mazy, do you know what’s sweeter than a peach?”

“This.” I kiss him before he can say more. It doesn’t matter what he’d of said ‘cause he’s mine now. Just like his peaches, I’m gonna have all his kisses, when and how I like ‘em. Pulling back, I look into his soft brown eyes; eyes that reflect acres and acres of heavily laden peach trees. It’s all Eden, all over again because truth is, it was never the sweetness of the fruit that led Eve astray.

A Succubus Plans Her Day

We weren’t allowed to scream. To have done so would have rendered us rebellious, unladylike and rude. We weren’t allowed to show our shoulders, talk back to boys or be defiant. Only in rage did the women in my house raise their voice. Only in rage could you hear the anguish shoved down through centuries of dissimulation, our silenced dreams recalled in high pitched tirades, spoken so loud that the walls shivered. We were all good girls once, poured into tight dresses and tighter shoes. We said our ‘pleases’ and ‘thank yous,’ did our make-up and remained girl like, lady like, picture-perfect, while the years of pent up rage and humiliation turned us slowly into passive cannibals.

I ate my first husband with a smile. He was probably a good man, but I didn’t wait to find out. The second one was cruel, he went down as smooth as butter, sticking to my ribs like a well cut gown. I’ve worn him long and well, his money, his name, his house in the hills, are all visible signs of my victory. I’m stuffed on victory, rolling in it. No man ever made me scream in child birth. No man ever made me change a diaper. No man ever made me grow old in silence.

Long hours stretch before me begging to be filled. Maybe I’ll buy a new dress today or maybe I’ll buy five? Maybe I’ll stop by a café and drink coffee with a friend, or maybe I’ll go to France or Morocco and find a new man to eat? Maybe he’ll be tall and handsome? Maybe he’ll be rich and plain? Or maybe he’ll be cruel in that especially delicious way, sliding down my throat like sweet cream on a hot day.

My rage is a palatable thing that no longer tastes of bile or blood’s corroded metal tang. It is sweet like pudding and revenge. It is the friend I turn to, the confidant who always has an answer. It is my alter-self and my master plan. My rage has given me a long memory. It recalls rooms filled with the silence of clocks that slowly tick out the interminably long hours of a pointless life. It recalls the shackles of obedience, the lie inherent in a false smile and years of unending, unendurable servitude.

Picking up my handbag I catch my image in the mirror. Hollow eyes see hollowed cheeks and elegant collar bones that protrude beneath the thin straps of a little black dress. Beautiful I am and beautiful I will remain though my eyes are sharp, cold, dead and haunted in a way that only a cruel man could overlook. And he’s out there somewhere…viciously vulnerable…made tender by lust…rendered delicious by desire.

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