Dafni has seen the changes in her own face. The same face that fails her differently each year. Lines etch deeper and grey eyebrow hairs thicken. How cruel it is to think that the body fails us last. Only then, if we are lucky. If the mind fails first – the body carries on – this was how she thought before her husband died.
Each day after she folded the chairs under the table in their kitchen after lunch, he’d ask her to fetch him peaches.
“Yes, baby, I’ll go this afternoon and get the peaches from the market before he closes,” she would smile and busy herself around his needs.
“Now you make sure to get the good ones – not the ones at the front that everyone has squeezed and not the ones at the back where the maggots hide, but at the side that’s where the best ones are in the middle.”
He urged his wife with the blind faith of a man who believed that the best peaches were the most important act of the day.
Dafni touched his hand and smiled. “Of course. The best ones.”
“And the tsipouro!” He never failed to add just as she turned leaving him poised in his favourite chair facing the sea.
After bathroom ablutions she maneuvered him there to view the balcony which if he was able to stand he could watch the swimmers plunge into the harbour from the platform. In high summer their bodies merge below into patches of honeyed flesh and parasols.
Hers was a promise to him everyday – the same request and the same act. After swimming she brings back the peaches. He naps in the chair so she sneaks across the room, dropping her swimming costume on the railing and dabbing the salted talons of her hair with a towel. Some days she talks to him softly in whispers telling him how the water was flat like glass today and clear enough to see the urchins. Dafni remembers every single Summer they swam together – their young and strong bodies diving into the azure water, each breath gasped underwater casting a spell. Diving together under moonlight, breathless and urgent, letting the cool water kiss their hot mouths until the summer season passed and life became suddenly quiet and cold again. Now she swims alone.
Today she has peaches perched in every bowl in the kitchen, swapping them over from the counter top to the fridge. Replacing harder unripe fruits for softer juicer flesh. Taking the knife and slicing through the fruit right to the kernel, it is easy to cut into the kernel to see the bitter almond looking seed. Someone told her they contained cyanide. The amount you’d need to ingest to make it poisonous is not something she wonders often. But perhaps it should be.
Every afternoon she’d make him up a plate with sliced peach flesh laid out in a fan shape with a dollop of thick yogurt on the side. Leaving the plate on the nightstand with a single spoon, ready for when he wakes. There were many days he didn’t eat any peaches at all. Some days he was ravenous. What matters is that he asked for them after all these years. His stomach and his mouth remembered when his hands went cold and balled in arthritic fists forgetting everything else. She held his hand as he murmured. His eyes open to the stream of light and warmly twinkle blue, his gaze searching out the window to the sea below as the room fills with the smell of salt drying on warm skin.
Today she eats peaches alone. Biting into their skin with her teeth. Peach flesh under her fingernails, juice on her chin. Remembering their love after all else had failed.
Lindsay Bennett Ford is from the North East of England. By day she works in the charity sector and writes in her free time. Her work has recently been published on Another North, Detritus and the Cabinet of Heed. She tweets at @linzdigs