This story has been printed in hard copy, and revised here.
|*Note to the reader: This story is based on a true incident. The names and the location have been changed. It was printed in a hardcopy in an anthology. and has been revised. It was one of my first short stories and I'm almost embarassed to share it because I was just learning then and it feels like it needs further revision. Please leave feedback. Thanks
Nina picked up the orange, and rolled it around in her hand, and then sniffed it. She remembered the first time she saw a navel orange. It reminded her of another time and place. A place long ago and far away.
Ella Wright Elementary School. Los Angeles, California
Ms. Frances Avery, Fourth grade elementary teacher.
The summer heat radiated off the school yard grounds, which consisted of blacktop and cement. Currently it was vacant; the children in their classes.
Every day of school, one large orange sat on the Ms. Avery’s desk. When does she have time to eat it? Nina wondered. Most of the time, she was busy correcting papers.
The bell rang, and Ms. Avery dismissed the class for lunch. Children shot out of their seats and hurried out of the room, almost tripping over each other in a rush to get to the lunchroom.
One child didn't leave. Nina straightened the thin faded cotton dress she was wearing, touching the worn spots in the fabric. She looked over at the orange again. It looked so plump, so ripe and juicy.
She was jolted out of her thoughts, when Ms. Avery look up from her desk. Their eyes met. "What are you doing here?"
“Where did you get such a big orange?” Nina blurted out.
“It’s a navel orange. They’re always big. Why aren’t you at lunch?”
“I’m not that hungry. Could I just sit here with you instead?”
“I wouldn't mind, but you really need to eat. “ Ms. Avery continued to correct papers and asked, “Where is your lunch?”
“I didn’t bring any.”
“Where do you usually eat your lunch?”
She looked away.
"Where is your lunch?"
She couldn't tell her that she'd hide out during lunch, finding a secluded area until lunchtime was almost over. “I don‘t usually like to eat lunch.”
Ms. Avery looked up then. The pencil stopped moving. Her gaze fell upon the worn out dusty shoes. Nina tucked one foot behind the other.
There was a pregnant pause before anyone spoke. Ms. Avery’s eyes seemed suddenly glossy. Finally, she spoke again--this time her voice oddly quiet and gentle. “Would you like this orange? You can have it. I’m not going to eat it anyway.”
“No, I’m okay. Really.”
“Please. Take it…for me. I’d really like for you to have it. Otherwise, it will go to waste.” She walked over and held it out in her hand. “Here. It’s yours now. Enjoy it.”
“Well…okay. Thank you.” Nina stood up, “Can I give you a hug?”
Ms. Avery hugged the child close, “You can stay in here and eat it.”
Nina sat back down. Biting the orange open, she peeled it, tasting it, savoring it sweetness. Remembering where she was, she slowed down some.
The barking dogs outside Nina’s apartment window reminded her that she still had errands to run today. She smiled, relishing the thought of her fifth grade teacher. Ms. Avery was a part of her past, yet part of her future in a most intangible way…yet she couldn’t quite put her finger on it.
What a fine teacher she was. Nina knew this memory was significant and helped make her into the person she was today. She’d never forget this seemingly small thing, or how one person made a difference. A need was noticed and filled that day in more ways than one.
Nina sat the orange down on her desk. Her eyes glistened for several moments, and then she continued with her work.