The apple was perfect. A ripe deep red apple sat perched at the top of the fruit basket. As Emma polished it on the soft sleeve of her jumper, she recalled a summer morning when she, Anna and Lizzy where still small. Their mother had always said that although they were all different, they were all special. As they grew up together, her treatment of them was fair and despite the year between each of their ages the rules of liberty and discipline applied from top to bottom.
On that warm day, Emma had been lying on the grass in the rear garden. She lay flat on her stomach, her right armed curled beneath her head so that her nose just missed the ground. With her head tilted sideways, she could see Anna and Lizzy pouring dirt from the flowerbed into plastic buckets with a yellow spade. They were constructing a miniature city from sticks and dirt. As Anna filled the bucket, their little sister dictated the ultimate placement of its contents. She pointed and chattered away at what she wanted it to look like when they finished. Lizzy was the artist of the family.
As she watched her sisters play, Emma wondered about her place in the world. That morning, their mother had gone to work early. Before leaving for her day job at the grocers, she kissed each of the girls goodbye, poured coffee into her thermos and instructed Anna to see to it that the younger girls had their lunch before noon. Although the girls were young, Anna was frequently left in charge. She was the responsible one in the family.
That evening, when their mother returned home, she called them all into the kitchen. Hollered, was more accurate. The girls, startled by the angry sound of their mother’s voice, collected themselves from various parts of the house and ran to the kitchen. She stood, with a severe look of disappointment on her face, one hand balanced on the kitchen table, the other clutching an apple with a single bite taken from it.
“Who did this?” Their mother demanded. “It was in the rubbish bin like this. How many times do I have to tell you that we don’t waste food in this house?” She shook as spoke, looking across each of their faces for a sign of guilt.
They all shook their heads in denial. Emma recalled how just before noon, Lizzy had been in the kitchen rummaging. Anna, for the first time in ages, had forgotten to make lunch and Lizzy, in the search for food, had taken the unusual step towards the fruit bowl instead of to the pantry where the biscuit tin was held.
“So, nobody chucked this in the bin after one bite, huh? A little bird flew in the window, pecked at it and dropped it in when it was done, is that it?”
Emma looked at her older sister. She looked frightened at the throught of punishment for shirking her responsibilities and Emma felt for her.
“Ok, Anna, I want you to take a bite.” Their mother handed Anna the apple, the bitemark staring back at her accusingly.
Anna took the apple and turning it so that the offending mark was away from her took a deep bite and handed it back.
Lizzy reached for Emma’s hand and as Emma squeezed her little fingers in her palm, sensed that the poor little girl was about to crack.
As their mother examined the bitemarks, she seemed to decide something, dismissed Anna from the kitchen and handed the apple, now carryting two dents to Emma.
“It was me Mum.” Emma said. I was snacking when I shouldn’t have and I after I bit into it, I didn’t like it after all. I’m sorry, I promise not to waste food again.” She released Lizzy’s hand.
“Lizzy, you run off to your room. I need to speak to Emma.” Their mother said.
When they were alone in the kitchen, Emma was ordered to sit.
“I want you to sit there and finish it. That’s your lot for dinner too. You shouldn’t have lied to me when I asked you girls who did it. You should have fessed up straight away, so I want you to finish it, then go to your room.”
As Emma watched her mother prepare dinner for the others. She thought of Anna and Lizzy upstairs, probably watching TV on the floor of their room.
In all the years that followed, the girls never mentioned the incident. So, Emma thought, at least I know which one I am. I’m the liar of the family. She admired the red apple in her hand, now nicely polished and took a bite.
– Eliza Dashwood © 2008