Stone Fruits

The first time she slipped into your mouth, she was passing you a plum stone to swallow. Only after she’d stripped the flesh, of course. Fingertips on your tongue, tilt your head back and swallow. 

You have to remember, she’d said as though she had any idea how it felt, it’s always easier to get it down quickly. You already knew this – had practiced on nectarines and peaches for years after you first found yourself a voyeur in her orchard, making a study of her exchanges with that year’s lover. You knew that now, with her, there wouldn’t be any juice to ease the way; no fleshy sweetness to mask the bitter pip. She said, if it sticks in your throat, swallow more stones to help it pass, or drink water. You already knew what to do: gather sputum to line your oesophagus, be ready to choke. 

The second time, she tongued seeds out of tenderised flesh and passed them to you in a perverse facsimile of mouth-to-mouth. You were immobile when it came to the transfer itself, half-numb to the sensation as you swallowed the seeds that so offended her. As though your future was already present, and you were already stuck firm in the ground, nothing but bark for her to scratch against. 

After, it was the bodily intimacy you dwelt on, rather than any particular eroticism. It wasn’t like that between you. You were something of a sentient compost for her, a convenient alternative to spitting seeds into the bush. It wasn’t like that, you told yourself, as she slipped ever more stones down your throat. Even as she started pressing them into your palm, even as she grew distant. You had thought yourself inured, safeguarded by seasons of isolation, but still you missed the feeling of a pliant mouth, pillowed lips, plum-stained teeth. You swallowed, and you swallowed, and you swallowed. 

When it came true summer though, she drew back into you, as you savoured cherries together. They were gigantic that year and together, girlish and juvenile, you marvelled at the sheer size of the stones. You felt happy, even as they stuck in your throat alone. Apricots were available then too, and all their kernels had sharp-edges that bit your gullet on their way down. She told you, in a carelessly saccharine aside, you’ll never rot the way they do. Of course you wouldn’t: your future was well set in stone by now. You didn’t mind. It was one more thing you had in common. She spurned strawberries, and so you did too. You swallowed, and you swallowed.

Inevitably, the figs and feijoas began to bud. She loudly disdained their fucking fleshiness, the way their fucking form was monument to fecundity and their tendency to fucking reek when left on the ground too long. If she was a little too transparent, you knew better than to acknowledge the illusion; you and her both knew that she’d be gone, soon as the last of the summer fruits were superseded by their autumnal cousins. She at least still ate apples, and passed you the core to digest. This season is the pits – get it? You were grateful for her humour, but the spawn of spit, seeds and stones sat heavy in your stomach. You’d made it five months now, time enough for half a child to be gestated between you and her. 

And then she was gone as the earth tilted smoothly on its axis. It was too early for April fools but you felt fooled anyway. The earth barely stuttered as she went back to him, like she always would; even as she didn’t want to, was always going to. 

By the time spring arrived, and she came back with it, you’d already turned. The seeds you swallowed for her had flourished inside your intestines; had pushed out sprouts, that turned to shoots, that soon grafted you into the ground. You had just enough feeling left in your limbs to turn fractionally towards her, as she brought her latest paramour into her orchard of paladins. You weren’t jealous, but you watched her swallow and found yourself a voyeur again. You weren’t jealous, but you did wonder if you’d be more loveable once you were in blossom.

When people ask Malory Campbell what they do, they usually say “not much”. In their free time, they are a SFF devotee, who usually writes when their feelings get too big to be dissipated by a walk to their local library.