The house was crowded. Children of different ages and sizes had already formed groups. A circle of five and six year olds were animatedly discussing how many different rhymes and numbers each of them knew, by heart. While the six year olds boasted that knew numbers above a hundred, the five year olds couldn’t help but envy their cousins.
Just then auntie brought a basket full of fresh apples and placed it on the table. No one noticed, except one five year old. Her eyes were fixed on the apples. They were beautifully red and the tiny drops of water on the apples, made them more attractive. She couldn’t go and grab one, as her auntie had not yet invited them to start eating. While her aunt was busy bringing other sweets and snacks to the table, her cousins had now shifted the topic to the new toys each of them owned. She was in no mood to brag now. She was into the apples.
She noticed quickly that she wasn’t the only spectator. Her elder brother was watching too. She knew what that meant-“War”. She saw auntie adjusting her outfit. Now that was the cue. She would call attention to herself any moment now. The little girl was all set and so was her brother. “I won’t lose to him”, she thought. Just then her aunt called out, “Everyone, please help yourselves”, pointing to the rich table beside her. “You too children. There are chocolates and candy. We have ice cream too”, she added proudly. Turning a deaf ear to the parents’ warnings and protests for the children to not have too many sweets, they ran towards the table.
The little girl, with a different aim, dashed to reach out to her apple. The basket was placed at the center of the table and her hands wouldn’t just reach. Her brother came to the other side of the table, smiling maliciously at her, and picked up the apple. How she wished she was a grown up. He extended his arm to give the apple to her. She couldn’t believe it. “Is this real? Is he really giving me the apple?”, she thought. She stood on her toes and stretched her hand to take the apple offered by her kind brother. And then, he retrieved his arm and laughed. She couldn’t believe, that her brother could be so mean. He playfully extended his arm again, as if he really meant to give it to her this time. She knew what he would do next so she simply scowled at him. Just then, her uncle came along, took the apple from his hand and placed it on hers. “Now come on, fruits are good for you. Listen to your brother and eat this”, he said, as he ruffled her brother’s hair before congratulating her parents about the kindness of her brother. This was the best moment in her life. Leaving her brother to handle the shock, she laughed and went to her group, happily sinking the remaining of her milk teeth into her juicy apple.
After a while, her brother joined their group. He was four years senior to them. While all her cousins felt honored by his presence, she did not. He asked, “Hey! How many of you had apples? I need to collect their seeds. Auntie wants to plant some apple trees”. One of her cousins piped with an air of utmost importance, “We did not have apples”. “Only she did”, he said pointing his chubby finger towards her. The little girl replied timidly, “I ate it. I did not know”. “WHAT??”, bellowed her brother. “You ate the entire apple, including the seeds?”. “Well, yeah. I did not know that she wanted them”, she mumbled. “Who cares about that? You are not supposed to eat the seeds of an apple”, he said in a worried tone. “Why?” questioned many of her cousins, in unison. “There is no time to explain. I think she will need surgery. I should tell Mama”, he said urgently. She had never seen her brother this worried before. She became nervous. “Please tell me why. I need to know”, she begged. “Is she going to die?”, asked someone from her group. Everyone’s eyes were now on her. “No. Even worse. If we don’t remove the apple seeds within an hour…” he paused. “Otherwise what?”, asked the children. “Otherwise, an apple tree will start growing inside her”, he finished dramatically.
Some children smiled and some looked terrified. The little girl touched her tummy to examine. Nothing had started to grow yet. She looked at her brother suspiciously. Her brother recognized the mistrust and said, “My friend did the same thing too. He ate some apple seeds, by mistake, and within an hour, an apple tree started growing inside him. He was scared to tell his parents, so he did not. The next day, the entire tree had grown. His body was now Uneven, with branches coming out of his ears and mouth”, he said, to an audience, listening to him with utmost attention and terror. “You know from where the roots came out, don’t you?”, he asked. At once, her brother and her cousins looked at her bottom. Screaming, she ran to parents. As she ran, she envisaged a huge branch coming out of her ears. And the roots! She did not want to think about the roots. “Mommy!!! Mommy!!!”, she shouted as she ran into her mother. “Apple tree…” she breathed, with tears in her eyes. “I can’t go potty anymore, because of the roots”, she cried. Her mother practically clueless, stared blankly at her. By then, a few of the elders gathered around the crying child. She explained to her ignorant mother what danger she was in. “That’s not true, honey”, she consoled the child. “He was just picking on you”, she said.
The boy saw his little sister glare at him. His mother had a dangerous look on her face. The other elders shook their head dismally for his behavior. He knew what was coming, but it was totally worth it.