Seven Trees by Isobel Horsburgh

The first tree that grew from her grave was an apple. A seed snagged in her back tooth an instant before she died, just as the bear smelt the crab and swiped it from her hand.

The second tree that grew from her grave was a lemon. The nurse called to lay Claudia out was making jellies for her children, and rushing back to the party, missed seeing the pip caught in the tangle of long, dark hair, as she tacked rough stitches into the small shroud. The lemon soon died of cold, but it left its scent in her skull.

The third tree grew from a holly berry shat on her grave by a robin, singing above her open mouth.

The fourth tree that grew from her grave was a pear, the gnawed core thrown by a soldier come to burn down the church on royal orders. It was the priest’s lunch, waste not, want not. The pear was freckled to give skin.

The fifth tree was honeysuckle. The roots grew down through her ribs, forming a knotted clump in the place of her heart.

The sixth tree was a magnolia, planted by the Lady Mayoress to mark the opening of the shopping mall on Chapel Green. The white of the strange tree was nothing to Claudia, but a dark-bodied bee concealed in it gave colour for her eyes.

The seventh tree grew from spore lodged in the sole of the boot of someone who popped out of a wormhole, had a quick look and reported nothing here worth saving. What grew was the colour of tears.

The apple tree holds all the others, and some had once fancied they saw faces in the bark, and others, creatures, or windows and doors. There is a door, now.

Wait, and Claudia and the bear, hand in paw, will step out of the door in the trunk and stand together, munching pippins and watching the dismantling of the sun.

Isobel Horsburgh lives in the North East of England. She used to be a long-term carer, and she volunteers in a Victorian library, and for a charity based in a Medieval priory. This is her first published story.

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