Hearing a rustle below her she spotted Gino walking off, his knee-length pants hanging low, his dark overgrown hair ruffled and dusty. The seed in her mouth twisted and turned, beckoning her, tempting her until she gave in. She waited for the right moment, formed a circle with her lips, sucked and using tongue and air as her tools, aimed the seed right on his head.
Gino looked up annoyed as he rubbed his head and yelled a few curses. She burst out in shrill laughter and asked where he was headed. Without answering, he proceeded to climb up the tree and soon he was dangling his short legs and dirty cracked feet next to her soft ones. She shared her pickings and both concentrated on rolling the fruit within the confines of their mouths, chewing off the meaty parts and spitting out the seed to the ground. They competed to see who could aim farthest and argued over the distance of where their seed landed. The sun slowly began its descent, the birds started to fly back to their nests, the mosquitoes started their slow drone whispering secrets in their little ears. Roma started her own descent down the tree and sadly headed home. Gino sat on his branch to watch Roma and the sun go down and under a shawl of darkness, as his tummy began to rumble he decided to head home too.
Early in the morning, the orchard buzzed with activity with Roma’s father shouting out orders and men perched up high on ladders loosely attached to the branches. Women carried baskets to collect the tiny green fruit, placing and replacing them under each tree. Roma ran around trying to catch the fruits or climb up to harvest the fruit with own hands ignoring her mother’s cries. She whirled between trees hiding from her mother and looking for the tallest and hardest branch to climb. Her father shouted for her to stay out of the workers’ way but her ears ringed with a different music.
She went in search for Gino and found him balancing on one of the ladders, his little hands judicially shaking a low branch to let the fruits fall on the net spread out below. She called out to him to come play with him, but he continued his shaking. Pouting she ordered him to come down and threatened to complain to her father that he was not doing a good job. He dutifully lowered his body one rung at a time until he found firm ground and stood facing her. She grabbed his hand and dragged him outside the orchard, towards the hill, to an open field where the two collapsed on the rough grass, out of breath. Under a clear blue sky, sitting on rustic land and surrounded by fresh country air, the two sat playing hand clapping games or word games before switching to running and catching in vastness that surrounded them. The day ended quickly and the two headed home dragging their legs, shoulders slumped and heads lowered.
The next day of the harvest, the buzz of activity continued in the orchard, but Gino was nowhere in sight. Roma walked, ran, searched with no result until she noticed that his family also had not come to pick the fruits. She went up to her father and asked of their absence and was shocked to receive a reprimand instead. He commanded her not see the boy again, that he belonged to a low-class family of thieves and if he ever caught her near that little rascal she will be grounded. In tears, Roma ran to her room and stayed there all afternoon until her mother coaxed her to come out for dinner.