Maggie waited every year for her orange trees to blossom.
She had started the tree when she was in university, saving the seeds from meal hall. She tried planting some, and putting others in the fridge. Some grew in the pot, others in the wet paper towel chilling for a few weeks. She kept both going.
Most eventually died, but two had survived. She wasn’t sure if they were the stratified, or the non-stratified. It didn’t matter. She kept them alive, and growing.
Finally, after years of care, the trees had blossomed one spring, and she had been delighted by the colour, the smell. Later they had born fruit: two tiny oranges, one on each tree.
The fruit wasn’t great, but the blossoms were delightful. She looked forward to it every year.
This year, though, only one tree had a blossom, a piddly little white thing, five petals barely worthy of being called such. The other tree kept its green leaves, but no buds appeared, no warm, rich-smelling blossoms. She worried about it, tried watering it to the point of drowning, then tried drying it until the leaves started to crisp. Nothing worked.
She accepted her one tree’s single blossom for the year, and tried to undo the stress the other had suffered. She went to the store and purchased orange essential oil, rubbing it on the leaves just so she could pretend, for now, that everything was fine. She hoped she hadn’t undone everything, wouldn’t have to start again.
The tree judged her from its sickly state.