White light flashed through the window, briefly brightening an otherwise gloomy room. Crack! Boom! Growl! The structure of the house shook at the vibration of the rumbling bellow from the sky. Nick did not flinch. His attention transfixed on his mother, bedridden, under the coverage of 3 thick blankets.
‘Not long now!’
Jackson stood by the window, observing a lone deteriorating apple tree growing amongst a lifeless stretch of lawn.
‘Yeah! Two or three minutes and that storm will unleash its wrath.’
‘That’s not what I meant.’
Another flash of bright white light highlighted his grim expression.
‘Been months since rain has soaked these grounds.’
Jackson had not honoured his mother a glimpse since he entered the room. Nick glared at his brother, standing there in his expensive Peter Jackson suit, gold watch, and fancy shoes.
‘She has deteriorated a lot in the last few days,’ said Nick, as he grasped his mother’s hand.
‘Yes, indeed! Even since yesterday, the branches have shredded leaves, its limbs have drooped, and its bark is frail.’
‘She won’t survive the night.’
‘I’m sitting on the fence with that. If the rain braces our presence, the tree may yet pull through, fruit again, and save the family business. Lone Tree Orchard Cider. A franchise grown from one tree that harvested the most amazing apples, made into the most refreshing cider one could taste.’
‘Connection Tree Cider,’ Nick corrected. All ever Jackson thought about was business. Nick hated it! ‘Hasn’t sprouted a single apple since . . .’ Nick couldn’t say the words.
‘Terrible name! Never understand mother’s fascination with it. A secret she’ll take to her grave, no doubt. Anyhow, the franchise will cease to exist if it does not bear fruit soon.’
Another lightning strike lit up the room while thunder shook the fragile structure of the house as Nick noticed a sign from his mother. A tear trickled down her cheek while a faint gasp of breath passed her lips.
‘Good heavens,’ said Jackson, his face pressed against the window, ‘rain. Pouring rain! And wind!’ His jaw dropped as a puff of wind puppeteer the apple tree’s flimsy brunches.
Nick watched as his mother’s tears were more frequent, then stopped. One last breath escaped her lips. Her grip on his hand weakened.
‘Jackson!’ cried Nick, holding in the wave of emotion that threatened to explode into a tsunami. His skin felt numb, chest tight, and his hands shook.
‘Yes. I see it. The wind vanished. As did the rain.’
Nick observed his mother’s expression. A smile. Not since her illness had struck had he seen it. She was free.
‘As I live and breathe,’ continued Jackson. ‘The Apple Tree! The branches! They look fruitful, strong, and have sprouted leaves. Whatever sickness it suffered appears to have vanished. All it needed was a good drenching of rain.’
Nick froze. His mother and the tree. He surrendered to his emotions. The answer to her secret finally revealed.