Autumn Love (Love Collection)
“What’s your favorite kind of apple, Grandpa?” Ali asked.
She was sitting next to him on the tractor that he’d just shut off, looking around the orchard that she loved so much. Most of the orchard was filled with McIntosh, but there were plenty of Cortland, Macoun, Crispin, and Honeycrisp, not to mention other fruits and vegetables on the farm, but to Ali, the apples were the star.
“My favorite is the one I’m eating at that moment,” he said, laughing. He was like jolly old Saint Nick to her. White hair, white beard, and a big belly. At twelve she didn’t believe in Santa anymore, but she believed in her grandfather and that was good enough.
“But if you had a choice?” she asked again. She was always asking a million questions, or so her father always annoyingly said.
Her grandfather hopped off the tractor and reached his long arm up to grab a small Mac off the tree and tossed it to her. Another week or so and they’d be ready for people to line up and start picking.
“Right now, this is my favorite. Tart on the first bite, then followed up by a juicy sweetness. Can’t get any better than this, can you?”
She bit into the apple and realized he was right when a dribble of juice rolled down her chin. It was her favorite at the moment. “I’m so excited about the hayrides and haunted house this year.”
“I don’t know how I let you talk me into that, but I feel like a kid myself planning it all out. Your mother has all sorts of ideas for the bakery too, to have snacks ready for the night to sell.”
“I’m going to help her in there too. I can’t wait until this is all mine someday,” she said.
As the only grandchild, she figured it’d come to her. Why wouldn’t it? Her mother was an only child too and worked on the farm her whole life. She ran the bakery on site that was open all year round.
“You’ve got a lot of years ahead of you to make that decision,” her grandfather said. “There is a great big world out there for you. Running this farm is a lot of work and takes its toll on the body and sometimes the soul. It’s not meant for everyone.”
“You’re as strong as an ox,” she told her grandfather as he grabbed a ladder and started to climb up one tree to inspect the apples. He’d been teaching her what to look for for years now.
“I’m as big as one, that’s for sure,” he said, laughing loudly.
Ali paused, climbed off the tractor and looked up at her grandfather, then finally said, “Mom and Dad are fighting a lot about the farm. Is that why you said what you did?”
Her grandfather climbed down the ladder and took her by the shoulders. “I said it’s a lot of work because it is. Your mother loves it here, or so she has always said. That’s why we opened the bakery for her all those years ago.”
“She does,” Ali insisted. “That’s why Dad is mad. He says she pays more attention to the farm and the store than him.”
Her grandfather snorted. “I’ll keep my lips sealed on that comment. Here’s the deal, Ali. You’ve got options for your future. You don’t have to be tied here in Lake George. You don’t have to be tied to the Adirondacks at all. There’s a big world out there and I want to make sure you’ve thought it all through before you commit to staying here or working this farm.”
“I know what I want,” she said stubbornly. “I’m never leaving. This is my legacy.” She giggled and her grandfather pulled her into his arms.
“You’re a good kid, Ali. Just remember this conversation one day. A legacy doesn’t mean a lot if you’re all by yourself trying to pull it together. It takes teamwork. A family of sorts.”
“We’ve got a family. It’s you and Mom and me. That’s all we need. And you’ve got all those employees too.”
He kissed her on the forehead, like he always did, then pulled her into his arms. She’d never grow tired of her grandfather’s hugs. It wasn’t as if she got them much from her father. She was guessing her mother didn’t either. “Someday you’ll understand.”