Molly knows that if she bites into the apple, something bad will happen. Like with Snow White, except that there will be no handsome prince to kiss her back to life. Molly knows this, because not eating apples away from home is on The List.
The list grows every day.
‘Just one more thing…’ Mummy whispers into Molly’s hair, as she hugs her tight. Today it was about not playing in the big sand pit, because you never know what bad things dirty children have done in it. The thing about the apples was yesterday.
The bowl of shiny, red apples is in the middle of the circle, and nearly everyone has taken one. All around her, children are cheerfully biting, and none of them seem to be dying. Molly listens to them chomping and her mouth starts to water.
Molly has apples at home, but Mummy has to peel them first, because there might be germs or chemicals on the skin, and germs and chemicals are things that can make you sick. When the apple has been peeled, Mummy chops it up into tiny mouth sized pieces. It takes a long time, and sometimes the apple starts to go brown. Mummy has to watch while Molly eats the tiny pieces in case one gets stuck in her throat and she chokes. Lots of things can go wrong when you eat an apple.
Molly edges forwards, towards the bowl. Her fingers close around the smallest apple, because that might be the safest one. She stares at it for a long time, turning it round and round in her hand. The teacher tells her to hurry up. Molly opens her mouth as wide as it will go and takes a bite.
She likes the tingly way her teeth feel as they sink into the apple. She likes the frilly edge that is left where she has bitten. Juice runs down her chin. She waits for something bad to happen. Nothing does. She takes another bite.
Soon, all that remains is the core. She takes out the pips and holds them in the palm of her hand. Her teacher smiles and says maybe she can plant them. Perhaps an apple tree will grow. But Molly isn’t allowed to plant seeds, because they have to be planted in mud, and mud is the same as dirt, which is bad for you.
The end of the day comes, and still the bad thing hasn’t happened. Mummy waits on the playground wearing her worried face. She holds out her hand to Molly, who doesn’t take it. Mummy has told a big lie. Molly wonders how many other lies there have been. Tomorrow, she will play in the sand, and she might even take a drink from the water fountain. As they walk home, Molly makes sure she keeps a distance between them, because she knows Mummy is not to be trusted.