The wind sighed through the grove of pine trees making them creak and groan as the branches rubbed together. The sun was setting, casting its eerie orange glow over the landscape. Sarah had always loved three things. The sound of the rain on the roof, the wind in the trees, and sunset after a hard day’s work. All three together would have been wonderful; but rain on the roof only happened on Earth, so she happily settled for latter two.
Since coming to the planet Arancione to work as chief horticulturist with the joint British-Italian off world orchard consortium, she had come to realise just how much colours actually affected people. She grinned to herself as she remembered how Helene, the former director, had insisted her uniform be purple – she had some strange notion that it made her appear more regal – until someone told her that in ancient times, purple dye was made from the mucous gland of a snail. The next day, Helene’ wore the same orange uniform as everyone else. Albeit a slightly lighter shade.
After spending a long and backbreaking day picking and packing oranges in the orchard, you’d think she would have had her fill of the color orange, but she soaked it in, reveling in the energy it seemed to infuse in her. But now, the sun was setting, the wind was gentle, the trees whispered to her and she felt at peace. She’d been here… she frowned as she tried to remember… oh wow, was it really three years? Three years as chief horticulturist – that made her laugh out loud. The advertisement in the university journal had said: “Position of Chief Horticulturist available for third year student of botany. Must be willing to travel. Please send expressions of interest to Professor de Tangeri.”
“Must be willing to travel” that was an understatement. That and the term “Chief Horticulturist”. Once she recovered from the shock of just how far she would need to be willing to travel, Sarah’s next shock was when she, and twenty other naïve students, arrived on Arancione only to discover that the position “Chief Horticulturist” was little more than a glorified gardener for the new colony.
The work was hard but rewarding, and after twelve months, she had been given freedom to cultivate and experiment with different grafted trees. Her latest triumph had been a cross between an orange and a passionfruit. It grew on a tree like an orange, and its skin peeled as readily as a mandarin, but the flavour had a subtle hint of the unique sweetness of passionfruit. It had been an instant success, and resulted in her being offered the position of ‘research assistant’ to Professor di Tangeri himself. She declined graciously, saying working in a lab was not for her and that she preferred the freedom of fresh air, sun and manual labour.
Manual labour, she groaned as she stretched her back and shoulder muscles; well, she was certainly getting plenty of that. It was harvest time, and the days were filled from sunrise to sunset with nothing else. Wide orange conveyer belts moved down the rows of trees where the fruit – oranges twice the size of those on Earth – were plucked from the branches and packed into clear Perspex boxes and sent on their way to the space terminal where they waited the next transporter to Earth.
“Penny for your thoughts.”
Sarah looked up to see Jeremy, the colony’s medico, silhouetted against the setting sun. “What, only a penny? I would have thought they’d be worth at least ten Euros.”
He pulled his backpack off and flopped down on the grass beside her. “Sorry, must be inflation.” He said with a grin.
“Things must be quiet at the clinic if even our good doctor has the time to come up here to enjoy the sunset.” She avoided looking at him as she said it.
“The sunset isn’t the only beautiful sight I come up here to enjoy.”
Sarah was glad it was dark enough for him not to see her blush.
“Care for a glass of bubbly.” He asked, delving into his backpack and shattering the moment of awkwardness. He pulled out a couple of glasses and an unopened bottle.
“Bubbly?” she asked in surprise.
“My own homebrew.” He said, popping the cork.
Sarah accepted the glass of clear liquid and sipped tentatively. “It’s orange juice... with bubbles.”
“Hey, what did you expect; Champagne?”
They laughed, and watched the moon rise in companionable silence.
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