The knife slipped, cutting through the apple and hard into her palm. For a moment, it didn’t hurt, in that magic way of sharp knives and tender skin. Her gasp was all surprise. The two uneven halves of the apple fell to the floor. One slapped on the kitchen tile and the other bounced. Daniel leaned around the doorway curiously.
Then she lifted the knife away. Skin pulled with the metal before it bled enough to let go. Stomach twisting, she winced.
“Jesse?” Daniel’s voice was twisting too, suddenly alarmed.
“I’m fine,” she said calmly. It didn’t hurt, though she was sure it should. She held her hand, palm up, while she turned a quick circle, half watching the line of red across her hand grow darker and wider, half looking for a place to put the knife down.
Daniel almost ran to her. He grabbed her by the wrist and took the knife away in one quick motion. She heard him drop it onto the counter – a sharp metallic clunk – but was watching the cut on her hand. She pulled his sleeve back, jerked it away, to keep it from brushing against the first rolling drop of blood coming off her palm.
“I’m fine, I’m fine,” she promised.
Just before it started to throb.
Just before the first drop hit the floor.
Just before she started to cry.
Daniel cradled her hand for her, and pressed a dishtowel into her palm. Bit by bit, he piled the whole thing into her hand and then wrapped her fingers tight around it. Her hand hurt, and it throbbed, and it hurt some more.
“Gosh darnnit,” Jesse whispered, because she wasn’t sure what the tears running down to her chin would make her sound like if she tried to speak up. “Apples are supposed to keep the doctor away…”
Daniel paused. Then he laughed, hard.
“Only you,” he murmured, still holding her hand, still helping her press down against the cloth, now gently guiding her out of the kitchen.
“Now what am I supposed to eat?” Jesse asked. Daniel led her toward the front door. “Pears? I don’t like pears.”
“You don’t have to eat pears,” Daniel told her. He let go of her hand long enough to open the door and lock it again behind them.
“What if it’s worse?” Jesse asked. “What if it’s pineapples? What if I have to eat a whole pineapple every day?”
The car beeped and the headlights blinked as Daniel unlocked it. He opened the door for Jesse. She sat down awkwardly, still holding her hand up and a little away from herself.
“Eat apples,” he said when she looked up at him earnestly. “Just cut them on the counter.”
“What if it’s pickled kumquats!?” Jesse demanded.
He laughed at her again. She cracked a smile. She either wasn’t paying attention or her hand hurt a little less. “Your turn,” she said. “This is helping.”
Daniel shut the door and came around to the other side of the car. Jesse waited to hear what he would say.