Alice of Autumn

              Alice could almost feel Autumn; almost, because it wasn't here yet.  The leaves on the trees were beginning to spot, but not quite turn.  The air was cool, but not exactly crisp.  The scent on the breeze had ripened, but not yet begun to turn to cider.  It was exactly as September should be.

              And that did nothing for Alice.

              September was all very well, if one could take it in stride, but Alice wanted the leaves to turn now.  She wanted to rake up piles and piles of them, and then walk over their crunchy tops and smell their heady scent.  To feast her eyes on the colorful gourds that made up a beautiful table.  And to bike into an apple of perfect ripeness, tangy sweet, and taste juice just as it was meant to taste.  But it was not to be, for the leaves had not yet begun to fall, the gourds were too small to be picked, and the apples were not quite ripe.

              Alice had waited all year for the Season to come again, and now, just as it was at its cusp, she didn’t know how she could bear the waiting any longer.  The anticipation filled her with a desperation that made her wake eagerly only to be disappointed, for the leaves still on the trees, the sun was too warm to enjoy hot drinks, and everything around her was still green, green, green.
            Desperate times called for desperate measures, and, for Alice, that meant paint.
            If Autumn would only reluctantly present itself to Alice, Alice would create it for herself.  And so she did, pouring all of her love and longing of the Season into her work, until the scene that grew before her seemed to come alive in vibrant yellows, reds, oranges, and the pink that only comes from a dimming autumnal sky.
            Indeed, as Alice looked upon her completed work, it did in fact look quite alive.  Rather, she thought, too alive, as she gazed at a squirrel holding an acorn and thought she saw it wink at her.
            Suddenly the world began to tip.  Alice, her eyes shut against the peculiar feeling, started to sense things she knew very well it was not yet time to sense.  She felt crisp air all about her.  As she stumbled against a ground that appeared at her feet she heard the crunch of leaves.  And as she breathed deeply to steady herself, the heady scent of cidery leaves filled her nostrils.
            Alice blinked her eyes open.  The colors she saw made her hands fly to her mouth and her feet step back.  All the colors of autumn surrounded her.  And just in the corner, nibbling quite ferociously on his acorn, sat a squirrel.  As her eyes opened even wider with awe, she realized she was very much inside her painting.
            ‘Nice of you to join us,’ said the squirrel, as Alice jumped, her hands still pressed to her mouth.  ‘Desperate longing for Autumn?  Paint a picture of it, did you?’ the squirrel asked.
            Alice felt herself nod.
            ‘Tenth one this week,’ said the squirrel shaking his head.  Then he jerked his head, indicating something beyond the boundaries of the world she knew.  ‘They’re all over there, if you want to join them.’
            Then Alice smelled it.  The scent of steaming hot apple cider wafting through the air.
            ‘Go along with you, then,’ said the squirrel in a resigned fashion.
            Alice stared at the squirrel, then whispered, ‘Thank you.’  She turned, marveling, with every intention of walking toward the cider.
            ‘Have you forgotten about the berries?’ the squirrel asked suddenly, and Alice turned back to him with a furrowed brow.  ‘Or the golden sun, and last moments of green?  What about the sunflowers and daisies?  And the squash blossoms?  Days of perfect temperature and the last vestiges of a brightened evening?  Have you enjoyed them?  Are you too filled with longing of what is to come to enjoy Summer’s farewell?
            Alice blinked.  She had never thought of it that way.
            ‘Is that what September is?’ she asked, shyly.
            ‘The brilliant beam of light that casts itself out from the sun just before it sets,’ said the squirrel with passion.
            Alice tipped her head, considering.  She greatly enjoyed berries, and days filled with a warmth just right.  And green was after all, she thought, a lovely color.  Still, she looked longingly toward the tangy apple smell and voices that seemed huddled together for warmth.  No, she shook her head.  ‘I can wait,’ she said allowed.
            ‘Good girl,’ said the squirrel.
            And all at once Alice was sitting by a window staring out into a sky filled with a golden sun.  She washed her brushes and hung her painting to dry.  And, walking outside her house, went to go fill her mouth with berries.

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