Sally spread out the picnic blanket, slipped off her black Havaianas and sat down with her legs extended in front of her. She felt the grass squelch underneath her; the sun warming her toes.
She looked around for signs of life but no-one was there today. Sally breathed in the smell of native greenery. This was how she preferred it; her own private moment. The solitude gave her a sense of peace, as if this truly was how it was meant to be.
Sally opened her handbag, pulled out a small Tupperware container and tore back the lid. She fished the fork out and fed herself a piece of juicy mango. She savoured the taste for a long moment before plunging her fork back into the container full of mango pieces.
Mangoes always reminded Sally of her father. Growing up a mango for dessert was a common occurrence when they were in season. As soon as her mother finished eating she’d get up to retrieve a knife, bowl, and a mango from the fridge. Her mother then placed all three items in front of Sally’s father.
Sally’s father was a slow eater. So Sally and her mother waited patiently for him to finish. When he finally did, he’d take the knife to the mango and carefully peel back the skin with the precision of an old school barber using a fine blade. He’d cut a small piece and feed it straight to Sally.
He always fed Sally first. He’d reach out across the table with the piece of mango balanced on the edge of the knife. She’d snatch it away with a cheeky grin and pop it straight into her mouth. It pleased her to be first. Her father would stop and wait for her verdict. “Yummy,” she’d tell him with a thumbs up. Her father then proceeded to cut small pieces of mango into the bowl for them to all to share as a family.
For a long time, Sally never contemplated the possibility there might be an alternative way to cut up a mango. The first time Daniel prepared a home cooked meal for her he dished up ice cream with a side of mango. They’d only been dating for a month and Daniel wasn’t much of a cook, but he was doing his best to impress.
“Dessert is served,” he announced as he presented her with the plate.
A large oval size piece of mango stared back at her. It still had the skin on it; didn’t Daniel know you didn’t eat the skin? It was cut into a series of cubes and reminded her of a hedgehog, or maybe it was a stegosaurus. She wasn’t sure.
“That’s not how you cut a mango,” she exclaimed and looked up at him.
Daniel’s proud grin immediately vanished and was replaced with a crestfallen frown. She wished she could take the comment back, he looked defeated, but it could not be unsaid.
Sally looked at the last piece of mango in the container. Daniel hadn’t quite mastered her father’s accuracy as yet. He cut too much mango off with the skin and he never sliced the pieces close enough to the core. There never seemed to be as many pieces as she expected, but he was trying. Sally hadn’t inherited her father’s skill herself; she could hardly be upset with Daniel for not mastering it.
She ate the last piece, packed the fork into the container, snapped the lid shut and stored it back in her handbag. She stood and folded the picnic blanket back up and threw her handbag over her shoulder. She grabbed the small bouquet of flowers off the ground and placed them on top of the stone.
“Happy birthday dad,” she said.
Sally read the inscription as she always did before she left; forever in our hearts, always in our thoughts, never forgotten. She walked back to her car, tears welling in her eyes.