Monday, 16 April 2018

The Photograph - Flash Fiction Challenge

At writer's group last month, we were offered old photographs that had been part of an estate donated to a charity shop and asked to write a story about it. This is my story:

The Photograph

Sarah hummed softly to herself, a song from her childhood that evoked memories of her father, aproned and covered in flour, baking in their kitchen on a Sunday morning, memories that made her smile.

She tapped short but perfectly manicured nails on the table-top before her as she waited, eager to spend time with one of her favourite people. It had been a decade since they’d seen each other. An old photograph of that person, Sarah’s great aunt, sat on the thick, buff folder just to the right of her tapping fingertips. Though she knew the subject of the photograph well and had seen hundreds of photographs of her famous great aunt over the years, it was only three months ago that she’d first seen this specific photograph for the first time. It had been sent to her anonymously along with a note.

Sarah stood and smiled as a woman was wheeled into the room and pushed up to the table. For the first time in her memory, Sarah didn’t kiss the old woman in greeting though she couldn’t pinpoint the emotions that caused the change in her behaviour and, for her great aunt’s part, it went unnoticed anyway. The woman was glamorous, always had been. Her decades before the movie cameras had crafted her every move and even at 96 the woman didn’t have a single hair out of place, her make up was perfect, her face dewy, even if heavily lined in her advanced age.

Sarah and the old woman exchanged pleasantries and Sarah felt herself smile as she asked after the health and welfare of the old woman before her, their affinity for one another undeniable, cultivated over decades of familiarity.

Finally, as the conversation reached a gentle, natural lull, the old woman mentioned the photograph on the table. ‘Where did you get that?’ she all but whispered. ‘I must have been – what – 21, I think.’

Sarah shifted uncomfortably in her seat, hoping the other woman would continue. Trying to meet her gaze, her heart felt heavy as she saw the look on the old woman’s face, saw the wetness in her eyes. The moment of silence between them stretched for uncountable heartbeats before Sarah could bear it no longer.

Sarah looked down at the photograph one final time before asking, ‘Why did you kill that boy, Margaret?’

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