Photographs

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Flash Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Emma is a schoolgirl with a secret... Her Mum isn't like most mothers...

Submitted: January 18, 2015

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Submitted: January 18, 2015

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Photographs

“Is it a good one Ems?” Mum flashes a smile as the snowflakes settle on her lashes, contrasting harshly with her jet black hair and bright red lipstick.  “Perfect, Mum, this could even be next year’s Christmas card”.  The kids giggle at my joke, shooting anxious gazes between Mum and Stan.  “Well, thank you so very much Stan, darling, for being our wonderful model this afternoon!” Mum gushes, waving her arms about dramatically, so that the bangles on her arms clink against each other.  Stan shuffles under Mum’s stare, offering up an awkward half-smile. Poor man, he’s in our back garden; the weather’s freezing cold and snowing.  I’m standing here with a camera and my stupid little brothers and sister are standing there, goggle-eyed, their mouths gaping, like a pack of hypnotised baby birds.  And worst of all, my mother is standing there, full on gothic: all in black with ridiculously thick eyeliner, and no jacket, posing with him like he’s her man.  Sometimes I wonder if God could arrange for a thunderbolt to come crashing out of the sky and make me into nothingness.

“Any time, love” he manages to muster.  “See you tomorrow”.  In a dazed stupor, he climbs onto his bike and cycles off down the road.  For a moment, in the ensuing silence, all of us kids stare at each other; numbed with a mixture of cold and embarrassment.  Mum breaks the silence with a “Well, wasn’t that a lovely photoshoot? In the snow and everything.  We really got lucky with the weather didn’t we, kids? Come on, let’s go inside and Em can print them out”.  She heads off into the kitchen, humming ‘Jingle Bells’ to herself.  She still doesn’t seem to feel the cold.

We kids still continue to stare at each other, then Johnny pipes up “Em, can we have a snowball fight? Pretty, pretty, please?”  He widens his eyes and sticks his bottom lip out and starts whining like a puppy.  “Not yet John, later” I tell him. Thankfully, he nods, resigns himself to his fate, and lets me tow him inside.  Just as well, Johnny’s Mums favourite, and she’d scream and yell if he didn’t get his own way.

Stan’s our postman.  He looks about fifty-something, but he could be younger, or older for that matter; I’m not the best at guessing ages.  He actually wasn’t a particularly good model, but he was pretty co-operative.  Mum thinks I should be a photographer when I’m older; I get so much practice taking photos. She says I’m dead good at it, and have an eye for the correct lighting and camera angle.  I don’t know about that. What I really want is to become some sort of musician or singer.  But I doubt I’ll get there.  I can’t leave ‘my’ kids, or Mum.

After I print the pictures out, I tiptoe downstairs.  It’s four o’clock and Mum can get upset around about now, because Daddy left Mum at this time, 10 years ago.  “Mum?” I whisper, “Do you want to see the pictures?”  She’s sprawled on her bed; her bedroom’s downstairs, because sometimes she’s sick and can’t manage the stairs.  “Not now, love” she replies, her words slurring into one long sentence.  “Mummy’s sadness has come back”.  No matter how old I get, Mum’s sadness still frightens me, as if I was a little girl again.  I creep in and sit down on the bed next to her.  She’s like a shell of herself.  My eyes struggle to adjust to the light.She’s drawn the curtains, so the light in the room is dim.  I make out a half empty bottle that she has attempted to bury under her bedclothes.  I hate it when she drinks, it makes her angry. I glance down at the sheets, they are covered in blood.


© Copyright 2020 Elizabeth J Richardson. All rights reserved.

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