She found the photo while she was cleaning. It was an accident, finding it. Too petite to reach the top shelf by herself, she’d managed to climb onto the bench top and cling to the wooden frame of the bookcase. In the midst of making her way up, her fingers accidently missed the sturdy wooden shelf, grasping at an old book instead. It fell, of course, and out from its pages slid the photo.
She liked the photo. It was very simple – black and white, a jetty on the lake, still water, small mountains rising out from the far shore. It was generic almost, the kind of photo often included in photoframes bought at local furniture stores. Rather then slide it back into the old book, she pocketted it, forgetting about it until that evening when she pulled the button-up shirt she was wearing up and over her head. It fluttered to the ground once more.
They had only recently finished the renovations in their bedroom, where she now stood. What had been a pokey old attic was transformed into something quite different altogether. Two symetric windows, clothed in crisp white curtains. Another bookshelf, a chest of drawers, an old wardrobe. Souveniors from adventures around the globe. Fresh lillies in a vase in the corner. Their bed marked the centre of the room, laden with puffy white blankets and endless silk lace cushions.
Danny, usually laid-back in regards the decor of their two-storey apartment, was neither quiet nor un-opinionated about all those cushions. He hated them with a persistent passion and took every opportunity to lament their presence. An ‘unwarranted and ghastly attack on his masculinity‘ was a phrase he often threw around, a comical spark in his eye.
She could only smile at the intensity of his disgust. If he didn’t quieten down about them in the next few weeks, she would remove them and find something he appreciated more. She liked them, of course, but she valued his opinion so much more. She wasn’t about to let go of the beautiful peace they had found together over the sake of some girly lace and silky fabric.
He was still at work as the photo fluttered to the floor for a second time, as the night sky grew stars outside. She left it there, taking her time to undress, to take a long shower, to enjoy a small glass of wine. She turned the cd player on, taking company in the voice of the old French singer, whose melodies and husky lyrics filled the room. She took the photo in her hand once again and stared into the lake, letting her thoughts wander down the jetty. ‘It must be an old shot from when Danny was younger,’ she decided to herself.
Just the week before, when Danny had been hanging the white curtains of their attic abode, she made little pencil marks on various walls around the room. She had the photo frames all lined up. One black and rectangular, with her degree pressing tightly against the glass. One long and rectangular, with three seperate sections – a photo of her and her mother, a portrait of Danny as a child, a close up of daisy she had snapped years ago. She made the pencil marks, he hit the hammer. Together they hung their memories around the room.
She had one last frame, rectangular again with room for two photos. She had gently slid in her favourite, taken just weeks after they had met, days before they had really truly fallen in love. Danny looked himself, totally and completely. Deep smiling eyes. Cheeky Irish grin.
She was in the middle of saying something when the camera had gone off, her mouth slightly open, still smiling though. Her eyes, however, they looked straight down the camera lens and into the future she saw for them both. Full of hope, in black and white. The two of them looked radiant together.
She couldn’t make her mind up about which photo to include in the other section. One photo needed, many options. But she wanted something also in black and white, and nothing quite worked. She had hung the frame anyhow, half empty, above the bed and between the windows.
She held up this newfound photo to the frame. The lakeside scene worked perfectly with the other photo – simplicity and detail, landscape and lovers. Gently removing the frame from the wall, she slid the photo in and rehung the frame. Perfect. She smiled, biting her lip as she looked around the room. She loved what they had created together, this house, this room, this life, this love. All of it perfect.
He was home, finally, only moments later. A night owl at heart, he was always much more lively after a 12-hr day in the office than he was in the morning before work. He kissed her first, then dumped the contents of his briefcase on the chest of drawers in the corner, launching into a comical re-enactment of a conversation with a less-than-bright workmate.
She giggled at his animated facial expressions. She giggled when he came over again for another kiss. She giggled when he screwed up his Irish nose at the French music she was still playing. She couldn’t stop laughing when he changed the cd to Westlife, of all bands, and started awkwardly dancing around their room.
In the midst of ridiculous shimmy action that had made even him laugh as well, Danny grabbed one of the cushions he so despised and held it up in the air. ‘You know what we need to do?’ he asked, eyes twinkling. She shook her head, now sitting at the head of the bed, still giggling and surrounded by cushiony mountains of silk and lace. “Wait here,” he called, dashing out to their yet-to-be renovated kitchen.
Returning with a bread and butter knife, he dramatically stabbed one of the cushions down the centre. The blade was too blunt to do anything of course, so he grabbed either seam with his hands and tore the case open, releasing a hundred white feathers into air. Still laughing, she grabbed the closest cushion and threw it at him. ‘Oh it’s on,’ he yelped, gathering cushiony ammunition himself.
The pillow fight turned their new room into a feathery mess. They were certain the noise they were making would have woken any sleepy neighbours, but they didn’t care. Another Westlife tune played through as cushions flew around the room. Suddenly, what had been an endless amount of cushions ran out. They drew close, throwing feathers at each other now. Danny took her hand, pulled her in closer again, returning to his crazy dancing antics. She threw her arms around his neck, biting her lip as she was prone to do, eyes shining back at him.
‘Ah, baby, you found a photo!’ he exclaimed, noticing the frame across the room and above the bed. ‘Yeah, its an old one of yours I think, it looks good hey,’ she replied. A curious look crowded his face. He let go of her as he made his way across to have a closer look. Feathers were still floating off the furniture to the polished floor below. He kneeled on the bed, face right up infront of the frame.
And slowly he turned. The joy of the moments before had disappeared – his face white and expressionless. He slumped down on the bed, breathing heavily.
‘That photo…’ he started, a look of shock now entering his eyes and his breathing still strained.
‘…I never want to see that photo again.’
And with that he stood slowly, walked right past her and out the door. A few white feathers followed him out, as she stood alone, eyes darting around the room, completely and utterly confused.