This is a two-part story based on a photo prompt over at Indigo Spider’s blog. Most exciting of all is that my Namibian friend Scribbla (Andrew Robson) and I tag-teamed it. Scribbla did the heavy lifting: he chose which (of two) photos to use and wrote the first half of the story which I am publishing, below.
I wrote the second half and you can read it over at Scribbla’s blog.
Here’s the photo it was based on:
The photographer is Vivian Maier. She was completely unknown. Took literally thousands of rolls of film, mostly with a medium-format camera. NEVER SHOWED them to anyone. Died extremely poor. In the last years of her life she could not pay the storage fees on the unit with all her undeveloped film and photos and they were auctioned off. Luckily someone who bought a large lot of them recognized how amazing they are and has found most of the collection. He is bringing her to posthumous recognition. Amazing stuff. Check her out!
I was told they were in an arts and crafts store one wintery day when it finally happened.
Both of them were relieved to be out of the freezing apartment, and although they did not have the money to buy anything, they were out shopping nonetheless.
Charley had on her warmest coat. Though indoors, she kept the hood on. Her father had cut her hair that morning. She looked boyish and was embarrassed by it, but could at least hide the worst mistakes with the hood.
She wore no undershirt, and the coat’s fuzzy material against her skin reminded her of what it felt like to hug a large teddy bear. Like the one three years before, at her Aunty Ella’s place, where she hugged her older cousin Andrea’s teddy while she waited for her father to fetch her.
Twelve year old Andrea had been picnicking with friends for the day. After lunch, Aunty Ella tossed a book onto the kitchen table. She knew Charley could not read.
“I’m off to rest,” she said. “I need peace and quiet, so don’t dare leave this kitchen.”
A while later Charley tiptoed down the corridor. She needed to wee. Her thin legs momentarily collapsed as she inched past Aunty Ella’s bedroom. Through the doorway she saw the old lady sprawled on her back, gray hair splayed magnificently across white pillow covers, snoring loudly enough to raise the dead. Emboldened, Charley walked towards the loo, but found herself drawn to Andrea’s room instead. She caressed the brass doorknob on the closed door. It was cold and exciting to touch. Dangerous.
Charley held her breath. Aunty Ella snored. Charley turned the doorknob. A loud click echoed through the passageway. Aunty Ella snorted. In a sudden panic, Charley slid into the bedroom and pushed the door closed. She was afraid Aunty Ella would find her there, so she hid in the closet. Having fumbled her way past jackets, shirts and skirts to the deepest recesses, she sank to the ground, drained of all strength.
In the early hours of the following morning, the closet opened and her father’s quivering hands found his sleeping daughter clinging tightly to a teddy bear.
He woke her.
“Aunty Ella died in her sleep this afternoon,” he said.
The quiet sobs of Andrea mourning came from a shadow on the bed nearby.
She peered up at her father who was dressed as a clown. He wore an enormous, wide-brimmed flat hat on his head and his usual make-up on his face. The sad clown with black tears running down his pale cheeks.
He pretended to read the instructions printed on a packet of face paint.
Again she was embarrassed.
“Yes, Daddy?” she asked.
He placed the face paint back on the shelf. Then immediately picked it up again before turning it in his hand.
“I can’t do this anymore. I’m leaving. Today. On my own. ”
FIND OUT what happens in Part Two (go ahead—click the link)