“Where did you get that?” a girl in her mid to late twenties asked while reaching for the photograph in my hand.
I pulled my hand back and turned to face her. Her hair was pulled back into a messy pony-tail. Loose pieces trailed down her neck and over a multi-colored scarf and the straps of her white tank top. She wore dozens of bracelets and a pair of gloves that covered her hands, but not her fingers. A short black skirt covered torn leggings that were further hidden by the heavy military boots. I took a step back as she leaned in toward the photograph.
“I’m sorry. Do I know you?” Challenge and confusion filled my voice.
She leaned in again, reaching for the photograph. “Seriously, where did you get that?”
I stepped backward and pulled the picture out of her reach. Her appearance bothered me. I wanted to write her off as homeless or crazy which would allow me to ignore her. But I couldn’t. Somehow I felt I should know this young woman.
She dropped her hand to her side. I looked into her face. Her blue eyes were startlingly dark, much like the eyes of a newborn. She had high cheek bones, a small nose, and thin lips which she had tried to plump up with lipstick. Her make-up sat too heavily on her face. She would have been prettier without it. It took me a few seconds before I realized she was waiting for an answer.
“Why does it matter to you?” My voice had softened. I was no longer anxious to make her move on. It was odd. Usually I avoided women her age. I found them to be rude, senseless, entitled, naïve. Her first impression certainly left that impression, but there was something so familiar about her face that kept me drawn to her.
“It’s of someone I use to know well.” I waited for her to elaborate, my eyes constantly searching her face for an answer. I couldn’t find one. She pointed at the photograph and raised her eyebrows as if to ask me what I was waiting for. I moved my hand so the photo was between us. She looked down at it, her hand brushing the edge. I watched her expression change, soften.
When she looked back up, she was back to being the rebellious kid she first appeared to be. “I’ll give you $10 bucks for the picture.” She pulled some wrinkled ones from the pocket in her skirt and started smoothing them out.
I glanced down at the picture. It was of a girl about 10 years younger than the one standing in front of me on a swing. Her eyes were closed and she looked like she was having a most pleasant dream. In the background was the blurry image of my best friend, Steve, pushing the child on the swing.
“Do we have a deal?” She snapped some bubble gum and held out the chaotic pile of money. Her eyes bored into me.
“Makayla?” She lowered her eyes and I knew without a doubt that it was her. “He died a month ago of cancer. He left me a box of photos to pass on to you kids. Johnny took most of them, but I pulled this out because your dad left a message for you on the back of it.” I handed her the photo and stood waiting for whatever would come next.
*** Daily Writing Practice