The mud stained Sandra’s fingernails as she scratched at the rain-soaked ground. The soft earth gave way to her frenzied digging until she banged her fingers against the ash wood box. Her tears mingled with the raindrops beating against the box lid. Sandra pulled the box against her, leaving an ugly brown stain on her dark blue dress. She headed inside, prising the battered lid off the box on her way.
Sandra curled up on her battered leather sofa and spread the contents of the box on her coffee table. Two moldering photographs, a pair of friendship bracelets and a rough grey stone with “Caitlin + Sandra 4ever” scrawled on it crudely in white chalk. Sandra gripped the stone tightly, feeling its coarseness against her palm. She found the grittiness against her skin oddly comforting. She raised her eyes heavenward and began to whisper.
“Will you remember me when I see you again? I know I could never forget you. I tried for a while.” Sandra took a deep breath and picked up the first photograph.
She turned it over and looked at the back of the yellowing print. The words “Dewey Beach vacation, June 12, 1983” were scribbled on the back in felt tip pen. Had it really been that long? Sandra wondered. It felt like yesterday. She turned the photograph around and looked at the picture of the two of them. In her mind they had been children, looking towards Mom’s old Kodak camera and flashing matching gap-toothed smiles. The girls in the picture looked older, almost in their teens and something about Caitlin’s eyes made her look ineffably older. Those eyes looked as world-weary as Sandra felt, sitting their holding a memory three decades old.
The other photograph lay face down on the table. Sandra couldn’t bring herself to look at that one yet. Instead, she picked up the braided friendship bracelets with their red, white and blue almost painfully bright in the dark, storm-lit room. She inhaled them and just for a moment she could smell that distant summer again. The salt air, the artificial sweetness of cotton candy and the coconut smell of Caitlin’s suntan lotion. For a moment, the years disappeared and Sandra became the devil-may-care child in the photograph again. Her sigh broke the illusion and brought her back to the here and now, with rain beating a grim tattoo against her windows.
“We were supposed to last forever,” she said. The room swallowed the words into oppressive silence. Steeling herself, Sandra turned over the second photograph. This one didn’t have anything written on it, instead the date was printed on the photo in impersonal sans serif type. “06 January, 2003.” The black and white photograph only pictured Caitlin, those same ineffable eyes stared lifelessly at the Medical Examiner’s camera, framing the bloody opening of Caitlin’s fatal wound.
“We were supposed to last forever.” Sandra murmured, closing her eyes.
Sandra still gripped the second photograph tight three days later when her sons found her body on the couch.
The inspiration for this piece of 500-word Flash Fiction was a prompt I found online (I forget the site, or I would link it) that read “why didn’t it happen to me?” Apparently, I was feeling rather maudlin in my interpretation of it. It’s a first draft, but feedback and comments are always welcomed.
“Rain Cloud” photograph from Freeimages.com/weliton slima.