Why is he taking my picture? I don’t want my picture taken. I smile anyway; it’s an instinct, I guess. I should leave. I should go back to my friends at the beach. They may be wondering where I went. It isn’t nice to keep them waiting, especially when I told them I was just walking back to the house to go to the bathroom. I don’t know…he seems nice enough. And he looked so sad, I just want to help him. But this isn’t what he asked about. How will him taking my picture help him find his lost dog?
“For posterity’s sake” he says as he shakes out the picture,
I look around the small room. It’s a few blocks from our beach house. Cozy, without being cramped. I want him to stop looking at me like that.
“Do you have a picture of Archie that we could put on fliers?” I ask
“That’s a good idea! See? I knew you could help me. Here, come with me and we can look for a good picture. I’m sure I have one in here somewhere.”
I follow him into another room. This one is small and dark. Gone is the lived in feel and seashell décor. Instead it smells bad. Like mold and rot and death.
“This is where you keep pictures?” I ask, inching forward, my hand over my nose and mouth
“Yup, right in here” He says as he grabs my arm “Right this way”
I hear the door slam behind us.
Story by Sam Kaufman
Renny accompanied her grandmother to the Class of ‘90 Mooresville High School reunion as an unexpected plus one, a particularly bothersome reminder to a woman named Panda who had herself twenty-five years prior proved the unexpected plus one in the marriage of Renny’s then teenage parents bound together by the matrimonial rush of impending childbirth.
Panda was a silly nickname bestowed in the days of the woman’s youth when her inky black hair fringed about what resulted in the whitest face in north Alabama due to her nervous preoccupation with application of the palest of pale powder dabbed from an cheap drugstore compact in vain attempt to conceal the ever present dark circles purpling the thin tissue beneath her eyes. Her hair was now as white as her face gone wooly soft causing Panda to look more lamblike in her later years, but Renny knew underlying coiled the rattlesnake of the girl who stood across the street from the church the day Renny’s parents married, professing she would get her man back come hell or high water, which she indeed accomplished a mere year and a half from the moment rings were exchanged.
Renny was scuttled away into the protective throes of a well meaning yet secret keeping extended family and never learned the circumstances surrounding her birth until years later, a distant memory sleeved within the pages of the 1990 MHS yearbook. Her mother’s hasty remarriage and move to Florida proved the perfect convenience for Panda to erase one child with two of her own. As time swept by and death claimed Renny’s mother before age forty, Panda reinvented herself as the once spurned girlfriend who selflessly closed the door on the past to pick up the pieces of a young man devastated by divorce. Panda had masked the past as well as she did her snow white face, that is until Renny herself decided it was high time to reintroduce herself to her father at the twenty-fifth Mooresville High class reunion on the arm of her seventy-year-old grandmother.
Story by Sheree Shatsky
“Smile,” he snarled through clenched teeth.
I never understood why these pictures were so important to him. Maybe he wanted to freeze the moments I looked happy in to try to justify his mistreatment of me in all of the others. I cried every day. He had ruined me.
He was 32. I was 18. “Legal,” he always said when I told him he was a pedophile and a pervert.
I was still a child when I met him, at least in all the ways that counted. I only wanted the attention, not the psychosis that followed. I never, ever loved him. And he most certainly did not love me despite his effort to convince me that he did.
It was six o’clock, which meant I was three minutes late for dinner preparation. I had to hurry. Late for prep meant late for the meal, which meant his bath wouldn’t be drawn on time, and I wouldn’t be ready for the excruciating evening on time, either.
Holy shit, I hated when he did that. It was his fault I was late, but even fifteen seconds off schedule meant I wouldn’t get to eat tomorrow.
He said he punished me because he loved me. He was cruel in attempt to teach me the way young ladies should behave. I’m pretty sure though, he was just waiting for me to take off just so he could find me, and end me.
It was eight o’clock. Maybe he didn’t notice I was behind schedule?
He walked in with a big, cynical grin on his face. He definitely remembered.
Story by Kendra Penningroth
She’s been here before. Her deep eyes tell the stories of countless others that have stepped on this Earth more than once. A past life? Perhaps. But she’s different. She’s sure. She’s confident. She knows who she is. An identity is a tough thing to find nowadays. Because we all think we are individuals, but in a world run by social media and a technological boom, it’s hard to be our own “individuals”. Individual, what does that even mean? She knows. She knows exactly who she is, her wants, needs, desires, past, present, and journey. She’ll never know her future, just like the rest of us. A slight grin that demonstrates how she’s the one. She knows what it takes to become her own person. She’s been knocked down and she’s picked herself back up. She’s failed, but ultimately succeeded. Who is she? The American Dream? She’s a symbol. Of what? She’s not young, yet not so old. Her soul is ancient, she’s seen things more than once. She’s cried, she’s laughed, and she’s smiled. She’s made things. She’s torn things apart. She’s a medium. The perfect balance between good and bad. Not neutral. She’s special. Everyone is content with her. Content? She doesn’t have enemies nor does she have allies. She’s a loner. She is kept to herself and she knows it. She doesn’t do it for show, she truly feels alone. She didn’t take this picture, not did she ask for it to be taken. It was chance that the person with this camera took this picture. Perfect time, perfect place. Yeah, she’s special.
Story by Brian Petterman
She was never meant for a love story. She wasn’t built for it and she never wanted it, anyways. While her friends cooed and giggled over Barbie and Ken, Snow White and Prince Charming, Whoever with Whocares, she rolled her eyes and gripped her doll tight and took it on the adventures that mattered. The life stories. Those were the types of stories she wanted to be in.
It didn’t matter to her that, as she grew older, she caught the attention of the boys her ages and the men much too old for her. She gave them all the same look, the tight mouth, the judging eyes, the stare that was unflinching even after they had rolled out their best pick up. It was one of her favorite things, to see the confusion on their faces when she didn’t crack a smile and melt in the wake of their attention. Their furrowed brow, that unsure step back, that awkward laugh.
Some of them got angry. The first time it had happened, she’d been frightened. He had towered over her: legs apart, fists balled, face an ugly shade of red. She’d taken the opportunity to acquaint her knee with his groin and when he had fallen to the ground and she ran away, she had decided to take classes that taught her how to punch and kick and fight.
She collected these experiences and adventures as she traveled and saw in all the places she went the way that men looked at her. She did not like it: their possessive, appraising gaze. She owned herself. She would not be taken or held by anyone else, let alone a man.
No, she was not made for love stories.
Story by Ashtyn Stann