I wanted to prove that I’d moved on like I’d promised. I wanted to prove that I was having a grand old time— the time of my life— and there hardly seemed a better way to do it. What screamed independence better than a drink with my roommate, even though I was still just twenty? What exuded confidence more than a red dress with a plunging neckline? Or how about that background? Palm trees, sun… Our ghostly Seattle skin hadn’t an idea what to do with itself.
Teddy wanted proof, so I got him proof.
You’ll never believe this, he’d written last time, but I’m getting the tan of my life. The beaches here are incredible, and I’ve eaten the best burgers I’ve tasted in Saigon.
So much for being in the army and getting shot at and eaten alive by swarms of Malaria-infested mosquitoes. His letters sounded like travel ads or postcards from a Hawaiian vacation. I almost felt bad for missing and pitying him.
My only regret was that I wouldn’t see the look on his face when he opened his next letter and accompanying Polaroid. I was disappointed that I’d miss out on his reaction to my long hair and red dress, and the look on his face when maybe, just maybe, he’d regret breaking it off a few days before his deployment. I regretted that I’d be thousands of miles away beginning a new semester when he’d think, if just for a second, that being “just friends” never suited us. I regretted that Teddy had always been too proud to admit when he had made a mistake.
And the fact that the guy holding the camera up to his face was with me.
Story by Christin Peter
I shuffle through the pile of photographs on my desk trying to decide which I want to pin to my dorm wall. A small square picture catches my eyes. I blink as the tears immediately fill my eyes and I am lost in a familiar memory.
My twin Sarah and I were only fourteen. We were at our brother’s 21st birthday party, and mom let us have one of the margaritas sitting in tulip shaped glasses on the smooth black table cloth. I remembered the stem feeling cool against my sweaty hands. I looked excitedly at Sarah and she had the same wide eyed expression of glee on her face. We immediately set off to find our cousin Rebecca, the only one we knew who had a camera.
“Please take a picture of us,” Sarah begged, as she threw Rebecca a bright smile. Rebecca agreed because no one could say no to Sarah’s bright blue eyes and contagious smile. Sarah draped her arm around my shoulder and clinked her glass against mine. I squinted in the sun and Rebecca counted to three and pressed down on the shutter. Sarah skipped over to grab the photograph.
“So we don’t forget,” she whispered and then spun away balancing the glass in her hand.
And I wouldn’t. Not ever.
Two months later I was gathered with the same family and friends but we weren’t smiling or holding sweet pink drinks. Instead of sticky sweet juice on my lips, I tasted the saltiness of tears. Sarah had died only days before in a car accident involving a school bus and her boyfriend’s old ford pickup. She died on impact, her slender body twisted and broken, her blond hair that so resembled mine, matted with blood. And that bright smile that changed lives was broken. Like my heart.
I add the picture to the small pile on my right and brush my hand against the tears drying on my face.
Story by Katie L. Kline