A Chapter by AlaForniaGirl

Later that evening, when Audrey had washed her face, brushed her teeth, and slipped into her favorite pajamas (the kind of scrubs that surgeons wore in the O.R.), she could not stop herself from picking up the dark brown, leather-bound photo album she knew was in the top of the box labeled “Misc"Breakable.”  In truth, nothing in that particular box was actually breakable, she just wanted it to be handled carefully, which even she knew was odd.

Sitting cross legged in the center of her cherry red stained sleigh bed, she looked to the ceiling and closed her eyes briefly before opening the album.  This was the first time she had opened it since that night, and as she feared might happen, it again burst the dam in her that she tried to convince herself, in the quiet corners of her mind, was already getting stronger.

The first photo was the nearest thing to a slap in the face she had ever experienced.  With tears running down her face, she looked down at them, how happy they looked, how happy they were.  Or at least thought they were at the time.

Gabe was not the guy her family and friends had expected she would end up with, at least not at first, not in his appearance or his chosen profession.  At six-foot-three, thin yet muscular, with corded arms and long blonde hair hanging halfway down his back, bright green eyes shining above a snaggle-tooth smile (that Audrey had always found endearing), he looked every bit the guitar playing rock star.  In truth, he actually taught history at the high school and coached guy’s crew team at the local community college in her home town, and did not know the difference in a whammy bar and a                 .

Five years her senior, Gabe quickly showed himself to be more mature than people expected him to be when they first met.  He preferred concert tees to dress shirts, cargo shorts to dress slacks, and his well-worn leather flip-flops to dress shoes.  He often wore his hair in a ponytail at the nape of his neck, usually had a hemp rope necklace resting just above his collarbone, and a sleeve tattoo meandering down his left arm.

What his outward appearance did not relay was the inward all-American boy-next-door that lived inside this exterior.  Gabe had organized a Habitat for Humanity project that he ran all four spring breaks while he was in college, which had continued after him.  He had a Little Brother that, rather than meeting the minimum requirement and going to a movie or the mall with for a few hours, he would take a weekend with, always making a point to get out of their small hometown and take him places he would never see otherwise"big cities, mountains, the coast"and introduce him to people he might not have come into contact with in his young life"lawyers, chefs, pianists, even a professional surfer (Gabe’s college roommate, Leif). 

And he was that teacher every school has, the one that every kid loves, the one class where rules of behavior and decorum were never discussed, because they all loved him too much to risk being sent out or chancing that Mr. Manelli would be anything but thrilled to see them each day.  He knew most kids thought history was a drag, a chore that must be completed because the State Board of Education said so, and this was where he was the best man for the job.  They didn’t just read history, they lived it.  When his World History classes discussed medieval times, students who dared come to school appropriately costumed (for the entire day) were invited to a small-scale Renaissance Fair held on the soccer field after school.  When his U.S. History students studied the Civil Rights Movement, students who gave a ten minute monologue in the first person, representing a known figure of that era, were rewarded with a weekend trip that included touring the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and the 16th Street Baptist Church, followed by a visit to Selma, to walk the same path Dr. King had marched so many years before.  (It helped that decades before, Gabe’s grandparents had unknowingly purchased a farm that had enough oil running under it that these excursions were being funded all these years later by the Manelli Educational Trust.)  

This was what hit Audrey as she looked down and at first saw only Gabe, hair hanging loose and spilling over her leg, his head in her lap, looking up at her with that smile she had loved so much.  Somehow, it was harder to look at herself than it was at him.  The picture had been taken while they were relaxing between sessions of their engagement photos, sitting near a live oak, discussing their less than successful ice skating trip the previous night.  Although she appeared to be looking directly at the camera, Audrey knew it was sheer luck that she had been snapped at such an angle, rather than in the instant before when she was facing the cloudless sky, or right after, when she had been looking down at him and laughing at his unfinished joke, one for which only she knew the punch line.

But the photographer had snapped at just the right second to catch her returning her gaze to the camera’s general direction, capturing what had been her favorite photo of the day.  She was wearing a favorite sweater, with hints of blue and green that only exaggerated her eye color (one blue, one green, a genetic phenomenon that seemed to run on her mother’s side), and her shoulder length curly black hair looked to be in motion even in the still of the photograph.  She had her diamond studs in her ears, gifts from Gabe’s parents the Christmas following their engagement, and a thin silver chain around her neck, from which she always hung the nickel-sized horseshoe Gabe had given her on their first anniversary.  He said he knew Audrey secretly envied the Carrie Bradshaw character on Sex and the City, a professional writer living in New York, Audrey’s favorite city (to which she had never actually been).  When he gave it to her, he joked that they would honeymoon in New York, and he would agree to one afternoon apart for Audrey to sit at the window and write, in exchange for letting him go to a Yankees game and have his and her share of beer and hot dogs.

The pictures that followed were no more easy for her to take in"him standing behind her, arms wrapped around her, leaning down slightly (he stood only four inches above her); them walking hand-in-hand across the foot bridge that crossed the wide place in the creek at the back edge of her parents property; her riding piggy back, his hair flying back over her shoulders as he ran from the photographer, both looking back at the camera and laughing.

She thought if she looked hard enough she might see it.  The doubt.  It had crept in somewhere, she could not recall exactly when or why, but these photographs were the first concrete evidence (other than the ring) that they were taking steps towards “till death do us part” so surely there would be at least one photo that evidenced the storm clouds that rolled in, something so slight only she would notice it.

But these photos showed nothing but pure elation, at what life had in store for them, what announcing their love and this commitment to the world would mean, and how even a day spent being photographed all over town and in a series of outfit changes could end with them collapsed on the ground, giggling like children who just heard the funniest joke of their young lives.

What the photos did not show, what no photo could ever show, as none had been made to document their undoing, was the mix of unmitigated shock and barely contained anguish that was now the image in her mind’s eye whenever Gabe crossed into her thoughts.  No one had been there, camera in hand, eager to pose them, as well as to catch them off-guard, the event to be preserved for a lifetime.

The only images of that night were those seared into her brain, never far away.  She had created those images, with her words, with her plans.  And most of the time, she felt almost certain that, painful though it was, that night had been the best and worst night of her life.  It was only at times like this, on days like that one, that Audrey would allow any doubt to break loose from the base of her skull and creep up into the front of her mind.  Doubt that choosing to live her own life for a while, choosing not to graduate college in June and become Mrs. Manelli in July, had been the right choices.  Doubt that Gabe would one day forgive her for breaking his heart and moving away mere weeks before they were to be married.

These were the images that were with her as she drifted to sleep that night, the end to another crappy day, the first of a series she did not know had been set in motion.

© 2011 AlaForniaGirl

Author's Note

Still working on filling in that blank. Suggestions always welcome.

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Added on April 26, 2011
Last Updated on May 29, 2011




I'm from Alabama and am now living in NorCal. Have also lived in VA and MS, but will always be a Bama girl no matter where I live! I'm a librarian by trade, a born writer, and hopeful of one day being.. more..