"A Wrong Turn" - April exercise (rewr...
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|Tue, 04-17-2001 - 11:19pm|
"A Wrong Turn" - April exercise (rewrite)
First, I want to thank all of you who read and commented on the first version of this story. I tried to incorporate as many of the things I learned from the comments I received as I could. Obviously, I can't expand on this story too much on this board but I think I may do so sometime soon. I didn't change the end although I can see where it can use some "tightening up" (thanks, auntmarie33); I expect I'll change the end when I work on the longer version.
Thanks again, Dina
A WRONG TURN
He keeps her picture in a sealed envelope, marked “private” in bold red marker, and tucked in a drawer in his desk, the one that locks. He’s seen to it that he possesses the only key.
He takes the picture out often, he hasn’t kept track of how much, but he knows it’s often enough. Sometimes he looks at it for a few seconds, like it’s a fix for an addiction. Other times, he studies it for much longer. In the photograph, she lays on her left side, her right arm covering her breasts, her right leg bent at the knee and crossed over her left thigh, calculated, casual. He remembers her fussing with the position of her arm and leg. “No, not yet. Okay, are you sure you can’t see anything?” I see everything, he thinks, I remember everything.
He remembers the night he snapped the picture. It was much like so many other nights they’d spent together in her tiny apartment. Talking, making love, eating popcorn in bed with the television on. That one night he brought it up again. “Let me take a picture, just one. Just for me.” And she’d surprised him by changing her mind, saying yes. It was the wine that did it she told him later, and tried to convince him to destroy both the photo and its negative. But he’d promised he’d keep it safely hidden, swore it was for his eyes only and eventually she’d shrugged that way she had, “Okay”. She always believed him, trusted no one the way she did him.
He runs a finger along the bottom edge of the photo. She hadn’t wanted to smile, she thought she should go for mysterious, sultry, like Veronica Lake in that movie, what was it called? But he’d coaxed her into a smile in the end - lips together, curved just enough to deepen the small hollows beneath her cheekbones but not enough to crinkle the corners of her dark eyes. His favorite smile, he thought, the one she gave no one else. Her brown skin gleamed in contrast with the creamy satin of the bedspread she lay on. His finger traces the outline of her body and he thinks, if he closes his eyes, he can recall its silky smoothness. Her hair is brushed back away from her face and her neck is exposed, graceful and strong. Her best feature, she used to say, that and her long legs, the calf muscles high and defined.
Many years later, sometime after her second child was born, she’d asked him if he still had the photo. Yes, he did. “Why?” She was astonished that he’d kept it so long. “It’s mine,” he’d answered. She teased him then, what if he was crossing the street later that day and got hit by a truck? They’d have to clean out his desk, someone would find the picture. And then what? He’d be off the hook, safely dead and she’d be the one left to explain to everyone, his wife, her husband, his mother for Pete’s sake. How would she explain away the fact that he had a photograph of her, in the nude, taken what? Ten years earlier? And he’d laughed. “Don’t worry, I’ll be careful crossing the street.”
Years later still, he mentioned the picture in passing. “You still have it?” she’d asked, incredulous. “God, I barely remember it. Did I have long hair then?” “Yes, long and curly.” “What are you going to do with it?” Obsess over it, and what should have been, for all my days. “I’m going to keep it.” She didn’t ask him why. By then she knew this was his penance for hurting her, for having been a coward, for choosing another all those years ago.
She’d forgiven him the first time he’d begged her to. “Why did you?” he’d quizzed her some time later. “Why did you let me off the hook?” “You’re my best friend,” she’d said. “I love you, what else would I do?” He never told her how sad her words made him feel. He needed her more and more as time passed and she’d helped him, as much as she could, considering the mess he’d made of things. But there were too many things she couldn’t fix, he thought, no one could turn back the clock.
He places the picture in a fresh, white envelope and seals it carefully. Using a red marker, he writes “private” on one side and drops the envelope into the drawer. When his telephone extension rings he answers it promptly, and listens as his assistant informs him, “Your wife’s on line two”. His finger hovers over the blinking red light, his gaze resting on the envelope. Finally, with a weary sigh, he pushes the drawer closed, locks it then hits the button on his phone.