Out of the Picture

Out of the Picture

by

Phillip McCollum

The tones were sepia, but Sylvia would have bet all of last year’s investment returns that the man’s eyes were a turquoise blue. Beneath the edges of his army side cap, she could see his coarse hair, cut short. Thin lips stretched around a toothy smile.  He also bore the familiar sliver of a white scar across his chin.

Sitting on uncut grass with his hands resting on his knees, he didn’t seem concerned about dirtying his olive-green service coat or matching slacks. Crow’s feet made the man look old, but something about that face reminded Sylvia the lines had more to do with the hard quality of his years than their number.

“Ms. Hawthorne, are you okay?”

“Oh,” Sylvia said, barely able to peel her eyes away from the photograph. “I’m fine, Clara.” She managed a gracious smile, but based on her assistant’s reaction, Sylvia didn’t have a doubt in her mind that she came across as anything other than needing help. She must have been staring slack-jawed at the same spot for minutes.

She’d begun to doubt it would ever happen, to the point that she’d mostly forgotten. What sort of cosmic fate allowed this picture to wind up at an antique shop that Sylvia had passed many times but had only entered today on a whim? How long had it been here, waiting for her?

Clara started to turn away.

“Actually.”

Her assistant paused while Sylvia opened the door of the glass curio cabinet and reached past the Hummel figurines and marble ashtrays. Her wrinkled hands shook slightly as she took hold of the dusty, twelve-by-fifteen picture frame leaning against the back of the cabinet. As she held it close to her face, she felt herself getting lost in the image once again.

“Do you like that frame?” Clara asked.

“Yes,” Sylvia replied without hesitation. “I want to purchase this.” The price tag made mention of 1918, Tiffany & Co. sterling silver, and $1,495.

Clara grabbed the frame and Sylvia reluctantly let go.

“It has a lovely finish,” Clara said. “Anything else before we go?” She looked at her thin, white wristwatch. “You have a shareholders meeting in twenty minutes.”

“No, just that,” Sylvia replied.

“Okay, I’ll have the clerk remove the photo and put–”

“No!” The panic in Sylvia’s voice startled a couple who were shuffling through a box of rusted steel signs. “No, please, I like the picture. Make sure you keep it.”

Clara narrowed her eyebrows and nodded. “Yes, of course. No problem.” She stepped away with the frame. Relieved, Sylvia closed her eyes and put a hand on the corner of the cabinet to maintain her balance. She pictured the man in the photo, trying to count the years in which she had last thought of him. Trying to remember every moment together before he left for France.

If you’d like to finish reading this story, along with many others, I’d be ecstatic if you’d consider purchasing one of my books.

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