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Pictures of You
The rotting floorboards of the ancient farmhouses’ attic creaked loudly as I walked across them. Stopping in front of a promising-looking brown box, I propped an old milk pail up and sat down. As I lifted the flaps of the box, dust flew into the air. Sneezing three times in a row, I finally had to turn my head away before I could breathe again.
Turning back to look in the junky depths of the box, I sighed. There was a lot in here, and it would take me a while to sort through it.
I had sorted through a few novels, piling them on the ground on either side of me, before I stopped in surprise. A small brown notebook had been hidden under the books. I wasn’t sure if it was hidden by my grandmother on purpose, knowing that I would find it, or stuck here by me on accident; maybe I’d lost it years ago and just hadn’t realized it.
As I lifted it up, I felt the memories of the filled notebook seep through the barriers in my heart. My eyes welled up even though I tried to stop them.
Opening the book, I read a memo from myself in the beginning. It was written ten years ago, almost precisely to the date.
May 7, 1985
Hey. I wonder who is reading this. If it’s me, do you still love Daylon? I hope so. He is so amazing. He knows just how to make me feel better. Well, I’m Suzanne Lynn Scarber. I’ve got long blonde hair and blue eyes, and I hate being inside. I’m seventeen and in love with my boyfriend, Daylon James. James is his middle name; he doesn’t like his last name. (It’s Snellings).
I started this notebook so I could make notes and glue pictures of Daylon and me in it. This is kind of our “love notebook”. Well, he doesn’t know I’m making it. But when it’s finished, I’m going to give it to him as a present.
Future me: If you didn’t marry Daylon, I will be forever disappointed in you.
Suzanne Lynn Scarber
Tears fell down my face as I flipped the page. The first picture had me sobbing. The caption read “Suzanne and Daylon: Prom, May 9th 1985”. If I hadn’t know who the girl and boy were, I’d say that the girl was beautiful in the coal-black, slim-fitting dress and sparkling diamond necklace that she was wearing. She had blonde hair and blue eyes, a wide grin lighting up her features like the sun lights up the world after a storm.
The boy was as handsome as the day is long, with vibrant green eyes and wavy light brown hair that looked slightly tousled, as if he had just woken up. It wasn’t a messy look; it fit him, and made him even more handsome somehow.
I breathed deeply and looked up from the memory-soaked, tear-stained notebook, willing myself to breath. I watched a robin flit past the window, carefree and happy, with not a problem in the world. I wished I could fly; then maybe I could get away from this mess.
Looking back at the book, I flipped the page. In the next photo, I had on dark jean cutoffs, a cowboy hat, and no shoes. The yellow t-shirt I had on was Daylon’s; I remember that much, at least. I had my legs curled around a thick tree branch and was hanging backwards off. Daylon was crouched beside me (the tree wasn’t that high off the ground), with the side of his face pressed close to mine. Both of us were looking into the camera and grinning happily.
Despite myself, I let loose a giggle, albeit through my watery eyes. Those had been the days, all right. So carefree, so light. Ah, the feeling of falling in love…
Every picture in the notebook had something to do with us. There we were horseback-riding, there we were planting a garden for my grandma, there was Daylon petting my now-deceased dog. Every picture I looked at was refilling myself with the agony and torture I knew was going to overwhelm me as soon as I closed the notebook.
As the pictures passed before my eyes, so did emotions, swift and fleeting, leaving tracks on my heart like deer prints in the snow.
I wondered if he was okay.
I wondered if he was watching me.
But most of all, I wondered, Why HIM?
There had to have been a reason. Was it just his time? Did God have something to do with it? Maybe Daylon had just…had to go home. Deciding I couldn’t do anything about it, I justified the fact that I at least had the right to hope that he was watching me and helping me with everything I do.
As I shut the notebook, every memory I had been trying to keep contained in the subconscious area of my brain, where I wouldn’t have to look at them, burst out and I watched as the last ten years played like an old film before my eyes. Grainy and hazy at first, the images cleared as I focused more intently on them.
I’m twenty-seven now, and the first picture in the notebook was taken exactly ten years ago today. Until I opened that old book full of memories, I hadn’t given a thought to what exactly this day had been and meant to me ten years ago.
Daylon had been my first love. I was always sure of it. I was even more sure of it when he drove up on prom night, right on time, in his ’55 Chevy Bel Air. I loved that car. But at that moment, as he stepped out of his car, time froze. He flashed his beautiful smile at me, my heart spluttered, and I felt sure I was in love. But then the moment passed, and although I was still sure of my feelings, I wasn’t sure if he felt the same way.
Over the next couple of years, our relationship grew even more. We truly loved each other, and both of us knew it. We didn’t have any doubt anymore, something that I especially was thankful for.
When I was nineteen, I moved in with him. We were focused on making money and weren’t worried with starting a family yet, as evidenced by the fact that he didn’t propose until we were twenty-three. We had both agreed to this, knowing how important it was to save money for the family we eventually hoped to raise.
It was in October of 1991, before I even knew he was about to propose, that my life was ruined.
Daylon was killed instantly in a car accident on his way home from work. Later the police found the beautiful diamond engagement ring in his pocket in its case. Upon bringing me to the police station, they broke the news as gently as they could, and then gave me the ring.
I wear it on my finger to this very day.
Daylon’s spirit is in heaven, I’m sure. There’s absolutely no way he could be anywhere else. That’s what I have to tell myself: Daylon is in heaven, he is watching over me, and God is watching over him.
I have been pursued by many other guys. I haven’t shown any interest in them because I felt that it would insult Daylon’s memory.
But now, as I stare at the memory-book in my hands, I realized--or maybe I knew all along and just didn’t want to listen--that Daylon’s memory wouldn’t be insulted. He wanted me to be happy, and if that meant being with someone else even after he had died prematurely, he’d be fine with it.
Clutching the book in my hands, I close my eyes and rock slowly back and forth. Instead of the gaping hole in my heart that’s been there for so long, I feel almost…complete.
I know that Daylon’s memory will live on forever in my heart, and I will love him forever. He was my first love, and nothing can ever change that. And even though it hurts, I have to move on.
It’s funny how photographs preserve moments in time, even when your memory doesn’t. And when you look back on them, you remember the whole memory, not just a still image. The feeling of nostalgia you get when you look over pictures when things aren’t the same anymore is unmistakable. Endings are sad, but change is inevitable.