Polaroids | Teen Ink

Polaroids MAG

September 27, 2011
By anatomyofthewrittenword GOLD, Shrewsbury, Massachusetts
anatomyofthewrittenword GOLD, Shrewsbury, Massachusetts
14 articles 0 photos 7 comments

“You ready?”

She startles and glances up, biting her lip distractedly as her eyes meet his. She looks away almost immediately and back down at her paper, her breath whooshing out in a faint sigh.


She drops her pen and notices for the first time how tightly she had been clenching it for the past two hours. She shakes her hand loose, trying unsuccessfully to work the achy stiffness out of her fingers, and silently berates herself for at least the fifteenth time since school let out.

Saying yes to spending an hour alone with the guy who you've been hopelessly in love with since fourth grade is not, and never will be, even remotely a good idea.

She sweeps her pens and notebook into her backpack and zips it, feeling his eyes on her the entire time. She sucks in a shaky breath and turns, flashing him a quick smile.

“Where to?”

He shrugs. “I thought we'd do the shoot by the Physics hallway.”

She nods, too nervous to say anything. They leave the empty classroom, and she follows him down two flights of stairs to the ground floor of the school. The wall-length windows at the end of the unlit corridor cast dappled shadows on the smooth tiles, and the pale white sunlight catches in her eyelashes and throws dancing white spots across her vision. The late-afternoon November light, clinging to the last minutes of the day, creates an ethereal effect in the hall: she almost feels as if she's underwater.

She slips off her backpack and pretends not to watch as he paces the length of the corridor, searching for camera angles and shadow gradients that only he can see, his tousled hair falling just enough into his face that she can't make out his expression.

At last he turns and meets her eyes.

“Could you sit by the windows?”


She tries to walk normally, even as her heart jumps at the sound of his footsteps behind her. She reaches the end of the corridor and blinks in the stark light streaming in from the window. The stray strands of her hair illuminate with a pleasant golden toffee color as they hover in front of her face.

She turns and finds him watching her, his stare open and direct. She rolls her shoulders back as a tingle skips up her spine. His eyes drop from hers to the heavy black camera cradled in his hands, and he appears to think for a moment.

He looks back up. “Could you let out your hair?”

She nods and reaches up to wordlessly undo her braid, her fingers working through the kinks in the thick, soft locks. She lays the loose waves on her shoulders and looks at him expectantly, determined now to behave as normally as possible. She has years of practice hiding her feelings, and she can feel her defense mechanisms whirring as her face schools itself into a composed mask.


He exhales and cocks his head to the side, squinting at her in a way that instantly makes her feel unbelievably self-conscious. “Can you sit cross-legged … and look slightly down and to your right?”

She silently complies, sitting on the dusty floor and crossing her legs before glancing down over her right knee.


She hears the rustling of his jeans as he lowers himself onto his haunches, and then the snap-click of the shutter, followed by the whir of the Polaroid camera spitting out its product.

She holds still and marvels at the fact that this boy – the same one she has been staring longingly after since she was nine years old, the same one she has had to muster up courage just to talk to – has just taken a picture of her, an everlasting memory of her. She quells her laughter and wonders ruefully if he'll still have the picture twenty years from now, and look back on it and realize that it's the face of a girl who loved him.

“It's good,” he finally says, and she can tell from the low, relaxed tone of his voice that he's telling the truth. “I'll probably only need a couple more, and then we'll be done.”

She swallows. “Okay.”

He asks her to rest her head against the window, to stretch her legs out, to pull her hair over one shoulder, but he never asks her to look anywhere but down to her right.

As she sits with her back pressed against the warm glass, her knees drawn up to her chest, she finds herself fervently hoping he'll use one of these portraits in his portfolio. She knows it's unlikely – she's the last of a dozen people he's photographed today, most of them people he knows and likes better than her, but she wants it to happen so badly that she somehow can't fathom it not happening.

As the Polaroid clicks and whirs, her mind wanders back to when he asked her to model for him. She counts back the days in her head; it was the first time they had exchanged so much as a word in four months and two weeks. His request had stunned her; she'd smiled and said “sure” as casually as she could, but she remembers how her heartbeats had pounded in her ears as they parted ways.

She had come to school this morning wearing the “comfortable, nondescript” outfit he had asked for, an ensemble of a slouchy boat-neck off-the-shoulder gray sweater, gold-tasseled necklace, skinny gray pants, and black Converse that had taken her an hour to decide on, feeling more anxious than she had a right to be. And now, what now?

She's pulled out of her reverie when he rises to his feet, observing a cluster of shiny Polaroids in his hands. She brushes her hair out of her face and asks, “Are we done?”

His eyes are fixed on the Polaroids, the shifting chiaroscuro light that fills the hallway throwing patterns of light and shadow across the topography of his face, and she feels a sudden pressure in her chest and finds herself hoping that he has photographed his fill of her so she can grab her backpack and run and preferably never look back. But then he looks at her and says, “Almost. Just one more,” and she swallows and asks, as she always does, as she always will, “Which pose?”

She expects him to say “Down, right,” and he does, but then adds, the inflection of his voice changing slightly, “Keep your face tilted like that, but look up at me.”

A sudden hot flush flares up at the back of her neck, and she can feel it infusing into her cheeks, but she pushes it down, inwardly kicking herself for reacting.

“Sure.” She turns her face in the usual direction, then glances up at him. “Is this okay?”

“Yeah. Just like that.” He pauses, looking at her, and she feels her heart thudding hollowly against her ribs, feels the hot flush rise up into her cheeks. Then he lifts the viewfinder to his eye and takes the shot. Click, whir, and the camera deposits a sepia-toned Polaroid into his waiting hand.

His eyes linger on the picture long enough to send skittering sparks of uncertainty across her skin, but he nods and glances up, his eyes meeting hers.

“Perfect,” he says, and she feels a mixture of relief and disappointment break over her like a tidal wave, pungent and salty and bittersweet.

She gets to her feet and pulls the tangled cluster of her hair over her shoulder. “Cool. Am I free to go?”

He nods quickly. “Yeah. Oh, wait … do you want to see the pictures?”

“Sure.” Her body feels oddly weightless as she walks to his side. He gets down on his knees and spreads out a dozen or so Polaroids on the floor, forcing her to kneel next to him. And as she looks at them, she feels a strange sensation bubbling up in her chest, and her throat goes dry.

The pictures are good, really good, in a way that she hadn't expected. They are sharp and clear, the shadowy underwater light of the corridor accented in the way it suddenly segues into the brightness of the sun setting through the window. The grainy, sepia wash of the photos giving them a precious look, as if they're treasured memories, fragile, to be treated with care. There are a couple close-ups where her downturned face takes up most of the photo. In these, each toffee-colored strand of hair hovers like a halo around her head, and her usually indiscernible freckles can just barely be seen on her cheekbones. She notes how her eyes are not visible in any of the pictures.

Then he lays the last one on the floor and her heart almost stops. In the photo she sits, shoulders up, and the sun is setting over the pine trees behind her. Her hair curls around her face, and her eyes stand out in sharp relief, looking directly into the camera. Even she can make out the tense, anxious yearning in her eyes.

She practically leaps to her feet, smoothing out the front of her dust-smudged sweater with trembling hands, looking anywhere but at him. “Wow, great, I mean, they're all really great. I have to go, but, um, good luck with your, with your portfolio.”

“Yeah,” he exhales. “Thanks for doing this.”

She begins to walk away as quickly as she can without breaking into a run, her breathing sharp and angry, silently screaming at herself for being stupid, so stupid. And then suddenly she stops in the middle of the hallway, so suddenly that her Converse squeak against the floor, and before she can change her mind, she turns and asks, “Why did you ask me to do this?”

He glances up. “What?”

“Why did you ask me to model for you?”

“I …” he trails off and exhales, and suddenly her insides turn to lead. He glances down at the Polaroids in his hand. “I wanted to show emotion.”

She stares at him. A cold, chilling thought slowly creeps over her. “So you knew.”

He nods, slowly. “Yeah.”

“Since when?”

He pauses. “Since freshman year.”

“Freshman year.” Her voices sounds oddly flat echoing down the empty corridor.

“Yeah, but I wasn't,” his eyes flicker away and back, “I was never sure.”

She swallows, “Are you sure now?”

This time he does not look away. “Yeah.”

She feels sick and dizzy and lightheaded, and she doesn't know whether to cry. “Oh, okay.” She shrugs. “You knew.” She bites her lip, laughs; the words sound bitter and sardonic echoing along the empty hall. “So you just thought, ‘Hey, I'll use all of that, that crazy, pent-up emotion for my photography portfolio,' did you?”

“No.” His gaze is open, unflinching. “It was the other way around.”

She opens her mouth, then closes it again. “What, what is that supposed to mean?”

He shakes his head. “I wanted to know for sure. And now I do.”

They stare at each other, her breathless, him waiting, and then, in a single, instantaneous second, the realization hits her like a double stroke of lightning, like an entire world crashing down on her. She gasps and tears spring into her eyes.

It takes him seven steps to reach her and kiss her. It takes her seven seconds to wrap her arms around his neck and kiss him back. Seven steps, seven years, seven seconds. The Polaroids drop from his hands and flutter around their feet.

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This article has 59 comments.

on Apr. 4 2016 at 5:07 pm
Aaliyah02 SILVER, Pflugervile, Texas
6 articles 0 photos 33 comments

Favorite Quote:
" If you can dream it, you can do it"

Oh my gosh... This was Amazing! Such emotion! Such ...Such, just wow! Very nice! I loved the part when they were looking at the pictures! Wonderful job! Keep writing and I will so keep reading!

on Jul. 8 2015 at 6:30 pm
monikitty12 PLATINUM, New York, New York
35 articles 0 photos 52 comments

Favorite Quote:
Don't cry because its over. Smile because it happened.

So much emotion!!!! So many descriptive words that clearly describes the location and the dialogue and what each character was thinking. I imagined myself in this vivid story, watching the whole interaction. Keep up the work!

on Apr. 25 2015 at 7:10 pm
Beck-Beck BRONZE, Linklaen, New York
4 articles 0 photos 11 comments

Favorite Quote:
Sometimes only paper will listen to you.

Wow. That is amazing. Absolutely perfect.

on Aug. 26 2014 at 4:27 pm
Athena19 SILVER, Central Point, Oregon
5 articles 1 photo 103 comments

Favorite Quote:
'Love people. Cook them tasty food.' -Penzey's Spices

Oh my goodness this was adorable!!! It made me so happy! I love the imagery, and the emotions. It's so sweet! 

on May. 16 2014 at 11:10 am
emahoney BRONZE, Providence, Rhode Island
3 articles 0 photos 3 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Never regret anything because at one point it was exactly what you wanted."

This is most defintely one of the best stories I've read on Teen Ink. So beautiful, the writing flows so smoothly, and the ending is almost poetic, and absolutely perfect. :)

on Mar. 2 2014 at 1:01 pm
CurlyGirl17 SILVER, Corydon, Indiana
6 articles 0 photos 95 comments
Just beautiful :)

on Jan. 5 2014 at 3:54 am
aladine_98 SILVER, Hemet, California
8 articles 0 photos 69 comments
Reading your story gave me a lovely.... Golden feeling inside. You captured a moment with so little speech and so much emotion. And I appreciated your use of the word "chiaroscuro" there. ;) What I did wonder though was why he would use Polaroids for a professional photography portfolio? Hmm, maybe for the specific effect. Anyways, it was a very cute touch to the scene. Great job!

on Nov. 14 2013 at 6:19 pm
ImAWxllflower BRONZE, Fairfax, Virginia
3 articles 0 photos 5 comments

Favorite Quote:
"You see things. You keep quiet about them. And you understand. You're a wallflower."
- Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower

The ending was absolutely perfect <333

on Oct. 17 2013 at 7:29 pm
eatclouds BRONZE, Alexandria, Indiana
4 articles 0 photos 7 comments

Favorite Quote:
Writing is a form of therapy; sometimes I wonder how all those who do not write, compose or paint can manage to escape the madness, melancholia, the panic and fear which is inherent in a human situation. -Graham Green

this is definitly one of my absolute favorite pieces on this website. Absoloutly amazing

A.A.K. GOLD said...
on Sep. 2 2013 at 6:07 pm
A.A.K. GOLD, Keaau, Hawaii
12 articles 6 photos 14 comments

Favorite Quote:
“It is said that your life flashes before your eyes just before you die. That is true, it's called Life.”
--Terry Pratchett

Lovely piece, I agree with Trinabird aout the butterflies... it is very intimate and easy to relate to, but still surprising. Keep it up! I'd like to read any new romances you come up with.

Trinabird GOLD said...
on Aug. 26 2013 at 12:49 pm
Trinabird GOLD, Manchester, New Hampshire
14 articles 5 photos 6 comments
I'm usually not a big fan of romance, but you've definitely changed my view! This is beautifully written and even gives me the butterflies. :)

on Aug. 25 2013 at 11:38 pm
nelehjr DIAMOND, Lingle, Wyoming
60 articles 11 photos 379 comments

Favorite Quote:
Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass, it's about learning to dance in the rain.

'Spontaneous Romance'. I tried to send you a link.

on Aug. 25 2013 at 9:42 am
anatomyofthewrittenword GOLD, Shrewsbury, Massachusetts
14 articles 0 photos 7 comments
If you remember, please feel free to tell me! I assure you that this is an original, so if there is an almost carbon-copy out there, it will have been either an uncanny coincidence or a plaigiarism. Thank you!

on Aug. 25 2013 at 9:41 am
anatomyofthewrittenword GOLD, Shrewsbury, Massachusetts
14 articles 0 photos 7 comments
If you remember, please feel free to tell me! I assure you that this is an original, so if there is an almost carbon-copy out there, it will have been either an uncanny coincidence or a plaigiarism. Thank you!

on Aug. 24 2013 at 6:48 pm
nelehjr DIAMOND, Lingle, Wyoming
60 articles 11 photos 379 comments

Favorite Quote:
Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass, it's about learning to dance in the rain.

This sounds a lot like something else I read on this very website. A lot, a lot! It was the same story line but tweaked...The story was from the girl's point of veiw. I wish I could remember what the other story was called.

CammyS SILVER said...
on Aug. 21 2013 at 7:49 pm
CammyS SILVER, Papillion, Nebraska
5 articles 0 photos 188 comments

Favorite Quote:
No passion in the world is equal to the passion to alter someone else's draft.
H. G. Wells
Don't say the old lady screamed. Bring her on and let her scream.
Mark Twain

I really loved this piece. It was extremely beautiful and well written, and you captured perfectly the feelings every teenage girl has. I can't really say anymore than the rest of your commenters already have, but I just wanted to congratulate you on a story VERY well written. I thought the ending was very sweet too, not too cliche or anything else. Very nice. Congrats on making the mag, too!  

on Aug. 3 2013 at 7:22 am
SoImAWriterNow BRONZE, Schenectady, New York
2 articles 0 photos 36 comments

Favorite Quote:
"But better to get hurt by the truth than comforted with a lie." -Khaled Hosseini


"Don't walk behind me; I may not lead. Don't walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend." Albert Camus

The imagery in this story was SO strong. And all the emotion that was so clear that led up to that ending. That ending is the ending that girls only daydream about. I don't think it was clich`e or too ordinary/common for your beautifully descriptive story at all. I loved it! You're a great writer :)

Michael22 said...
on Jul. 28 2013 at 8:10 am
Michael22, New Haven, Connecticut
0 articles 0 photos 3 comments

Favorite Quote:
"I have eternal longings in me!"
"Everything you can imagine is real!"

All tese VIPs lauding your work, I doubt my comment will have a profound effect on your writing, but having read your story, I couldn't passby without sharing what I thought. This was a brilliant piece, and you Sir, or Madame, are an artist - a lexicon! I loved the entire story to the very end! If I were to say something needs improvement, my humble opinion would be your final "resort-ion" to social conventions and giving the artistic story a rather common ending ... asides from that, I would read your story until could read no more! :)

Setizia GOLD said...
on Jul. 27 2013 at 1:52 pm
Setizia GOLD, Darnestown, Maryland
13 articles 5 photos 44 comments

Favorite Quote:
The purpose of life is to search eternally for the purpose of life

Awesome! The entire story was very descriptive, unexpected and simultaneously satisfying. Very good observations of human emotions. Great work, and I hope you continue with it!

artsychild13 said...
on Jul. 26 2013 at 4:18 pm
artsychild13, Cedar Park, Texas
0 articles 0 photos 1 comment
i had chills at the very end as well, what an amazing story.