NEW 📗Story: School Photo

New Roses

Tuesday, Oct 12, 2021

When she was a girl, her mum took her shopping once a year. She said it was important to keep your dignity, though they didn’t have much money. That was Mette.

When Tzipora relayed the memory to Baron, he said, “it’s strange you call your mum by her first name.”

Plastic packaging was on the floor. In the mirror, a carousel of images. A new Zelda stares back, colourless and hollowed under the burden of the future. On a rail car headed east, the future is simple — don’t fall beneath the wheels, avoid the bulls at sidings, and beg bread off the experienced bums. Out here, in the department store, it was complicated. Disgust glints in a half-turn; nausea.

This was, in total, her third uniform. The first was Colegio Charry in Bogotá — that was plaid, and had a frock like a fairytale. The second was St Mary’s, in Sacramento — grey and blue; miserable like the girls. This was Vekllei’s. She liked it; she liked being in uniform again. She thought she looked sharp.

“I never even said goodbye. I hated her so much for sending me away I wouldn’t hug her in the airport… in the terminal, where you say goodbye. She said, ‘I love you, Tzipora,’ and I didn’t say a thing back.”

Baron watched, listening like he did.

“I hope when she died, wherever that was, she didn’t think of that moment in the — oh, Christ, I can’t even say it. I can’t say it. That’s what I left her with.”

Her new self stared back, small and colourless. She looked at her eyes. Dull blue eyes. Behind them, memories clattered around. She suppressed them as they emerged in panic. One after the other, cut down ruthlessly and left to float, malformed and incomplete, further along stream of consciousness.

Mum died alone because — it makes me want to jump off a roof — so dramatic, it’s pathetic — but it does, the feeling is real — dramatic like all insecure people — how about we think about the task at hand — this gymslip is my size but doesn’t fit — I’m still losing weight — she died alone —

Why was it that ghosts emerged in moments like this? They flocked to liminal spaces, guiding the paths between the past and the future.

“It fits better than the skirt,” Baron said. “It’s a shame they don’t have the in-betweens for the shirt, but I think it looks good. But I shouldn’t be the judge of such things. Ayn’ll be back in a minute.”

“I know it’s not your thing, Baron. Thanks for doing it, though. It means a lot.”

“I think you’re just lucky the colours suit you. They never did me. Your skin goes well with the flowers; pale skin goes well with red.”

“‘D’you think so? Should I try the red skirt again?”

“It looks good like this.”

The memories had quieted; a warmness had flushed her nerves, cleaned them out and soothed the aches. She got that feeling with Baron. He had no reason to care about her and he did, and that meant a lot. She couldn’t admit it to him or herself, but in her heart he was already her dad. She hoped Mette was looking over her; she hoped her mum thought he was nice too. She would pray again tonight, at her bedside, and tell her she was sorry again. Tell her all about Baron and her life in Vekllei now.

Red suits me — Tzipora thought to herself — I think I look good like this.