Family Photographs

 

There were only five photographs. The edges were scuffed and ragged, but that was the only sign of aging. They weren't even yellowed; the images were bright and sharp.

      The first one showed a young couple. A striking, even beautiful pair. She was tall, with black hair. It may have been very dark brown, I suppose, but I was sure it was black. It was straight and glossy, and I could see from the way she was standing that it hung to her waist.   She had a flower, maybe a lily or an orchid, at each temple, and was holding a posy of the same flowers.   I had never seen a dress quite like the one she was wearing, and it seemed incongruous in such an old photograph, because it did not look old-fashioned enough. It was a darkish colour, and flared at the waist, but the hem at the front came to just above her knees, showing long and very shapely legs, but I could see that the back was floor-length. I couldn't pin it to any period of recent, or even ancient, history. Her shoes were strange, too – pale ankle boots which appeared to be made from some sort of soft hide. They should have looked wrong with with the dress, but oddly, did not. If I'd seen this outfit on the cover of some fashion magazine, I wouldn't have been surprised.

      Gazing down at her was her companion, whose hair was as blond as hers was dark, and almost as long, by the look of it. He was dressed even more peculiarly than she, with a very short jacket and what looked like Seventies flared loon-pants, and had a flower just like hers at his right temple. Despite this, I could see that he was gorgeous.   What an amazing looking guy, I thought. I wondered who they were.   If it were not for the bizarre clothes, it looked for all the world like a wedding photo.   They were standing under some kind of canopy or pergola, which was festooned with tiny flowers, and tendrils hung down almost to their heads. They had their arms around each others waists, and seemed oblivious to whoever was taking the photograph.

       I brought the photo closer to my face and looked at the woman. And I knew. It was Minty.  Even though much younger, I recognised her by the mischievous smile, even in semi-profile. But who was the man? 

            If this were really a wedding picture, it could not possibly be Auntie Minty, because she had never married.   Was this taken at some kind of fancy dress party, perhaps?   I knew it was not her sister, my grandmother.    She had been much shorter than this girl, and her hair had been lighter in colour.   Could Minty have had black hair at this age?   When I knew her, it was short and snow-white, cut in quite a funky style for an old lady.   The girl in the picture looked about my age, or perhaps a couple of years older. I did a quick calculation in my head. This would have to have been taken in the nineteen-twenties, and the clothes were all wrong for that.   Then I saw the pendant the man was wearing. It was unmistakable. A clear teardrop shaped stone which Minty had always called ''the blue tear''.   I had loved it when I was a little girl. She'd even let me wear it to the school disco once, as long as I promised to look after it.   ''It's only glass, Charley.'' she said, ''But I wouldn't want to lose it. It was a gift from somebody very special.''   Was this really the ''tear''?

      I turned the photograph over. On the back, in faded green ink, was written 

                         A and P – Together Forever

      Well – it could be Minty, then.   Araminta.   But who was P

      I put the photo to the back of the pile and looked at the second one. This one showed the same woman, Minty?   She was sitting on a couch, with two little girls, aged about five or six, sitting either side, and her arms encircling their shoulders, all three had their mouths wide open,  laughing, perhaps at something the photographer had said or done.   The woman looked even more like Auntie Minty this time, with her wide-set dark eyes twinkling. Her hair was shorter in this one – just to her shoulders. The girls were identical, with the same straight, dark hair as the woman. On the back, in the same green ink, was written

                A with T and L. Cantermas Day 495-46

              What on earth was Cantermas, and what did the numbers mean? I shrugged. It was puzzling enough, if this was Minty.  Not only did she seem to have been married, but have twin daughters, to boot.   No.   There must be another explanation. Must be.

        I looked at the third photo.   In this, the woman was standing in what looked like a park or a field, with the same man as in the first picture, but they looked older, maybe in their late thirties.   Their contasting hair was short - cropped,  and the woman looked more like Minty than ever, as this haircut was the closest thing to the one I'd remembered her having.   The next picture seemed to have been taken on the same day, as it had the same background.   In this one, the man was standing with two black-haired teenage girls, who looked very like their mother, if that's who she was.   I saw another girl on the edge of the photo, apparently walking out of shot, but couldn't really distinguish any features, as they had been blurred by motion.   Something about her looked familiar, though, and my feelings shifted.   I was no longer just bemused. I was starting to be uneasy, too. Perhaps it was her clothes. The man and the girls were wearing peculiar clothing – sort of sateen pyjamas, but the girl had on what seemed to be a modern day pair of jeans and a t-shirt. The logo was motion-blurred, too, but it too, seemed familiar. The handwriting on the back of this one said 

           P with T, L and C. Gerrant Open Space 

           I put this one to the back. When I saw the last photograph I froze. My eyes blurred, then refocused, but my hands were shaking.   This one was a tableau: the woman, the girls, and the new girl on the end.    All were waving at the camera and smiling.   I could now see the Hard Rock Cafe logo on the girl's t-shirt. And I saw her face, very clearly.   The girl was me.

The End

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