The camera’s eyes travel.
Keira walks down the aisle, bouquet in hand. A white veil shrouds her face.
It always feels like a movie when she’s around.
I stand in the front pew as my eyes follow her. Once her veil unravels, the camera closes up on the tearful smile that grows on the groom’s face. Keira looks gorgeous; even more as she reciprocates a smile that tells me she has everything she wants.
It wasn’t always like this.
The camera turned on as I met Keira for the first time. She smiled and shook my hand. Her smile was warm as soft embers but her hand was stone cold. She said her name, asked mine, and we walked around the campus together. The camera followed her for most of the time.
Days go by. We laughed about our crazy professor. We stressed over exams and stayed up late studying for them. All throughout, I noticed her look. There was something distant and yet daringly untamed about her eyes.
It was a few months after our graduation when she finally revealed something to me. Her eyes looked much closer. The camera focused intently on the scene. She revealed to me that she was adopted and that it was her purpose to find her biological mom. Her mother was in Colorado and she needed me to come with her.
I’ve heard this story many times before, in movies and books, where a character would fill an empty void through a lengthy search for that someone or something.
On the day we settled to leave, we rented a car and drove straight to Colorado. We barely planned for anything; we only brought clothes, food, and pocket money. I glanced at Keira. Her hand was fiddling with her locket as I drove. I sighed. She never told me exactly where in Colorado her mother resided. But she knew exactly where to go.
We’ve known each other for a long time, but somehow I felt that I couldn't ask her anything about it. I could feel her evident discomfort every time I asked her about her mother. But isn’t that why we’re going to find her now?
“You’re finally going to see your mom after all these years! Isn’t that so exciting?” I said, trying to keep her mood up, “What are you going to tell her?”
“Yeah I have so many things I need to talk to her about,” Keira said in an outwardly sad manner as she rolled the window down. “I miss her a lot.”
The camera caught the single tear that she wiped off her face.
I knew her well enough to know that she was still hiding something from me.
We lost our car.
We had stopped by a restaurant by the road to eat and parked our car nearby. Once we went out, it was gone.
Keira blamed me for leaving the car unlocked. I blamed Keira for keeping her window rolled down. We argued for a while.
As if on cue, a boy who looked our age approached us, looked at Keira and asked if we needed a ride.
She sat on the passenger’s seat. I sat on the back. The camera seemed to zoom in on both of them as they gazed into each other’s eyes.
At first, he asked us both questions and all three of us spiraled into conversation. His name was Oliver. We told him our plans. He told us that he was headed to Colorado too, for reasons he did not reveal.
Then, only the both of them talked. Keira seemed to like him a lot. Keira opened up to him quicker than she did with me. She told him everything she told me about her mother. She even showed him the picture of her mom inside her locket.
“I’d like to meet her, she sounds like a nice person, based on everything you’ve told me,” Oliver remarked.
“Sure but don’t expect too much,“ Keira said in a half-concerning and half-joking manner.
“What do you mean?”
I could feel the camera creeping closer and closer.
I said nothing for the rest of the ride.
After she said those two words, Oliver murmured a “sorry for your loss” then sat in silence. Then, he suddenly thought that bringing her to a bar would lift her spirits up.
That explained why she seemed so low. I felt shocked and a bit angry that she didn’t mention that we were actually going to visit a grave. But I also felt some sympathy for her, knowing that she might’ve found it hard to tell and accept. I wanted to be there for her.
I watched them dancing from the bar. The cameras were pointed towards them. It felt as though they were two main characters, swaying in the music together. Keira’s smile grew bright; she looked a bit happier. I was glad.
The next day, we arrived in Colorado. Keira gave Oliver the directions to the cemetery where her mom was allegedly in. Once we arrived, we found an old gravedigger nearby.
“Excuse me sir, do you know where the grave of Maria Lewis is?” Keira asked with a hopeful look in her eyes.
“No ma’am, I come here everyday and I haven’t seen or heard that name before,” he replied as he lit a cigarette.
“Are you sure this is the right place? She might be in another cemetery,” I turned and asked Keira.
“I’m sure. My aunt specifically mentioned this place. I don’t know where else she could be,” Keira looked worried again so I stepped forward and hugged her.
“Don’t fret, there are other cemeteries here and I know where they are. We can go together,” Oliver suggested.
Keira lightly smiled and nodded. They both looked at me. I sensed that they both wanted to go alone together so I declined. The cameras followed them. I stayed in the hotel for the rest of the day.
So she was alive.
We saw Keira’s mom on the news the next day. Dead, for sure this time. Someone had taken her life. Her body was found on the kitchen floor of her home.
Keira wept and hollered in Oliver’s arms. I did not comfort her. There was deep agony in her cries but there was no regret.
The night before, I had followed Keira. She snuck out in the early hours once she thought I was asleep. A black hood shrouded her face. This time there were no cameras.
I watched her as she took Oliver’s car and followed her using a bicycle that was parked nearby. I eyed her closely, making sure I wasn’t seen. Twenty minutes later, she stopped in front of a small suburban house.
She rang the doorbell. A woman answered it minutes later. The light was faint, but I recognized her features-- the woman in the picture of Keira’s locket.
Clutching her night robe, Maria asked, “Who are you?”
Keira pushed her mother aside and invited herself in. Keira looked out into the night before closing the door. I crept around the perimeter of the house in search of a window.
I peeked through the squares of the chained fence to look into the window. Keira was saying something. Her voice was muffled. Lumps of tears rolled down her crazed eyes. A condemning finger pointed towards Maria who knelt on the floor. From my view, only her head was seen, looking up with pleading eyes to her daughter.
Maria looked as if she was desperately trying to express a repressed emotion but failed as Keira yelled over her mother’s undercooked words with boiling anger.
Keira’s hands grasped a glint of steel that dove and met Maria. As it sank, Keira loosened as her mother’s face disappeared from view. Slowly, both faces melted into peace.
Keira tried moving the motionless frame but stopped just as the torso was in view. Horrifically, she smiled. Her viscous smile burned scars on her mom’s body, forever clad with mistakes and miscommunications.
My heart sank with fear, urgency, and shock. I frantically ran towards my bike and headed back to the hotel. I furiously paddled and my hands trembled. I reached our room. I pulled the covers over myself. I shut my eyes. After a few moments, the door opened then closed.
Two years later, here I stand with my bridesmaid dress on.
Everyone knows about what happened--not what happened behind the cameras.
Poor girl, they’d say. She lost her dear mother a few years ago but she sure is doing well now.
And she will keep on doing well.
No one else knows the truth. Who would believe me? I was always on the sidelines, watching everything unravel with no say except with the role I fulfilled as her best friend.
I hold her secret. The soles of her feet are stained in blood.
The camera only sees what it wants to see.
The camera’s eyes shut.
Keira looks at me.