Contest #144 shortlist ⭐️

The Perfect Storm

Submitted into Contest #144 in response to: Write a story about a wedding photographer.... view prompt

23 comments

Fiction Romance Speculative

My husband, an aspiring politician, revels in public relations. I knew what I signed up for when I married him. There was always an event around the corner where I’d be expected to pose at his side, his supportive (so beautiful) spouse, and tackle the ever-dreaded question. The one that inevitably falls from every stranger’s mouth when meeting you for the first time: “what do you do?” 

With time and experience, I learned the best answer was a simple one: I’m a photographer. I learned quickly to drop the wedding tag, because there’s nothing that irked me more than their next line: “that must be such a fun job!”

As if it was a game. As if it were easy. 

When I say I’m a photographer, nice and simple, it’s perceived as art. “I’d love to see some of your work,” they say. 

Oh, how the absence of two syllables takes my career from fun to serious.

There is a reason weddings are thought to be fun. That they’re cemented as beautiful memories. It is because the photographer made them that way. 

When the pictures are posted on Facebook of the bride gleaming, arm in arm with her bridesmaids, there’s no hint of the champagne laced arguments that morning while getting ready.

The downturn of a lip. 

The flicker of jealousy. 

I turn my lens away and they go unnoticed. 

I’m paid to capture happiness. Everything else is to slip into the background to be forgotten. The bride, stricken with worry, pressured like a rice cooker, demands happiness. 

And I capture it. I snap brief, fixated smiles, right after she snatches the train of her dress from her mother’s hands. 

I’d become a master of knowing the right moments to click, turn and click. It was a dance, and I was the choreographed dancer, moving with the music that was my wedding party and improvising to their off-key notes. The truth is, capturing a wedding is an art form of its own.

The groom grins in a shot where he straightens his tie, and there’s no one to question that he had any doubts in his mind. Except the photographer. I’m there in the shadows, capturing the good, and weeding out the bad. I draw beauty out of an otherwise stressful and hectic day. 

The sun beams down on them, the breeze lightly settles their hair, irritation at yet another photo transforms to glee with my countdown of one…two…three. And I’ve captured the gratitude emanating from them as they stand together as a new family.

For a stranger clutching a cocktail at one of my husband’s soiree’s, the concept was far too complex. They hear “wedding” and think of dancing and booze. My career is a pastime compared to my dear husband’s. They smile politely and turn to him, to ask his opinions on the city’s most recent budget proposal. I fade into the backdrop, a prop to his upstanding image, nothing more.

Tonight, will be no different, I think, as he offers me his hand and I emerge from the car, pulling my shawl tightly over my shoulders to shelter me from the cool breeze. Our destination is a gorgeous manor, with a lake behind it that spans for miles. Pillars line the porch, which is lit at intervals with lanterns. The windows held no secrets. The party ensuing inside was visible from the pavement. The brightly lit rooms illuminated the lawn. 

The chatter carried too. As we climbed the steps to the door, my chest swelled with the anticipation of dodging endless awkward conversations. I let him enter first, a smart decision on my behalf, as he was bombarded with greetings upon crossing the threshold. 

I trailed behind him, through the foyer and into a large sitting area where we were offered drinks. I was handed a glass of red wine and immediately indulged.  The seating was limited, and my husband was deep in conversation, so I allowed my eyes to wander, appreciating our surroundings. They landed on a photo, enlarged, and placed over the fireplace in a gold ornate frame. 

It was a wedding photo. The bride clutched her dress at her knees, bent over in apparent laughter. Her hair was wild, an updo that the wind had its way with. Her groom, a man with a shiny bald head, was wearing a tan suit with a red tie. He clutched her free hand and beamed. There were puddles at their feet, but they glistened in the shot. The sky behind them was dark with storm clouds, but the angle captured their best features, even in the conflicting lighting. 

It was raw. It was messy. It was beautiful.

I considered it for a moment while the party buzzed behind me. 

I tried to imagine the distress the bride felt when she discovered her day would be destroyed by a storm. The rage that she inflicted on her bridal party or coordinator, for any other inconveniences that arose to remind her that her day, the one she’d worked so hard to prepare for, wouldn’t be as perfect as she dreamed. The tears that followed. The tissues that were passed to her. The consoling pats on the back. 

I couldn’t.

This photo defaced any inkling that they were anything other than delighted to be married in a storm. This perfect shot told the story of two people that were so in love, so happy to be married, even if it was while standing in a mud pie.

“Julie,” my husband’s voice drew me back to reality and I broke my gaze from the photo. He was surrounded by several other couples, who eyed me with curiosity. “This is my wife, Julie.” He introduced me to the crowd.

I offered a wave.

“It’s a pleasure!” An elderly man took my hand in his and squeezed it. 

“What do you do, Julie?” This time it was a woman, about my age. She had auburn hair and wore a black dress that hugged her hips. Her proximity to the smart dressed man next to her told me that she, like me, was also here on duty.

I swirled my wine in my glass, before taking a calculated sip. “I’m an artist,” I said.

May 03, 2022 22:58

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23 comments

Andrea Doig
06:12 May 15, 2022

My favourite I have read. Worthily shortlisted. Thank you for sharing… it makes me want to get married in a storm. We should all take a lesson from Julie x

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Courtney Renee
19:17 May 15, 2022

That is so kind, thank you!! ☺️

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Laura Eliz
21:36 May 17, 2022

I really enjoyed this story. I love the ending so short, sweet, and simple but meaningful.

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Courtney Renee
16:05 May 18, 2022

Thank you! ☺️

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Philip Ebuluofor
13:49 May 17, 2022

Last week for the first time, I was asked that question. What do you do? 'I am a writer' I answered. Without feeling anything. Fine work.

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Courtney Renee
18:03 May 17, 2022

I love this comment, thank you!

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Philip Ebuluofor
06:05 May 21, 2022

Pleasure

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Kevin Broccoli
17:12 May 16, 2022

I drive for Lyft here and there just for the extra cash and inspiration, and I gave a ride to a bride who was attempting to get married during a hurricane. This story is just a stunning read. Congratulations.

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Courtney Renee
18:39 May 16, 2022

I’m sure see/hear all kinds of things driving! Probably wonderful inspiration. Thank you so much ! ☺️

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07:43 May 15, 2022

This is my fav of the selected stories as well. The theme of how people are drawn to categorize other people with simple labels ("wedding photographer") is an interesting one. And the artificial positivity people feel the need to project when most of the time they want other people to be real and open, is a bit of a paradox. Good story and great writing;)

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Courtney Renee
19:18 May 15, 2022

Thank you for the feedback! I appreciate you ☺️

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Faith Ogedegbe
05:51 May 14, 2022

I love this story

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Courtney Renee
03:34 May 15, 2022

I appreciate you saying so ! ☺️

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Marty B
23:16 May 13, 2022

A wonderful ode for the artists among us!

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Courtney Renee
03:34 May 15, 2022

Thank you for your comment! ☺️

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Sherri Moorer
01:34 May 12, 2022

Indeed, photographers ARE artists. I like how you capture this so well in this story prompt.

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Courtney Renee
20:10 May 12, 2022

Thank you! ☺️

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22:44 May 11, 2022

I loved this! A close friend of mine is a photographer and a true artist. While showing off our gorgeous wedding photos, a startling amount of people told us, “that photographer has a really good camera.” As if the tool was the talent. I always corrected them, but some people were stubborn. They couldn’t see that this day that they’re seeing didn’t exist. My friend is an artist who captured these moments and created something new. You captured the frustration of being an artist so well!

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Courtney Renee
23:35 May 11, 2022

Yes absolutely! I’m glad you appreciated the story. Thank you for the feedback! ☺️

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Makayla Crockett
22:23 May 11, 2022

This was really good! I like how she transitioned from a photographer to an artist, all because of that one photo. Your character was well-developed and thought out. Great job!

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Courtney Renee
23:34 May 11, 2022

Thank you for saying so! ☺️

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Felice Noelle
15:36 May 09, 2022

Courtney: I really, really liked this story. The self-deprecating judgment by the wife, viewing her husband as more worthy, demeaning what she does as just a hobby or certainly less important. I liked that you were able to tell a lot in a fairly short story and make it totally relatable. You used sparce words, carefully chosen, that showed us your story. Here's a well earned like, comment for karma pt., and another follow. Great story; please keep writing for us. Maureen

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Courtney Renee
16:35 May 09, 2022

I really appreciate your feedback, thank you! ☺️

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