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Contemporary Fiction American

“Mom, there are some packages at the door!” Geneva hollered to her mother from the bottom of the stairs.

“Be right there!” Holly shouted back as she clipped in her pearl earrings and double checked her crimson lipstick. She slipped into her floor length, satin gown and squeezed her feet into her uncomfortable patent leather pumps. She wasn’t Audrey Hepburn, but thought she looked good enough for the annual black-tie charity event that Colin’s company hosted every year. A night filled with small talk, fake smiles, champagne, and bite sized canapes.

As she walked down the stairs into the foyer, Holly found the Amazon packages that Geneva had brought in from the porch. Amazon came to their house a few times a week these days; it was so much easier to order hand soap and shampoo with the click of her phone as she was busy with three teenage kids and a full-time job. Before she could turn to go check on her husband’s status in the kitchen, a bright orange envelope caught her eye from on top of the packages. She reached down and picked it up, reading the label: Snapshot Commerce. She turned her head to the side, trying to figure out what it could be and then it clicked.  She had found an old disposable camera in Colin’s closet last month when she was doing her spring cleaning and had sent it in to a company called Snapshot Commerce to be developed. She was pretty sure it was a leftover camera from their wedding or honeymoon 15 years prior so she was eager to see what kind of relic photos she would discover from it.

“Almost ready, hon?” Colin bellowed from the kitchen. Holly peeked around the corner to look at her husband. He looked like a tall drink of water in his tuxedo. Colin, unlike Holly, had aged easily and well. His once black hair was now salt and peppered. His daily run every morning and green smoothie for breakfast made his stature strong and lean. Holly on the other hand, was considering getting a facelift since Botox wasn’t covering up the deep lines in her face anymore. Her arms, her stomach, her thighs were all sagging. Holly was aging whatever the opposite of easily was. There once was a time people might have said Holly was the catch and not Colin. Colin was always the smart one; Holly had been the eye candy. But now, it seemed things were shifting. Or maybe it was all in Holly’s mind.

Holly placed the envelope of photos in her jeweled clutch and walked into the family room, checking on her kids: Geneva, Toby, and Rosa. They appeared to all be watching some sort of prank show on TV that Holly had never seen before.

“Pizza will be here at 7,” Holly said to the back of her kids’ heads. When she got no reaction, she repeated herself louder, “Pizza will be here at 7!” she said again.

“Got it,” Toby replied as he kept his eyes on the TV, laughing at a man running his bike off of a ramp and into a wall.

“Can you all try to put yourselves to bed by 11?” Holly asked, now accepting that her kids may or may not be listening to her.

“They’ll be fine,” Colin said assuring her as he stepped closely, putting his hands around her waist, squeezing it gently. “They are practically adults. Let’s get going.” He reached behind her and kissed her neck, giving her a full body shutter. She smiled and turned to face him, nuzzling her cheek against his.

“Get a room!” Rosa shouted without taking her eyes off the TV.

“Oh, now you’re responding to me!” Holly shouted over the show as she walked to the foyer to get her umbrella. The weather called for rain showers, and she didn’t want to mess the updo she had paid a pretty penny for.

“I’ll be in the car!” she shouted to Colin as she opened the door and walked out to her husband’s Mercedes parked in the driveway.

“Be right there. Just need to go to the little boys’ room,” Colin said.  

Holly got into the car and checked her makeup in the mirror, fixing the clump of mascara from the corner of her eye. She opened up her clutch, taking the photos out to preview before sharing the treasures with Colin. They would have a nice drive reminiscing on their younger days.

She slipped out the photos, feeling the stiff prints in her hands. She wasn't used to being able to hold memories in her hands like this. It brought back a sense of nostalgia from when before digital and phone cameras were created and everyone had to get their photos developed the old-fashioned way. She flipped to the first photo and saw an image of Colin sitting on an Adirondack chair on a beach, a pina colada in his hand. She had been right; the photos were from their honeymoon. Colin looked to be about 15 years younger and was wearing his shiny new wedding ring on his left hand.  

As Holly flipped to the next photo, she saw a photo of the sunset setting behind the water. She smiled, thinking of their honeymoon in Aruba. They had made love all night, slept late every morning, and spent their days at the beach. What she wouldn’t do to go back there now. She flipped to the next photo and saw a photo of Colin and her posing in their bathing suits, hands around one another’s fit waists. Holly squinted and shook her head. Why does that not look like me? She lifted the photo up closely to her face and inspected the woman in it. White bikini, brown sunglasses, brown hair…it was not Holly. She put the photo down on her lap and stared blankly in confusion. Who was this posing with Colin on our honeymoon? She flipped to the next photo and saw the woman again with Colin, eating dinner. This time, Holly knew who the woman in the picture. It was her old friend and bridesmaid, Cynthia. Cynthia and Holly had lost touch through the years, although they did send each other Christmas cards every holiday. Why were Cynthia and Colin together at the beach? And where was I?

As Holly flipped through the photos frantically, things became clear: a photo of Cynthia and Colin having breakfast in bed. A photo of Cynthia and Colin in the pool. A photo of Cynthia and Colin playing mini golf. A photo of Cynthia in a little t-shirt that said, “Let’s Crush This,” as she sipped what seemed to be an orange crush. Holly’s head was spinning the faster she was flipping. Before she could process what the photos meant, she glanced up and saw Colin approaching the car from their house. Quickly, she stuffed the photos in the envelope and rammed them into her clutch.

“Ready babe?” Colin asked as he stepped into the car and put on his sunglasses, smiling ear to ear. Colin always loved this annual charity event. It was a time for him to schmooze up to all the big wigs at his company and drink as much as he wanted. Holly turned, looking at Colin and had the sudden urge to smack the smug smile off of his stupid, entitled face.

“Ready,” Holly forced a smile as she put on her seatbelt, trying to figure out what she should do. Should I say something now? Show him the photos? Ask him when he went to the beach with Cynthia? Ask him how long it lasted for? Ask if there was anyone else besides her?

“Can you try to get in with Alex’s wife tonight?” Colin asked her as he veered onto the highway, “I need that promotion and every little bit of brown nosing helps.”

Holly turned and looked at Colin again, bewildered at how he could act so casual when he had an affair with her friend. She tried to think back to fifteen years ago. Had Colin said he was going on a work trip? Sure, he did all the time. Should I bring it up now? But what would that mean? An end to our marriage? An end to our family? We are supposed to all go to Italy after Geneva graduates in May. We can’t do that if we are getting a divorce.

“Sure, I’ll talk to her,” Holly responded, keeping her eyes on him, wondering if she could figure out all of his deceptions from just looking at him. I can’t move out of the house; we just redecorated with that expensive interior designer. What would my friends think if they found out? I would be the talk of the town.

“Great, thanks babe,” Colin said keeping his eyes on the road as he turned on the radio, dialing the volume up loudly as he beat his head to the bass.

Holly stared at the road ahead of her, trying to recall times when Cynthia and Colin were ever around each other. Had they flirted? Had they even talked? She couldn’t remember. She didn’t even know they even knew each other that well besides saying hello when they were around Holly.

“Did you….” Holly began as Colin pulled the Mercedes up to the valet.

“What?” Colin asked waiting for the valet to finish up with the red Porsche in front of him.

“Did you…did…have you…” Holly tried to get it out. How do I ask my husband if he cheated on me fifteen years ago with my friend? Why am I even asking him when I have the proof already? Holly thought of her family. Of her kids. Of the charity event. Maybe I could pretend it never happened. Take these photos and throw them in the bathroom tonight. I’ll never have to see them again.

“Did I, have I what?” Colin laughed, shifting the car into park and opening up the door as the valet approached.

“Did you…remember to put in a tip for the pizza guy? The kids won’t remember.” Holly blurted out, at a loss for what to say.  

“Of course,” he said as he stepped out of the car and walked around to help Holly out of her seat. “You ready, babe?” he asked as he took her hand and led her up to the venue.

“Let’s crush this,” she said, taking his hand and following him up the stairs, holding the clutch tightly with a death grip. They’d be the talk of the town tonight.

May 06, 2022 00:26

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20 comments

Jon Blackstock
12:19 May 10, 2022

I really like the way you brought back “Let’s crush this” to punctuate how she deals with finding the photos. I was afraid that she would find these photos on the roll, but the way you showed her internal conflict at that point was really cool. I hate to be the one to ask this, but who took the photos on the disposable camera?

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Kathleen Fine
22:50 May 22, 2022

Thanks Jon! Passerby's and selfies:)

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Michelle Sholund
14:05 May 18, 2022

LOVE LOVE LOVE! Hooked from the beginning - great story all around. I love the how you slip from standard dialogue to inner dialogue seamlessly, The description of every detail - like the photos and reactions, I feel it and see it all. And the kicker - your ending, perfect. Love this!

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Kathleen Fine
22:50 May 22, 2022

Thanks so much Michelle!

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Paul Wilhite
16:36 May 16, 2022

I was into it immediately. Great dialogue - the end is excellent as we don't know what's gonna happen so we have to imagine various outcomes! Very good job.

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Kathleen Fine
22:51 May 22, 2022

Thank you Paul!

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Twyla Parker
12:39 May 16, 2022

I love how your stories flow, and the details you use in your writing. I can picture it. Great story.

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Kathleen Fine
22:51 May 22, 2022

Thanks Twyla!

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14:52 May 12, 2022

This was a great story! I really enjoyed the way you ended it. Having her blurt out the question would have been too easy. Great job! Thank you for sharing!

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Kathleen Fine
22:51 May 22, 2022

Thank you Rebecca!

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Andrea Doig
13:58 May 12, 2022

Hello! What a great story. Getting older is not for cissies that is for sure :( Such great tension in the build-up and such a great storyline. I think the final line : "Lets crush this" shows that she is not going to let it lie for long / if at all! The talk of the town indeed. Ummm.. one thing ... who would have taken the photo of them in the bed having brekkie - BUT really that is just being pedantic! Maybe the original selfie :) As usual, I really enjoyed the writing style and the characterisation. Well done - enjoyable ... and sad :( ...

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Kathleen Fine
22:51 May 22, 2022

Thanks Andrea! I was thinking a selfie! :)

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Priyanka Chaya
12:31 May 12, 2022

I liked this focus on the tension before the potential confrontation, rather than just the confrontation itself. The "should I, shouldn't I" scenario makes for an intense and uncomfortable (in the best possible way) read :)

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Kathleen Fine
22:51 May 22, 2022

Thanks Priyanka!

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Cindy Strube
18:02 May 09, 2022

Of course we know that Holly will find something unexpected in the photos, but what she finds is cleverly surprising. It’s very believable, and I like the way you left it unresolved.

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Kathleen Fine
22:52 May 22, 2022

Thank you CIndy!

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Jesper Jee
16:23 May 09, 2022

I liked this one a lot. Even though I half expected some sort of cheater scenario, I was intrigued and you really made me want to read on. Also, I am still curious about what will happen next. Well done!

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Kathleen Fine
22:52 May 22, 2022

Thank you Jesper!

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Michał Przywara
20:42 May 06, 2022

A fun, uncomfortable read. I love how you dragged out the tension here. It all starts innocuously enough, but as soon as we hear "She had found an old disposable camera in Colin’s closet" it's a red flag. Of course, we immediately want to know what's in the photos and we fear the worst, but Holly has other priorities. This really cranks the anticipation up. When she finally does look at the photos, the fact she initially assumes she sees herself is a nice touch too. The rest of the story nicely conveys her conflicting, developing emotion...

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Kathleen Fine
22:52 May 22, 2022

Thanks so much for the feedback Michal!

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