Photographs and Childhood Memories

“We’re just five. David has no partner.”

Jake didn’t raise his head. The brake needed his attention than his sister’s announcement.

“Call Meg. That should even the number.”

“Meg can’t come,” Jessica persisted.

“Why?” The screw rolled away. “Drat!” He tried to reach it.

“She’s packing.”

“Going where?” he asked automatically.

“I don’t know. She hung up after refusing.”

“But it’s only dinner. Surely, she could spare the time.”

Photographs and Childhood Memories

“We keep this love in a photograph. We made these memories for ourselves.” Ed Sheeran, ‘Photograph’

“Lately, she can’t spare time for us. She was not accepting any of my invitation.”

It was clear that Jessica wouldn’t give him peace. He abandoned the screw.

“She has a life of her own. Surely, she can accept or not your invitations.” Jake switched off the flashlight, and then got a clean rag to wipe his hands.

“Jake, it is not normal. Meg always accepts.”

Jessica was his twin and younger by five minutes, but her bossiness made up for that lapse.

“So what do you want me to do? Go to her house and haul her by the hair to come before you, oh, highness?”

“Stop teasing, you brute! This is serious.” Jessica stamped her foot. She was only five feet two inches to his six feet, but a termagant when provoked.

“Okay. I’ll go to her now. But first, I’ll call Vanessa. I was supposed to pick her from the salon.”

“I’ll pick her. I’m going there, too.” Jessica sauntered to her car.

“Good of you. Thanks!” Jake liked the suggestion since he could go back to his car after the errand with Megan.

He was wearing a pair of cut-offs and a black sando. Megan was living next door. He didn’t need to change clothes.

Besides, she was like family. They were neighbors since birth. Her parents died from a car crash when she just was a child. Only her Tita Elsa, older sister of her father and a spinster, raised her.

The door to the old house was open. Jake pushed and went inside. His welcome was taken for granted. He was as frequent visitor here as his sister, until he was eighteen.

And that was nine years ago.

Jake looked around. The décor remained the same. It was as if time stood still in this old house.

He cocked his head when he heard something. A sniffle. Someone was crying.

He walked toward the stairs. The sound seemed coming from the attic. He didn’t know this house had ghost.

Where was Megan?

“Megan? Meg, it’s Jake.” His voice reverberated hollowly around the large hallway. He was coming to the narrow stairs going to the attic.

The sniffling noise was gone. Light steps followed. The half-opened door to the attic pulled widely to reveal Megan.

“Jake? What are you doing here?” She seemed disbelieving. Her voice sounded huskier than he remembered.

He remained rooted to the spot when she started to come down. It was as if he was seeing Megan for the first time in years.

Megan, a shy and quiet twelve-year-old, followed his sister and him around as they noisily argued about anything under the sun. They were fifteen years old.

She became his favorite because she always agreed with him. But she remained more of his sister’s friend because, well, she was a girl.

When he and Jessica went to different colleges, Megan was less seen by him. She would appear on special dinner parties and all family occasions though. Her hair was always a tight bun and her face bare of cosmetics. She always wore a long dress.

Jake often described her privately as boring and uninteresting. He would nod at her and smile, then ignored her.

The Megan standing before him now could not be thought as boring and uninteresting.

She had her hair cut an inch or two to the scalp, giving her a pixie look. Her eyes were cat-like and mysterious, always watching but giving nothing away. They were slightly red-rimmed. She was crying.

She had earrings pierced to her small earlobes. Her full lips wore a pink lipstick. She was wearing a pink t-shirt and a pair of white shorts.

Megan blushed as his eyes went over her. He knew he was staring but could not stop.

“Jake, I asked you what are you doing here? Are you ill?” There was a slight hesitation before her hand touched his brow. She was standing next to him as near as she dared.

He shook his head. The cool softness of her palm was like a balm to his confused mind.

“I—” He cleared his throat. “Jessica asked you to dinner tonight but you refused,” he blurted out.

“Oh.” Megan jumped back, turned and continued walking. “I’m busy. I told her some other time.”

“Can’t you spare the time? She said you were packing.” He sounded complaining but could not help himself.

“I was packing old stuffs,” she said with forced nonchalance. Her steps ran familiarly on the stairs. She went to the kitchen.

“What old stuffs?” Jake was fishing for information. Megan seemed elusive.

“Old clothes, books… albums.” The latter was said reluctantly. She was opening the refrigerator. “Soda?”

He nodded. “Albums? As in old photographs?”

“Uh-uh.” She was not meeting his eyes as she offered a bottle to him. She drank hers straight from the bottle.
Jake was flabbergasted. Megan was acting unladylike.

“Why are you packing them? I mean, the albums. They were memories.” He was like a dog with a bone. It was not his business what she did to old photographs.

“I might not throw them away.” Megan walked outside, clearly leading him towards the low fence between their properties.

‘She is beautiful!’ He said to himself as she stepped in the sunlit garden.

She was as slim as wand. Her movements were graceful, swaying with the slight breeze. Her legs were long and shapely. Her feet were small and bare, little toes wriggling on the grass.

Megan held her head regally. The way she stood gave an illusion of height. Only when she was beside tall people like Jake, her petite stature was revealed.

“Please tell Jessica that I can’t come tonight,” she said with fake regret. She met his eyes at last, hers not giving anything away.

“What’s happened between you two? You were the best of friends,” he asked curiously.

She was silent for a minute. Then she smiled with a slight bitterness.

“Change happened but we’re still friends. Now, is there anything else? I’m rather busy. Bye!”

Jake was not prone to impulsiveness. That was his sister’s trait. But in those moments, he thought of kissing her.

And he found himself doing just that. His arms went around her, pulling her close. His mouth tasted her lips.

Jake was wrong. She didn’t wear lipstick. Her lips were naturally pink. It was the sweetest kiss.

Then the unthinkable happened. Her arms went round his neck. She kissed him back. Passionately. Fiercely.

The kiss went on and on.

“Me-gan! Yuhoo!”

Megan unclasped her hands behind his neck and stepped back. Her eyes were giving everything away for once. They were full of longing, mingled with regret. Her lips were bruised and looked very much kissed.

Jake hid his shaking hands in his pockets as two young men rounded the corner of her house. He knew them. They were cousins who lived at the next street.

He frowned slightly because he also knew them as a wild pair. And Megan seemed friends with them.

“Introduce me,” he prompted when the two reached earshot.

Megan sighed. “Lancer and Gomer, my neighbor—Jacob.” She looked at him pointedly. “He is just leaving.”

Jake didn’t budge. He didn’t trust the two punks.

“And your business with Megan–?” He let the sentence dangle.

The two seemed hesitant at first before excitement won.

“We brought the motorcycle we’re talking about the other day.”

“Motorcycle?”

“Oh, really? Where is it?” Megan squealed with delight. “Did Derek agree to my price? Oh, of course, he had. Why show me his baby?”

She led the way to the front. Jake followed the trio.

Megan looked at the handsome motorcycle standing in the garage. It was colored black but with a touch of pink.

“Derek sprayed pink as you instructed him.”

Megan laughed. “I’ll pay cash because of that!”

“You plan to buy this scrap of metal?” Jake was exaggerating but he could not picture Megan riding it. It was too big.

The cousins looked at him, confused once again.

“Yes. And I love every inch of it.” She said defiantly. “Come inside the house, Lancer and Gomer.” She invited the two, ignoring Jake.

No way was he letting her alone with these two. He followed them inside.

“I wouldn’t want to impose on your time, Jacob. Goodbye.”

Jake thought fast. “Why not invite your friends to the dig tonight?”

“What dig?” Gomer spoke at last.

“A party. We’re having a party tonight.”

“Party! Hey, can we bring our girlfriends?” Lancer jumped in.

“Bring them by all means.” Jake crossed his fingers. He was bringing two punks and their girlfriends to his sister’s formal dinner.

“The attire’s formal.” Megan spoke before the two could do their silly dance.

“Semi-formal,” he cut in. “Seven o’clock. I’ll watch out for you.”

“Let’s go home, bro. We’ll have to get ready.”

The cousins were gone without a backward glance. They were excited on going to a party.

“They completely forgot Derek’s motorcycle,” Megan said forlornly.

“They know it will be safe here.” Once again, they were alone. He wanted to finish what had begun.

“I’m still not going.” She defied him while she stepped backwards. He was coming towards her. Slowly.

“Good, because I’m not going too,” he threatened.

“Look, I have nothing to wear. My dresses have all gone to charity.” She was breathing hard. There was a sheen of perspiration on her smooth skin. She was cornered. There was nowhere to go.

“Who said you can wear only dresses?” Jake’s voice deepened to an octave.

“Tita Elsa.”

He stopped in front of her.

She swallowed but did not move.

He reached out a hand to comb into her hair. Her hair was soft. Her eyes grew heavy as his fingers touched her ear, her neck, and cupped her cheek.

“Jake…”

“Shh…”

He noticed the necklace. It was hidden just beneath the t-shirt’s neckline. He pulled it out deftly. It was a heart-shaped locket.

The memory of nine years ago popped up to his mind. He was eighteen again.

And Megan turned fifteen. Regal as a queen and mysterious like a cat, she was still following him around whenever he was at home.

“Hey, bro, it’s little Megan’s birthday. What’s your gift?” Jessica reminded him.

He didn’t have any because he forgot but his quick mind remembered the abandoned necklace. His current girlfriend at the time wanted a diamond bracelet instead. They broke up. He could not afford it.

“Wait here.”

The necklace was in its original box. It was cheap but the reverence that Megan showed it…

“Oh, it was beautiful! Thank you!”

Her adoration for him doubled over time. She was always there whenever they needed her–and when he didn’t need her.

Jake knew she had a huge crush on him. Anybody could see it. At first, it was amusing. But in the end, her infatuation got uncontrollable he lost his temper.

“Learn to control yourself, girl! No one wants to know what you feel about me! It’s embarrassing for you and me!” He got drunk because a girlfriend dumped him for being a cradle snatcher. Megan was sixteen at the time.

“Don’t,” she said when his fingers tried to open the locket. She snatched it away from him and moved away before he could stop her.

“Megan…”

“I’ll come tonight. Please go now.” She was wearing the impassive mask once again, but her eyes were starting to water.

Jake breathed in deeply. He should go. His feelings were confused.

“Okay,” he agreed. “Wear anything you want,” he said before leaving.

He didn’t go back to his car as he planned. He went to his room. He rummaged through his old things, looking for albums of photographs.

In every photograph, there was Megan. Always in the background, but always looking at him.

Even when included by Jessica, she seemed blended with the background.

Since they were children up to their adulthood, Megan was included but not always seen in every picture. He had never known someone as self-effusive as she.

He would laugh at the antics his sister would do while Megan either smiled or laughed.

With his new awareness of her, he would look at her in every picture. How laughter lit up her eyes…

In the latter years, there was no laughter. Only restrained smiles appeared on Megan’s lips. Her eyes still looked at him, but they were empty.

She also looked older than her twenty-odd years. Tita Elsa’s influence.

Jake touched his lips. He had never known a passionate kisser as well. She seemed imprinted on his skin.

He took a shower, thirty minutes before dinner. Time flew as he reminisced about the past.

Jake tried to imagine what she was wearing for tonight but failed. He decided to wear jeans and black polo shirt.

And he also forgot to inform his sister about the additional guests! Jessica would be surprised.

But when he came down, he was shocked. Megan and two other girls were talking to Jessica as though they were long-time friends.

His eyes zoomed in on Megan automatically. Her short hair had red and silver streaks. She was wearing green contact lens and applied kohl to emphasize her eyes. Her lips wore red lipsticks.

She was wearing a black short skirt and a red hanging blouse with low neckline. Gold bangles adorned her right arm.

He was looking for the locket pendant but only a golden chain surrounded her neck.

Low black boots with stiletto heels encased her feet. She looked like a gentle vamp.

“I didn’t know you knew each other,” he greeted the four girls. His sister stood up to kiss him on the cheek.

“Thank you for inviting them here. I was dying to meet them. This is Shawna and Shaina. They’re also twins. They came here with their band members.” Jessica gushed excitedly. She was waving at the group of males.

“Come here. Meet my brother, Jake.”

He could identify Lancer and Gomer, but it seemed there were three more extra. It turned out that they manned the drums, the keyboard, and the trumpet. While the cousins handled lead and bass guitars, and the twin girls were the lead singers. They all wore black t-shirts and jeans.

Jake shook hands with all of them.

Megan just looked on, still smiling. She was on background mode again.

“There’s a slight change but, thanks to Meg, I managed. Oh, Vanessa wants you. She’s in the guest bedroom.” Jessica informed him chattily, and then went back to where they left off.

Megan ignored him. It was the first time and he was hurt. This must be how she felt in the past.

Jake asked what Vanessa wanted. It was something trivial. Was her hair too formal? Was wearing this blouse or that blouse appropriate? He didn’t remember what he answered.

The other guests arrived. The band was playing. Jessica was circulating, with Megan on tow, making sure they enjoyed the music.

David was forgotten. It was not important whether or not he had a partner.

Even their parents were pleasantly surprised by the dinner party. They were expecting the usual subdued atmosphere but they took everything in stride. They danced with the guests when the singing stopped.

The food was served in a buffet table. Some dishes were intended for sit-down dinner but they blended well with the cold cut meats and canape.

At last, Megan was alone in a corner. She was eating canape while checking up her phone.

“Care to dance?” Jake asked quietly.

“I don’t know how,” she blurted, clearly startled.

“I’ll teach you.” He pulled her from the seat, plucked the phone from her hand, and led her to the dance floor.

Jake breathed in her perfume when he was holding her close. She smelled of flowers.

Megan tried to put distance between them but in vain.

“Don’t worry stepping on my feet,” Jake whispered. His arms were like band around her. “Please stop wriggling. I don’t want to embarrass us.”

“Oh.” She stopped moving when his body responded.

“Now, where are we?” He started swaying with the music. She was like a cardboard at first, then his eyes stared at her face.

Unconsciously, she followed his lead. Megan could dance when her limbs began to relax.

“I was looking at old albums.” He saw that surprised her. “Like yours, I presume.”

“I didn’t know you have copies,” she said huskily.

“Mom always albumed everything in triplicates. One for me, for Jessica, and for you,” he explained. “You were in every photograph, but always in the background.”

Megan shrugged. “As you said, I was always in the background.”

Jake watched her for signs. “I’m sorry for hurting you in the past. I ignored you.”

“It’s in the past.”

“But I can’t ignore you now.”

“Jake, I am over you now. Let’s move on.” Megan was whispering desperately. Her teeth bit her under lip. “You have Vanessa and I am looking for someone.”

Jake was encouraged by ‘looking for someone.’ “Vanessa works for me. There’s nothing between us.”

“But Jessica said–” she stopped.

“What did Jessica say?” he asked absently. He was distracted by the locket pendant. It was hidden once again beneath the neckline.

“Nothing.”

“I’d like to be that someone you’re looking for.”

Her breath caught. “You’re more than I’m looking for, Jake. Because I’ll be looking for you in every man.”

A heartbeat…

“I say, we start again.” Their eyes spoke with each other. “Hi! I’m Jake. And you were–?” he prompted.

It was a minute before she could follow him. “I’m Megan,” she said shyly.

There was a flash everywhere. Jake’s Mom was busily storing memories with her camera.

“But I may not be what you’re looking for,” she continued when his Mom moved on. “I’m not your type of girl. I’ve changed or rather I’m trying to change.”

“Ssh… You’re changing for the better. And I think I like the new you.”

“You liked my hair and my outfit?” Her confidence was starting to bloom.

“Yes,” he said as his nose touched her nose.

“And Bambina?” she asked anxiously.

“Bambina? Who’s that?”

“The motorcycle.”

“Ah.” Jake circled the subject delicately. “Buy Bambina. I hope you’ll let me ride her though.”

“Oh, sure.” Megan’s arms went around him with joy. “But it will not be mine for long. It’s a wedding gift for Tita Elsa.”

Jake was momentarily speechless. He didn’t know this new development. “Your Tita Elsa is getting married?”

“Yes. Next month. To Tito Benito. He’s an Italian painter. They should be here tomorrow.”

The Italian painter turned out to be a divorcee with one daughter. His daughter was as flamboyant as a peacock. Both were older than the aunt and niece.

Vianne had the same hairstyle, though it suited Megan better.

Tita Elsa’s make-over was the most surprising. With the long hair gone and the old-fashioned clothes replaced by a shirt and capri pants, she looked younger.

“Jake, what a nice surprise! Of course, you and the whole family are invited.”

“Thank you,” he accepted graciously.

“Tita Elsa, Tito Benito, my wedding gift for you is ready.”

It turned out that the groom-to-be saw the motorcycle and called it Bambina.

Jake was invited to lunch. The food was pizza and pasta ordered from an Italian restaurant.

It was a revelation, watching Megan with her new family. She had more confidence. She laughed and smiled more.

“What are you smiling at?” She asked when they went outside in the garden after lunch. They were holding hands.

“I’m just glad because you’re more confident.” Jake grew serious. “I caused you heartbreak through your puberty age. I’m sorry.”

“You’re right when you told me that I was uncontrollable. I was desperate to have a happy family and I tried invading yours.”

“You were such a young thing and I guess, I was guilty of cradle snatching. I found myself thinking of you when you’re sixteen. I let myself believe that you’re boring and uninteresting.”

“Boring and uninteresting!”

He could see that Megan was being attacked with insecurities.

“But when you kissed me yesterday, I know I was kidding myself.”

“Oh, Jake!” She blushed but she let him kiss her again.

“May I see the locket?” He whispered while they were lying on the grass.

Silently, she unclasped the necklace. She laid the locket at the center of his palm.

He had guessed that the miniature pictures were of him and her, but he was not expecting them when they were children.

“Why do you choose these photographs?” Jake asked curiously.

“Because those were times that I really belong,” Megan replied. “I knew you were fond of me and I treasure those moments.”

“Oh, my Megan. I’ll never let you go!”

They got married after a year. They spent the courtship period of knowing one another all over again.

Megan grew her hair again to a manageable length and went back to her ladylike manners.

“I love you the way you are, Megan.”

“Thank you for loving me back, Jake.”

Inspired by the song, “Photograph” (Ed Sheeran).

Lyrics:

Photograph (Ed Sheeran)”

Loving can hurt
Loving can hurt sometimes
But it’s the only thing that I know
When it gets hard
You know it can get hard sometimes
It is the only thing that makes us feel alive

We keep this love in a photograph
We made these memories for ourselves
Where our eyes are never closing
Hearts are never broken
Times forever frozen still

So you can keep me
Inside the pocket
Of your ripped jeans
Holdin’ me closer
‘Til our eyes meet
You won’t ever be alone
Wait for me to come home

Loving can heal
Loving can mend your soul
And it’s the only thing that I know (know)
I swear it will get easier
Remember that with every piece of ya
And it’s the only thing we take with us when we die

We keep this love in this photograph
We made these memories for ourselves
Where our eyes are never closing
Our hearts were never broken
Times forever frozen still

So you can keep me
Inside the pocket
Of your ripped jeans
Holdin’ me closer
‘Til our eyes meet
You won’t ever be alone

And if you hurt me
That’s OK, baby, only words bleed
Inside these pages you just hold me
And I won’t ever let you go

Wait for me to come home [4x]

Oh you can fit me
Inside the necklace you got when you were 16
Next to your heartbeat
Where I should be
Keep it deep within your soul

And if you hurt me
Well, that’s OK, baby, only words bleed
Inside these pages you just hold me
And I won’t ever let you go

When I’m away
I will remember how you kissed me
Under the lamppost
Back on 6th street
Hearing you whisper through the phone,
“Wait for me to come home.”

(Courtesy: azlyrics.com)

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