Photograph

First it was like a hobby, now it's an obsession. Sam can't stop taking photos of this one girl in the library. He doesn't know her name, he hasn't spoken to her but he is unhealthily obsessed; yet he remains convinced nothing is wrong with him. He is so completely infatuated he can't see clearly, unknowing of the damage it will cause and the sacrifices he will make in the path to get what he wants. But how far will he really go?

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2. One


She was wearing plaid today. A mix of red and black cheque which meshed nicely with the dark tones of her hair. It was wavy and long as usual, tossed over one shoulder and tucked behind a nimble ear.  

Her porcelain white hands clutched a book and her red painted finger nails matched her outfit perfectly. How she could sit there and always look so picturesque, so elegant, so wonderful, I never understood. It was almost as though she had powers, powers which always found me reaching for my phone to take a snap.  

I had many photos of her, all in different outfits. Blue, pink, orange, brown, more blue, some floral. She had a wide array of clothing; and she always looked beautiful.  

I imagined she would smell like flowers if I ever got close enough to her. Sweet blossom or something of the sort, with a hint of fresh grass too. I didn't know for sure but the sound and thought of it was pleasant anyway. 

I found myself yet again trying to line up the camera so the photo would be similar to all the others. It was made easier by how she would always sit in that same spot at the same time. I could pretty much get each of the photos perfectly aligned. 

They were like a set of Polaroids as I cut each into squares. They would have been identical but throughout the pictures her clothes changed and the style of her hair. She sometimes wore it in plaits, other times in a bun or a new favourite of hers, two (I think what the girls called it) space buns. 

My favourite was when she had it down loose, because it flowed nicely around her, like a shimmering sheet of mermaid's hair; it had such a shiny quality about it. There seemed to be some magical glow about her. 

"You know it's kind of creepy, right?" a voice cut through my concentration. 

Their sudden presence annoyed me instantly.  

I cleared my throat and shifted my eyes round to the face which was staring down at me. I knew who it was without even looking properly. She wore too much highlighter, it virtually lit her face up like a Christmas tree. Only Mel would do that. 

Maybe she liked it the way it was, but I didn’t. The new trend seemed to be popping highlighter, or whatever they wanted to call it, but hers, it was too much. I didn't want to be startled by reflected light every time I looked at her.  

"Huh?" I went for a blunt reply, shutting off the camera and putting my phone down to try and avoid any more remarks.  

She rolled her eyes and quickly sighed as she plopped into the seat opposite me. "You're such a oblivious idiot, ain't you!"  

I furrowed my brow at her, trying not to be too overly offended by her comment. "Well you aren't so bright either, Mel." I tried not to snap at her but it came out rather angrily. It caused me internal amusement that she was in fact very bright, just not in the brains department.  

"Woah, Sam. Insulting me back now are we! Lovely." Her voice dripped of sarcasm and she laughed but I could see in her face that she'd actually taken it to heart. Mel shrugged largely, trying again to cover it up, still staring at me with a pointed look. She continued, "whatever, Sammywammy. I only put up with you 'cause I need lifts here and back... But you could at least try to be nice." I wished she hadn't called me that. 

Her expression turned into a frown. I would usually snap back but I suppressed the urge and continued to say nothing. She resorted to picking at the dead skin around her finger nails. I hated it when she did that.  

She would occasionally glare at me which became rather annoying. She seemed expecting of an answer, for me to say something. I guessed it would break the awkward, glaring silence that had erupted. 

I tried not to sigh too loud before talking to her again. "Sorry," I apologised but it was said in such a dull tone I don't think I was very sorry.  

"Whatever," she dismissed my apology.  

I cast my eyes away from Mel as she then rummaged in her bag for a nail file. My eyes fell again on the plaid wearing girl, across the room, and I avoided the urge to take another photo. Mel would only call me a creep again. Not that her opinion mattered to me. 

"I bet your dumb excuse is that it's a project, right?" Mel chipped in again and I realised she had noticed me staring across the room for the second time. She was busy filing away at her nails, the grating, gravely sound being too aggravating to ignore.  

"It's called photography," I told her, gripping my phone in my hand tightly. She didn't understand. She would never understand. No one would.  

I needed to take my photo. It had to fit in to my chronological bank of portraits. I had them saved on my phone, they were in order and made me feel happy. 

"Have you even asked whether you can take photos of her?" Mel interjected again. The nail grating continued.  

"I don't share them, she doesn't need to know," I said unable to keep the brewing bitterness out of my voice. Mel needed to stop asking questions like that. It was none of her business.  

"Not sure she'd like it," she continued distastefully. "Really quite weird you taking all these pictures of her. Literally seen you do it every day for  a while."  

"Well, how do you know? Isn't it creepy that you've also been staring at me?" I argued back, trying to get rid of the image in my head of pushing her out of her chair. I convinced myself I wasn't mean enough for that. 

She laughed a blunt laugh. "You really don't have no sense."  

I ignored her as best I could, flicking through the few photos I had taken today. I checked at least one was okay before standing up from my seat. I would have liked to take more to ensure it was the best but Mel clearly wouldn't let me.  

"Finally, we're leaving then," Mel said triumphantly as she pulled herself up from her seat. She chucked the nail file into her bag and strutted in my wake as I made my way to the exit. I heard her mumble with irritation, "been waiting for goddamn hours it seems like!"   

"Well walk faster then," I loudly called over my shoulder as I fished my keys out of my pocket.  

We whizzed down the corridor and a flight of stairs, keeping a little distance between us. I didn't exactly want to walk with her. I would be sitting in the car with her for an hour, so I wanted to spend as much of my time right now not looking or being directly with her.  

However, being in her presence was inevitable as we got to the car park. I spotted my car near the gates where I had parked it this morning. It wasn't gleaming in the sun like Mel's face. It was positively matte and the green paint was peeling.  

Mel got to the car before me, trying to open the door before I had even unlocked it.  

"Be patient," I told her angrily, shoving the key into the lock on the drivers side. It was quite a old car so it didn't do any of this automatic unlocking as I walked up to it, like modern cars did.  

She made an irritated noise, hauling the door open and slamming her bag down onto the floor of the car.  

"Don't break it either!" I almost yelled at her, crossly climbing into the drivers seat. She was being particularly moody today and it was bothering me.  

She cussed at me and I tried not to snap back, busying myself with starting up the car. It didn't start at first and Mel of course had to comment on it, "I keep telling you it's well broken, you need a new one!"   

"Unlike you Miss Rich, I don't have the money for that," I told her for what must have been the twentieth time. We'd discussed it so many times it was getting tedious.  

I finally started the car successfully, shifting it into reverse so that we could get out of the parking space and on the way home.  

"Thank fuck. I ain't never walking home," she complained. Her bad English had always annoyed me. 

"How are you not fat?" I couldn't stop myself saying out loud.  

"How are you not in prison for being a freak?" She covered her wounded looking facial expression with argumentative words. I'd observed that she always insulted me to avoid letting on about her own hurt at what I said. I could still see it in her face and body language though. She seemed to draw her shoulders down, hug herself more with her arms, like she was trying to protect herself.  

I could have felt sorry, I could have told myself I was mean and I needed to stop but I never could. Something about her always irritated me and I could never form any kind of friendship with her.  

No matter how many hours we had spent over the years, in cars, going to school together, first with my mum driving us and now with me driving, we had never really got along soundly. There was that one week in year 10 when I had been strangely attracted to her but that feeling was long gone. I now cringe at my past feelings and thoughts.  

"Just drive, I wanna go home," she snapped at me when I had hesitated at a turning.  

"Do you want me to crash?" I grumbled, gripping the steering wheel tighter.  

I cast a look across at her. She appeared angry and impatient. Her eyes were scrunched below her bucket fringe of silvery white which went too well with her face highlighter. The rest of her hair was a bob crop of badly dyed black hair showing blonde at the roots.  

I don't know why she chose to have her hair like that, god knows what goes on in her brain. I can only hasten a guess that she wanted to be different from the rest. I  just personally didn't see the appeal in it. 

Mel spoke up again with more questions. "Seriously though, that girl in the library, do you even know who she is?" She paused slightly. "What's her name?" 

I felt my heart pound harder as I thought about the answers, uncomfortable with how it made me feel. Clearing my throat I said quietly, "no." It saddened me I didn't have a name to put to her face.   

"See, that's well creepy!" Mel exclaimed too loudly for comfort as we passed people walking home with the windows down. I didn't want the whole world hearing about me supposedly being a creep. Even if it was just Mel's opinion, no one needed to hear that. 

"You don't know when to shut up, do you?" I snapped back at her, my knuckles turning white as I gripped the steering wheel. 

She snorted of laughter and I caught a glimpse of her rolling her eyes. Typical. 

I focused instead on driving correctly as I had been faintly distracted by Mel from sticking to the highway code. I didn't want to crash after all, my insurance was enough already and I didn't need more reason to be annoyed at her. 

"I just wanna drive," she muttered more to herself, sounding perplexed. 

I knew her dad wouldn't let her have lessons as he called driving dangerous. She wasn't allowed to do anything that could injure her. Given that I was surprised he trusted me to drive her to school as I wasn't the best driver. I guess it helped my case that he'd know me for a long time so he thought better of me than he should. 

I'd lived next door to them since I was 5 and we'd always shared lifts because of the limited busses that came to our little village. He trusted me because of that. I didn't think he should have or maybe I just didn't want to drive Mel anymore. It was probably the latter. 

"You know what," Mel started speaking again and I focused on her voice reluctantly, "I ain't gonna just sit there and watch you stare at her no more, I'm going to force you to talk to her." 

I stumbled over words before only being able to utter a small, "no." 

"Shut up, Sam. You obviously like her or some shit. You're gonna talk to her, rather than just stare like a creep, okay?" She said it in such an orderly voice it annoyed me. Why did she have to say this? 

"I'm not going to do anything," I told her quickly, my voice taking on a firmer quality than my previous 'no'. 

"If you don't I'll go over and tell her how much of a creep your being," she threatened and I felt myself become hotter with anger. 

"Why are you doing this?" I snapped at her. "It's none of your business." 

Mel almost laughed as she replied, "It ain't none but whatever." She paused slightly and I glared at her. "I see you in the library always staring. If you like her that much you need to talk to her or you'll be sitting staring like a creep forever." 

I nearly went off the road I was so angry. I could feel it bubbling up. I didn't want to talk to the library girl, I didn't like her in that way. I just liked to take my photo every day, it was a routine thing. 

"For the last time, I am not a creep!" I almost yelled finally finding some words. Why did it have to sound so feeble? 

She laughed again. "Whatever." 

I went back to observing the road more carefully my face hot and my hands sweaty from how uncomfortable I felt. It was hard to grip the steering wheel properly. 

But why did it bother me so much? Mel was annoying but I could always ignore what she said. Not now. Something about what she said bothered me more than it should. She'd said that I obviously liked the girl in the library but I thought I didn't... It wasn't like that. 

So why was I so scared about being forced to talk to her? 

 

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