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LONG AFTER THESE PAGES ARE FILLED

A wooden picture frame rested on the shelf. Its contents: a woman with midnight hair clutching a leather-bound notebook, smiling. He couldn’t look at her, not like this. A vintage Audio-Technica turntable invited his marbled gaze. From the cabinet, he slid out a record. He didn't bother checking what it was. They all sang the blues. His sweaty hands lifted the cloudy covering of the record player. He hovered the vinyl over the machine. Not without struggle, it fell into place.

 

The needle dropped and caught the groove. Crackles from the oscillation filled the room like smoke. He stumbled backwards, eyes glued to the photograph. He reached his hand behind him, like he was searching through the dark. He struggled to balance, avoiding tipped furniture. A chair greeted him. He sank. His head flew back and spun, in harmony with the 12-bar blues.

 

“This spot is perfect.”

“Which way does it come up?”

“Just over that bend.”

“Get the camera out, I don't want you to miss it.” – He wouldn't.

“It’s almost time!” – She stands on her tiptoes to be the first person to greet the day.

What else would tomorrow rather gaze upon?

Rather than peek, the sun explodes from behind the trees, setting the forest and his heart ablaze.

She dances to Mother Nature’s glorious song: the birds, the breeze, and the suns morning yawn.

“Did you get the shot?”

Paralysis sets in.

She jolts around to read him.

Twin stars rest between her ears; their triplet idles over her shoulder.

“I got you something.”

Her mumbled beginning of, “What?” is cut off by a shaking outstretched arm. 

One leather-bound notebook is exchanged for an explosion of joy more powerful than any life-giving star.

She tightly presses it to her heart, to keep it from leaping from her chest.

The Nikon snaps.

The shot of a lifetime: a memory, of a person, for a lifetime.

“Got it.”

 

The record fell silent. The needle rose, reset, and rested. His head snapped. He nestled his face in his hands and wept. He couldn’t recall how the sun looked that autumn morning, only what she looked like shielding that notebook from the world. The words written on the inside cover rattled in his head. A promise that would never be: “Long after these pages are filled.”

  

R. Thomas

S: Long After: Text
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