by Amaranth

DISCLAIMER: I don・t own anything that isn・t mine.

A family, together. The father, his face barely beginning to show lines, still brimming with youth. Eyes bright with life, a half-smile quirking around his lips. The mother, caught in a brief moment of gaiety, her mouth broadening into a smile, her eyes holding no foreshadowing of death. And a girl, young, held close by two parents, smiling, love for them evident in her face as she tilts it towards her father.

A Latina, face lined with care, but traces of a former beauty still there to see. A stray lock of hair had escaped her tight up-do; the camera had caught her in the act of straightening it. Somehow, that small gesture, hand curled towards the face, removed any bit of artificiality that might have remained in the scene, as she forgot to smile perfectly and smiled naturally, instead.

A young woman and man, arms around each other, mugged for the photographer in front of Big Ben. The photo was ripped and frayed, even melted along one corner, but it was kept.

A horde of blonde heads, some young, some old. It seemed too many for merely one family. With so many people, it would be difficult to focus on anyone, yet the eye is drawn to a woman, center left, forty-ish, with her first strands of grey beginning to show. Her face holds such a sense of strength, bravery, endurance, that one is momentarily unable to look away.

A mother and father. Two children, a boy and a girl. All dark-skinned, all beautiful. They are evenly spaced, with false smiles pasted on their faces. None look directly at the camera, as if afraid to show that all is not well.

A hodge-podge, mother and father, biological son and adopted daughter. The photo has a special place, surrounded by the dead husks of flowers. They fill the air with a certain mustiness, reminiscent of sadness and grief.

A woman, by herself. No family. No friends. Upon first viewing, it seems uncertain as to why the shot was taken; she is merely sitting at a desk, glancing up with a surprised look on her face. Surprise, and something else. Loneliness, perhaps. Then one notices that the shot not only envelopes her, but also the set of pictures, each with a different set of students, hanging on the wall behind her. They have a place of prominence, standing alone from the diplomas and other legal papers that are also framed and hanging.

A man and young woman, red-haired, sturdy. There is love; they do not touch, do not look at each other, but it・s there, nonetheless.

And, then, the one she is interested in. A group of people, two adults and seven children, in front of a stand of trees. Most smiling, one girl laughing. She sees herself, on the ground at the laugher・s feet, looking towards the camera with an air of puzzlement and curiosity.

She smiles and reaches for the picture in its frame, but doesn・t touch. She doesn・t want to break it, to slash it like she does so many things. She does not understand many things in this, her new life, but there is something over which there is no confusion, a concept that is clear as glass.

The wall of pictures.

Each one, a family.

The last one, as well. With one important difference.

It・s her family.