She thought she was hearing things –possibly the jostling of a doorknob, the tipping over of a lamp, or the jumble of hurried footsteps. The imagined sounds made her uncomfortably alert in her bedroom as she picked at the framed, metal corner of a photograph, and she felt compelled to check her surroundings every few minutes, gently twisting her neck over her shoulder to spy on whoever or whatever may be peeking at her from behind her open door. Her observations would always be the same. No one was ever there. No one was ever wondering what she was doing, sitting on the edge of her bed and scratching her nails across the indestructible frame of a photograph.
Of course, it would make sense that no one would disturb her. She lived alone, and she was alone with the black and white photograph in her room, her most personal space. Perhaps she knew that no soul would honestly barge in on a whim or intentionally mole about her business like a sleuth, but she prepared herself for interruptions nonetheless. The moment was to be between her and the photograph only, and yet one would think that if she truly desired the seclusion and privacy for a brief moment, she'd have closed the bedroom door. But it remained open, the wide entrance waiting to be used as if it knew that she'd run out of it at any moment.
She restrained herself from picking at the corners of the metal frame and withdrew her hands from the photograph, allowing it to lie on a downward angle as it gently slid off her lap. Her arms had barely crossed for a second before she went to grab the photo again, her hands gripping it tightly as she gazed at the blurry face staring back at her. And soon, the hazy lines and shadows that defined the flat face melted and dripped into a chaotic slurry of whites, blacks and grays. She let them run wet as water splashed onto the glass surface and the frame had become more of a window pane, repelling rain as a shower hovered by.
Blindly she allowed herself to distort the memory which she held so dear, unintentionally ruining the face that she had adored, smearing the features of a young man whom she had whispered to for a vast chunk of her life. And she could feel no regret for what she had done. She did not even see the danger in her tears. All she could breathe was sorrow, a sorrow so gorged with cold that it was overflowing, gushing out of the corners of her eyes in a desperate pursuit to run away. Her hands, however consistently flying to her eyes to catch the streams, could not dam the flood. The photo was drowning.
Her fingers had gone slippery, coated with slick water that bore no claws to cling onto that which it touched. It had no sense to grasp, to hold, to clutch. It had no intent to either. It wanted for those fated subjects to slip from its arms; a small accident to result when the objects fell onto solid ground, crying to be remembered.
The doorbell rang and the sound choked her as it reverberated in her house. The tears were drawn back, recollected and swallowed, and she, in her blurred sense of ambition, rose from the side of the bed with no consciousness of the photograph in her lap. It was still wet with her runoff and it slid off her as she ran through her open bedroom door. Its metal corner hit the wooden floor with a dumb thud before falling over on its face. The window pane shattered and the glass spilled from below, the photo's face turned to darkness.
She answered the door after she had wiped her face with her hands, and there he stood on the other side, a box and bouquet in his hands.
"I'm not late, am I?" he asked, smiling for her as her frozen fingers extended for the gifts.
"No," she said, her lips curving upward. "You're quite early."
He welcomed himself in and took off his black hat. His face was pale from the chill of the winter rain outside and his grey eyes reflected some sort of sorrow she could not understand.
"I bought you a gift," he said after a while, gesturing towards the box she held in her hands. She was excited to open it and she lifted the box lid daintily.
Her eyes locked on the intricate metal frame with a disturbed curiosity. She looked up at him and then glanced over her shoulder, and she picked up the picture frame with shaking hands, not knowing what to say.
"Is something wrong?" he questioned, leaning forward, but she recoiled. Something terrified her in the empty photo frame and she glanced at her front door, relieved that she had left it open.
He could not catch her. She flew out before he had the chance, and he stood bemused in his spot, eyes on the door and on the places where her feet had leapt through. He knew her well enough to know she would return. She had no place to go and so he needn't worry over her.
But as he turned to find his seat again, the empty frame glistened under his eye and he was surprised to see that when he looked at it, his face was mirrored in the glass.