the beginning of them
The wall was covered, floor to ceiling, corner to corner, every square inch, with millions upon millions of photographs.
Each Polaroid displayed the face, the features, the limbs, the fingers, the feet, the skin, the silhouette, the profile of Jeriah Hean. Some were of a grinning little girl, some of mature young woman. One look at the wall and you knew all of two things. The first being that this Jeriah Hean, whoever she was, was very beautiful, perhaps intelligent, maybe funny. You saw tenderness in eyes trained at the camera lens, you saw adventure in her stance as she stood at the head of a waterfall. You saw bliss in the head thrown back, sunlight washing over the curved planes of her face, slightly crooked teeth exposed as soft lips drew back in a laugh.
The second being that whoever took these pictures, every single one, loved Jeriah Hean very much.
And the particular photographer who I refer to? He did indeed love Jeriah Hean. In fact, Sidney Pylvoan, or Sid, had loved Jeriah Hean since they had first met, when he was eight. He had just a disposable Kodak at the time, the 25 slots nearly all filled up.
July 13, 1999
No, daisies were too normal. He would have to pick something else... Something more interesting.
He was picking his shots carefully, so as not to waste a single one, in the Golden Gate Park. His too-short blue jeans revealed the new white-and-yellow sneakers and matching socks, his baggy red sweater dipping far past his hips. His mother, Lilly, strolled hand-in-hand with Sid's younger sister George, who had been a wise-beyond-her-years five year old, several yards behind him on the path.
Sid rushed from plant to plant, stopping at nearly every strange tree's bark, examining and inspecting. He had three pictures left; what should he use them on? Excitement and anxiety tickled down his spine at the thousands of choices spread before him. This place was full of stuff!
And then there she was.
A while down the path, she bent down and sprinkled a handful of thick bread crumbs from a large, nearly-empty plastic bag. A young family of ducks waddled past her, pecking at the tasty treats she had given them. She straightened, smiling fondly down at her new friends. She had soft-looking, fly-away light brown hair to her chin, and a soft, skinny build. She wore a white turtleneck beneath a dark green corduroy jumper that hung to her knees, with a small pink rose embedded at the neckline. Mary Jane's and frilly white socks adorned her small feet. She looked around his age, maybe a little younger. Seven?
Sid almost dropped his Kodak. She was so beautiful. Little shocks began spreading all through him, spanning from his eyes to his fingertips to his toes. He grabbed the camera and held it up to his eyes, trying to keep his hands from shaking. Once he was certain she could be seen, he snapped the picture. And then another. And then another.
He was all out. Dull panic and despair gripped him; three pictures of this strange and beautiful creature wasn't nearly enough! The girl took the hand of a tall, kind-looking man who had the same color hair, and together they kept coming, closer and closer to where he stood, oblivious to him entirely.
"Siiiidney! Siiiidney!" George called, almost whining. "Sidney wait uuup!"
Sid glanced back at George with annoyance. "Why don't you hurry up!" he shouted, cupping his hand around his mouth.
"Sid!" Lilly chided. "Sid, come on back. Have you finished the roll yet?"
He let out a frustrated sigh, turning back to meet them halfway, dejectedly discarding the image of the mysterious girl. What did it matter? He would never see her again, anyway. She hadn't even seen him. And this was a girl. Girls were gross. At least, every girl he had met so far had been gross, except for his mom. How could she ever be any different?
Suddenly there was a loud thud behind him. He spun around instinctively, and watched while the girl gripped her knee where she had fallen on the ground. The man was crouched beside her, concerned. A few people stopped and stared for a minute.
The man tried to help her up, but she fought against him, a brief spasm taking hold of her.
"Ooooh," she moaned, eyes squeezed shut. "Dad, it hurts." A short hiss escaped from between her clenched teeth, and Sid could see blood oozing out from under her tight fingers.
Sid was immediately at her side, Kodak forgotten in the dirt. He got on his knees and touched her shoulder. She opened her eyes and looked at him with a mix of fear and bewilderment.
"Who are you?"
"Oh! Uh, um. Are you okay?"
"Sidney?" came Lilly's fast-approaching voice. "Sidney, what's going on?"
"Is this your son?" the man asked Lilly, nodding towards the strange boy touching his daughter.
"Yes… Is something wrong?"
"Who are you?" the girl asked Sid again, staring at him with concentration, the fear gone, but confusion lingering. "Why are you…?"
He took his hand away, realizing the mistake he had made. He looked like a fool. "Um, I… Sorry. About, you know, um... Hope your knee's okay..." He stood and straightened his pants, face blazing.
"I'm so sorry," Lilly apologized fervently to the man. He laughed good-naturedly as he helped his daughter up off the ground, now that she had the pain under control.
"It's no problem," he reassured Lilly. "The little guy was just concerned, is all, it seems to me."
"Thanks… I don't know what got into him." George sidled up beside her mother, half-way hiding behind her gray peasant skirt. "And we're going to have to get a band-aid on that, hon," Lilly said to the girl, gesturing to the large scab located high up on her kneecap. "Lucky I always keep a few spares."
"Oh! Thank you," the girl's father said. Lilly waved his thanks away and knelt before the girl, peeling the band-aid from its wrapper and gently applying it to the cut. She winced, but didn't move away.
"There. All better." Lilly beamed. "The name's Lilly, by the way," she said to the man, standing and offering her hand.
"Kevin," he replied, shaking it firmly. "And this is Jeriah," he said, putting his arm around the girl's small shoulders. "She's quite the tough cookie, this one."
"As she's shown us," Lilly said. She let out a laugh and mussed Sid's hair. "The caretaker of the family here is Sidney."
"I'm not a caretaker," I mumbled. "And it's Sid, not Sidney."
Kevin laughed heartily, and continued to chat with Lily about something or other. All Sid could pay attention to was Jeriah. He stared at her, taking in her face, now that he was given a better view. Her eyes were hidden by lowered lids, her lashes thick and colored a bronzed beige, like the rest of her hair.
Jeriah, however, didn't take much notice of Sid, plucking cornflowers from the foliage all around them and twining the spindly green stems into one little braid. She then tucked the tiny, purpley-blue bouquet behind her ear, letting it rest in the crook between the top of her ear and her head. It was mesmerizing.
"You're pretty," George said boldly, stepping out from behind Lilly, and taking a fistful of my shirt, looking with curious admiration at Jeriah. The adults continued to chat it up, completely oblivious to the words exchanged below them.
Jeriah looked at George, with her dark hair and her blue eyes and her swirly homemade tie-dye shirt. She smiled.
"Really? You think so?"
George nodded. "Yeah."
"Thanks. I think you're pretty, too. I wish my eyes were that color."
She shrugged. "Yours are better. They're green." The girls smiled at each other.
"I'm Sid," he said suddenly. Jeriah looked at him like she would look at a strange science experiment.
"Yeah, I know. Your mom said."
"I'm eight." He was desperate.
"She's George," he said, jabbing his sister in the arm.
"George?" Jeriah cocked her head. "Isn't that a boy's name?"
"Yeah, but it's also a girl's name, but most people don't know it. My mom always wanted her name to be George. She begged her mom to change it when she was little, and even almost legally changed it when she turned eighteen. So in a way, she was kind of naming her after herself. Like dads sometimes do, like Jr. and stuff. Isn't that really weird?" he blurted. Both girls stared at him for a few seconds.
"Hey, Jeriah, can you show me how to make one of those flower things?" George asked, walking up to her new friend and taking her hand. Jeriah giggled.
"Sure, George." They both giggled. "What colors do you want?" Sid heard her asking as they wandered away. He was left alone with the parents now, a huge hole in his chest, leaking jealousy and hurt. He was extremely disappointed. That had gone all wrong!
"Hey, where'd they go?" Lilly asked a few minutes later. "I could've sworn they were just here…"
"They went off to make flower bunches," Sid said flatly.
"Girls," Kevin laughed, as if that explained everything.
Nine years later
And now Sid sat on the smooth bleached wood of his room, knees up and arms hooped around them. He stared at his wall, at all of the pictures that, all of them put together like this, nearly equaled his perception of Jeriah Hean. He reached out and tugged one from its place, as he sometimes did. This particular still-shot, taken only last year, was a close-up of Jeriah's bare naval, with her index, middle, and ring fingers splayed out across it. You could clearly see the tiny gray rose tattoo embedded on the right side of her middle finger, the long, spiked stem reaching all the way down to grace her palm, disappearing from view.
He had been with her when she got that tattoo, a little more than three years ago. They had been fourteen, their families vacationing together in Santa Cruz for a long weekend. Everyone had settled down on the beach for the afternoon, and Jeriah pulled Sid aside, whispering in his ear her plan: "I want to get a tattoo." She shushed him as he began to protest. "Shut up, just hear me out. We can get away from the 'rents easily. They're basically asleep already, see? Come with me. We'll be gone maybe forty minutes. Come with me." And of course he had. He held her hand as the burly woman poked her needle into Jeriah's tender finger again and again and again. Jeriah only whimpered once, and was almost in tears as they left the shop, but she was smiling.
Sid sighed. He gently re-tacked the photo in its rightful place, and stood. He turned, watched with sleepy, loving eyes his Jeriah, in all her real, warm-blooded, beautiful glory. She lay tucked up in a sleeping ball under his plaid comforter where he left her, his side of the bed rumpled and empty. He carefully climbed in beside her, throwing the blanket back over himself. With a content sigh, he carefully wrapped his arms around her, nestling his face deep into her shoulder.
Together they drifted back to sleep, oblivious entirely to the sun creeping up over the world, sending rays of pale yellow in every direction. Pink and blue tainted the full sky. Their feet were warm.
heylo, new reader! thanks for reading. maybe you liked it, maybe you hated it?
i hope that whoever read this (meaning you! yes, you!) liked it enough to keep with it until the second chapter comes out (actually, i guess its actually going to be the first chapter, because this was the prologue...).
please review! i want five reviews before i post the second chapter! and yes, i realize this is probably asking a lot, but hey! im a pretentious person, why not?