'Did you hear the news?' one girl asked her younger sister as they walked home from school.
'No,' replied the other, confused.
'Lulu Du Lawrence is dead.' The girl, whose name was Sadie, paused impressively. Her younger sister still looked confused.
'Who's Lulu Du Lawrence?'
Sadie rolled her eyes. 'You know who Lulu Du Lawrence is, Carrie! She's a movie actress. Remember last time we went to town to watch a film in the cinema?'
'Yes,' said Carrie slowly. The realization dawned on her. 'Oh. Was she that pretty woman with the black hair who married the main character?'
'Yes,' said Sadie, swinging her satchel and kicking at the caked dust of the road. 'We've got a photo of her at home. She's the woman in that picture hanging in the spare bedroom.'
'I remember her now!' said Carrie. 'That's so sad that she died.'
'She was only twenty something,' said Sadie. The two walked along in silence, passing the freshly sown fields of crops until they reached the opening into the narrow lane which led to their cottage. They continued along it, brushing past wild honeysuckle and blushing pink roses.
Sadie opened the front door and the two girls clattered in, dumping their school satchels in the hallway and kicking off their boots. Sadie went into the kitchen and Carrie heard her cutting hunks of cheese for their afternoon tea. Carrie hesitated a second, and then slipped into the spare bedroom.
She had seen the picture before, hanging above the bed in a thin black frame. The picture was glossy - it had been torn from a magazine many years ago. It was black and white, and showed a woman who was looking over her shoulder at the camera. Carrie knelt on the bed and stared into the face of the woman. She had never noticed before how beautiful the woman was; the delicate contour of her lips, the flecks of light caught in her eyes, the fragile shadow threaded under her jawbone. Softly, Carrie ran her finger down the woman's hair, tracing the curls and ringlets which caught the light. There was something so fragile about the picture, distant and faded around the edges, now that Carrie knew the woman was dead.
That afternoon, as Carrie and Sadie sipped their milk and ate their bread and cheese on the back verandah under the shade of the old magnolia tree, Sadie turned on the radio. It crackled like torn toast as she twisted the knob to get to the right station, until a man's voice began.
'Beloved film actress Lulu Du Lawrence has been confirmed dead. The acclaimed actress died yesterday night, and sources say that she died alone…'
Over the next few days, the papers were full of photographs of Lulu Du Lawrence. In some she was smiling and laughing or with her arm around someone, but mostly she gazed somewhere beyond the camera, her eyelashes clumped with beads of light and her lips parted as though exhaling a final breath of paper and ink.
Always Carrie ran her hand over these photos, but her fingertips were always met with newsprint and ink; the slender barrier between the living and the dead, and the present from the past.
The news was full with her for weeks. Always there was more to report, more to say, more to discuss, more, more. Her name appeared on the radio, her face in the newspapers, her words on the wilting wind as it ruffled the fresh shoots sprouting like green down from the fields. She was called a miracle, a star, an angel sent to bless the earth with her beauty and talent.
One evening, Carrie sat at her dressing table mirror. She was supposed to be tucked up in bed, but she couldn't sleep. Slowly she unplaited her hair and ran her fingers through it, feeling the warmth and life under her fingers. She moved her bedside candle up beside the mirror and tilted her head back, letting inky drops of candlelight catch in her lashes. They danced and reflected in her eyes like little lanterns threaded over water. They were never still, not like those moonlit pools depicted in printer's ink day after day.
Carrie got up suddenly, and tiptoed into her sister's room. Sadie was lying in bed, her hair spread over the pillow. Her eyes were open, Carrie could see flecks of moonlight reflected in her eyes.
'Sadie,' whispered Carrie. 'Could I snuggle up?'
Sadie sighed, but she rolled over and let Carrie slip in under the quilt. Carrie nestled up to Sadie, feeling her warmth and breathing in her comforting smell of fresh linen and the soap with which she washed her hair.
'What is it?' Sadie asked softly.
Carrie fiddled with the edge of the sheet, which was hemmed with lace washed one too many times. 'Sadie, why do we have to die?' she asked.
Sadie was silent, and the two girls watched the moon rise through the crack in the curtains. The window was a little open, and Carrie heard the wind give a faint breath, bringing with it the smell of fresh earth and new growth.
'I don't know,' said Sadie. 'No one does. The earth spins and the stars shine and everything has an end. That's just what happens.'
'Everything has an end,' murmured Carrie.
Nothing lasted forever, not even the beauty of Lulu Du Lawrence. Eventually her memory would bleed back into the universe, the photographs would fade and her name would fall weightless on unfamiliar tongues. Her beauty could not take breath away when there was no more breath to give. The only thing left behind would be the glass over the photo and the ink on the newsprint: the eternal barriers between the present and the past.