Family Portrait

“Pose for the picture, my pretty girl,” Says the husband to the wife. She smiles, there’s nothing natural to it. Her pearl white teeth gleam, her cheeks topped with a rosy tint, but there is nothing natural to her about that smile. For him, it’s just right.

“Again, Again,” he teases her. She tilts her head down to make her eyes look like saucers, and raises her eyebrows at the camera to make herself look like a virgin asking to go to bed. This pleases him more.

“Pose for the picture, my pretty girls,” and she picks up the baby, holds it in her hands. “That’s it, a big smile from both my girls.” And she nestles his child in her arms, peering up at the camera, emanating a motherly glow she does not feel. Her baby’s laughter, that’s real, and her lack of interest in the baby is real too. A little to the left, a little to the right. Click. Click. Click.

The camera irritates the baby; the man goes downstairs to find the pacifier. Before he’s back, the baby calms down. The woman sets the camera on a bookshelf, sets the self-timer. She holds the baby, marketing it to the world. She does not want it. What does she do with herself? She does nothing. She puts down the smile, puts down the glow, puts them on the shelf next to the camera out of its sight. Click.

She goes to see the picture. The baby is smiling, its head tilted slightly, wondering what it is it should be looking at. Perhaps it sees its mother’s accessories on the shelf and is perplexed why she is not wearing them. Her baby’s face is soft and round, the blonde tuft of her hair nearly invisible in the black and white picture. Wisps of the woman’s dark hair tickle her baby’s head. Her sharp features contrast those of his child. The woman is only a stand for the baby. She is blank, an anger hidden just beneath the eyes. Cold. Delete.

The husband comes back, sees she’s set the timer. “Great! Let’s take a family photo,” He comes over and takes the baby. “Here we go, a smile from both my girls” he says through his clenched teeth, already posed in perfect position. He puts an arm around his wife. She bears it for a moment, and she lets her features paint a smile.

“The baby blinked.” Delete. “One more, one more.” He sets the timer again and steps into his position once more, just as he was before. This time, the woman does not smile. Again, she lets herself be, takes off each visage to leave only her as she is. No happy wife, no happy mother, just Ellen. Click.

The husband runs to the camera, expecting a portrait of his happy family. “You look so sad,” he criticizes. No concern, only disapproval.

Ellen puts the baby down. “Honey-”

“It’s alright, you must have been about to blink or something. We’ll do it again.”

He sets the camera up and pulls her in next to him by her waist. “Come on, how about one more with just me and my pretty girl.”

She could not fight him, did not bother, the potential strength of his arms made her own frail frame quiver. And she smiled, an apologetic smile directed towards her future self, the one who would remember this as an encapsulated moment of missed opportunity, a missed chance at escape.

Isabella Chirico
Age 16, Grade 11
Packer Collegiate Institute
Gold Key

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