52 Week Short Story Challenge #7 – Double Exposure

board-52-week-short-story-challenge-graphicThis week’s prompt came from the mind behind the 52 Week Short Story Challenge, SM Cadman!

sunday-prompt-mineI really enjoyed this one, in case you couldn’t tell when you’re reading it. It took me forever to put it up, though, mainly because I had a stressful couple of days at work and by the time I could get to wifi to post it my hair was wet and it was cold outside. First world problem, I know.

Double Exposure

“Welcome to Photo Express, how may I help you?” The photo technician behind the counter was almost too friendly and Emily smiled at him.

“I have some pictures for Emily Perrine,” she said. “I uploaded them about half an hour ago.”

“I think those just finished printing,” the tech said. “Let me go take a look.” He turned and went through a small door into the back of the lab and Emily looked around. A variety of photo products were arranged on the shelves, from hardcover books with smiling kids on the front to t-shirts with more smiling kids on them. There was even what looked like a stadium blanket and she lifted the corner to see if there was a price tag, curious to see how much someone would pay for a blanket with their kids’ faces on it.

“It’s ridiculous,” a voice from the counter said. It didn’t sound like the photo tech, and Emily turned to see who had spoken. There was only one other person in the photo lab, a young woman who looked about the same age as Emily. Her dark hair fell around her face in thick curls so perfect they could have come out of a magazine, and she was wearing a blousy tank top under a thin cardigan. A long necklace, dark skinny jeans and flats completed the look, and Emily felt like she should have put something a little nicer than yoga pants and a baggy t-shirt. It was a nice t-shirt, but it wasn’t in this other girl’s league.

“Excuse me?”

“The blanket. The price is ridiculous.” The brunette looked up at Emily, tucking a curl behind her ear and making her self-conscious about her red ponytail. She pointed at a small binder on the counter by the photo products. “The prices are in there.”

“Oh,” Emily said, at a loss for what else to say. She went over to the binder and opened it. As much as she wanted to strike up a conversation with the other woman, she also knew she wouldn’t be able to rest without knowing what she considered to be a ridiculous price. Emily ran her finger down the list of prices until she found ‘personalized throw’ and nearly choked when she saw the price. “Eighty-five dollars?”

“Yup.” She looked back down at the photos on the counter and pursed her lips. Emily closed the binder a little more heavily than necessary.

“That’s more than ridiculous,” Emily said. She joined the brunette at the counter and she looked up at Emily curiously. “It’s criminal.” She stuck out her hand. “I’m Emily.”

“Russe,” the other woman said, shaking her hand with a smile. “Nice to meet you. You printing pictures for a wedding scrapbook too?”

“No, baby book. I was the designated photographer at the baby shower, and my job included getting the pictures done so my friend’s mom can paste them in the book with some way too intricate borders and give it to Jamie while she’s high on whatever they give you during childbirth now.” Emily looked at the photo product wall. “Maybe I should take a brochure.”

“Tell her about the blanket. Grandmothers love stuff like that,” Russe said, leaning over the photographs. “The wedding scrapbook is kind of a group effort. A bunch of us have been taking pictures and we’re going to give it to her when she comes back from her honeymoon. We’re planning on getting together a couple of times to work on it and have some drinks.”

“That sounds fun,” Emily said. She looked around the lab and her eyes fell on a small display of film. It was stuck in the corner so she almost didn’t see it, but she laughed when she did. Russe looked around to see what she was laughing at. “Film,” Emily said, pointing at the stand. “Real, honest-to-god film for cameras.”

“Really?” Russe followed her finger and abandoned her photos on the counter to go pick up one of the small, faded paper boxes. “I can’t even believe people still use this stuff. I mean, besides professional photographers.”

“I don’t even think they do, to be honest,” Emily said. She joined Russe at the display and picked up a box, then turned it around to see if film had an expiration date. “The last time I had to deal with a pro, they had a handful of memory cards.”

“Easier to store, I guess. I’ve lost them before, though, at a music festival. I’d lose it completely if it was my job though. Can you imagine reaching into your pocket and your whole weekend’s work just being gone? I’d be drowning my sorrows before noon.” This made Emily laugh, and she was trying to think of something else to say when the photo tech came from the back with a small, colorful cardboard envelope in his hand.

“Here you go, Miss Perrine. You want to take a look at those before you pay?”

“That would be great,” Emily said, going back to the counter with Russe. She took the envelope from the tech and opened it while Russe went back to picking through her photos. Emily took hers out and spread them on the counter like Russe had. She wasn’t sure she would have done it if the other woman hadn’t done it first but it seemed like the right thing to do.

“Excuse me,” Russe said, waving to the tech. “A couple of these only printed on half the paper.” He hurried over and looked at the pictures.

“I’m sorry about that,” he said. “Sometimes the roll gets thrown off. I’ll be happy to reprint those for you. Check the others to make sure these are the only ones.” He turned his attention to Emily. “Could you check yours thoroughly too? I’d hate for you to get home and find that yours were wrong.” She nodded and Russe looked over at her pictures.

“Any good ones in here?”

“There are a couple,” Emily said, blushing a little. She tugged one out of the bunch and showed Russe. In it a woman with an almost comically distended abdomen was holding up a handmade quilt and beaming. “I made this.”

“You did? That’s gorgeous!” Russe reached down and started pushing around the pictures. Emily was still humming with happiness over Russe saying she liked the quilt so she let her do it. “Are there any more? I really—“ Her words were cut off abruptly as she saw something among the pictures that had surprised her. “Who’s this?”

“Who?” Emily looked at the picture she was pointing at. In it she was standing with a sandy-haired man who was grinning at the camera. His arm was around her shoulders, drawing her to him, and they looked like the perfect couple. She blushed even harder. “That’s Everett. My boyfriend.”

“Your boyfriend?” Russe shoved the pictures back at her, then snatched a picture from her pile and shoved it at Emily. “Everett is my boyfriend!”

Emily was speechless. It was definitely Everett, and the picture was similar to the one she had taken with him at the beach, only they were on a hiking trail. His arm was around Russe and she was kissing him on the cheek, something that suggested he had been with her longer. Emily’s stomach had gone cold and hard, and she tried to think of something to say. As horrible as Everett’s betrayal made her feel, the thought that the connection she thought she’d made with Russe had been permanently severed was almost worse.

“We’ve only been going out about two weeks,” Emily said, trying her hardest to justify something that wasn’t her fault. “I didn’t know he was seeing someone.”

“Two weeks?” Russe’s anger seemed to be deflating like a balloon before Emily’s eyes, and she nodded. Russe took the picture of her and Everett and crushed it into a ball in her hand. “I’ve only been dating the jerk for three. Guess it’s better to find out now, huh?”

“Yeah,” Emily said, relieved. She watched Russe pick the photos of herself and Everett out of the stack and tear them in half, wondering how long it would take the woman to call her ex-boyfriend and tear him a new one. Emily’s first instinct was to be angry as well, but it somehow didn’t hurt as much as she would have expected. A crazy idea came to Emily all at once and she cleared her throat. Russe looked over at her with still-blazing eyes.

“What is it?”

“This might be the worst time to ask, but would you like to get something to eat with me?” She smiled at Russe, hoping she wasn’t making a huge mistake. If she was, it was going to be an embarrassing wait for the tech to come back and check her out. Russe didn’t say anything at first and Emily continued to smile as she planned her exit. Abandoning the pictures would put a crimp in her baby book plans but the sooner she could get home to a pint of gelato the better.

“Are you asking me out?” Russe didn’t look angry. The look on her face was more surprised and Emily nodded.

“Yes?”

“All right,” Russe said, her face breaking into a smile. “I’d love to.” She scooped the pictures she hadn’t torn up into a pile and stuffed them into the envelope. “Excuse me,” she called back through the door to the technician. “We’d like to go ahead and pay!” Emily, unable to believe her luck, stuck all the prints but the ones of her and Everett into the envelope and pulled out her wallet.

“I’m just reprinting the ones that were half-printed,” the tech said.

“Here,” Russe said. She shoved the torn pictures across the counter at him. “I’ll pay for them but I want you to throw them away.”

“Mine too,” Emily said. The tech looked at the pictures, frowned, then looked at the women in surprise. Emily was trying to think of something to say when Russe put her arm around her waist and smiled at her, causing her to blush furiously.

“You know what?” Russe took out her wallet and threw thirty dollars on the counter. “Keep the change. If you’re buying me lunch, I can pay for the stupid pictures. Come on.” She nodded toward the door and Emily went, still not quite believing what had happened. It wasn’t how she’d expected her day to go but this was much, much better.

“What are you going to tell Everett?”

“Oh, I’ve got a pretty good idea.” With a smirk, Russe stopped in the middle of the sidewalk and took out her phone. She held it at arm’s length so that both she and Emily were in the frame, then stuck up her middle finger. Grinning, Emily did the same and Russe snapped the picture, then sent it in a text message with no words. “I’m starving,” she said, dropping her phone into her bag.

“Me too,” Emily said. “Can you send me a copy of that picture?”

“Oh, absolutely,” Russe replied. “I think I’ve got a new phone background.”

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