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Still Life

You are not smiling. Take a photo if you want, your eyes say, not unkindly. The shiny surface of the photograph is cold. It smells of developing fluid, not of you. I haven’t even cried yet.

“It’s not a very good snap,” the police officer shakes her head, then notices my hurt expression. “I mean, for the newspaper. It’s grainy. He looks kind of miserable. Usually they’d use something like an old school photo, or one from the wedding album. Something in colour, at least.”

“I didn’t know him when he was at school, and we’re not married,” I say, clutching the photo to my chest now.

The cop looks at a handful of images on her computer screen. She’s searched your name and found an old social media profile you hadn’t used in years. You’re smiling in front of the Eiffel Tower. Jumping from a cliff, arms and legs akimbo, into the Mediterranean. Experimenting with what might have been your first selfie, scowling close-up and confused into your phone. Grabbing your brother in a playful headlock (imagine, in a few years you will both be gone).

“Any of these?” the officer looks at me tiredly.

I put the black and white photo back into my bag, closing the zip with unintended ferocity.

“I don’t think I can do this,” I say. I feel immediate, unexpected relief. I don’t want your picture in the paper, this one or any of them. I don’t need to tell my side of the story, or give anyone an exclusive. I want to go home and stare at the wall, the one you’ve half-painted.

The officer puts a hand on my arm, then walks out to the conference room where the journalists are waiting, dictaphones and takeaway coffees poised.

“She’s changed her mind.”

Flash Fiction by Alicia Bakewell

Published in Autumn 2017


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