Like Dorian Gray and his painting, I just knew that if I even glanced at the photograph, all the happy memories we had ever shared would vanish, and I’d be left to my misery, or to die, whichever punishment was deemed to be the worst.
I took a deep breath, squared my shoulders, said a silent prayer for strength and entered the room. Someone was playing soft music on the baby grand and the quiet hum of subdued conversation sounded loud to my over-sensitive ears. I tried to ignore the incessant buzzing in my head which was threatening to overtake me completely. I focussed on the seat I chose, making a bee-line for it, not intending to stop for anyone or anything.
I had nearly made it when someone called my name. I groaned inwardly, summoned my strength and lifted my head to acknowledge the speaker. Pete, a jolly rotund friend, enveloped me in his customary bear hug, crushing my body to his. His hug had forced my head up, level with the photograph and I squeezed my eyes shut, shuddering at the nearness of my escape.
“How are you holding up?” he murmured, gently stroking my tense shoulders.
It was an intimately platonic gesture, and usually his hugs were just what I needed. Today I just didn’t want to be touched. I needed to be alone in the crowd I knew would gather. I murmured some meaningless response and extricated myself from his grasp.
I averted my eyes as I passed the stand where I knew the photograph had been placed, but it was impossible to avoid it altogether. I had almost made it before I thought I detected a movement out of the corner of my eye, and narrowly avoided being turned to stone, or worse, being consigned to eternal misery as I fought the urge to turn and gaze on such beauty. Of all the photographs we had ever taken of her, why did he have to choose this one?
I closed my eyes. Memories of that day came flooding back, threatening to open another floodgate I have firmly closed against such an occurrence. So far it was working, but the painful lump in my throat told me the deluge was threatening. And I knew it wouldn’t take too much to release the torrent.