For want of anything better, I've called it The Photograph.
Anna looks at the photograph for a long time.
She thinks it has been taken during the middle of the day because the shadows of the two people are barely evident and neither of them is squinting. The sunlight bears down on them like a bright spotlight on a stage, as if on the other side of the world she is shrouded in darkness. Breathless. Waiting.
There’s a small triangle of cloud—a white flag in an impossibly blue sky, fluttering and stuttering in the breeze—and Theron’s fringe is lifting slightly from his forehead. To the right and rear of the slate-covered verandah is a rectangle of open veldt sloping upwards. The quality of the photograph is sharp. She wants to reach out and touch the swaying feathery ends of the mountain grasses. Her brother is a good photographer.
He has legs like a grasshopper and nowhere is this more evident than in this picture. Jeremy’s sitting on the stone parapet with his bony knees hunched against his chest as if he’s about to spring into the air at any minute. He has straight blonde hair combed back from his smooth forehead and hooded green eyes which lend to the grasshopper image. A handsome grasshopper.
She knows why he has chosen to sit down—and it startles her to discover how well she knows her brother—he’s made himself the lesser man. Theron, standing upright with the backs of his strong brown legs against the stonework, looks tall, which he isn’t. And impressive. Jeremy grins affectedly, looking uncomfortable. Her guess is that nobody is on the other side of the camera. He’s using the timer.
The other man is not smiling at all, but looking with dark, intense eyes directly into the lens. Into her own eyes, here in her small study with the blank white walls and her small wooden desk. As if halfway across the world he is trying to tell her something.
His expression is solemn, but not serious. When she quickly steals a glance at him as if, somehow, she can catch him by surprise, she senses expectation in his expression. And something else...Hope, perhaps. But perhaps she imagines too much. She knows she expects too much.
Theron’s hair is tucked behind his ears, curling onto his collar, as if with this early retirement he has let go a little bit. That pleases her. That and the fact that his skin is sun-tanned, indicating time spent outdoors. He is wearing an open necked white polo shirt over his khaki shorts, and his feet are in heavy leather sandals. His arms hang straight at his sides, his hands clenched as if posing like this has been an enormous ordeal.
Her finger moves over the photograph, traces the outline of the man called Theron, touches the browned feet and sturdy legs, inches up the chest and glides across the shoulders and neck, touching his lips and lingering on his mouth.