A piece of flash fiction for the Daily Inkling prompt Broken Memories.
I kept that picture after I destroyed all the rest as a reminder that there was a time when we were truly happy. You are looking at the camera and there is a light in your eyes that I remember from when we first met, that died long before the end. You are sitting at a café table, the sun is shining, the place is crowded with happy, smiling faces. It was the time we went to Provence, not the Côte, a village close to Arles. There was a fête of some kind, I forget now what exactly. Looking at your face, the sun on your bare arms, the open neck of your shirt, I can smell pine and pastis, hear cicadas and the clink of glasses.
That was the last time we went away together, the last time I remember sunshine. You and I were all that mattered in the world. We needed no one else. I keep the photo to remind me that you were different once. Whatever happened, perhaps just the spark dying, as simple as that, you were not necessarily to blame. I hated you at first because you were the one who left, but looking back on it, it was probably as much my fault as yours. I had my memories of the good times, and when you married, I was over it enough to wish you all the best.
She wasn’t the kind I would have expected you to choose, too expressive, extrovert, too southern. There was a photo of the wedding in the local paper. It had been a lavish affair. Not your thing, I’d have thought, but the bride insisted, I guess. Even in the photo she isn’t still, tossing back her head with laughter, the image slightly blurred. I cut it out, kept it with the other. I take it out now and compare your face in the two pictures though it hurts to see that your smile can be so wide for someone else.
I look at the two images of you, one with a background of the slightly blurred faces of unknowns in a Provençal village, the other grainy newsprint. I compare again, look closer, and a woman looks at me from a table on the café terrace, and suddenly the face is not so blurry that I don’t recognise the laughing woman on your arm in the wedding photo.