There are three people in the photograph. It’s just a simple, family gathering. Two of them are smiling directly at the camera and the sun is streaming through a window on the left, catching the bright colours of flowers and casting soft highlights on hair, skin and fabrics. The room is decorated in shades of white, gold & green and has a wooden floor with cream upholstered chairs.
It’s a scene from a common enough event – one we have all participated in many times. There will be many other people at this gathering, standing or sitting behind the photographer and out of shot. Some will be talking loudly, some whispering or coughing and some just absorbed with their own thoughts. Most will have made an effort for the day, choosing the right clothes and making sure they were prepared and punctual. Although I can’t see or hear them I hope they aren’t all like the family captured in the photo. I really, really hope some of them are completely different.
I came across this photo on the internet, whilst looking for inspiration for a story, so I have no idea who the people are, how they live or what their history is. What I do know is that this is a very disturbing picture and so must have a very disturbing story.
One of the figures is a young woman. She looks early twenties and has a pretty face. She is slim and is wearing a pair of dark jeans and a black sleeveless top. Her long, dark hair highlighted with blonde and pink tumbles in soft curls over her shoulders and she has one flamboyant but professionally manicured hand resting on her left hip, her elbow jutting out in a cat walk pose. She has turned slightly to the side, away from the others, her wide smile creating two dimples. She knows she is pretty and has made a lot of effort with her heavy but flawless makeup. I have no doubt that this exaggerated and deliberate head tilted, one hip dropped pose has been practiced many times before – probably phone in hand in front of the mirror in her bathroom.
Beside her and forming the centre of the group stands a man in his mid forties dressed in a metallic silver suit and pink tie. He is immaculate. His brown hair is cropped short at the sides and the floppy longer top is neatly slicked back. He has two lip piercings and a tattoo that I can just see extending beyond the cuff of his shirt. The man’s knees are slightly bent apart in a kind of half squat, hips thrust forward, his face pulled into a grinning mock gurn – his tongue poking out playfully. His left hand is held up, the fingers forming a rock metal devil’s horns and his right hand is pointing to something behind him.
There is a woman standing to his left. She also looks mid to late forties and has lank, mousey hair pulled back in a top knot with strands falling down in front of her ears. She is slim and petite but oddly orange in colour. Her pale lipstick and massive false eye lashes do not improve the look of her short, tight skirt and low cut top which looks like it needs to be quite a few sizes bigger to accommodate her enhanced breasts. She has both hands clasped in front and has been crying recently. There are dark smudges under eyes that are glossy and watery. She looks intriguingly mismatched with the other two who seem so comfortable and light-hearted. It made me wonder if more photos were taken of this strange group, perhaps some that might explain what’s actually going on here. The family are quite deliberately posing so this is not a one-off snap. After a Google image search I found another shot and that’s when I realised the photo was of four, not three, people.
The second picture was very similar to the first and both had been posted on the younger woman’s Facebook page with the caption, “for y’all that couldn’t come today”. She lives in Texas and works at a nail bar so that explains the manicure. She is the daughter of the other two. In this second photo she has moved the hand from her hip and has squeezed her shoulders together, her mouth forming an exaggerated selfie pout. The man is still gesturing and gurning but there is now a space between them, a space large enough for me to see what’s behind. The older woman hasn’t moved. Originally I had thought they were in front of a small stage. There are cream curtains either side of a slightly raised platform and even more flowers. On the platform is a casket. It’s an open casket and is white. Lying inside is a young child with blonde, curly hair.
She looks no more than six and is surrounded by red & pink things – I can’t make out what they are but have the impression they are soft toys. I look back at the people in front...
There is only one comment on the young woman’s Facebook post. It is a short & simple response but gives me a sense of relief and some hope. It is from Trey and just says...