She brushed off the soil, deep brown flakes falling to her feet. The camera whirred, a small red light turned on, and the screen flickered to life.
Looks like it still has some juice left. She looked around to see if anyone had dropped it, but the street was deserted. The camera was also devoid of photos or other identifying information.
I should check if it works.
She held the camera at arm’s length–a little more to the right–smiled at the lens with trepidation, and pressed the shutter. Click. She flipped it over to the screen. The woman who stared back at her was perfectly positioned, curves transformed from dumpy to hourglass, awkward smile a smouldering gaze.
She shook her head at her foolishness, and tossed it into her handbag. She was already late for dinner.
“Earth to mum!”
Her ten-year-old daughter frowned at her. “I said, are you driving me to dad’s tomorrow?”
“No.” She picked up her spoon, stared down at hands chapped from a cleaner’s chemicals. I wonder what that camera made of them. “He’s coming to pick you up.”
Her daughter made a face. “You know I hate my weekends with him. He’s just a skirt-chasing bastard turned by a pair of sexy legs.”
“Don’t talk about your father like that!” It was half-hearted, at best. I should check the photo again later.
“You said it first!”
“He’s your father, not mine. Now, who wants dessert? I made chocolate pudding yesterday.”
Her daughter was already in the kitchen. “Two extra-large serves, coming right up!”
“Mum, what are you doing?”
Her daughter’s sleepy voice emanated from the door. She looked over guiltily from the lamp’s small circle of white light. “Just relaxing, dear.”
“I thought I heard something. Are you okay?”
“Just fine.” She flicked off the lamp switch, covered the little red light with her palm. “Go back to sleep, your father’s coming at eight.”
When the door closed behind her daughter, and the cool glow of the screen washed over her face as she flipped through the photos. 335/3045. 336/3045. Still not good enough.
She watched from the window upstairs as the small figure trudged to the red sedan idling on the road. Camera in hand, she took stock of her surroundings.
If I move the couch downstairs opposite the window, I could get some natural light. Or perhaps in the kitchen with the vase as a backdrop.
She may have been rostered for a shift that weekend. Calls came; calls went. Click, went the camera. Click, click. That was all that mattered. Each attempt erased more ugly, drew it out of her until she was light and radiance.
It wasn’t until she heard a car door slam outside, and a girl’s voice–her daughter’s?–that she finally took the shot that was her magnum opus. One glance, and she knew. She lay on the couch, masterpiece proudly displayed on the small screen, and closed her eyes at long last.
The door opened. “Mum?”
She tried to call out, but couldn’t find the strength. Her daughter looked around, frowning. “Where are you?”
Her daughter strode to the couch, picked up the camera fallen from nerveless fingers. “Oh well, she’ll be back soon.” She frowned and the camera, its red light blinking once more. “What’s this? There aren’t even any photos on it.”