11 mai 2006

Frank

Courtesy of Monkey0.

For Jenny, visiting her great-grandmother had always meant stories galore.
Back when photography was a novelty, Louise had perfectly understood how important it was to have souvenirs, tangible images of people and places. The way they were, that way they would always be.
All it took was for Jenny to reach into the treasure trove of photographs that her gran had accumulated over the years.
The tradition was this. If Jenny was staying the night, they would settle on the sofa after dinner, Jenny would pick a photo at random, and Louise would tell the tale. The ritual, because no tradition goes without a ritual, included hot chocolate and marshmallows, plumped up cushions, and Danse Macabre on the stereo.
That day, two pictures were sitting on top of the big leather chest that Louise used for her photos. Jenny took one look at them, smiled at her gran, and said:
"Well, I don't think I need to look any further. Now who is this dashing young man, this... Frank... pray tell?"
"Oh, Jenny, no. Please pick another one."
"Gra-a-an! Come on, you know the rules. I pick the picture, and you tell me the story..."
"This is going to be hard for me, you know. There's a reason those photos were out, but they really should have been put away."
Jenny looked closely at her gran, gave her a kiss on the cheek, cuddled up to her on the sofa and waited, head resting on the crook of her great-grandmother's neck, one hand wrapped loosely around her.
"Frank. See the ring on his wedding finger? It was a present from me. We weren't married, not even engaged. We were just very much in love. It... It was very good. He was very good to me."
Louise paused.
"But he's not Granpa."
There was no interrogation in Jenny's voice, just some sort of vague understanding.
"No. That, he was not. For some reason, our... affair... was frowned upon, to put it mildly. We had to hide every time we were meeting, we were even thinking of eloping. I was afraid it would have killed my parents, but I was willing to take that chance."
"Killed your parents? Oh come on, Gran."
"Oh it would have been terrible, Jenny, about that I have no doubt. That was three quarters of a century ago, remember. So even if it hadn't actually killed them, the shame would have been a much worse fate. Thankfully... for them, they were..." Louise's voice faltered. "... spared the indignity, I suppose."
"What happened? Gran, are you OK?"
"He got shot in a hunting accident. He hated hunting. My father had threatened him into joining. Not threatened threatened, of course, but, you know, used his position of authority, to say the least. There was never a doubt in my mind that my own father killed the man with whom I was in love. That was 77 years ago yesterday. I left my hometown after the funeral and never saw my parents again." She looked at Jenny. "I'm OK, petal. I met your great-grandfather a couple of years after that. He was very good to me too."
"Oh Gran, that's..."
Louise's eyes were filling up, but no tears were shed.
"It's OK, sweetheart. These things happened."