Personal Fiction

In her wallet, Olivia carries a picture of the girl she once was. Hidden behind credit cards and library cards and cards with no particular names that remain despite their lack of use or need, the photograph sits firmly, invisible to the eyes who wouldn’t understand the relevance of keeping it around in the first place.

It’s somewhat of an old print, with corners that have lost the perfection of their angles and heavily creased lines that reveal a person with a tendency to fold and unfold things more than necessary. And even though she has thrown it out many times, the photograph still remains. Her biggest fear is that it will remain with her forever.

The girl in the picture is wearing a makeshift yellow dress that her mother bought from the thrift store of five dollars. “The tag originally said $17, will you believe that?” her mother said when she fist brought the dress home with the smell of whiskey on her breath. “But a woman has to be smart, Olivia. A woman has to learn how to bargain,” she kept telling her daughter as she lazily sewed up the holes she had ripped to get the discount in the first place.

In contrast to the dress, the girl in the picture looks beautiful. Her auburn hair is styled with curlers borrowed from the beauty parlor next door, and her pale skin glows in the light of the warm, August afternoon. Her lips, stained red for the first time with the minister’s daughter’s lipstick, makes her feel like one of those famous starlets they show in the movies.

But the girl in the picture isn’t happy. Her mouth is smiling, but if you look closely, her eyes show someone who has been forced to grow up far too fast, and someone who has never forgiven themselves for allowing it to happen for so long. The girl hates the dress and she hates the color yellow, but more than that she hates her mother for choosing a bottle of whiskey over a beautiful dress for her daughter. This is her wedding day and her mother doesn’t even remember.