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Fay Cameron

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The First Family Photograph

 

The photograph was Ralph’s idea. He had saved for months to buy himself a camera. ‘You’ll see, I’m going to be famous for my photography,’ he said.

Not short on dreams, your brother,’ said Ed to May. But he did agree to come outside although now he is leaning on the fence and talking to the Wilson sisters from next door.

May thinks Ralph will be famous one day. He’s smart enough and along with dreams he’s not short on determination. She doesn’t say that to Ed. Her husband likes her to keep her opinions to herself, when she disagrees with him.

‘Come on, Ed.  Are you in this or not?’ asks Ralph.

‘Got to go, girls. Duty calls.’ Without attempting to hide his sigh, he turns toward May and their daughter, Nola.

Lilly Wilson, her sly smile reminiscent of a cat eyeing forbidden cream, replies, ‘If you can.’ Her voice just loud enough for May to hear.

Ed laughs. He knows how to turn on that oh-so-English charm, although May herself doesn’t see much of it these days. She lifts Nola to her hip and grimaces at the dull ache in her back. This pregnancy is much worse than her first. The morning sickness lasts all day and at only five months gone she’s huge and always tired.

Ralph checks the viewfinder. ‘Hold on, maybe I can get the rose in.’ The banksia has turned the arch over the gate the colour of the afternoon sun. It’s worth catching. Or would be if they had the photograph tinted, the way Lilly Wilson’s twenty-first portrait was. May considers asking about the cost but gives the idea away. Not much would be too much for Ed.

Ralph steps backwards onto the road beside Mr Wilson’s parked Model T and sets the camera up on the tripod all over again.

‘How much longer?’ Ed winks at Lilly and her sister who are still watching the proceedings.

‘Not long,’ replies Ralph.

May wishes Ed would lean over the gate with her, the way two lovers might. The way they did one time. Before she fell pregnant the first time. Ed could hold Nola, perch her on the top rail as if he enjoyed being a father. May doesn’t dare suggest such a pose. He’d never do it, not in front of those Wilson girls.

Nola grizzles, burrows her head into May’s shoulder and reaches for her breast.

 ‘Shush, shush.’ May jounces Nola, hoping she’ll settle. The breeze is from the northwest and only adds to the heat. It’s picking up; by evening it’ll be blustery. May wipes the perspiration from her forehead. Ralph’s looking right at her. She lowers her arm, not sure if the narrowing of his eyes is to do with the dark blue bruise which, she worries, may have shown when the fabric of her sleeve fell back.

‘Stand closer.’

He didn’t see it then. Neither she nor Ed move. Ralph looks through the viewfinder again. ‘Come on, you two. You know you’re newlyweds until your second anniversary, even if you will have two little ones by then.’

Ed doesn’t move. May shifts Nola on her hip and takes a small step towards him.

‘Okay, smile.’ Ralph clicks the shutter closed. ‘Now, that wasn’t so bad, was it?’

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