The Photograph

They say it’s a family photo so Newton has to be included, even though he isn’t in costume and everyone has been merely polite to him all evening. He looks across at Maude, who has been jollied into a kind of feathered head-dress. She is in the same trouble he is, he thinks, cast out onto one end of the family group, while he has been cast out on the other. The middle is taken up by the young, the rich, the amusing and the important. Some of his cousins are all four at once. Liv is right in the centre, of course, newly-wed but still flirtatious. She flicks her legs up onto the couch, making room for Laurie to lie down on the floor beneath her. Laurie isn’t family, but he is always there and, as Newton knows Liv would say, ‘three hundred times more interesting than Newton’. He doesn’t think Laurie is at all interesting but he’s certain the feeling is mutual.

Philip has squeezed in behind Maude and is leaning over the back of the couch and over Liv to pull on Laurie’s collar, saying something about straightening up. Newton watches as Maude has little option but to shuffle a little more to the left. Liv shrieks with laughter at something Laurie has said and looks over her shoulder at Maude, saying ‘It’s so delicious, isn’t it?’ Maude’s face brightens with her best smile as she agrees. Only Newton is still looking when her face falls again, revealing how tired she really is. She glances over at him, and his heart booms as their eyes meet. There is a second when he thinks that any artifice is gone between them, that they are locked in a look that says they know exactly how the world works and what it thinks of them, but they are still worth something. But then she gives a little shrug and a tiny smile and she looks to the camera, playing her part in the family gathering as she always has.

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