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Youth Stuck Between Pages

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Diane had barely closed the door when she heard Will giggle. It had been an stressful week and her nerves were already strained. Annoyed she turned around, but her partner was nowhere to be seen. She hadn’t even noticed that he had left her side while she had sent her other two visitors off. Shaking her head she went into her living room where she caught sight of Will who was sitting on her couch, holding something in his hands. When she came closer and identified the object in his hands, her heart sank, causing her irritation to increase further.

“Put that away!“, she demanded.

Will shot her a broad smirk and shook his head once before his gaze wandered back to the book in his hands.

“Now!“, Diane insisted, striding over to the couch, and made an attempt to take the scrapbook from him. When she failed, she closed it, trapping his fingers between the pages.

“Ow!”, Will cried out exaggeratedly, trying hard not to laugh while his partner whipped away the album from him.

“No! Please let me see it. Please!”, he begged.

Diane ignored him, pursuing to put it on the shelf on the other side of her living room when her partner got up, hurried after her and grabbed her arm so she was forced to turn around. He suppressed the urge to back away from her when she flashed him an incensed look, instead staring at her with his puppy eyes.

“Please”, he repeated his prior request.

For some seconds it was deadly quiet, the two name partners captured in their wordless battle. The silence was broken by Diane’s sigh, causing an instant grin on Will’s face. She rolled her eyes but handed the album over to him, whereupon he went back to the sofa and leaned back, placed the scrapbook on his knees and started flipping through the pages. He felt his partner’s presence when she sank down next to him, but his gaze did not leave the collection of images.

Diane watched him flicking through her photo album, wondering how and where he had found it. She had forgotten that she still possessed it, had never longed to find it let alone open it. But now Will had discovered it, studying pictures of former times, dangerously close to summon demons from a time she thought she had left behind and was not willing to cope with at the moment. She had to stop him before he unintentionally forced her to revive any of her former, unsolved issues that were trapped between the pages of the album.

“Will…”, she started but was interrupted by a gasp, and a smug smile started to spread across her partners features.

“What?”, she asked, peeking at the images in his lap.

“Is this you?”, he countered, pointing at the photo that filled up most of the page he had inspected.

“Of course. Who else should it be?”, Diane wanted to know, slightly confused, not sure where this was headed.

Will scrutinized her intently before he looked at the photo again, then his gaze drifted back to her. Diane’s brows shot up questioningly, her bewilderment slowly shifting to discomfort.

“You looked… stunning!”, he finally breathed out, looking at the picture again. “I mean, I don’t want to act gracelessly, but… wow!”

She felt herself blushing and was glad that he was focused on her past self. Despite Diane’s aversion to dig up events that concerned her youth, she couldn’t resist to take a closer look at the opened pages.

The young woman in the photo was wearing a silvery cocktail dress, the hem of it swirling around her knees, putting long legs on display that were even more extended by the grey stiletto heels she had worn that evening. Her light golden-brown hair was hanging loose, caressing her collarbones that were not covered by any material due to the bateau neckline of the dress. Holding a champagne flute in hand, she was smiling into the camera, imperial red lips providing a sharp contrast to her pale skin.

Memories started to flood her mind, and she would have lost herself in them if Will hadn’t brought her back to reality.

“How old were you?”, he requested curiously, his gaze now resting on her.

“Almost twenty-six”, Diane muttered, not yet disentangled completely from her thoughts. Before her friend was able to ask, or worse, guess the year or decade in which the photo was taken, she added: “It was in the late 70’s. I had just passed the State Bar Exam, and my parents had decided it was inevitable to celebrate that.”

Will chuckled when she rolled her eyes, he already suspected what she would tell him next.

“My dad was proud, of course, but my mum felt personally offended that I was about to become a lawyer, totally ignoring the plans she had for me. It was a tough evening.”

“You’d be a terrible nurse”, he assumed, and Diane swatted his shoulder playfully, nevertheless she nodded in agreement.

“Probably.”

“Although you would have been beautiful enough…”, and after a second: ”…and quite likely still are”, he couldn’t hold back, alluding to the cliché that was associated with the profession Diane’s mother had wanted her daughter to practise. Will settled his right elbow on the backrest of the couch, propping up his head on his hand, grinning at her smugly.

“Okay, that’s enough!”, Diane proclaimed and snatched the photo album from his lap, closed it and placed it on the coffee table in front of them, out of his accessibility for the moment. She settled back onto the sofa, leaning against the armrest, left leg trapped beneath her body while the right one was hanging over the edge of the couch, her foot barely touching the floor. As soon as she was comfortable, she looked up to find that Will had changed his position. His elbows rested on his thighs and he was seemingly lost in thoughts. For a short time Diane intended to find a topic to talk about, only to dismiss the thought seconds later and close her eyes instead. Silence had never been awkward between them.

 

“He’s an idiot”, Will suddenly stated, causing his partner’s eyes to flutter open.

“Excuse me?”

“McVeigh. He’s an idiot. I mean, he went away from you”, he explained, staring at an invisible spot on his folded hands. Diane chuckled lightly, her gaze lying on her best friend who didn’t dare to look at her.

“He didn’t”, she corrected him, the smile on her face quickly fading away. Will’s head snapped up at her statement, his brows furrowed in confusion.

“What?”

“He wanted me to come with him”, she mumbled and fell silent for some seconds, searching for the right words, endeavoured to not show any emotions.

It was hard for her, talking about him, about the one person that made her weak and strong simultaneously. He who made her giddy, adventurous and nourished her desire to have a life outside the firm. And still…

“He asked me to go to Costa Rica with him”, she clarified, then gulped to be able to continue: “He even proposed to me. I simply told him that I can’t leave. The issue with Bond, our firm in general…”, Diane shrugged, biting her bottom lip.

She could taste the waxy aroma of her lipstick on her tongue, causing an uneasy feeling in her empty stomach. Ignoring it, she shot Will a lopsided smirk, but it never reached her blue eyes and he knew her too well to be deceived by her attempt to hide her sorrow. Carefully, he scooted closer and put his arm around her shoulder. After a moment of hesitation, Diane let her head sink into the crook of his neck, his scent embracing her, and with a sigh she closed her eyes.

 

She had never mourned for the past, and although she was grateful for everything she had achieved over the years, she had lately caught herself wishing she was able to turn back time, even if it was only some weeks.