Fiction Friday: [The Preservation of a Lopsided Smile]

The color drained from Margo’s face when the email arrived. She had checked her inbox obsessively for it every day. Now, the breath caught in her chest as the pointy-fingered cursor hovered, waiting to open what she hoped to be the answer to what had defied explanation for so long. Too long.

Ignoring her husband’s protests, she sent the request shortly after Brianna’s death. Her daughter hadn’t left a note and poring through her emails led only to prolonged heartache instead of providing the answers Margo so desperately needed. Facebook added to her despair when they denied the request, offering only to memorialize the page. Her tears morphed from those of sorrow to joy when an employee turned out to be the friend of a friend and offered to do what they could to get her the password. They warned her it would take time, but if she were able to have one last connection, an understanding of who Briana was in the end, the wait would be worth it.

She considered calling Jim despite his attempts to stop this moment from happening. She tried to convince herself it was for his benefit, but her heart wouldn’t allow her mind to push the truth away so easily. It was no secret that Margo blamed herself for their daughter never seeing her sixteenth birthday. As a mother, she should have seen the signs. She should have known Brianna was unhappy.

The phone clicked louder than it should have against the wood as she set it on the desk. If she was truly to blame, the last thing she needed was a witness to the proof. Her gaze fell upon the framed photo of Brianna next to the laptop. An unsteady finger traced the outline of her daughter’s face as the tears slid over her thinned lips, rounded her trembling chin and splashed onto the keyboard.


Jim arrived home a few hours later and tossed his keys into the lopsided bowl on the entry table. His mind traveled back a couple of years as he paused to remember the look of pride on Brianna’s twelve-year-old face after she had come home from camp. The shape always reminded him of her smile. The bright colors personified the happy girl he chose to remember.

He found Margo on the couch and recognized the faraway gaze to nothing, the ruddy complexion from a bout of sorrow-filled tears, and the unnatural stillness that had filled the house since they lost their daughter. A full mug of tea sat on the coffee table, and there was no doubt it had gone cold. He had yet to find the right words to comfort his wife. He imagined he’d find them buried somewhere deep below his own broken heart.

Jim planted a kiss on his wife’s forehead and then ambled down the hallway. The downturned picture frame on the desk drew his attention as he entered their bedroom. With stilted breath, he made his way over and placed it upright again. The heat of tears pressed against his eyes as they met with Brianna’s sparkling smile. He slumped into the chair and his heart folded into itself when he failed to remember the sound of her laughter. He understood Margo’s needs, but he desperately wanted to hold onto to the daughter he knew as long as he could. Even as the pieces of her floated just out of reach.

His elbow nudged the laptop, waking it from its slumber. Like a moth to a flame, Jim was drawn by the light and found Margo’s email staring back at him. With each passing second, the strings of curiosity pulled tighter as his gaze lingered on the cursor hovering over an unopened email.