by Nicole Roth
The only light in the bedroom comes from Sydney’s phone as she flips through the last three pictures she has of Aiden. It’s late at night, and Sydney burrows deeper into her comforter while she tries to think of reasons to put down her phone and go to sleep. She should just delete the rest of the pictures. Then she could toss her phone away and try to forget about Aiden.
Most of the pictures had been easy to delete—the selfies of them kissing, the sexted images they exchanged, the pictures of them together at parties and concerts—but not those last three. The first one is of Aiden asleep sitting up on the couch. His hunched position gives him a double chin and, when Sydney had shown him that picture, he begged her to delete it. Instead of giving in, she had quickly moved the picture into another folder on her phone. She hasn’t looked at the picture since that night, but now it makes her feel powerful. Maybe she should post the picture online and let all their friends make fun of him. He deserves it.
Sydney indulges the idea for a moment but eventually flips to the second picture, one that Aiden took with her phone. They are making silly faces while they sit on a park bench outside of the campus library. Sydney likes the way she looks in that one. Her face is brightened by her smile and her laughter, which erase whatever silly face she was trying to make. Aiden is puffing out his cheeks and crossing his eyes. They look so happy.
Sydney’s eyes blur as she stares into the blue glow of her phone screen and flips to the last picture: a side view of Aiden. They are sitting on their bathroom towels at the on-campus beach, and somehow Sydney had managed to capture a moment when Aiden looked the most unhappy. He is staring off across Lake Michigan and thinking about something that she could never get him to admit to. After she had shown Aiden the picture, he ignored her questions and changed the subject. He had placed a smile on his face and, when they were both ready and posed, they took a much better picture. She had felt like something was wrong, but she decided to ignore it. Instead, she focused on the warmth of the day, the good lighting that would be in the photo, and the secure feeling she had every time Aiden put his arm around her.
Sydney knows that she should delete these pictures. Nothing good can happen now that she is alone in the dark with her thoughts. Besides, she doesn’t want to have to explain them to someone. If she doesn’t delete the pictures now, she’ll probably forget about them and have to fumble for words the way that Aiden did when she found the old pictures on his phone, the ones tucked away in a folder named “z_old pictures.” Someone I used to know. Someone who used to mean something, but doesn’t anymore.
Sydney knows better now. You only keep pictures of someone you wish you didn’t love. Sydney swipes through the pictures a few more times. Eventually, the electronic light strains her eyes, and she slides her phone onto her nightstand instead of pressing delete.
Nicole Roth is a writer who lives in Buffalo Grove, IL and is querying her first novel. When not working on her own fiction, she enjoys getting lost in new stories both on the page and on screen. Learn more about Nicole Roth and her writing at nicolerothwrites.com.
Lovely. So real. I had these moments.