Ryan looked up at the photo hanging from the divider of her old dog’s crate. She had put two nails in the wall and hung the metal piece by it’s corners. Ryan then took tiny, art supply clothespins and clipped her pictures to the bars. The picture that caught her eye was one she rarely looked at, but never forgot was there. In fact if Abbagayle hadn’t asked her about it, Ryan might never have stopped to look at it that closely ever again.
The green grass so perfectly in disarray it looked as though someone had positioned each blade by hand. Throughout the healthy grass were long pieces of pale yellow dead grass uprooted from the last mowing. Occasionally there was the head of a dandelion long since blown. Two feet, a pair of them, were laying in the grass. The soles of them facing upward and slightly out. Small patches of flesh were visible. The right index toe, not the tip, but the shaft, the part that never touched the floor; the inside of the left pinky toe; the inside sole of left foot, the arch of this foot was higher than that of the right; and the right ankle bone, barely visible in the picture due to the angle, but if you studied the photo you would see the pale white skin glowing like the silver lining of clouds in the sky. The rest of the feet were a dried, sticky red. You could tell they were sticky just from the photo. From how the feet carried themselves when they walked, there were some splotches of darker red, where others were lighter and clearly less layered. Various pieces of grass shavings were stuck here and there to the soles. A patchy trail of purple extended from the left middle and pointer toes all the way down the center of the ball and still further down into the arch. The right foot overall was darker red than the left foot, and nowhere on it was any trace of purple. For most people, staring too long at the photo would further blur the out-of-focusness of the moment, and convince your eyes there was purple where no purple had been or that the flesh grew red like the rest of the feet in still form. For Ryan, it brought back that day the same was the picture was, slightly out of focus, easy to confuse, and oddly detailed.
They had been painting their nails at the table. There had been a bottle of white wine, a bottle of red wine, and two bottles of nail polish on the wooden coffee table. Ryan was unsure if the television had been on or if there was music playing. They were sure no one else was in the house. Tina’s cousins were upstate visiting her grandmother with her aunt. At least that’s what her aunt had told her, and what Tina had told Ryan. Tina was an only child, whose mother was long removed from the family and whose father was unknown – whether intentionally so or otherwise Tina had never been sure. However, they were sure they were the only ones home.
They had spilled a bottle of wine. While Ryan went to get another bottle from her cooler bag in Tina’s room, Tina had been cleaning up the spill. There had been an incredibly loud noise. It could have been a bang or a man screaming. Ryan peaked her head out of the doorway, looking down the hall she had seen something. The light from the hallway reflected off of it as it sailed from the living room into the kitchen. It landed with a crash, the kind of sound that was made from metal or glass. Ryan waited for what felt like hours trying to remember if the phone in Tina’s aunt’s room worked or if it was the one in the kitchen. One the girls had broken it playing house a few weeks ago. Ryan co-babysat her cousins with Tina at least twice a month. Ryan had figured that working phone or not, the bedroom was the easiest place to get to unseen. She heard a scream. She couldn’t recall if it was scream for help, a warning scream, or a scream of pain. She just knew there had been a scream followed by loud thuds making their way closer to her. Ryan had gone to the side of the bed furthest from the door. Squatting down she checked under the bedskirt. There was no room to hide, but there had been a crowbar. Ryan didn’t know how or what the crowbar was doing under Tina’s aunt’s bed, but she also hadn’t stopped to think about it before grabbing it and getting under the covers. Ryan laid as still as she could. Taking slow, shallow breaths to make herself as invisible as she could. She remembered hearing a piercing scream, somewhere between a tea kettle and a large, delicate church bell. There was a gust of wind as someone reached to pull back the blanket. Without thought Ryan had thrust the crowbar up through the blanket as far as she could. She remembered the feeling of the metal impacting with something. Ryan had no idea what.
Ryan’s little brother, Charlie had been with her parents when they arrived. Since she was their go to babysitter there had been no one to watch him at home. Charlie loved taking pictures with his camera he had gotten for Christmas the year before. It was the kind that took the picture and then printed it shortly after. Tina had been kneeling in the grass. Charlie had taken her picture. He had been afraid of the loud police officer, and put his picture in his robe pocket before it developed. He didn’t mean to make Ryan so upset by leaving it on her pillow the next morning. He had tried to wake her up, but she hadn’t stirred. So he left her and the picture together.
Where Ryan had been sent to the hospital, Tina had been bought somewhere else. In the end, Tina had been convicted of self-defense, as a minor there were special deals made. Ryan had been sentenced as well, but only to therapy. Outpatient only, never hospitalized. Her memories of that night were as clear and as blurry as every. According to the reports, papers, and even her therapists, Tina had taken the crowbar out of the dresser and plunged it into her aunt’s ex-husband. She had screamed to warn me, when he had decided Tina was lying about anyone else being in the house. He had already knocked the purple nail polish into the kitchen, before throwing the table off the floor toward the couch underneath the front window. Tina had stepped in the nail polish twice – one before she impaled him and once after on her way to get the phone from the kitchen. Ryan believed them, because she had no memories to say otherwise.
The picture her brother took had also been taken by the police that evening. This Ryan knew from the articles in the paper about the trial. Neither Charlie nor Ryan said anything to anyone about that picture. Other than her therapists, she wasn’t sure anyone else knew it existed. Her parents had probably long since forgotten. When Charlie died in an unfortunate car accident several years later Ryan found the photo in a box of things he had given to her or made for her. Ryan suffered a substantial concussion in the accident. Enough to knock out the past few years of her’s and Charlie’s life, but not enough to rob her of everything. Most of the box she remembered quite well. On the five year anniversary of his passing, Ryan hung it on her wall after drinking a bottle of wine. The next day she saw it in her peripheral, and couldn’t bear to go near it. So there it hung amongst the pictures of her family and friends, her fur babies and boyfriend, and loved ones long since passed.
Ryan shuddered as Abbagayle touched her arm.
“I’m sorry, Ry – you look stunned, are you okay?”
Ryan looked from Abbagayle to the wall and back again.
“Yeah,” she said shaking her head working up a fake laugh, “must of had one of those space cadet moments.”
“You zoned out for at least a minute, but welcome to earth champ,” Barbara said handing her a glass of champagne.
“Thank you very much,” Ryan said with a genuine laugh.
“Guess that picture means a lot to you, huh,” Abbagayle asked.
“That,” Ryan said raising her glass toward the feet, “that’s just something I thought looked cool.”
Abbagayle looked at the photo once more and smiled rolling her eyes at Ryan. Her friend could really be such a space cadet sometimes. Everyone who grew up in or around the town of River Ridge knew that picture was from the night that that young girl murdered her aunt’s ex-husband. For a moment Abbagayle wondered if where and more importantly why Ryan had gotten a color photocopy made of the picture. Then again, Ryan swore up and down that all of the scenic pictures on her board were taken by here – they too were on photo paper, but far too good to be taken by “I Can’t Sit Still” Ryan.