The Girl in the PictureBy: Alexandra Monir
For the one who inspires my heart and mind: my husband, Chris, the love of my life
At first it’s no more than a blurry shape on the ground, large enough to beat me up, slow enough for me to escape from. Then my focus clears, and I see why the body won’t move. Its limbs are tangled and twisted among the fallen leaves. Blood spills over the sleeves of a well-worn varsity jacket, and a once-familiar face has turned gray, its mouth frozen on its last word spoken. A word now ringing in my ears. “You.”
I take a step closer, bracing for the gut-wrenching pain of recognition. But as I stare at my maimed self lying in the woods behind the soccer field—my soccer field—there is no pain. No emotion at all, really. I guess I shouldn’t expect to feel anything. I’m dead.
Still, there is a flicker of something, an image—no, images. They push to the forefront of my mind, growing stronger the more I stare at my rigid body. Lips on lips, the sound of her voice calling after me, a sharp blade inches from my neck, the last face before it all went black. And then the realization dawns that I’ve seen this all before; that I knew this would happen if I chose her—if I strayed from the path laid out before me.
Footsteps. They’re coming, mere seconds away from finding my body. Soon this section of the woods will be roped off with yellow tape, newscasters and Oyster Bay students all clamoring for a view of where I died. Then the detectives will swarm, full of theories and names.
I think I know who the first two names will be.
And yet, I have somewhere to go, don’t I? An afterlife waiting to check me in?
But I can’t go just yet.
I need a little longer, one more glimpse of her.
Before every trace of me turns to ash, I need to know the truth.
“Though some may reach for the stars,
Others will end behind bars.”
The words play in my mind, my eyes closed as I dance the bow across the strings of the violin. She and I are a team, moving and breathing in unison, producing a sound that transforms this cold, lonely dorm room into a makeshift Carnegie Hall. A momentary paradise.
Some violins sound too bright, better suited to cheery occasions like Christmas concerts or wedding processionals. Not this one, a walnut-brown Maggini on loan from Professor Teller. It’s full of dark tones and blue notes that grow icier as I move my bow closer and closer to the fingerboard.
It sounds like me.
My phone starts to vibrate, rattling against the desk, and for a moment my hopes rise. But then I hear the tinny clanging bells and remember. It’s only my stupid alarm clock.
I open my eyes, and without thinking, my gaze flicks toward the mirror on the opposite wall. Just like that, the spell is broken. I’m not the star violinist anymore. I’m the girl with the scar.
I turn away, switching my focus to the careful packing of my violin and cueing up a playlist on my iPhone, which launches with a whimsical, horn-drenched score by Alexandre Desplat. One of my favorites. The music steers me, nudging me through my morning routine. Lord knows I wouldn’t be able to get up most days without it.
I keep my back to the mirror while I button the stiff white collared shirt emblazoned with Oyster Bay Prep’s crest, and zip up the navy plaid skirt that cuts just above the knee. A navy jacket, kneesocks, and penny loafers complete the look, and for a moment I think I hear Lana’s snickering voice. “I bet you this uniform was dreamed up by a creepy old dude on faculty, indulging in some sort of schoolgirl fantasy.” She had a point there. I look about twelve years old in this getup, but my taller, better-endowed classmates might as well be playing dress-up for the cover of Maxim.
It’s almost time to face myself, but first I wash up in the little sink I had installed in my room. Anything to not have to stand in line with the other fourth-floor girls, all of us brushing our teeth in unison while staring at our reflections. No, thank you. I’d rather just zip in and out whenever I have to use the toilet, keeping my head down until I’m back in the safety of my room, which Headmaster Higgins was sympathetic enough to let me keep as a single.
The clock flashes 7:50, and I know I can’t put this off any longer. Grabbing a tube of my latest overpriced concealer, I turn to face the mirror.