I took a gulp of my iced coffee, shuffling my feet on the old hardwood floors. I glanced on an old book shelf, it was completely filled with old knick knacks that were covered in a layer of dust. An old kewpie doll, some old bottles from the early 1960’s, and a stack of old post cards dated from the 1940’s.
“See anything you like?” My sister nudged.
I shrugged, “nothing that speaks to me.”
“Get your mind off Rich already.” She said finally, lifting an older framed photo off the shelf.
I made a sour face, “you go look over there at those old hats and leave me alone to sulk.”
She shook her head, “I brought you here to take your mind off him.”
I rolled my eyes, darting around the corner of a display shelf. She’d taken me out for breakfast and iced coffee. Now we were wandering around an old antique market. She swore it would clear my mind. Food and shopping wouldn’t clear my mind after finding Rich, in bed with my so-called best friend. My so-called best friend who was supposed to be my maid-of-honor in mine and Rich’s wedding in less than two months. Needless to say, the wedding wouldn’t be happening anymore.
“You can’t let this get you down.” She called after me, setting the photo back on its shelf.
“Can’t let it get me down?” I asked. “Elise, do you know how it feels to walk in and find the man you’re going to marry in bed with your best friend?”
Her mouth dropped slightly open as she shook her head.
“Then you have absolutely no idea what I’m feeling right now.” I shot back.
“I never said that I did.” She told me. “I just said that you can’t let it get you down.”
I rolled my eyes again as I took another sip of my iced coffee. I headed up a small flight of steps that led to a smallish room that was filled with old paintings and portraits. My eyes scanned them over, a few of old houses, some old family portraits, and a photo of a baby. I was about to turn back down the steps when I saw it. An old black and white portrait that hung in a weathered cherry photo frame. It must’ve been from the 1920’s. A young man and young woman stood next to one another and judging by the close resemblance were related in someway. The young woman, dressed in a beautiful dress and hat, had what must have been 3 sets of pearls draped around her neck that hung most of the way down the front of her dress. Her skin looked to be flawless, with minimal make-up, though given the hue of her lips; I would have guessed she had on lip stick. She smiled and used both hands to keep her hat on. The young man was handsome. His dark hair was slicked back and styled perfectly. His dark eyes wrinkled at the corners as he smiled just as wide as the young woman. He was dressed in a dark pin striped suit. Given the way they were dressed, I would say they were quite wealthy.
I smiled, taking the frame off the wall and into my hands to study it closer. There was something about it. Something that I liked. I turned the portrait over, on the back, carefully scribed on the brown paper backing were two names.
Edward and Vivian
There was no price tag attached, but something told me I had to take it home with me. I carefully walked it back down the few steps and up to the older lady behind a small desk. She smiled at me behind her tiny spectacles.
“Can I help you deary?”
I nodded, “this picture, there’s no price.”
I flipped it forward to show her. Suddenly her blue eyes grew wide and she pushed herself back from the desk, shaking her head.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
She continued to shake her head, “you don’t want that picture.”
I gave her an odd look, “but, I do.”
She only shook her head, “no, you don’t.”
I looked back down at the photograph, I did want it. “But, I do.” I insisted.
“Why?” She asked.
“Because, there’s something about it, something I love.” I told her. “I’m moving into this little house that was built in the twenties. I plan on doing everything old fashioned. I think this photo would be a perfect fit.”
She only shook her head. “Trust me, that picture won’t be a perfect fit to anything.”
“Well, I think it will.”
“No it won’t.”
Suddenly an older man stepped behind her, “Margaret, what’s going on?” He asked, pushing his glasses down his nose to look at her.
“This young lady wants to purchase the Cowell photograph.” She told him.
“She does?” He glanced back at me.
I nodded, “I do, and I love the photo.”
“Why?” He asked, narrowing his eyes on me.
“Because,” I began, studying the picture, “they look so happy.”
“They were brother and sister.” The old man explained.
“I could tell they were related.” I smiled. “He is handsome.”
“Was.” He told me. “They both passed on.”
I looked down a moment. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to offend either of you. I just saw this and it spoke to me.”
“Of course it did.” The old woman shot back to me.
“Young lady, I can’t sell you this photo.” The old man said.
I frowned, “why not?”
“Because.” He said, taking the picture from me.
“Sir, I really do love this photo.” I smiled, cocking my head to the side to look at it again.
The old woman quickly snatched the photo out of his hands, “Do you like it that much?” She asked.
I nodded, “I do.” I told her. “I don’t even know why, I just do.”
She glanced up at the man, “Irvin, we have to sell it to her.”
He immediately shook his head no, “Margaret, I’m not doing that to this nice girl.”
“Really, I want the picture.” I told them again.
Margaret looked at me, “for some reason, they want her.”
I gave her a funny look, “who wants me?”
She held out the photograph, “Edward and Vivian.” She replied with a smile.
I pointed at the picture, “Edward and Vivian, as in the two in the picture?” I asked.
Irvin nodded, “yes.”
My mouth dropped open and I licked my lips, “What are you talking about?”
“You said they spoke to you.” Margaret smiled.
“I meant that as a figure of speech.” I retorted.
“What did they say to you?” Irvin asked.
I shook my head, “they didn’t say anything to me.”
“But, you said they spoke to you.” Margaret smiled again.
“I meant that the picture just stuck out to me.” I said.
Margaret shook her head, “but you said.”
Before she could finish I stuck out my hand shaking my head, “Never mind, I changed my mind. I don’t want it anymore.” I told them backing away, “you both have a nice day.”
I quickly found my sister Elise who was studying an old vase. I grabbed her by her scarf and began dragging her to the door.
“Lilah, what the hell are you doing?” She yelped, catching her balance, trying not to spill her iced coffee.
“We’re getting the hell out of here,” I said, “those people are nuts.”
“Those people?” She asked.
“The older couple.” I told her as we headed straight for her car.
“You mean Irvin and Margaret?” She asked.
“Ding, ding, ding, you got it.” I said, as she began digging her keys from her coat pocket.
“Oh honey,” she said, “they may be a little senile, but they’re not nuts.” She told me.
“Young lady!” I heard Irvin’s shaky voice behind us.
I swallowed hard and turned around. He was chasing after us, toting the old photograph with him.
“My wife didn’t mean to frighten you.” He said, smiling.
“It’s ok.” I told him. “You don’t want to sell me the picture. I get it.”
He shook his head, “no, it obviously belongs with you for some reason.” He extended the frame to me.
I glanced at it, Edward’s eyes and smile were warm and inviting. They seemed to melt away my chill from the bitter Illinois winter. I smiled.
“You like the photo.” He said.
I nodded, “I do.”
“The photo likes you.” He told me. “It’s your’s.”
I looked up at him in dismay. “I couldn’t just take it.”
He shook his head as his gray hair blew in the wind, “yes you can. I’m giving it to you. As a gift.”
“It is just a picture, right?” I asked.
He nodded, “a picture first and foremost.”
“Then why was your wife so insistent that Edward and Vivian wanted me?” I asked.
“We sell old junk,” he began, “some of it we have no clue where it came from. She, for the longest time has believed that many of the items have come with a few extras.”
My sister gave him a funny look, “a few extra what?”
“Ghosts.” He told me.
Elise rolled her eyes, “I don’t believe in ghosts.”
“You work with antiques as much as I have and you’ll believe.” He told her.
“I don’t think I understand.” I said, finally.
“Margaret thinks this picture stuck out to you so much because Edward and Vivian are calling you.” He told me.
“Calling me for what?” I asked, taking a step back.
Elise bit down on her lip, taking her free hand, tugging her winter hat down over her ears. “Well, whoever the fella is in that, he can call me anytime.”
I rolled my eyes at her. “What exactly are they calling me for?” I asked again.
Irvin shrugged. “Can’t say that I know. But, you’re the first person in ten years to really like this damn thing.”
I took a breath looking at the photo again. Edward and Vivian seemed to be staring at me through their dark chocolate eyes. “Where exactly did you get it?”
“Don’t know.” He replied. “We get a variety of junk from all over. My wife picks up little things here and there. Could have been a thrift shop, could have been a garage sale. All I know is, we’ve had it for years and when we sell it, it always comes back.”
“Comes back?” Elise asked.
He nodded. “Sold it to a couple a few years back. They came in the next day saying they wanted their money back, mumbled something about Edward and Vivian being mad.”
My mouth dropped and I glanced back over my shoulder at Elise who was standing there staring at Irvin with a gaping mouth. Now she thought he was crazy too.
“Look, it’s ok.” I told him. “Really, I changed my mind.”
“You have to take it.” He told me.
“She doesn’t have to take anything.” Elise told him.
The man’s eyes met mine, “Lilah, you like this picture for a reason.” He told me. “Take it, please.”
He was right. I did like the photo. It was the only thing that had caught my eye in the old shop. I glared at it again as he held it out to me. Edward and Vivian were standing outside. Though, given that the grass was completely exposed and the way they were dressed it was a summer day. Possibly windy with how she held her hat. Their smiles were so wide. So inviting. They seemed so kind. I felt as though I somehow knew them.
I looked back up at Irvin, “at least let me give you some money.”
He shook his head, “you said you were fixing up a little house with antiques, you come back here and do some of your shopping and we’ll call it even.” He tenderly passed the portrait to me.
I smiled, “thank you.”
“I just get the feeling that you’re supposed to have this picture.” He smiled as he turned to go back to his shop.
“Well, I’ll pretend that wasn’t weird as hell.” Elise said, tightening the scarf around her neck. “Well, I’m freezing, but if Edward and Vivian are with us, please ask them to get in the back seat.”
“Har-har.” I said sarcastically as I slid into the passenger seat of her car.
“All that trouble for that picture.” She said, shaking her head as she clicked on her seat belt.
“What’s wrong with it?” I asked, looking down at it again, “I like it.”
“It’s old.” She replied, starting up the engine.
I rolled my eyes, “you’ve never appreciated antiques like mom and I do.”
“For good reason,” she said, “I like the finer things in life.”
“Antiques are finer things.” I told her.