That was my assignment.
That was all that he had said.
I was somehow supposed to capture love.
I rummaged through old photographs and watched as many Hallmark movies as my mind could handle. Why was such a simple task so difficult?
I was the one making it difficult. I was too much of an overachiever. Love wasn’t something to just trifle with and play with, at least not in my mind. I’d always disdained the idea of it. I would say the very word tasted like burnt toast.
But I respected love. Despite my divorced parents and the failing relationships all around me, I secretly wanted it to exist.
Where could I find it? Where could I capture it?
A picture seemed like the best form of capture, so I took my camera and checked everywhere that came to my mind: the café, the park, every fancy restaurant I could think of, the museum, the high school, and even the library. Searching for where I might even catch a glimpse of love.
I must’ve looked rather odd, walking around, holding my camera without taking any pictures, and following helpless, potential couples from what I viewed to be an acceptable distance. But still nothing.
I saw some forms. A mother with her baby, a daddy carrying his little girl on his shoulders, an older sister buying hot chocolate for her two little brothers, and old veterans sitting down for coffee to talk about old times, but nothing was what I felt I should be looking for. I wanted something that would really, really grab me. Something that would curl the edges of my soul.
But love was hiding from me. As usual.
I tried to distract myself in every possible way: TV, books, random videos on the internet, and even food. Surprisingly, not even food worked. My mind disallowed me to settle for anything less than the standard I had set for this despicable assignment, which was quite annoying.
I curled up on the couch to sleep, then in my bed, then in the floor. It was utterly hopeless. There would be no nap to ease my mind from this burden. I stretched my arms over my head and moaned while racking my brain for a solution.
It’s funny how things like this work. An epiphany hit me like a flying squirrel (I say that because of an earlier, rather traumatic experience).
I ran down the stairs and jumped on my bike without having a thought of giving my older brother an explanation. I knew exactly where I had to go, and at 7 PM, there was no time to waste.
To find a love that spoke to me, I had to go to a place that I cared about. A place that didn’t hold many necessarily important memories, but a place where I could be myself. A place that I loved.
I pedaled past the bookstore, past the drive in movie theater, and around the corner where the yellow Victorian house I hoped to live in one day stood. I finally made my way back to the park, but I didn’t stop where the fence cut off the trails. I made my way through a rusted opening in the fence where the grass grew a little wilder. It may or may not be private property, but it wasn’t like I was causing damage or anything.
I took in the fresh air, the flowering blossoms, and when I reached Smith’s Creek, I knelt and let the water cool my hand. The thought struck me that I should take a picture of this place. When I was little, and situations turned nasty, I always confided in myself that I would run away to here if things ever got too bad.
A slight noise made me jump then freeze. I slowly made my way to the wooden fence that separated the Carmine’s woods from the Carmine’s yard. That’s when I saw Denny. He was sitting under a tree with his legs crossed and eyes squinted, his mind completely wrapped up in the book he was reading.
I grinned and glanced around at my feet for a rock to throw at him.
For a Carmine, Denny wasn’t so bad. I actually had no idea that he was filthy rich when I met him in these very same woods ten years ago. I was playing “Adventurer” and he was playing “Poor People”. Thus, the two of us became best friends.
Having found the perfect rock, I watched him as he brushed back the golden hair out of his face as I smiled like I always did before doing something I knew I shouldn’t. But I lowered my hand because the thought that struck me was more embarrassing or painful than a rock to the face. I was supposed to be capturing love. And here was Denny. Weird, nerdy, and somewhat cute Denny.
I felt the blood burn in my cheeks remembering the way Denny had grabbed my hand during the finale of the firework show last July. I had never thought that a Carmine and I could ever be anything more than friends. I was still young with a lot on my plate other than looking for love, but maybe love was something you didn’t look for. Maybe love was something you didn’t fully understand.
And here was Denny. The only person in my life that I knew I couldn’t live without.
Without thinking, I raised the camera and snapped the picture.
At the noise, he blinked then looked over at me with wide green eyes like he was seeing me for the first time. “Maddie? What are you doing?”
I grinned. “Ah, you know. Just capturing love.”
He made a face, and before he realized what I was doing, I snapped another picture.