FYI: Roamer=car, Cruiser=motorcylce, Flasher=camera, and Caption=photograph
Part 1 For those who missed last Sunday’s post. Now, onward to part 2!
They returned home from hiking a week later. Scarlett marched directly to the shed with her flasher in hand. Timon had helped her turn the old storage unit into a makeshift darkroom when he realized her passion was not a phase.
The smell of chemicals hit her first. It had never bothered her that her clothes reeked of dye and bleach and fixer. In fact, she rather liked the smell. She even preferred the red lights she had installed, as they were the only light that did not harm her undeveloped film.
Latching the door of the shed closed and flipping on the red lights, she changed the trays into fresh baths of chemicals and removed the square plate of film from her flasher. She washed it, set it to dry, and then printed the images on glossy paper bigger than her face. Dipping the papers into the flat trays of dyes and washes, she waited for the images to materialize into view. Those moments of waiting were her favorite.
When the image of Timon and Celia appeared, Scarlett breathed in relief. She had captured the elusive enemy known as time.
“There she is!”
“I don’t see–Oh! There she is! Scarlett!”
Scarlett could see her mother waving from the base of the grand fountain of Hypotella, which depicted a battle between the ancient Phaedrians and Naiacans. They called that period of strife the Children’s War. It was fitting then, that their secondary school’s graduation ceremony took place at the Youth Memorial Hall.
Thousands of students, all dressed in the same white, billowing gowns and funny-looking caps with tassels dangling from their tops, streamed down the steps around the fountain to greet their exuberant families. Though they were all Scarlett’s classmates, she knew only half a hundred. She hadn’t actually spent much time in school.
Scholarium was the third largest city in all of Naiaca. In response to the high population, her school took in a minimum of ten thousand per year. Throughout history, Scholarium had jokingly been referred to as the City of Scholars, but Scarlett didn’t think it could be classified as a joke anymore because it held more truth than sarcasm.
She delved into the throng of fellow graduates. Her family disappeared from sight. As she was too short to see above people’s shoulders, Scarlett pushed aside fellow students and squeezed through the crowd. When she made it to the fountain, her mother engulfed her in a hug.
“Congratulations, my little one! You look so smart in your ceremonial gown.”
Squeezed beside Lorelei was Celia, who presented a pink carnation in good tidings. A second gold band was affixed to her engagement ring. She and Timon had married mere weeks before Scarlett’s graduation. “Many congratulations, Scarlett.”
Though Scarlett had received a number of flowers and garlands over the years, mostly for encouragement or lack of anything better to give her, she appreciated the sentiment. “Thank you.” She peered around their little group as the bodies in white pressed in, but only her mother and Celia were recognizable. “Where’s Dad and Timon and Kat?”
Celia’s head turned in the direction of a parking lot full of roamers. “Kat was worried about getting stuck in traffic.”
Scarlett expelled an annoyed huff. “I told you we should have walked.”
Brushing the tassel out of Scarlett’s face, her mother replied neutrally with, “You know how your sister is.”
Scarlett eyed the captions littered around her body in aggressive contemplation. Having already chewed her thumb’s nail down to the skin as she deliberated on which ones to include in her portfolio, she moved on to another nail. It faintly smelled of chemicals.
With a book in hand, her father cleared his throat outside the bedroom door. “Shed no longer big enough for your collection?”
Spitting out the sliver of nail she had torn off, Scarlett answered her father with dejection clear in her voice. “I can only send three captions to Hub Publishing. Three! How can they decide if I’m what they’re looking for based on three captions? Do I send them all black and white? A mixture? And what about the subjects? Do they want someone who does portraits only–It’s very popular right now–or are they looking for something else?”
Her father stepped between captions to give her a kiss on the forehead. “Little one,” he began. “Why do you even want to work there? Hub Publishing is so far from home. We would hardly see you.”
“Kat lives in Quinvillu,” Scarlett pointed out. “And besides, it’s only four hours away by roamer.”
“Your sister has her own life, Scarlett. She can’t take care of you and her family.”
Scarlett’s insides became a taut string. “Dad,” she said, turning the title into a warning. “I’m eighteen. I’m an adult. Adults get jobs and move out of their parents’ house. Kat did it. Timon did it. Now it’s my turn. I am going to get a job and I would like that job to be at Hub Publishing. They’re the best, and they’re becoming internationally recognized.”
“Those who must declare themselves to be an adult are not yet adults.” Her father tapped his book onto the side of his leg. “Kat and Timon both joined institutes for higher learning before they moved out. This is Scholarium. There are plenty of institutes to choose from and they are the best in all of Naiaca.”
Scarlett sighed deeply. “I don’t want to spend any more years in school, sitting behind a desk and being graded on things I don’t care to learn about.”
“Dad,” she stressed.
Her father deflated, hot air blowing from his mouth. He kissed her temple.
“All of your captions are winners. If you don’t get hired, we will know that Hub Publishing is full of morons.”
After her father left to busy himself with his own work, Scarlett chose three captions she thought Hub Publishing would appreciate. The application form was easy. All she had to do was fill out a short description of what and where the captions were of, her personal information, and then she slipped everything into a thick, brown envelope and secured it with twine.
To be safe, Scarlett bundled the rest of her captions together in an accordion pouch and packed a week’s worth of clothes. She used the old suitcase Timon had bequeathed her. One of the latches was finicky, jamming up more than not, and the red leather skin had faded into a soft rosy color. The brown leather jacket–also given to her by Timon, or rather, borrowed one too many times that it finally passed to Scarlett permanently–draped over the rectangular case. An old patch sewn into the sleeve near the shoulder covered a tear in the leather. The image was of an eagle stitched in dull brown, red, and white thread.
There was no way of knowing then that the hand-me-down jacket would reach legendary status in few short years, and Scarlett herself along with it.
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