Harold edited erotic photos of a mostly naked married woman by the glow of his computer screen, and his mind wandered.
There was a flash of a bulb, the click of a shutter. A low-angle shot of Sophia on her bed, on her knees, arching her back and cupping her breasts. Fuck-me eyes and a bite of her lip. Click, click, click. A fling and a tease of her hair. Extreme close-up, a squeeze and a thrusting of hips. Click, click. A parting of thighs, a delicate touch of her hips. Over-the-shoulder, zoom, click, flash, then from behind. Click, click, and click.
“I don’t have cooties,” she cooed at some point.
Harold looked up from his camera, his eyes never leaving Sophia. “Huh?”
“You’re so far away. Wouldn’t it help if you got a little closer?”
Harold shrugged from somewhere between the bed and that balcony with the expensive view. “Maybe.”
Sophia pouted. “Ya know. For someone who does this all the time, you sure are shy.”
Harold continued making with the clicking and the flashing, only a little closer. “To be fair, most of these girls I photograph are–“
“Harold,” she scolded with a huff and a furrow of her brow. (Click.)
“Most of them are wannabe models who will never make it, settle on being whatever an ‘influencer’ is, then turn to selling oils and pills and other people’s artwork.”
“Sounds a bit harsh.”
“I’m not judging,” he said with a shake of his head. “Just sharing.”
Sophia sat there on her bed for a moment, beneath that interpretation of her younger self, and spilling out of her bra. “So, what does that make me?” (Click-click-click.)
Harold stopped again, and considered this. “I’m not sure yet.”
Many hours later, as Harold sat in the mild discomfort of an otherwise dark kitchen, beneath the wobbly blades of a ceiling fan, looking at those dozens of photos of Sophia, he still wasn’t quite sure what to make of her. Like the photos on his laptop, no two Sophias were the same. There was the refined woman in the silk sundress he met at the gallery, soft-spoken, curious, and resigned to the whims of a man who drags her by the wrist and parks in handicap spaces. A carefree mess in her vintage Bon Jovi tee smoking weed with Harold in his car. That confident young woman bound forever in canvas and oils. And every photograph was another Sophia looking back at him, her emotions and thoughts and urges scattered. One moment, she’s aware of how little she’s wearing and reaching for sheets, pretending she’s only being playful. The next, she’s ripping off her top and reaching for Harold with her eyes. But it was the Sophia who caught his camera lingering too long on an old surgical scar that Harold kept coming back to.
“These?” she replied, her fingers gliding over the faint lines running beneath her arms and breasts. “Oliver’s work. He’s a magnificent surgeon, but you can only roll back the clock so far. And time still leaves its scars.”
Harold said nothing, and through his lens he saw how his silence cut at Sophia like her husband’s scalpel.
“Do they bother you?” she asked, looking elsewhere.
Harold lowered his camera, saw the mostly naked woman on the bed in front of him, and considered this. “No.”
Sophia smiled. “I tried to cover them up as best as I could.”
“They look fine. You look–“
Harold never finished his thought. Back then, Oliver had returned by bursting through the front door and announcing his arrival like Ricky Ricardo. Whatever Harold might have been thinking at the time was replaced by the conflicting desires of leaping from the balcony window with the expensive view and running to the toilet. But now, his Grandmother had walked in on her sweaty grandson in his underwear looking at erotic photographs of a mostly naked woman on his laptop.
“Harold,” the old woman sighed. “I thought we talked about you doing this sort of thing in the kitchen.”
Harold slammed the laptop shut. “I’m working, and it’s hot in my garage!”