LAST LINE CHALLENGE- PHOTO BOMB

 This is my own contribution to the last line challenge, a quick magical romance:

PHOTOBOMB

   

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              He trudged through the airport, sidestepping businessmen and tourists, his own overloaded backpack colliding with more than a few passersby.   Pulling his baseball cap low on his forehead, he made his way to the shuttle that would move him to his boarding gate and that much closer to home.  

            He missed his little house near the lake, his front porch that caught just the right breeze in the late afternoon of spring.  He missed sitting on his patio, staring at the water of Lake Ponchartrain , he missed his father’s red beans and rice  Monday’s and his mother’s fried seafood Fridays  He missed the music, the smells, the people but most of all, Declan McAllister missed his bed.  He’d spent three months in hotel rooms, easting room service or Kraft services while he filmed his latest movie.

            As the shuttle came to a grinding halt, his cell phone buzzed in his pocket.  Groaning, he stared at the screen and shook his head before answering.

            “Hello Ma.” He said and rubbed his tired eyes, before running a hand of two days of beard stubble.

            “Declan, where are you? We expected you hours ago.” She asked and he smiled.

“Sorry, I sent you a text. I had to reschedule my flight after a last minute problem. I’m actually at the gate to board my plane.  I will be home in about fifteen hours. I have a connecting flight in New York.”

            “You sound tired, Dec. Are you getting enough sleep?  Are you eating?”  He couldn’t help but smile at his mother’s concern.  Even at thirty six years old, she still treated him as a kid.

            “I’m a little tired and I eat fine.” He assured.

“I don’t believe you. And I won’t until I see for myself.”  She said.  Declan held his phone away from him, took a quick selfie and pressed send.

            “Well, see for yourself, I just sent you a picture.”  He yawned.  There was a long pause and he could hear his mother grumbling as she retrieved the photo. She sighed then mumbled something he couldn’t understand before returning to the call.

            “She’s not there.” She said, and Declan was only puzzled for a minute.

“She’s always there.” He mumbled, suddenly coming awake.  He paused just before stepping onto the motorized walkway, stepping aside when someone complained loudly.

            “Well, she’s not now. And you do look a little thin.”  She hung up and Declan found himself staring at his own face in a photo.  He had expected to see her there, just over his left shoulder as she always was, her dark eyes looking at something in the distance. Sometimes she smiled, her face light her thick curls framing a perfectly pretty face. Sometimes she was sad, with solemn and alone, but mostly she was just…there.   Only, today for the first time in nearly ten years, she wasn’t.  Instead he only saw his own face wearily staring back at him as the crowds bustled around him in a maddening rush.

            Declan managed to make his way to his gate, sitting near the windows he watched as the plane was brought onto to tarmac.  He looked down at his picture every few minutes, half expecting her to appear, but she didn’t and he didn’t know how to feel about it.

 

            It had begun just over ten years ago, her sudden appearance a shock.  It began with a cellphone that he’d received for as a gift at his college graduation. A sleek flip phone with a camera in a vibrant silver.  He’d been so excited to receive the gift that He’d taken pictures of all of his friends and family. When the camera had been turned on him, he posed happily with his two older brothers, his smile as wide and bright as it ever. Excitedly, his mother had glanced at the picture, her brow furrowed curiously.

            “Who is that?” She asked, point to the screen.  His father had stared at the picture and shrugged.

“Dec, do you know this girl?”   She held the phone out to him and he saw her, just in the background, a teen aged girl in cut of denim shorts and a bikini top laughing.  He shrugged and looked at the people milling around the quad outside of the auditorium where the ceremony had been held.  There were dozens of people, but not her.  She would have stood out like s sore thumb in a crowded of conservatively dressed parents and families.

            “No idea.”  Declan mumbled and thought nothing of it. He snapped the phone closed and had thought nothing of the girl again.  Until three months later and he had landed his first job as a production assistant on a movie filming right outside of New Orleans.  On one particularly long night of shooting, he and some of the crew had gone to a bar and sang karaoke until the sun cam up.  There had been several pictures taken with several cellphones, and Declan had been in lots of pictures.  And so had she.

            But only in pictures taken with his cell, never with anyone else’s.  “Maybe it’s some sort of technical glitch. Like they crossed wires somewhere with this girl.’ His older brother Bishop said as they pondered the issue.

            “Nope,” Declan assured. “I took it to the store and got a new phone.  It’s still doing it. She keeps showing up. “

“Maybe she’s like a stalker, popping up then disappearing.”  His brother Deacon teased.

            “Then she is one hell of a stalker because I have never seen her in person. Not that I would mind.”  He stared at her photo, her profile alone was gorgeous, but that face, that smile was stunning.  She had large deep brown eyes and curly hair that she wore in loose ringlets around her face. When she smiled there was a light within her.  She was young free and he wanted more than anything to find out who this girl was, problem as he had no idea where to start.

            Deacon grabbed the phone and stared at her face.  “Nope, I wouldn’t mind a stalker like that either.

            “Maybe it’s like some sort of dimensional wormhole. Your cell phone is a portal to another plane.” Bishop had teased and Declan snorted.

            “I doubt it.  “

“Maybe she’s your guardian angel.” His mother had offered. “Maybe she is watching over you, guiding you in your life.”

            “I have you for that.” Declan said, kissing her cheek.

“Maybe,” Deacon said with a grin,” its elaborate hoax. Like The Truman Show. You do work in the movie industry, little man.”

            “Don’t call me that. “ Declan mumbled. He was the youngest, but he was larger than his brothers. He stood just over six feet tall, but had been a football player in high school and college which gave him a good fifty pounds of muscle over both Deacon, a lawyer and Bishop, a doctor.  He had gotten the moniker of little man when he was seven and his brothers were in their teens. It stuck, even if it didn’t fit and was a nickname Declan had never been truly fond of. ‘Anyway, it can’t be a hoax, it’s been five years already. I think one of you would have broken by now if it were like the Truman show. You can’t hold water.  Either of you.” Declan had mumbled.

             ‘I have a question,” he father started, surprising everyone in the room. From the beginning Earl McAllister had remained quiet on the subject, only grunting his agreement or derision whenever asked for his opinion. “How do you plan on explaining that little anomaly to any woman your might date. A girlfriend will get tired of you always staring google eyed at some strange girl who just happens to pop up on your phone.  Better yet, how are you going to get her to believe that you don’t know that girl when you have hundreds of pictures with her in the background?”

            With that, Earl left the room, beer in hand while Declan, his mother and brothers stared at each other. How had none of them ever thought about that?

 

He had been right, of course. Big Earl was usually right.  Declan had a hard time convincing women that had no idea who the girl was. Even when he proved to them that it was some sort of glitch with his phone, they all stared at him suspiciously.

            When he was hired to direct his first feature film, Declan had been honored and relieved.  He could bury himself in his work and not worry about a serious relationship.  Dating was much easier than having an actual girlfriend.    Dates never looked in his phone, he never got calls on set about the girl on his Facebook page or in his Instagram pictures. He was not constantly explaining that he did not know who the beautiful woman with the curly hair and deep dark eyes was, that she just appeared.

At the height of his obsession with her, he’d tried to send her messages, writing small notes of a dry erase board.  He’d write a note and take a selfie, hoping that she would respond. She never did and he was sure that the portal was like a two way mirror only allowing him to see her.

            He made three movies in three years, and in those years he watched as she grew more sophisticated. The glimpses of her began to tell a story, she was a runner. He captured several pictures of her in jogging gear, her thick hair pulled back in a ponytail as she ran every morning.  She worked in a corporate field and apparently made a very good living. He clothes, not flashy by any means were expensive and well-tailored.  She wore reading glasses and loved mystery novels.  She played softball and went to the opera.  She dated, he assumed, by was not engaged or married, he knew from the absence of a ring.  When she hung out during her off time, she wore jeans, sneakers and vintage t-shirts that ranged from bands from the 60s and 70s to cartoons from the 80s.  He had the distinct impression that she was a music lover and that she was a girly girl. Her toe nails were always pedicured and polished in bright glittery rainbow colors. He’d spent more than one sleepless night holding his camera above the bed and snapping pictures just so he could see her sleeping next to him. Even though he had never heard her speak, Declan McAllister had fallen in love with the girl in his pictures.

            And now she was gone.

 

He sat in one of the plush leather seats in the first class lounge, pulling the bib of his cap down low over his eyes.  She was gone, he thought, and he wasn’t sure how he felt about it.  He contemplated life without the beautiful dark haired girl peering over his shoulder as he drifted off to sleep.

            “Sir,” He was gently being shaken, stirring him from his nap. “Sir, you can’t sleep here.” He lift the bib of his hate to stare at the young man standing over him.  Clearing his throat, he sat up and looked at his watch.  He’d been asleep for twenty minutes it would only be five minutes or so before his flight would begin to board.

            “Sorry,” He mumbled and sat up, pushing the cap back on his head.  He stretched and looked at the young waiter who’d woken him.

“Would you like a cup of coffee?” The young   man asked and he nodded.  He stood as the waiter moved away from him and stretched, pausing when he saw him sitting near the window.  She turned to look at him and smiled, and his heart stopped.  Slowly, she stood and come towards him, surprising him by planting a kiss full on his lips.

            “Declan,” She whispered against his ear, before taking a step back to look him in the eye. “I knew today was the day.  My grandmother was right as usual.  She said when the pictures stopped we would meet and she is never wrong.  “

            “Your grandmother?” He asked still stunned but exceedingly excited.

“She has the sight and when you started popping up in my photos she said that you were the one. My soul mate. She said that when it was time, the pictures would stop and there you world be and – here you are.”  She brushed a stray curl off of her forehead and looked at him expectantly. When he said nothing, only stared open mouthed she sighed. “You did see me too, right? I’m not crazy am I? Oh God, you didn’t-”

“No,” Declan said when he found his voice, “No, I just- I just never imagined- you aren’t crazy.  Neither am I. I just- you’re real.  You’re really real.” He laughed unable to keep his heart from soaring.

            “Of course,” She said, “You don’t know my name do you? I’m Selena.” She said and the name sounded like music to his ears.

            “Selena, we have so much to talk about.  I want to know all about you. What you do, where you live. Everything. ” He couldn’t stop touching her face and hair, inhaling her scent. She smelled like sunshine, just like he knew she would.

            “Flight 736 to New York is boarding at gate 12.” A disembodied female voice chimed into the lounge. Declan looked at her and her smile widened.

            “Babe,” She said lacing her fingers with his, “I think you’re going to miss your plane.”

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