Disclaimer: I do not own or lay claim to anything related to Supernatural. If I did, I would probably not spend my time coming up with random fanfic ideas for the show.
A Cracked Picture Frame
…and an Assortment of Five Photographs
By Spectral Scribe
The frame had been a gift from her mother, along with an empty photo album and a brand new camera. Mary had always had a penchant for photography, and her excitement at the gift crackled like static electricity. The frame itself had a smooth, silver edge with a simple design running along it; behind the glass was one of those generic pictures that are always stuffed into new frames.
"You didn't have to."
"Of course I did! You're moving into a new house. You're starting a new life with John. You need to capture those memories; you'll cherish them forever."
"I thought you weren't going to get all sentimental on me."
"Oh, honey. That's what mothers do."
The first photograph that filled the frame was also the picture that had lasted the longest. Its edges were an aging mustard-yellow that curled in slightly like an old man hunching closer to his cane as years dragged by.
Within the small rectangle was a young couple with smiles affixed to their faces. On the left, the man with scraggly brown hair and a smooth, clean-shaven chin held up a fiercely white major league baseball with an indiscernible signature scrawled across its surface. His grin was slightly crooked but clearly as authentic as the ball, and he had one beefy arm draped casually over the shoulders of his photo-companion.
The woman, with a messy ponytail of blonde hair and eyes that sparkled in the afternoon sun, looked to be mid-word, mid-laugh by the way her mouth was twisted awkwardly, yet full of mirth. She had on a cap and a baseball jersey far too large for her petite form, and she was leaning heavily into the man at her right shoulder, her head cocked as though about to double over in laughter.
Behind them stretched the green grass and rising seats of a baseball stadium. The excitement in the photograph was palpable, the air bright and thick with late afternoon sunlight.
The frame, which used to be shiny and new, had fallen over when the house had caught fire, gaining a hairline crack down its middle. Upon recovery from the remains of the house, the old photograph was removed from the frame, and a new one put in its place.
"I'll have to take your word for it until I'm a mother of my own."
"Good idea. Mother knows best."
"Shut up," she laughed, gathering the gift in her arms and carrying it into the sparsely furnished living room. "It's not much yet, but we're still looking at sofas…"
The second photograph that filled the frame was of the same man from the first photograph; strikingly enough, it might be difficult for a viewer to make that connection. He had the same scruffy dark hair and broad shoulders, but there the resemblance ended. Rough stubble sprouted from his previously smooth chin; deep creases lined his forehead; his mouth was a horizontal slit, neither smile nor frown; a distinct hollowness lay within his shadowy gaze, such that one became immediately filled with an aching despair upon viewing.
A casual observer will also see two young boys in the picture. The first, perched on the stone barrier that the man leaned against, could be no more than seven years old. He was crouched low to the top of the stone fence, right at the man's shoulder. Light brown hair spiked up from his head, and a freckly face tilted towards the camera, as though aware of its presence and not much bothered by it. He was clad in army print and wore boots that were far too large for his tiny feet.
On the ground by the man's feet was a very young one, possibly one or two years old. He sat on the cement, playing with the man's shoelaces, his head topped by a mass of feathery brown hair.
Behind the crumbling stone fence stood a small brown house. Perhaps the new home of the woebegone family? Perhaps the home of a friend, who had so graciously captured the moment forever in time?
In any case, the place—wherever it was—or the time, or the memory, ceased to be cherished, and the picture was removed from the frame and disposed of. And its place was taken by a new one.
The frame, having been tossed around in a duffel bag and placed on various countertops, was no longer the delicate, beautiful thing it had been. It was hardening, like the family, and gaining its own scars. And it was at this time that the frame got a small dent scratched into its side.
"I think it's beautiful. It's a nice little neighborhood, too. Lawrence looks like a good place to raise children."
"When the time comes," Mary enunciated with a smile, "I'll think about that. For now, I want to find a place for this frame. It's gorgeous."
"There's no picture in it yet."
"Well, I'll take one for it, then! But I'll find a spot first and then figure out what to put in it. I want the picture to be special."
The third picture, inserted with little grace, sat crooked in the cracked frame. The background bore an endless stretch of sapphire sky and desert; the foreground held a road and a lone car parked on the side, sleek and black like night. The first boy, now grown to his mid-teen years, leaned easily against the car with a sly, handsome grin that didn't quite reach his eyes. His jean jacket hung over a sweat-stained white tee-shirt, and his arms were crossed in a vague mirror of his hooked ankles.
The younger boy, retaining some baby fat into his eleventh year of life, was busy leaning over a large tire—the one that was missing from the back left wheel of the old car. His long hair hung over his forehead and into his squinting eyes, and he seemed to be pouring over the idea of changing a tire.
Nowhere to be found was the elder man with the shadowy eyes, but from the not-too-forced grin on the teenager's face, it could easily be discerned that the man was, in fact, behind the camera. Where the odd family had stopped on the long, deserted road to find a camera remained a mystery… a disposable one, leftover from some other place or time? One that they kept with them, just in case a Kodak moment reared its head?
This photograph remained for a few years before it was taken and affixed to a page in a large journal with a paper clip. A new photo soon took its place in the frame.
However, the frame's appearance contrasted the newness of the photo, for the frame was by now covered in small dents and nicks, and dirt smudged its surface.
"You and John are going to the game on Saturday for your birthday, aren't you?"
"I think I missed the segue into that, but yes."
"Take a picture there. You both love baseball, so you'll both be enjoying yourself, and that'll make for less fake, cheesy smiles."
Mary laughed. "Whatever you say. Then again, as long as John's not dragging me to one of those stupid car shows, I think my smile will be pretty real."
The fourth photograph was the first of the bunch to have been taken indoors. The occupants appeared to be in front of a table, but the picture was too close-up to tell.
It was the birthday cake before him that captivated the hazel eyes of the eldest. His sandy hair was brushed up in the front, and his angular jaw was beginning to shape itself into adulthood. Beside him was the younger; half-standing, half-sitting, the boy with a mop of dark hair and a plaid shirt leaned towards the elder, his arm stretching out and away to the edge of the frame and getting bigger, as though it was his hand that held the camera erect.
The older man was conspicuously absent.
Though at an angle, it could still be seen in the picture that the top of the cake spelled out "Happy 18th Birthday, Dean" in icing, even though there were only four candles. Perhaps the candles stood for the amount of time before the younger would celebrate his 18th birthday. Or perhaps there merely hadn't been enough candles.
Despite the absence of the older man, the two teenagers appeared content. Their smiles were genuine, and their affection for one another was palpable. This particular photograph lasted for a good many years before the frame was taken away to a new home; after a short while of residence there, the picture had been removed and pocketed, its location from then on remaining a mystery, and the last picture had taken its place.
"Why don't you put it right there, on the mantle? Next to that vase?"
Mary smiled. "That's a good idea; it'll look great by the roses."
She placed the empty frame on the mantle, admiring its position. The silver shined brightly as sunlight slanted in through the open window.
The man was almost unrecognizable; his height alone made it seem impossible for him to even fit in so small a picture frame. Nevertheless, his miniature form sat on a miniature bench in the photo. Gray clouds hung above, but natural light still filtered down to him and the woman at his left shoulder.
He had a muscled build, wild brown hair, and eyes that twinkled with his smile. One arm was wrapped loosely around the woman, whose wavy blonde hair hung over her shoulders and whose dimpled smile lit up her whole face. The other hand held up a small bouquet of roses, which he appeared to be pointing in her direction, ready to hand them over to her. There were five of them, and if one concentrated hard enough, one might hear a ghostly echo of, "One for every month we've been together," whisper from the depths of the photograph.
This picture lasted for several months; at least, until the frame that protected it got knocked off the table when the apartment caught fire. Having taken such a beating over the years, the glass of the frame finally shattered into a thousand glittering pieces, and the frame itself cracked irreparably in half. The picture within, now free from its confines, curled in on itself, smoldered mustard yellow—not unlike the very first photograph that had resided in the frame—and burned into a small pile of ash.
"Oh, I can't believe my little girl is all grown up! What will I do now, in my old age?"
"You're not old. And besides, I'm sure you'll find time to call everyday… and, even though you live across town, you'll visit three times a week…"
"What makes you say that?"
Mary smirked. "Isn't that what mothers do?"