I've always wanted to be a photographer. I used to dream of the day I'd get an SLR, macro lenses and my own studio. Problem is, I love writing too much…
Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto.
Note: Neji's POV. AU
I've gotten used to the blinding and quite influential flashes that dominated the world of macro lenses and film. Even so, professionalism cannot suppress the many dramatic consistencies and emptiness of every photograph I've ever seen—especially those that I have taken. Though they are said to keep a moment still for all time, with every photograph comes away the magic.
When I last took my camera for a shoot, I never got the end pictures developed. But I had no heart to clean neither my memory card nor my rolls of them. They are too lifeless to deserve to be seen, touched or even vanquished. These photographs had no place in me. Though they were wedding pictures, though I had brought my best apprentices to that photo shoot, I could not even whisper "Smile" before capturing the scenes. For I could not smile myself.
I remember telling her four months back that I knew a public garden that permitted photo shoots. She pondered on the dream escapade, of how her cream gown would kiss the roses so well, of how black matched with the mums. After all, I said, the lighting would be appropriate in that area around sundown. I even asked her if a photograph before the sunset would appeal to her. I marveled at her beauty when she'd be leaning against the hedge with a glowing orb romantically swaying at her eyes.
Of course, she took the suggestion with utmost desire. And she trusted me in the quality of the photographs, when they'd come out. I only nodded—reluctant despite the nod. Hardly could I ever convince myself that those pictures would be a thrill to work on. I could throw up at the thought, at the sight that'd come. Her alone, I wouldn't mind looking at all day. But them together—
Before we left the public garden on that day, I recall taking her by the waist, lifting her into the air and propping her onto a hedge. She laughed, demanding that I bring her down immediately. I ignored her and pulled out my camera—a best friend I could describe to be expensive rather than priceless. Upon seeing me back to my photographer pose, she rolled her eyes and said something about my obsession with pictures.
Pictures of her, yes, I am obsessed with.
I told her to smile. And smile she did. It'd be the smile the sun could never beat in terms of fuzzy warmth and hearty glow. It was a smile the rain, too, would fall for. Beyond where I looked through, I felt my eyes cringe—tear up for her. Just because I fell in love with that smile first didn't mean that she would fall in love with mine, too. Sadly, my smile matches a bird's. The vulture's. Does that creature even smile?
I heard her complain. Her jaw was starting to numb, she said, for I haven't bothered to even think of taking the photograph yet. She told me to hurry. I shot back with a quote about never rushing art. And I wondered why she was not hurried and I was.
Three months ago, she asked me if I had the time and dedication to take care of the invitations. I said I was a photographer, not a housewife. She didn't get my joke. Well, so did I. Eventually, I decided it'd be best if I took it back.
The two of them—the she and he—had agreed on an original photograph taken to be a part of their invitation. It was a mistake to entrust me with the task of coming up with the concept. Of course, tearing me up was my conscience. Even though I hated her fiancée, she deserves the best. The magnum opus of a lifetime. So, I spewed it. We started working on it as soon as my tripod was in my hands.
I had nothing left in me to come up with something new. So, I started praying that the anonymous photographer who had originally come up with this concept I'll be using would spare my hide from anything drastic…
Having the two lie on the pavement made them laugh. I held a straight face, reminding myself that it was business, that her fiancée was handing me a grand, despite the discount. Someone traced chalk around their forms, somewhat like sprawled yet beautifully dressed meat laid for drying. Tenten tried to resist chuckling as I captured an angle of them, holding hands with their backs on the cement.
When I was finally satisfied with my shots, I presented my best shot to Tenten personally, saying, "Voila."
She raised a brow, nevertheless impressed by the lighting and such, probably. The simple things in life have always awed her. But, she squinted her eyes at the photograph. "Neji, I don't get it. I trust you, but can you tell me how this is related to the wedding and why this would be a perfect invitation photograph? Please?" Her smile alone made me nod and begin my brief explanation.
"What do you see on the photograph?" I asked her.
"Uhm… Me and my fiancée on the pavement lined with chalk, that's what," she said, plainly saying, "What's with it?"
I smirked. "Well, crime scenes always have the victims' forms drawn onto where they were found in order to acknowledge their position to see the possibility of the case," I half-expected her to reject the idea even before I could finish speaking. She didn't, "With this picture, you just took 'Till Death Do Us Part' on a whole new level." I tried to crack a tiny grin to compliment my 'idea'. But she was the one who smiled…
"You are amazing," she breathed.
But I questioned her sincerity with those words when she hired someone else to do the invitation photograph.
She asked me if I could tag along with her to help her find their wedding venue. I couldn't decline anything from her, after all. On that wet, May morning, instead of enjoying a showing of The Phantom of the Opera or Die Hard 4 with a bowl of chips and a twelve-pack of soda, I was battling a mighty rainfall under a ten dollar umbrella with her, church-hopping.
Of course, I took my camera phone with me—the nearest thing to a real camera— nearly fainting when a few drops of rain splattered onto the lens. I could've squeaked if it wasn't for my pride. She turned to me and giggled, commenting on how my compulsion was an adorable quirk about me. If only I could say the same thing to her and mean it twice as much as I could…
After she rejected twelve venues, she dragged me to the nearest coffeehouse and treated me to my choice of caffeine. I settled for an espresso—she stuck her tongue out in disgust—when she picked up her favorite strawberry blend. I, on the other hand, found that a waste of money. Why order a non-caffeine beverage in a coffeehouse? I silently questioned her.
We took our place in a table beside the dappled window of the shop. With the drenched world outside, I thought it was a wonderful spot, with a gray and drab world envying us from outside. But, unfortunately, I'd prefer to stand in the rain and watch her from beyond a taxi's tainted glass than sit right in front of her and watch her engagement ring flutter under the light.
I listened to her complain about her hips, her fat hips. She told me that her wedding dress practically ripped apart when she tried it on for a follow-up fitting. And she blamed her hips for it. I only followed her lips, swerving and twisting with every syllable she blew out. And, quietly, I chuckled when she asked me if her hips were big. I had learned my lesson on this case: Never tell a woman she's fat.
Confidently, I shook my head and said something about her hips being the highlight of her form. She slapped her hand onto my shoulder, sending an electric sting. And there, sharply, she called me a liar. When I rolled my eyes, she sent another shock through my skin. I told her to stop doing that, but she only told me to stop telling her what to do. The most heated arguments pop up from the smallest of issues…
In her pout, she pushed back her chair and went off to get some brown sugar. For what, I had no idea. And I thought that maybe it was about time I went home myself. No one knows how difficult it is to spend a rainy morning with an over-sensitive, betrothed woman—especially if you happen to be too in love with her to even say she really does have fat hips. So, I took my things, left my mug and lazily made my way for the exit, hoping she wouldn't mind…
But, of course, before I left, I glanced back at her. She was still lost in the condiments and add-ons, her back facing me. There, I took the opportunity. I took my phone out, acting fast that I might lose the chance. I froze, hoping I'd get a good shot. And when the frame still appeared on my phone's screen, I lightheartedly smiled and saved it, assuming she wouldn't mind.
When I had already crossed the street, I sent her a message, telling her that I still had an appointment to deal with. Now, I'm a liar. Abruptly, I also sent her the photograph I took of her through a message. The picture caught her well, with her arched back winking at me and her hips bellowing at me. I couldn't even imagine what her reaction could be. I only waited. Along with the picture of her backside was a message from me: "Really, I think your hips are gorgeous."
I was already home when I got her reply:
"You should've told me you still had an errand. I could've walked with you to your studio.
Good luck, anyway, with what you have to do. I'll continue my search on my own."
The sad face, of course, did not help me in clearing my conscience. I knew better than to leave her there. I read the rest of the message:
"You are such a pervert, taking pictures of my ass.
It's a nice shot, though.
And, well, thanks for saying my hips are 'gorgeous'.
But I still think you're a liar."
Oh, well. I was, indeed.
Like a soul lost between heaven and hell. When I was already in the church she had chosen, on that day they had chosen to get married on, I felt like I had no role. Yes, I was one of the photographers. Nonetheless, I felt like I still needed someone to tell me that I was invited to this event. And, through my eyes, it was as if everyone had a hostile gape at me… wondering what I was doing alive in Tenten's wedding…
I had someone else to cover the reception photographs for me. I volunteered to take the wedding pictures only and not further than that. It was for my sake, for I was sure that I wouldn't last longer than the wedding. After all, it's Tenten we're talking about. Attending her wedding and being just one of the official photographers isn't a picnic.
Nearly half-asleep throughout the ceremonies, I found myself staring into space, for once through bare eyes and not through camera lenses. Behind the camera, the world is all smiles for you, or all the emotions you'd ever ask them to portray for just the camera. But, when you're not holding up a piece of metal by your face, the world feels too real to handle. If I were looking at this chapel, this wedding, that bride and groom through lenses, though, it would make such a small difference…
It was as if I was buzzed awake when the audience started clapping and when my colleagues started setting off flashes. My eyes rounded up when I had realized that it was already the end. The End. Drowsily, I took my camera and tried to get my hands to halt their shaking. And, to my dismay, even my vision was shaking, sodden and blurry.
I was unknowingly wiping my eyes dry when the couple passed me by. I knew they'd never realize it, but it had taken me aback. I still had not a single photograph of the wedding. If I couldn't do it for my sake, for my job, I should at least do it for her sake. But it was also her oversight to choose someone as unreliable as me to take such a responsibility. Or was it really under he best judgment to have me take the camera for her?
Somehow maddened, I slapped some sense into myself. Stop thinking, I told myself, and take a photograph. Even just one…
I held my breath as I stood amid everyone else, like I was on top of the world. I knew her next move. She was going to turn around. Gawd knows why, but I don't. She just will. And so, patiently as ever, I waited for her to turn around, to look back at whatever and whoever was behind her, whoever and whatever she was leaving behind. I was in that pack. Sadly, I was…
After all, I whispered to myself, this may be the last shot.
And my finger pressed the button that captured it all, flowers and all. As I had expected, she turned around to look back. And when she did, our smiles were caught in each other. With blurred petals around her, stuck in motion, and gleaming sunshine wrapping her up from the church pathway, I was ultimately pleased to have the shot. To add to my satisfaction, she was smiling at me… for me…
That beautiful smile… It has made my day for the last time.
She waved at me, a happy goodbye. I returned it, mouthing a hushed note she'd never hear…
Crap with a capital SAPPY.