Carter was always fascinated with pictures. Never with pictures of objects or painted pictures, but always with photos. Black and white, colored, animals, people- every picture was of something that held special meaning. Carter took his camera everywhere with him, even when he walked two buildings over for his daily coffee. Whenever I saw him, he was always taking candid photos of those around us. If he wasn't taking pictures of those around us, he was usually taking pictures of me, with or without my consent. Carter would always name me as his muse and used me for every type of photo shoot imaginable.
After the third of these photo shoots and just a few months into our relationship, we were sitting by our Rome, having a picnic and holding hands. Carter and I had always longed to travel, but our lack of funds kept us stuck at a park fountain that had a faint resemblance to Rome's grand architecture. This was slowly becoming Carter's favorite place to take pictures of me and he loved to take me here almost every day.
The wind was blowing my messy bun even more out of place and causing my pale blue sundress to wrap around my calves. I was sitting on the ledge of the fountain, smiling for Carter's camera that he had just stuck in my face. With a large gust of wind, I felt my hat begin to blow away, but I placed a gloved hand on it and laughed loudly. I heard the familiar click of the camera before Carter rushed to sit beside me. He placed the camera in my hand and showed me the picture he took only moments before. My green eyes were glancing upward, focused on not letting my hat go, and my mouth was in an "O" shape with a hint of laughter teasing at the edges of my lips. Carter turned the camera off before I could study the picture more and kissed my cheek.
Carter sat down on the plaid picnic blanket placed in front of our Rome. With my hand in his, I sat down beside him and laid my head on his shoulder. His tan hand grasped mine, soft enough to emit a bout of romance, but strong enough to tell me he would never let me go. His deep blue eyes were focused on the cucumber sandwich resting in his other hand while his brown mess of hair swirled in the wind. Carter's jaw moved up and down softly as he chewed the sandwich. I lightly licked my thumb before resting my free hand on his stubbly cheek and brushing a crumb off his upper lip. Under my hand, his lips lifted into a smile before kissing my thumb with a feather-like touch. I removed my hand from his cheek and leaned against the fountain wall, cold marble bursting through the thin fabric of the sundress. As I lifted a chip from the bowl in the middle of the picnic blanket, I heard the familiar click of a camera- Carter had taken another candid picture of me.
I smiled wryly at him before helping the chip continue its solemn trek to my mouth. "Why are you so interested in photography?" I crunched the chip in my teeth and glanced up at him through my eyelashes.
Being a woman of many words, I was taken aback by his choice of five simple words, "I never was, until you."
Although our relationships had only lasted a few months, these five words became the foundation of our own language where we used mash ups of seemingly simple words to convey a greater message. We conveyed our greater message through the emotion we put into our words. As we sat at our Rome that day, those five words become not only the foundation of another language, but the foundation of our relationship. I never was, until Carter.
That day was the day I knew I was in love with Carter. In my head I knew it was too soon, too fast, but my heart would not listen. A few weeks later, when "I'm in love you" was threatening to spill from my lips, I learned that Carter not only loved me, but was "madly, deeply, passionately" in love with me.
It was a late Friday afternoon, the air was sticky with humidity and the sky was overcast with clouds threatening rain. Like every week, Carter was coming to walk me over to the park, not for pictures, but for a concert. On Fridays, musicians from all over the city would come to share their talent in improvisational shows put on for the benefit of musically challenged citizens like Carter and I. This show had been the first date Carter took me on a mere seven months ago and we had gone ever since. Carter loved to go and take pictures of the musicians, gaining inspiration from their unplanned music.
When Carter arrived to pick me up, the first sprinkles of rain had begun to fall. Standing at my door with slightly wet brown hair and a disheveled coat made him look even more handsome than ever before. He was casually leaning against the doorframe in dark jeans and a polo shirt that brought out the color of his eyes. Once my heart fell in love with Carter, I began to realize just how utterly beautiful his face was. Deep emerald eyes lay deeply set on either side of his slightly angular, but still stunningly handsome, nose. Tan skin from working in the sun all day gave his features an exotic look and the same appeal. Carter's eyes were studying me as my gaze travelled from his now-cut, spiky hair to his rosy lips, set in a knowing smirk. As I went to grab my coat, I noticed Carter smiling at me, a smile full of blinding white teeth, but intriguing all the same. I felt a sudden urge to kiss that smile right off his face, but restrained myself as I pulled on my black wool coat and grabbed an umbrella from the closet.
Once I reached the doorframe, Carter wrapped me in his arms and whispered "Beautiful", his lips barely brushing my ear. He kissed my cheek before setting his arm on my shoulder. As I closed and locked the door behind me, Carter placed his hand in his pocket, obviously attempting to find something. At that moment I do not believe he saw me observe how his green eyes got abnormally large, fearing that he lost whatever he was searching for. I also know for a fact that Carter did not notice me watching his sigh of relief and attempt to put on a "nothing is wrong" face. I didn't want to ruin his fantasy, thus I just finished up with the door and wrapped my arm around my waist.
As Carter held the large, black umbrella over the two of us, he inhaled deeply, "I love you." No matter how many times Carter said it, no matter how many times he showed it, no matter how many ways he said it, those three words always gave me gooseflesh and this time was no different.
I smiled up at him then snuggled closer into the crook of his arm. "I love you too, Carter." I relaxed in his comforting scent- a mixture of shampoo and cinnamon-spice cologne.
We walked like that for a good five minutes; body to body, side to side, my cheek to his chest. Rain was pouring steadily by now and I recall having quite a bit of worry about the music. Of all the times Carter and I came here, never once had it rained and I wasn't sure how the artists would battle the stormy weather.
As a chilly wind blew around our bodies, I tugged my scarf tighter around my neck. I could hear Carter's steady heartbeat in my ear as we walked, giving me a small rhythm to step along to. When we finally reached the park, I grudgingly stepped away from my calming rhythm and away from Carter. There were chairs set out underneath a large tarp and we made our way over to them, hands linked with a special bond. Once we were seated, Carter wrapped his arm around my shivering frame, rubbing my arm with his large hand.
When I glanced up at him, his eyes were focused ahead on the musicians getting prepared to play. Although Carter was watching them, I could tell his mind was wandering elsewhere. A normally smiling mouth was now set in a firm line and I could see his teeth rubbing over his bottom lip, a nervous habit he had achieved over the years. I noticed his nose twitch to left a couple times, a sure sign that he was thinking about something very difficult. Carter could feel my eyes on him and he glanced down at me, immediately smiling before kissing my forehead. Then, he went back into his solemn thoughts, leaving me out here in the real world. The music started, but Carter remained in a complacent mood, his eyes focused on the trees just beyond the musicians. My heart sped up as I realized something horrible may have happened, thus I stood up quietly, tugging Carter along with me.
Without any words, Carter understood that I wanted to go somewhere else; somewhere we could talk about what was going on. Without any words, Carter opened the umbrella and let me lead. Without any words, we both walked in the same direction, skipping puddles as we went. Without any words, we both knew where we going, arm in arm. Without any words, I lead him to a white-washed building. Without any words, I knew where he would be most comfortable.
We weren't that far from the park, so we could still hear the skilled music drifting over the sound of pelting rain. As we reached the building I wanted, Carter sighed heavily and followed me inside. I knew Carter would be most comfortable in his home-his studio. I unraveled myself from his grasp and walked across the soft rug spread over hard linoleum. As I removed my hat and scarf, I traced a finger along the dark red walls that gave off this intense warmth and comfort. My hand came to rest upon a shelf, covered with pictures, "Carter, we both know something is wrong. What happened?"
While Carter considered his answer, I inspected the pictures. Each picture was of Carter and I; each picture was placed in a timeline to tell the story of our relationship. I felt Carter's presence behind me as I ran my index finger over the frame of the first picture.
"Do you remember this?" Carter walked next to the shelf and leaned casually against the wall. It seemed as if nothing had happened, as if I had never asked a question.
My smile told him the answer- yes. The picture was from last year, when we met for the first time with our two best friends. They had made us awkwardly pose for a picture in front of the fountain in the park. Our Rome. I chuckled softly before looking at the next photo. This one was a few months later, when we were on our first date. Carter was dressed in ripped jeans and a worn out band shirt, while I was dressed in a semi-fancy dress, my hair pulled up in a sweeping updo; we had made quite the pair on that date. I recall both of us being extremely nervous, but excited to have dinner at the local diner.
I looked up as Carter walked into a separate room, but was too anxious to look at the next picture to ask him what he was doing. The next picture was a month later, the night of our first kiss. We were sitting in front of our Rome again, arms intertwined, foreheads touching. I smiled to myself, not just because these were pictures Carter had never shown me, but because he had thought enough to take these pictures, to keep a record of our relationship from the beginning.
The next five pictures followed the same pattern- one every month, we were both in it, and we were both sitting in front of Rome. Once I got to the sixth one, it brought tears to my eyes. It was the photo from the day I realized I was truly in love with Carter. The picture was in black and white, something Carter did to give the photo more emotional impact. The camera was close up, revealing only my right eye and Carter's left eye. Our hands were joined in the form of a heart over our eyes, a motion expressing our utter devotion. I set the picture back on the shelf, wiping a threatening tear away.
Carter still hadn't made it back to join me, but I suspected he was doing something important and so I decided I wouldn't worry yet. After checking around to make sure Carter still wasn't back, I moved on to the next few photos. Each photo got more emotionally charged than the last. They ranged from a far away, black and white shot of a kiss in the snow to a close up of our hands locked together. I held up picture after picture, grinning to myself as I went. When I finally got to the last one, my heart sunk because I was done looking at pictures.
"Carter?" I picked up the last photo and immediately became confused. This picture was different than all the others. It was black and white, but it wasn't of any people, it was of an object. The background was a blur of greys, but the open black box in the center stared openly at me. "Carter, what is this?" I studied the picture closer, squinted my eyes even, but I could not make out any part of our relationship that would have to do with an open black box.
While I studied the picture, I heard a cough come from beside me. Before turning around, I set the picture back in its proper place. Yet, when I did turn around, Carter was not standing; he was kneeling before me, a little black box in his hand. My breath hitched in my throat and I looked at him warily. "What… What are you doing?"
Carter smiled, "Annemarie Rose Hawthorne." He placed his right hand on the top of the box, "I love you."
I swiped at a few tears escaping down my cheek. Carter's green eyes studied me, his white teeth rubbing against his bottom lip. "And I love you." The words came out in a teary mumble, barely audible at all.
"Not only do I love you, Annemarie. I am madly, deeply, passionately in love with you." As he said the last word, Carter's hand opened the small black box, revealing a gorgeous ring encased within its velvet exterior. "Will you do me the honor of marrying me?"
My heart swelled with joy and by that moment the tears were freely streaming down my face. My voice failed me when I tried to answer, so I just nodded and gave him my hand. Carter pressed his lips against my knuckle before placing the silver ring around my finger. He stood up; my hand still clasped in his and kissed my tears away, shaming me silently for crying over such a silly thing. My voice still hadn't found its way to my mouth, so all I could do was nod and kiss Carter and hold him in my arms, glad that we would never have to let go.
It would be absolutely fantastic if that was the end of my story though, wouldn't it? Carter and I, wrapped together by strong ties of love, by a silver ring wrapped around my finger, by our promises to never let go, never give up. Yet, there's more to the story, more than promises of little children and a white-picket fence, more than sweet kisses and hugs, more than pictures taken by an enthusiastic photographer.
Three months passed and the ring still had its place on my finger, Carter still had his place in my heart. Wedding plans had just begun and I could hear the bells ringing in the distance. I felt at peace with Carter, like my heart had found a friend. My love grew everyday, every time I saw him, every time I heard his voice, saw his smile.
Carter had just gotten a job, a well-paying one that consisted of working in a cubicle. I didn't think it sounded too bad as we would get more income from cubicle work than from picture taking. Yet, Carter was miserable. He barely had time to take photos, barely had time to be with me, barely had time to help me with wedding plans. As the three months passed, I noticed a change in the face I had once loved with all of my dear heart. No longer did he have smooth tan skin covered in stubble, but now his skin was wrinkled with frown lines and a little beard was growing across his chin. His green eyes were no longer filled with joy and happiness, but weariness and exhaustion. And that smile which I so loved, which had brought me weak-kneed every single time I saw him, disappeared.
One night, almost five months after our engagement, I was sitting in my apartment, nursing a cup of hot tea and flipping through multitudes of wedding magazines that Carter gave me to make up for not having time to talk about our future matrimony. The television was on an older scary movie, but my brain was so absorbed in the magazines that I paid no attention to the screen. As I put the cup to my lips, a sudden knock came at the door, causing me to jump off the couch and almost spill my hot tea. "Coming!" I set the hot tea on an end table before making my way over to the door. A quick glance in the peephole told me Carter came to visit me, but when I opened the door, his appearance told me that it wasn't the same Carter I had known for the past year.
Carter's right hand was shoved in his front jacket pocket while his left hand held his swaying form up with the doorframe. Green eyes were glazed over, barely acknowledging me, barely acknowledging his horrible disposition. "Annemarie!" He attempted to say, but his tongue seemed stuck to the roof of his mouth, thus causing a jumble of syllables to come forth. As he stepped into the apartment, I noticed the distinct smell of alcohol erupting from his clothes and his breath. When I asked if he was drunk, he shook his head before collapsing in an alcoholic heap on my couch. "S'okay," he waved me away when I tried to get him to sit up. "I jus'… Jus' want to sleep now."
I stepped away, the scene all too familiar. Just last week Carter had come stumbling in complaining about work before collapsing the exact same way. When he took the job I knew it wouldn't turn out well, his creativity needed and outlet, but sitting in a cubicle quells creativity instead of promoting it. It had been months since I had seen him with a camera, snapping pictures with that infectious smile of his. I missed that Carter. The carefree Carter not worried about finances, only worried about relationships. The sweet Carter no preoccupied with work trouble, but preoccupied with photography. I missed my Carter.
With the horrid scene playing out again before me, I placed a blanket over Carter. I knew it would be better to let him sleep it off before we could talk, would be better for him to be sober when I would tell him to quit his job.
As I sat in a recliner across from the couch, I felt my heart tear a little. Last time this happened, Carter promised me it would never happen again, promised that he would never act like this again. He had apologized and kissed me so tenderly before giving me his dashing smile. Yet, here we were, him passed out in a drunken stupor on my couch and me sitting here questioning his credibility and choice of a job.
A few hours later after I had just dozed off, I heard Carter call my name. "Annemarie?" His tongue no longer sounded stuck to his mouth, but he still stumbled over the three syllables. "You know I love you." The blanket I had placed on him was crumpled on the floor, used and thrown away. "You know I would never do anything to hurt you." Carter was flipped onto his stomach, smiling his infectious smile at me. "But, Annemarie, I have a confession." Carter placed both hands on the end of the couch and pulled himself to a sitting position. "Will you listen to my confession?" Carter glanced at me with pleading eyes and the smile that turned my legs to jello. When I nodded, Carter pulled the blanket back around him and launched into his confession. "I lost my job. I lost it and I lost it for good." His words were still slightly slurred, but I could tell that the words he said were thought of in a sober man's mind. "I tried and tried to keep it. But I couldn't. I mean, I worked hard. I followed all the rules. I gave up my life for that company." When I attempted to console him, Carter shushed me with one piercing look from his beautiful green eyes. "I even, I even, I… Annemarie, forgive me!" My eyes must have shown the absolute confusion I felt, for Carter ended his tale with four words. "I had an affair."
Something inside of me broke. I heard the crunch, felt the pain. Somehow, I found my voice. And I used the invincible power of speech to heal my breaking, crying heart. "You, you what?" I couldn't breathe, I felt like I was swimming in an ocean of air with no lungs to take it in. After every time he declared his love to me, after every time he kissed my lips, promised me the world, held my ringed finger in his hands, I was sure he was faithful, sure I was his only leading lady. It turns out I was wrong, so, so wrong. "Carter, how could you?" I twisted the silver ring on my finger, felt the weight become greater on my hand. "Were you sober? Were you in the same mindset you are when you told me you loved me, when you promised me everything, when you took everything I had?" Tears were flowing down my cheeks, mascara flowing with them.
Carter's face wrinkled with frown lines and he looked at the ground before nodding solemnly.
"Carter, what were you thinking?" I was pacing by this point. The television was still on and a character screamed in the background. My right hand was twisting the ring around my left finger. As I listened to Carter tell me that it was all in my interest, in our interest, I grabbed my cup of now-cold tea and drank it quickly. I couldn't even think of words to say, how to deal with this situation. Carter hated his job, but still had an affair with his boss to keep it, yet ended up losing it anyway! My heart hammered inside my chest as I finally pulled the ring off my finger.
Carter looked up at me, eyes still glazed over, but full of anguish and pleading. Yet, my heart couldn't handle this. I couldn't handle my love, my fiancé, leaving me for a woman at work. My face felt wet with tears and I could not even look at Carter as I pointed to the door. "Get out." I quieted his pleas when another sob wracked my body.
Carter stood up from the couch and reached for my right hand. While more tears formed in my eyes, I held Carter's hand, gave him the last look of love I could muster before releasing him. As he pulled his hand back to his face, Carter's emerald eyes glanced at me and then shifted downward to the ring sitting in his hand. "Annemarie."
I covered my face with both hands. "Just go, Carter. Take the ring. Rethink your priorities." More sobs wracked my body as I collapsed on the couch, ringless, loveless. Through my sobbing I heard Carter say, "I love you" before I heard the front door close as quiet as possible. "If you really loved me, Carter," I spoke through my tears to no one at all, "you would never have left."
"Grandma!" Betty, my oldest grandchild sighed. "Grandma, what happened next?" She pushed her blonde hair from her emerald eyes and scooted closer to the wooden rocking chair where I sat.
Jesse, my youngest grandchild squealed. "Yeah, Grandma! What did happen next?" She followed in her sister's pattern and moved closer to me, eager to hear the rest of the story.
"Is that how you met Grandpa?" Sara, the middle grandchild asked. As she moved forward to lend an ear to my story, she looked extremely excited, her blue eyes taking in every detail of my face.
I laughed quietly, set my knitting needles down on my lap. "I thought you girls wanted to hear a romantic story." The fire behind us crackled loudly before a piece of wood settled, sending off a small spark.
"We did!" Jesse squealed again. "But we want to know how you met Grandpa. Is that how?"
At that moment, the spoken of Grandpa walked into the room. "I heard some shouting in here. This old person is trying to sleep, girls."
"We're sorry, Grandpa," Sara got up and ran to Grandpa, giving him a hug around the knees. "Come listen to the story! Grandma's going to tell us how you both met!"
Grandpa chuckled before taking a step behind me and placing a hand on my shoulder. I heard him sigh behind me, then inhale deeply. While we sat in quiet ecstasy, I took the wedding ring off of my left hand. As I glanced up at his eyes, my heart melted. I heard the girls sigh in front of me and I knew I could not prolong my answer any longer. I twisted the wedding ring around my thumb, inspecting it slowly and carefully.
"Girls," I said while still looking at the diamond. "Run to bed. Your mother will have a fit if she knows you're up this late." I ignored their complaints and shooed them off with my hands. As soon as they ran out, he walked around the rocking chair and took my hands in his. "I love you."
"And I you," his voice was soft, quiet almost, but tender all the same.
I pulled my hand from his grasp to look at the ring again. I would never be able to get over the inscription written on the inside of the band. As I read it a smile crossed my face and I looked up to see him smiling back at me. I read the inscription out loud, a reminder to both him and me.
"I never was, until you."
A/N: Yeah, here's something new. I haven't been working on anything but this. Yet, I've started getting into a writing groove so maybe some more will be posted? I don't know and I'm not making promises. Yet, I keep getting these inspirations during church or during stats... Maybe I should be focusing on that, not writing... Hmmm... Anyway. I came up with this idea and was going to originally make it super sad, super depressing, but I realized... Carter and Annemarie must be together. There's no getting around that. In my head they're soul mates and who knows, maybe this will be expanded into a short story? No one knows what the future holds, but that may be part of it. Anyway, I wrote this in about... Eh six hours off and on, so it's definitely not good, not proofread, not edited. Please just leave some constructive criticism. And I know I use a lot of commas, I've been in a poetry-y mood and that's a way I write poetry and it just moved into a story format. Anyway, please read, please review. Thanks darlings!