14 July, 2015

The Girl in the Portrait

Here is my entry from the July 3rd Creative Prompt:

Elizabeth held the paper up because the man told her to. He ducked behind the camera, Elizabeth unsure what was to come. Her mother waited anxiously behind the rope, her hands close to her chest. She moved any time some got in her line of sight of Elizabeth. Elizabeth could see her father tell her mother to calm down again. But it didn’t help. Elizabeth wished she could understand why her mother was so anxious. Since they left Austria her mother had been fretting about one thing or another. She incessantly checked for the train tickets, the passports, their boat reservations. She made them stand on the deck until their belongings were loaded – everything they owned in three trunks.

Elizabeth wasn’t sure what was going on. She heard her parents’ whispered voices at night talking about opportunity and how there was none in their village. Her mother would cry and her father would tell her to trust him.

Trust – it seemed like such an odd request. Her father had been demanding it a lot recently. As he started to sell bottles of liquid from his wagon, letting their family farm decay. As he moved them closer to the village, selling the land that had been in her mother’s family for generations. As her mother started to wash the linens of local restaurants to keep food on the table. Then the biggest request: to leave Austria for America.

It took Elizabeth a moment to find it on the map. She measured the two countries with her fingers, America dwarfing their country, the whole continent really. She traced the route with her finger not knowing how long it would take to cross the sea that seemed endless.

The man yelled. Elizabeth slid off the stool to her mother, who opened her arms to receive her as if she had been gone for more than a minute. Her father moved off in a huff to the other line. Elizabeth looked at the letters on the paper, wondering what any of it meant.

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© Amanda Lunday