Cheney Free Press -

The Family Portrait

The Writers Workshop


Last updated 2/2/2023 at 8:33am

Lizzy was a busy wife and mother of three. Three precocious children who never sat still. They even slept restless. Each morning Lizzy would wake her little angels, remake beds from scratch, sigh and get on with her day. Lizzy’s husband Carl worked as a car salesman at one of the local dealerships. He was a friendly, hard working and honest man who put in long hours and sold many cars and trucks. They were doing well financially and decided to invest in a Family Portrait Plan from a well known local photography studio. Lizzy and Carl carved out some time to talk with an environmental portrait photographer. They loved seeing friend’s family photos taken at home or in a natural setting and decided this was the route for them. Together with the photographer, they chose a beautiful site on their property to take photos.

While walking the property, Ellie, the photographer, found the best light and perfect backdrop for the first photo session of four. Each season, the family would gather at different places on the property to have their photos taken. At the end of the year, they would have a beautiful four-season portrait package commemorating a year in the life of the family. Lizzy was excited, Carl was apprehensive and the children were, well, inquisitive, highly active, and exhausting. Lizzy and Carl hoped that the long walk to the site would perhaps calm them a bit. Annalee talked non-stop with her imaginary friend Hector while the boys romped and played and nearly ruined the whole thing by getting dirty. Lizzy and Carl insisted they take the photos as is. After all, this was a snapshot in time. This is what the boys always looked like! The photographer loved the idea and planned to make sure the boys “good side” showed in the photos. Dirty noses and rosy cheeks would make for an excellent, light-hearted portrait.

Once gathered at the site of a partially broken piece of old fence line, the kids were positioned, Lizzy and Carl stepped into place, the photographer grinned and said, “Pumpernickel!” Everyone laughed and the shot was perfect. Ellie took a few more, just to be /sure. They moved to a location just a few yards away, repeated the process and moved on to repeat it again. Ellie wanted to be sure Lizzy and Carl had a few fun shots to choose from.

Once back at the house, Ellie pulled the photos up on her laptop to show the family. In the first set of images, there was a strange shadowy silhouette next to little Annalee.

“That’s strange,” said the photographer. “I didn’t see any shadows and don’t recall anything that would cast a shadow and ruin the portrait.” She was nervous now, having lost the light for the day. The photos would have to be retaken. She moved on to the next set. Again, the shadow appeared next to Annalee. And again with the third set, each in different locations. What was that? Ellie began to pale. “What was that!” her mind screamed. Lizzy and Carl were curious if perhaps Ellie was new and didn’t realize they were facing the wrong direction and catching some strange, but perfectly explainable shadow. Maybe from a cloud or distant tree or something like that. Ellie assured them that she had many years experience and this never happened before. Just as the three adults were discussing rescheduling the session, Annalee walked over and looked at the screen. She giggled excitedly and clapped her little hands.

“Oh Momma, look how handsome Hector is!” she exclaimed. “And he promised to stay by my side the whole day. I’m so happy. Look Hector, you’re in the photo too!” With that she skipped off to tell her brothers the good news.

Lizzy, Carl and Ellie were silently staring at the screen. No-one knew what to say. Finally, Carl piped up with, “I hope you don’t plan to charge us extra for Hector.” All three laughed nervously and began scanning the room to see if they could see Hector peeking around a corner or blatantly standing in front of them. Of course, they’ve never seen him before and certainly didn’t expect to see him now. Silly grownups, Hector ran off with Annalee. He was always by her side, playing, watching and protecting his best friend.

At the end of the year, the family proudly showed off their Four Season Family Portraits to anyone and everyone they could.

“See here, that shadow next to Annalee? That’s Hector. We researched the history of our property and a little boy named Hector Alvarez lived here around fifty years ago. We found a picture of him in his family portrait in the attic. There’s really nothing more to the story. We couldn’t find out what happened to him and he won’t or can’t tell Annalee, but he is always by her side, watching over her.” Though only Annalee could see and talk to him, everyone loved him. He was, after all, part of the family and they had the photos to prove it!


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