It was dark by the time Julia got to the old looking shop on the corner of the street. She had been out shopping almost all day, but still hadn’t found something for Seth’s birthday. She had been heading home, feeling like she would never find a gift, when she spotted the shop. She had never seen it before even though it looked like it had been there forever. A blinking open sign next to the door seemed to beg her to enter.
The place seemed abandoned. The shelves were covered in layers of dust, and the ceiling might as well have been one large cobweb. Despite the sign out front, Julia was beginning to doubt that the shop was actually open.
“What brings you to my quaint, little shop, dear?”
Julia whirled around startled. A robed figure stood behind her, looking threatening shrouded in the many shadows of the room. Then the figure stepped into the light and threw the hood back. Julia was a little relieved to see that it was an old woman, but not that much. The woman looked nothing like a loving grandmother. She looked more like the ugly witch you always picture standing over a bubbling green cauldron and cackling maniacally.
The old woman was hunched over which made her seem shorter, but even if she was standing up straight, she probably would have been three or four inches shorter than Julia. Her pale skin was dry and wrinkly. Her once black hair was now almost completely gray. It was frizzy and tangled, as if it hadn’t seen a brush in years. The most shocking thing, however, was her eyes. They were a bright, crystal clear blue. They were the kind of eyes that seemed to peer into your mind and read all your secrets.
“Are you alright, dear?” the old woman asked. Julia realized she had been standing there silently staring at the woman for a few minutes.
“Yes,” Julia said hesitantly. She still wasn’t sure if the old woman was a threat or not. “I was just looking for a birthday present for my brother and thought there might be something good in here.”
“Oh! That’s wonderful! Hold on just a moment. I think I have the perfect thing for you to get him.” The old woman hobbled away.
Julia considered leaving. The shop was definitely beyond creepy and the old woman’s appearance was quite frightening, but the old woman had seemed friendly and nice so Julia decided to say. After all, her mother had always told her not to judge a book by its cover.
Julia wandered over to a wall that seemed decently clean compared to the rest of the store. The wall was covered with photographs. They were all neatly hung in ornate frames. There were maybe about twenty of them in total. She studied some of them.
One was of a young girl, maybe eight or nine. She was sitting on a swing. The camera had captured the photo as the girl was swinging forward.
Another one was of three teenagers. There were two girls and a guy. They were sitting on a couch in what seemed to be an expensive manor. The guy was sitting in between the two girls with his arms draped over their shoulders.
A third photo was of a man in his late twenties. He was lounging in a chair on a beautiful looking beach. He was leaning back slightly in the chair and was holding up a martini in a cheers gesture.
Something felt off though as Julia scanned through the photos. She couldn’t quite put her finger on it, but there was something wrong with the photos. Before she could examine them more closely though, the old woman returned with whatever she went to fetch.
“I see you’ve found my memory wall,” she said. “Photographs are such amazing things. They capture moments so you will never forget them. These photographs are of relatives of mine, most of them children and grandchildren. They were all taken by my late husband. He could have been a famous photographer, but he chose not to share his work with the world.” She seemed to drift off in thought, perhaps remembering some fond memory of her husband.
“I’m sorry for your loss,” Julia said.
“Oh don’t worry about it, dear. He was old and ready to leave the world. Now here is the perfect gift for your brother.”
The old woman held up a framed photograph. The frame was lovely. The silver frame split into five thin bars and coiled in and out of each other all around the photo. The frame wasn’t too girly looking despite the elegance of it. The only thing strange about it was the photo itself. It was the glossy photo paper, but instead of having a picture printed on it, it was completely black.