The Chamberlains head over to the lighthouse to get a memorable family picture clicked. Mia goes with a sullen face, her teenage angst making her want it to be something she could get over with as soon as possible. But family values have a knack of making themselves felt in unusual ways. 

“Mia, come on up! You’re going to miss it!” called out Brandy in her eloquent voice.

“I’m coming, I’m coming. It’s not like you are going to have the picture taken without me. How I would love that, though,” said Mia, rolling her eyes over at her mother.

She walked reluctantly towards her family, her yellow frock and blond hair flowing in the strong yet gentle breeze near the lighthouse. Her long brown boots seemed somewhat odd on her short frame, which gave her another reason to frown and dulled her seemingly lifeless hazel eyes even further.

Her father was straightening her younger brother Joshua’s shirt while her elder brother, Max, was busy talking to his girlfriend on his cell phone.

“Come on, look lively now, dear. You wouldn’t want to be sulking in our family photograph, would you?” said her mother. Her long and thin face was widened by her wide and cheerful smile. Her high cheekbones made her skinny face appear even more devoid of flesh when she smiled. But it was her twinkling and jittery eyes that showed how important the day was for her.

“I guess not,” said Mia, shrugging her shoulders. Joshua kicked some sand on to her brown leather boots when she reached the spot. She frowned and smacked him on his head. He fell down, the rocks missing his head by inches.

“Mia! What’re you doing!? You could have hurt your brother real bad!” exclaimed her father.

“If anything, the rocks would have undone whatever is wrong with his head,” said Mia, crossing her arms. Her father stared at her for a second before shaking his head and helping Joshua up. Joshua didn’t mind the fall as he stuck his tongue out at Mia when their father wasn’t looking.

“Well, it’s a relief that he didn’t ruin his dress. Come on, Joshua, stand next to your sister,” said her mother, tidying his shirt.

“Jesus, Brandy, the boy could have been hurt, and you’re worried about his dress,” said her father.

“It’s not every day that we are out for a family photograph at the lighthouse, Connor,” said Brandy. Her husband sighed and shook his almost bald head again before calling their elder son to join them.

“Come along now, champ. Your mother wants this to be perfect, which means you need to take out some time from your conversation.” Max chuckled at his father’s remark before taking his place next to him. Joshua stood in front of his father and next to Mia. He pinched her as he took his position. Mia resisted the urge to smack him again. Her mother’s hands rested on her shoulders as she sighed. Her father had one arm on Max’s shoulders and his other hand on Joshua’s. Mia looked at them as they donned their smiles for the camera facing them.

“Come on now, dear, look at the camera. It’s not always that we have such a lovely day here,” whispered Brandy in her ear. Mia turned towards the camera and sighed once again. A mild breeze was blowing, and her sunflower-yellow frock fluttered softly. The sunlight falling on her arms and legs had a soothing warmth. The breeze sprinkled water from the sea next to the lighthouse, tickling the back of her knees. Mia had dreaded this day of the family photograph, but standing there then, she felt quite peaceful. Just as she was about to smile for the camera, she heard the snap of the shutter. She had missed the moment.

Her mother rushed over to the photographer and almost snatched the picture from his Polaroid as soon as it came out. He nearly fell but Brandy didn’t notice. She shook the Polaroid picture a couple of times, eager for the colours to appear and the image to develop under the sunlight. Joshua ran past Mia to join his mother. Mia could hear her mother say something to the photographer, who shook his head and pointed at the other people waiting to get their photographs taken. Her mother was visibly disappointed as she walked away from him.

“How is it?” asked Connor in his usual heavy and jocular voice.

“It’s…alright,” replied Brandy. Her blond hair flew into her face but she remained standing motionless. Connor took the image from her and looked at it for a few seconds.

“What are you saying? This is beautiful! This is much better than I had imagined!” he exclaimed. He showed it to Max, who liked it as well. Her father handed it to Mia.

The day looked even more beautiful in the picture. Her father and brothers looked really happy, with Joshua’s eyes almost closed due to the sunlight. Her mother looked content and satisfied in the picture, as if she had attained everything she hoped for in life. Mia’s eyes then fell on her own face, and she realized why her mother wasn’t so pleased with the image. Mia’s mouth was half open and one of her eyes was half closed. The camera had captured her face the moment she was taking in air and was about to smile.


She wanted to apologise to her mother. She had wanted it to be perfect. Mia felt guilty that she couldn’t manage to smile in a picture. She wanted to say something to her, but her mother simply smiled warmly at her and continued walking. Like many other occasions, Mia failed to express her feelings to her mother and watched her cringe a little as another small happiness had been snatched away from her.

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