When Brenda saw the face in the picture she was stunned with surprise. Actually she nearly fainted with the shock. When she had collected her wits once again she held up the photo and eyed it from all angles, but no, it staid the same which she found even
stranger than had it done anything else right before her eyes. Had the face in the photo changed she would have found that quite natural, but it was shocking to her that it didn't do anything like that: It looked the same as before which made it possible for
her to look at her own face in an old photo from a mining town she didn't even know.
After some more considerations she decided to take it to her Mom. Sitting next to her formidable parent she waited patiently while she studied it through her magnifying glass.
"Hmmm ..." her Mom said, "I see what you mean, but first of all it can't be, simply because that's impossible, and secondly, isn't this lady somewhat older than you? As far as I know, sadly enough, no one goes from the process of aging to getting younger ..."
"Yes, you're right," Brenda said, and shortly after off she went to see her best friend Louisa. "Look," she said, "look at this face and tell me what you see."
"Ok," Louisa said, at once starting to study the old photo. After a little while she said: "I see what you mean, and I take it that she is a relative of yours ...."
"No-no," Brenda said, "nobody in my family knows her, but all of them see the likeness. Most of them right away and without any promptings."
"Yes, it is striking, but still, her facial expression, the looks in her eyes are not the same as yours. This woman has endured hardships, maybe severe abuse or even hunger."
"Well, according to the letter she was a prostitute."
"Yes, as I've told you several times," Brenda said, positively hissing with annoyance at the sudden dimness of her friend."
"Ok, ok, now I remember ... there was a letter from ... eh' ... someone ..."
"That's the point, I don't know who sent it and why he or she should take such pain to tell me that this is the photo of a prostitute."
Louisa sat very still for a moment, then she said in a very subdued voice: "I don't want to upset you, but that someone may be out to hurt your feelings or even you. Do you remember what Steven said?"
Of course she remembered what her ex-husband had said at the moment he left her. She remembered it very well and knew that she would never forget it.
"He did call you a, eh', prostitute, didn't he?"
The remark was like a sting in her mind. Why hadn't she herself thought of that? After all, it's quite easy to photo shop old photoes, to doctor them and make them look genuine while in reality they are fake, mere patchworks.
"You are right," she said, "I forgot as I tend to forget him and our marriage."
"Yes, I know," Louisa said, "and normally I find that good, but when something like this happens I think you should consider some unpleasant possibilities. After all, he did threaten you before leaving ..."
"He sure did," Brenda said, suddenly feeling very sad and exhausted. "I never understood why he should be like that, but he did turne against me and everything we had had for five years."
The two of them sat still for a while, both contemplating the wrongs of Steven and the sudden changes in love and hatred one may encounter. Soon after Brenda left to go home, but shortly after she phoned her friend: "You will not believe this, but when I came
home I found another letter with another photo in my mailbox. It's awful! Very evil actually."
"Evil? What do you mean?"
"Well, if you're not busy I should like to show it to you."
"Of course," Louisa said, sounding a bit exasperated.
When Brenda put the photo in front of her on the table she gasped with disgust. "No, no, this is too much!" she yelled, eyeing the photo of a Middle East woman about to be executed by stoning. She was half buried in the ground, looking very scared and shocked.
What was so extraordinary was the fact that her fright-distorted face was that of Brenda's.
Brenda knew at once that this time there was no denying the realities: Someone had once again set out to frighten her, had taken great pains in doing so, and had also succeeded as now she really was scared.
"Let's report it to the police," Louisa said. "They should do something about this case as it's a threat of ... well, of murder ..."
"Ok," Brenda said, "but if it really is Steven - and somehow I can't believe it - then I only want him to have a warning of some sort. After all, he must have lost his mind."
"More like stark, raving mad!"
"I feel like phoning him and asking why he is doing this to me ..."
"Better talk to the police so that someone is on this case before you talk to him."
"All right," Brenda said in an unhappy voice. "I hate to do it, but you are right."
That same evening, an enraged Steven phoned her. He had had a visit by some police officer and now he felt a victim to harassment. "How can you believe anything like that about me? I always treated you well and I NEVER threatened you."
"When you left ..."
"Ok-ok, but nothing like this sick joke. I don't know who did it, but it wasn't me."
As she wanted to believe him she felt relief at this strong statement. They ended up discussing the case as two good friends and he promised to help her if he could.
"If he can?" Louisa said contemptuously when she was told of their friendly telephone chat. "I still believe he did it because he is the only one who ever threatened you."
Brenda agreed that Steven was the most likely suspect and no matter how she searched her mind for someone else who fitted the role she ended up with a total blank.
Once more they didn't speak for a while, but both of them sat glancing at the two photoes then Louisa said: "I quite forgot, but what about the letter?"
"There only was one word in it: Die!" Brenda said in an unhappy voice.
""Die!"? Charming, and why would you stone yourself or let yourself be executed like that?"
"It didn't say anything about that. No verdict, no accusations."
Once again they sat without talking, just looking at the photo, hating what they saw.
The next day Brenda received a new letter. This one was with a clipping from a newspaper. It was an article about a dead woman, lying in a ditch of some sort. Her face was unrecognizable from the many stones that had hit her.
Brenda at once phoned the police, but didn't get much of a respons. However, she was told that they didn't see any indications that Steven was the guilty one. First of all he didn't have the skills to perform such photo shoppings, secondly he had found himself
a new love, someone whom she had never heard of before so why harass her?
"But I do get these letters!" she yelled into the receiver. "Someone is threatening me."
"We know," the police officer said, but we have no idea as to whom sent them."
Brenda felt a strong urge to hit or kick something, to revenge herself on some inanimate object, but instead she sat down and started to browse her address book. Maybe she had overlooked someone else who fitted the role. The only one she found was Steven as
he was the only one who had threatened her and who had accused her of being "for sale". - But it's not him, she thought to herself, he even knows better now and would never suspect me of being a prostitute.
After browsing her address book she pulled out the photoes and the clipping once more. Her eyes interlocked with the frightened woman about to be stoned and she positively lived her terror at the situation. Never before had she felt this close to one of these
unfortunate women. Actually, she had never before as much as thought about them and now she felt like she herself was one of their kind. She felt the ropes that kept her tied up, the dirt covering half her body and she also felt all those men - relatives of
hers - about to kill her. As this feeling crept in on her she suddenly heard the thud of another letter in her mailbox and stiff with fear she rose to fetch it.
Ripping open the envelope she found a new photo, this time of her face appearing in a group of holocaust-victims. There they were, all of them dead, except her. Standing on top of a heap of dead bodies she appeared in a nazi-uniform, this time not a victim
about to be executed, but the executioner of innocent people. "But I wasn't even born then!" she yelled at the top of her voice and lifting her fists to the ceiling, threatening the unknown and unseen persecutor who had turned her life into a Hell.
A thought, which she had repressed before, struck her with all its force: Maybe somehow I did this awful deed; maybe I did die like the Muslim woman or was persecuted like the prostitute. Maybe I really am the woman in these photoes even though neither of them
was the one I am today. She let the thought sink in and sat pondering it when there was someone at the door and she was brought a parcel full of photoes of herself, all of them a shock ...
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