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There were two of them, each a small five-by-seven snapshot in a brown wooden frame. They looked out of place on the otherwise empty wall, but Julianne couldn’t bring herself to put them away. She was in them, both of them, surrounded by other people, all of them grinning while wearing scuba masks and diving suits. In one, they stood in a clump on a beach, the ocean spreading away behind them. The other had been taken underwater. She was holding a starfish and giving the camera a thumbs-up, the other people frozen mid-dive around her. Five years ago, she left her small town for the first time in her life, signing up for a scuba-diving trip to Australia’s coral reefs. She’d been taking classes in oceanic wildlife at the local college, and she’d been nervous but eager to go. She could only imagine what the world was like outside the six square miles where she’d grown up. She’d never had any reason to leave before; she’d studied business in her twenties, and had been content with helping her mother run her small bakery. But something tugged at her when she’d learned about the trip through the college, and after days of contemplation she’d decided to go. In between getting ready for the trip, Julianne spent the days leading up to her departure standing behind the counter of the bakery. Her mother had been laid up in bed all week, too fatigued to leave the house. When Julianne visited her the night before she left, her mother assured her she was fine. “I’m feeling better every day,” she said. “Really, I think it’s just a thing going around.” Standing at the door, Julianne frowned. “Well, call the doctor if you get any worse.” She felt worry lingering in the back of her mind, but it was lost in the hubbub of the next morning. The first two days of the trip had been perfect. They’d spent the time swimming in the ocean and recording the movement of the sea turtles on the beach. But on the second night, Julianne got the phone call. Her mother had collapsed, and Julianne rushed home. The bills piled up, the money sucked away by the costs of medicine, and Julianne could no longer run the bakery by herself. She took a job as an accountant, which she hated, and spent her days caring for her mother. She’d never gotten over the shock of that phone call, the pit of fear that had opened up inside her at the somber sound of the doctor’s voice, or the guilt that gnawed at her for leaving when she’d known something was wrong. She’d made a vow to herself, then, to stay as long as she had to. Now it had been five years since her failed adventure and she was still at her accounting job. Scott had made the days better, but now he would no longer be there. Julianne walked over to her computer, dreading the emails she knew would be lined up, waiting for her answer. Even after she came home from a day at work, they endlessly seeped into her inbox. She let her bag drop to the floor with a thunk when a spot of color caught her eye.

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OAR

STEINER

Profile for Oakland Arts Review

Oakland Arts Review Volume 4  

Oakland Arts Review Volume 4  

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