Although Ryn stared at her parent's framed wedding photo, she was not looking at it. She had studied it before, but now she focused on the wall or the smooth edges of gold frame. In the photograph, Mama was a slow, shy girl whose tremulous smile was in danger of disappearing in terror of marriage. She wore her anxiety tight about her; in place of courage, panic and pride straightened her spine. The trepidation with which she first entered their union gradually subsided, to be replaced by quiet satisfaction, deep and serene. So Ryn barely recognized the girl her mother had been. In the photograph, beside her, Father stood with a hand upon her shoulder. Her mother's delicate neck was bare, her shoulders graceful even where her Father's hand weighed heavily upon it. If her father changed at all, Ryn never knew. He was as unreadable beneath the glass as he was in real life. He barely spoke to her. With Mama, it was different. When she was younger, she often pretended to be asleep when her father spoke in the dark, continuing long, drawn-out conversations with Mama.
"Sige na, please?" He pleaded, once.
"Nandito yung anak natin, hon." Her mother's tone brooked no argument.
Behind them, the altar seemed to disappear in the sepia background, as did all the other guests Ryn barely recognized. One was her mother's sister -- there, her hand with her widow's ring just visible. Squinting at the glass, Ryn giggled at the grinning eight-year old who looked back. She waited an hour more before the house lizard poked its head from behind her parent's framed wedding photo. Behind the glass, her mother wore the half-smile, half-frown, still.
Light brown and almost translucent, it scrambled from behind the picture before Ryn ran after it. The butiki's tiny body wriggled across the wall, quicker than Ryn could catch. With a flick of its tail, the lizard landed on the white-tiled floor making for the creaking staircase and the pile of newspapers piled behind it. But Ryn was bigger, her stride far outreaching the tiny lizard's. She landed on the third step, swiveled on the balls of her bare feet, and caught the lizard mid-jump before it lost itself in the broadsheets. Between the relative dark of Ryn's cupped hands, the lizard stopped squirming and grew still. Ryn could feel its tiny heart.
"Ryn, ano yang hawak mo?" She almost lost the lizard then. When her grip tightened, it squired. Tiny nails dug into Ryn's soft palms.
"Butiki po! Kailangan sa klase!"