Frances was thoroughly enjoying herself this evening.
The day leading up to this moment was long, made longer by the nature of today's workload, so by the time she left the office it felt like 8 years had gone by instead of 8 hours. All day she was looking forward to this - a catch-up with a few friends, the sort of thing that happens hundreds of times a week for people all around the city (you only need to walk down a busy street to see such examples) but something that Frances herself hadn't done in a while.
The reason it was so rare was, she resolved, poor work/life balance management on her part. It was something she aimed to fix, even made it a New Year's resolution as most people do. However, 2 weeks into the year and already Frances' schedule was so full of other meetings and obligations that soon it became impossible to tell where work ended and life began: the 2 opposing forces were constantly fighting for prime time on her calendar, leaving only destruction of the necessities in the aftermath. Lunch? It merged into what most people would consider afternoon tea. Sleep? She turned to caffeine instead.
As with most New Year's resolutions, it was doomed to failure before it had even begun. Statistics has proved time and again the weaknesses in New Year's resolutions, and you can't fight science.
Regardless, tonight's catch-up had miraculously found a spot on her calendar where the work/life struggle had not yet touched, and Frances was enjoying every little bit of it. The usual shenanigans were taking place: Matthew talking loudly, making a short laugh to mask the seriousness of his remarks (which only drew attention to the seriousness instead); Michelle sitting quietly and smiling placidly at the conversation taking place between Matthew and Ira; and Frances herself looking about at her friends and inwardly sighing, wishing she could do this more often. Soon enough, Matthew says something which reminds Frances of something stupid that he did, and she pounces on the opportunity to take a chip out of his ego - delivering old memories wrapped in jokes and insults the way that only long-time friends know how.
As the evening wore on, the cameras came out, and snaps of not-always-gratifying poses were being taken that would, depending on the mood of the camera owner the following day, find their way on Facebook, and into eternity. This did of course signal that the night was drawing to a close, and that saddened Frances greatly. Matthew had a hold of her camera (How'd that happen? She couldn't remember.) and raised it to take a shot of Frances, and by then her mind was wandering to a time when things were different: when evenings with friends such as this were the norm and work was the afterthought, not the other way around like it was today.
What happened to those times? Frances' asked herself, again and again, with the speed, force, and repetition that a mind can ask itself such things.
By the time Matthew pressed the button on the camera, Frances was so deep in thought that her feelings pierced through her eyes and came through in the resulting shot.
So there it was: a photo of Frances at 11pm on some unspecified night, wearing a dress that her friend Em would later describe as making her look "hella good", with hair over half her face that gave most people the idea of an unimpressed, tired, grumpy, or even hung-over person. The other half of her face though, the one in which her eye could be seen, acted as a window into her soul and told a different story: one of sadness, regret, and 2 thoughts: 1) How did I dig myself into such a hole, and 2) What can I do to get myself out?