Behind the Photograph

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I laid across the wooden bed frame with a long cigarette between my fingers. Blue rings of smoke escaped from my lips and lifted towards the lights. I stared into his lens, knowing I was looking directly into his eyes. By the smirk on his face, I could tell he was enjoying the view. With one small movement of his index finger pressing the shutter, he effortlessly captured the image. My blonde hair curled tightly around my face accentuated the dark makeup around my eyes and my painted red lips. From the lighting, my skin appeared to be unmistakably smooth and soft to the touch. Only a white, silk sheet entangled my bare body, making the image more risqué - just the way he wanted it.

A devilish grin spread across his face as he pulled the camera away from his eye. “Great job,” he said in a low voice. “I think we’re done for today. I’ll give you a call when I get the prints.” His dark brown eyes scanned over my frame once more, looking as if to imagine my body underneath the sheet. As he tore his eyes away, I noticed how his slicked back hair didn’t budge as he twirled on his soles. He walked over toward his equipment bag with a slight spring in his step.

Wrapping my body in the fabric, I made my getaway to the restroom. I shut the door tightly behind me and dropped the sheet. Quickly, I pulled on my navy blue dress, dark nylons, and black heels. I also wrapped a dark scarf around my neck before reaching both arms into the sleeves of my knee length wool coat. I buttoned the last button as I walked into the studio, plucking my handbag from a side table.

I left with a cheesy grin flashed at the photographer, and not a word more. Somehow he was able to make my skin crawl with just the slightest look. I sure as hell was not going to stick around if he anticipated anything else.

My heels clicked down the New York sidewalk, busy with foot traffic. Snow had already begun to fall, blanketing rooftops and building slush on the sides of the roads. The chilly air turned the tip of my nose rosy pink and made my breath visible. Many ladies bundled in coats and gloves passed by, gossiping about the latest news. Tall men with heavy brief cases and brimmed hats weaved through the swarming crowd, determined to make their way home. The motors of long, metallic cars with round hubcaps and high pitched horns, familiar to the flashing light bulbs of the city, mingled with the sound of footsteps and muffled conversations. Lead paint added color to the surrounding businesses, attracting more and more tourists.

As I crossed the street with a large group of people, each wrapped in expensive furs, I questioned myself. High fashion now ruled my life, along with photo shoots, magazines, and Camel Cigarettes, instead of my little family back in Wisconsin. I remember the last thing I had told Mom was that I was going off to chase my dreams and I wasn’t coming back.

“Rebellious,” she had called me. “Rebellious and stubborn.”

Whenever those words echoed in my mind I couldn’t help but grin. So true, they were.

But where had this led me? Was I content where I was in life at the moment? It was already difficult enough to make it alone as a young woman in this time, especially as an aspiring model, like myself, trying to make it big. Money was tight, but still flowing. No, I did not like some of the things I had done in my duration here so far, but everyone has regrets, right?

“Soon,” I told myself. “Soon you’ll make your big break.” I sucked in a deep breath and continued further down the street towards my apartment, just a few blocks away.

Suddenly I was hit hard in the shoulder, sending me to the ground. The contents of my small purse flew across the sidewalk. A little befuddled, I cleared my mind and began to grab for whatever I could find from my bag.

“I’m terribly sorry,” a rushed male voice said. “Let me help you.”

I glanced upward to find bright blue eyes staring back at me. He carefully handed me a lipstick case.

“It was my fault,” I tried to mumble while quickly taking the lipstick. “I should have been watching where I was going.” I enclosed my fingers around a compact I found on the ground.

The man held out an extended hand as his face broke out with a friendly smile. He helped me to my feet, and I placed everything back into my handbag neatly.

“Thank you,” I said sweetly. I rubbed my hip, feeling that now my coat was sopping wet.

“Anything I can do to help a pretty lady like yourself,” the stranger grinned. He ran his fingers through his light brown hair, parting it to the right. “And where might you be headed?”

I couldn’t help but blush. “Home, to my apartment.” Somehow I couldn’t say much more.

“Well, mind if I walk you home? It’s the least I could do,” the gentleman asked. His eyebrows rose as he spoke.

“Sure, I wouldn’t mind having someone to talk to.”

With a smile, he turned on his heel, and I continued onward with a new partner.

“So what might your name be?” I questioned. I wasn’t quite sure which of the many forming questions to ask, so I stuck with a basic one.

“Tom,” he said. He walked with his hands behind his back. Underneath his tan trench coat he wore black slacks and dress shoes. I figured him to be a man of business, but wasn’t going to question it just yet. “And yours?” he asked, looking into my direction.

“Liz,” I replied. I watched his eyes, but they never left mine to study anything else. They shone brightly with the youthful age of twenty-five.

“And where are you coming from, Miss Liz?” he asked casually.

I scanned his face, studying his square jaw and straight nose. “A studio a few blocks over. I had a photo shoot to attend.”

“A photo shoot, you say?” he paused. “Liz,” I heard him mull over my name quietly to himself. “The name sounds familiar. I think I may have seen a few photos of you from somewhere, maybe. And I think I know of the photographer you’re talking about.” He snickered, “not the best.”

My brow furrowed. “And why not?”

“Come on, there are way better photographers out there than that bum.” He reached into his coat pocket. “If you think that guy is great, then my uncle will blow your socks off.” Tom handed me a business card. “Give him a call.”

I shot him a questionable look as I accepted the card.

“Trust me,” he said with a wink. “I don’t think you’ll be let down.”

“We’ll see about that,” I challenged. By now we were walking up the front steps to my apartment. I stopped before looking up into Tom’s face as he joined me on the top step. He seemed to tower over my tiny frame. I placed my hands on my hips. “How about you come with me when I go to see these pictures? Then I’ll consider going to your uncle.”

Tom pulled a pen out from his pocket and wrote on the back of the business card I held. He smiled and started down the steps. When his feet hit the pavement he turned back. “It’s a date,” he called.

I shook my head out of surprise. “Wait a minute,” I yelled back.

“See you then,” he said with a grin.

I turned the card over in my fingers a few times before revealing the side with his telephone number.

A week later I rang Tom to inform him that the photographs had been printed and were soon to be displayed. I agreed to meet with the photographer and let Tom tag along.

Right on the dot, Tom showed up. He wore that same tan trench coat as before, along with brown trousers and shined shoes. He smiled as I greeted him at the door in a knee-length purple dress, my hair again tightly curled as the last time we had met. I grabbed my coat and handbag from the hook attached to the flowery wall paper. I smiled as I closed the door behind me gently. Then retrieving a pair of black gloves from my purse, I slipped them over my hands delicately.

As we walked down the lamp lit streets, Tom shoved his hands deep into his pockets after pulling the collar of his coat up to his ears, desperate to keep warm. I crossed my arms trying to accomplish the same.

When we entered the studio, the sound of trumpets echoed as Dean Martin sang along. A record player sat in the corner with the popular music escaping from the large brass funnel, lightening the mood to the small apartment. Tom shuddered, brushing the snow off his shoulders in little wet droplets. I shrugged out of my coat and placed it on a coat rack near the door. Then pulling off my gloves, each finger one by one, I placed them back in my purse. Tom hung his coat beside mine, revealing a white dress shirt tucked into the waist-line of his pressed pants. He rolled up the sleeves to his elbows and slipped his thumbs into the belt loops.

“Hello?” my voice rang through the quiet room.

“Liz!” the photographer called back. He came out from the studio. “So glad you could be here!” I watched him take a long second glance of me. Goose bumps began to form on the surface of my skin. I tried to rub them away as fast as possible. “And who might this be?” he asked in a disgusted tone, finally realizing we weren’t the only two here.

“This is my friend, Tom.” I looked in Tom’s direction, then back to the photographer. “He wanted to see the photos with me.”

As the photographer turned, I noticed how he rolled his eyes. “Well then, come this way,” he directed.

Reluctantly, I followed him into the next room. All of the many photos hung upon the white walls in his own personal gallery. Different landscapes and animals were incorporated in the multiple pictures of women.

The first photograph of myself that stood out was one in that wretched white sheet. My shoulders had been exposed along with my long legs. A single stream of smoke came from the end of the cigarette as I stared into the camera lens.

Tom stood next to me, only inches separating us, to study the image. His arms crossed over his chest, showing off the muscle and veins underneath the lightly tanned skin.

“Like I told you,” he whispered as he leaned towards me. “He would knock your socks off.”


I rolled my eyes.

“You look so different than what is portrayed in those photos,” Tom stated slowly as we walked down the street. The snow quieted the city around us. By eight o’clock, all sunlight was long gone when we left the small studio. The only light came from the dim street lamps and the few cars that passed by.

“I look different?” I asked.

“Well,” he paused, “in those pictures, you’re not showing your true beauty. You’re showing what a man wants to see. You’re attracting that kind of crowd in your photos.” He glanced between me and the pavement below his feet. “You’re much more stunning when you’re not trying.”

I smiled to myself at his comment. I reached out for his elbow and linked my arm with his. “Thank you,” I said, sincerely.

He lightly bumped into me. “And I believe only someone crazy could miss that,” he joked.

Again we had reached my doorstep. I giggled to myself and unlinked my arm from his, turning to face him. “Well thank you for joining me, Tom,” I said.

He placed a hand out between us like a wooden board. “It was my pleasure,” he smiled.

I put my hand in his to shake gently.

“And remember,” he said as he let go. “Don’t forget to consider my uncle. I also work with him. A hobby of mine, I guess you could say.”

“I won’t forget,” I assured.

He headed down the steps, shoving his hands into his pockets. I reached for my key, but had a second thought.

“Tom,” I called.

He turned quickly around to meet my eyes.

“Would you,” I paused briefly. “Would you like to come in for a bit?” I asked.

“Sure,” he smiled. “I wouldn’t mind having someone to talk to.”





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Healing_Angel This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Nov. 28, 2010 at 2:35 am
I'm not at all surprised your in an Advanced English class. This is extremely well written and the flow is perfect. Also the beginning, middle and end is smooth. I love how you wrapped it all up too! I love the balance between dialogue and events. I find that very hard to do! Well done! :)   
 
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