"Then why don't you?"
Mallory sighed, blowing her bangs out of her face. "Because my look is better suited to evening," she explained as the redheads, who'd moved on to swimwear, practiced for the beach action shots by tossing a soccer ball back and forth.
"With your glasses, you look better doing serious corporate looks."
I glanced at Angela, whose upper lip was now trembling slightly. "You know," I said, "maybe she could take off her glasses."
"I'm ready!" Elinor said to Owen. "Go ahead! Get the shot!"
Owen, who was standing in front of the couch, winced as he lifted the camera to his eye. In my experience, models did not ever boss the photographer, but that was clearly not the case here. Instead, Owen just kept his finger on the shutter pretty much nonstop, taking shot after shot as the girls arranged themselves every which way. Now, as Elinor blew a kiss to the camera, and to him, he looked appalled.
As a stylist, I'd been told it was my job to stay in the powder room/dressing area and supervise wardrobe, which consisted of the piles of clothing and shoes that were scattered on the countertops, floor, and nearby stairs. After my few early suggestions—less cleavage and makeup, for starters—had been completely ignored, I'd been mostly watching Owen and trying not to laugh.
"You know," he said now, as Elinor dropped to the floor and began to writhe toward him, her elbows clunking across the hardwood, "I'm thinking we're about done here."
"But we haven't even gotten the group shots!" Mallory said.
"Then you better get those together," he told her. "Your stylist and photographer get paid by the hour, and you can't afford us for much longer."
"Okay, fine," Mallory grumbled, tossing her boa over one shoulder. "Everyone together in front of the backdrop, now!"
The redheads grabbed their ball and headed over, while Elinor got to her feet, pulling up her tube top again. I looked at Angela, who was standing in the archway to the living room, arms crossed over her chest, her upper lip seriously shaking now. Three could be a crowd, I thought. But so could five.
"Hey," I said, and she turned around, looking at me. "Come on. Let's get you into something else."
I could hear Mallory telling everyone how to stand as Angela followed me back to the powder room, where I surveyed the options. "This is cute," I said, picking up a red skirt. "What do you think?"
Angela sniffled, then reached up, adjusting her glasses. "It's all right," she said.
"And maybe we can pair it with…" I glanced around, then grabbed a black top with spaghetti straps. "This. And some really high heels."
She nodded, taking the skirt from me. "Okay," she said, starting down the hallway to the side bedroom there. "I'll go change."
"You do that," I told her. "I'll find the shoes."
"Angela!" Mallory yelled. "We need you in here!"
"Just a sec," I called out, bending down and rummaging through the pile of shoes by my feet. I'd picked out one strap-py sandal and was looking for its mate when I felt someone watching me. When I glanced up, Owen was standing there, holding the camera.
"One sec," I said. "We're changing our look."
"I heard." He stepped into the powder room, leaning against the door and watching me as I finally found the shoe, wedged under a puffy parka. "That was nice of you. Helping her out."
"Well," I said, "modeling can be an ugly business."
I nodded as I stood up, glancing down the hallway for Angela, then leaned against the opposite side of the doorframe, facing him, the shoes dangling from my hand. After a moment, he lifted up the camera to his eye. "Don't," I said, putting my hand over my face.
"I hate having my picture taken."
"You're a model."
"That's why," I told him. "It's gotten old."
"Come on," he said. "Just one."
I dropped my hand but didn't smile as his finger moved to the shutter. Instead, I just looked at him, through the lens, as the flash popped. "Nice," he said.
He nodded, turning the camera over to look at the display on the back. I stepped closer, looking down at it as well. Sure enough, there I was, the doorframe behind me. My hair was unbrushed, a few strands loose around my face, I had on no makeup, and it wasn't my best angle. It also wasn't a bad picture. I moved in closer, studying my face, the faint light behind it.
"See?" Owen said. I could feel his shoulder against mine, his face only inches away, as we both peered down at the image. "That's what you look like."
I turned my head to say something to this—what, I had no idea—and his cheek was so close, right there. I looked up at him, and then, before I knew what was happening, he was turning his head slightly, bending down to me. I closed my eyes, and then his lips were right there, soft on mine, and I stepped closer, pressing myself against—
"I'm ready for my shoes."
We both jumped, startled; Owen bonked his head on the doorframe. "Shit," he said.
Heart pounding, I looked down at Angela, who was staring up at us, her expression serious. "Shoes," I said, handing them over. "Right."
Owen was rubbing his head, his eyes closed. "Man," he said. "That smarts."
"Are you okay?" I asked. He nodded, and I reached out, touching his temple, then kept my fingers there for a moment, his skin warm, smooth to the touch, before taking my hand away.
"Owen!" Mallory yelled from the living room. "We're ready! Let's go!"
Owen pushed off the doorframe and started into the living room while Angela, now strapped into her shoes, slowly made her way along behind him. I stayed where I was for a moment, then glanced at myself in the powder-room mirror, amazed at what had just happened. I studied my reflection for a second, then stepped away from it, out of my own sight.
When I got to the living room, all drama had been forgotten, and the group shot was in full swing, all five girls posing wildly as Owen moved dutifully around them. I leaned in the archway, watching as each girl vamped in her own way: a hip shimmy, an arched neck, fluttering lashes.
The song playing in the background was the kind Owen hated: all poppy, bouncy beats, a girl's perfectly engineered voice sliding effortlessly over the instruments. Mallory reached over to the CD player on the floor beside her, cranking the volume, and the girls all shrieked, beginning to dance, their hands waving over their heads. Owen stepped aside as they bounced and twirled, then turned the camera on me, holding it there as the girls blurred past between us. I wasn't sure exactly what he was seeing, but now I had an idea. So this time, I smiled.