The Novel Continues…

Aunt Marian, like Robin Hood’s lady friend, is a classic beauty with perfectly colored chestnut hair cascading like silk half-way down her back in perfect waves. After the death of her business partner and husband of many years, Aunt Marian had hired me to help her handle her business until she got her feet back under her. What had begun as a temporary job as assistant to the governing body of Au Courant, eventually became Head of Photography. Thanks to a few innovative tweaks while Marian was recuperating, our agency is now one of the few that staff a number of professional photographers, makeup artists and hair stylists. This means that we are able to prepare, compile, crop, adjust and update every profile without subcontracting, thus making our prices unbeatable and our service unmistakable. And it’s true. I’ve become a walking advertisement for Au Courant: Extraordinary Talent Meets Extraordinary Representation. That doesn’t quite roll off the tongue does it? Ah well. On with the introductions.

Meet Kate. Sweet girl, but with long straight red hair and a killer sense of fashion, she commands attention in any situation. She has piercing green eyes that could size you up with one appreciative look over your body and instantly make you feel as though she knows your every flaw. This is far from true, but a very interesting impression regardless. Having been home-schooled right up until college, Kate was amazingly smart. She had majored in English and hoped to someday become a teacher. Still, after college we moved in together and soon I was working non-stop with my Aunt. Kate was a guinea pig in our early efforts to be a self-contained portfolio machine and was immediately signed on for two perfume ads and since then she has been one of our top models. Currently between apartments (it is never a good idea to move in with your boyfriend) she’s using the “guest bedroom” or living room with a convertible futon as it is actually called, until she finds a new place to live. This translates roughly to allowing Miss Kate Wisdom to sleep, eat, and play my music all for free. Pretty nice package on the receiving end, yea?

Baron. My current boyfriend Baron Pilkey was born Brian Smith and had a long-lived dream of becoming a famous rock star. Brian was the lead singer of Attractive Concern and his good looks and smooth charm were enough to ensure gig after gig, provided the person scheduling the event was a female. After a few years of huge success in and around the town of MacPherson, Kansas, the band decided it was time to try a recording contract. Sadly, they lacked the talent to back up Brian’s charm and in their last attempt at stardom the recruiter told them exactly what he thought of them. Cheap, unoriginal and untalented are all words that were thrown in for effect and to top it off the balding recruiter told them they were better suited for modeling, where “the only talent you need is the ability to sit still, the ability to walk and enough beauty that no one cares what you can or can’t do.” And immediately, Brian became Baron and Baron became a “modeling wonder.”

Meet me. The name’s Isabella Biondi. 24 year-old artist cum fashion photographer for Au Courant, at your service. Measuring a good 5’10” and weighing in at a whopping 120 pounds, I had tried my hand at being the fashion plate but was too “difficult” to allow people to fawn over my make-up and hair for three hours. They called it difficult, I call it individual and free-spirited. I live in one of those industrial-style lofts which means it looks as though the builders were too lazy to put up some drywall, but I mask it well using photos from my personal stash. You see, the photos I do at work are meant to make money, but the photos I take because I am an artist are meant to captivate the eye and imagination. The largest pieces include a picture of the striking profile of my Aunt Marian, the owner and co-founder of Au Courant, a picture of my best friend Kate’s tousled bright red hair and also a picture of Baron in a twisting yoga pose silhouetted against a gray sky.

I stopped mid-stride and rocked back onto my right foot just waiting for some sort of identifying noise, I’d rather not run into a nest of rats if I can help it. There were no squeaks and no whimpers. Whatever was there had left. Odd. You’d expect some noise when an animal leaves. Soon the sounds of the city had once again become a muted blanket of ambient noise and I headed toward my car and climbed into the driver’s seat. I turned the radio on and out of the corner of my eye I noticed numerous smears on my passenger window so I, in a powerful ‘I am woman hear me roar’ moment, got out to investigate. I reached the passenger side of my car when I saw him and my heart broke. Huddled next to my car was a cold, frightened and hungry Golden Retriever. I quickly coaxed him into my car and headed out to Westport.

One hour, two stores and a bar later I had a small pile of canine sick, a larger pile of human sick, a dog happily wolfing down dog chow straight from the bag and a less than perfect boyfriend passed out in the back seat.

I am definitely pushing those plans back a week. Let the stress-free weekend begin! Anytime you’re ready, weekend.

“Laser eye surgery. That’s what you need, dearie,” I told my reflection. I padded back to my room and threw on some pants and my tennis jacket. I snatched up two scarves and looked at the giant photo of Baron to my left. “Long skinny scarf or long fat scarf,” I asked the gorgeous face staring back at me. “No opinion? Not entirely unusual,” I said as I wrapped the fat scarf around my neck. “You know, it’s a good thing my roommate is away on a shoot. If she weren’t half way across the world she’d chew you up one side and down the other,” and with that I grabbed my keys and my water and headed out of the building pausing only to put my white Coyotes cap.

Down four flights of stairs and onto the street. Honestly, living on the fifth floor of this building, it’s a wonder I am ever rested enough to get to the gym. A quick hello to the doorman on duty and I was out in the brisk night. Too cold for a tank top but too warm for a coat, of course, that is why you can almost always see me with a tee shirt and a big scarf to keep in the warmth. Half way to the car I got another call, this time from my roommate. She was checking on the fish. She knows I hate fish. She also knows that I have worse trouble keeping them alive than I have convincing myself they are useful pets.

“I knew you’d be awake,” came the cheerful voice over the line. “You never seem to be able to sleep after you’ve had a lot of stress. Besides, it’s Friday which means Baron is probably out celebrating his last stint as a hand model. Am I right? I know I am. You don’t have to tell me. How is that all going, anyway?”

“What? His promotion from hand model to the much more prestigious position of underwear model? Fine I guess. I don’t know how he can do it. I can guarantee I’d never agree to prance about in my unmentionables.”

“Your skivvies are very cute. Especially the Superhero days of the week ones I got you for your birthday last year. Either way. Baron loves himself and has been working hard to get his body to the point where he could run around in absolutely nothing if he wanted to.”

“That’s a startling mental picture and I don’t want to think about how you know that.”

“Honestly, Izzie. You can be such a prude!”

“I am not a prude. And don’t call me Izzie! I hate when people call me Izzie and you know that.”

“I know,” Kate squealed into the phone. Kate doesn’t squeal very often, thank everything that’s good and holy, but when she does it’s a full on girly squeal. “I think you’re the only girl in Kansas City that Baron hasn’t had, though.”

“Good. That means I’m special. Anyway, I already made that sex mistake once and let me be the first to tell you that it only makes things more difficult. It makes dumping them on a moment’s notice much harder! They always want some warning which means I have to be bitchy for a solid year and then where am I? Unable to date anyone because of deep emotional trauma-”

“You don’t have emotional traumas unless it has to do with work, Bella.”

“And don’t you think that’s enough?”

“No. Speaking of which, are you going to be able to manage those dinners without me there?”

“Never. I am not a bad cook but I think I can’t be expected to cook five amazing meals in a row and also pitch the idea for this charity show and also clean up… I think I’ll move them all a few weeks back so you can be here to help.”

“Is that what you’re up worrying about? You’ll give yourself ulcers.”

“Not really. I’m actually on my way to pick Baron up right now. He’s drunk. Again.”

“Are you going to Westport? Be careful, will you? Lots of attackers there. Maybe you’ll finally get a chance to use that Tae-Bo stuff. A punch here! A kick there! Jab! Jab! Anyway, you could do much better if you’d stop dating stupid guys. All you need is someone who is beautiful and intelligent.”

“And not working for me, Kate. Yet, seeing as how I don’t do anything but work, I can’t help but feel this is a slight hindrance.”

“Yes that could be tough. How about looking outside the model circuit… Oh! What am I talking about? Beauty before brains, yeah, Bella? At least that seems to be what we keep doing. What about the last round of underwear models?”

“Like talking to large potatoes. Listen, I’m at my car. I’ll talk to you about this when you get home tomorrow. And stop calling me so late. Remember the time zones!”

“Oh you are getting crabby in your old age!”

“I’m hanging up now,” and with a push of a button I had. I pushed the unlock button on my key chain and as my car flashed its headlights I heard the scuffle of animals on the concrete under my car.

A Serialized Novel

I couldn’t sleep. It had been the longest week of my life and the weekend was not looking any better and as I stared up at the intangible darkness I wondered what I was thinking. Breakfast, lunch and dinner all with assorted lawyers and philanthropists on Saturday and then on Sunday, lunch and dinner with various doctors and business owners. I wonder if I can push it all back a week. I’ll try to do that. First thing in the morning. They will understand. I’m a busy person. I turned to look at the pattern the lights from the highway made on my wall when I heard the clock begin to chime. It was thirty minutes after some really late time at night when my phone rang jerking my attention back to more tangible things. I fished for the cordless nightmare in my bag and was blinded by the screen flashing the words “CALLER: Playa.”

“Hello?”

“Oh good you’re awake,” said the young tenor voice at the other end. “You are awake aren’t you, Bella? If this is a bad time just let me know.”

“No no. I’m up,” I said trying to repress the anger I could feel coming. “What is it you need?”

“A ride. I know it’s late but what would you ever do if you knew that your boyfriend had died in a drunken car wreck because you were too tired to deal with him? I’m in Westport. You know where. Thanks, babe!”

Dial tone. Naturally. Why would you ever give someone time to tell you to get a cab? With a stretch I swung my legs over the edge of the bed and headed to the bathroom to brush my teeth and put in my contacts.