Beautiful Girl

Submitted into Contest #144 in response to: Start your story with somebody taking a photo.... view prompt

19 comments

Sad Contemporary

“Yes, yes! That’s it – now smile. Not so wide, more seductively. Tilt your – yes! No! Stop blinking!”

He rolls his eyes heavenward and sighs. Her shoulders slump and her not- so-seductive smile disappears. But when he looks up at her again with pursed lips and narrowed eyes, her smile is back, and her head is perfectly tilted.

“Sorry, Jed. It was a late night again. I’m ready now.”

With a sigh of a thousand sighs, he points the camera at her and pulls the trigger again. This time she does not blink at the explosion of light but maintains the alluring smile she knows he wants to see and concentrates on sucking in her stomach a little more.

Underwear shoots are a killer. But they pay the rent. Besides, that’s how all the Greats began their glamorous careers, isn’t it? It will happen for her too – she just has to be patient.

Be patient, be beautiful – and be thin. But above all, keep the photographer happy. He has the power to start or end a career (before it’s even started!) and he is GOD in this industry.

Don’t blink. Don’t blink. Hold the pose, Jenny. Shit, he’s starting to frown again – suck harder!

The clicks of the camera are starting to sound like gunshots. Louder and louder. Brighter and brighter. Explosions of light are shooting through her head and making it difficult to look sexy, carefree, alluring. It also doesn’t help that Jed is frowning again.

You can do this. Come on. You want to be a star, don’t you? Come ON! This is what they’ll pay the big bucks for one day. It’s hard, but it will get better. Don’t blink. Don’t move. Don’t stop looking down the barrel.

She knows she will be paid the big bucks one day soon. This is her dream, and she’s working towards it with every ounce of energy and every cell in her body. Soon all this hard work and putting up with the horrible comments by shoot directors (is that the best we could get?), and the obnoxious photographers (you need to eat less girlie – this is not a wide-angle lens!) will pay off.

Today is a bad day.

Jed is a particularly nasty photographer and it’s a struggle to keep her chin up and her mouth shut while she’s prancing for him. Thank heavens she’s spent so many hours looking at the Greats and practising that haughty look in front of the small, tarnished mirror in her bedsit.

Nobody will ever know what she’s really thinking or feeling – especially Jed and his asshole colleagues.

It doesn’t help that she’s feeling more dizzy than usual today. Gigs have been tougher to bag since Covid, and the bloody lockdown has put a temporary hold on her forward march to stardom. Things are picking up again, but her savings are long gone and being an underwear model for third rate magazines is not quite covering all her bills. Not being able to afford proper food is actually a blessing though – at least now her leaner body is a bit more in demand.

If an apple a day is enough to keep the doctor away – then it’s good enough for her!

Underwear model.

What a joke. She’s even started believing it herself.

“Mom! I’m fine. Really. I’m just tired. It was a late night of shooting again, but the pictures look amazing. You should see them. You really should. I’ll send some soon. You’re going to be so proud of me, Mom.”

“YES – of course I’m okay. I can see it's starting to happen for real Mom.”

“Um. Maybe. Actually – no. I’m fine. I don’t need anything. In fact, I’m going shopping in a bit for this stunning leather jacket in Saks. Thanks for offering Mom – but I’m absolutely fine.”

“I love you too! I’ll see you soon – promise for real this time! Oh, and tell Dad I say hi – and I love him too. I Miss you so much. But I must run Mom – fame awaits!”

What she wouldn’t give to feel Mom’s arms around her now. Drinking her hot chocolate and eating a piece of her famous banoffee pie.

Eating anything right now.

Stop it. Smile. Don’t blink. Hold the pose, Jenny.

Keeping Jed happy is all she needs to focus on right now. If Jed is happy, the client is happy - and she is happy. She needs Jed and all the other Jeds to ensure these gigs continue. These magazine shoots are just the first step on the staircase to her holy grail. The ultimate prize of a real modelling career. Seeing her face on the cover of Vogue … being part of fashion week … keeping the torch of the Greats flying high – will make all this soul-destroying drudgery worth it.

You’re being dramatic Jen. Soul-destroying? It’s how all the Greats got started. The Jeds are cruel to all the up-and-coming models. That’s how they toughen us up. That’s how we learn. They’re helping me to achieve my dreams. Just keep smiling.

So long as mom and dad think everyone’s fine – then everything will be fine. Soon there will be better-paying jobs and better Jeds. These gigs will lead to others which will lead to others – and then BOOM! She will be able to show her family and friends – and the WORLD – that she has made it. 

And show them work she is proud of.

 “Mom, stop. Everything’s going to be okay. Have I ever let you down before? Haven’t I always got the best grades? College can wait a few years. If this doesn’t work out, then I’ll come home and get my degree. You know it’s what I’ve always wanted. Nothing bad can happen mom.”

Nothing bad can happen.

If only.

Focus on Jed! It’s going to be fine. This is just a stepping stone. You need the money, Jenny. It’s JUST a steppingstone. You can do this. Just keep smiling.

Modelling is modelling, right? That’s what the Jeds all say. And they are right. Modelling is modelling – even if they do say it with a sneer on their faces and their eyes looking in the wrong places. Underwear modelling is just temporary. All the Greats did it.

Didn’t they?

“Okay, we’re done for now sweetheart. Don’t go too far though. That was just the warm-up.”

She sits down heavily on the bed. The gun is lowered for now and she can relax for a bit. Her shoulders slump with a heavy sigh. There doesn’t seem to be anything to eat at this shoot. But she has worked through the dizziness before – and she’ll do it today.

She. Is. A. Professional!

A tall girl with skin like burnt caramel comes in. She is all confidence and swagger, flirting with Jed and winking at her. She’s been doing this for a long time obviously. Her silky robe reminds Jenny of the mango and peach cocktail sunsets on family holidays gone by, and her heart wrenches on a sudden pang of longing.

The only cocktails she sees these days are the ghastly-tasting, coloured water wannabees on these tacky sets. The shame of the realization slams through her fuzzy brain like the set lights that are mercifully dimmed now – she is as fake as those cocktails.

“Right girls let’s go! I’m not here for a long time – just a good time.”

The innuendo brings her back with a harsh flash - Jed’s reputation precedes him. The new model laughs and winks at him while slipping off her sunset robe to reveal more perfect caramel. She looks like the Queen of Sheba lying on the bed of fake fur with her fake smile and fake eyelashes.

“C’mon Skye, don’t be shy girl. I’ll make this easy for you. Let’s get this over with, yeah?”

Her sad eyes and gentler voice are the only real things in this room. Relaxing her rigid jaw and lifting her chin, Jenny sits on the edge of the bed and her mask slips back down.

C’mon SKYE, you can do it. Push Jenny away - she belongs on sunset beaches and drinking hot chocolate.

It’s just temporary.

I’m a professional.

This is not forever.

All the Greats started as … underwear models.

The mantra relaxes her, and the harsh lights cut through her dizziness again. She needs this gig. She needs Jed and all the other Jeds to want to work with her. In this business, it’s who you know, and they will help her onto the next step. She believes them. She has no choice anymore.

Their co-star joins them, and she shuts down her mind.

This is not forever.

Nobody will ever know.

May 06, 2022 19:48

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19 comments

Wally Schmidt
14:44 Dec 13, 2022

Your story really immerses us in the world of modeling- where dreams are suppressed and fortunes are made. The repetition of the task and difficulty of breaking through are so apparent here and while I know nothing about this field, I'm pretty sure your story captures it perfectly. Looking forward to reading more of your stories

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Andrea Doig
09:59 Dec 14, 2022

Hi Wally - thank you so much for your comments. And taking the time to read the story. I did enjoy this one I must be honest and it just flowed. I also have never done modelling - but also feel like this is pretty accurate ;) I have done some extra work on an international series called 1923 (which is a spinoff of Yellowstone) - AND WOW ... was it repetitive and insanely boring at times. EVEN for the leads. So yes ... I think the repetition is pretty accurate. Thank you so much for taking time to read my other stories - I am interested to se...

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Graham Kinross
06:07 Jun 26, 2022

This is really powerful. Great story Andrea.

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Andrea Doig
07:40 Jun 26, 2022

Thank you so much Graham! For taking the time to read it… and the lovely comment. I enjoyed this one a lot. I am so happy you liked it too ♥️

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Thomas Graham
20:43 May 20, 2022

A very well-written, hard-hitting story! That you're able to build so much tension with very little action -- mostly thoughts and a little dialogue -- says a lot!

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Andrea Doig
07:12 May 21, 2022

Oh wow thank you for such kind words! And thank you for reading my little story… and taking time to comment. It came quite quickly and flowed nicely. Made me happy not have daughters. I remember growing up and wanting to be a model (like everyone else!) like Cindy Crawford and all “the greats” so she could have been any little girl with starstruck ideas. Anyway. Thank you again.

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Rebecca Miles
11:12 May 14, 2022

As a mum to a teenager who quite fancies modelling, this chimed in with all my fears about the industry. I liked how you developed the narrator's insecurities with a lot of great internal monologue. I was hoping Jed would get his comeuppance, maybe in a postscript!

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Andrea Doig
12:47 May 14, 2022

Jed… and all the other Jed’s! Maybe in chapter 2 😉. Thank you for reading it … and taking time to comment. It’s a very sad story … but maybe a happy ending one day in another chapter x

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Story Time
16:10 May 12, 2022

I think asking a reader to live inside a character's head and let those inner thoughts be the driving force of the plot requires a lot of skill, and you did it really well. I felt like I had a full idea of who this person was by the end of the story, and I could easily spend even more time with her. Well done.

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Andrea Doig
17:39 May 12, 2022

Ah thank you!!!! That really means so much coming from you. I listened to your episode on Read Lots Write Lots and was impressed. Thank you for reading my story … and taking them time to comment… and am so pleased you liked it. Yay!

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Michał Przywara
21:48 May 11, 2022

A great, sad story. She's deluded herself and I think a part of her is very much aware of it: "She believes them. She has no choice anymore." Dreams can be a beautiful thing that inspires us to strive for and reach goals, but I think this story highlights that they can also imprison us. Nothing is stopping Jenny from leaving, from taking her folks up on their offer. It wouldn't even be unusual with all the stress of COVID. But still, she doesn't, because in her mind she can see her future success and she's already suffered so much for it. T...

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Andrea Doig
06:20 May 12, 2022

Thank you so much Michael! Firstly, for reading my story ... secondly, for taking the time to send such lovely in-depth and thought-through comments ... and finally ... for GETTING IT ;). I am so pleased that all of that came through. 10/10 of your review and understanding where Jenny is and her thought processes. I wrote this one really quickly and it just flowed - I enjoyed the process of this one. I feel I am quite close to the sad reality of a lot of girls all through the ages who have these aspirations and get caught up in a world t...

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Rabab Zaidi
01:28 May 10, 2022

Poignant.

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Andrea Doig
04:01 May 10, 2022

Thank you for reading it. Yes a sad one for sure x

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Jon Blackstock
13:39 May 09, 2022

I love dramatic monologues that show the other side--the side not always considered. Although you have a lot of great things going on here, this was my favorite line: "Soon there will be better-paying jobs and better Jeds." What a brilliant way to drive the point home!

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Andrea Doig
14:40 May 09, 2022

Oh wow, thank you so much Jon! Appreciate your time taken to read and comment. I enjoyed writing this one - it flowed pretty quickly. Always feel that the ones that flow quicker are the better ones. Sad story - but I am glad you enjoyed it ... phew ;)

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13:32 May 07, 2022

Hi Andrea, this story punches the gut. Jen/Skye is helplessly caught up in a harsh world, and is showing such resilience, but there is no anticipation of a happy ending. You’ve shone a light on what must be the reality far too often. Her character is well built and the different angles of her situation are skilfully presented.

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Andrea Doig
15:52 May 07, 2022

Ah thank you! I agree with you … that is my take on it too. I asked someone to read it before I posted, and they felt that there was no arc to the story and it was too repetitive. I disagreed haha and left it as it was… purely because that was how I felt my character would speak/act/think. And yes no happy ending. As an adult we can see that. But for her and many others… not. Thank YOU for taking the time and the comments too. X

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18:55 May 07, 2022

I’m glad you left it as it was. I don’t think there needed to be an arc. It is an honest narrative and a very worthy piece of writing x

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