I dragged myself home later than usual. I had been on the phone with my least favorite client, Paul Frank, for two hours. On calls like those, I definitely felt justified in my hourly rate.
"You look tired," my mom said when I walked in.
I yawned widely. "Paul is absolutely impossible to work with," I sighed, putting my laptop down. "That photographer was waiting for me," I added.
"I think you should take him up on the offer," she said.
I went into the kitchen to help her finish cooking whatever chicken dish she was experimenting with.
"I don't know, Ma," I said. "Some random dude comes up to me in a Starbucks and wants me to be in his photo shoot. How do I know he's not some serial killer?"
"You looked him up, didn't you?"
"It'll be good for you to get out," she continued, waving a fork at me. "You work too much and stay home way too much."
I shrugged. "I like hanging out with you."
"I do, too, sweetie," she said and I closed my eyes at the tone of her voice. "But I won't be here forever. You need real friends."
I rubbed my eyes. "He's taking me to dinner tomorrow night," I said. "I'll hear him out and, if it sounds like something I'd do, I'll accept."
"Great!" she said. "Now, let's eat this... chicken thing."
I laughed and shook my head. "You're so weird."
Caleb showed up at the Starbucks just as I was logging off my computer and putting my hours down. I had an Excel spreadsheet but I also liked to have a physical copy just in case. He leaned against the chair in front of mine, his usual smirk on his face.
"Hurry up," he said. "I'm hungry."
"Yeah, yeah, yeah," I grumbled and unplugged my laptop. "Where are we going?"
He opened the door for me. "I was thinking McDonald's."
I laughed. "Real classy."
"What? Do you have something against such a fine establishment?"
"Not at all. Their chicken nuggets are top notch."
He laughed and led the way. He had an expensive looking camera around his neck. He'd stop every so often to take a picture of something. Then he'd look at it and decide if he wanted to keep it or delete it. I wondered if all photographers were like that.
When we got to the McDonald's, I stuck with a simple chicken nugget meal and found a table by a window. The sun was already setting and I watched it while we waited for the order to be filled. He was still staring at me and it was getting old.
"Okay," I said once we had our meal. "Tell me about this photo shoot."
"It'll be you and four other women," he said immediately. "But you'd be the star."
"What's the theme?"
"Can't tell you," he said, shaking his head.
"Why not?" I asked.
"Because you'd say no," he said with a smirk.
I narrowed my eyes. "I don't do nude pictures."
He laughed, almost choking on his cheeseburger. "We don't, either." He leaned forward, his eyes shining. "Although, I may start doing it if you want to be my first model."
I rolled my eyes. "Shut up. What do I get out of this?"
"We'll pay you $400 an hour," he said and my jaw dropped.
"That's more than I make in a week," I said.
He shrugged. "It's a really important shoot. Anyway, it'll be a two day deal, eight hours a day. You don't have to worry about makeup or anything like that. You sure as hell don't need it but we have stylists just in case. Let's see...." He thought for a second and dug something out of his jacket pocket. He pulled out a notecard and looked down a list. "Oh yeah! There's one condition."
"And what would that be?" I asked.
"You have to agree to sign a contract," he answered, looking nervous for a second.
He cleared his throat and changed his attitude back to normal.
"What kind of contract?"
"The usual," he said in an offhand voice. "You can't distribute the pictures without our permission, you can't talk about it outside of the shoot, blah, blah, blah."
I shrugged. "Doesn't sound like much of a catch."
"So?" he said. "What do you say?"
I thought it over, drinking to give myself some time. It would be fun; something new. And my mom really did want me to make new friends.
"I'm assuming I'll have to take those two days off work," I said and he nodded. "What days?"
"Thursday and Friday," he answered promptly and I dropped the fries in my hand.
"This Thursday and Friday?"
"I know it's last minute," he said.
"Dude, it's tomorrow!"
He leaned forward and his voice got desperate. "Please," he said. "I'll pay you more than $400 if it's money you're worried about."
"No, it's not that," I said, thrown off by the desperation in his voice.
"So what's holding you back?" he frowned.
I tugged at my hair. "Well, I'm not- I've never done anything like this before. I don't know the last thing about being a model."
"You'll pick it up fast," he said quickly and sighed, running a hand through his hair. "Please, Mirela. We need you desperately."
I sighed. "What time do you want me to be at the studio?"
"You're an angel!" he cried and people turned to stare. "Eight thirty in the morning if you can manage it."
I stood up, throwing my trash away and refilling my drink.
"You better not laugh at me while I'm doing this for you," I said seriously. "I don't care that you're paying me that much. I'm not the butt of someone's joke."
He smirked. "I won't. Although, you do have a pretty sexy butt."
I rolled my eyes and shoved him. "Shut up, Parrish. I have to go so I don't get jumped on my way home. I'll be there at 8:30."
"Thank you," he said but I just nodded as I walked down the street.
When I got home, I told my mother.
"Tomorrow?" she said.
"I know, right?" I sighed. "But he's desperate. I don't know why he doesn't have someone else lined up but it'll be fun, I guess. They're going to pay me $400 an hour."
My mom whistled. "That's a lot."
I laughed. "That's what I said." I ran a hand through my hair. "Well, I guess I should get to bed if I want to look model ready tomorrow."