Oradea was beautiful this time of the year. Snow fell in large flakes and my father carried me on his shoulders. He had just bought me a beautiful red fur coat and he was walking me through a special park. It had a large circle among the grass and he set me down.
"See that circle, cel mic?"
"That's where I met your mother. She was doing missionary work. It was love at first sight. I knew I had to marry her."
I giggled. He held my hand as we stood in the center of the circle. I let it go so that I could run around inside of it, giggling. He smiled and put his hands in his pockets, watching me. A group of teenagers walked by, playing techno music on a radio. My father smiled sadly at me.
"Time to wake up," he said.
I rubbed my eyes and frowned. My phone was ringing. I groped for it and answered.
"Hello?" I mumbled.
"Okay. What did I do?"
"Caleb? What time is it?"
"Like, 4:15, I think."
"Why the hell did you call me at 4:15!?"
"How did I scare you?"
I sat up. "Are you shitting me? You woke me up from a perfect dream just to ask how you scared me? Couldn't it have waited until later?"
"It's bugging me."
I sighed heavily and fell on my back. I stared up at the ceiling.
"I was in a small room with a guy that's been doing nothing but trying to flirt with me and had me sign a contract for a shoot. Oh, by the way, the photoshoot made me feel like I was posing for pornography. Then, when I go on his studio for a tour, he won't let me out and keeps pressuring for me to kiss him. How would you feel?"
He didn't say anything for a minute. "Wait. You thought I was going to rape you!?"
I rolled my eyes. "Can I go back to sleep now?"
"Dude. I would never do something like that!"
"Good night, Caleb," I said and hung up.
"I swear, you're the best barista on this damn planet," I yawned, accepting the coffee from Stephen.
He laughed. "Late night?"
"I had a stupid phone call at 4 in the damn morning and I couldn't get back to sleep," I said moodily, sitting in my usual spot. "Some damn asshole dick."
He cringed. "It must have been bad. I haven't heard you talk like that in a while."
I just grumbled and turned my laptop on. While I waited, the door opened and Caleb walked in. I ignored him as he went to the counter and ordered a mocha latte. Without asking, he sat at my table and plugged his laptop in. Neither of us spoke for several hours.
"Investor liked our pictures," he said finally.
"I'm glad to hear that."
"He's going to take us on."
"That's exciting," I said honestly, looking up. "Are you going to move to a new studio?"
"Not yet," he said, shaking his head. "We have to get more money, first."
I frowned. "Isn't that what an investor is for?"
"Yes and no," he said. "He's different. He wants us to earn the money for the studio but he's helping us get better cameras and computers."
"Yeah, you were working on a dinosaur," I said, turning back to my laptop.
He chuckled. "You're not wrong there."
My phone rang and I stared at the phone number. I didn't recognize the number but it had an OKC area code so I answered it.
"Mirela Garrett," I said, pulling my notebook over.
"Hey, Mirela. It's Luther Banks. Is Caleb there?"
I sighed. "Yes. Are you wanting to talk to him?"
"He hasn't told you yet?"
I narrowed my eyes at Caleb and he smiled at me sheepishly.
"No," I said slowly.
"We need you again for a photoshoot."
"No," I said right away. "Goodbye, Luther."
"Wait! Don't hang up!" I sighed but decided to hear him out. "It's not like the other ones, I swear to God."
I closed my eyes wearily. "What's the theme?"
I frowned. "How do you do a shoot for that?"
"Come along and you'll find out. We'll pay you the 400 again if you want. It's just a one day shoot this time."
I sighed heavily. "What day and time?" Caleb cleared his throat and rubbed his neck when I glared at him. "Hold up. What else aren't you telling me?"
"Well... it's about your photo partner."
I laughed. "Some over muscular, jerk, jock player?"
Luther laughed loudly and Caleb glared at me.
"That's the perfect description!" he said. "Your partner is going to be Caleb."
My mouth dropped open. "Come again?"
"You heard right. So? What do you say? It'll be on Saturday so you don't have to take off for work."
I bit my lower lip. "I don't know, Luther."
"Can he hear me?"
"This is the first time he's been a model. He needs someone he's comfortable around."
"Why wasn't I given that luxury?" I snapped, turning a little pink.
"Because Caleb is an asshole."
"Well, you're not wrong there. How do you know he's-?"
"Comfortable around you? You're the first girl to deny him. He won't feel pressured to flirt with you during the shoot. I hope. I don't want him ruining this for me."
"Is this another one of your investor's projects?"
"Nah. This is something I've been wanting to do since college."
"So I'll be doing you a favor."
I shook my head. "All right," I said and saw Caleb smile. I glared at him. "I'm doing this for Luther."
"Understood," Caleb said quickly.
"Thanks! I'll see you on Saturday at 8!"
"Okay. Se you then." I hung up and narrowed my eyes at Caleb. "Will there ever come a day when you'll actually be straight with me about a photoshoot?"
"When I'm involved? Probably not."
"At least you're honest," I mumbled and went back to the website I was working on.
I picked up Arby's on the way home and told my mother about the next photoshoot.
"This is exciting, Mirela!" she said. "You're finally getting to be something your father didn't pressure you to be."
I looked at her. "You're not being fair, Ma. You know how important being an entrepreneur was to Dad."
She sighed. "I didn't mean it like that, sweetheart. But I know you wanted to do photography. You're getting the chance!"
"But the last one-"
"Just draw a line this time," she said. "I didn't like that he kept the outfits from you but this Luther sounds like he'd be more honest with you."
I nodded. "He is. He's a fun guy, too."
She winked at me. "How much fun?"
I laughed. "He swings the other way, Mom."
She pouted. "Darn. Well, I think you should go and do the editing with Caleb after."
I wrinkled my nose. "I'll bring my own stool this time."
Cel mic is Romanian for 'little one'.