I quickly changed back into my regular clothes but stayed in the dressing room for a while longer. I frowned at myself in the light bulb framed mirror. What the hell was that, Mirela?
"You still alive?" Luther asked, coming in.
"Yeah," I said, standing up quickly. "Just letting my feet rest after those heels."
"Thanks for doing this for me," he said. "I know it was a little awkward."
He passed me the check and I could tell he was trying not to laugh.
"Go ahead," I said. "Get it out of your system."
He laughed. "Looked like you were enjoying it," he said.
I shook my head. "No. It was more- It was weird, Luther," I said. "He's been a dick this whole time and suddenly...."
"I didn't know he could kiss like that," he said.
"He couldn't," I laughed, picking up my purse. "I thought you heard the little lesson I had to give him."
"Well, it looks like you did a favor for him, too."
"What do you mean?"
He laughed again. "That boy looks like he's been hit by a truck. He's just staring in the mirror."
I put the strap of my purse on my shoulder.
"Well, that's the only time that'll happen." I nodded at the dress. "Thanks for giving me something more modest."
"You're welcome," he said with a gentle smile. "Sorry we had so much trouble getting it over your curves."
I smiled. "Imagine going clothes shopping with this body."
He laughed, walking out into the main studio with me. Caleb was frowning intensely at the camera screen, pressing a button I assumed was to go through the pictures. Luther winked at me.
"I'll be back at 8," I said but Caleb just nodded, tossing his hand as he went through the pictures.
He stopped when he got to one. He narrowed his eyes and held it up to his face closer. I shrugged and walked out, digging my phone from my pocket to call my mom.
"Sounds like fun," she said. "Is he going to let you help with the editing?"
"Yeah," I said. "I'll be going back at 8."
"What did they give you to wear?"
"Just a simple cocktail dress. Luther snapped a quick picture on my phone and I'll send it to you. It was actually really bearable. I like working with Luther."
"Will you do future shoots with him?"
"I don't know yet," I said and went into the normal Starbucks. "I guess I'll just play it by ear. I don't know when I'll be back tonight so don't wait up for me. There's some lasagna in the freezer."
She laughed. "I'm a big girl; I can feed myself."
"Just no more fires in the kitchen, please."
We both laughed.
"I burn the stove top one time," she said and I could tell she was pouting.
"See you later, Mom."
"Goodbye, dear. Love you."
"Love you, too."
After I got my coffee, I sat down and looked out the window, thinking about my father. What would he say if he knew I was doing this right now? Would he be disappointed? I mean, it's not like I'm quitting my day job. It was just a weekend shoot.... Now, that first photoshoot, he definitely would not have liked that.
"Do what makes you happy, cel mic. Being a business woman would make you so successful. I see now, though, that you-"
"Papa," I whimpered. "Don't-"
"I am going to die, cel mic. Let your dear tată finish speaking."
"Of course, Pa."
"I know you love photography and music. Always running around with your camera." He coughed. "Do what makes you happy. Promise me."
"I promise, tată."
"Thank you, cel mic."
I sighed and looked down at my coffee. It was mostly gone by now. I spun the straw in it, unaware I was crying until a napkin was thrust in my face. I jumped and looked up. Caleb was standing in front of me with a latte in his hand.
"Thanks," I mumbled, accepting it.
"Didn't think you'd be here," he said, getting in the other chair.
I shrugged. "Didn't make sense to go home since I'm coming right back."
"Why are you crying?" he asked and I looked away.
"It doesn't matter. Do you just want to go back now?"
We finished our coffees and I tossed my cup into the trash can along with the napkin. We walked down the street in silence. He had his camera around his neck but didn't take any pictures. His hands were buried in his pockets. I narrowed my eyes. He was acting weird.
A girl winked at him and wiggled her fingers but he just did that weird sexy chin lift. I frowned. No quip about the short skirt she was wearing? No flirting and teasing like he usually did?
"Are you okay?" I asked when we got to the elevator.
"I'm fine," he said immediately and unlocked the door.
He flipped the lights on and led the way into the computer room. He had brought a stool in for me to sit on which confused me even more. Did our phone call earlier in the week bother him that much? He plugged a memory card into the computer which was definitely better than the old one.
"Is this the new one?" I asked to fill the silence.
"Yeah," he said. "I like it a lot more than the paperweight we were using." He whistled through his teeth while we waited for the pictures to load. "Jesus, how many did he take?"
"Sounded like a lot," I said.
"Okay," he said when they finally finished loading. "First he wants us to pick our favorites so we have to go through each one."
"Is there a minimum or maximum?"
"What will he be doing with these pictures?" I asked while we went through them. "I like that one."
"He's going to put it on his website and print out the ones he likes the most from what we're doing tonight. He'll put them up here in the studio to hook people in. He's pulling for a more serious crowd now that we're branching out to formal pictures like prom and proposals."
"Like the family photos?" I asked, poking my head out to look at the ones on the walls.
"Exactly," he nodded, clicking on one of the pictures of us kissing.
I flushed and cleared my throat. "That one is good," I said.
"I agree," he said seriously and clicked on the one with his hand on my back. "I'm impressed. He's not usually very skilled at angles; that's more my thing."
"What's his then?"
"Poses and lighting."
"You make a good team," I said and he nodded.
When we had selected the ones we liked, he pulled out a piece of paper and put it between us.
"He wants the background to be at two of these places. I was looking it over earlier and I liked the idea of the hotel room. Our outfits seemed like they belong in a more intimate setting, you know?" He rubbed his chin. "I thought I'd leave the second choice to you."
I browsed the list. He was right about the intimate setting and I tapped the top of the table.
"How about... the living room with the fireplace?"
He nodded. "Good choice. That was the one I was going to suggest."
"Great minds think alike," I said but he just smiled and pulled up a second monitor.
"I love working with green screen," he said. "You can do so much more with it."
I was about to say something when we heard a crashing noise in the women's dressing room.
Tată is Romanian for father.