“Tilt your head there, Skylar. Oooh, yeah. Just like that! Don’t move.” I try to not let my personal knowledge of her neck, her ass, or her incredibly perfect tits get in the way of the task at hand. I’m shooting a new batch of stock photos of couples today. This is the fourth and last couple on my day’s schedule. Shooting erotic stock photography wasn’t exactly what I thought I would be doing at this stage of my career, but often it pays the bills. Not enough to build a savings, but enough to survive on until I get my big break. These days that’s even more of a challenge with amateur shutterbugs jumping into the field, like all it takes is a half-trained eye and an iPhone X. At least I still have the occasional wedding, christening, and hired studio shoots to make ends meet. “Now, Scott, slide your hand up Skylar's hip.” Scott follows my instruction and Skylar responds by sliding her long fingers through his inky black hair. The chemistry between the two finally starts to spark and I’m popping off shots as fast as I can get my finger to move. Ninety minutes and two memory cards later, we wrap and I pay the couple hoping I’ll be able to recoup their modeling fees before long. Before Scott leaves he boldly says, “Nice meeting you. Call me anytime, for modeling… or anything else.” He winks just in case I hadn’t caught his full meaning. Dude. Messaged received. I’d dabbled there, but—Nah. “Good to know. I'm straight though,” I reply, carding my fingers through my platinum blonde spikes, truly flattered that he'd make a pass at me. It’s a regular occurrence really—guys making subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) remarks to see if I’m game—which I not. I’m never offended, though. In this business, it seems that more than half the men are gay. I’d never get anywhere if I were insulted at such a compliment. And, if I’m honest, the come-ons give my ego a boost. There was a time back in college when I’d ‘experimented’ and while the experiences weren’t unpleasant, life is far simpler as a straight man and there are way more opportunities. If the right opportunity ever comes along, I’d be more than open to it, but there’s only one person I know that could make it the right opportunity and he is completely unavailable. “Cryin' shame,” he answers, looking me over once again before leaving and shaking his head. “Does that happen a lot?” Skylar asks as she slings her black leather bag over her shoulder, devouring me with her icy blue eyes. “I can't believe anyone would take you for gay.” She runs a slim finger from my right shoulder down over my chest causing my nipples and other organs stiffen. “I distinctly recall how not gay you are.” And just like that, I have her pinned against the wall and a hand up her top, cupping her unrestrained tit. God, I love how she never wears a fucking bra! I try to not mix business with pleasure, nor do I usually enjoy the same delight more than once, but with a siren like Skylar, I’m helpless. “There’s the tiger that's been behind the lens,” she purrs peeling me out of my clothes since I’ve already divested her of her tank top. Fifteen minutes later we’re both sweaty and out of breath. “You still got it, York,” she compliments, sliding back into her skin-tight jeans. “Shower?” I offer. “I actually make better tips when I stink of sex. But thanks.” She pulls her silky blonde hair on top of her head again and secures the shiny locks into an elastic while showing off her pert D-cup chest. A pity they’re fake. Across the room, my phone chimes. It’s the tone used for industry people. Someone who’s in my contacts list, not a random caller. Nor a friend or family member, but important nonetheless. Maybe more important than family. While Skylar’s in the bathroom doing… whatever… I head over to grab my phone. The name HYUN is displayed on the screen. I can’t recall exactly who Hyun is, but I vaguely know it’s another photographer. “Hey,” I say, answering just before the call is sent to voicemail. Voicemail is the kiss of death in this business. An opportunity gone. If a connection can’t get you right away, they move on to the next and you’re none the wiser. “Hey, bro!” a man’s voice on the other end says. “I was just about to hang up! How you doin’, playah?” Ah. Hyun. We’d met about six months ago at a convention in Miami. Dude was more of a ‘player’ than I am and that’s saying something. We partied hard all weekend long. A lot of booze, and a lot of chicks. “Right on. I'm good. What can I do ya for?” “So about four months ago I got a staff position at Drape—” “Awesome, man. Congrats!” Drape Magazine is an up-and-coming high fashion and luxury lifestyle magazine with both a print version as well as a massive online presence. It’s still fairly new in the market place, only three or four years, but has become a staple in the fashion industry. “Thanks. It’s great, man, lemme tell ya. Regular income, fantastic benefits. But listen. Fashion week is next month. There are a lot of precursor shows this week and next and I'm booked solid. Our other photographer, well, I dunno. Some shit went down with a model—I'm guessing he fucked her and now she's gone batshit crazy. Anyway, as of this morning, Cooper’s gone. We need a lens on a runway tomorrow and I thought of you. You busy?” I can’t believe what I’m hearing. Drape magazine? A runway? Hashtag opportunity! Busy? Hell. I could be shooting underwear models on a beach and would cancel to shoot a runway. Hyun goes on. “It's not a permanent gig. Just freelance for now. You still open to that, yeah? We can pay ya a grand five.” $1,500? Jackpot! My models’ fees and then some have just been covered! Sometimes I feel like the luckiest fucker on earth. “Yeah. Totally! Tomorrow. Wow! Thanks for thinking of me!” I blurt before he thinks I'm busy or completely offended by the offer, which I'm absolutely not. “Awesome. I'll have your credentials done up. Sideline, press box, after party. And, dude?” “Yeah?” “‘If you rock this, Steve might hire ya. Like I said, Coop just got the boot, and it’s a position that needs filling.” “Sweet. Thanks, man.” I can’t believe the opportunity that has just literally been handed to me. I confirm the details he needs from me, and I get the address along with the call time for the event tomorrow. He tells me my packet will be waiting at the front of the venue. “Woooooohooooooo!!!!” I shout to the twelve-foot ceilings of the loft after ending the call, my voice echoing off the brick walls and exposed ducts in the ceiling. “Good news?” Skylar asks from the bathroom door. “Oh, baby!” I shout, racing to her then grab her and spin us in circles. I need to share the moment with someone. Anyone. I’m completely delirious. This is the kind of break I've been looking for. “Yeah, yeah, nutball. Put me down. I gotta go or I'm gonna be late for work.” “Sure. Yeah. Whatever,” I say setting her back on her feet. “Thanks for the gig, Ty,” she says, kissing my cheek. “ And good luck with whatever’s got you so riled up.” I half-wave not really paying attention to her as I'm already sorting through my lenses and selecting the cameras I'm going to bring to my debut on the high fashion circuit. By the time I look up, Skylar’s gone. No worries. Better that way. A fucking runway show!!
“Hello?” I call out for Holly, my fiancée as I enter our condo on West 57th. The silence tells me that she isn’t home yet. I breathe a sigh of relief that I can enjoy the high I’m still riding from my audition. A callback for a recurring role on a prime-time network show. Five episodes as a lawyer on a cop procedural. Holly tends to harsh my mellow from great auditions. Holly Pierce and I have been together for three years. We met while I was filming a soda commercial right down the street from her office. We started dating and after two years, I finally popped the question. She’s super smart and successful, a political analyst working for her father, a congressman for New York State. However as much as she tries to be supportive of my acting career, I never get the feeling that she loves me as an actor. I guess because I’ve had yet to be cast in any substantial roles; all commercials or background or walk-on roles. Because of today’s audition, I’d taken the day off where I waited tables at Ed Scott’s, the best steakhouse in the city. Glancing at the clock, I realize Holly will be home soon, so I start to get dinner ready. I connect my phone’s Bluetooth to the condo’s built-in sound system, set my music library to shuffle, pull out the chicken and veggies and get busy as I imagined how my life will change if I get this role. No. Not ‘if.’ When. Truth be told, growing up I never thought I'd become an actor. It had never ever been on my radar. I’d gone away to college on a football scholarship and had my sights set on the NFL. However, a blown-out knee during the homecoming game in my sophomore year put my ass in a wheelchair. When James, the kid that helped me understand calculus and write passable papers in college, suggested that I audition for a play that his friend wrote, I almost didn't. But he pushed the script into my hands and out of respect for the guy that had helped me maintain my grades and keep my scholarship, I read it. Now, I hadn't been much of a reader back then, but reading a script wasn't like anything I'd ever read before. It was fast-paced and visual. Everything was straight forward. No metaphors to decipher or introspective journeys. I decided to audition for the lead role, a character that was wheelchair-bound for life. I was blown away that I got cast, and after the thunderous applause at that first performance, I was hooked. In some ways, being part of the cast was like football because as a group we were working toward a common goal. The difference I didn't think I'd appreciate was that there wasn't a force working against you and you knew what the outcome would be. A (hopefully) great show. “Hey,” Holly sings as she enters the apartment. I hear her drop her bag and kick off her shoes, surely leaving them a mess by the door. I'm not proud of it, but I'm kind of a neat-nick. Holly was aptly named by her mother after Holly Golightly of Breakfast at Tiffany’s. “Smells good,” she sighs, inhaling the roasting chicken as she sets foot in the kitchen area. “And look at you! Handsome.” Unlike my normal kicking-around-the-apartment attire of jeans and a t-shirt, I’m still in what I wore to my audition: a pair of dress pants, a button-down shirt, and tie. “So professional,” she coos. I pour her a glass of white wine, the same as I’m drinking and cooking with, and hand it to her as she kisses me hello using my tie as a leash to pull me to her. She takes the wine and downs a rather large gulp. “Mmm,” she hums. “Just what the doctor ordered. What a shit day,” she huffs, taking a seat at the kitchen’s breakfast bar that separates the kitchen from the rest of the spacious condo. “That exciting, huh?” I tease, dropping the julienned onions into the sauté pan. Politics bores me to no end, but Holly eats it up. I brace myself to listen to her drone on about her job and check on the chicken. “It's days like these I wonder why I got a degree in Political Science. Today's political environment thumbs its nose at history altogether. For years, the office only got a couple dozen calls all day. These days the lines don't stop ringing. The emails flood in by the hundreds every hour. Everyone ranting and making demands and infuriated by rumors and The President’s damn tweets. Someone please take away his phone! Then after work there was this networking thing…” She gulps down the rest of her wine without finishing her thought and reaches for the bottle for a refill. Great. It's going to be one of those nights. “Enough about my craptastic day. How was your day?” she asks turning the tables much to my surprise. However, when I notice that she was also looking at her phone while she asked, I know she doesn’t particularly care, but I’m not going to let her get me down. Besides, it’s better than talking politics. “Had the audition for that cop drama, NY Beat, today,” I answer while flipping the onions in the pan. “Oh, right. You even look the part. How'd it go? Do you think you got it?” Before I can answer her, my phone rings. I turn the heat down on the stove and wipe my hands off on the towel hanging over my shoulder before I pull the device from my pocket. The ring tone tells me it’s Todd, my agent. I can’t decide if I’m looking forward to his call or not. “Todd!” I say as upbeat as I can muster, doing my best to not let my nerves show. “How are you, Beau?” he asks. Uh-oh. He’s making conversation. Not a good sign. Todd’s been my agent for the past four years. He’s a good guy and keeps me fairly busy with auditions, unlike my first agent who did virtually nothing for me. I was always chasing her down. Todd and I talk almost every day. That said, I had yet to land anything substantial with the auditions he’s sent me on. “Have you heard from the director already?” I ask, referring to today’s audition, now half-hoping he’s just calling to tell me about something else coming up. Todd sighs loudly. Shit. “I did. They’re going with Landry, but,” he injects emphatically before I can express my disappointment. I almost don’t let him speak because, really, the last thing I want is another pep talk. Thankfully, Todd pushes on. “You did get the commercial for the anti-smoking patch.” “I did?” I feel only slightly better. Todd rattles off the details for the job and we hang up. After I put all the information into my phone for the shoot, I return to the stove to finish making dinner. “Who was that?” she asks not even bothering to look up from her device, thumbing a message or an email or something. “Todd. I got the patch commercial,” I say optimistically, strategically choosing to not mention that I didn't get the lawyer role on the cop show. Focus on the positive, my best friend Ty always says. “Another commercial? Really? Well, you'd better hope you get this TV show,” she nearly threatens. “I can't keep footing the bill on this place.” She waves her hand in a circular motion to show off our incredibly nice condo. Embarrassingly, she does pay a majority of our expenses since my casting earnings and waiting tables doesn’t bring home enough to even cover the HOA fees on the condo. “What will people say? Besides, Daddy’s allowance ends after the wedding,” she reminds me for the millionth time. I brace myself for what usually comes next: a lecture on how I’m thirty-two and need to get a ‘real job’ and put my acting dreams to pasture. However, she doesn’t go there. Instead, she snaps up another thorn of contention. “Speaking of the wedding. Annette had to reschedule again.” “Who’s Annette again?” She looks at me wide-eyed and slack-jawed wrought with incredulity. “Annette Holt. The award-winning pastry chef. She’s crafting our wedding cake.” “Right. Her. Sorry,” I mutter sheepishly. “Well, she had to reschedule again, but the third time’s the charm, right?” I add, hoping I don’t sound too patronizing. Holly rolls her eyes at me and shakes her head. “So it’s the fifteenth. Be sure to ask for that day off, okay?” “Day off. You got it,” I answer feigning enthusiasm. Truthfully, I’d rather be waiting tables than sampling cake. Hell, I’d bus the tables. Why does she want me to do any of this wedding crap with her anyway? I really couldn't have cared less what flavor cake we have or what the cake even looks like. I have no doubt that whatever I like, she’ll overrule anyway. Truthfully, I’m not exactly excited for a big wedding. And on New Year’s Eve, nonetheless. Most of the guest list is made up of her friends and her father’s political posse any way. My additions to the list are a total of fifteen people. My dad, sister and brother, my grandparents—my late mother’s mother, and my father’s parents—James, my closest friend from college, Todd, my agent, a few friends from Ed Scott’s, and Ty my life long best friend as well as my best man. The rest of the groomsmen are Holly’s two brothers, and a close friend of hers from college. But, sure. Involve me with choosing a fucking cake.
I enter the show venue proudly wearing my press badge. I have my batteries all charged, my lenses all cleaned, and plenty of memory cards to capture the couture du jour. I scan the crowd looking for familiar faces, of which, there are quite a few. I’m also looking for Steve Andrews, the editor in chief of Drape Magazine. I'd done some research on the man so I would have a sense of what he’s like, and perhaps what he would be looking for in a staff photographer. Across the room, I spot the man who wears his expensive suit like a uniform. I would have been hopelessly uncomfortable in the slim fitted clothing and hope he won’t judge what I’m wearing, although what I’m wearing is pretty much the photographer’s uniform—black cargo pants to hold camera accessories, a black shirt, and black boots. I’m also wearing a black knit cap to cover my bleach blond hair. Blending into the background is the name of the game for photogs at runway shows. It's all about the designers and the models. I make my way over to my temporary employer. He looks just like the photos I’d seen of him online: head shaved to ‘hide’ his receding hairline, bright blue eyes, and a winning smile. He looks fit under his pristine navy suit. That he’s a leader in an industry that’s all about image is something he clearly takes to heart. The only surprising thing is Steve Andrews’ height. I’d read online that he’s 5’10”. Now, I have been in this industry for a while. Worked with (and played with) many models that were 5’10”. Andrews ain’t no 5’10”. 5’8” maybe. Either way, I mean, what are a couple of inches? And in the end, Mr. Andrews’ height doesn’t seem to bother him one bit. His confidence gives him the air that he’s the tallest man in the room. Why does he feel the need to lie about his height? “Mr. Andrews,” I address respectfully when the woman he was talking to departs. He turns to me with a curious lift to his brow. “I'm Ty York. Hyun brought me on for the show today. Thank you so much for the opportunity.” “Oh, yes. He mentioned you. Glad to have you.” He extends his hand and we shake. When he doesn’t let go right away, I think, Here we go again, but that thought is immediately pushed out of mind when an over the top diva with candy apple red hair pushes her way toward us. “Steve Andrews! Dahhhling!” The two greet with air kisses and I excuse myself to claim my spot midway of the runway to capture all the glitz and glam, determined to impress the hell out of Steve Andrews. * * * Two hours later, the designers finally take the stage for their final accolades. The show was amazing and I am exhausted. I continue to shoot as the models start mingling with the press, the designers, and VIP guests. I’m shooting a model as she speaks to her designer when I hear over my shoulder into my ear, “I admire your work ethic. Not all photographers catch the aftermath.” I turn to see Steve Andrews smiling at me then he shifts his eye to a pair of photographers who are chatting with each other instead of working and another photographer who is shamelessly flirting with a model. “Thank you, Mr. Andrews. I always feel there’s more to the story than the show.” Okay, I’ve never shot a ‘show’ before, but hey—gotta act the part! “Next time I’m hoping for backstage access. The prep and dress changes must be amazing,” I press. Mr. Andrews cocks an eyebrow at me, “Next time, huh?” he asks. “Hyun may have mentioned there’s an opening at Drape,” I explain boldly, hoping I’m not about to get athletes mouth for revealing the insider tip from Hyun. Mr. Andrews shakes his head and twists his smirk into a smile. “We’ll have to see. May I?” he asks, his hand extended toward my camera. I carefully hand him my Canon and before I can show him how to navigate through the images, he’s scrolling swiftly. “How many cards did you shoot?” “Four plus the one you're looking at.” “Come see me tomorrow in my office.” He produces a card and holds it out for me. “Call my secretary and block some time. I’ll look at your portfolio.” And Boom! My luck just keeps on! * * * I had called the Drape offices first thing this morning and blocked time for two o’clock this afternoon. I’d been up half the night pulling some of my best shots from the show, spent the rest of the morning putting together a binder of my other finest and most appropriate work, as well as polishing up my resumé. An opportunity with Drape would provide regular pay and sensational perks. I’m practically giddy. When I get to the offices on Sixth Ave., I marvel at the space. Ultra-modern yet welcoming. The photographs and awards prominently displayed imbue an air of confidence and superiority. I’m led to Mr. Andrews’ offices—a private suite—and am introduced to his secretary, Logan, who I now know is a he not a she; something indeterminable on the phone. Logan is young, maybe early twenties, and dressed in a crisp teal-colored suit accentuating his lithe figure; his mannerisms are decidedly effeminate. He looks me up and down and smiles. “You sure you’re here as a photographer? You look like you could be a model,” he says flirtatiously. “I only work behind the camera,” I tell him. “Very well,” he huffs playfully. “Steve is waiting for you. He tells me you had some amazing shots from yesterday’s show,” Logan says as he picks up his phone and presses a button. “…Yessir, he is… Perfect.” Logan comes around from behind his desk then leads me to the large black double doors just off to the left of his desk. He knocks a couple of quick taps and then opens the door. “Good luck,” he whispers with a cheeky wink. “Ty. Good to see you again.” Steve walks up to me dressed just as sharply as he had been last night, although less understated in a black two-piece suit accented with a pale blue shirt underneath, and no tie allowing the top two buttons of his shirt to be undone at his neck. “Thank you for seeing me today, Mr. Andrews.” We shake hands and he offers me something to drink. Glancing at his full bar along the far right wall, I almost take him up on a shot of something to calm my nerves, but instead, I ask for a bottle of water. He collects me a chilled bottle from a small refrigerator and pours himself some amber liquid, and leads us to a comfortable seating area in his office. He gestures for me to sit on the couch and I take it. I’d expected him to sit either on the couch on the other side of the polished concrete coffee table, or in one of the chairs at the ends of the rectangular arrangement but he sits right next to me. “Show me what you have,” he says enthusiastically. I relax that he’d sat next to me just to view my portfolio from the same vantage point, and not for any other reason. I hope. We spend the next fifteen minutes going over my portfolio with him telling me what he likes—and what he doesn’t like—about each photo. Fortunately, the positives far outweigh the negatives. Next, he looks over my resumé and asks me about some of the competitions I’d placed well in. “How does sixty-eight sound?” “Sorry?” I ask at the seemingly random question. “A year,” he clarifies. “Salary with benefits from medical to 401k, vacations—in addition to location shoots. And you can continue to do your stock photography on the side, but not with our models.” “Oh! Sir. Sixty-eight sounds just about right,” I manage to say without jumping up and down like an idiot. “Thank you so much!” “Can you start Monday?” “Monday. Yes, sir. I’ll be here,” I answer feeling like I’m about to burst. A job! With a salary and benefits. “One more thing,” he says, growing serious and I feel like the rug is about to be ripped out from under me. “You’re not a womanizer like Cooper was, are ya?” he asks, sitting back and sipping his drink. “Excuse me, sir?” “The photographer you'd be replacing,” he explains. I recall Hyun telling me that the guy who was supposed to be shooting last night’s event was screwing some model and, God help me, I don't know why I say what comes out of my mouth next. “I, uh, I'm gay so your models are safe with me.” Steve Andrews locks eyes with me and a smile emerges. “I see,” he drawls slowly, looking me over carefully and rubbing a finger along his bottom lip, his mouth curling into a smile like he’s seeing me in a whole new light. And not the ‘employee’ kind of light, either. What the fuck have I done?? “Well, you’re hired,” he says, standing and walking to his desk. He presses a button on his desk phone and Logan replies immediately. “Yes, sir.” “Please bring in a new hire packet for Ty. He’ll be our newest Staff Photographer.” “Right away, sir,” Logan responds gleefully. “Wow. Thank you so much, Mr. Andrews. I’m really looking forward to this.” I stand and extend my hand to shake his—something to solidify this job offer. “Please,” he says, his voice and demeanor softening. He takes my hand, we shake and I relax—but only for a moment—because he can’t pull back his job offer now that we shook on it, right? “Call me Steve.” He pauses a moment, still holding my hand, and looks at me a little strangely then asks, “What is Ty short for?” I fight the urge to roll my eyes. I get this question way too often and it drives me a bit crazy. “Actually nothing. My parents just liked Ty. Not Tyler, Tyrus, Tiberius, Tyrone… Just Ty.” I shrug a matter of factly. Then I share, “And no middle name either. Go figure.” “Hmm,” is Steves reply, his eyes revealing that he’s a little amused. He shakes my hand again before finally releasing it and walks me to the door. After opening the door to an onlooking Logan, he bids, “Welcome aboard. And bring those memory cards so we can get those images from last night into the next issue.” He shakes my hand (again, that’s two shakes. This job offer is solid!) and adds, “Logan will get you all set up with the paperwork.” “Thank you, Steve.” With that, Steve returns to his office, his door closing softly behind him. “I had a feeling about you,” Logan says with a grin, enthusiastically handing me a folder. I say goodbye and as I’m leaving the office I just can’t believe my luck and what happened in these past five minutes. I was just offered a job. With benefits. And I'm now… gay? Well, shit on a shingle! How in the hell am I going to manage the last one?
My phone pings with a message. I glance and see it’s from my best friend, Ty. U around to celebrate? Celebrating what? On my way home from work now. B there in 15? I reply. C U then! Roughly twenty minutes later, the doorman is buzzing me to tell me that Ty is in the lobby. After I tell the doorman to send Ty up, I crack open the front door and I head to change out of my lunch shift scented clothes. Ty and I had been friends literally since the day we were born. Okay, well, I was born a few weeks before Ty, but our families were on the same block, and our mothers were great friends. They both went through their pregnancies at the same time and after we were born, we were naturally thrown together. Our formative years is the basis for our lifelong friendship because we couldn’t have been more different from one another. While I grew up playing all the sports, Ty was always on the smaller side and avoided sports. He was a total goofball though and always good for hanging out and getting into trouble with. “Yo!” Ty calls out stepping into the condo. “Hey. C’mon in!” I shout back from down the hall where the bedrooms are, ”Just changing out of my work clothes. Make yourself comfortable.” When I join Ty a minute later, still smelling of steak from the restaurant where I was a waiter but at least in clean clothes, he has already made himself quite at home sipping a beer and sitting in Holly’s prized possession: an authentic Eames Lounge Chair. I grab the beer from the coffee table he’d gotten for me and collapse on the sofa drinking down a few long, cold gulps. “How are the auditions?” Ty asks, hiding a smile. I fill him in, complete with Holly’s repeated threat. “Shit. I dunno how you put up with her, man,” he mutters, and not for the first time I agreed. “She really has no clue about what you do and how fucking difficult it is to break through.” “Well, how can she when she got her job as Chief of Communications just because she's the boss’s daughter,” I retort, wincing at my own harsh words. I drain my beer and get up to grab us a couple of fresh ones. “What about you? Wait, you said ‘celebrate’ in your text. What are we celebrating?” I ask returning to the living room. “I got a bonafide full-time job at a magazine,” he boasts, finally adopting the smile he’d been holding in. “No shit!? That’s awesome!” I lean forward to clink beer bottles with him. “Where?” “So, do you know the magazine Drape?” “Like as in curtains?” I ask, absolutely not knowing the magazine he is referring to. “No,” he scoffed, laughing. “Drape. Slang for suits and dresses and shit. Fashion. But they also key into luxury lifestyle stuff like yachts and travel.” “Oh. Right, yeah. How did this happen?” “Well, I did a freelance gig for them last night and today, I got hired as a staff photographer.” “Holy shit, dude! That's awesome!” I’m genuinely thrilled for this break for my very best friend. “How are you going to manage being surrounded by all those gorgeous chicks?” I tease. Ty was the biggest player I knew. A different chick every week. Almost all of them models. Never committing to a relationship, just ‘sampling all the delights’ he always said. “Well, I kinda put myself into a position where I can’t do anything about it.” “What the fuck does that mean?” “Well,” he starts and I see the air in his balloon deflate a bit. “So, uh the guy I replaced… well, he got fired for screwing the models. And I wanted this job so bad that my brain kinda short-circuited and I told the boss that his models would be safe with me because I’m gay.” Unfortunately, I'd taken the wrong moment to take a pull off my beer because his comment has me doing a spit-take of Corona all over the table, magazines, and area rug that cost a fortune but Holly ‘had to have it.’ “You told him what?” I manage after a moment. “You? Gay? That’s rich! And he bought it?” I can’t help it and start to laugh my ass off like a middle-school kid, but quickly notice that Ty isn’t laughing, but now looking pained. “Fuck, man,” I blurt and instantly stop laughing. “I’m sorry, dude. Did I miss something? Are you dating a guy and trying to break the news to me?” I feel about two inches tall. I have no qualms about anyone's love interest. Gay. Lesbian. Bi. Pan. Trans. Asexual. Is Ty trying to tell me something? All our lives he’s been screwing chicks. Even got into photography so he could ‘legit photograph the most beautiful women in the world’ he’d said. “Fuck no!” Ty exclaims, draining his beer and getting up and heading to the kitchen to grab another from the fridge. “I don't know why I said what I did, but I really wanted the job and it just… popped out. This job pays well, has benefits, like amazing benefits. I can still freelance if my schedule allows. Travel and insurance and retirement…” I know how he feels. The idea of a dependable regular paycheck is all too alluring. Add the health insurance and so on and I’d probably cop to being gay, too. Over the next hour, Ty and I all but finish the beer supply, talking about Ty’s new job, and me complaining about my lack of acting gigs. I was not going to be a full-time waiter and was half-thinking of giving into Holly and getting some salesman job or something. “You’d better fuckin’ not,” Ty insists. “You’ll hate yourself, and her, forever if you give in. You were meant to be on screen, dude.” Just then, Holly comes through the front door. She takes one look at us and shakes her head. “Typical,” is all she says under her breath with a scowl on her face as she marches back to the bedroom. Her theatrics only cause Ty and me to dissolve into a fit of half-drunken laughter. Moments later, she re-appears, dressed in skinny jeans, a hot pink top, and a white blazer. Stuffing her feet into a pair of black heels she huffs, “I called Rebecca. We’re going to meet down in the Village for dinner. I’ll be back, and hopefully you’ll have sobered up.” “Good to see you, too, Holly!” Ty calls out, poking the beast. “Fuck you, Ty,” she sputters and leaves without another word. She really can be a bitch at times.
I spend the next week getting to know the Drape offices. Who is who, and the intracompany web pages for communications, and where I find my job assignments and so on. The days are fast-paced and long, but I am over the moon with my newfound employment. In my first week, I helped choose the shots from the runway show I’d shot and assist with arranging the layout, I get to do a test shoot for a series on new footwear trends for the high-end designer Angela DeWitt Shoes, as well as an in-studio session with four in-house models for SLDickson’s new T-shirt trends. There are hair and makeup artists. I have crews to call on to manage the lights. When I shared my idea for a mock set for the shoe shoot, a team built it for me. Overnight! I’m like a kid in a candy store. And if it were even possible, the weekend is more exciting than the studio work. I shoot two more pre-Fashion Week shows and one of the staff reporters books me to go with her to shoot some music act at a night club. Steve pops in with curious regularity, watching me like a hawk. At first, I worry that I’m over-using the various staff too much or something, but everyone assures me that’s not the case. I almost feel like Steve is going out of his way to make me feel welcome. Although, that’s better than the alternative. I’m just finishing a session with two banging hot models wearing the most incredible fuck-me pumps. (God I love this job!) Steve—surprise, surprise—shows up. Maybe he’s checking up on me while working with the females—making sure I’m not behaving like the guy who got fired. I’m grateful for my loose cargo pants so he can’t see the semi I have for these chicks and their shapely legs in the shortest of shorts and highest of heels. My gay cover would be blown for sure. “Okay, ladies. I think I got what the client needs. You were great,” I tell them, being very careful to sound completely professional. The girls slip off the shoes and I have to stop myself from watching them as they curl their toes and rub their feet after spending the last hour in four-inch-heels. “Nice work,” Steve says, slapping my shoulder, and leaving his hand in place. “Thanks. I’m really loving things here,” I answer and move away from Steve to go about packing up my camera and lenses back in their case. “Good. We like having you here. You all ready for next week?” “Fashion Week? You’d better believe it!” “Excellent. Got you that backstage access you wanted.” “Terrific! Thanks, man!” “Anything you need,” he answers, stressing the anything, his voice a little lower than before. Steve’s phone chimes and he glances at the screen. “Shit. Duty calls,” he says a little sadly. He grips my shoulder again, gives a good squeeze then drags his hand down my arm before he leaves. Did he just check out my biceps? Is he gay-testing me? Checking to see if I’ll flinch at male contact? He’s not an ugly man. Not by a long shot, but he’s my boss. And I’m not gay. Then again, maybe I’m reading into things. As soon as Steve is out of the studio and the door closes, Mike, the lighting guy starts laughing. “What?” “Looks like someone has inspired Steve to get back in the game.” “What the fuck are you talking about, man?” I ask with a nervous little laugh, trying to sound casual about things, not freaked out by what Mike is suggesting. Mike stops coiling the cord he’s wrapping up. “Looks like Steve’s got it hard for you.” “Shut the fuck up,” I scoff, doing my best to not sound offended. I mean, I’m not offended, but… “No disrespect. I mean, you’re gay, right? At least that’s the word going around.” “Right. I mean, yeah,” I reply as confidently as I can, shrugging my shoulders as though I don’t care. And I don’t. Not really. “He’s been single for the past, oh maybe eight months now? Bad breakup with his boyfriend of ten years. But he was making the same eyes at you that he used to make with George. Not to mention how he was checking out your ass.” Nothing like having your suspicions confirmed. “But he can’t be flirting with me. I’m an employee. No fraternization policy, right?” “Yeah, whatever. The guy is clearly enamored.” Shit.
Fashion Week is starting and I’m beyond stoked to do the shows! I’m so engrossed sifting through the shots I’d gotten from the G&L runway show last night, I don’t hear when Steve comes into the workshop. “Looks like you got some great shots there,” he says, pulling a chair up close to my right. While we scroll through the photos, he leans over and points at something on the screen with his right hand, resting his left hand on my thigh. Is Steve flirting? I can hear Mike laughing in my head again. When we get to the end of the card (and a couple of handfuls of ‘testing touches’ later,) Steve sits back and swivels his chair to me. “So, you seem to be doing great here. Everyone I talk to enjoys working with you.” “Glad to hear it. I really like it here.” “Good, good. Hey, you’re coming to the Wrap Party on Saturday, after all the shows, right?” I shake my head slowly. “I don’t know what you’re talking about?” “Sorry. My bad. Every year after Fashion Week, I hold a party up at my place in the Hamptons. You didn’t get the invitation?” “Not that I recall.” “Well, I’ll make sure Logan sends it to your company email.” Steve sets a hand on my shoulder. “That’d be great,” I answer hesitantly. Is this really some big soiree? Or is Steve inviting me up for a ‘private party’ at his place? I’ll have to ask around. “And you’re down in Brooklyn, right?” “That’s right,” I acknowledge. “Long drive. You should just pack a bag; spend the night. I have plenty of room. Some of the people that live farther away crash. We often party late into the night and I have stuff arranged for the next day for those who stay.” He stops, regarding me a moment and then asks, his voice lower, “Are you seeing anyone?” “Who? Me?” I ask, surprised at the question. In years past, I’d always made a joke about me having a girlfriend. I was a confirmed bachelor with no desire to settle down with one person. But after my proclamation of being gay, and then all of Steve’s overt watching me, and his frequent “friendly” touches—I know what my answer has to be. “Actually, I am.” I force what I hope is a ‘hopelessly-in-love-smile.’ “Good,” he responds, clearing his throat and standing. “You should bring him. Lots of people bring their significant others.” And with that, Steve leaves. I groan at myself and what I’d just gotten myself into. I have to find a date for some party thing—provided it’s a legit party, of course. Maybe I just don’t go? But that would look bad since I said I already said I would. And I really do enjoy the work I’m doing here. Now I need to find someone to act as my boyfriend. Fuck. If I only knew an out of work actor… * * * Beau
When Ty called me an hour ago to ask if he could swing by, my answer was yes. I was just getting off the lunch shift, and I told him I’d meet him at my place. When I asked him what it was about, he wouldn’t answer a thing, just said we’d talk when he got here. By the time he shows up, I’m as nervous as hell. The last time he’d sprung this, ‘I’ll tell ya when I see ya,’ shit on me, it was back in high school and I ended up protecting Ty from a couple of fucking asshole bullies and I got suspended for fighting. Back in high school, Ty wasn’t the biggest of guys and he had a mouth on him that often got him in trouble, saying shit before thinking how others might take his, more times than not, dickwad comments. I smirk to myself when I recall that he’d told his new boss that he was gay. I wonder if that lie had gotten him into trouble, although I hope that’s not the case. When I get to my building, I let the doorman know that Ty would be by shortly and to just let him up. It’s not ten minutes later when Ty walks in. It looks like he has been in a wind tunnel. His typically perfectly styled hair is pointing every which way. “You look like shit, dude!” I say, not censoring my remarks, but we’d been through enough that censorship isn’t necessary. We have always been brutally honest with each other. Most of the time anyway. I have kept a secret or two from him. Hell, I keep those secrets from everyone. “Thanks, asshole,” he says, pushing his hand through his hair again before chewing on his thumbnail, as he plops down in his favorite lounger. Uh-oh. When Ty chews on his thumbnail, I know he’s as nervous as one can get “Beer?” I offer. “Tequila?” he counters. “That bad, huh?” I toss him a beer anyway, saving the tequila until I learn what’s stressing him out. “So, um, I actually have a job for ya, if you're interested,” he starts, then takes a long pull off his beer. I’d seen Ty nervous before, but never like this. Like every time in the past, my emotions mirrored his. “Like modeling or something?” I ask. I'd done several shoots for Ty when he needed something specific. It was no big deal. And now that he had a magazine footing the bills for photoshoots… I might consider more modeling. “No. This is acting. Like you’d need to pull off the best acting of your lifetime.” Ty starts chewing on his thumbnail again. Shit. This is big. I have a load of questions in mind, but keep quiet and wait for him to continue. I’ve known Ty all my life and I know that he can’t be rushed to say what he needs to say. He studies me with his dark brown eyes and continues. “What do you have going on on the fifteenth?” I run through my mental calendar quickly and remember it’s the weekend for cake tasting with Holly. “Nothing important,” I answer. “What’s going on?” “So, apparently, the boss throws a FashionWeek wrap party when it’s all done. It’s at his place in Southampton. Sounds like everyone goes. And…” Ty trails off before he finishes. Why would he be nervous about some party? Ty loves parties. He lives for them. “And?” “It’s kinda like an overnight kind of thing?” “Okay,” I say when he doesn’t continue, urging him to go on. I’ve known Ty to crash at a number of parties. Why is this one any different? And what does this all have to do with me? And acting? “Well, I somehow admitted to having a boyfriend and Steve said I should bring him.” He flashes me a tortured smile. “Lemme get this straight. You’ve got your new work believing you’re gay and now you have a mythical boyfriend? What’s his name? George Glass?” I laugh at my own joke, but Ty doesn’t seem to find humor in it, instead, he looks more pained than ever. “I was thinking maybe it would be Beau Thompson.” Well, that sobers me up.