Not Worth the Money

© Clare London / 2011


“I didn’t know he was leaving, you know. Never had a clue.” I shift carefully, conscious that I mustn’t lose the pose I’ve been asked for. I’m leaning face forwards against the wall, braced on my arms at shoulder height, my feet apart and my bare arse tilted up. The room is cool and quiet. I can smell the distant tang of photographic chemicals, overlaid by a spicy aroma from the Indian restaurant below. “Just came home from work Tuesday night and he’d gone.”

My belly clenches at the mix of shock and anger. Luc hadn’t left a note, hadn’t hinted he was unhappy. He just … went. Apparently wearing just the clothes he stood up in, leaving everything else behind. It’s odd not to take your toothbrush or your favourite CD.

“I waited for him to come back. You would, wouldn’t you?” I don’t expect an answer. “Then I got scared and called the hospital. And the police. Imagine that.” But there’d been no trace of him, in trouble or not. He’d just gone.

Luc was my first, in oh so many ways, not all of which I’d share with just anyone. We’d both been new to the city, to being out and proud with no one bothered or disapproving. Hey, I was high with it all, and with someone to share. We ate and drank and fucked and took it in turns to housekeep when the other went job-hunting.

“He was so excited when he found this place.” I remembered his preening in front of the mirror. “Right around the corner, flexible hours, no prior experience needed.” Money in his hand for just standing around stark naked, he’d told me. Guys could buy him in a magazine, jerk off over him. It didn’t sound so fabulous to me, but he’d seen himself as one of those models on the front of GQ. And anyway, he was that hot to me.

My breath hitches. “Fuck. Sorry. Did I move?”

The photographer glances over from behind his camera and shakes his head. It’s okay. That’s what I assume: I can’t see his expression. But I can’t afford to get a hard-on right now, just thinking about Luc.

The studio light is hot on my shoulder blades. I’m sweating too much, but maybe it’ll make my skin look sexy like those underwear shoots in Luc’s magazines. He studied the poses. This was going to be his big opportunity. Getting your kit off? I’d said. He didn’t like my tone. Had he gone on some modelling assignment without telling me? Without wanting me? 

The photographer guy is beside me. When did that happen? I need to pay attention or I’ll fuck this up. He wasn’t wearing gloves when we started, but now the cool leather slides up my inner thigh, pushing me into a wider straddle. He doesn’t talk much. Well, not at all. I made the appointment Wednesday with his voicemail: today, he just waved me into the room and up against the wall. Didn’t even tell me to strip, though I did that anyway, didn’t I?

I dropped my inhibitions pretty quickly. Funny what struggling with the rent can do for your principles.

“Luc was just passing through, I guess.” Not really love at all, how naïve of me. Left with a broken heart and the fucking utility bills. The controlling hand runs a finger down the middle of my chest, and my nipples thicken into buds. “Lucky you were still looking for guys. The pay is good.” Or so Luc told me it would be.

There’s another click. A hand pushes my head to the side. He’s in two places at once? Probably one of those time-release shutter things.

“Is this okay? I’m doing my best.” I’m looking now at a floor to ceiling screen. Lots of other photos pinned there, black and white, glossy and bold. The guy’s portfolio. A lot of flesh; a lot of young guys grinning and flexing and preening like Luc.

There is Luc.

It’s a jolt, can’t deny it. Many shots of him, leaning against the wall like I am now. Naked, shining. That look in his eyes that used to chase me into bed. He looks great. This guy knows what the customer wants. There’s breath at my ear but if I turn, I might spoil the shot. My gaze is fixed, following the series of poses, Luc turning to face the camera, a happy smile, a provocative pout. The focus tightens, the lens moving up his body to his face.

Something changes. His eyes are wider. Tension tightens his shoulders. What was the photographer guy thinking?

“I’ve gotta take a break,” I say, but there’s no response. The room’s colder. Goosebumps spring up, my skin shivers. The pictures of Luc fascinate me.

The camera’s still moving in, too close now, the nervousness is creeping into his eyes. A flash of light in the next picture is too bright, obscuring Luc’s face except for the top half of his face. I kissed that cheek; felt those laughing eyes on me at night. A gloved hand covers half the lens. Only Luc’s eyes in view.

No humour in them now. Just fear.

There’s a kick to my ankle, wanting me to turn. Following the same series of shots as Luc. Following that fear.

I pull away from the wall and turn, clumsy with circulation returning to my arms, disorientated by my nakedness. He’s there, less than a foot away. Still no talk. Hooded eyes; evasive movement. What did he do to Luc?

Because I know Luc’s really gone.

The camera flashes in my eyes and for a second I can’t see straight. I can taste bile in my mouth, fear in my fingertips. How did he do it? I lash out, no co-ordination, but I connect with something solid and he goes down with a whumph of noise.

One last dip down, to grab my jeans and shoes.

And I run like hell.