Thursday, 23 July 2015

Chapter four (segment three), 2016, August, Christina

Christina turned on her toes and listened to the whirring as hundreds of photos were being taken. She knew that modern equipment really didn't sound like that, but she had asked for the effect to make her remember those early days when they wrapped up a day with silly shots using a motorised camera. Neither she nor the other models made any real effort to glide in and out of real poses, but rather played like buffoons.

Sometimes a lucky one got taken, and if the crew were really lucky they found it back at the studio.

“Wrap it?” the photographer asked, but it hadn't been a question. They more they played around the more work for very little gain they produced.


She grinned at the model who has turned to her for confirmation. “Yeah, I think that's enough with the silly.” She beckoned for attention and the photographer looked up from his display.

“Yes?” This time it was a real question.

“Tonight is the last one for the club. Our field trip,” she added when he showed no understanding. “If you want I think I can convince the others to participate in some group shots for free. If you want something where you display the entire range.”

He stroked a stubbled chin. “Dunno. They're not pros.”

“Mmm.” Christina tilted her head. Just an idea. You could mix in the models I guess, but I can't promise they'll do it for free,” she laughed and pointed at the man closest to her.

“You know, I'll ask the producer. It's not a bad idea, and I guess you're doing the fireworks and all that kiddie stuff.” The photographer waved at the model she had singled out. “What about it? We're stuck here until tomorrow and I'll throw in some beer and barbecue if we have an OK?”

“Sounds more fun than spending the entire evening indoors,” the model agreed. “I'll ask the others.”

Christina waited for the crew to pack up and walk away. She wanted some time for herself, but in the end the photographer remained on the beach with her. She gave him a surprised look when he waved to the rest of the crew to have his gear carried away. When she gave him another look she wasn't as surprised any longer. It was the ace one.

“You know, I don't believe you just happened to have that idea,” he opened. “You've played a crapton of stunts on us that were a hell of a lot smarter than what our producer planned.”

And here it comes.

“What's the deal?” he asked in response of her silence. He looked out over the water and lit a cigarette. “You know way too much of my side of the camera,” he said and blew out a long string of smoke. “First I thought you were studio family, but you know the clothes as well. Now that takes a lot of years.” He fell silent, and she knew he was fishing for a response.

I'll hold out a bit longer. Want to know how much he's guessed. She said nothing and stared at the sand where it glimmered the few metres between land and sea where waves rolled up and back again.

She wasn't surprised that he took up the one-sided conversation again. “If I didn't know better I'd say you've been in the business for twenty or thirty years, maybe more, but that would be crazy, wouldn't it?”

That was far, far too close. With a few words he had pinned her entire previous professional life.

“Yeah, that would be crazy,” she said. I should have denied it flat out, but, oh well.

“There were some strange rumours, when I worked for Asahi Shimbun back in the days.” He drew deep, inhaled and exhaled. “Way back in the days.”

He's a bloody journalist? But he's with the big agency here, I'm sure of it. She had to put a stop to this, or learn more. In the end curiosity won. “What kind of rumours?”

“Me and a colleague followed a trail of strangeness that led us from Japan to Sweden. Real strange stuff.”

What the hell? “I don't understand,” she tried, but she knew that lie wouldn't float.

“Science fiction kind of strangeness. Nothing we could have published and kept our jobs. Hell, I wouldn't have believed it myself until I arrived back here.”

Despite the summer heat Christina felt something cold running up and down her back. She slowly turned to him. “What would you not believe, more exactly?”

He stared back at her. “Nothing a school girls would understand. Nothing a cute thing like you should believe.” He drew another lungful and waited for her response.

She decided to let him finish. Nothing he said should surprise her anyway, but she wanted how much he knew.

“But if a beautiful schoolgirl wouldn't believe it, maybe the Princess of Scandinavia would?”

Christina knew she was gaping, but it didn't matter. “You're from back there?”

He kept his stare locked on her. “I arrived here almost thirty years ago. It took me some time to recognise you. Must have been just after your breakthrough.”

Thirty years? I was in Paris then. No, the big one in Japan after I broke up with that creep. That's when I got my nickname. “How old are you?”

She received a grin in response. “Older than you, in both worlds. Forty three here and sixty nine in total.”

Her clothes were already dirty, and it wasn't as if they were really her clothes. She sat down in the sand grappling with what he had just said. “How many of us are there here?”

“I don't know,” he said. He remained standing, but she could smell his cigarette. “Quite a few I guess.” The smell grew fainter, and Christina could hear his receding footsteps. “I'm not going to make any trouble for you, but I would want to chat with you some other time.”



Christina rose to her knees and turned. “Why are you here? I mean in this town.”

The smile she got was both reassuring and sad. “I'm not here to spy on you if that's what you think. Honestly, I came for the shot.” He shrugged, and she could see he was far, far away in his thoughts. “Asahi Shimbun was in that other world. Sometimes I miss it, but here I'm a fashion photographer.” Then his face lit up in a naughty grin that made him much younger. “One of the damned best you'll find. Let's just say I have twice the experience if you get my meaning.”

She felt sad for him, but at the same time this was an opportunity she wasn't about to miss. “Let's say we'll have that chat, and let's say you know who I am. I want you on my permanent crew.”

That had him. “You're one cold-hearted bitch. But sure, if you can prove you didn't end up a mayfly back there.”

A challenge, but one she could match. “Ask my boyfriend.”

“Your boyfriend, what does he have to do… shit!”

“Yeah, shit. He can tell you just how big I made it there.”

“From what you told him?” the photographer probed.

Nice try, but you know what I mean. “He's my age, a bit older actually. As you were saying, let's assume he knew of me when you arrived here.” Christina rose to her full length and slid into the pose that had made once her name. “He followed my career a bit closer than most, both my careers.” And to close the conversation she became the billion dollar empress.

The former journalist blanched at Christina's sudden change. Then he recovered. “I see. Very well, I'll see what I can do.”

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