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Ms. Luciana Garcia
Big City Modeling Agency
9576 Collins Avenue
Surfside, FL 33154
August 15, 2010
4404 E 139th St
Newton, KS 67114
Dear Miss Williams,
Congratulations on being selected for our prestigious modeling program here in South Florida. Your application stood out among the many candidates who applied. We only choose to work with models who exhibit integrity, dedication, and passion for the beauty that is modeling and you have shown to possess all of these qualities.
Enclosed you will find all of the information about the program including the schedule for orientation and all the necessary details about what to expect during your first week with us at Big City Modeling Agency.
We look forward to your arrival on the 25th. If you have any questions, please give us a call.
Ms. Luciana Garcia
She'd read that letter a hundred times and even now, it didn't seem real. Alison opened the car door and got out, nervous about her first day at Big City Modeling Agency. The building, gray and drab, stood in contrast to the lush and vibrant tropical gardens that surrounded it. Towering palm trees offered little shade to the expansive parking lot where Alison stood, staring up at the pale monolith before her.
She smiled and said hello to the old man sitting on the bench near the entrance. He returned her smile and gave a tilt of his hat, as gentlemen of his generation were known to do in the presence of a pretty lady. The glass doors slid open, unleashing a blast of arctic wind from the air-conditioned lobby, a refreshing chill after braving the expanse of concrete and Florida sun. The ring of a telephone pierced the air as she approached the reception desk.
"Big City Modeling Agency, how may I direct your call?"
Alison waited while the receptionist assisted the person on the other end. After transferring the call, he directed his attention to her.
"Welcome to Big City Modeling Agency. How may I help you this morning young lady?"
"My name is Alison, I'm here to see Ms. Garcia for my first day of orientation."
"Of course. Welcome. Here is some paperwork you need to fill out. Have a seat, and I'll let her know you've arrived."
Alison took the clipboard, sat down in an oversized purple club chair, and began filling out the forms. The scent of chocolate drifted under her nose and she realized it was coming from the orchid sitting on the bright orange table to her right. The soft brown petals looked like shavings of chocolate atop a gourmet dessert and smelled just as sweet.
She completed the paperwork and returned it to the receptionist. As she sat back down, she noticed the vibrant artwork that adorned the pasty peach walls. Bright splashes of reds and pinks contrasted by broad strokes of dark blues and greens filled the lobby with color. The ding of an elevator sounded and a tall woman with graying hair pulled up into a tight bun appeared before her and beckoned with a motion of her hand. Alison stood up immediately to greet her.
"Welcome, Alison. Sorry to keep you waiting. I had a call that took longer than it should have. Did you have any trouble finding us?"
"No, ma'am. Your directions were very clear. Thank you."
"All right then, follow me."
As they walked to the elevator, Ms. Garcia gave Alison a brief history of Big City Modeling and what it took to become so successful in a highly competitive market.
"We at Big City Modeling expect the best from our models. We expect perfection. Now, let's get you into the hands of hair and make-up."
The elevator arrived on the fourth floor. The hallway stretched equally in both directions with colorful numbered doors labeled with names of stylists and make-up artists.
Ms. Garcia continued, "We provide a number of modeling services to our clients, each requiring a different look or style. By hiring multiple hair and make-up artists of different skill sets, we can attain any look we need, any time we need it."
They stopped at door 414.
"Today we're shooting your portfolio so you'll be working with Nathan and Natasha, our experts on the natural look."
"Nathan?" Alison wondered how a man could know how to do hair or make-up.
"Yes. Nathan came highly recommended so we snatched him up from a salon on South Beach and he's never let us down. As I said, we expect the best."
She sensed she had offended Ms. Garcia and refrained from asking any more questions. After a brief introduction, Nathan got right to work on her hair. She sat quietly as he wielded his silver scissors and fuchsia-colored comb. He worked with a quickness and grace that only comes from years of mastery.
When he had finished, he spun her around to face the mirror. She gasped in awe of the new look he had bestowed upon her. She squealed with glee and wondered what magic Natasha would pull from her bag of beauty tricks. She almost didn't recognize the face staring back at her after Natasha finished. Combined with the new doo, Alison felt a shift in her self-confidence. Something about the way her eyes sparkled made her smile.
Ms. Garcia seemed to materialize out of nowhere, "Wonderful job as always, Nathan and Natasha. Come with me, Alison."
She thanked Nathan and Natasha for the wonderful job they had done and followed Ms. Garcia out the door, down the hall to the elevator. They descended to the third floor and headed to wardrobe. Playing dress-up had always been one of her favorite games as a kid. She'd never imagined the joy of playing dress-up as an adult could surpass that of childhood fantasy. Overwhelmed by the sheer number of clothing racks, Alison had trouble focusing on what Ms. Garcia was saying.
"Good morning, Henri. I've brought you a fresh flower today. This is Alison. Alison, this is the world-famous Henri Guimont."
"Enchante mademoiselle. I trust Madame Garcia explained to you I expect complete submission to my vision during ze photos. I have no time for girls who cannot follow direction or believe zey know better zen moi."
Alison nodded. Before she could form a coherent thought with which to respond, Ms. Garcia spoke.
"Wonderful. When Henri is done with you, call it a day and be back here tomorrow at 7 am. Oh, I almost forgot. Stop by reception on your way out. Kyle will have more paperwork and information regarding your schedule tomorrow."
"And don't be late."
"Au revoir Henri. Have fun you two."
Alison blushed and gave a nervous smile as Ms. Garcia left. She looked at Henri and took a slow, deep breath. In. Out. Breathe.
"Right zis way mademoiselle."
After hours of posing and countless wardrobe changes, Alison breathed a sigh of relief when Henri announced, "Fini!" She'd heard her phone buzzing during the last change of clothes but hadn't dared check it until she'd finished for the day. It was probably just Natalie checking on her anyway.
She stopped at Kyle's desk to grab the paperwork then headed out into the sweltering heat towards her car. She checked her phone. Yep, a text from her roommate asking her to pick something up for dinner. She cranked on the ac and began searching for a restaurant close by. She wasn't familiar with the city yet and didn't have any interest in getting lost. She wanted to be adventurous and try something new but she opted to play it safe and found a Pollo Tropical.
At least there she could read the menu. Seeing so much Spanish everywhere made her feel like a foreigner in a strange land, making her forget sometimes she was still in the United States. She ordered the family meal, to-go, then proceeded to fill up the large drink cup with tea. As she waited for her food, she spotted a familiar face, the old man on the bench. He sat alone at a small table eating a slice of key lime pie.
"Right here," she waved to the cashier. Could I get two slices of pecan pie if it's not too much trouble."
"No trouble at all. That'll be five thirty-two, miss."
She paid for the pies, gathered the food and the tea, and turned to see the old man had already left his table.
"Honey, I'm home." Alison entered the house, greeted by the thumping bass of club music echoing down the hall. She carried the food to the kitchen and found Natalie setting the table.
"Hey Ali-cat, didn't hear you come in."
"I imagine not with that music blaring out of your room."
"Sorry. Let me go turn that down."
Alison filled the glasses with ice and poured the tea. She cut the chicken and selected one of the breast quarters. "What piece of chicken do you want, Nat?"
"I like my chicken the same as my men…"
"What, cheap and greasy?'
"Ha ha ha aren't you the wise guy tonight. You know I like my men dark. And dirty, just like this rice here." She held the container up and then scooped a big spoonful onto her plate. "Now pass me a greasy thigh and leg quarter, if you please."
She handed her roommate the chicken in exchange for the container of rice. She buttered her biscuit and took a huge bite. It felt like days since she'd eaten even though she'd had a pretty hearty breakfast. She took a drink of her tea before asking Natalie about her day.
"My day was boring. Who cares what I did, I live with a supermodel now. How was your day, love? Tell me everything! Did you see any hot guys? Scratch that, of course you did. What did you get to wear? I bet they've got all the latest shit by all those designers you love so much. You look amazing by the way. Was the photographer hot? Did you pose naked? Come on girl, spill!"
Alison choked on her tea upon hearing that last question. She sometimes worried about her roommate's obsession with hot guys and getting naked, but then again, it came with the territory where Natalie worked. She blotted her mouth with a napkin and proceeded to tell her energizer bunny-mouthed roommate how her first day went at Big City Modeling Agency.
"It really wasn't that exciting," she began. "Today was just my portfolio shoot. Haircut, make-up, tons of different outfits. Although the pool was pretty spectacular."
"The building is enormous! They have photography studios built to look like regular rooms in a house."
She described the elaborate décor of the living room studio, furnished by Benettia's Italia. "The hand-carved coffee table they had cost more than my first car! The kitchen was a real trip, with a fully stocked pantry and fridge along with every small kitchen appliance you can imagine. And the bathroom was as big as our kitchen and living room, combined."
"You posed in a bathroom?"
"Nothing weird. Just some shots wearing a fuzzy bathrobe and pretending to do my make-up in the mirror. Henri did mention, or rather ranted about 'zis stupid girl who couldn't squat properly…' I don't know what he was talking about exactly because he kept slipping into French. Anyway, businesses want realistic photos so they built real-life rooms for studios."
"Get back to the spectacular pool."
"Right, the pool. It's on the roof of this place and it's unbelievable. There was a huge waterfall cascading down that concealed a grotto with a bubbling hot tub inside. On top of the cave was a waterslide that wrapped down and around plunging you into the pool. There was even a beach with white sand and seashells scattered about. The only thing missing was a tiki hut and a good bartender."
"So, did you see any other models while wandering through this labyrinth of fine furnishings, high-end décor, and rooftop paradise?"
Alison thought for a moment about who she'd interacted with at the agency. "You know, now that you mention it, I don't remember seeing any other models. Other than my agent, the receptionist, hair and make-up and the photographer, the only other person I encountered was a friendly old man sitting on a bench outside the agency and again when I stopped to grab dinner."
"Well, you did say the place was huge. I'm sure they were just busy in other studios or out on assignment somewhere."
"Yeah, that makes sense. Well, I need to get to that stack of paperwork I brought home." She began clearing the table.
"Here let me clean up. You go fill out all those forms and then we can have dessert. I baked a cake."
Alison gave Natalie a look of shock and doubt.
"Ok, you know me too well. I bought you a congratulations cake, but it's the thought that counts, right?"
Alison smiled. She'd never felt happier than in that moment, standing in the kitchen she now shared with her best friend. Their childhood make-believe had become a reality.
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