Submitted Date 01/27/2020

Chapter 4


The sound of a key in the lock jolted Alison awake causing her to knock the television remote to the floor. She reached down to retrieve it before sitting up as Natalie came through the door.

"I noticed you left your portfolio in your car so I brought it in for you. How'd it go today?"

Alison's eyes began to well up with tears. She opened her mouth to speak but couldn't think of where to begin. The tears trickled down her cheeks.

"Oh, Ali-cat, what happened?" Natalie dropped her keys in the basket by the door before plopping down on the couch to comfort her.

"It's not a modeling agency!"

"What do you mean it's not a modeling agency? It's even in their name."

"The models……..they do things……..I saw…...OH God!" Alison began to sob and tears poured.

"Sounds like we need a drink. Come on, let's continue this in the kitchen."

Alison followed Natalie to the kitchen and sat down at the table. She watched as Natalie went to work mixing up a concoction of vodka and fruit juices poured over ice. She took a tentative sip and then proceeded to gulp the drink down. She set the empty glass down on the table and looked up to see a very stunned Natalie sitting across the table from her.

"It must have been really bad for you to drink like that. You normally can sip on the same drink for half the night. What happened today?"

Alison started by describing what she had witnessed that morning when she'd entered the wrong studio. As she continued to talk, Natalie poured them each another drink.

"Then after all that, I was sitting in the car when the old man I told you about damn near scared me to death tapping on my driver's side window."

"What on earth did he want? Begging for money I'll bet."

"No, actually he offered to buy me breakfast."

"You didn't go, did you? I mean who just walks up and offers to buy someone breakfast?"

"He seemed harmless and his face showed real concern for my well being. When he mentioned his daughter Reeva then reassured me that things were going to be just fine, I knew I had to go. Besides, it was at a diner just around the corner and he rode a bicycle to meet there."

"Well, I can see why that makes it less creepy. So what did he tell you?"

"We better decide on dinner first and pour another round of drinks. This story may take a while to retell."






At seventeen, Reeva had grown tired of her overbearing father's rules and needed to get out on her own. She'd found an ad in her school's newspaper about a new age modeling agency. The ad featured the rent-free onsite apartments available for signed models. This could be her ticket to freedom, to become her true self instead of the lawyer her father pushed her to be.

During lunch, she used the payphone in the cafeteria to call the number in the ad. The woman on the other end sounded more and more excited with each answer Reeva gave.

"You are just the model we've been looking for, Ms. Dominguez. I have an opening today at 2 to discuss this unique opportunity. Does that time work for you?"

Reeva thought for a moment. She'd have to ditch her chemistry and political science classes to get downtown by 2.

"Is there a problem, Ms. Dominguez?"

"Oh, no. No problem, ma'am. I'll be there at 2."

"Wonderful! We'll see you then."

Reeva hung up the phone and headed to her locker. Too nervous to eat, she decided to skip lunch as well and head to the agency now. She'd memorized the bus and metro schedules during her mentorship working at family court. The agency was just a few blocks from the courthouse so it wouldn't be hard to find.

She waited at the bus stop where a mother carrying an infant and an armload of groceries struggled to keep her other children inline. As an only child, Reeva often wondered what it would have been like to have a brother or sister. Seeing the chaos before her made her thankful that she didn't.

The thirty-minute bus ride to the metro station felt like an eternity thanks to her anxiety about being late. Fortunately, there was something positive about the ten-minute wait for the train. She'd left school in such a hurry she'd forgotten to use the bathroom and now she really needed to pee.

Few people exited the train after it arrived since most commuters were still hard at work in their corporate cells. Even fewer passengers boarded, leaving plenty of open seats from which to choose. She chose a seat nearest the door. It always felt safer to sit there when traveling alone. As the train approached the Government Center, Reeva took a deep breath and said a quick prayer. She checked her watch and saw that she had plenty of time to get to the agency.

She chose the seat nearest the door. It always felt safer to sit there when traveling alone. The twenty-minute stop and go ride along the rail gave her the time she needed to mentally prepare. As the train approached the Government Center, Reeva took a deep breath and said a quick prayer. She checked her watch and saw that she had plenty of time to get to the agency. She exited the train and headed down the stairs. Then she headed east towards Bayfront Park before turning north on 2nd Avenue towards 5th Street.

She took long strides at a quick pace, eager to get there. Her excitement about living on her own far outweighed her nervousness about the modeling part. How hard could it be anyway? Plus, she'd be able to focus on her dream for a change instead of studying law books under the watchful eye of her father.

The enormous stone building looked just as drab in person as it did in the black and white advertisement in the school paper. She hoped the exterior didn't reflect the way the building looked on the inside. As she entered the doors to the massive lobby, the explosion of vivid colors against pale peach walls reminded her of the night clubs in South Beach making her feel right at home.

She approached the vacated reception desk and then checked her watch. One-thirty, extremely early, as usual. She decided to take a seat on the amethyst colored settee. While she waited, she worked on her homework. Finals were coming up and if she wanted to be able to go on the winter break ski trip she'd planned it meant all aces.

After finishing her homework for English literature, she checked her watch. One-fifty and still no sign of a receptionist. The ding of an arriving elevator brought Reeva to her feet. A tall, slender woman stepped out as the doors opened. The sound of her clicking heels bounced off the atrium-style glass ceiling of the lobby. As the woman reached the receptionist's desk, her face scrunched into an irritated scowl.

"Where the hell is Vanessa?"

"I haven't seen anyone since I arrived. I'm here to apply for the modeling job. My name is…."

"REEva! Oh, thank you for coming in on such short notice. I hope you haven't been waiting long. Vanessa should have let me know as soon as you arrived. Clearly that didn't happen. That's the last time I do a favor for an old friend. Anywho. Shall we?"

"Certainly." Reeva wasn't exactly sure what she'd just agreed to but definitely didn't want to start off by asking dumb questions. Confidence is key but sometimes life required pretending you know what you're doing.

"Great!. Let's start with a quick tour of the apartment before we sit down to discuss all the long boring paperwork of the modeling contract. Right this way."

Reeva gathered her backpack and began following the woman to the elevator. As she passed by the desk she noticed something in the trash can.

"Is Vanessa a diabetic?"

"I don't believe so. What makes you ask?"

Reeva pointed out the cap to a hypodermic needle in the otherwise empty trash can.

"I suspect you'll find Vanessa in the bathroom. If she's not diabetic then she's using drugs of some kind. Either way, she's been gone for some time as I got here at 1:30 and never saw her. There's a real good chance you're going to need to call an ambulance"

A quick check of the lobby restroom revealed an unconscious Vanessa. The paramedics arrived lightning-fast and were able to find signs of life before whisking her away to the nearest hospital. Reeva noticed the woman looking at her, inquisitively.

"You are a very observant young lady. Most people wouldn't have even noticed that tiny piece of plastic in the waste bin. Even more, you knew immediately what it was and thankfully just saved the life of my best friend's only daughter. I'd say this interview is going very well so far, wouldn't you agree?"

"Yes, ma'am. When you look at it that way. It is going well indeed."

"Please, call me Ms. Garcia. Better yet, after what we just witnessed together you can call me what my friends know me by. Luci, short for Luciana but I've always liked Luci better. More American sounding. Let's get our minds off all this with that tour I promised you."

"That sounds like a great idea, Ms…. I mean, Luci."

Reeva followed Luci to the elevator. She gasped when the doors opened revealing the picturesque intercoastal waterway beyond the glass wall of the elevator.

"If you think it looks great from the elevator, wait 'til you see it from the queen size bed in your lofted bedroom or curled up on the sofa with a good book."

The elevator doors closed. Reeva looked out over the water as the elevator gradually rose to the floor Ms. Garcia had selected. She listened intently as Luci told her about the building's designs and unique features. Each floor had six fully furnished studio apartments with all the amenities of a luxury condo.

The familiar ding sounded and the doors opened after the elevator came to a rest on the 11th floor. Reeva hesitated for a moment to let Luci lead the way.

"I have two apartments available on this floor. Number 3 is the middle apartment of the left-wing. Otherwise, there is number 6 available at the far end of the right-wing"

Reeva fell in love with Apartment 11-3 the moment she set foot inside the door. In the entryway towered a rich mahogany hall tree with hand-carved detailing, a full mirror, and a cushioned bench. The fully furnished living room reflected more elegance with a custom-built entertainment center that seemed to go right through the ceiling. The oversized loveseat and matching rocking recliner wore soft fur coats of bright white. A massive Sputnik-looking chandelier hung from the vaulted ceiling of the living room. Its array of long and short antennas had either a light bulb or a black sphere on the end and pointed out in every direction from the giant metal sphere.

The spacious living room spilled over into the gourmet kitchen, anchored together by the double-sided breakfast bar with seating for six. Butcher block countertops adorned the custom-built cabinets. The stainless-steel appliances stood at attention as if awaiting commands from a master chef.

Reeva had learned basic cooking skills from her mother. She could never reveal to mam that the food she loves to cook the most she learned how to prepare during her summer in Europe. Her mind ran wild with the thoughts of all the freedom she'd have now. She listened as Luci told her about the walk-in pantry next to the refrigerator. It provided more than enough storage space and made it possible to create a near floor to ceiling wall of window in the kitchen that extended all the way up into the bedroom above.

"Wait 'til you see the view from your balconies. This one has a small dining table and chairs and the one off of the bedroom upstairs has a hanging nest chair big enough for you and a few friends."

They concluded the tour of the first floor with a quick peek into the laundry room and half-bath at the end of the kitchen opposite the pantry. At that moment, Reeva noticed the spiral staircase leading up to the loft. She let out a squeal as she skittered up the metal staircase followed by a gasp when she reached the top.

The level of luxury she encountered in the fully furnished bedroom suite took her breath away. A king size platform bed rose up from the floor giving unobstructed views of the city seascape. Then she discovered she'd been right about the entertainment center in the living room. It in fact did go right through the floor into the bedroom where it morphed into a large desk with bookshelves. Atop the desk sat the fanciest computer she'd ever seen.

She turned to Luci who had joined her upstairs, "I love it. Where do I sign up?"








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