“Hello, may I speak to Kale Kirkwood please?”
“This is Kale.”
“Mr. Kirkwood, my name is Emily Saks. I’m an executive with 360i one of the…”
“You’re one of the top advertising agencies in the country,” I interrupted excitedly.
“Ah, you’re familiar with our work,” said Ms. Saks, you could almost hear the smile in her voice.
“Absolutely, you guys have done some great things for Nike and ESPN.”
“Thank you, we’re quite proud of those campaigns,” said Ms. Saks. “You’re probably wondering why I’m calling?”
“I am a bit curious,” I agreed.
“Well, we’ve had a look at some of your work and I wanted to see if you’d be able to take a meeting with me at my office in Manhattan next Tuesday?”
I was dumbstruck. I’m only a freshman, being a photographer for a company like 360i would be a dream come true!
“Yes, um, absolutely,” I replied.
“Wonderful, our office is at 32 Avenue of the Americas. You’ll find us on the 6th floor, say 3:30?”
“Great, perfect, I’ll be there.”
“Excellent, I’ll look forward to meeting you and going over your portfolio,” said Ms. Saks. “Good day, Mr. Kirkwood.
“Bye,” I replied and hung up.
As soon as the line disconnected I dropped the phone on the table and jumped up and down. It took all I had not to squeal like a little girl. I was so excited I didn’t even hear the lock turning in the door.
“Daddy,” Linc exclaimed as he came running into the living room. He wrapped his little arms around my legs and hugged them tightly. I bent over and scooped him up in my arms so I wouldn’t trip.
“Hello there little man.” I smiled.
“Hi Daddy,” said Linc. He kissed me on the cheek.
“Save some for me,” said Chase as he strode over and kissed me on the lips.
“Mine, papa,” said Linc as he pushed Chase away.
“Mine,” Chase challenged as he kissed me again.
Linc crossed his arms and pushed out his bottom lip but he didn’t pout long, especially when Chase and I each blew a raspberry on his cheek.
“Down, Daddy, I gotta go potty,” said Linc.
“Ok buddy,” I replied as I put him down. “You go potty and then come back and tell daddy all about you day, ok?”
“Ok, Daddy,” Linc shouted as he ran for the bathroom.
“He seems to be having a good day.” I smiled and kissed Chase again.
“Oh you know him; I don’t think that kid’s ever had a bad day. He’s so bubbly,” said Chase.
“He gets that from his papa.” I grinned and enjoyed the blush that colored Chase’s cheeks.
“You seem to be in a good mood today too,” said Chase.
“Babe, I just got the most amazing phone call. One of the top ad agencies in the country, 360i wants to meet with me!”
“Kale, that’s amazing,” said Chase, as he hugged me, “but why?”
“What do you mean why?” I asked, feigning hurt.
“Not why, I mean how, er, how did they learn about you?”
“Well…she really didn’t say,” I said and scratched my head. “She saw some of my work but didn’t say where. I should have asked.”
“I bet it was Professor Rainwood,” said Chase.
“You told me how much he liked that photo essay you did. I bet he passed it around,” Chase reasoned.
“Yeah, that makes sense,” I agreed.
“When do they want you to meet with them?”
“Next Tuesday at 3:30.”
“That works out nicely, no classes on Tuesday.”
“Yeah,” I agreed. “Hey, why don’t you and Linc come with me? We can leave after class on Monday, spend the night at a nice hotel and enjoy a day in the city.”
“I like the way you think.” Chase smiled and kissed me again before he headed towards the kitchen. “So what do you want for dinner?”
“Oh no, we’re celebrating. I’m taking my baby and my baby out tonight. Speaking of, he’s taking an awful long time in the bathroom, isn’t he?”
“I’ll go check on him,” said Chase.
“No, no, you just got in. Put your feet up for a minute and I’ll check on the kid.”
I walked over to the bathroom, put my ear to the door and heard humming. I knocked and said, “Linc, you ok buddy?”
“Um, I’m ok, Daddy,” said Linc but I could hear a touch of trepidation in his voice.
Chase and I have been parents long enough to know that tone of voice means Linc is up to something so I opened the door and stepped inside. Linc was standing by the bathtub which was covered in glitter.
“Um, care to explain what happened?” I asked as I stood sternly with my arms crossed over my chest.
“Oh, this is awkwawd,” said Linc.
“I see you’ve picked up a new word from papa,” I replied and tried not to laugh.
We never really got a straight answer out of Linc so we just chalked it up as one of those weird little kid things. We washed out the tub, put on our coats and headed out to dinner instead. I was still so excited when we got home I had trouble sleeping and the next morning I made sure to stop by Professor Rainwood’s office before heading to class.
“Good morning, sir,” I said as I stuck my head through his open door.
“Good morning, Kale.” He smiled. “What can I do for you this morning?”
“Well, sir, I was wondering if you’d shown my photo essay to anyone?”
“Of course, that was a wonderful piece. Why do you ask?”
“I got an interesting phone call yesterday. A woman with 360i saw some of my work, I have a meeting with her next Tuesday,” I explained.
“Wow, Kale, congratulations. That’s wonderful,” said the Professor. “My work has never really been commercial but even I know what a big deal that is.”
“Do you think someone you shared my piece with might have passed it on?”
“They are more of the artistic type but there’s no telling who they might have shared it with. So it’s entirely possible. Do let me know when you find out.”
“Sure, thanks Professor. I’ll see you in class,” I replied and trotted off.
The weekend brought a huge snowstorm that covered most of New York State in three feet of snow. Chase and I decided that with all that snow complicating the traffic situation we’d be better off taking the train to the city. On Monday evening we put on our heavy coats, grabbed our bags and then our part time nanny, Mrs. Goblicheck, drove us to the station.
“Here we are,” Mrs. Goblicheck announced in her accented English as she stopped the car.
“Thank you Mrs. G, you really didn’t have to do this,” said Chase.
“Nonsense, Mr. Chase, you are nice boys. It is my pleasure.”
“We’ll be back sometime tomorrow night. It could be late so I’ll call a cab or something,” I stated. I didn’t want her to wait up for us.
“Call me when you leave New York City, Mr. Kale, and I will meet you here when train arrive.”
“But…” I started.
“My feelings will be hurt if you do not.”
“Yes ma’am,” I said and sighed my surrender. “Linc, say goodbye to Mrs. G.”
“Bye-bye Mrs. Gobblechick,” said Linc. He leaned forward just as soon as Chase got him out of his car seat so he could hug his nanny.
“Be a good boy for your daddy’s,” said Mrs. Goblicheck.
“I always good,” said Linc. He sounded somewhat offended which caused Chase to stifle a giggle.
“HA!” Mrs.Goblicheck exclaimed knowingly. “Good luck with your meeting Mr. Kale. Goodbye boys.”
“Goodbye Mrs. Goblicheck,” Chase and I replied in unison as she pulled away.
We grabbed our bags and our son then went into the station and quickly boarded the train. It was a three hour trip to the city so I paid a little extra and got us a private compartment. If it were just Chase and me I wouldn’t have bothered but we’ve learned to appreciate the value of space when traveling with a four year old. Linc’s pretty good on road trips but any little kid is going to get cranky after a couple of hours and we didn’t want to be the kind of parents dealing with their screaming child in a crowded public train car.
The sun was just starting to set as we left Ithaca, bound for Penn Station, so Linc amused himself by looking out the window at the passing countryside. Once it got dark Linc started to get fussy and I had to take a moment to say a silent prayer of thanks for a gift Chase’s mother sent him. A gift that at first I thought I’d kill her for.
Chase and I both took French in high school, I’m pretty good but Chase practically speaks like a native. His mother started him on French when he was Linc’s age and it’s something we’ve used to our advantage. Adjusting to life with Linc took some time and one thing we learned quickly was that in a two bedroom apartment he was almost always in earshot. We wanted his first Christmas with us to be special so in order to plan it we resorted to speaking about our plans in French.
Needless to say it drove Linc crazy and he must have complained about it to his Nana Dudley when we were home for Christmas because a few days after we returned to school a package arrived for him. The note that came with the package read, “You’ll catch up to Daddy and Papa in no time! Love Nana and Papa George.” Inside the package was a children’s DVD that had belonged to Chase, a collection of French children’s songs. Linc loved it and we appreciated the gift until he got stuck on Soeur Sourire.
You might not recognize the name but I bet you know the song. It was made popular in the 60’s by some movie about a singing nun;
Dominique, nique, nique s'en allait tout simplement. Routier pauvre et chantant. En tous chemins, en tous lieux, Il ne parle que du bon Dieu, Il ne parle que du bon Dieu.
The song seemed to be playing as long as Linc was awake and it started to drive us nuts. Mrs. Goblicheck was the only one it didn’t seem to bother and when I asked her what her secret was she said, “Simple, Mr. Kale, earplugs.”
Anyway, when Linc started to get fussy, Chase gave him his iPod and put the song on repeat. I took Chase’s hand, kissed his cheek, praised his genius and enjoyed the quite as our son danced happily, and silently, in his seat.
When we got to Penn Station, Chase was surprised to find a uniformed chauffer, complete with cap, holding a sign with our name on it.
“Kale, what’s this?” asked Chase, suspiciously.
“Why it appears to be a limousine driver,” I replied as though I were suspicious too but my smile betrayed me.
“Hello, you must be the Kirkwood’s,” said the driver as we approached him.
“That’s right,” I shook his hand. “I’m Kale, this is my husband Chase and our son Linc.”
“Hello, my name is David.” The driver smiled and nodded at my family. “Do you have any stops you’d like to make, sir, or will it be straight to the Mandarin Oriental?”
“Straight to the hotel please, David, it’s been a long trip,” I replied.
“Very good, sir. I’ll take those,” said David, as he grabbed our suitcases and lead the way out of the station.
“Kale, what are you up to?” asked Chase as we followed the driver.
“I’m sure I don’t know what you’re talking about.” I smiled in reply.
“Come on, the driver and I know the Mandarin Oriental is one of the best hotels in town. You’ve never been a show off and we don’t need to be spending this much money, so what’s up?”
“Look, we got married so fast and it’s been wonderful but we never got to have a honeymoon. I know we’re planning to do some traveling this summer but I thought this could be, I don’t know, sort of a mini-honeymoon,” I explained.
“Damn you.” Chase half laughed, half sniffled. “You got me again.”
“Papa, you said a swear,” said Linc.
“I did, sorry buddy.” Chase patted him on the head.
I leaned close and pecked Chase on the cheek, “I love you.”
“Ditto.” Chase grinned. That’s one of my favorite things about Chase, he lets me surprise him and sometimes even spoil him without putting up to much of a fuss.
David loaded our bags into the trunk of his Lincoln Town Car then we climbed into the back seat for the short ride to the hotel. When we arrived a footman opened the car door for us and a bell boy took our bags while we got Linc out of his car seat. The glass and marble lobby was as dazzling as you would think for a 5 star hotel and when Chase made a beeline for the front desk I grabbed his hand and pulled him along. I’d reserved a two bedroom suit which meant we didn’t have to check in we simply followed the bell boy.
When we got to our room Chase and Linc ran to the floor to ceiling windows to take advantage of the magnificent view of Central Park. I signed the check-in receipt for the bell boy, gave him a good tip and then joined my family.
“Wow,” said Chase, when I put my arms around him from behind and pressed my cheek to his.
“What did I tell you, stick with me baby and the sky’s the limit,” I replied and we both giggled.
“I like this house Daddy,” said Linc. “Do we live here now?”
“No, sweet boy, this is a hotel, we’re just staying the night,” I explained.
“Ah nuts,” said Linc.
“Tell you what, I know it’s only seven but why don’t you go put your jammies on and then we can relax and watch some TV?”
“Ok,” said Linc as he took off for the bedroom, humming that cursed French song.
While Linc was changing we ordered him a hamburger from room service. I was amazed at how fast the service was and as soon as Linc settled down his dinner arrived. When he finished eating we turned out the lights so we could enjoy the view of the park and the city, then put on a movie. We let Linc watch TV until he fell asleep and then Chase carried him to bed. That’s when I placed our dinner order.
“Ugh, I know this semester is only a few weeks old but I needed a break. This was a great idea,” said Chase as he cut into his filet mignon in blackberry merlot sauce.
“If I’ve made you smile once today then mission accomplished.” I grinned.
“When did you get to be such a romantic?” asked Chase with his irrepressible grin.
“It’s easy when you love someone.” I reached across the table and stroked his hand.
We didn’t make love that night. With a four year old in the house you learn to control your hormones when he’s around. He almost caught us once when he first came to live with us and came into our room when he heard strange noises. Fortunately the blankets were covering us and Chase came up with a cover story for the noises. Unfortunately, Chase told him we’d been wrestling which Linc thought sounded fun and wanted to play too. Have you ever tried getting a kid out of your room while you’re naked in bed without exposing yourself? Talk about an exercise in frustration.
No, we didn’t make love that night. Instead we snuggled, shared soft kisses, enjoyed the most comfortable bed we’d ever been in and slept better than either of us could remember. When we woke the next day we took Linc to the hotel pool and spent the morning swimming and lounging. We enjoyed a late lunch at Serendipity, split a frozen hot chocolate three ways and then returned to the hotel so I could change for my appointment. That’s one nice thing about a luxury hotel, sure it cost more but they didn’t kick us out at noon. Once I was properly turned out in my navy blue Ralph Lauren Black Label suit, I grabbed my portfolio and we checked out. We were planning to return to Ithaca as soon as we left 360i.
Thirty-two Avenue of the America’s turned out to be the old AT&T Long Distance Building. In the lobby, Chase straightened my tie, took my overcoat, kissed me on the cheek and wished me luck. I took the elevator to the 6th floor and the offices of 360i, where I was shown to a small but elegantly designed conference room.
I only had to wait for a moment then Emily Saks walked in on six inch heels carrying a small stack of files. I judged her to be in her early forties. She was stylish, impeccably dressed, and oddly enough, reminded me of my mom.
“Hello, Mr. Kirkwood.” She smiled and extended her hand as she strode gracefully across the room. “It’s so nice to finally meet you.”
“Hello, Ms. Saks…”
“Emily, please, call me Emily.”
“Emily, right, I’m pleased to meet you too.”
“Shall we have a seat and take a look at your portfolio?”
“Of course,” I replied and resumed my seat. I opened my leather portfolio case and started flipping through the first few pages, mostly landscapes and architectural shots. “This is some of my earlier work but I think what you’d be most interested is my work with actual models.”
“Yes, exactly right.” She nodded.
I started showing her some of the photo’s I’d taken of Chase and Linc, Alec and Sasha, Robin, Lu, Jamie, my whole family really. These weren’t your casual snap shots these were beautiful images I’d captured of rare moments, painstakingly plotted portraits everyone sat for because I wanted to practice on them.
“These are wonderful, Mr. Kirkwood, exquisite even, but you aren’t in any of them,” said Ms. Saks, er, Emily.
“Well, no, of course not. I shot them,” I replied, growing confused.
“Where are your modeling shots?”
“My modeling…I’m not a model.”
“You’re not?” She raised an eyebrow.
“No, where did you get that idea? I thought you’d seen some of my work?”
“Yes, that’s why I’m somewhat confused,” said Emily. She pulled a manila file folder from her stack, withdrew and 8x10 glossy and handed it over.
I couldn’t believe that image had come back to haunt me again. It was a picture of me wearing nothing but red board shorts, water glistening on my chest as I ran a hand through my hair. It had been taken by one of my swimming students last summer and posted on a dubious online forum titled HotBoysintheWorkPlace.com.
“Where did you get this?”
“My niece is a student at SUNY Albany, she got it from a friend and when I told her I was looking for a model for a new campaign she sent it over. I told her how much I liked it so she got your contact information from her friend,” Emily explained.
“Alec,” I muttered angrily to myself.
“Nevermind. I’m sorry to have wasted your time, Emily,” I replied and gathered up my portfolio.
“But just because you haven’t modeled before doesn’t mean you can’t now…”
“I’m a photographer, I’m a photo-journalism student at Cornell University and I’ve always been more comfortable behind the camera,” I stated and stood to leave.
“Oh, Mr. Lauren will be so disappointed,” Emily sighed.
“I’m sorry but…wait, who?”
“At the first of the year we signed Ralph Lauren as a client. He’s got a new collection coming out aimed at college age kids and he selected you from the stack of headshots I shared with him,” Emily explained.
“Ralph Lauren, like THE Ralph Lauren?” I asked, dumbstruck.
“That’s right.” Emily smiled. “I take it you’re a fan?”
“Are you kidding?” I exclaimed. “This suit’s Ralph Lauren Black Label. Jesus, I’m even wearing Polo underwear!”
Emily snickered and I blushed at how I’d accidently let that little bit of information slip.
“Will you sit for a moment and discuss the ad now?” she smiled.
“Yeah, I mean um, yes, of course,” I replied and resumed my seat.
“As I stated, Mr. Lauren has a new collection coming out based on traditional school boy uniforms slash preppy Ivy League dress. You know, blazers, khakis, what have you,” Emily began. “He’s looking for a young man to be the face of this campaign and he selected you when I stuck this pool picture in with the collection I provided him.”
“He really picked me? THE Ralph Lauren picked me?” I grinned like an idiot.
“He said you had a wholesome school boy look about you,” Emily smiled.
“Why don’t we discuss the details?” Emily offered.
I listened to her explain what would be required, what the contract would entail and what the salary would be. To say it was a generous package would be the Grand Canyon of understatements.
“That’s a fantastic offer, Emily, and I can’t tell you how flattered I am but I really have to discuss this with my husband first.”
“You’re married?” she exclaimed, as her eyes bore in on my wedding ring.
“Yes,” I replied self-consciously.
“I’m sorry I’m so surprised, it’s just, my God, you’re a baby!”
“It’s something of a long story.” I smiled shyly.
“I’d like to hear that story sometime but I’m afraid I do have another meeting. Talk to your husband and get back to me, say by the end of the week?”
“Of course, that’s more than fair. Thank you for this opportunity and tell Mr. Lauren, er, um…” I stuttered.
“I’ll think of something that expresses your excitement,” said Emily with her big smile.
“Thanks.” I blushed.
We shook hands again and I practically ran for the elevator. Chase and Linc were sitting on a bench in the lobby and when they saw me step off the elevator they stood and we raced to each other.
“How did it go?” asked Chase.
“You’re not going to believe this,” I exclaimed and filled him in on my meeting.
“You’re joking?” said Chase, covering his wide open mouth with his hands.
“I’m dead serious.”
“Kale, oh my God! That’s like, this is so…OH MY GOD!”
“So you said yes, right?”
“I told her I had to talk to my husband first.”
“Your husband says yes, go for it, absolutely go for it,” said Chase, bouncing excitedly on the balls of his feet.
“I want to. I mean, geez Chase, Ralph Lauren picked me! But I don’t know…”
“Is this about your scar?”
“I’m fine with it, with you seeing it and our friends and family but what if the photographer wants to shoot me topless? I mean do I really want the whole world to see it?”
“Kale, Mr. Ralph Lauren picked you out of an assortment of models. He picked you with your scar on full display. If he doesn’t care about it I think you can let that little bit of self-doubt go,” said Chase. “Besides, I know we have your trust fund and all that but you can’t pass up a paycheck like that. It’s more than a lot of hard working people earn in a year.”
“You’re right,” I admitted. “I guess I have to do this, don’t I?”
“God, I’m so excited for you honey. So proud of you,” Chase smiled and hugged me again.
“Thanks baby,” I hugged him tight. “Hey gimme my phone.”
I had Chase hold on to my iPhone during the meeting just so I wouldn’t risk it going off. I know, I know, I could have put it on silent but I always forget and embarrass myself when it goes off in church or the movies. Chase handed it over, I scrolled through my contact’s list and Alec answered on the first ring.
“Leafy! My man!”
“Don’t you Leafy me you son of a bitch!” I swore and quickly stifled a laugh. I wasn’t really angry, at least not anymore, but he wasn’t getting off the hook for passing out that damn picture.
“My family and I are in New York City, Alec. I just left that meeting I called you about last week.”
“Oh yeah, how did it go?”
“They weren’t interested in my photography. They wanted to hire me for a modeling gig. The executive picked me because her niece, who goes to SUNY Albany, got my picture and contact information from you!”
“Huh,” said Alec. He was quiet for a moment then said, “I’d say a thank you is in order.”
“What?” I exclaimed.
“Well, I got you a job out of it didn’t I? Hey, how much do agent’s get?”
“I don’t know how much an agent gets but I know what you’re getting. You and Sasha are coming to watch Linc for a couple of days so Chase can come to the shoot with me.”
“Done,” Alec replied instantly.
“I love you man,” I said, just so he’d know I wasn’t seriously upset.
“Back at you bro, kiss the hubby and the kid for me,” said Alec as we hung up.
“Daddy, you said a swear,” said Linc, once I got off the phone.
“I know buddy but it’s ok. It was only to Uncle Alec and he had it coming.”
Emily had given me a copy of the contract to take home and study but Chase made me sign it and take it back to her office right then and there. He argued that if I took it home I’d vacillate back and forth and try to talk myself out of it. This way there would be no turning back. I tried to leave the contract with the receptionist but she insisted on pulling Emily out of her meeting. I didn’t want to annoy her and screw things up so I was nervous but she seemed thrilled with my decision. She hugged me, actually hugged me, then told me her assistant would be in contact with me to set up the shoot which would be in two weeks.
After that Emily sent me on my way and my family and I hopped a train for home. Linc had a busy day so he quickly fell asleep and Chase pulled out his phone and started tapping away.
“What are you doing?” I asked when he let out a snort of laughter.
“Nothing.” Chase grinned mischievously.
I quirked an eyebrow at him but he just continued to grin and returned to whatever it was he was doing. Curious I took out my phone and checked Facebook, sure enough he’d posted about the day’s events. He’d written:
If any of you are still wondering why Kale and I married so quickly; he’s a Ralph Lauren model. I had to lock that down.
The post was quickly greeted by “Huh’s,” and “What’s,” from our friends and family which resulted in a full explanation from Chase. Soon my phone was ringing off the hook with stunned calls of congratulations. My mom even cried a little. I was talking to Hamster when Chase snorted at something on his phone and when I ended the call I asked him, “What’s so funny?”
“Alec,” said Chase as he handed me his phone.
Alec had posted:
Smart, rich, talented, and now he’s officially pretty? It’s a good thing he’s got that bug up his ass or Kale’s life would be too perfect ;-).
I rolled my eyes and shook my head but as I do with most of Alec’s antics I was smiling on the inside.
Chase had called Mrs. Goblicheck while I used the restroom before we boarded the train and she was waiting for us when we arrived in Ithaca. Chase quickly told her what had transpired in New York City and when she dropped us at home she gave me a grandmotherly hug. I got a good night’s sleep that night but then the next two weeks were CRAZY!
Signing a modeling contract didn’t make the rest of the world vanish; I still had classes, tests, papers, swimming practice, which runs all year at the college level, taking care of Linc, and my household chores. Added to all of that insanity was the attention I was getting from my pending modeling debut. Chase’s little Facebook post spread to all our friends and the ones at school talked to other friends at school and before I knew it everyone knew about it. The Cornell Chronicle and the Cornell Daily Sun, the university’s two student papers, did interviews with me and even sent a photographer to get a picture of me at swim practice so they could get me in my Speedo.
The nice thing about being busy is at least it makes time fly. The eve of my photo shoot was upon us and that brought Alec and Sasha with it. They were staying at our place to watch Linc and arrived Thursday afternoon just after Chase and I got home from class. I was so happy to see them, they’re more than our best friends and our reunions always make me happy.
“Uncle Sasha,” Linc exclaimed when they walked through the door. He ran as fast as his little legs would carry him and leapt into Sasha’s open arms. “Hi Uncle Sasha, I miss you.”
“Awww, I missed you too kiddo,” said Sash as he hugged our little boy.
“Hey, what about me?” asked Alec, sticking his bottom lip out in a pout.
“Hi some-a-bitch.” Linc smiled.
“Linc! You said a swear,” Chase exclaimed as his jaw dropped open. My eyes almost popped out of my head and Sasha turned bright red as he struggled to hold in his laughter.
“But Daddy said…” Linc started.
“I know what Daddy said,” Chase began, “and that was very naughty of him. You apologize to Uncle Alec right now.”
“I sowwy Uncle Alec, I love you,” said Linc as he reached out for a hug.
“It’s ok, Lincy, I love you too.” Alec smiled for him.
“Linc, I want you to go to your room until I tell you to come out. I want you to think about why we don’t repeat everything grownups say, ok?” said Chase.
“Ah nuts!” Linc crossed his arms over his chest and pouted.
“Linc,” said Chase threateningly.
“Ok, ok, I go,” he huffed like a little adult and took off for his room. That’s when Sasha burst out laughing.
“Oh thank God, I thought I was going to burst.” Sasha laughed.
“I can’t believe he repeated that!” Chase giggled too.
“Alec, I am so sorry,” I exclaimed. “I said that when I talked to you on the phone after the meeting in New York. I can’t even believe he remembered it.”
“It’s ok, you can make it up to me,” Alec grinned wickedly and started unzipping his pants.
I rolled my eyes, slapped his shoulder and said, “Forget it. You are a son of a bitch.”
Once that was settled Chase and I hugged and kissed our most intimate friends in welcome. We had some coffee. Yes, the stress of college life and parenthood has finally turned Chase into a coffee drinker, and went over the rules. Linc had to be in bed by 8pm, if he was naughty the standard punishment was five minutes alone in his room. If he did something that required a harsher rebuke, Chase and I would address it when we came home. I didn’t expect any problems though. Linc can be a handful at times but he’s generally a good boy and he hit it off with Alec and Sasha from the moment he first met them which I took as a good sign.
“You gotta go?” Linc pouted when it was time for us to leave.
“Yes,” said Chase. “Daddy has a very big day tomorrow.”
“I come too,” said Linc.
“Not this time buddy,” I replied. “This isn’t a trip for little boys but that’s ok, you get to stay here and have fun with Uncle Alec and Uncle Sasha.”
“Yeah Lincster,” said Alec. “We’ll eat pizza and play games, anything you want.”
“Ok,” said Linc.
“Remember, Daddy and Papa love you very much. Be a good boy while we’re gone and we’ll be home tomorrow, ok?” said Chase.
“I always good,” Linc insisted.
“You’re right, I forgot,” said Chase, properly chastised. “Come here you.”
Linc jumped up in his arms and Chase hugged him tight, then Linc reached out for me.
“I love you little man and I’m going to miss you sooooooooo much,” I assured him.
“I love you to, Daddy.”
“Oh yeah? How much?” I asked.
“This much,” said Linc, spreading his arms as wide as he could.
“Alright, we’ll see you tomorrow,” I said then handed Linc to Sasha.
“He’ll be fine.” Sasha smiled knowingly. “We’re going to have a good time.”
“We gave you Mrs. Goblichek’s number in case you run into anything you can’t handle right?” asked Chase.
“Missy Gooblechick,” said Linc enthusiastically.
“Her number, your parents numbers, the police, fire department, National Guard, I think you covered all the bases,” said Alec.
“Ok, I guess we better hit the road,” I said.
“Bye Daddy, bye Papa, I love you,” Linc shouted after us.
We said we loved him one last time and headed out the door. When we got to my car we threw our bags in the trunk and I noticed Chase was crying.
“Hey, he’ll be alright,” I said and pulled my husband into a powerful hug. I understood how he was feeling because I was holding back tears of my own.
“I know, I’m being silly.” Chase sniffled. “It’s just we’ve never left him for more than a few hours before.”
“Do you want to stay? I can do this myself,” I offered.
“Not on your life. I want to be there with you. I’ll be ok.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah.” Chase sniffled and wiped his eyes with the back of his hand. “I just had to get it out of my system, you know?”
“Totally, I don’t want to leave him either but that’s the crappy part of being the grownups in this relationship. We have to work.”
Chase hugged me again and then we got in the car for the drive south. We decided to drive this time because it had been a good week since our last snow storm and the highway department had the roads well cleared of ice and sludge.
We made it to the city in record time, checked into our hotel and then went out for a nice dinner. Of course we talked about Linc but we also caught up on school, swimming and the general gossip that gets pushed aside when a child comes into your life. It’s incredible how much Linc has changed our lives in just a few short months but it’s all been for the better. I’m so in love with my husband and our child I find it hard to express in words. I never thought I could be so happy but sometimes I’ll be sitting in class and my mind will wander to thoughts of Chase and Linc and I’ll find myself grinning like an idiot.
After dinner we walked through Central Park despite the cold and made our way back to the hotel. I wanted to be well rested for the photo shoot so we turned in early but my mind started to wander and sure enough, I couldn’t sleep. I didn’t want to wake Chase with my tossing and turning so I climbed out of bed and paced the floor for what felt like ever. I suppose it’s natural to be nervous before something like this. Everyone think’s a model’s job is just to stand there and look pretty but I was sure I could find some way to screw it up.
There was a considerable amount of money involved in tomorrow’s shoot and I’m not just talking about the twenty thousand dollars they were paying me. This is Ralph Lauren we’re talking about, they’d hired a world class photographer who was probably pulling down at least fifty grand for the day, plus his assistants, 360i’s contract, the wardrobe and then there was the campaign itself. These pictures would be the basis for full page ads in GQ, Esquire, Vogue, you name it. Millions of dollars were riding on the hope I wouldn’t look like a dickhead in front of the camera.
At some point I stopped pacing and just stood in front of the window watching the city. I didn’t hear Chase get out of bed and jumped a bit when he came up behind me and put his arms around my waist.
“Nervous?” asked Chase, as he rested his chin on my shoulder.
“A little,” I admitted.
“No reason to be.”
“Chase, there’s so much invested in this, if I screw up…”
“You won’t,” said Chase confidently.
“I wish I had your confidence.” I sighed.
“Kale, all you have to do is stand there and follow directions. You’re a smart guy, you can do that. The rest is easy; you’re gorgeous even when you look your worst so they are bound to get good pictures.”
“Thanks.” I giggled.
“Come on, back to bed, I’m going to help you get some sleep.”
“How do you plan to do that?” I asked as he led me back to the bed.
“Hmpf.” Chase snickered as I lay down. He kissed my forehead and then hooked his fingers in the waistband of my underwear and peeled them off. He got between my legs and started to move towards my erection.
“What’s the matter?”
“It’s just, well,” I blushed, “If the object of this is to relax me, I, uh, have always found sucking you to have a rather Zen quality.”
“Oh.” Chase grinned. “How about a nice old fashioned sixty-nine?”
“I could go for that.”
“Done,” said Chase as he wiggled out of his briefs and tossed them over his shoulder.
The next morning we woke up feeling rested and refreshed. Chase’s idea worked like a charm and as soon as we finished we drifted off to sleep. After we rubbed the sleep out of our eyes and shared a good morning kiss, we showered together then dressed casually and went down to the hotel restaurant for breakfast. I wasn’t hungry but Chase insisted I eat a large platter of eggs, bacon and toast.
“You don’t want your stomach making all kinds of weird noises in front of everyone because you’re hungry later, right?”
“As usual, you know what’s best,” I surrendered.
“Naturally.” Chase grinned and tucked into his eggs benedict.
After breakfast Chase drove us to the studio and things kicked into high gear the moment we walked into the lobby.
“Good morning, Kale.” Emily Saks smiled as she strode up on her 6inch heels. “And this must be your husband.”
“Chase Kirkwood, pleased to meet you.” My hubby smiled and shook her hand.
“Kale, why didn’t you tell me he was so darling, we could have used you both,” Emily teased.
“Yeah Kale, why not?” Chase pretended to pout.
“I, uh, well…” I babbled like an idiot but Chase grinned and Emily placed her hand on my shoulder.
“We’re on a tight schedule this morning, let’s get started,” said Emily as she guided us into the studio.
Once inside she quickly introduced me to the photographer and a couple of marketing executives from Ralph Lauren. The way the two exec’s dissected me with their eyes and then smiled, I assumed they were pleased with my appearance. The next thing I knew Emily was shoving me into a room off the main studio where three women were setting up a makeup station.
“Is this him?” asked one of the women, when we walked in.
“Kale, this is Marcia Simpson, she’s our makeup artist,” said Emily.
“How do you do Ms. Simpson…” I started but she put her hands to my face and mashed my cheeks together until I looked like a fish. “Um…”
“Good bone structure, lovely eyes,” said Marcia as she studied my face. “Let’s get started.”
Marcia returned to the makeup table as one of her assistants approached me. I’ve never seen a woman move so fast; before I knew what she was doing she’d yanked off my sweater and t-shirt leaving me naked from the waist up.
“Hey, I…” I started to protest.
“You don’t want makeup all over your clothes and I don’t want you smudging yourself when you change,” said Marcia over her shoulder.
I looked over to Chase for help but he just stood quietly in the corner with a bemused look on his face and shrugged his shoulders. Marcia’s assistant pushed me towards a barber style chair and plopped me down in it. Marcia started to apply foundation to my face while her assistant worked on masking the scar on my chest.
Emily had asked me about that in one of our conversations leading up to the shoot, how I felt about covering up my scar. I told her I understood we were shooting a fashion ad not a piece for the American Heart Association and that I was there to sell clothes not make some kind of statement.
The third assistant started to trim and style my hair. With the three of them hovering over me I felt like a flower being swarmed by bees. Of course I suppose that’s better than feeling like a piece of shit being swarmed by flies. I looked over at Chase for reassurance a few times and usually got his warm smile, other time’s I caught him taking pictures of my discomfort with his iPhone and I glared which only made his smile grow.
Marcia and her harridans finished with me after about an hour but when I looked in the mirror it was hard to see what all they’d done. My scar was gone and my hair looked great but most of what they’d done to my face was for the benefit of the lights and camera. I didn’t have long to admire myself before someone thrust a pile of clothes into my arms and sent me into a dressing room. I stripped out of my jeans and put on everything I was given, socks, undies, shirt, tie, blazer, khakis, shoes, everything I put on bore a Ralph Lauren label. One of the cool parts about my contract was I got to keep the wardrobe. Everything was tailored to my measurements as I’d given them to Emily’s assistant over the phone.
I felt pretty good about myself when I stepped out of the dressing room and got ohh’s and ah’s from Marcia and her staff. The most reassuring thing was when I looked over at Chase and he mouthed the word, “Gorgeous.”
Emily led me back into the studio and once again Chase followed. As before he found a quiet corner and stayed out of the way. Emily handed me over to the photography assistants and they placed me where they wanted me in front of the camera. The photographer, Jeff, directed me in a few simple poses until one of the Ralph Lauren executives called out, “Stop.”
“What is it?” Jeff asked testily. I know how he felt, there is nothing worse than being interrupted when you’re working with a subject and start to get into the groove of things.
“Is that a wedding ring on his finger?” asked the executive.
“Um, yes,” I replied as I looked down at the offending piece of gold.
“Son, this ad is aimed at young people, college kids,” said the executive tactfully. “The vast majority of them aren’t married. Would you mind taking it off?”
“I-I’m sorry,” I spluttered nervously. I tried getting the ring off but it hadn’t been removed since Chase slipped it onto my finger the night we married and now it appeared to be stuck.
“Let me help,” said Chase, coming to my rescue from his corner.
“Who is this?” asked the photographer who in all the confusion earlier hadn’t met Chase.
“He’s my husband,” I replied. Chase had my hand in his, he squeezed it gently which helped me relax and he easily slid the ring off. “I didn’t want to lose it,” I whispered.
“I’ll keep it safe.” Chase winked, slipping it onto his finger next to his ring.
“May we continue now?” said the photographer, directing the question to the executive.
“Yes, I’m sorry,” the executive replied and the photographer rolled his eyes.
“I’m sorry too,” I said.
“Don’t you worry about it, Kale, you’re doing great,” said Jeff. At least he wasn’t pissed at me.
Jeff started shooting again and I did my best to comply with his directions. He spoke very clearly and told me exactly what he wanted me to do. When he was satisfied with that round of photos, his assistants moved in and began dissecting my wardrobe. They took my jacket and one of them loosened my tie while another untucked my shirt for that carefully disheveled look. There was a wardrobe change after that, they had me switch out my khaki’s for jeans and then another round of photos was shot. They nixed the tie, my shirt was opened and one of the assistants slipped her fingers into my pants.
“Hey!” I jumped at the unexpected intimate touch.
“Sorry,” she grinned, “I just want to pull your underpants up enough so you can see a hint of the waistband.”
“Oh, right, sorry.” I blushed.
She winked at me and then carefully messed up my hair. The shoot seemed to be never ending but when it finally finished the only thing left on my body were the jeans and underpants. I was grateful when the photographer announced we were done; I didn’t want to be an underwear model.
“You were so cute!” Chase smiled when I walked over to him.
“Thanks, can I have my ring?”
Chase handed my ring over and I breathed a sigh of relief when I slipped it on and it was back where it belonged.
“I felt naked without it.”
“I love you too,” Chase whispered and pressed his palm to my cheek.
I smiled at him but we were interrupted by the two company executives.
“Well done young man. I think Mr. Lauren will be very pleased with the results of today’s shoot.”
“Thank you, I hope so,” I replied.
“Sorry about that business with the ring. I would have mentioned it before the shoot started but I didn’t notice it until the flash glinted off of it,” the executive apologized.”
“That’s alright,” I assured him. There were no hard feelings.
“Great job today, Kale,” said Jeff, the photographer, when he joined us. “You take direction well.”
“I mean that as a compliment. Some people get so nervous in front of the camera they freeze up but you did great.”
“Thank you, I just wanted to get it right,” I replied.
“Emily tells me you’re a photojournalism major,” said Jeff.
“That’s right. I’m much more comfortable behind the camera,” I explained.
“Take my card,” said Jeff. “I would be happy to take a look at your stuff sometime and offer some pointers.”
“Wow, thank you, I’ll take you up on that,” I gushed.
Jeff shook hands with me and Chase then went to supervise the packing up of his equipment.
“So, how do you feel?” asked Chase.
“Tired,” I replied. “I had no idea how exhausting it would be to be under those lights all day.”
“Why don’t you get dressed and I’ll drive us home?”
“That sounds heavenly, let me wash this crap off first,” I replied, referring to the makeup.
I took a quick shower and got dressed then met Chase in the lobby. Emily walked us out to the car. She told me I’d done a good job and that she’d send me a framed poster of the final ad after it was published. I thanked her for everything, climbed into the passenger seat and fell asleep before we got out of Manhattan.
It was just after 5pm when we got home and found Linc and Alec sprawled out on the living room floor. They had Lego’s scattered everywhere. Linc looked to be building a house while Alec built a, well, I’m not sure what to call it.
“Where’s our boy?” said Chase. We’d snuck in quietly in the hope of surprising Linc and it worked like a charm. We even managed to startle Alec which was an added bonus.
“Papa! Daddy!” Linc shouted and raced over to us. It was so cute, he hugged Chase, then me, then Chase again, then me again, he couldn’t make up his mind. “I miss you.”
“We missed you too,” said Chase.
“Was he any trouble?” I asked.
“No more than Alec,” said Sasha.
“Hey, I resemble that remark,” said Alec, then he and Sasha came over to hug us too.
“I was just going to order some pizza,” said Sasha, “why don’t we have some dinner and you can tell us about your day before we hit the road?”
“Sounds like a plan, I’m starved,” I replied.
“So now that you’re a professional model are you going to purge after dinner to keep your ass in business?” Alec teased.
“Bad Uncle Alec, you said a swear,” Linc chastised him and held out a cup.
“Sorry kiddo,” said Alec. He pulled out his wallet and put a dollar in Linc’s cup.
“What’s this?” asked Chase.
“I couldn’t find a jar so Linc and I made Alec a swear cup,” Sasha snickered.
“Um, why is it so full?” I asked.
“Uncle Alec says lots-a swears. I rich now,” Linc exclaimed.
Chase and I both looked at Alec with raised eyebrows.
“It’s not my fault,” Alec protested. “He made us watch this French video over and over.”
Chase and I almost died laughing when we learned the source of Linc’s new found fortune.
“I know how you feel buddy,” I told Alec as I gave him a hug, then whispered in his ear, “I’ll give you a thousand dollars if you take that DVD with you and throw it out the window somewhere along the interstate.”
I wish Alec and Sasha could have stayed longer. Chase and I miss them so much when we’re apart but after dinner they had to hurry home. I was still tired from the day’s events so when our company left, Chase built a fire, we all changed into our pj’s, turned out the lights, snuggled under a blanket and fell asleep watching TV.
Life returned to normal in our quiet corner of the world until two weeks later when my ad hit the magazines. I was so excited the morning the ad came out that I visited two newsstands and bought every copy they had of GQ and Esquire. I was so proud of myself I planned to send them to family and friends all over the country. When I got to class that day I ended up signing autographs for a bunch of girls, even some of the guys.
“My mom called this afternoon,” said Chase as we ate dinner that night.
“Oh yeah, what did she have to say?”
“She was at the beauty shop getting her hair done and two old ladies were sitting under the hair dryers, reading Vogue and talking loud to be heard over the dryers,” Chase began.
“Mom said one of the old ladies shouted out, ‘Oh my stars and garters,’ when she saw something in the magazine and showed it to her friend. The other old lady said ‘Why weren’t men that pretty in our day?”
“Uh huh,” I started to blush, seeing where this was going.
“Naturally the other women were curious so the magazine made its way around the shop. I’m sure you can guess whose ad they were fawning over,” Chase grinned.
“Oh geez, what did your mom say?”
“Sorry ladies, that boy’s taken, he’s my son-in-law.” Chase giggled. “She said the old bats were heartbroken.”
“Oh geez.” I blushed.
It was Chase’s turn to put Linc to bed and read him a story that night. I waited for him in our bed and found myself looking at the ad for the millionth time. I was amazed at how good it turned out. I mean, I know what I look like, I know what I expected the ad to look like and I was simply blown away. For a fashion ad there wasn’t much fashion to it. The powers that be selected a black and white photo of me in jeans. I was sitting with one knee up and a sexy little grin on my lips. I was only wearing the jeans, the waistband of my underwear sticking up suggestively.
“Admiring yourself again?” asked Chase, when he came to bed.
“I can’t help it; I’ve never seen myself like this before.”
“They make these big glass things called mirrors,” Chase teased.
“You know what I mean. I’ve never seen myself look so…”
“Beautiful?” asked Chase.
“You said it, not me.” I blushed.
“I say it all the time, you are beautiful.” Chase smiled. “I’m particularly fond of that little grin,” he nodded at the magazine.
“See, I didn’t even know I made that face.”
“I’ve seen it; it’s one of my favorites.”
“Why didn’t you ever say so?”
“Because I’ve only ever seen it when I’m looking up at you and your dick is in my mouth.” Chase snickered. “Forgive me for being preoccupied.”
“Oh God, what am I going to do with you?” I laughed.
“You could make that face for me,” said Chase as he licked his lips and pulled back the sheet.