The photo shoot isn’t what I thought it would be. There’s a photographer—an older guy with a huge black camera—and Miss Black. We start by taking pictures of me clothed. They take a few headshots and then move onto full figure shots. I’m wearing jeans and a clingy sweater. I look young. My hair falls down my back in thick waves. They set my curls before we started the shoot.
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I feel silly. That’s the best word for it. I have trouble loosening up until Miss Black gets me talking. Then, things go better. I feel more at ease. I laugh. They put me in a few different outfits and the final outfit is a skin tight black dress. The back is extremely low and dips past the small of my back. The dress is like a second skin. Every imperfection I have stands out and I feel like a fat hobo.
“This can’t possibly look good.” I say, pulling at the dress.
Miss Black swats my hands away and says, “You have no idea how stunning you are, do you? The dress fits perfectly, and what you think is fat are feminine curves. Without them you’d be a broom handle, so stop fidgeting and go sit over there.” Miss Black points to a corner with a bench in front o! a bank of windows. The city scape is behind me. The photographer moves his gear to the new location. It’s the only shot that isn’t on a backdrop.
I sit down and smooth the dress. I start to tug down the hem, but Miss Black, says, “Leave it. Turn toward the city, Avery. Look out the window and pull your hair over your shoulder.”
I finally understand what they are doing. I twist toward the glass and flip my hair over my shoulder. It sweeps all to one side. I glance back at them It’s a more natural shot, like they’re taking the picture of me when I don’t know it. The photographer stands behind me with the camera to his face. I hear the shutter click. I glance at Miss Black for guidance, but she doesn’t give any so I turn back to the glass. I lift my hand and touch the cold window pane with my finger, staring blankly at the city. I don’t smile. I feel lost. My life is nothing like I thought it would be. I wish I’d gone with my parents that night. I wish I wasn’t left here alone. I watch the red and white lights race by below. Life seems so fleeting, so pointless. I take a breath in and look back over my shoulder. The shutter snaps capturing the haunted look in my eyes.
Miss Black has her fingers on her chin like she’s pleased. “Very good, Avery. You’re done with this part of the kit. We’ll do your blood work and fill out the rest of your papers.”
I nod, surprised that there aren’t more damning photographs taken. As if she could sense my thoughts, Miss Black says, “We don’t do nude pictures. The joy of seeing the woman in the flesh for the first time is part of the package. The rest of the pictures are to give an idea of your personality, likes and dislikes.”
“But you didn’t ask me any of that.”
“I know. You’ll be the girl we tell you to be, which is very close to your natural inclinations anyway.”
I nod. I don’t care anymore. I change out of the dress and put my jeans and sweater back on. When we get to the paperwork that I saw the first time I was here, I don’t know what to check off. I’ve
never done any of it, so how am I supposed to know what I will do or won’t do.
I’m sitting at the same small table at the back of the cubicles. The place is empty again. I wondei if anyone is ever here, besides Miss Black. I look at the paper and blink.
Miss Black sits next to me with a cup of coffee. It’s black. She hands it to me. I sit up and take it Miss Black pulls the papers in front of her. “I have an idea. Why don’t we write on here that this sheet will be modified as experience is accumulated?”
“That’s fine for future, er—dates, but what about now?” I ask.
“Treat it like a normal relationship and tell him when to stop.”
“But if there are no hard boundaries. ”
“You lose some of the protection afforded by the rules. I know what you’re thinking, but it’s impossible to know what another woman will like or what she won’t tolerate. There are some things here that I thought I would never do, and that I’ve grown to enjoy.” I must give her a weird IooI because she leans forward and touches my hand, saying, “Don’t misunderstand. I want you to feel comfortable, so let’s put a progression on here that way he can’t skip to the kinky stuff without doing the normal stuff first. Is that all right?” I nod. This is so weird. Miss Black smiles and writes it on the paper. “Good. I think this lines up with Mr. Ferro’s preferences anyway.”
“Who?” I ask, wiggling to the front of my seat.
“Mr. Ferro, the man who I wanted to pair you with.” Miss Black stands and retrieves the large book from the other night. She flips it open and it’s everything I can do to not react. It’s Sean. Pictures of Sean, his preference sheet, his description of what he finds attractive, and more. “Don’t be afraid, Avery. It’s only a binder. Take it and look.”
I do as she says, and pull the binder in front of me. Mr. Ferro. Sean Ferro. There is no first name on the sheets. Miss Black explains how they only use formal names, that I am to call him Mr. Ferro. I wonder if that name is real or not. I wonder why he came in here, why a handsome man like Sean would want this. I touch a picture, looking at his eyes. My gaze drifts to his lips and I feel a zing float through my stomach. I blink hard to crush the memory and turn the page looking for answers, but there are none. It showcases a man that seems beautiful and normal.
Sean wrote that he prefers a woman with little experience so that he can take the time to teach her. What’s that about? Altruism at its finest. He wants other guys to have better sex, so he teaches the new girl the ropes. That makes no sense. None of this does. There’s a disconnect between this file and the guy I know.
A voice at the back of my mind says, Maybe you don’t know him at all.