Boudoir

“Turn over on your stomach. Put your face in your hands, like that. Now tilt your head and smile, but be sexy. A sexy smile. No gums or anything.”

Her client followed directions, broadening her mouth and squinting her eyes, failing to give off the demure vibe she was trying to emit. Her hands held her face in such a way that she’d caused her cheeks to squish out, giving her a childish, chubby look.

Most of Jo’s clients weren’t sexy. They could put on lingerie and false lashes and lie around on a thousand rose petals, but they were never going to be sexy. In the half a dozen years that Jo had been in the boudoir photography business, she’d photographed countless women who’d had, at maximum, the sex appeal of a hamster.

“Perfect. Hold that pose.”

Click. Squat. Click. Stand. Click.

“I think that’s enough with the negligee, don’t you? Why don’t you switch into his jersey now?”

The client nodded and climbed off the bed as modestly as she could, then scurried to the changing room to put on her fiancé’s college football jersey. Dear God, the jersey pictures. Women insisted on them, donning oversized mesh shirts as if they were proud to represent another tally in the Win column, and it was Jo’s job to make it look good. If a woman couldn’t pull off sexy in sexy clothes, she sure as hell couldn’t do it in sports attire, but no one but Jo seemed to realize that. Jo was taking a look in the mirror, checking for lipstick smudges, when she heard a sort of grunting from the dressing room.

“Um…” she paused and realized that she’d forgotten her client’s name. Shelly? Sheila? Shit. “…Are you doing okay, Hun?”

Sniffles. Giant, snot-sucking sniffles.

“Not really,” her client sobbed.

“Can I come in?”

“Yeah.” Still sobbing.

Jo opened the curtain and saw the girl sitting on the floor, clothed in her fiancé’s jersey and crying off the extensive eye makeup she’d had on. She looked like a mess, frankly, and Jo suppressed a groan. It would take at least ten minutes to get this girl back in shape to photograph, and she had to stop crying to even begin the process. Jo inhaled deeply and sat down next to the weeping mess.

“So…do you want to talk about it?”

“Not really.”

“Okay. Well, do you want me to cheer you up?”

“It’s just that I don’t think he’s going to like these pictures.”

“What? Of course he is. You look hot!”

“I’ve just gained so much weight since we started planning the wedding. Fifteen pounds, nearly. This jersey isn’t supposed to fit me this well,” and with that she collapsed again into sobs.

Jo was relieved. If these were just I’m-feeling-fat tears, she could handle them.

“Honey, you look gorgeous. I can’t imagine how you looked fifteen pounds ago, but you must have been underweight. I’m telling you, most girls I photograph would kill for your figure. You have the classic hourglass. Hell, I would kill for your figure!” That was a blatant lie; Jo was rail-thin and would have sooner grown a second head than gained fifteen pounds. Still, her client looked calmed, so she continued. “He’s going to go crazy for these pictures. You have exactly what men want.”

The client dabbed her eyes with a wadded up tissue, leaving mascara and eyeliner smudges on the folds. She didn’t look happy, but she’d stopped crying at least.

“Fix your makeup, take a few deep breaths, and I’m going to go get you some tea, okay?”

“Okay,” she said, and she stood up as Jo left the dressing room.

When Jo came back with the steaming tea, sweetened with Splenda because she was feeling thoughtful, her client was perched on the edge of the bed. Her makeup was much improved, if still a bit smudgy around the eyes, and she was wearing a simple black lingerie set.

“I decided against the jersey,” she said. “It’s kind of cliché, anyway. Mike wanted me to wear it, but I just feel stupid in it.”

Jo handed her the tea and felt a small surge of something like respect, and as she watched her client sip from her mug, she was struck by change of the girl’s attitude. She wasn’t acting shy, or awkward, or girlish. She sat there drinking her tea, and Jo quietly pulled out her camera.

“Don’t move,” she said. “This is perfect.”

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