By on Apr 13, 2010 in Fiction

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Camera with woman in lens

The two regular girls went like clockwork. I took off and had a coffee and cigarette in the café by noon. I sat, watching the traffic, wondering if Georgie loved me today and watching planes circling overhead. Watching them always gave me hope I could one day get away from all this. “This time next year,” I said out loud, surrounded by honking cars. I laughed for no reason, because the sky was turning blue; I walked back to the studio and I saw her. Eve.

I didn’t know her name, of course, didn’t even know that she was a model. She simply walked down the street, wearing a black coat even in summer, blue jeans and flat shoes. She wore lipstick and had green eyes. Though she walked without trying to draw attention to herself, she still caught people’s eyes. I froze. I stood up without thinking, stumbled over my chair without looking down. And I was ready to call out, even though I didn’t know why and didn’t know what I would have said, when she turned and headed towards my studio.

I introduced myself. She nodded, put her hand out, and said her name. And that was all. I was used to it; a lot of Eastern European girls passed through here, speaking little. I felt a little easier inside the studio, and my own space. I showed her the sketches to instruct her how to pose. She followed the pencil sketches with her fingers, then stopped; stepped into the backdrop without a word. And silently she dropped her clothes and waited for me.

It wasn’t just her body. She was perfect in every way, but it wasn’t just that. The way she moved was like nothing I’d seen; slow and purposeful with none of the mannered sexiness of the others. She was languid and moved like water over the lens; it’s the only way I could describe it. She had grace, and I had never seen that before. The grace of her body and the burn of her eyes trapped me. And then I did something I’d never done before.

I pushed away the sketches, the storyboards. I was aware of the heat and the glare of the light, the burn of it. I bent down on my knees and I handed her back her bra, her underwear, motioned for her to put them back on. I took shots. I walked forward again, held up her jeans, her top. She put them back on in silence, her face never questioning. More shots. I handed her back her coat and took more. And each layer she put on, the more I saw her. I watched her skin settle around the camera. I took roll after roll, forgetting time, forgetting Georgie, forgetting everything but the girl in front of me. And even after I ran out of film, it wasn’t enough. I looked up and still she stayed, in perfect silence, before me.

I tried to talk to her, fumbled for conversation, handed her my card, wrote my mobile on the back. I tried to tell her something, some small thing, to let her know how I felt. Finally, I reached for the door and held it out for her. And her eyes never flickered; her mouth never moved beyond a half smile.

I never saw her again. That night was a blur, and I could recall little of it. The sensation lasted longer and longer. That day infected me, turned my days into smudges and fog. Slowly, my work sank; I was trying to regain what I had felt with her. I tried to repeat shots. I tried elaborate set-ups. When I processed the shots, I played with exposure and tried to establish different tones. Complaints began to come my way. The job began to fall apart. My agent left me, though I didn’t realize it for over a week. Georgie? Georgie left me, too. She never knew what had happened that day, and for all the love she kept for me, and she did love me, it had all…elapsed. She left one morning while I was at the studio. I never saw her again. I didn’t even have a photograph of her.

I looked through the books, but all I returned to was Eve. I knew even then it would only ever be that one time. I ran my finger over her cheek; I said her name. And I stood in the studio seeing her between the shadows and the light.

These last few weeks I’ve sat outside the café, watching the road she’d walked down. I wait. I turn my fingers and thumb into a square and I close my eyes to see her; I click down as I open them back up. Planes fly overhead. I’ve booked myself on a flight to the Eastern Block. And I’ll look for her or someone close enough to her for me to watch.

I walk back to my studio. I look over all my equipment gathered up and labeled in boxes. I’ve left the camera and tripod and back drop until last. I walk up to the camera, push the film in, press the auto shot. I walk round and look through the lens one last time.

I walk in front of the empty backdrop, turn the lights off and flick the bulb on. I sit amongst the emptiness and the heat of the light. I look into the lens and wait, and soon enough I hear it whirl into life, talking shot after shot. I look into the lens and I see her. Eve. Turned upside down and locked in the frame. She is in the lens, behind the camera, standing before me and trapped in the glass. She moves around the tripod, framing the next shot, tilting the legs, adjusting the lens. Her movement is as languid and as much like water as I remember. And I watch her move, slowly commanding me, her clothes the same, her hair the same length, everything as it was. And she looks up, fleetingly, and holds me with her green eyes so I am rapt and still.

I look into the lens and I smile. A smile that turns to a giggle, then to laughter. A laughter that is loud and uproarious and untamable that slowly turns into something else. And as my smile grows wider and wider still, and my eyes begin to water with the strain, the joy and the pain, the shutter keeps clicking shut, over and over. She stands somewhere close by, just out of reach, out of eye line, but somewhere close. I scream until the shutter blinks one final  time, and then there is just a silence. A silence and the dark. And Eve.

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Chris Castle is English but works in Greece. He has sent his work out in the summer of 2009 and had been accepted over fifty times as of October. His main influences include Ray Carver and the films of PT Anderson.