Language warning: Not often but yes.
Love and sex warning: This story definitely portrays a loving relationship between two women.
Violence Warning: A little, unless you also count a projectile camera and battered door.
Thanks: I would like to thank first of all Garnet for doing a wonderful job in beta reading this story. To Carolyne, for her constant support throughout, and giving me the kick up the backside to continue writing whether she realised or not. And last but no means least Tammy, for all the invaluable information on horses that she gave me and for naming the two horsey characters.
Let me know what you think: firstname.lastname@example.org
The city streets were alive and with bustling activity. It was still early morning but with Christmas fast approaching, it seemed that shoppers were in a constant buying haze. Searching out the best bargains, purchasing the latest child's toy before the fad ended and lovable darlings started wining for something else even more expensive.
The air was chilly and the beginnings of a light snowfall began to make its welcome appearance. Out along the rapidly crowding town centre, street marketers were selling novelty Santa hats and such upon cheap foldaway tables. Their voices echoed out along the mass of shoppers drawing them in to purchase their substandard wares. Children would stop, eyes glowing with excitement at the brightly coloured objects arranged on shorter tables, guaranteed to catch their eyes. Pleas for these certain objects would follow, that would either be ignored by impatient mothers, or yielded to by harried ones.
Tess Alexander pulled the collar of her black trench coat up high above her neck, mixing with the dark tresses of her hair. It shielded half her face, causing a striking vision of blackness broken only by two piercing green eyes. At six foot she stood high above most the crowd, and walked with an air of cavalier confidence. To her, none of these irritating people existed, and she made her way through the crowd like they were nothing more than an annoying obstacle. If she bumped into somebody, she would offer no apologies, just carry on her way, intent on her destination. She was not normally so cool and offhanded with people, but with the cold winds and congested streets, she just wanted to get away from all the commotion.
Tess was a photographer and worked in one of the most highly reputable firms in the country. Snap Shots, was based in the centre of the city, which although was a perfect point of situation customer wise, was right in the middle of town, and to Tess that was not good. Being a loner, she hated the exposed feeling it gave, and as an artist, she lived to her renowned temperament of guarded stoicism. That was not to say that she wasn't an agreeable person, she was just a little less than forth coming with her inter personal skills. She did like people…just in small doses.
It had always been the case; when she was younger she was the school outcast, though it was more out of choice. Photography was her passion and she would happily spend hours working away in the dark room, alone. She would say darkness was her friend, and would do so much as to surround herself in it, wearing nothing but black clothes which she still had a tendency for today.
The crowd seemed to be getting thicker. Tess sped up her gait, only just managing to dodge a woman pushing a large pram with one hand and holding a small child's hand with the other. Why did it seem like she was the only person walking in her direction and everyone else was going the other, purposely trying to get in her way. Growling quietly to herself she turned a corner on to Main Street, breathing a sight of relief as Snap Shots came into view.
The building was large, the span of three normal size shops and on two levels. It was an old red brick building, with a large black and yellow sign on the front. More or less, it was the main draw of the street. When people would talk of Main Street, they would say 'you know where the photography studio is' to which to other person would say 'oh yes.'
Tess walked even faster towards the building. The snow was beginning to fall faster and the air was slightly colder, she wanted the warmth and familiarity of her work place. A light wind had picked up; blowing the bottom of her trench coat around her black, clothed legs, she was thankful she hadn't chosen to wear her dress today. Yeah! Tess thought, like I even own one. She chuckled wryly to herself.
As soon as she walked through the door, a wave of comforting heat engulfed her. She closed her eyes, feeling the chill begin to leave her body and smiled, glad to be out of the cold. Breathing in the familiar smell of constantly brewing coffee, she walked into the reception to find it empty. Jason the secretary was not at his usual position behind front desk. It was strange; there was always somebody around reception in the morning. Tess frowned, and wandered further into the building, the sound of distant voices, getting louder the deeper she searched.
She walked through a corridor that leads to many different studios. Family portraits, animals, babies, whatever you wanted taking, Snap Shots could accommodate…well as long as it was within the boundaries of the law.
Nearing the employees' lounge, she realised that's where the sounds were coming from, Jason's obvious camp voice high above the rest. Getting close to the door, she stopped just short of opening it, deciding to have a quick listen first. She frowned as she heard the topic of conversation.
"There is no way on Gods green earth that I am going to tell her" Tess instantly recognised that voice as Kat, one of the photographers. She was a medium size woman with short blonde hair and a pierced nose. "Jason should, she gets on well with him."
"Oh…I think not girl." Jason stated, "We may get on, but I am not telling her that…she will throw an artistic fit, besides she is just fine with you and you know it. Stop trying to get out of this, and show some balls for gods sake."
Tess arched an eyebrow.
"She will throw more than a fit, and too right I am trying to get out of it…so are you, and me show some balls, may I remind you who is supposed to have them in the first place." Kat stated.
Tess shook her head.
"Well what am I supposed to do…she was requested personally." That was Robert, the manager. He was a tall, dark skinned man and who as most people described, 'built like a brick shit house.' He had the build of a wrestler yet the docility of a pussycat.
"What ever you do…do it when I am not around." Said Kat. "Why don't we just get Stan to do it?"
Stan was another photographer.
"Cause he isn't in today is why…remember?" Jason drawled.
Tess was sure she could actually hear him roll his eyes with that comment.
Deciding she'd had enough, Tess slammed her hand on the handle, pushing the door open quickly. She was greeted by a Mexican wave of startled jumps. Grinning inside she looked over the group and smiled sweetly, too sweetly, they knew she had heard their debate.
"Morning all…lovely day out today…gona be a cold one…" She looked at their awkward faces. "Now stop with the shit and somebody tell me what the hell you all seem too chicken to say."
Jason looked towards the ceiling, shaking his sandy brown hair from his eyes. Kat looked towards the floor, scuffing her trainers along the carpeting. Tess looked at Robert expectantly; she arched an eyebrow in waiting.
Robert gulped audiably, causing both Jason and Kat to look at him with compassion. Still it was up to him to spill, they were just humble employees after all. Tess folded her arms and pursed her lips, cocking her head to one side…waiting.
"Err…well it is like this." Robert began, "You see we had a call early this morning from the head city council office. They are requesting the services of our most 'infamous' photographer, in other words you."
Tess sucked air through her teeth, knowing that was not the end.
Robert coughed, "Anyway you have been requested to take the Christmas shots of the…" He paused.
Tess cringed internally, hoping he was not going to say, what he was indeed about to.
"The…the err…The Mayor." His face crinkled as he ducked waiting for her reaction. He feared it would not be good.
Tess narrowed her eyes, "The Mayor?" Her arms dropped to her side, "That Rat Bastard."
Jason closed his eyes, but opened one, taking a quick peek at Kat who was doing the same.
The tall photographer, looked around at the small group of cowering co-workers. Do they fear my temper that much? She thought. Ok…I can do control…for the moment. Sighing she turned towards the door, "Excuse me a moment."
The others watched in confusion as Tess walked calmly out of the room, closing the door quietly behind her. They looked at each other bewildered.
Striding into her own darkened studio, Tess flipped on the switch to the overhead lights. Instantly the room was illuminated with a bright white glow. She closed the door and leaned against it, looking into her room.
It was large, the largest studio in the building. Ahead of her was a spacious photographic area with screens, props, lights and such. There was a multitude of tripods, boxes of films and general tools of the trade all over the place. The floor was black tile, and the surrounding walls and ceiling were a matt white. There was a door to her left, which lead to her dark room, and that too was of a reasonable size.
Letting her head fall back against the door, Tess closed her eyes. It was typical that The Mayor would request her. She found the man cantankerous and domineering. Tess had been requested to take the official shots when the new Mayor, Richard Morris had been elected. Her initial surprise at being asked had been short-lived when she had met the, small sandy haired man. First he was late; then he left her waiting while he was on the phone, and then he spent the rest if the day questioning her abilities, methods and experience. It was the worst shoot of her life and she had barley managed to reign in her temper. After that she had told Robert she would never work for city council again, and up to that point she hadn't.
I can't bloody believe he wants me, what is he playing at. I though he was as displeased with me as I was with taking his shots…Maybe the guy has taste and recognises talent…yeah right!
A hesitant knock brought Tess out of her musings, "Yeah?"
The door pushed against her, so she moved out of the way in order to let the unknown visitor in. Kat poked her head around the door and smiled sympathetically at the taller woman.
"Robert couldn't really refuse Tess, it is quite an honourable request really."
The woman looked at the brown eyed blonde sceptically.
Kat walked further into the room, "Yeah I know it's not like we need it, but well the mayor is not a man to refuse…he is a very influential guy."
Tess folded her arms, "Yeah, well why couldn't you, Stan or one of the others do it?"
The blonde shrugged, "He asked for you…said he liked the way the last pictures turned out. He likes your work."
The taller woman laughed, "No…he likes that fact that I can capture him in a deceptive light…those pictures even made him look taller."
Kat laughed and shook her head; "Well anybody is short compared to you… apart from Robert that is."
The tall photographer rolled her eyes, "Great…well let's go and see what I am supposed to do shall we?"
Out in main reception, appointments were starting to filter in. Jason sat at his desk, brimming with enthusiasm, as he greeted each customer and answered each phone call with a happy smile. One family sat huddled in the corner, dressed in their smartest clothes, and waiting patiently for their sitting. The waiting room was very big and filled with large comfortable chairs. There was a drinks machine in the corner and a table with a variety of magazines covering a range of different subjects so suit all ages and sexes.
In the other corner a nervous looking couple sat together, holding hands as if for reassurance. And out by Jason's desk, a large bald headed man stood, with a Staffordshire bull terrier held securely in his arms.
Tess walked in. She looked at the dog, that seemed to notice somebody taking an interest in it and began to wriggle. She grinned and walked over.
The tall bald man grappled with his dog, "Conan, will you stay still…bad boy." The dog easily won the battle and dived to the ground, wagging its tail with such speed, that the whole back end of his body moved in unison.
Tess bent down and began rubbing the dogs' stomach, "Well aren't you a hansom fellow." She whispered.
Jason arched an eyebrow and looked down at the normally impassive woman. She had gotten down onto her knees and was busily scratching Conan's chest.
"Sorry…he gets like this around new people…you wouldn't think so by looking at him…most people are afraid to go near him."
Tess nodded, "Yeah well I have one at home, so I know their temperament." She rose to her feet, much to the protest of the black bull like dog, which proceeded to rise onto its hind legs wining for attention.
"Don't sweat it Conan, I am doing your shoot later." She winked at the man, whom she decided looked like a replica of his dog, and walked off to Roberts's office.
Kat walked over to Jason, "Did you know she had a dog?"
Jason shook his head, "Never been to her house. I'm actually surprised that any living being would put up with her for that amount of time."
"I HEARD THAT!" Tess shouted from around the corner.
Kat looked at the shocked man, "How does she do that?"
Jason just shrugged.
Robert sat in his office, feet up on his desk, hands crossed behind his head. His eyes were closed and a smug smile seemed plastered to his content features.
Tess barged into the room, causing the serene man to jump. His legs flew from the desk, kicking a pot of pens off the surface in the process. They collided against the nearby wall.
"Damn it Tessa don't you know how to knock." He said almost angrily, bending to pick up the impromptu projectiles.
Tess rolled her eyes, "Oh…you keep calling me that and I shall send your jumpy ass to an early grave." She taunted, sitting down. "Bit early to be savouring the fruits of your labours isn't it?"
Robert sighed, "Don't care…now what can I do for you Tess?"
The photographer almost smiled, "There was not too hard was it? Anyway I wanted to know when and what time I am to see his high and mighty Lord Mayor."
Robert looked down at the appointment book on his desk. "Tomorrow, at half ten."
Tess nodded, "Great…fan-bloody-tastic. And what is it…the usual portrait?"
Robert shook his head and grinned, "Nope…it is a Christmas portrait with his family. He wants one canvas and a load of official looking Christmas cards. Being as though that is one of your many specialities…of course he wanted you."
"Typical he wants cards with him on the front." Tess grumbled.
"Not just him, his whole family. Wife, two daughters and the family cat."
Tess jumped out of her seat, "Cats…I hate cats…slimy, smarmy, things with delusions of grandeur, and I am allergic."
Robert shook his head, "No you are not…you can't get out of it."
Tess walked towards the door, "Fine…but I am telling you now…you are sending me to the worst job in my life and I may never forgive you."
The manager laughed, "Promise?"
Tess narrowed her eyes, delivering a look of death until Robert stopped smiling; she walked triumphantly out his office.
The city streets were once again, crowded with people, only this time they were on their way home, from either a day of shopping or work. The light snow that had fallen all morning didn't even have a chance to settle, with the constant onslaught of determined shoppers. All was left was small clusters of icy white powder, stuck in corners and on top of shop roofs and cars.
Tess trudged the well-worn paths grudgingly. She was not looking forward to tomorrows shoot and was doing her best to make the day come as slowly as possible. Walking towards her bus stop the tall woman scanned the rapidly crowding area. She grimaced as she stood counting the mounting mass of misbehaving children. Why me, she thought to herself frowning, while wishing her damned temperamental car had have started this morning. I would be home now if it wasn't for that bloody thing. Taking a strategic position, which stated that she was there for a bus, but didn't want to be approached, she quietly waited.
It was getting dark a lot earlier now, and the whole town centre was alight with tacky Christmas decorations, that some minor celebrity had switched on a week before. From the insides of shops, Tess could hear the clashing sounds of different 'especially spoilt for the retail trade' Yule tide carols.
Pushing cold hands into her pockets, she looked around in the hopes of seeing the approaching bus. It was almost seven o'clock and she wanted to be home for Leto, she would be hungry by now.
Hearing the distant sound of a diesel engine, Tess was inwardly happy to see the bus approaching. Digging into the back pocket of her black jeans, she grappled around for some change as she waited for the vehicle to stop. Then waited patiently until all the other passengers had boarded the large double-decker before she climbed aboard, paying her fare to the harassed looking driver at the front.
It was half seven by the time Tess arrived home. Sliding her key into the lock, she twisted it gently and pushed the door open. Quietly she stepped inside the darkened house.
Suddenly she was thrust back against the door, in-avertedly slamming it closed in the process. The photographer looked down to see Leto wagging her tail, and trying her best to jump into the tall woman's arms. She grinned and slid down the door, allowing the golden dog to vault into her lap.
"Oh and who is a beautiful girl then…has 'tow tow' been to good for mommy while she was at work?"
The dog barked and proceeded to bathe Tess with a good old traditionally facial doggy bath. She laughed and pushed herself to her feet, carrying the heavy dog in toe. Leto whined when she realised where her owner was heading and struggled to get down. Tess obliged and walked over to the food cupboard.
"Well let's see what 'tow tow' is to have for dinner tonight shall we?"
Leto whined and rose up onto her back legs looking up at the dark woman with pleading eyes. Tess shook her head and proceeded to feed her dog, before deciding what to make for her own dinner. She would make something that took a long time to cook. Anything to drag out this day and seemingly make tomorrow take a little longer to arrive.
In the realm between sleep and awake, Tess was aware of eyes watching her. She could sense herself being observed closely and although she was loathed to leave the dream she was having, she was finding it harder to stay in her somnolent world. As she began to drift towards the land of the living she then became aware of the fact that she was pinned to her bed. A heavy weight pushed down on her shoulders, and a tingling, pins and needles sensation told her that she had been trapped for some time.
Prizing one unfocused eye open, she looked in front of her, but saw nothing but a blur. She decided to open both eyes. At this her vision cleared and she looked up into two desperate amber eyes. Leto whined and woofed when she realized her master was awake, and started licking her face with abandon.
"Oh for gods sake, 'tow tow' I do not want to see your ugly mug up this close in the morning." Tess grumbled in a deep, sleep filled voice. "Oh alright what is it you want…or need I ask…a cup of tea right?"
Leto dived of the bed and ran towards the open door, looking at Tess with near desperation.
"Yeah, yeah…I am coming keep your fur on will ya." She swung her long legs out of bed and ambled towards the stairs.
Tess completely owned her house, due to nothing but hard work and dedication, and the place was of a decent size too. On the ground floor were a living room, dining room, study, and breakfast kitchen and laundry room. On the second floor were two bathrooms, three bedrooms and her dark room. The whole place was sparsely furnished except for the dark room of course, which housed all the latest photographic gear; it was the room she spent the most time in after all.
Reaching the bottom of the stairs she trudged her way to the kitchen. The coldness of the floor tiles assaulted her bare feet. Forcing air out through pursed lips, she made her way to the kettle and switched it on, Leto sitting adoringly by her feet.
"Don't give me that innocent look dog…you are spoiled…how many god damn dogs expect a bowl of tea every morning anyway?"
Leaning against the grey worktop, she waited impatiently for the kettle to boil, all the while Leto happily wagging her tail by her masters feet.
Tess looked down at the dog, her mass of sleep rumpled hair falling over her shoulders, "Wish me luck today 'tow tow' Mommy's got a trying day."
Leto barked and rose up onto hind legs, exchanging her looks between the kettle and her bowl. She wined again, and proceeded to nudge her bowl with her muzzle for emphasis.
The sleepy woman rolled her eyes, "Do you even care dog? I could stop your food for today just to prove a point."
Leto cocked her head and sat down obediently.
A smug smile, "Yep…that's what I thought."
Standing next to the open door of her garage, the photographer looked menacingly at her car. It was an old black ford, which had belonged to her father years before. When he had died, her mother, knowing it would be in good hands, had given her the car. Tess loved it, and believing it was a classic; refused to buy a new one, opting instead to keep up constant repairs the vehicle always seemed to need.
She folded her arms and crossed her feet at the ankles, standing on one leg. She could think of no reason why the car would not start, she had checked out every feasible problem she thought it could possibly be.
"Ok car…I have a job today, which means going out into the field. I need you to quit coughing and spluttering and start revving otherwise I shall be forced to transport you to the knackers yard." Tess walked around to the drivers' door and cautiously opened it. Pulling her backpack from her shoulder, she chucked it onto the passenger side and climbed into the drivers seat.
Holding the keys in her right hand she looked at the dashboard, "Remember either you start today or tomorrow you will be trailing you way towards metallic oblivion."
She pushed the key into the ignition and twisted. The engine turned, and wheezed. She tried it again, still the same. Muttering a statement that included the phrase 'one last time' she turned the key once more.
There was a moment of silence, before the engine revved into life. Tess slapped the dashboard, "Ah ha, just shows what an idle threat can do." She proclaimed, and proceeded to steer the car out of the garage. "If things come in threes like they say, then I have one more productive threat left, and I know just the person I would like to use it on."
Through the night another gentle snowfall had graced the city streets, and in the early morning light, the new day seemed to glow with a virginal whiteness. It was surprising actually that there was snowfall this close to Christmas, but being as though this was England, it would be gone by the time people really welcomed the sight. Tess could only ever remember seeing one white Christmas in her twenty-six years, and secretly like so many other people, she wanted another one. But would she admit that? 'Bah humbug' she hated Christmas and made sure everybody got that impression to.
Tess loved early morning drives into the city. There was still a certain amount of peace around and everything seemed kind of distant, and pristine. She could be out in one of the busy cities in England and still feel secluded.
Turning her car towards the town centre, the photographer thought of the day to come. It was not going to be a good one; that was for sure. She thought she had a pretty good judge of character and on her first assignment, had already decided she really didn't like Richard Morris. He had a somewhat strange personality, being both domineering and misogynistic. The kind of person that you just wanted to slap, for no other reason than because you didn't like his face, well she didn't anyway. Deciding what to wear today had been a tough one. Her usual jeans were a big no, no as far as Robert was concerned, so she had spent ten minutes trying to find something to wear…to Tess that was a long time. She had finally decided on a black (of course) two-piece, trouser suit and a red shirt.
Sighing, she turned on the radio and fiddled around until she found something worth listening to, it was useless. There seemed to be an epidemic of boy bands and she was not interested in (only just) post pubescent males with mediocre voices. Tess switched off the annoyance with distain. She would rather drive in silence than expose herself to that kind of music, (and she used the term very lightly).
Jason sat at his desk, tapping his way through the computerised appointment log. He winced as he blanked out all Tess' open windows, knowing she would be in no mood to deal with anybody else after her morning sitting. Hell, after hearing the woman's comments about the Mayor, he wasn't sure whether she would have any free time left today anyway.
He looked at his watch, it had just gone nine o'clock, and the man knew she would be in shortly to collect her equipment and stomp around a bit. When Tess was annoyed they all knew. Not that she would rant and rave, no she became even more mono-syllabic than usual, it was damn cold to be around her. Still he liked her, she had a heart of gold and he knew it, even if she refused to let it shine through. The incident with the dog yesterday was another of many examples, just like her supposed distain towards Christmas. He knew that she had donated her free time to take shots of the children with Santa at a charity Christmas party. But if she wanted to play at mean and moody, he would not stand in her way…it was fun to break her guard once in a while.
Suddenly the door whooshed open and he looked up to see Tess trudge her lightly snowed boots through the door.
"Well good morning sunshine!"
"Say that again tomorrow and I may be in a more receptive mood." Tess growled.
Jason looked towards the computer, then back at the photographer, "Ah…well in that case I guess I shouldn't beat around the bush and just come out and…"
"I though you already did that?" Tess interrupted.
Jason scowled, "Well at least one of us has admitted it." It was the photographer's turn to scowl but Jason pressed on. "As I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted…I will just come right out and say that the Mayors office rang…they want to move the appointment up half an hour. Oh and that the shoot is to take place at his home now."
The tall woman's face darkened, "Abso-frigging-lutely great."
Jason grinned as the woman stomped out of sight.
Tess drove her car along an over grown, narrow country road. There was only just enough room for two cars to get passed, and she prayed a tractor would not happen upon her.
Just bleeding typical that the guy would live right out in the sticks, the woman thought as she pulled her car in as close to the side as possible in order to let another vehicle passed. OK, she would admit she was not a big fan of the great out doors. The quiet, the strange animal smells, the seemingly exaggerated coldness in the air, it all accumulated to feelings of misery as far as she was concerned.
Following the directions she had been given, Tess took the next right at a wider road. Glad the feelings of claustrophobia were fading, she pushed her car towards its destination.
Eventually the photographer reached a wide wooden gate. It was shut and she had to get out of the car and open it. Once through, she followed the driveway until it opened up into a large courtyard.
To the right of her stood a three-car garage; to the left a pathway that seemed to lead to some stables and right in front was the house. Tess was actually surprised, she was expecting a small farmhouse or something similar, what she saw was a hell of a lot bigger.
It was an old pale brick house, which stood on two levels, but was as wide as three or four normal houses. All the windows had been replaced with double glazed ones, but apart from that it appeared to be in original condition. She was not sure how old it was but it must have been over a hundred or so.
Pulling her car up by the front entrance, she turned off the engine and got out. Her feet met a pebble grit pathway, which crunched under her as she made her way to the door.
She rapped on the large brass knocker and waited, kicking a stone that was under her foot in the process. There was no answer. She knocked again, putting a little more force into it. A moment later she heard the sound of approaching footsteps on a cold surface floor.
The door opened, revealing an old grey haired man who must have been in his early sixties at the least. He was dressed in smart black trousers, a jacket and tie. He smiled warmly at Tess, "Ah and you must be the infamous Miss Alexander?"
Tess mouth twitched in an effort to keep the smile of her face, "Err…I am Miss Alexander." Damn that made her sound so formal, "But the infamous part…hmm afraid not, well I hope not anyway."
The old man smiled, "Well if you are the woman here to take the portraits today then you are indeed one in the same."
Tess smiled, "Guess I am then."
The old man held out his hand, "I am James Abbot…the butler."
The butler! Damn it how rich is this guy. Tess shook the offered hand noting the deceptively strong grasp.
James took a step out into the courtyard, "So let me help you bring your things inside and I shall show you were you are to set up." He walked towards Tess's car, "Shall we?"
Tess blinked off her surprise and spurred into action. Together they took out the large cases and folded tripods and began to carry them into the house.
When the tall woman entered she was taken aback by the grandeur of the place. It was huge, even bigger than it looked from the outside. There was an ornate staircase that stood to the right with many family portraits going up the wall. The floor was a black and white marble tile and the walls were a dark cream. It seemed that the ceiling reached all the way to the top of the roof in the hall, and a large crystal chandelier hung down from the top.
Pulling her self away from the sights, Tess followed James through the house. Finally they stopped by a large oak door, and James put down one of the cases in order to open it, Tess followed him inside. She watched as the old man put her equipment by the wall and stepped back towards the door.
"I will go and get the remainder of your things…you can start to set up, over there. I don't know, test the lighting or what ever you people do." He smiled.
Tess grinned back, "Sure thing, James I'll get started."
The old man smiled at the woman, already beginning to like her, and disappeared back out the doorway.
Tess dropped her own burden of equipment where she stood and moved to look around the room. It was very…she could not find the word to describe it. She supposed it was a very nice room…as rooms go, but there was something false about it, almost staged. Yes that was it; it looked staged, like it hadn't actually ever been used. She wondered whether she should have taken her shoes off before she entered.
Walking to the window she looked out and saw two large horses in a side field. One was black and the other was golden, they stood very close to each other, almost lovingly. She watched as the golden horse moved away, the black one followed devotedly behind.
Approaching footsteps made her turn back to the room. James walked in and placed the last of the equipment by the wall. He looked around and spotted where Tess had just dumped her own things.
"Oh Miss Alexander…could you please not put things in the way…it could be dangerous…here by the wall is fine."
Tess arched an eyebrow, Uptight about tidiness or what…Hell I hope he doesn't start shuffling me into a corner. She smiled, "Sure but please call me Tess…I hate sounding so formal."
James lowered his head slightly, "Ok Miss Tess…I shall leave you to get ready while I inform Mr Morris that you have arrived." He smiled and nodded faintly, while backing out of the room.
Tess grinned, Miss Tess?
It had taken her a good half an hour to set up all the equipment around a large family chair, with a nice plain backdrop. Then Richard Morris had arrived and told her he wanted the set up on the other side of the room, by some stuffy old bookcase. He left then, leaving Tess to re-do all her work.
She had wanted to say something, well really she had wanted to tell the misogynistic git just where he could shove his portraits, but she did not. Unsure how she did it her self, she managed to keep her mouth shut. No small feat in Tess's eyes.
She began rearranging the equipment for the other side of the room, arranging the setting just so. She set one camera up on a tripod and took out another one for good measure. Tess tested the lighting, as she checked the clock, it had gone half ten. Resisting the urge to stick her head out the door and yell that she was ready she concentrated on checking the view through the camera.
About five minutes later, approaching footsteps informed Tess that hopefully the sitting was about to start.
Refusing to show her impatience, she continued looking over her equipment one last time, until she heard the same footsteps wander into the room. Tess was facing away from the door, so looked around to see who had entered. She saw the backs of two young girls, one with long dark hair and one short blonde. They were huddled together holding hands, and Tess presumed they were the Mayors two daughters.
"Hi…" She called turning fully around.
The girls were making their way to the couch, but the brunette turned around. She looked at Tess for a while then smiled. "Hello."
Tess smiled back, as the girl waited for her sister to sit down then walked over to her.
"Hi…I am Lisa, and that is my sister Nikki."
Tess moved her vision and took in the frame of the slight girl, sitting quietly on the couch. She seemed to be staring off into space.
Lisa grinned, her brown eyes sparkling, "Come on let me introduce you both." Without warning, the friendly teen took the older woman by the arm and led her over to her sister. Tess could do nothing but comply as she was almost dragged over to the other side of the room.
"Nikki this is Tess…she is taking the photographs today…isn't that cool. I love having my picture taken." The brunette spoke with enthused excitement.
Tess watched the blonde head move up, but the girl didn't look straight at her. She held out her hand with a smile and Nikki did the same, not connecting with the larger one.
Suddenly Tess realised two things. Firstly that this girl was a lot older than she appeared close up and secondly, she was blind.
So that's why James didn't want my stuff in the way of the door, She thought giving herself an internal slap on the forehead.
Reaching further out, she grasped the smaller hand, feeling tender warmth in its grasp. "Hi Nikki, how are ya?" She questioned, ignoring the pleasant feeling that centred on Nikki's touch.
The blonde turned her vision slightly towards the surprisingly silk voice, "Hello, fine thank you." She pulled her hand away, feeling a sudden need to do so, when she heard two more sets of footsteps heading towards the room.
Feeling a little bereft, Tess dropped her hand and turned suddenly hearing footsteps. She could not be sure, but she got the feeling Nikki heard them first. Nikki rose to her feet and all three women waited as the parents made their way into the room.
First Richard Morris walked in, he was dressed differently from when Tess had seen him last. He had changed into a more official looking suit and wore his Mayoral Chain around his neck. Tess mentally rolled her eyes. Next Rosalind Morris walked in, wearing a smart but neutral looking pale cream dress. If the photographer didn't know any better she would swear that Richard had chosen the dress so not to out do his own attire. She looked to the other girls; both too were wearing plain, light blue dowdy dresses. Tess noticed how the colour matched the same shade as in Nikki's eyes.
"Ah…ok…good, good I see everything is set up." The mayor said scanning the setting. He looked back towards the three women. "Miss Alexander, I would like you to meet my wife, Rosalind."
The small blonde woman held her hand out to Tess, "Pleased to meet you Miss Alexander…I am a fan of you work. I work voluntarily at the city art gallery, your pictures have quite a following."
Tess smiled and blushed slightly. Her work at the gallery was more personal and she felt it was an open book to her character. She had never wanted to show it, but was talked into it by the gallery owner Andrew Spencer. Andrew was a college friend of Tess's, and they had both been in the same art club. He had been in love with the tall brunette since they first met, but she had never had feelings for him. Tess actually didn't know why, he was your typical tall, dark good-looking guy, but she never felt anything but loving friendship.
"Thank you, Mrs Morris, I…"
"Oh please call me Rosa." The smaller woman quickly stated.
Tess smiled "Rosa."
"Why don't we get this session started shall we?" The mayor questioned, taking Nikki by the arm and gently leading her over to where the photographs were to be taken. Tess watched the blonde girl being guided away; unconsciously taking in every physical aspect and movement Nikki made.
Rosalind looked up at the dark, green-eyed woman and smiled, "It is amazing. She does not need his help really, can get by remarkably fine on her own. Yet he dotes on her hand and foot, you would not find a more loving and loyal father to these two girls."
Tess managed to hide the surprised expression, just waiting to grace her features. "I suppose there has to be another side to him." She looked at the frowning woman, "I mean…well I have only seen one side to him…and…well that was not the most agreeable of personas."
Rosalind laughed, "Yes well he has an image to maintain you know…some people like to appear all rough and tough on the outside, while really on the inside they are as soft as a teddy bear." The woman looked at Tess directly, "Know what I mean?"
The photographer looked away, feeling like the woman was trying to read her, "Shall we get started…I see three people over there ready and waiting." She said changing the subject.
Rosalind smiled, "Lets."
Though Tess wouldn't care to admit it, the shoot was going surprisingly well. The Mayor had pretty much kept his opinions to himself and had let her lead the job. After the group family pictures were taken, a couple of shots were taken with the couple, before Tess was to take the daughters.
She took half a role of the siblings together then proceeded to take shots of them alone. Being the most excited about the whole shoot, Lisa was first to go it alone. She took her place, as Tess loaded another film.
"I think I want to take photography when I finished college," She announced to Tess. "Mum and dad won't be too pleased but I like having my pictures took."
Tess smiled, "Well that would warrant you being in front of the camera, not behind it!"
Lisa scrunched her nose, "Yeah I guess it does…so you think I could do it? Be a model…I mean I bet you take loads of pictures of gorgeous people and all."
The photographer stood behind the camera on the tripod and looked into the viewfinder, "Hmm well you definitely have a prettier face than some people I have taken."
Lisa grinned, "I guess so." She gushed, "What about Nikki, I think she is pretty as well. What do you think?"
Tess looked over to the other sister who was sitting on the other side of the room, waiting for her turn. She looked back at the younger sister, "Well err, yes she is too." The tall woman was not about to say that she thought Nikki was very beautiful. "Why…do you think Nikki would want to be a model?" She asked; interested to know anything she could about the blonde.
The younger sister laughed and shook her head, "No, Nik only wants to work with horses. She has two of her own in the stables."
The photographer pursed her lips, taking in the information. She finished off taking a couple more shots of Lisa, and then proclaimed she was ready for Nikki.
Lisa hopped of her chair and called out to her sister, announcing it was her turn. Then she headed out the door in search of her parents who had already left as soon as they were no longer needed.
Tess watched as Nikki confidently made her way to the other side of the long room. She stopped just short of the dark haired woman, who was crouching on the floor, idly searching her bag for another role of film. She looked up towards the young woman.
"You will have to tell me where you want me." Nikki grinned, her head directed towards the ground to where the woman was positioned; she could hear her rummaging around.
"Right." Tess said pulled out two more films.
Upon hearing the dark woman's voice, Nikki turned her eyes towards Tess. The woman felt like the blonde was looking straight at her, through her. She took in an uneasy breath and rose from her crouched position, now looking down on the young woman. She looked into the big, round blue eyes and felt a sudden awareness that she had never felt before. It was like she was looking into something that was missing from her self. Pushing the strange feelings aside, she took Nikki by the arm and led her to the strategically positioned seat. Nikki put her hand on the chair, then sat herself upon it waiting, as Tess moved back to the tripod.
"Mother tells me you are quite the photographer. You take picture of all the famous people. She says your prints get quite a lot of publicity."
Tess crouched down beside her bag again, "Well I don't know about that, never looked at them in the gallery."
Nikki smiled, "You don't like talking about your work do you?"
The woman looked up surprised, "Well…I…no I guess not." She leaned forward onto her knees, her long hair falling over her shoulders. "It is just work, have to do something to pay the bills." She watched, as the smile grew bigger on the blonde's face.
"My dad was not too keen on you to begin with, something stupid about not wanting a woman to take his shots." She laughed, "Then when he saw them, I think he changed his opinion of you. You must be good…my father does not give praise lightly."
"It is true." Nikki laughed, "Even my mum thinks so. We all express ourselves in different ways…and if people like what they see, they will ultimately like the person. If you want to know what a person is like, just look at their surrounding, their work, their friends…you don't even have to speak to him or her. It all shines through in so many different ways."
Tess looked surprisingly at the young woman, "They are wise words coming from somebody so young."
Nikki folded her arms, "I bet I am not much younger than you really…I have been told I am blessed with youthful looks though."
"Mmhm" Tess drawled.
The blonde arched her eyebrows, "What's that for?"
Tess rose to stand behind the camera, "Nothing." She looked into the viewfinder. "Ready?" Nikki turned her eyes towards the camera, looking directly into the shot.
"Amazing." Tess said in a deathly whisper.
"What is?" Nikki questioned.
Tess stepped back from the camera, "You heard that? Yeah I guess you did…I suppose you have pretty good hearing hey?"
Nikki nodded, smiling. "What's amazing?" She asked.
The photographer took a step away from the tripod; "Well it is just that…well… you are looking straight at me…at the camera."
The blonde woman cocked her head, "It's funny…I have been told that I, obviously, never looked straight into a shot …but I don't know I think it must be your voice."
"What about my voice?" She had to know.
Nikki shrugged, "It is quite silky, commanding…you know…it is like I just know where you are. If I had to think of one word to describe it I would say captivating…must pull me in I guess."
Tess felt her cheeks flood with heat. She took in a surprisingly, much needed breath and swallowed, letting the air pass back out quickly.
"Are you embarrassed by that?" Nikki asked.
The flustered woman shook her head, "No…not embarrassed." She looked back through the viewfinder. "Want to get started?"
The blonde nodded.
Tess left the house at one o'clock, agreeing to bring the proofs back round for viewing in three days. James helped her load the equipment back into her car, and then she was on her way.
On her journey back to work, Tess reflected on the day so far. It had gone a hell of a lot better than she had anticipated. The Mayor had been almost cordial, his wife had been gracious, and Lisa had been fun and friendly and Nikki, well she didn't know what to think. The young woman had left an impression on her, but Tess just didn't dare to understand what that meant.
The tall woman smiled remembering Nikki's comments, when she had remarked on the fact that she had heard her conversation with Lisa. She merely stated that Lisa was always coming up with new career ideas. A couple of days ago she wanted to be an air cadet, now a model. Tess chuckled, wondering whether Nikki was trying to steer the conversation to another aspect of conversation she'd had with Lisa…either way she did not.
Driving into the city, the tall woman looked over at case of films on the passenger seat, then she looked down at the one in her pocket. It was the last roll of the shoot and she had unconsciously put it in her pocket, with the desire to develop it first. She refused to let her mind question that fact, as she directed her vehicle to the rear car park of Main Street.
The television was on a low setting, providing a comforting background noise, in the otherwise quiet living room. Nikki sat upon a large plush cream leather sofa, her knees tucked underneath herself. In her lap she held a book that she was reading contently, her fingers flowing over the pages with familiar grace.
Lisa walked into the luxurious room and sat next to her sister.
"So did you enjoy today?"
Nikki smiled and turned her head towards her sister, "Yep…and I don't even have to ask whether you did." She grinned.
Lisa chuckled and looked towards the TV, frowning at the uninteresting program on screen. She looked back to Nikki, "The photographer was nice wasn't she?"
Nikki nodded her head, but said nothing.
The younger sister rolled her eyes, "Oh come on, aren't you just a bit curious to know what she looked like, don't you want the description?"
The blonde woman smiled slightly, "It's funny but I kind of have an idea of what she looks like. I imagine her hair is like the darkest night, her eyes are like spring time and when she walks into a room, she unconsciously draws people attention, without any real desire to do so."
The brunette looked at her sister strangely.
Nikki smiled, "Well don't look at me in that tone of voice," she laughed, "Am I right?"
Lisa shook her head, "Err yeah…her hair is black, her eyes are green and she is quite beautiful."
The older woman shrugged, "Well I would not know about beautiful…that is just the way she came across to me."
Lisa laughed and pulled the book away from her sister, "Hell of a way to come across…hey are you sure mum didn't tell you what she looked like, that was way too spooky."
Nikki reached out towards her sister, found purchase of the book and pulled it back. "No mum didn't tell me…now give me back my book."
The younger sister leapt out of the chair laughing. "Oh touchy." She stated making a swift exit out the door.
Everyone else in the building had long since left for home. It was almost eight o'clock and Tess sat in her dark room silently developing her photos.
She had arrived back at work earlier in the day, to find the place in a mad rush. It seemed that there had been some kind of booking mix up, and it was a good job Tess had showed up when she did, and effectively saved Snap Shots hassle free reputation. Still she wasn't too pleased that she had to do an animal shoot. It made her wonder where the cat was while she took the Mayors sitting, and she realised Robert had been winding her up on that part. With a growl she made a mental note to get him back for that one.
Developing each picture by hand, Tess mechanically carried out the familiar process. She picked up a photo and looked at the in the dim light, it was Nikki. The woman's round innocent looking, blue eyes stared straight at her. She had a slight introspective look on her face, and held what Tess thought looked like a secret smile. The tall woman smiled at the picture, it was indeed a striking shot, and she was sure it would be a favourite.
Sitting back into her chair she continued to look at the picture. She felt a tug of familiarity every time her own green eyes moved to look into the blue ones. It was a peculiar feeling and one she ignored thinking it was one of those strange 'dÈjà vu type things'.
Putting the photo on the side she continued with the rest of the developing, but every so often her eyes would return to the picture.
End of part 1
This story is finished and will be continued in part 2 very soon.