Worth More Than Words Ch. 01byupsux©
I sat on the balcony of my apartment watching the low waves hit the pier and reflected on how my family had changed in the past two years of my life. I'm the middle child of three with an older brother and younger sister, and at 35 years old I'd thought I'd seen it all and experienced life as much as could be expected. I'm a successful photographer with a vast portfolio of ... let me rephrase that: I'm a struggling photographer who has too much debt and not nearly enough inspiration. I've never been married and have no kids despite the constant urging of my family. As if to make up for my lack of procreation my siblings have decided to take up the slack and between them have seven kids.
Because I have no wife or kids for myself I've outright spoiled, when I could, all my nieces and nephews. From the popular video games and iPod to the tickets to a desperately needed to see concert or event I was the uncle who got things done. Now that times are tight I have to look for other ways to provide gifts and presents with a shrinking budget to do so. Maintaining the favorite status hasn't been easy and it has caused a little tension between my brother from time to time when it came to his oldest daughter. She was the first of the seven and has always been my unabashed favorite. She has always been comfortable around me and I was the first to hear about a LOT of things her mom and dad probably should have heard about first.
She was graduating this year and was eagerly looking forward to getting the hell out of high school and into college. I gave her advice on how to map out a major - but we all know how those plans change. Melanie was a headstrong brunette who gave my brother all the trouble he and his wife could handle. She was a smart girl, and beautiful, but she had inherited my brother's single-minded determination to earn or otherwise get what she wanted. As I said she was a senior this year so getting out of the house, out of the state, and out of our family's little safety net was exactly what she wanted - that and ironically enough she HAD to have great prom pictures. She has a bit of a fastidious gene in her somewhere and when it comes to pictures she is very determined to make sure they are perfect.
The one thing she was looking for that I could give her as a present was my chance to help her finish high school in style. When we all got together for Christmas I offered to do them for free and she jumped at the chance. She's been to my small storefront studio her whole life and while her tastes have changed from liking broad skylines and flower close-ups to more "expressive" shots I was sure she would be happy with how they turned out. She had gotten into a little bit of trouble a year or so ago while she waited in my office as I talked to her dad. There was a package of nudes I had just been reviewing on my desk and her curiosity got the better of her so she opened the envelope to peruse its contents. I don't blatantly show adult-natured images in the gallery, but there are usually some in my office I'm proofing. It's nothing too overt or sexual, just tasteful nudes from people who want the images of their bodies captured at their best. The occasional airbrushing never hurts though, and for some I needed a lot of air.
Anyway, my brother's wife was super pissed at me for "leaving them out" and my brother was a little disappointed I was doing "that kind of work." Melanie was embarrassed and we've kept it as a subtle joke between us when it comes to opening presents, mail, or other trivial moments. My sister-in-law is still fuming about it to this day and she nagged my brother until he cut out her visits to my studio almost completely. That was, until it was time for the free pictures. I suppose it was the thought of professional work done for free that helped them turn that corner and look at my job for what it is, a way to make money and enjoy the art I love. I suggested that they come down beforehand to get used to the process and had offered to let her sit in with a scheduled shoot I had with a local model. I wanted Melanie's pictures to be perfect for her and she excitedly agreed to my offer but emphatically demanded she be the model. She was working the deal into what was essentially turning into a free modeling shoot.
I don't normally see Melanie nervous, she has a maturity that most girls her age don't and while she was just finishing up high school she looked at the world in a way most people in their twenties fail to observe. My brother was with her as they arrived and after short greetings due to a ringing phone he found his way to a new selection of shots I'd taken of a busy highway at night. Melanie had a bag and a half of outfits and her hair had been done "perfectly" as I'm sure she saw it. She had a quasi-tomboy/emo look to her this year, her short hair was brushed in front of the right side of her face and her eyes were made up just a little darker than I'm sure her mother would have liked to have seen. I showed her where the changing room was, the array of props and seats, and reassured her that this was just a no-pressure shoot to get her used to being in front of a real camera. I let my brother know it would take as long as needed to make her feel comfortable in front of the lens.
We quickly set about the business of the day with my brother giving her advice on how to sit or stand that seriously tested my nerves and Melanie choosing a ton of goofy poses which seriously tested my patience. She was a lovely girl and she really shot well in her favorite polo and jeans. I encouraged her to relax, look up, or smile as the need presented itself and she was a great first-time model. I think the undivided attention she was receiving boosted her up a little bit and she really began to smile a lot more as we proceeded. There's never been too much physical contact between us outside of a holiday hug and peck on the cheek so the increased touching and positioning the job called for was a weird gray area we were crossing into. She was getting a model-style photo session as a practice run before prom and the real photos were sure to blow her friends' out of the water.
She had a few test shots with her letter jacket on, a few more with some random clothes and hair changes, and we had finally reached the end of the afternoon, long after my brother was bored and went home with instructions to call when she was done. She had one more outfit to put on and despite how well we were getting along and how much she had opened up I was ready to get going home. Part of me was proud about how beautiful she had turned out to be as model while another was cautious with my praise and attention. I was careful not to sound too flirty with my comments or too forward with my poses but our existing comfort level removed any hesitation she might have had and our personalities were in perfect sync.
We weren't doing anything terribly complex but before long she knew what I was going to ask her to do without being told and I knew where the line had to be drawn with what photos I did and didn't take. She was my favorite niece, I was her favorite uncle, but we were still niece and uncle at the end of the day. We'd been at it all day and as I'd said, she had gotten very relaxed and open with how we were working together, what we talked about, and how she wanted to be photographed. I didn't hesitate to touch her arms, legs, or face as I made small corrections and she had stopped tensing up when I did it after the first outfit change. She tended to lightly close her eyes when I touched her face, which was normal for beginners and she was always suppressing a smile when it happened, at least in the beginning. After several hours of it she had begun blushing when I touched her face, head or neck. She was starting to understand how truly erotic being a model could be and I was quickly discovering how beautiful this young woman truly was.
She excused herself to change and came back in a cream sweater and khakis with her hair pinned up and I thought this was going to be a quick and easy end to the day. I had a bit of trouble with her faux glasses and the lights so after a flurry of shading and detailed changes with her poses we were back on track. I shot her quickly this time around and stuck with some of the basic poses and seating arrangements she had used earlier to expedite the last part of the shoot. She looked very grown up and professional sitting there and I had to remind myself she was only eighteen.
"Alright sweetheart, we're all done!" I exclaimed as I put the cap back on my lens and turned the dimmer up on the small studio's main lights. I shut off the music and started to put various props back into position.
"Heh, yeah Mel we're done, you did great today, I'm really proud of you."
"I've never done anything like this before; do you think they'll turn out okay?"
"Oh I'm sure they'll look great, I'll let you know when they come back and we can sit down together to pick which ones you like and we should touch up." I realized too late that was a bad choice of words to use with a teenage girl.
"Touch up, what do you mean? Was there something wrong?" Her hands grazed her cheeks and hair feeling for some unseen blemish. Wonderful.
"No, no it isn't that, all models have small things they don't like about an otherwise great picture, it's how this all works. We'll look over your favorites and make any changes you want. You might not like the way the light is on your face or something like that, we'll make the adjustments so they're perfect." She was smiling again and I felt relieved that I hadn't ruined such a perfect afternoon with a stupid slip up.
"So all models do that or just the ones you take pictures of naked?" Her gorgeous smile was big and I realized she had fooled me about being upset with the touch ups. Little smartass.
"Very funny, you're lucky your dad isn't here to hear that, or worse yet your mom."
"Ugh I know, she talked to me about that for a week afterwards. I was like mom; I know what naked people look like already." She was walking slowly toward my table of cameras equipment while she told me the tale of her mother's week-long rehabilitation program to get her to forget she saw a naked photograph. At the time she was 17 for fuck's sake, she'd probably already had sex and if she hadn't that's what senior prom was for. They'd better keep their eyes on her that night otherwise some lucky dumbfuck senior was going to have one hell of a night with this perfect...
What the fuck was I thinking?
"Umm, Uncle Mike? Hellooo, do we have anything left to do?" She was standing ten feet away and I had been completely lost in thought while putting my smaller gear away.
"Do you need to take anymore pictures with my other outfits or should I change again while you look at what you have?" She had a quizzical look on her face and a smirk like she caught me not paying attention.
"Oh, sorry ... no it takes a while to get them all ready to review, just put on what is most comfortable and I'll call your dad to come pick you up."
"Do we have time for one more outfit? I promise it'll be fast!!" she was pleading a little now and while my head was yelling "NO, NO, NO" I just said "yes" out of habit and courtesy.
"Yes! You're the best, be right back!" she leapt back toward the chair, grabbed her bag and went into the small changing room in the far corner. For my part I stood there with my head hung down and completely sure I was going to get into trouble for something no matter how this turned out.
I began to set up the few things I had taken down and turned the main studio lights back down to the previous levels. I dragged a few props back into the center of the studio as well, nothing special just a small stool, a white ladder, a low-backed bench - standard senior photo props. I was back into my bag of accessories when her cough - her nervous cough - broke my attention and I looked up to her.
I didn't hear her return but as my eyes rose to her call for attention I wished I had. She was wearing a small blue and white plaid bikini with a towel around her waist like she was going to a beach. The towel was a matching color with broad stripes, really a nice touch for an amateur, and it was cinched low in front right under the crest of her hips and flat across under her navel. She wasn't tanned or made up to look anything other than herself but her smooth skin and tight body removed any notion that this final set of photos would be easy to get through. The top of the bikini was snug on her body with her young breasts carefully concealed behind the blue and white triangles of cloth. I couldn't believe she was allowed to own it and I really couldn't believe she was wearing it.
"What's wrong... don't you like it?" Her nervous face flashed up and she immediately dropped her expression to one of unsettled anxiety.
"Melanie ... I uh ... no it's not that I mean it's nice but it just isn't what I was expecting." I had to physically force my eyes to stare at a spot slightly above her nose so I could remain focused above her shoulders and still keep from seeing her eyes.
She fiddled nervously with her hands and looked at me like a lost fawn in a forest. She was a spectacle of youth and beauty and she wanted me to take her picture, but toward what end? There was no way I could show these proofs to her parents, the mere thought of her posing in a bikini even if it was for me was just a shade or two above posing nude. And those were some really thin shades at that. Her mom was a very strict Christian and while my brother doesn't believe as strongly as she does he knows enough about politics to let her call the shots when it comes to decency and what she is allowed to wear. This was Sodom and Gomorrah in blue gingham. If I was turning in to a pillar of salt I couldn't tell by the taste, my tongue was swollen in my mouth and speaking of swollen, I was glad I was standing behind waist-high modeling blocks.
She quietly sat down on the padded leather chair she had been on earlier and after adjusting her towel to properly cover her legs she looked up at me and smiled again. I was still too far away to take photos and while I looked forward to taking these I wanted it done fast. Summoning my courage I flipped off my lens cap and moved in to take her final group of pictures. For her part she sat relatively still and flashed a sweet smile while fixing a few loose strands of hair. She was definitely nervous or anxious perhaps, and was fidgeting with the side of her towel and hands.
"Why don't you use the ladder, I'll crop out the side it'll look kinda' like a lifeguard chair" I suggested as I put my game face on and moved in to range.
She pushed the chair back a foot or two and leaned against the white prop ladder facing left with both elbows just under chin level on the wooden steps. Our mental bond was gone now and she looked awkward, lost, and in dire need of instructions. My habits kicked back in and I began to adjust the filters, the area around the props, and I put a finishing touch on the lighting before walking softly toward my niece. She still had a smile on her face but the mask of control was gone now. Her eyes dropped to the floor and darted to one side or the other as I got closer, each step taking a mile and each breath a lifetime.
"You need to relax Mel" I said with a smile. "You look beautiful and these will be your best photos of the day when we're through. Now, for starters let's frame your face a little differently by ..."
I wanted to move her elbows slightly apart to form a triangle with the ladder's step as the base and her folded hands as the top. Because of how she was standing and the fact that she had to lean forward to rest her cheek on her clasped hands I had to stand behind her and make the necessary adjustments. I tried to keep myself off of her body as best I could but the simple physics of how I we were standing made contact inevitable. We hadn't been this close before and the lack of music and low lights made every brush against her skin erotic on the side of sexual.
I leaned in slowly and gently lifted her left elbow to the third pip on the ladder's step. I kept my hand on her arm as I reached over and did the same with her right arm. Much like the board markers in a bowling alley my props were set up for symmetrical poses and imaging. After getting both elbows exactly where they needed to be I wasn't happy with her face being stuck on her crossed thumbs. I wanted to dip her right shoulder a smidge and not thinking I ran my hands up her arms to her shoulders and adjusted from there.
I've done that many times, with many models both male and female, but this time it felt different. Our contact was bordering on electric and her soft, warm skin felt like pure heaven. I saw her cheeks were bright red and I feared that I had embarrassed her or crossed the line with my thoughtlessness. My apology was leaving my mouth just as a soft whimper left hers. She quickly looked away from me to stare straight forward as I swallowed my wordless admission of guilt. Her arms were goose pimply and I knew I had to recover quickly to keep us out of trouble.
I took my hands off of her right shoulder and gently placed it on the back of her head to slowly turn it to the left. She caught her breath as I touched her but didn't resist the movement. I moved now to her left side to finish her pose and her eyes were wide when I saw them. Her cheeks were flushed and the top of her neck was aflame. Her breathing wasn't normal and she looked extremely nervous and timid now. I wanted to lift her chin but wasn't sure how she would react so I let it go and backed up to get my camera.
"Alright Mels, smile big" I added with a smile to break the ice. It didn't work.
"Mel, honey? Are you okay?"
She was just standing still and looking at me with a vacant stare. Her breathing was short and quick and the bright hue on her cheeks and neck were still blooming. As if on cue she shook her head slightly and refocused her gaze before fixing an invisible strand of hair. Of course this broke the pose and I walked toward her to fix her arms.
"Third line? I got it ... we're good right?" She was getting her confidence back and had reset her elbows as I had placed them but the head was still not quite there.
"Elbows look just fine, but I wanted to get your head back to where it was. Hold still and just tilt a little to the right ... turn a bit to the left ..." I told her how to move but with all newer models they tend to overcompensate for their hesitancy with larger than needed shifts.
"Almost there, here ..." I reached out to her chin and adjusted her face toward me slightly while turning her head a bit downward.
She flinched when my fingers touched her chin and closed her eyes a second too long as I set her face toward me. When her eyes opened she had them locked on me and their beautiful blue shown like Neptune in the night sky. My adjustment of her head closed her eyes again as we stood close to one another, me the loving uncle and photographer and she the beautiful niece and model. I lingered a second longer with her lovely head in my hands and let go slowly with her eyes opening only after my touch was released.
She smiled timidly and put her game face back on as I backed away slowly. I brought my camera up to my eye I was able to catch my breath for just a moment before her beauty took it from my lungs once more. She was both radiant in her innocence and dark in her seduction. The towel covered her from mid-calf to her belly but stopped right above her bikini and the soft curve of her abdomen rose and merged perfectly with her firm breasts, her smooth shoulders, and her exposed neck.
I immediately set about shooting faceless images of her body. The gentle curve of her shoulder as it blended with the diving arc of her toned neck. The taunt firmness of her stomach leading up to the soft fullness of her young breasts. The pink lobe of her ear as it was lightly covered by the loose strands of her fresh brunette hair. The tender swell of her perfect breasts straining the front of her bikini and her smooth chest merging flawlessly with her neck and shoulders. And finally back down to her flat stomach as it dropped to the towel snuggly held under her waistline and the forbidden, yet teasingly close, area below.