tagExhibitionist & VoyeurPicture Worth a Thousand Words Ch. 01

Picture Worth a Thousand Words Ch. 01


Chapter 1

Justin Cavalier was a photographer. And a darn good one at that. But the last couple of years had not been kind to him. Sitting in the living room of his best friends Sophie and Hank Millington, Justin sipped at his scotch on the rocks. Hank was a banker and had been friends with Justin for the better part of ten years. Hank was a good head height shorter than Justin, but kept in shape and often tried to look like a muscled action star from decades passed. He was always immaculately groomed with not a hair out of place. Justin was always slender and easy on the eyes as he was always told. Not the hottest guy around, Hank was the one to think of himself that way, but still attractive enough that Justin would always garner a second look from the opposite sex.

Sophie was a salesperson for a local car dealership and was often ranked in the top two performers each month. Her bubbly personality, platinum blonde hair, model-like face and slender body helping with those sales figures. Her laugh was infectious, and she could put people at ease by simply talking with them. She was lovely, but she also knew how to look sexy and keep people on side. Being easy on the eyes was what attracted Hank to her in the first place. That and he saw Sophie as a trophy, even if he had never let on that was the case.

Justin had known Sophie for nearly fifteen years, given that she was his deceased wife's best friend from school. They got on a like a house on fire and were good friends straight away. When he lost his wife Bethany, Sophie was there as support along with her husband Hank. Nothing was ever too much trouble and they made sure he was back on his feet in no time. The support network that they built around him, was truly wonderful and he owed them a lot. The dirty dozen, as he called them were lifelong friends that he and his wife had been part of, as they traversed this thing called life.

Dinner had gone well, with Justin enjoying everyone's company. Next time it would be at his place, with a full-on barbecue, and some warmer weather. Hopefully they could get a small pool going and have a pool party, which would be a change from the formal dining they had been used to. Justin filled his glass with two fingers of scotch and sat down on the sofa in Sophie and Hank's living room. A place he would often call his second home. He looked to his left where there was a photo of the four of them sitting on the side table. Bethany was hugging Sophie, her bright smile a delight. Her long dark brown hair loose and waving in the wind. In Justin's eyes she was beautiful. Hell, he would often compliment his wife only for her to blush and tell him to stop. It didn't matter if others said the same thing, she always would blush and shake her head. But it was true, there was just something about her that was attractive. Bethany and Sophie were of a similar build, with Bethany having wider hips and a different jaw line to Sophie. Both of them had been cheerleaders in high school, but Sophie always seemed more popular with the opposite sex. Perhaps it was to do with her personality, given that Bethany was a little bit shyer and not as extroverted as Sophie. Justin smiled, remembering that picture, the four of them having fun at a concert.

"What's it been, nearly two years now?" Sophie asked looking at Justin. The breast cancer that Bethany had was aggressive, and it quickly took hold, shortening her life considerably. They tried to make her comfortable and do things she always wanted to do, but time was short. They didn't get to do everything. It had haunted Justin for a while.

"Yeah, that's gone by quick," Justin replied looking into his drink. "I never would have thought I would have gotten this far." Having lost his wife Bethany, of ten years, Justin still caught up with the dirty dozen as they called themselves. His and Bethany's friends who were more like family than anything else. Sophie Millington had been their maid of honour at his wedding to Bethany and was still checking up on him every day since her passing. The six couples that made up the group caught up monthly for dinner, and this time it was at Sophie's bequest that they all have dinner at her place. The two-year anniversary of Bethany's death was fast approaching and she knew that Justin shouldn't be alone at this time of year. Everyone bar Justin had already left, with Sophie and Hank pleading with him to spend the night instead of going to his empty house. Justin agreed and figured it would be worthwhile to drown his sorrows and not have to drive.

"Beth's passing was a loss to us all," Sophie said sipping her wine. "So, how's business going?"

"Oh, so-so," Justin said taking a swig of his scotch. That was an understatement, but he simply felt like getting drunk and forgetting his troubles. Not that he was much of a drinker.

"That good huh?" Hank asked sitting back down next to his buddy. Primped and always seemingly on show was how Hank seemed to relax. There was only one state and that was it. Everybody else would slump into the couch, but not Hank. It just wasn't his style.

"Well, yeah, no," Justin replied with a sigh. "I think I've got probably three months left before I need to close the doors and find another job. Six, if I'm lucky."

"What?!" Hank asked astonished at the admission his best friends business was failing.

"The work just isn't coming in. I've tried a couple of things, but nothing is working," Justin replied flatly. Truth be told, it hadn't been the same since Bethany had died. He had his assistant Miriam working for him, but the photography jobs just seemed so hard to come by, not that he was trying very hard to get many. He had taken a few knocks in recent months, losing some corporate jobs to others and even missing out on a wedding, which only made him sink further into his current situation.

"What do you think would turn it around?" Sophie asked sitting on the edge of her seat.

"Simply put," Justin replied feeling courageous enough to answer truthfully. Sophie nodded and Hank shrugged while sipping his beer. "I think a nude pictorial would do it. A book of tasteful nudes, would sell like hotcakes."

"Nudes? Really?" Hank asked astonished at the admission. Sophie on the other hand didn't seemed phased by it.

"Tasteful nudes are popular," Sophie said sipping her wine.

"Damn right. The last one I heard about sold a million copies. If I could get half that," Justin said sipping his drink and thinking about all the possibilities of such a successful project. "It'd keep the doors open for a long time..."

"So why don't you just do it?" Hank asked sculling what was left of his beer.

"Do you need help or," Sophie asked wondering why Justin hadn't delved in head first and simply done it. It wasn't like him to give up like he had.

"If I only had the guts to do it, you know, put out a book like that," Justin said downing his scotch. "I'd probably be doing ok. It'd get my confidence back up and get the studio back on track."

"A book, of artistic portraits and the like?" Hank asked curiously.

"Yeah, black and white nudes, that's the market at the moment," Justin replied frankly. "I just need to find some people to take photos of, hopefully not too expensive though, as I don't have that much cash at the moment."

"I see," Hank said with a grin. Justin didn't notice but Sophie had an idea of what it was about.

"I'm sure something will come up," Sophie said giving Hank a knowing look. Unbeknownst to Justin, Sophie was cooking up a plan to get her friend back on track and Hank was all for it.

Chapter 2

Miriam Greene dusted the furniture in the large studio. She was the twenty-five-year-old assistant that Justin had hired a few years before Bethany died. Miriam had been a rock for Justin, always being a shoulder to lean on and an ear to listen when he needed it most. She was wise beyond her years and beautiful to boot. She had a lovely soul and that is what Justin admired most about the curvaceous brunette. Funnily, for someone so pretty, he often wondered if she was single or not, given that Miriam never talked about anyone. There had to be hundreds of men that tried to pick her up, not to mention a number of women over the years. But still, he never felt comfortable to ask given that she would let on she was by herself on weekends and what not. Perhaps she kept it a secret because she felt ashamed, not that he knew, but that didn't matter to Justin and he didn't care. He simply wanted her to be happy.

"Good morning," Justin said warmly to Miriam. He handed her an envelope and she stopped, looking at him quizzically.

"Morning," Miriam said opening the envelope slowly as if it was some prank.

"I know it's a little early, but I thought I would give it to you now," Justin said with a smile. "I hope you don't mind."

"Not at all. But you didn't have to do this," Miriam said looking at the tickets to the concert of her favourite band and a gift voucher to her favourite clothing store. She looked at Justin with surprise and then excitement.

"Nonsense. Your birthday is after they're in town and I figured you'd like to go... so, what's a couple of weeks early?" Justin said seeing Miriam's eyes light up. Her eyes sparkled when she smiled.

"Oh, thank you Justin," Miriam said giving him a big warm hug. He hesitated and then put his arms around her when it was obvious she wasn't letting go quickly. "It means a lot."

"You're welcome," Justin said as Miriam pulled back and seemed to jump for joy.

"I can't wait! This is awesome!" Miriam said walking over to her desk and putting the present in her handbag.

Before they could converse any further the front door to the studio opened and Sophie walked in, her casual style relaxing the excitement in the room. Instead of her usual corporate suits and attire, Sophie was in skin tight jeans and a white t-shirt that seemed to flatter her figure. Her hips sways as she walked in, her small handbag slung over one shoulder while she flipped her blonde locks over the other shoulder with her free hand. Sophie had a way of lighting up a room when she entered. The only other person Justin knew to be able to do that was Bethany and to him, his late wife sparkled.

"Hey," Justin said as Sophie walked with him to the office at the back.

"Hi," Sophie said reaching over and kissing him on the cheek. He gave her a hug as was customary and showed her to the couch in the office.

"What brings you by?" Justin asked sitting down next to her and causing their legs to touch.

"Jules will be here any minute," Sophie replied with a smile. True to her word, Julia knocked on the office door frame and peered inside. Her smile led her into the office and her eyes lit up when she saw both Sophie and Justin. Dressed in a pant suit, Julia was a picture of old-style beauty. She wasn't perfect by any measure, her teeth weren't completely straight, but gave her character and her ears were a sore point for her. Julia's dark red hair was always coifed in an old-style fashion, looking like she was from the forties or fifties, and today was no different. She had long legs and was slender even though she was shapely in all the areas that counted.

"Hey," Julia said putting her handbag down and walking with arms outstretched to give Sophie a hug. They embraced, pecking each other on the lips which was standard fare amongst their group of friends. She then turned her attention to Justin.

"Hi Jules," Justin said as she hugged him tightly and pecked him on the lips.

"It's good to see you," Julia said looking into Justin's eyes. He motioned for her to take a seat on the couch while he pulled up a chair and sat in front of them.

"You too Jules," Justin said warmly. She smiled at him and patted his knee before crossing her legs and getting comfortable. She had an elegance about her, like a British aristocrat.

"I've been giving your dilemma some thought," Sophie said happily. "And I think we've come up with a solution."

"We?" Justin asked wondering who she had spoken to, considering it was only her and Hank at dinner.

"Yes, we," Julia said with a smirk and a nod. It was obvious she wasn't about to be kept out of this conversation.

"I've been doing a lot of thinking and I think we can make this work, if you'll have me help that is?" Sophie said touching his leg. Justin looked at both of them and waited to see if there was any more to be said.

"Ok, you've got some models lined up ready to go?" Justin asked seeing Sophie's face change. "I am assuming you are talking about my lack of work dilemma and not something else, right?"

"That's the one," Sophie said with a smirk.

"So, what's the problem? Why the look?" Justin asked wondering what was going on.

"Well, it's like this, I don't know any models," Sophie replied her demeanour changing for a moment and then back to normal.

"And I don't either, but," Julia said but Justin cut her off.

"So, what then? No models, no photos," Justin said trying to understand how Sophie was going to solve his nude portfolio problem.

"Well, we thought you could shoot us," Sophie said with a smile.

"Us?" Justin asked unsure of what she meant.

"Yes, us. Me, Julia, Hank, Lucy, Scott, Barbie, Holly," Sophie replied but Justin cut in.

"The dirty dozen? You want to pose nude... for me?" Justin asked unsure if this was a good idea. Julia seemed to be brimming with excitement which was washing off on Sophie.

"Not just nude. We'd have to work up to that, but yes, us. We are in pretty great shape," Sophie replied with a smile.

"I think it'd be a fabulous idea," Julia said still smiling like a Cheshire cat. "Our group is pretty liberal. We all get along like family and when someone is in need we all chip in. That's what we do. Remember?"

"No. I can't do that. I can't ask you to do that," Justin said rejecting the idea. "It would be weird."

"No, it wouldn't! And besides, with my sales background, I think we could make a big go of it, get you back on track," Sophie said proudly. "And I won't be taking no for an answer."

"We're going to do this," Julia said in a firm tone. She was known to get her own way. "We're not called the dirty dozen for nothing you know."

"And here I was thinking the name was because of that gladiator mud game thing we won as a team," Justin said shaking his head, but he knew what she meant.

"Come on, we've gone past that. Lucy is filthy, Simon too, the dirty stuff he comes up with, not to mention Hank and I. Never mind Hank and I," Sophie said as Julia laughed.

"We're all dirty in some way," Julia said covering her mouth slightly with her hand in a very lady-like manner.

"But..." Justin said but Sophie cut him off.

"But nothing! And what about Miriam?" Sophie asked looking at his assistant as she pottered around the studio.

"What about her?" Justin replied looking at his lovely assistant.

"She'd photograph well," Sophie said with a nod.

"I agree, the more the merrier," Julia said looking at Sophie and giving her a look that Justin didn't pick up on.

"No! That's crossing the line," Justin said feeling protective of Miriam in a way he didn't realise. He didn't let on, but wanted to keep things professional with Miriam. She was lovely and had a curvaceous shape, but he didn't want to ruin all his friendships over a book.

"Ok, fine. It's settled then. Julia will be in here tomorrow and we can start," Sophie said firmly, with Julia giving a nod of approval.

"I'm so excited! I'm tingling all over," Julia said as the two ladies clutched hands like excited schoolgirls.

"Julia? Why Julia first? Are you sure about this?" Justin asked wondering how it could all come together so quickly. This all felt like a bit of a setup and Justin wanted to make sure he wasn't getting into something he would regret.

"She was the one that suggested it," Sophie replied with a shrug. "Once the idea was borne, everybody jumped at the chance to help out. Simple really."

"Sorry Justin, but it's true. I've wanted you to shoot me for a while, but things never really lined up. Now, well, it's a good excuse and I think it's going to be fabulous!" Julia said giddy with excitement.

"Oh," Justin said with a nod. Sophie took his hand and looked into his eyes.

"We all love you Justin. We'd do anything to help get you back on your feet. It can't have been easy not to have someone to be with through all this," Sophie said warmly. "So, just let us help you. Okay?"

"Okay," Justin said with a weak smile. The fact that his friends had wanted to help him like this meant the world. He would never have guessed they would go this far for him, but here they were going the extra mile. All he could do was pull it all together and make them proud.

"And you are going to keep me looking natural, aren't you? Get my best features?" Julia said more as a statement than a question. Justin knew what she was on about, having to put her opinion forward to get what she wanted.

"Yes, of course," Justin said but Julia cut in again.

"I don't want it to look pornographic. It has to be natural and tasteful and," Julia said but Justin put his hand on her knee which seemed to get her attention.

"Just let me handle it okay? I promise to take every flattering angle and make you look like a supermodel," Justin said which seemed to warm Julia's heart and cool her ambitious nature. The smile she had said it all, she was content with his answer.

"So, do we have any research material we can use to help get us in the mood?" Sophie said with a giggle. That girlish giggle was infectious and made people laugh, even if they didn't want to.

"Sure do, peruse these and you'll get the idea of what I'm going for," Justin said handing Sophie a few black and white nude photos. She looked at them slowly and seemed to be checking them out intently.

"They are beautiful!" Sophie said in astonishment, as her eyes widened further at each beautiful photo.

"Holy cow, these are amazing!" Julia said looking at the photos in awe. "I'd buy several copies of the book if we looked like this!"

"I had no idea. So, you won't see our faces?" Sophie asked inquisitively.

"Not unless you want to, no," Justin said which seemed to cheer up Sophie further, which he thought impossible, given how bubbly she had been.

"What are you going to call the book?" Julia asked still scanning the photos.

"I'm not sure. How about the Dirty Dozen?" Justin replied with a smirk referencing their friendship group. Both Julia and Sophie seemed to like the name, nodding in agreement. Not that Justin had set anything in concrete yet.

"This is going to be so much fun," Sophie said happily. "I can't wait."

"Me either! Justin, this is going to be great, you wait and see," Julia said grabbing his knee once more but not letting go of it. Justin suddenly felt there was more going on that meets the eye but didn't want to cause a commotion at the moment. He had to think through things and see if he was being silly or not. Time would tell. But Julia would look good in these shots, she had the body for it and Justin knew this book would sell well with the right look. Now all he had to was pull it off.

Chapter 3

Julia Moorsefield was nervous. She had known Justin and his late wife for nearly a decade and was totally comfortable around them. But this was different. There was something exciting yet nerve racking about it all. The studio consisted of a large room off the reception area, where this lighting stage was set up, a smaller room off to the left for portraits, changing rooms on the right, a small office at the back and a kitchenette that looked incredibly smart in amongst it all. The walls had pictures of landscapes, corporate buildings and people in various poses on the walls displaying the kind of work Justin undertook. The stark white paint underpinned it all, with some painted brick and big windows at the front letting in plenty of natural light at the reception desk. The studio was in the heart of the CBD, with side lane access and a pleasant frontage on the main street. In the right hands, this real estate would be worth a fortune. Justin was lucky to have picked it up years ago when everything was still cheap.

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