This Picture was giving me such feels today, I had to write a piece inspired by it. At 4,056 words here is it. Enjoy!
Point and Shoot
“Faith is taking the first step, even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”
—Martin Luther King Jr.
“This is completely unnecessary.” Jackie yawned through the whole statement, and it lost some of its authoritative bite.
“Humor me.” Corinne gave her a toothy grin, complete with dimples hoping this would be the end of the conversation, but doubtful just the same. She turned just in time to see Jackie rolling her eyes all the way up into the back of her head. The other woman had a gift, really. She wanted to laugh, but she needed to be as serious as possible.
“But if this is for Valentine’s Day, shouldn’t we both be happy with this presentation of love? This seems like something just for you.” Jackie scowled and slumped her shoulders for good measure. Corinne blinked several times, taken aback. Tears rushed to her eyes and she blinked several more times trying to hold them at bay. Finally she put her hands on her hips and turned to face her girlfriend.
“Jacquelyn Marie Oaks, I’ve dealt with a lot. You don’t believe in engagements, I said fine. I’m just happy to be with you. You don’t believe in gay marriage, even though you are completely in a monogamous, lifelong relationship with me. Even though we marched to get it legalized. I said fine. Even though that was hard as hell! You said—“ the tears that she said she wouldn’t let fall were now streaming down Corinne’s face. Jackie’s eyes were rolling again.
“Ugh. Corinne…listen—“ She rose from the bed and put her hands on Corinne’s shoulders, but Corinne shrugged them off.
“Don’t you dare. Don’t you try to reason me out of this. I want this photo shoot. It is not unnecessary. Not if you care about me and about what I want. I have put everything I wanted on hold for you and you can’t even do this one thing for me. This is the definition of unfair. Why am I even here? Why are we together?!” Corinne threw up her hands and started pacing. Her breathing was growing more and more rapid by the moment.
“Why do you always have to take it there?! Why is it always immediately a matter of throwing out the whole entire four year relationship?”
“Because there’s no compromise. Unless you think something is a wonderful idea, you don’t want to do it. And I don’t get a better explanation than that. I’m just supposed to be happy with whatever you bestow upon me out of your sheer benevolence.” Corinne ended the whole sarcastic statement with an over-dramatic, flourishing bow. Jackie made a sound in the back of her throat, somewhere between a growl and a groan.
“Stop being so dramatic. And stay on topic. I just think this photoshoot is a bad idea. I don’t want to spend an afternoon with some perv who feels like staring at half naked lesbians all day, fulfilling all his hidden wet dreams.” Jackie nodded firmly like she was just saying what they were both thinking.
“Now who’s being dramatic? We’re not going to be half naked. We’re wearing tube tops. And you don’t know if this guy has any weird lesbian fantasies anyway. He could just be an awesome photographer.” Corinne shrugged innocently and was met with a droll stare.
“Is he straight? Then of course he has lesbian fantasies. I just don’t want to be the subject of them. Being gawked at all afternoon like I’m a zoo exhibit just isn’t my idea of a good time.” Jackie plopped back down on the bed. Corinne stopped speaking like she didn’t have any fight left. Jackie wanted to feel the sense of victory…except Corinne looked like she didn’t have any fight left. Her mouth twisted to one side, a lone dimple creasing her cheek, but her eyes slipped closed and her shoulders slumped in defeat.
“You promised me this year would be different.” Corinne shook her head and walked out of the room. Jackie’s eyes narrowed. She wasn’t going to lose this one. She bolted up from the comfort of the bed and rushed after Corinne.
“Yeah, after you broke up with me for like the fifth time!” Jackie shouted after Corinne, proud that she had made her statement heard. Corinne rounded on her in the hallway, and Jackie stopped short, the space between them closed much faster than Jackie anticipated. Corinne’s eyes were sad. Her face was completely serious.
“Is this a game to you? You think I’m doing this to torture you? You think I’m that naive? You think I don’t know that someone might want to take advantage of me? You think I don’t know that someone might have a sexual thought about us? What I’m telling you is that I’ve done my research. I’ve looked at his photographs. I’ve looked at his work and I’ve talked with him. Extensively. You would know that because you refused to be part of any of the preparations leading up to today. This was all I wanted for Valentine’s Day and I’m paying for it all. All I asked you to do was show up. And now you’re taking back your part in that too. I needed this because I needed something. You won’t get engaged to me. You won’t marry me. You won’t even let me move in here full time. You’ve lead me on this entire time. I’ve been nothing but up front with you, and from the moment we got together you knew I wanted everything from a relationship. I never once deceived you. So yes, I know full well that someone could want to take advantage of me. But the only person I see doing it here, is you.” Corinne turned her back on Jackie again. “We should have stayed broken up. I’m doing this photoshoot with or without you.” With those last soft-spoken words, she walked into the bathroom and softly closed the door behind her.
Jackie scowled, her mouth twisting and her brow furrowing almost until her face hurt. She wasn’t wrong about this. She really didn’t want to do this photoshoot. But the one thing that scared her worst than Corinne yelling, was Corinne deadly quiet. Whenever she was faced with a choice like this, she knew that she wasn’t ready to do all those crazy things Corinne was talking about. Marriage and engagements and everything. It simply wasn’t her thing. But she didn’t want to lose Corinne. Shaking her head, she trudged back into the bedroom to figure out something to wear to this photoshoot.
The ride to the mid-town Manhattan studio was quiet. Corinne said nothing, and neither did Jackie. They sat beside one another in the car, but it was like there was an invisible barrier between them that neither would cross. Corinne even left the car in silence until Jackie decided to turn on the radio. But she didn’t feel like fiddling with the stations. Playing DJ was something that Corinne normally did and Jackie wasn’t used to figuring it all out on her own. If she were being honest with herself, it made Jackie sad to pick music on her own. She was used to Corinne picking songs and getting excited when it seemed like the radio DJs read her mind and played exactly what she wanted to hear at that moment. She was used to Corinne singing along with music with her usual boundless energy. She didn’t like this quiet. So she left it on one station and let it rock, even through the commercials, while she drove through the city to get to the studio.
When she parked and turned off the car down the block from the address, she looked at Corinne. Corinne was still looking out the window. When she finally took her eyes off the window, it was to check her phone.
“Listen, Cori, you know I didn’t—“
‘He’s expecting us.” Corinne had the door open and she was out before Jackie could finish speaking. The door closed on Jackie and her half-finished statement and Jackie sighed. This was going to be a long afternoon.
Jackie didn’t attempt to talk to Corinne again during the elevator ride, or in the walk down the corridor until they got to the building suite that said “Fotografie” on the door. Corinne took a deep breath and Jackie tried to stop scowling as Corinne knocked politely on the front door.
The door opened, and Jackie wasn’t sure what she expected, but it wasn’t this guy. Jackie was almost sure this guy’s name was Chris. Anyway, Chris looked completely down to earth, and nearly unprofessional. Dark-skinned, and looking like a model himself, he was in black sweatpants and a black t-shirt. He topped it off with a casual looking sweat-trench coat that almost made him look like he had a bat cape. Jackie knew that he looked casual, but his outfit was anything but. She had been eyeing that very jacket from Alexander Wang for the past three months. And it still hadn’t gone on sale. So either Chris was really good at what he did, or he was really good at fooling people into thinking it.
Either way, Jackie shook his hand and stepped into the studio. The room was spacious which was saying something for a space in Manhattan. It was done up in white tones and lots of light came in through the huge windows on the far side of the room. A backdrop was to one side of the room and a desk was on the same side as the door with Chris’ computer and several screens. His cameras were on shelves looking like his prized possessions.
Corinne reached up and gave Chris a hug. Jackie wasn’t so far away from his height but settled for just the handshake that they shared at the door. She let Corinne do all the talking while she assessed this guy. He had on a backwards hat, but somehow he bypassed looking like a thug and instead pulled off the artist look. Maybe it was something about his blinding, perfect smile which must have been pulled off with several thousand dollars worth of braces. Jackie was surprised she could see his smile at all. The man had an impressive beard that hid most of his mouth when he wasn’t smiling.
She took him in from head to toe. From the designer sneakers which looked almost normal to his deceiving sweatpants ensemble, this dude looked like a walking contradiction. He looked like he had good taste, and he liked luxury, but almost as though he didn’t care enough to look “rich”. Begrudgingly, Jackie admitted, if only to herself, that he didn’t seem too bad. He interacted with Corinne easily and didn’t seem the least concerned about the fact that he was shooting lesbians that day. In fact, he seemed like he did it everyday.
“Thank you so much Chris.” Corinne turned her full bright smile on to 1000 watts and Jackie couldn’t help smiling at her mood change.
“Don’t worry about it. Thank me after you see the photos. I see y’all didn’t feel like doing your hair for the photoshoot? Okay no problem.” Chris blinked several times and Jackie couldn’t help herself. She laughed. Just a little. Corinne rolled her eyes while she laughed.
“We wanted something candid. Natural.” Corinne talked with her hands. Chris stroked his beard with a hand.
“Oh so you want me to believe this was planned. Yeah sure, whatever you say.” His eyes lit up with mischief, and Corinne smacked him on the shoulder.
“Abuse costs you extra.” One side of his mouth lifted in a sly smile and Jackie shook her head. He was charismatic. She needed to make sure this guy was taken. She glanced over some of the pictures on the wall and saw him with a woman with flawless, deep brown skin and gorgeous hazel eyes that Jackie’s cynical mind threw in must be contacts.
“They’re real.” Jackie heard the voice behind her and snapped to attention. She looked at Chris confused.
“Her eyes. They’re real. My son got them too. That kid now knows exactly how cute he is. He lives his life on permanent time out.” Chris pointed to another picture of a sweet looking little boy with just about the same face she’d seen on Chris’ lady. But that mischievous smile was all Chris. The little boy was a brilliant mix of both parents.
“How old is he?” Jackie couldn’t help the tender tone that entered her voice.
“He’ll be two in May. My wife might bring him in later if you’re still here. He’s the funniest thing ever.” Chris was looking at the picture like that little boy might possibly have been his best friend. Jackie needed to steer this conversation somewhere else. How was she supposed to dislike him if he was sweet and sensitive? She cleared her throat and turned her attention back to where Corinne was waiting for them both. So Chris was taken and he looked like he was in love with his wife and kid. Maybe he wasn’t as big of a pervert as Jackie thought. But she would reserve judgement until after the shoot.
“Why don’t we start with something natural. Just give her a hug like you normally would.” Chris set up a stool in front of Jackie and Corinne while Jackie attempted to put her arms around Corinne and somehow make it look natural. She had never been one for photographs. She wasn’t one of those people who felt like she had a “good side” or like she was terribly “photogenic”. Corinne on the other hand could take a picture wearing an oversized horse head and still come out looking sexy as hell. She was just beautiful. Plain and simple. Jackie felt incredibly inadequate next to her.
Suddenly, Jackie didn’t know what to do with her arms, or her hands. She didn’t know if they should go on Corinne’s hips or if that was too seductive. Or maybe they should just go on Corinne’s shoulders. But if she did that, it felt like they were too far apart. Jackie rolled her eyes for the thousandth time.
“Okay, and by natural, I’m guessing we meant totally forced and painful.” Chris’ sarcastic humor was easy and broke the ice effortlessly. Jackie and Corinne laughed and Chris took the camera from in front of his face.
“Just give me a second. I gotta take a call.” Chris gave them a tight lipped smile before stepping out the room. Jackie and Corinne were alone. There was soft music playing in the background, but Jackie didn’t know what it was.
“What are you afraid of?” Corinne’s voice was so low, Jackie almost missed it. She wasn’t even sure Corinne was talking to her. She looked up and saw Corinne looking at her with single pointed focus, so she must have been talking to her.
“Me? What are you talking about?” Jackie looked behind her like there could have been someone else for Corinne to talk to.
“You’ve been fighting me on this all morning. Now we’re here and it’s like you’ve never held me before. What are you afraid of?” Corinne looked like she had all the time in the world for this conversation. But her eyes were filled with emotions. Jackie opened her mouth to brush off everything Corinne said but snapped it shut again. Corinne was right and she knew it.
“It’ll look like we don’t belong together.” Jackie whispered hoping that Corinne wouldn’t hear her. But luck wasn’t on her side.
“What are you talking about? Of course we belong together.” Corinne’s perfect brows were furrowed and a perfect wrinkle creased her perfectly adorable forehead.
“No we don’t. You’re gorgeous. I look somewhere between bodies. Your features are softer than mine. Prettier. One of us is definitely the man in the relationship.” Jackie clenched her jaw and fought the urge to leave the studio all together. When she looked at Corinne, her mouth was hanging open, her eyes filled with tears.
“Is that what you think? That you’re not beautiful?” Corinne shook her head a little like she couldn’t even believe she was asking the question. Jackie didn’t have the heart to answer. She just looked away from Corinne and down at the floor of the studio, studying the artistic cracks preserved by the wax job on the cement floor.
Jackie felt Corinne’s small hands on either side of her face, lifting it until Jackie was looking at her again.
“Baby, do you want to know what I see when I look at you?” Corinne ducked her head to look into Jackie’s downcast eyes, her small face and bold features making her look like a black tinker bell. Finally Jackie nodded, knowing they would stand there all day until she answered Corinne.
“I see Sarabi.” Corinne bit down on her bottom lip, her eyes lit up like it all should have made sense. Jackie was only more confused. Her entire face screwed up. “You know, Sarabi. From The Lion King? Simba’s mom.” Corinne shook her head like she could see it more and more the longer she looked at Jackie. Jackie’s eyebrows shot up to her hairline.
“You mean to tell me, I remind you of a cartoon lion?! Not even a person??!” Jackie was this close to turning around, getting back in her car and saying to hell with this whole photoshoot. Corinne just laughed.
“Think about it babe. Your features are regal. And so were hers. Your jaw line is strong, elegant.” Corinne ran a finger down Jackie’s jaw line. “Your profile is majestic. Your lips are magnificently full.” She ran the pad of her thumb along Jackie’s bottom lip until Jackie parted her lips and nipped at Corinne’s thumb with her teeth. Corinne just smiled while Jackie soothed it with a kiss. “And you have these beautiful sleepy eyes that are seductive, and deadly all at the same time. Like you could make love to me one moment and rip apart a hyena the next.” Corinne looked up at the ceiling as though the idea wasn’t half bad. Jackie couldn’t hold back and finally she laughed at her girlfriend’s whimsical logic.
“You think I’m beautiful?” Jackie asked one last time. She knew she shouldn’t have needed that reassurance, but she craved it desperately. Corinne raised herself up on her toes and placed a deep kiss on Jackie’s lips. Corinne licked at Jackie’s top lip with her tongue and nipped at her bottom lip with her teeth. She kissed her breathless. When Corinne finally pulled away, Jackie was dazed and her sleepy eyes drooped even more.
“Would I be with you all these years if I didn’t think you were beautiful? Now stop being insecure and let’s get this shoot done so I can take you home and show you just how good you look.” Corinne gave her an intense look, a cheshire-cat grin curving along her lips. Jackie was breathless all over again.
“Get that man back in here,” Jackie growled. Corinne gave her a mock salute and spun on her heel to see where their photographer had gone.
When Chris came back, Corinne asked if she could change the music. When he agreed, Corinne sauntered over to the dock and tapped the screen until she found what she wanted. Jackie watched her while she moved, full of excitement and a sultry rhythm that was all her own. She couldn’t wait to get Corinne home and apologize for how stubborn she had been.
When the opening notes of SWV’s Rain filled the studio, Chris smiled. “Old school. Good choice. You ready?” Chris smiled at them, his energy infectious and calming for Jackie. They nodded and took their places once again. Jackie listened to the music and tried to forget that she was standing in the middle of a room, against a backdrop in an uncomfortable tube top, trying to recreate a passion that she would much rather feel for her woman in private.
“So, again, just do whatever feels most natural.” Chris gave them a minute while he adjusted a lens and fixed the lighting.
“Give me some of that lioness fire.” Corinne whispered in her ear, sending goosebumps down her arm. Jackie rolled her eyes like it didn’t matter, but the thought spread a heat through her belly. She was starting to feel oddly empowered. Maybe there was some method to Corinne’s crazy.
Corinne moved around until she was at Jackie’s back. She let her body move to the slow music as she gripped Jackie’s hips. She linked her thumbs into Jackie’s belt loops and pulled herself so close that Jackie could feel Corinne’s heart beat against her back. Jackie sucked in a sharp breath and tried to look natural. She heard the shutter click several times.
She couldn’t see Corinne, but Jackie felt her cheek against her bare shoulder.
Click Click Click…
She could feel Corinne smiling against her back and the movement put Jackie a little at ease.
Jackie couldn’t pretend that she was as comfortable with this as Corinne was, so she gave up on trying to smile. Instead she thought about how she felt about Corinne. Almost protective. She didn’t want anything to take this little pixie faced woman out of her life.
Click Click Click.
Jackie almost felt like she wanted to protect herself at the same time. As though their love would be the thing that protected them against all the bigotry and the negativity that was stacked against them. It was that negativity that stopped Jackie from giving Corinne all that she wanted. If she were being honest, it was that need to protect them both that made Jackie break her heart. She knew they wouldn’t be accepted, so why fight to get engaged? Why fight to get married just to lose everyone they cared about? No, Jackie needed to protect them. Even if it hurt Corinne. Unconsciously, Jackie put her hand up to shield herself from the thoughts her own mind was hurling at her.
“Don’t move,” was Chris’ muttered reply. Jackie froze, as scared as she was vulnerable.
Click Click Click Click…
She would be glad when this was over.
When they were both back in full outfits and Jackie was lounging on one of the tan couches in the studio waiting for Corinne as she talked with Chris, she zoned out of her own thoughts and tuned into their conversation.
“You wanna see which one I think is best?” Chris looked sideways at Corinne who was nodding enthusiastically. He moved his finger on the track pad on his computer and clicked a few times. Corinne gasped at whatever it was she saw.
“Chris, this is amazing.” Corinne put a hand to her mouth and swallowed like she was going to cry right on the spot.
“Fierce right?” Chris smiled and nodded, clearly pleased with his own work. Jackie fought the urge to roll her eyes.
“Doesn’t she remind you of Sarabi from The Lion King?” Corinne turned to Chris like he would get her crazy logic.
“Simba’s mom?” He clarified, and who would have thought that someone else would have known that. Jackie looked at the two of them in shock. They ignored her.
“Yup.” Corinne was smiling and nodding again.
“I totally see it. She’s definitely got that regal elegance to her.” Chris was now looking back and forth between the picture of Jackie and Jackie in real life. Now Jackie really did roll her eyes.
“Thanks Chris. I’m sure it’s gonna be magical when you send us the prints. Can we go?” Jackie didn’t want to be the center of attraction any longer.
“Yes your majesty.” Corinne bowed low while Chris started singing The Circle of Life. Jackie groaned and opened the door to the studio and let herself out while the other two cackled back in the studio. She shook her head, but couldn’t hide the fond smile that lit up her face while she punched the down arrow for the elevator.
As an added bonus, here’s the song they were listening to. Comments and encouragement are super appreciated 🙂