Hedda and Lance: a Love Story (part six: conclusion)

by Balls Malone

part one here

part two here

part three here

part four here

part five here

The location for the swimsuit edition shoot was truly lovely. Hedda had always been useless at place names, so she had no clue what any of it was called, but she was very taken with it.

The place was secluded; hundreds of kilometers up the coast, where the sandy beaches and rolling hills had given way to sheer, rocky cliffs and narrow pebble beaches. There were lush trees everywhere, affording a marvelous color pallet of greens to juxtapose the greys and blues of the stone, sea, and sky. With the women, the swimsuits, and the setting all being ideal, the only thing that could go wrong was the weather or the photographer.

The weather was fine.

As a photographer’s assistant, Lance was singularly useless at everything but the heavy lifting. The saving grace was that there was an awful lot of heavy lifting to do. The pebble beach they were on was only accessible by a very steep, rocky trail down a sheer cliff. Lance had pulled double duty with that: humping up and down the trail to carry the equipment cases, folding chairs, tarps, tents, and pavilions that the shoot required. However, when it came time to unpack and set up the equipment, it quickly became clear that he had no idea what he was doing. Even so, besides a few ruffled feathers among the other assistants over this, it did not cause any real problems.

Over the next two days, things went very well (for Hedda and Lance, at least). Hedda performed perfectly. Lance’s willingness to do more than his share of the physical labor, along with his very reasonable rates for excellent cocaine and pure MDMA, made him quite popular indeed.

Of course, everyone assumed that Rupert and Hedda were fucking (especially since she and Lance had decided to keep quiet about their relationship and affiliation). There was some snark to deal with from her fellow models over this, who felt she was jumping the queue to steal their share of the spotlight. But Hedda knew that haters are going to hate and did not pay it any mind at all.

As was his custom on these big jobs, Rupert had rented a house near the location. This gave him a place to unwind and party in privacy and comfort for the duration of the shoot. When things wrapped, he, Hedda, Lance, and a number of the models assembled there to party in earnest. The other professionals on the technical side of things, such as the stylist and the hair and makeup people, were conspicuously absent from Rupert’s party.

The house was gorgeous. With an open plan and windows almost all the way around, it jutted out over a cliff’s edge; hanging right over a sheer drop to the rocky coastline pounded by the Pacific surf. The party was mostly centered on the wide balcony on the seaside of the house; with its warm breeze, marvelous view, and hot tub. With Lance’s contribution to things, it was a lively affair.

Lance was mostly spending his time with the one corporate executive who had come along after the shoot. They were in the kitchen, where the executive was buying lines for anyone who wanted them. Hedda, Rupert, and the other women were mostly spending their time in the hot tub (when they weren’t in the kitchen partaking of the executive’s generosity).

Hedda would have found the scene sexy, but she was feeling very over Rupert Cornelius, acclaimed glamour and fashion photographer. It was tired. Definitely time to move on.

That Rupert would not stop whining about his beef with the shoot’s stylist was not helping matters. Hedda sighed, climbed from the hot tub, toweled off quickly, threw on her dressing gown over her bikini, and went into the kitchen.

The executive was holding a model’s hair for her while she did lines off the kitchen’s marble counter. When she had finished, he turned his focus to Hedda.

“Hi, I’m Reuben,” the executive said, extending his hand to Hedda with a leer.

“I know. I am Hedda,” Hedda said, accepting him warmly.

“I know. You’re the one that caused us all the trouble. Rupert just about shut us the fuck down getting you put on the roster. You know, all his bullshit aside, I’m actually glad he did. Everyone was very pleased with your work. You are very talented.”

“Thank you.”

“May I offer you something here?” Reuben asked, gesturing vaguely at the counter.

“Thank you,” Hedda smiled.

Seeing his forces were a little light on the ground, Reuben snapped his fingers at Lance and pointed down at the counter. “Lance, my man, set us up another half dozen lines for my lady here.”

Lance nodded and scooped a generous portion of cocaine out of a baggie with a straight razor, with which he chopped the drug into lines on the counter.

Reuben took his rolled up one-hundred dollar bill from the other model and handed it to Hedda with an exaggerated flourish. Hedda snorted up her fill and handed the bill back to Reuben, who killed a line before handing the bill back to the other model.

When the model had finished, Reuben put his arm around her and pulled her close. He smelled her breasts, armpit, and neck while she giggled and pretended to struggle against him. Then Reuben ran his gaze up Hedda.

“I think I’m about ready to get more private with this,” he said. “How do you ladies feel about taking this somewhere more private? And horizontal.”

The model murmured her assent. Hedda smiled and reached out to stroke Reuben’s cheek.

“You are very charming man, but I am here with someone. You know!”

“Yeah, I know. You have to dance with the one that brought you. I know. But you can’t blame a man for trying. Speaking of that pain in my balls, there’s the bitch now. Hey, Rupert! Get over here! I got some shit to say to you and I don’t know how much longer I’m gonna be here. Come on, let’s get this over with!”

Reuben had spotted Rupert coming out of the bathroom looking as though he had just vomited. Rupert Cornelius, acclaimed glamour and fashion photographer, grimaced and shuffled into the kitchen with a petulant scowl.

“What is it, Reuben?”

The executive leaned back against the counter and pulled his model close into his side. He smiled expectantly at Hedda and Rupert, so Hedda performed as expected and snuggled up to Rupert.

“See, that’s right. Just as I thought. You dance with the one that brought ya,” Reuben said. “But the question is, Mr. Cornelius, who the fuck do you think brought you to the dance? Because this whole scene here is my fucking dance. And you sure as shit did not dance with me this time round. So, I guess what I’m wondering is: if these two ladies can have such a clear handle on what they’re all about, what the fuck is your problem?”

“Look, Reuben. I don’t—”

“I know you fucking don’t,” interrupted Reuben. “And you didn’t. And you won’t. You fucking blew it, man. You blew it! You gave us shit! All a big fucking waste of my time and money! The big fucking artist with his muse, playing the whole fucking part, and I may as well have taken those fucking pictures myself! Garbage! Fucking garbage!”

“Fuck you! What the fuck do you know about it, you fuckin suit!”

“I know I’m not qualified to judge it, and even I can tell it’s not fuckin good. But I don’t need to know it myself: I got the heads up on it from your own house here, guy. I know what my people tell me. People I pay to know what the fuck they’re doing. Like I paid you. Shit, son, you’re supposed to be the best! Get your shit together! You have to get your shit together, man. I mean, pushing to get your latest peace of ass on as a model is one thing, and bad enough, but bringing your fuckin dealer onto the shoot as your assistant? I mean, points for being balls out with your big fucking brass balls, sure, but maybe it’s time to pump the brakes, huh guy? Maybe time to think about checking in somewhere for a bit of a rest.”

Rupert Cornelius, acclaimed glamour and fashion photographer, had nothing to say now. He stared dead eyed at Reuben for a long moment before disentangling himself from Hedda and leaving for the hot tub without a word.

“Okay, then, have a good one, guy! Jeeze! Just don’t say I never tried to help you!” Reuben called after him. Then he turned to Lance: “Hey, my man, I’m sorry to bring you up like that just now. It wasn’t meant as any slight on you, your profession, or the quality of your product. You clearly are a man that has his shit wired tight. It’s nice to see that someone around here does!” Reuben shouted out at the balcony.

Lance simply nodded deeply at this.

“Okay!” Reuben exclaimed, clapping his hand sharply and rubbing them together. “I think it’s time for us to be somewhere more private. And horizontal,” he said to his model. “Are you sure you don’t want to join?” he asked Hedda.

Hedda made an effort to looked pained about saying: “I am sorry. I should stay with Rupert. He will be so upset now.”

“Loyalty. I like that. That’s good. Speaks well of your character. But when you’re all done babysitting the train wreck and want to get your own car on a better track, give me a call. I’ll be more than happy to consult with you on any number of career opportunities.”

Reuben pulled out his business card and handed it to Hedda, who took it with clear delight.

“Lance, I have your digits. I will get in touch about setting something up soon. Middle of next week, when I’m back in town from the bullshit in Europe. You’ve got me covered, right?”

“Oh, you know it brother!” Lance said, pushing his fist out to Reuben to be bumped.

“All right! All right! All right!” Reuben exclaimed happily. “So today was not a total fuckin write-off after all. Love it! Love it! Okay, let’s go!” He smacked his model on the ass to get her moving towards a bedroom. He paused briefly as he left to shake Hedda’s hand in a sleazy way once more. “Hedda, it was lovely to meet you. You are very talented. I have no doubt I’ll be seeing a lot more of you in the future. You clearly are a woman who knows how to get a head in this business.”

The party ground on in a predictable way for the next while. After a couple more hours, once he was finished with her in the bedroom, the executive and his model left in his Porsche. With only half a dozen people there, and all of them beautiful, it seemed possible that things could get properly sexy as an intimate little group. There was Hedda, Lance, Rupert, two models, and one of the model’s hangers on: a twink who was giving the models a run for their money in presenting himself to Lance.

Unfortunately, for all of them, Rupert Cornelius, acclaimed glamour and fashion photographer, shit himself in the hot tub as the sun set into the Pacific.

They were all enjoying the beautiful sunset in the hot tub together. Lance, Hedda, and one of the models were nude after an intensive game of strip rock, paper, scissors had lost them their swimsuits. The twink, with an otherworldly prescience, had dominated the game, and was gloating over his hoard of nylon winnings.

Then Rupert groaned. The brown cloud emanating from his nethers soon explained why. Things were predictably noisy as everyone but Rupert evacuated the hot tub. Group showering in the master bedroom’s grand bath ensued and things soon got back on track.

Some time later, Hedda left the bedroom to get a bottle of champagne for Lance to put up the twink. Rupert was still sitting in the hot tub. Mortified, and thinking he must have passed out, Hedda came closer to get a better look.

No, he was upright and conscious. Rupert Cornelius, acclaimed glamour and fashion photographer, was sitting up to his chest in the murky water, like a pasty, limp little sausage stewing in a bowl of lukewarm baked beans. His head drooped low. Tears and snot were dripping off his face into the water. A stink like stale vomit with a faint undertone of shit hung in the air over the scene: the fragrance of failure and cataclysmic fall from grace.

Hedda left him to it.

Once things were finished in the master bedroom, Hedda met Lance’s eye across the smooth and glistening body of the twink laying face down in a puddle of model. She gave him a nod.

“All right, bitches! Time for a nightcap!” Lance said loudly, clapping his hands to get everyone alert enough to register what he was saying. “I’ll make us all a nice drink to round things out.”

Hedda went with Lance and helped him mix drinks for the models and the twink: vodka screwdrivers with a little something extra to help them sleep. Hedda and Lance had orange juice. In the master bedroom, they all shared the drinks and another group hug.

Lance and Hedda waited until the models and twink were sound asleep before they left them. Lance went to get things squared away with Rupert while Hedda packed their bags. When Hedda returned to the balcony, Lance and Rupert were sitting on the comfortable patio furniture. Lance was pouring scotch into Rupert; topping off his glass every time the photographer finished it.

Hedda rolled a joint and she and Lance shared it in silence while Rupert dozed off between them. Then they waited another half hour.

“That’ll do,” Lance finally said. “Blood of a rock star flowing through his veins now.”

Hedda went and peeked into the master bedroom. The three there were sleeping just as they had left them. She returned to the balcony and gave Lance his final nod.

Lance slapped Rupert on the face a few times to get him awake. “Hey! Rupert! Wake up! Time to go!”

“Wha?”

“I said time to go! Stand up!”

Lance got Rupert upright and led him over to the balcony’s railing.

“Where are we going?” Rupert asked, swaying on his feet like a palm in a storm.

By way of answer, Lance ducked low, locked his arms around Rupert’s waist, and lifted him up onto his shoulder. Rupert made not a sound as Lance dropped him over the railing. It was about a hundred meter drop to the rocks below, so with the pounding of the surf, they heard nothing of his landing.

And, with that, Rupert Cornelius, acclaimed glamour and fashion photographer, was gone.

Lance picked up the bottle of Johnny Walker Blue Label and took a swig. He handed it to Hedda, who did the same. Lance poured the rest of the whiskey out over the railing where Rupert had left. Then he threw the bottle far out into the night.

The next morning, Hedda and Lance left before the others were fully awake and wondering too deeply about where Rupert might have gotten to.

Hedda had Lance drive her to wine country for a little getaway where they could plan their approach with Reuben, the corporate executive.

They had a very lovely time.

Intersections

Of course loyalty is in play. Principles. Ideals.

But what of conflicting loyalties? Which are the higher loyalties?

What of different principles that run to cross purposes?

When at these intersections of life, what shall we betray?
What loyalties and principles are inviolate?
Which are disposable?

Often the only way to choose is to move in the direction that hurts less.

Make that choice and live with the consequences.
Accept the pain along with the joy.

Such is life.

On Tough Guys

I was terrorized by so-called tough guys for much of my younger life.

In my elementary school days, it was not a problem. I was with the same kids right from first grade. I had my little circle, and my idiosyncrasies were accepted by my classmates. But I was in a French immersion elementary program and decided not to keep that up in junior high school. So I switched programs and went into a new school without knowing anyone in my class. I was also late to hit puberty, so even in grade 8 I was one of the smallest kids in the school.

It was rough at first, but I figured out my survival techniques. I kept my head down and my mouth shut, and it was not too long before those kids that bring it all on themselves were soaking up most of the hits. Then I did my best to befriend the gentle giants; the biggest boys who were not bullies. I got through just fine.

In high school, I finally grew a bit. Also, my idiosyncrasies, and those of my crew, created a reputation that we were some kind of psychos. We were left the fuck alone. But my school was beefing with another bigger school, and boys were always getting jumped walking to and from school. Up to four guys, with bats sometimes, would hop out of cars, beat kids down, and then “boot fuck” them. It was a paranoid atmosphere and I got pretty good at slipping through danger zones on foot.

After high school, I went to work pumping gas at a 24 hour gas station and automotive shop. This was the real initiation to the shitshow. It had never occurred to me that adults could consider fist fighting an acceptable stage of human interaction. Those mechanics were fucking rough. When I sprayed dirt onto “The Badger’s” (that was his real nickname) toolbox with the pressure washer, I got a real education. He grabbed and shoved me into a work bench; I was completely physically dominated with a basic violent assault and the implicit threat of a much worse one if that shit ever happened again. “Now clean it fuckin up!”

The location of the gas station was less than ideal for physical safety. It was in a kind of buffer zone between the university’s bar strip and daytime yuppie shopping promenade, and a light-industrial, blue-collar neighborhood one quick bus ride from downtown skid row. Urban poor would come to beg money from the yuppies and then get their drink on, while all the breeder boys from towns all around would come to cruise for poon on the strip. When unsuccessful with women, packs of those feral assholes would rove around looking for guys to intimidate and beat up. “Fag!” Stabbings were fairly common.

I spent a couple years being thoroughly terrorized. When a skid-row, tough guy bully wants to get free stuff, he doesn’t necessarily need to rob places. If he comes around a business everyday, by slowly terrorizing some solitary staff member for a couple of weeks, he can simply start taking stuff without paying. “I don’t need to pay fer this, do I boss? No one’s gonna notice.” Chips, pop, smokes, and dignity all for the taking.

Then I just fuckin had it. Enough was enough. I started bringing a zippo to work (I pumped gas for a living, remember), harboring the fantasy of burning some of these fuckers alive.

Around that time, things got even worse in the neighborhood. Meth had moved in. Now we had street dealing right at our location, with meth-heads swarming all over the place. We started restricting the bathrooms to gas customers only, which created friction with the down and outs. I guess there were some serious confrontations involving some of my coworkers. I was working more graveyard shifts at that time too. One night a Native-American gang enforcer got me cornered (Native street gangs are a big thing in my home town), put a high-end prison shank down on the counter between us (shitty photoshop recreation pictured below), and spent some time explaining that “you don’t fuck with my people.”

“Good to know, man.”

Prison Shank

After that, I started carrying a knife. It was a legal flick knife: one of those raised thumb-stud jobbies that may as well be a switchblade. I carried it legally too; riding high on my back pocket where everyone could see it. I had a year of fencing in junior high school, and I spent time practicing my draw and stab into wooden posts, so I was good to go. The next time a sketchy as fuck piece of shit started trying to stare me down, I shifted my stance, met his eye, and got ready to go. One look at me and the guy melted.

I had learned a new thing. With these tough guy bullies, you don’t need to run faster than the bear; you just have to run faster than your friend. When I got mentally prepared to do what I had to do, I no longer needed to do it. They took in my attitude and wandered down to the next open business to try their luck there. My life got a lot easier.

Then, with the realization of the power of that attitude, I flipped the coin over and became something of a bully myself. I have some regrets about that time in my life. Be that as it may, my deep hatred of and intolerance to tough guys has remained. Those shells of men who need to intimidate in order to feel whole. I would love to cut all their throats. (I am aware of the irony in this.)

Around the time when I was graduating high school, the Vietnamese were making their presence felt. I don’t know if they were proper gangs at that time (they later would become so), but they were definitely asserting themselves. It quickly became common street knowledge that if you fought an East Asian, you would probably get stabbed.

Many of the white tough guys I was forced to listen to at that time would go on and on and on about how the “gooks” were such “pussies.” Like, what’s wrong with a fair fight, man? Why can’t they just have a fair fight?

Fair? Really? These primate assholes spend all their time pumping iron and practicing fighting, and then act like it’s fair when they force some Asian kid that’s half their size to “step outside” in order to save face. Try moving to a foreign land where everyone is huge and mostly hate you, and punching people in the face is considered entertainment. Maybe then you too will learn to embrace the liberating power of escalating violence.

What’s that? You don’t like me calling you an ignorant asshole? You want to step outside? Well, instead of that, why don’t I just take yer fuckin eyeball out with a screwdriver right fuckin now? How’s bout that?

If a line gets crossed, and someone need to go, then what the fuck does a fair fight have to do with it? Bullshit, made-up rules about “masculinity” are not relevant. But “tough guys” don’t like that. They don’t like it when someone calls their bluff and bluster. They want the whole world to play along with the rules they’ve created to keep them safe while they dominate those around them. So, for those who break their made-up rules of engagement, they trot out the worst insults they can imagine: “pussy” (woman), and “fag.” If these guys think that accepting penis into your body is the worst thing someone can do, then what does that tell you about their self-identity? I think they realize, on a deep psychological level, just how toxic they are.

I may be white, but I was small for most of my developmental years, sensitive, quirky, and liked geeky things like D&D. So I do understand all too well being the victim of manly white men’s notions of fair play (of course, not to the degree that others do; I’m not trying to lay claim to the full experience). Their “fairness” is a system of codes of conduct and even legal rules that exist to give them every advantage. Be they the social conventions surrounding stepping outside for a fair fight, or America’s conceal carry and stand your ground laws.

If you want to find out who’s tougher, then by all means, get into MMA or step into the ring or dojo. Or, if you’re really nuts, the rugby field. There is a place for that in society. But thinking that being tough should have any relevance in modern society, in any way, is completely fucked.

We say to young men: “there’s never a reason to hit a woman.” I disagree. I say that a reason to hit a man is also a reason to hit a woman, and that self defense is the only acceptable reason (outside of sports that involve hitting). Other than that, there is never an acceptable reason to hit anyone.

Thinking otherwise is precisely the kind of macho bullshit that helps makes the world the shitty place it is today.

Hedda and Lance: a Love Story (part five)

by Balls Malone

part one here

part two here

part three here

part four here

part six here

Hedda was sitting down to another of her lunch dates with Rupert Cornelius, acclaimed glamour and fashion photographer. They were seated in the patio of Maurice’s Grill, under the pleasant shade of palm fronds swaying overhead in the warm breeze.

Hedda was very pleased. Maurice’s Grill was just about the best place to eat these days. Since Rupert was sure to pick up the check, she always insisted meeting him somewhere worthwhile being seen.

“How are you, Rupert? You look so tired.”

“Yes, no shit I look tired, Hedda. IBS is no joke!” Rupert snapped.

The quartet of actresses seated at the next table glanced over with shocked and disgusted looks at this. The two nearest ones slid their chairs further away from Rupert and Hedda’s table.

“Do not be so not nice to me, Rupert. If you are the one who makes chocolate shame in his pants, it is only you to blame.”

Rupert stared at Hedda in rage for a long time at this. He actual began to speak several times, but bit his words off again and again as he thought better of them. Hedda met his eye calmly the whole time. Finally, she gave him a cold smile and continued.

“I do say thank you now, for making contact to me at agency. I am booking many good shoots now. Is very good for me. You are good friend.” Hedda reached out to pat Rupert’s hand in a marginally friendly way. Then she picked up the menu to peruse.

“Yes, I told you Sandrice would take good care of you. She’s the best agent in the biz. Her taking you on was a huge favor to me. A fucking huge favor. She won’t be picking up another of my calls until I answer ten of hers.”

“I know. You are so nice. Is lobster keto?” Hedda asked without looking up from the menu.

“What? The fucking lobster now? How should I know? Probably. Don’t you have a fucking ap to tell you that?”

“Again, you are not being so nice to me now. I don’t like your tone,” Hedda said, looking up from her menu to lock eyes with Rupert.

Rupert took a few deep breaths to calm himself. “I’m sorry, Hedda. I’m just under a lot of pressure with everything right now. And I thought that, maybe, since I hooked you up with Sandrice, that… maybe…”

“What?”

“Well, I thought maybe that would be the end of all this now,” Rupert said. He stared down in his lap and looked like he was about to cry.

“I know. You tell me this. You tell me that you want Lance to finish it with you.”

“No! That’s not what I fucking said! Is that what you told him? Does he think that’s what I said?”

“I don’t know. I forgetting so many things what I say these days. And English is so hard! Lance, he is sweet, yes. But he does not listen good. So he come soon and we talk. You can tell him what do you mean yourself.”

Hedda flagged down the waiter and ordered the lobster for herself, the sirloin steak for Lance, and more mineral water for the table, while Rupert Cornelius, acclaimed glamour and fashion photographer, dealt with his panic attack. Hedda then sent Lance a quick message on her phone. It did not take him more than a couple of minutes to join them.

That day, Lance Johnson was wearing a mint condition, Adidas track suit: red with white piping, circa 1992. His red Adidas running shoes were a perfect match. As was his habit on sunny days, Lance had on his Ray-Ban mirrored aviator sunglasses, and a fuzzy white Adidas headband. He was also sporting a gold Rolex.

Lance gave a friendly nod to the four actresses who paused in their banter to look him over quickly. Only one of them lingered over his muscular form as he kissed Hedda on the cheek and sat down next to her. With his track suit zipped up and hiding his full sleeves and torso of prison gang tattoos, Hedda knew from experience that everyone would not think him anything other than a model himself.

They sat in silence until the food showed up. Rupert fiddled on his phone and Lance felt Hedda up under the table as he ogled the actresses. The one that had scoped him as he sat down continued to give him attention. Seeing the potential for a very lovely three-way, Hedda began beaming the actress with come hither lamps of her own.

The food arrived and Lance tucked in. Hedda played around with hers suggestively at the actress; taking a little bite here and there just to show everyone what she was all about orally. Rupert ordered a double scotch and soda.

“So what’s this Hedda tells me about you getting bitchy about helping her out,” Lance finally said through a big mouthful of steak.

“I’m not. Seriously, man! I’m not! I just think there’s only so much more I can do for her now. I mean, this has to end somewhere, right?”

(stare)

“Well, what next, man? What else am I supposed to do for her over here?” whined Rupert Cornelius, acclaimed glamour and fashion photographer.

“You know what, Rupert? Yer talkin to me like it’s been all take and no give with us. I think yer forgetting all that I’ve done for you. Didn’t I get those bangers off your back? Didn’t I take you to the orgy?”

“The orgy? You’re going to bring that up like it was a favor to me? Like I even wanted to be there? Like I’m not Rupert Fucking Cornelius! Like I can’t have my own fucking orgy any fucking time I fucking want to! With fucking models!”

As Rupert started yelling all this, the actresses looked over; two appalled and two delightedly amused. (“Did he just say orgy? Like, oh my God! I can’t even right now!”)

Noticing the attention, Rupert dropped his voice low into an intense hiss: “Fuck you! You know what happened to me there!”

“Oh quit being such a fuckin baby about that. It was fuck all. Deuce gets like that sometimes. He just finished doing eight on a tier four yard. His intensity can be a little much for people sometimes.”

“His intensity? Is that what you assholes call that? Yeah, it was a bit much.”

“Well, yer shitty attitude aside, I think it’s time to talk about the next phase of your collaboration with Hedda. Is that the right word, baby? Collaboration?” Lance asked Hedda.

Hedda was stroking Lance’s cock through his pants in plain view of the actress she was making eye contact with. “Yes, baby,” she said. “Collaboration.”

“Okay, then, what the fuck now?” Rupert asked.

“The swimsuit edition. Shoot’s in two weeks, right?”

“Yes. What about it?”

“Hedda wants to book it. I think that’s a good idea,” Lance said. He licked his steak knife clean and smiled at Rupert as he scraped the knife’s edge over his own neck.

“The swimsuit edition? I can’t fucking get her that! It shoots in two weeks!”

“Oh, I think ya can get her that. You’re Rupert Cornelius, bitch! Tell em that she’s yer new muse. That’s something you artiste types play all the time, aint it? That’s it, right? Hedda is your new muse!”

“My muse? What the fuck! If that’s the case, it has to be reflected in my work! Which fucking sucks these days, by the way. I’m an artist, not some kind of fucking technician. How the fuck am I going to produce anything worth a shit shooting someone I’m fucking afraid of!”

“In my experience, fear is one of the best motivators. So what I’m hearing here is that ya can get her on the shoot as yer muse. Ye just don’t want to. That’s unfortunate. You know the cops fucked with me this week about yer two banger friends in the club.”

“What? They did? How?”

“They made me from the front door camera. With my affiliations, it was a matter of routine to track me down and grind me on it. Don’t worry, though. I didn’t tell em what you did. But they’ll be back.”

“What I did? No, fuck you! What about Ariana? She knows—”

“What she knows,” Lance interrupted, “is that those two bangers had beef with you. That they confronted you in the bathroom over that beef, and she left you alone with them in there. That’s what she knows. If I were you, I really wouldn’t want her talking to anyone about what she fuckin knows.”

“But she saw—”

“Shit. She saw shit. And, to be honest, if she remembers anything about that night, it’ll be what Hedda’s spit tastes like in my asshole.”

“Oh that’s really nice.”

“It is. I’m sure you know; you’re Rupert Fucking Cornelius,” Lance said with a big grin.

“Listen, I probably could get her on the shoot if I insist. I’m not going to lie. But if I do that, that’s the last fucking time I’m ever going to book a job like that ever again. That whole scene is really corporate. They don’t tolerate the whole temperamental artist schtick. Do you understand?”

“I do. Listen, Rupert, the real question you gotta ask yourself is: how many jobs you gonna book from a tier three or four yard with two murder beefs on ya. Ya already know what the yard’s gonna be like. You met Deuce. That’s your fuckin choice now. Book the swimsuit edition for Hedda, or get fuckin lawyered up like yesterday. Do ya feel me? We’re done playin now.”

(…)

“I said, do ya under-fucking-stand what I’m motherfucking saying, bitch?”

“Yes. Fine. I’ll do it. But I’m telling you, that’s the end of my fucking career.”

“That’s okay. Also, I want to be PA for the shoot. The first location is way up the coast there right? It wouldn’t be a bad idea for all of us to get out of town like that for a bit.” Lance said.

“You want me to take you where as my what?”

“Not PA, baby. It’s assistant. Just assistant.” Hedda interjected.

“Wait… what? You want to be my assistant for the swimsuit edition? After forcing Hedda in there as a model? Why the fuck don’t you just chop my fucking hands off while you’re at it!”

Hedda sighed. She was sure that Lance was going to convince Rupert to see things their way, but she could tell the whole process of convincing him was going to be tiresome.

Thankfully, just then, the actress she had been making eyes with gave her a very direct look and left her table to go to the bathroom. Happy to have a chance to focus on a person not drowning in negativity like Rupert was, Hedda excused herself from the table and followed her. She was pretty sure she had figured out what movie she had seen the actress in, and was excited to start the process of getting to know her better.

An up-in-coming starlet really would be a marvelous way to celebrate her booking the swimsuit edition.