“You think thats a bad idea, right?” Astra finished, exhaling. She had just explained to her cousin what had happened with the agent at the studio. “I totally shouldn’t go today.”
“You want my honest opinion?” Alistair asked.
“Yeah…” She let out a sigh, seeing his serious expression as he stopped cooking. “You don’t have what it takes to be a model. You may have a certain look, but that doesn’t equate to star quality. The littlest thing causes you to panic, you don’t need a camera on you 24/7. You’re amazing, really, but this isn;t for you.”
“I know…” She mumbled, biting back the tears. “But Cadence was so pushy, and I couldn’t say no.”
“Change,” Alistair said. “Put on your sweats. This whole outfit, it isn’t you. You look like you’re twentyfive. You’re eighteen, your dads would not be too thrilled to see you with so much makeup caked on your face.”
“Yeah.” She nodded. “You’re right. This is just some weird thing. Maybe the agent was just trying to fill a quota or something.” Part of her wanted her cousin to dismiss this so she wouldn’t have to face her fears and do it. But, another part of her wanted him to approve this. She needed the validation.
Astra lied down. Alistair was right, Cadence was trying to turn her into something she wasn’t. What she was, was a shy, ordinary eighteen year old girl. She should have been going to college. No, that wasn’t right either. She should have been home with her dads and sisters. This wasn’t fair. “Don’t listen to Al, you look great.” Astra tunred to see Cadence standing by the door. “Don’t cry, your makeup will smudge.”
Astra pulled her hand up to her face and felt the wetness under her eyes. She hadn’t even realized she was crying. it happened so often, she kind of got used to it. The tears were always there, she had never felt strong enough to fight them. “He’s right, I look like someone much older than I really am. I need to tone it down, and be more like myself.”
“This isn’t about losing yourself, Astra.” She felt the bed shift as Cadence sat down next to her. “This should be about finding yourself. People like Alistair will keep telling you not to do something. I know that modelling isn’t your first choice, but you never know unless you try. This could be a serious confidence booster. You don’t have to commit, but try it. You’re beautiful. You know they wouldn’t approach you if you weren’t. You have the potential to be a star.”
“I don’t…I’m not a star.” She shut her eyes. “I don’t want to be one at least.”
“I won’t force you, but trying it will not hurt. I’ll be there by your side, I promise. I won’t abandon you.” Cadence smiled reassuringly. “Besides, prove my idiot brother wrong. You CAN do this.”
Thats how Astra found herself being poked and prodded by several strangers. People rushing to fix her makeup, others straightening her clothes, one just standing there and yelling at her. She’d kill Cadence for giving her such a damn good pep talk. For a minute there, she almost thought that she could do it. They had made Cadence stay outside, not to distract the talent, they said. Really, she needed Cadence to distract her. “You’re very pretty.” The voice of the photographer met her ears. “But, you need to smile more naturally. You look like a deer in headlights.”
The girl who had set up the photoshoot with Astra was standing a few feet away. “She has the look, I think we should try some more poses.” For some reason, she was heavily trying to sell Astra’s beauty to the guy.
“Yes, I see the purity. She looks very fashionable in these clothes, but she still feels wholesome. Some guys like that, dirty, but untainted.” He kept talking and it made Astra sick to her stomach. What was she doing? They were trying to use her look to attract men. Sick men who’d buy products because she was on the cover. Declan would be so angry. She looked for her escape, but all of the attention made her even more nervous, and she couldn’t find her voice. She couldn’t even move her feet.
“Loosen up a bit,” The girl said soothingly, but Astra couldn’t. She hated that she always felt like she needed to hide. “Strike a pose?”
“It’d be a shame to waste that kind of look. Hmm.” He placed a hand on his chin. “I’ve got an idea. Has Thad come in for his shoot yet?”
Gabrielle looked up from her clipboard. “He should have, yes.”
“Get him. He’ll help her loosen up a bit, the goofball.”
Astra didn’t know what they meant until she saw the man waltz in confidently. “You called Valencio?”
The photographer motioned to the girl who stood frozen in fear. “We have a case of first time nerves. This is an audition, I’d hate to send the poor girl home crying, especially since Gabrielle seems so adamant about this. See if you can loosen her up a bit.”
“Sure thing.” He grinned happily, walking over toward Astra, who had heard the entire exchange. “Hello beautiful. You know, it’d be a much prettier picture if you just smiled.”
“I…I c-an’t.” She lowered her voice. She hated speaking to people she didn’t know!
“Why not?” He asked softly. “Does the camera make you uncomfortable?” She nodded. He was getting somewhere. That was good. What was this girl doing here, anyway? He couldn’t help but wonder why the frightened girl was in a modeling agency, she obviously didn’t want to be here right now. “Why are you here?” He whispered, getting close to her face. He didn’t want the photographer to make any more of a big deal out of this. “You don’t want to be here, do you?”
She let out a small gasp as he closed the gap between them. “Tell me, what’s your name?”
“Astra,” She whispered, terrified that she could feel his breath on her neck. “Ba-ck upp!”
“I want to talk to you,” He explained. “But doing it any other way is going to get Valencio on your case. He’s outrageous. Sweetheart, how old are you, about eighteen?” She nodded and he continued. “You’re young. This business will eat you up and spit you out. It isn’t for pretty girls like yourself. It’s for those people who are self centered and don’t give a crap about other people’s feelings. Like, myself.” She still didn’t speak so he continued. “What? Come on? No ‘but Thad you’re not self centered, you’re totally awesome!'” She couldn’t help but laugh at that. “Eh?” He burst out into a huge grin. “I got a smile out of you.”
“En-ough,” She stammered. “I want to go ho-me.”
He pulled away from her and nodded. “Find yourself a better job. You look like a brilliant girl. Try college.”
She mumbled something incoherently. Probably a thank you, and scurried to the door like a scared little child. Poor girl, he really felt for her.
“Why is she leaving?” Valencio hissed at Thad. “You were supposed to get her to loosen up, not leave!”
Astra stopped by the door, listening to what was being said. Was she some kind of doll? No, she was right here and they were talking about her! “This isn’t the right job for her. You’ll take her and destroy her innocence. Did you know that she’s only 18?? You’ll get her involved in these fad diets and soon she’ll be doing drugs. It isn’t worth it, she’s beautiful the way she is. Let her live a happy life.”
“I want her look,” Valencio said sternly, unaware that Astra was standing by the door. “Get her to work here, or you’re fired.”
Thad let out a small sigh. “Are you serious?”
But, she didn’t eant to hear anymore. So, she left. She bolted through the door, almost hitting the fire extinguisher on the way out. She didn’t care. Her anxiety was at an all time high and she needed to be away from this man. “Astra!” She heard Thad’s voice calling after her, but why would she stop? So he could recruit her? She wasn’t an idiot and she wanted no part of this. It was all a big mistake.
Running in heels wasn’t easy, and Astra was out of breath. She heaved for a few minutes, before nearly shrieking as she felt arms wrap around her torso. “Stop! Lea-ve me al-one, I don’t w-ant to be a mo-del!”
He loosened his grip around her but didn’t drop his arms from her torso. “I know you heard all of that. I also know that my job isn’t your problem. But, I’d be an asshole if I let you leave like this. You’re terrified. You shouldn’t be, I’m harmless. Valencio is harmless too. He’s all talk.”
“So then l-et me go!” Astra cried quickly.
“I can’t,” He murmured. “Not until I know that you’ll listen to me. If you do that, I’ll let you go, okay? I just want to talk.” He spoke to her as one would speak to a frightened child.
Her magic always bubbled within her when she became agitated. She couldn’t hold it in for much longer and she knew that if Thad didn’t release her, she’d accidentally zap him. She nodded quickly, forcefully pulling out of his grasp. “Speak!”
He nodded. “You don’t want to model. Fine, it’s your life. In fact, I agree strongly with that decision. But, if you don’t give Valencio one more photoshoot, he probably really will fire me. Just show him next time how terrible you really are and he won’t hire you. All on his own!”
“Please?” Thad asked.
“I ha-te this place!” She felt her hands shaking. Why the hell did she let Cadence talk her into this!? She really wasn”t cut out for this.
He sighed, dropping his head, a small smile dancing on his lips. “Good, being assertive is good. Valencio will probabaly be contacting you soon. When he sees a look that he likes, no matter who it is, he’ll go after them to work for him. He’s not a bad boss, just a bit fanatical. Be that assertive and tell him no.”
She held her head in her hands. What the hell was the matter with this guy? “Names Thad Givens by the way, in case you were wondering. Ok, yeah, you probably weren’t, but uh, here. Take my number, if he contacts you again, I want to be at the shoot. It’s probably not my business, you know? But, I want to make sure that you’re alright. I’d hate if this was like my sister in this position or something, if I had one.”
Astra let out a small laugh despite herself. The guy was nice to be around, but Valencio and modelling? Not so much. She wished she had the courage to say goodbye, but instead she just turned to walk off. She tucked the number away in her pocket, resolving not to ever use it. This man was off his rocker and she needed to yell at Cadence.