Nora sighed softly as she dragged her fingers across the surface of her camera, finding the shutter release just by touch. Her eyes couldn't leave the child's face. The pale green eyes gazed at her, their hopes and dreams piercing through the tiny viewfinder as if it didn't exist. This little girl, probably no more than eleven years old, was babbling nonstop about how she was going to be a model when she grew up, and the all Nora could think about was when she had lost that unshakeable faith in being able to accomplish anything she dreamed of. She couldn't pinpoint the exact second, but she knew that the steady stream of losses she'd had since opening the studio hadn't helped any. Now, most of her days were spent stuck in front of her computer, either editing older pictures to improve her portfolio, or searching for odd photography jobs to take up. That was how she'd ended up here, at the local elementary school taking school photos.
There were few things she disliked more than taking school portraits. Each child ended up looking nearly the same. If she had it her way, each of the poses would be different, all the backgrounds would be different, and maybe for once yearbooks would actually be interesting to look at. But at the very least, taking school pictures could become a steady source of income. And especially now, she had to take everything she could get.
Nora finally got the girl to stop talking long enough to take a photo, and after taking four more pictures of the assembly line of kids, she was done. At least for this year, Nora thought as she began packing up her equipment. As she rolled up the backdrop, she heard the familiar sound of wood knocking against the ground. She turned around to face him, her eyes twinkling with delight. They followed his feet, the worn in leather loafers making next to no sound with each careful footstep.
"Nor?" he called out cautiously, turning his head from side to side, most likely trying to catch a familiar sound or smell. She had always thought it unusual how his eyes followed the direction of sounds, even if they didn't help him see much, but he had told her it made people more comfortable than eyes glancing off in strange directions.
"Over here, Tristan," she called out, collapsing the legs of her tripod so it would fit in her bag. Tristan turned himself slightly and continued walking in her general direction. Nora turned off her camera, and cradling it in her arms, slowly lowered it into her case. After zipping up the bag, she reached over to give Tristan a tight hug.
"How was your family?" she asked him. "I was going to stop by your apartment after I finished this job. How does it feel like to be back home after a whole months? Wait, how did you get here?"
"Which one do you want me to answer first?" Tristan laughed, "Vacation with mom, dad, and Sophie was nice, but it's definitely nice to be home. Jordan came by to visit and told me you were taking yearbook pictures, so I just told him to drop me off here. I figured you'd need a little pick me up after that."
"That I do. Give me two seconds." Tristan rested his large palm on her shoulder as she finished packing up the last few pieces of equipment. "Alright, let's go," she said, reaching back and pulling her hair out of the professional knot that it had been locked in for the past few hours. It fell into loose waves around her shoulders, looking more brown than red in the harsh gym lighting.
"Alright, my car's parked just outside," she told him, "Can you hold this?" she asked, handing the rolled up backdrop to Tristan. She picked up her camera bag and a tote containing some of the heavier equipment.
"So what was it like? I wish I could have gone with you. It's been a while since I've had break from work. I guess a month's a long time though huh?." Nora smiled wryly. She always talked way too much around Tristan. It was almost like she was compensating for the fact that he couldn't see her by all of her talking.
"As much as I love my parents, you know how they baby me. I've been blind for almost as long as I can remember. You would think they'd realize I can take care of myself just fine," Tristan grumbled. Nora took the backdrop from him and unlocked the car, opening the passenger door for Tristan before heading to the back of the car. Tristan raised his eyebrows as he climbed in.
Catching his expression, Nora just laughed. "I know you can open it yourself, I'm just saving my poor car from being dented by your stupid cane again." She placed the bags neatly in the back of the trunk, but before closing it changed her mind and took her camera bag out. She got into the driver's seat and then turned to Tristan and set it in his lap. "Protect this with your life," she told him quite seriously as she started the car. "Ok so you want to head back to your place? Or we can hit Pete's instead."
"Pete's for sure," Tristan said, "Why would I want to go back to my place?" He leaned his back on the headrest, angling his head so he would get the sun on his face.
"I dunno. I haven't seen Skips in ages though. Has he recovered from the flight yet?"
Tristan shook his head, "The wimp's taking a nap behind the couch. He went and hid there as soon as we got home and three hours later he's still there."
Nora laughed, "The poor baby. I guess I'll see him when I drop you off later then." Nora pulled neatly into one of the small parking spots behind their local coffee joint. It was the first place her and Tristan had gone to since they'd moved here, and now it was their favorite place to visit. Tristan ran his hand across the door. He found the handle and pulled it. He was careful to slowly push the door open, so as to not to hit any car that might be next to him. Nora had already gotten out of the car and was sitting on the hood of the car waiting, by the time Tristan climbed out. But blind or not, Tristan was always the gentleman. He walked over to the door of Pete's and pulled the door open for her.
"Thank you," Nora said grinning. She looked over to the register where the oh so familiar owner, Dan, was standing.
"I haven't seen you two around in a while. One green tea, and?" Dan asked.
"And today I think I'll have something hot, and with cinnamon in it," Tristan told him, "And do you have any of those carrot cupcakes you had last time?"
Dan nodded, "I think I do."
"And Nor, you're paying this time, since you owe me a treat," Tristan told her grinning. He then went off to an empty booth and sat down.
Nora bit her lip, but handed her card over to Dan. Being gone for four whole weeks had left Tristan out of the loop on how tight money was right now for her. And it wasn't something she usually complained about, so how was he to know?
Dan smiled, "Go sit down. I'll get Emma to bring the drinks around, she's our new hire."
She tucked her card back into her and then joined Tristan. The vinyl of the seats stuck to her legs as she attempted to scoot further into the booth.
"You know you should really get something other than green tea next time. Doesn't it get boring?" He asked her.
"Tristan how many times have we had this conversation?" Nora said, "I like it. It's my favorite thing on the menu." Whenever the two of them came here, Nora got a green tea, sometimes some kind of pastry but usually not, and Tristan never picked a drink out at all. Instead he just asked Dan to make something of his choice, most times with some vague guidelines. He insisted it kept him on his toes and kept things from getting boring. As if walking around without being able to see didn't keep him on his toes enough.
"Green tea?" The waitress who Nora hadn't realized was standing there asked.
"Her's," Tristan said, gesturing across the table.
The girl set the mug in front of Nora, the whole time looking at Tristan, "And I'm guessing the cupcake's yours? Your drink will be here in a minute."
Upon hearing the clink of a plate against the table, Tristan nodded in approval. He waited until he was sure the waitress was far enough away and then turned to Nora. "She had a nice voice, sounds decently young. How'd she look?" He asked her.
"Hmm," Nora glanced at the walking away waitress, "Maybe an eight? Blond hair down to her waist, no idea what color her eyes are, but I do know they were on you the whole time. She's pretty short, but she's got a decent figure."
Tristan grinned, "She checked me out? Sounds great to me. Bet you a five that I can get a date with her tonight."
"Tristan I know you too well to bet against your powers of seduction."
Tristan opened his mouth, looking like he was going to make a clever remark, but before he could say anything the waitress returned.
"Here's your cinnamon apple cider," she said, her bright blue eyes locked on Tristan's. Nora held back a laugh, imagining the waitress's surprise when she found out that Tristan was blind.
"Thank you sweets," Tristan smiled invitingly, "I'm Tristan and this is Nora."
"Hi, I'm Emma," the girl replied, sounding excessively happy, "How was your tea and the cupcake?"
"I wouldn't know," Nora grumbled to herself, "With all of your rushing in and rushing out I haven't been able to take more than a sip of it."
"I apologize on her behalf," Tristan jumped in, "She can be a little socially inept at times and especially when she hasn't had her tea. My cupcake is good though. Emma, I just got back from out of town today, and was really in the mood for something fun, but since it's a Friday everyone's got plans. Do you have anything interesting to do tonight?"
And somehow that was all Tristan had needed to sweep the blond of her feet. Though the not too tight cotton tee that perfectly accentuated the muscles of his tall, sturdy body probably didn't hurt either. That and his charming smile had drawn a not entirely sober Nora to pull him into a deserted bedroom during a frat party years ago. Neither of them had ever brought it up afterwards, and more likely than not Tristan had been too drunk to remember anyway. Even Nora couldn't remember any more than her dry lips pressed against his soft ones. Just the thought of it made her shudder. They'd known each other since before they were born, and such thoughts seemed incestuous and just gross.
Still, Tristan seemed like the only thing on the waitress's mind at that moment. In the few seconds that Nora had zoned out, Emma and Tristan had already scheduled their date.
Tristan nodded and called out to her as she walked away, "And don't worry about wearing anything special, I'm not going to be able to see it anyway."
Emma looked back at him puzzled. As soon as she looked away, Nora shook her head, holding back a smile. "The poor thing, she's gonna be so confused for the rest of the afternoon."
Tristan shrugged it off nonchalantly, "What can I say? I'm just that good."
"Uh huh," Nora muttered, digging through her purse for her small moleskin calendar. Tristan mentioning that everyone had plans reminded her that she had something scheduled today, but she couldn't remember what it was. "Aha." Nora fished out the book out of her bag and flipped to the nineteenth of February. "Ah crud," she mumbled to herself, glancing at her watch, "Tristan can I drop you off at your place? I have an appointment with this one couple and they're coming over to the studio in an hour."
Tristan nodded a bit reluctantly, "We just got here though."
Nora ran her hands through her hair, "I know, I know, and I'm sorry. I would have offered to make it up to you tonight, but we can just chill at my place Sunday night, ok?"
Tristan got up, "Sounds fine to me, let's head out then." He tapped his cane back and forth on the ground, finding his way to the door. Nora followed, trying to figure out how to explain to Tristan how much she needed this to work out. When she was working as an assistant photographer she had a steady income, got paid regularly and had more than enough money to pay her rent every month. But now it was all different, not only did she have to pay her rent on her apartment, she had to pay the rent on the studio. She could use an assistant herself, but without a steady cash flow that wasn't something she could do.
She got into the car and put the keys in, waiting for Tristan to get in before she started it. Tristan turned on the radio and started shuffling through the stations until he found one that he liked. Nora drummed against the side of the steering wheel along with the beat.
"So you're sure she's cute right?" Tristan asked her, "She smelled somewhat flowery, and her voice was nice, but that was all I got. Well, that and she was pretty excited about tonight."
Nora glanced over at Tristan, her eyes sparkling mischievously, "Well she had a lot of acne, but she has nice features. She looked a little lumpy in the midriff area, and had the beginnings of a 'stache, but other than that she was cute."
Tristan expression slowly turned less joyful, not sure if Nora was telling the truth.
"Actually she might have not been a she for that matter, she had crazy facial hair," Nora burst into laughter.
Tristan glared at her and reached down into the side pocket of the car door, throwing the first small thing he found at her. "That's just messed up," he told her trying hard not to smile.
Nora scrunched up her nose as a ketchup packet hit her straight in the face. "How is it you're blind but you have such good aim?"
"Nora dearest, anyone can throw better than you."
"Alright, alright, we're here Tristan. I'll expect interesting stories about tonight's date when I see you day after tomorrow." Nora stayed parked in front of his house until Tristan got inside and then drove back to her place. All the while telling herself to not worry and that the meeting would go fine.
She parked the car and hurried up the stairs in her sturdy black pumps, careful not to take too large steps and put stress on her pencil skirt. Nora went straight into her room and turned to the mirror above her dresser. She gathered her hair up and deftly twisted it into a tight bun. Holding it firmly with one hand, she grabbed a handful of bobby pins from a small container on the dresser and poked the pins into her hair until the knot stayed. She then leaned into the mirror to examine her face. Nora glared at the dull brown eyes that stared back at her and at the freckles that were starting to peek out through the foundation she had applied this morning. She took a few drops of foundation onto her finger and dabbed them over the bridge of her nose and the tops of her cheeks, covering the spots on her face once more. She glanced back at her watch and, realizing that she did in fact have a good amount of time left, took her time walking back down the stairs to her studio which was on the ground floor.
Thank goodness for small miracles, Nora thought to herself. That she could find a studio and an apartment both in the same building was a huge blessing in itself.
She stepped into the studio and flicked on the lights. Nora pulled out her wedding portfolio and sat down at her desk in front of her computer. There she waited until the couple walked in. Five minutes late.
Nora stood up and walked over to greet them. The couple responded politely and seated themselves on the other side of the desk. Nora opened up her desk drawer and pulled an information sheet out of it.
"Miss Saunders?" Nora asked, "I think I spoke to you on the phone. If you could fill this out for me, that would be helpful. So do the two of you have an idea of what you would want from me as a photographer?"
The woman nodded, her sparkling earrings jingling with each nod, "We would need an engagement session, two hours long at the very least. And I want to have photos from the rehearsal dinner. We'd want a portrait session before the wedding. And I want full coverage of the wedding and all the preparation before it."
"Ok," Nora nodded, "These are the different packages I have, and you can tailor them to your needs. This is one with most included," she said pointing out the first of the five packages, "And I feel like it's the one closest to what you want. And also here are my portfolios, if you want to take a look."
The woman waved her off. "I already saw your pictures on your site, I like the photos that you take that's why I called you. Now-"
"Actually I wouldn't mind seeing them," The until now silent man spoke up, taking the two books and flipping through them, "I like the way some of these look. Can we get ones done in a similar style?" He asked. His fingers stopped flipping pages when he reached a photo of a piggybacking on the groom
"Yes you can. Actually once you pick a package, the next thing I suggest couples do is make a general list of who and what they want pictures of, so I know what to focus on."
The woman was scribbling away frantically on the small information sheet Nora had handed her, filling the margins of the page with extra information that wouldn't fit in the small spaces Nora had included for each of the questions. She glanced over to see what photo Liam was looking at and she huffed. "Liam I love you, but you can't honestly think you can pick me up that easily. Plus my dress would get all wrinkled. We'll take the first package," the woman said, waving her perfectly manicured hands around impatiently, "And as for the list can I fax it to you later? I really must get moving. Liam, could you stay and fill out any more paperwork that she needs done?" She handed Nora the filled out information sheet, with writing all over the front and the back, picked up her purse, and headed out the door.
The man sighed, "I apologize, Brooke's not usually like this. All the wedding planning is putting a lot of stress on her."
"I understand. I see a lot of couples in here Mr.?" She paused, not recalling his name.
"Mr. Simmons, but Liam is just fine," he told her.
"I'd prefer Mr. Simmons if that's alright," Nora replied. She liked keeping a professional attitude with her clients.
"That's fine too," he said, pushing his glasses up the bridge of his nose, "So what else did you need me to do?"
"Actually, I would have preferred to go through this with both of you here, but I'll see what I can do. I'll need you to sign this contract which says you'll pay a fee of thirty percent of the total cost up front, and the rest of it later. It also outlines what you're paying for. I don't need this right now, so you can look it over and drop it off sometime within the next week. But in addition to that I'll need you to answer some questions about the type of pictures you would like taken."
Nora started listing off the different types of photos she could take, giving him options between candid and posed, soft romantic colors and bright saturated ones, and had him point out a few pictures from her portfolios that he particularly liked. You could tell that the man hadn't been doing much with wedding planning from his obvious discomfort. But Nora was happy with the responses he gave. She would end up, for the most part, taking the kinds of pictures she enjoyed. Even better was that from what he said, it seemed like she'd end up having a lot of liberty in taking her photos, though she doubted that would be the case after she talked to the man's fiancée again.
"Great," she said, sliding her notes and the information sheet into a file folder, "Actually I think that's all I need. Your fiancée should be faxing me the rest of the information that I need. Here's my card," Nora reached into the caddy of business cards and handed one to Liam, "Feel free to call me if you have any questions."
Liam nodded and he too headed towards the door, before leaving he turned back and gave Nora a bemused smile, "Thanks."
"No problem, it's my job." After he drove off, Nora rested her head in her arms. From just those few minutes she'd spent with the woman, she knew this job was going to be no picnic. What was it with weddings that drove women insane? And now she had to put up with her. Nora would definitely not have willingly brought upon herself, but they did decide to go with the biggest package, which was always a plus.
She pulled out the information sheet and glanced at it again. The wedding was in three months, less time than was usually needed to book a photographer, but since Nora was just starting out on her own and not well established enough to have bookings that far in advance, or bookings at all for that matter, the couple had gotten lucky. When the woman had called her, sounding irritated because everyone else was booked, she was relieved to hear Nora still had the day open. And the venue was a nearby church, one of the larger ones, and one that Nora was quite familiar with. She would still visit it to plan out her photo taking though. She pulled out her calendar and started penciling in dates for visiting the church, talking to the priest, and potential engagement photo session dates. Actually having events on her calendar might help alleviate these overwhelming waves of nausea she had every time she thought about the state of her business.