Photo Slave

By: Erika Masten




“Will you be able to give me what I want?” he had asked while I’d stared at those impossibly lush lips in a hue of rose so perfect it wasn’t fair a man should have it. A rhetorical question, this. A tease.

“Pose for me, and I’ll hand over Cheri’s model release,” he’d said, his head of ruffled black hair tilted roguishly as he regarded me with those veiled, too blue eyes. A proposal quite a bit more problematic than it sounded.

Then it had been, “You don’t have to sign a release; no one will know,” and, “My offer will be as sincere as your performance.” Prophetic, to say the least.

My encounter with photographer Nolan Beal played over and over in my head despite the mundane work day droning around me. I’d struck a deal with a devil in denim and leather to keep the rakish and charismatic artist from using the erotic photographs he had of my younger sister for his nouveau noir gallery show, a high couture bondage pin-up exhibition. Despite having gotten exactly what I’d wanted—or at least exactly what I’d asked for—I couldn’t easily forget the price I’d paid.

The evening had proceeded from an awkward but mundane lingerie photo shoot with a lackluster wardrobe and snippy prima donna models to stunning designer gowns and red-soled stilettos, strong wine, and being left alone with a photographer gorgeous enough to be a model himself and seductive enough to make me turn my back on almost three years of good behavior—no partying, no all-night painting sessions, no legendary love affairs or flat out wild sex with this brooding sculptor or that edgy singer / songwriter. That place, Beal’s white brick and scuffed wood studio in the gothic industrial Cathedral Artists Lofts, and that man…. It had all too easily rekindled old hungers with sensations that fanned a need even I hadn’t realize I still carried around under all this hard-cultivated restraint.

Until finally, seeing me anxious and faltering, Beal had handed me that exquisite silk and ribbon mask, that assurance of anonymity. It had been the excuse I needed. I had yielded to, “Open your eyes, Iva. I want you to look at me,” and, “Spread your legs,” to show him my panties and, “All that power and allure comes at a price, doesn’t it?”

Like the swirling storm of apprehensions and pleasures that night, even my memories of what had ultimately happened were a series of sensations narrated by that deep, oh-so-wry voice of his with the melted honey center.

“Pull down your panties, Iva,” he’d instructed coolly and evenly while my ears had been buzzing with the click-click-click of the camera shutter, my skin prickling with sensual provocation from the silk dress I wore and the velvet cushion where I knelt, from the palpable weight of Beal’s attention upon me.

“There’s a fine line between art and life, Iva. Between pretty pictures and actually being taken hard by a man,” he’d cautioned while I shivered in the chill of having pulled my dress up, begging him to rip my clothes off.

He had issued the gruff warnings—“It’s not that neat, Iva.”

And the commands—“Safeword, now,” and, “Say my name. Always say my name,” and, “Show it to me. Open up for me,” and most importantly, “You may only ever come if you’re moaning my name.”

The heated flush spreading over my cheeks now, quickening my breath and fogging my head, reminded me that the office was hardly the place to be reliving the most passionate encounter I’d allowed myself in three years. It couldn’t have happened at a worse time, as I was trying to work my way into a better job, either with the university or with one of the ad agencies I had approached with my graphic art portfolio. I was feeling okay about living a calmer life away from the art scene. And my sister Darcie had started to relax a little more around me, I thought, and almost seemed to trust me again. Now here I was daydreaming about one night that risked everything—while I stumbled and mumbled through secretarial tasks, misfiled paperwork, and misdirected mail.

Point being, if there was anything we Moreau girls had mastered, it was bad timing. So much so that you’d almost think we liked it.

Not just the time when the family was spending the Fourth of July at that cabin rental on the lake and big sister Darcie had snuck out the backdoor and into the woods to make out with the senior class swim captain Brad Yates—quite the show for that boy scout troupe doing their nighttime flashlight nature hike. Or the day Darcie and I were teasing little sister Cheri about finally getting breasts at thirteen and snapping her on the ass with her training bra as we chased her through the house and directly through stepmom Lynn’s book club meeting.