IT WAS LATE IN THE DAY when we returned to the agency. The sun was behind the agency and the late afternoon light filtered playfully through the leaves of the small tree that stood in front of the building. Rob and the other models sprinted up...
IT WAS LATE IN THE DAY when we returned to the agency. The sun was behind the agency and the late afternoon light filtered playfully through the leaves of the small tree that stood in front of the building. Rob and the other models sprinted up the marble steps two at a time to check their schedules for Monday with Kristina and Pepea.
I lagged behind on the sidewalk and eyed the handwritten menu of a small restaurant with chairs and tables that spilled out onto the wide sidewalk. I was very hungry and would much rather eat than serve as a bullshit sounding board for Rob. I understood tortellini: twenty-three hundred lire. I sat down at one of the tables and pointed out to the young waiter with curly dark hair and full nose and lips what I wanted on the chalkboard. I pointed to a water bottle that sat on an empty table and held up one finger and said, “Uno agua, por favor.”
He bowed slightly and said, “Grazie.” I put my backpack under my chair and put my foot on one of the straps. I soon felt the presence of someone standing on the other side of the table as a shadow rested on the small round table. I looked up at a tall girl smoking a cigarette and looking at the seat on the other side of the little round table. The light of the sun seemed to be radiating from all sides of her.
“Is someone sitting here?” she asked before taking a long drag on a cigarette held between long, delicate fingers. I was frozen by her beauty and stared up at her blankly without speaking.
“Is someone sitting here or not?” she repeated with a lighter than air laugh.
“Uhhh, no, no. You can sit here,” I stammered as I stood up to introduce myself, “I’m Daryl.”
“Yeah,” she said, “I know,” with a strong Dutch accent. “I am Maresa.”
She was almost as tall as I and was wearing a puffy, shapeless mini-skirt and a tight white, men’s tank top over bare skin. The shirt left little to the imagination of the size and shape of her full breasts beneath.
Her skin was the color of coffee with too much cream and her hair seemed to go everywhere but flat on her shoulders. Her bare legs were impossibly long and her feet and calves were wrapped in the straps of brown leather gladiator sandals. Her face was flawlessly heart shaped. Her eyes were golden–yellow, like ripened wheat in the late day autumn sun. Her lips were full and parted to show white teeth that were perfect in their imperfection.
My stomach jumped weightlessly like a drop on an old wooden roller coaster as my heart began to beat fast and hard within my chest. My face flushed red as I sat motionless, letting my eyes take in all that was in front of me.
“You are a model with Beatrice, yes?” she asked while continuing to smoke with her head tilted back.
“Yes,” I said while trying not to stare at her, fearing that she could fly away like a bird at any moment.
“Me, too,” she said with a crooked smile, again showing her white teeth. “How old are you, anyway?”
She asked with genuine interest in a sing-song voice that did not seem to fit the harsh Dutch accent that formed her words.
“Nineteen,” I said, puzzled by the question.
“Wow, dude. You are much younger than the other guys,” she said while holding the cigarette between her lips and balancing the long red and black cylinder of ash at the end of her cigarette. “You don’t look nineteen. Did Kellen choose you?”
“Yes,” I answered, looking away from her and down at my hands in an attempt to slow my heart from beating through my ribs and onto the table.
“Hmm,” she pondered while looking across the table at me through half-lidded eyes.
“I don’t see why he chose you. I have worked with some of the guys that Kellen picked, and they are not at all like you.”
My heart sank as I listened to her words. I knew without knowing that a woman like Maresa would never be with me; at the same time I knew that I would be fascinated and in love with her for a long, long time to come.
“I’m not sure, maybe you’re right. I was beginning to think the same thing myself,” I said while looking across the table and into her bright golden eyes. I silently dreamed of pulling her close to me and kissing her full lips and feeling her lithe body push into mine, blocking out all of the world, and falling down into her as she let go and fell into me; losing myself in everything that was Maresa.
She tilted her head back casually and returned my gaze without blinking as she put her cigarette out in the small glass ashtray in the middle of the table.
The young waiter brought a large bowl of pasta to me. Maresa ordered a glass of white wine. I silently watched as she lit up another cigarette and began to smoke, imprinting everything about her into my head as she looked at me through half-lidded eyes with a mixture of curiosity and disinterest, as only a beautiful woman can do.
A male model with blond hair and a jumble of teeth suddenly appeared at the table to the right of Maresa.
“Hey...can I sit with you guys?” he asked enthusiastically as he pulled out a chair and sat down backwards on it before Maresa or I could answer him.
Maresa shrugged disinterestedly as I nodded in reply without enthusiasm.
He sat backwards on the chair, draping his forearms over the back.
“My name is Keith; Keitho in Italian,” He said with too much energy as he smiled and showed off jumbled and stacked teeth that pushed his lips out whether he was talking or close-mouthed.
“I’m Daryl and this is Maresa,” I offered; wanting him to leave, but knowing that he would not.
“Hey there,” he said to Maresa, like a used car salesman. She effortlessly ignored him.
He gave her a mock look of surprise, as if he was wounded by her treatment of him, letting both of us know that it was her loss.
He quickly turned his attention to me without missing a beat.
“What makes you think you can be a model, Sport-o?” he questioned as his puffy lips moved up and down over his jumble of teeth.
“Not sure,” I answered quickly, “I just thought I would give it a shot.”
“Wee-eell,” he said with concern, “you need to have something that makes you unique; makes you stand out from all of the other losers. You know, the short guys with no chance of making it in this business.”
I looked blankly at Keith and then over at Maresa. She was only partially listening to the crap that came out of Keith’s mouth; he didn’t seem to interest her and she was too busy with her cigarette to focus her full attention on him. Her head tilted back and her eyes closed as she took long, satisfying drags on her cigarette, and exhaled lines of thin blue smoke into the air.
Keith tried to ignore her as she beautifully ignored him while he continued to speak to me, leaning closer to me as he said,
“My speci-a-lity is my abs. I do a lot of fashion work without my shirt, you know? My abs are my forte,” he said while patting his stomach through the opening at the back of the metal chair.
“Your forte?” I questioned, unable to conceal my amusement at what just came out of his mouth.
As soon as the words were out of Keith’s mouth, Maresa opened her eyes fully like a snake noticing the rat that has just been placed in the corner of her herpetorium. She rose up in her chair and hissed ever so quietly,
“Your abs? Really? Let me see those special abs, Keith-o,” she said, gesturing with her cigarette for him to lift his shirt up.
The confidence washed from his face as he stammered, “Well, I haven’t really had much of a chance to work out since I came to Milano, and you know, the pasta and pastries.” He trailed off, hoping that her request would be forgotten and he could resume telling us about how great he was.
“Come-on Keith-o, let’s get a look at those special abs of yours,” she said in a voice that dripped with sarcasm and enthusiasm simultaneously. Now she was interested in the conversation and she was not going to let Keith-o spoil all of her fun.
“Okay, okay,” he said reluctantly, looking almost ready to cry as he pulled up his shirt and showed us his six-pack.
“Oh my god, you are so full of shit!” she spat out while laughing meanly at Keith. “My new friend here has much better abs than you do. Show him,” she said to me with a wicked smile while taking another long, satisfying drag on her cigarette.
I reluctantly stood up as I wondered how the fuck she knew whether I had good abs or not. I slowly lifted up my loose fitting t-shirt in the front and said, “Okay?” as I turned to face Maresa.
She gave me an exaggerated nod and a truly evil half smile as her eyes opened wide as she said to Keith without looking in his direction; “Okay, Now that’s a set of abs, Keitho.” She reached across the table and touched my stomach lightly with the fingertips of her right hand. I noticed that her finger nails were cut short and had no polish on them. Electricity coursed through my body like a shock from a live wire as her finger tips lingered on my bare skin. I slowly pulled my shirt back down and sat down in my chair. I tried without success to pretend I was interested in finishing my pasta as Maresa gave me the same cold, yet interested look that a cat gives a mouse she is playing with before eating him for dinner.
Keith stood up quickly and knocked over his chair onto the sidewalk while giving Maresa and me a hard stare as he walked quickly away.
Daryl Janney is currently writing the sequel to Nineteen as well as a collection of short stories.
Media and interview inquiries: firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Author
Born in 1962, Daryl Janney is a married author and father of seven children. Daryl grew up in Palatine, IL and currently lives in Connecticut. He decided to leave his small town school in 1982 for NYC to pursue a career in modeling and pay for a better education. After his career as a model Daryl earned a degree in English Literature with Distinction from Boston University and went on to become a Master Carpenter. Notable features include GQ, British Vogue, Italian Vogue, Mademoiselle, Lei, Cosmopolitan, Esquire (full bio).