“Yes. I’ll do you a deal. You can stay here for however long, if you help me out with the assistant duties.”
“Of course I will. I’ll help you with anything I can. Just ask.” We smile at each other and I feel a warmth in my chest. Then a thought occurs to me. “I have a couple of jobs lined up this month which I need to do, if that’s okay. I need to pull in my normal money.”
“Of course.” He looks like he’s going to ask me a question, but then pauses as if he’s remembered something. “Have you got any references? I suppose I should cling to the outer trappings of employment, no matter how unorthodox I actually am.”
I think hard. “Yes, of course. You can ring Trevor Saunders.”
He looks startled. “The photographer?”
“Yes. I’ve done loads of jobs for him and he knows me well. Other than Trevor, you can try Elizabeth Henton. She’s my agent, and I’ve known her for years. I can give you both of their numbers.”
Something like dread washes over his face. “What work do you do, Jude?”
“I’m a model.”
The minute I say the words, I swear I can feel all the warmth drain out of the room, and I watch as a chill crosses his face. “Of course you are,” he says, and there’s now a snide edge to his voice. “Just look at you.” He pauses. “Well, if you still want it, I suppose the offer is still open.”
Was it going to shut? I think wildly. Surely not just because I’m a model.
He carries on speaking, his voice cool as a cucumber. “We’ll say it’s a temporary offer. I’m sure you’ll get a better one at one of your modelling jobs.” My mouth drops open because he just implied I was little more than a whore. “It might be a bit too much like normal work for you to deal with, and there’s a fair amount of paperwork which might be too much for you. We’ll have to see.” His voice chills even more. “There are to be no drugs in this house, whatsoever. One whiff of anything hinky, and you’ll be out on your arse.”
I open my mouth to tell him I don’t take drugs, and then pause, wondering if he can smell Dean’s weed on my clothes. He carries on talking. “Just don’t make the mistake of thinking I’m an idiot. That doesn’t run through my side of the family. You’ll pull your own weight if you’re staying here. I don’t carry dead wood.” He smirks. “I really shouldn’t mention weight to a model. I remember it’s not done.”
He looks at his watch before I can say anything, and believe me, there’s a lot waiting to come out. I haven’t encountered so much stereotyping since I watched an old episode of ‘Rising Damp’. “Give me a couple of days to get your checks done, and then you can move in, providing they come up clean.”
I nod dumbly, and he looks me up and down dismissively. “I’m sure you have friends you can stay with until then, or a party to go to somewhere.”
He stands up, and I do the same automatically. “I have an appointment in town I have to get to, so if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be off. Leave your details on the desk, Jude. I’ll let you see yourself out, and I’ll ring you when it’s okay to bring your stuff round.”
The room falls silent as he exits, moving swiftly and gracefully. I stare after him, feeling two parts bemused to one part hurt. It’s not the first time someone has dismissed me as nothing more than a bird-brained clothes-horse, but it is the first time it’s ever bothered me. I know my reasons for doing this, and none of them include a fervent desire to be judged solely on my appearance. I’m much more than that, but he never gave me an opportunity to show it. I’ve been tried, judged, and condemned without even the chance at a defence.
I think over his insinuation that doing paperwork might make my pretty little head explode. Then I smile slowly. If he wants a bird-brained model. I’ll give him one.
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