Updated chapter1.txt

Ahelmic6 authored
revision 8eb625c5a53908587f6d465e63d5a1992be53e77
chapter1
> “Photography takes an instant out of time, altering life by holding it still.” -Dorothea Lange


A distant pounding noise startled Nolen from his slumber. He jumped with a start, his mind still immersed in the dream he had awoken from. His eyes struggled to adjust to the sunlight that was pouring in from his studio window. Thoughts raced through his mind as his heartbeat began to slow. The pounding started again, this time louder, closer. Suddenly, he realized that someone was at the door.

“Just a minute!” He called out, fumbling out of bed as he tried to free himself from it’s warm fibers. He had lost his shirt in the night, and could not find it beneath the mound of wool and cotton.

His pulse began to quicken, as he feared the unknown visitor would leave before he reached the door. Giving up on the shirt, he reluctantly made his way across the studio, preparing himself to answer the door in a pair of sweatpants.

“Please... don’t be a client.” Nolen muttered under his breath, bracing himself for the worst as he unfastened the security chain and switched the deadbolt.

The door silently opened, allowing Nolen to peek outside into the hall. His eyes met a pair of deep blue eyes. The eyes belonged to a young woman, a few inches smaller than he was, with natural blonde hair. The woman was casually dressed, a light yellow dress with a white shrug. Over her shoulder was a purse decorated in a pattern he was familiar with, yet could not seem to place.

“Well it’s about time Nole....did you forget about our plans today?” The woman questioned as she stared back at him with a smirk on her face. It was clear that she was bothered by his tardiness, yet she appeared to be enjoying herself.

“Uh...sorry Em. What was it we were -“ He began to ask as she raised an eyebrow at him. He stepped aside so that she could enter the studio apartment.

“You forgot? We were supposed to meet me for coffee, so that you could show me the proofs and I could pick out the ones I liked.”Emily smiled as she spoke, her gaze falling upon his exposed chest. He was small for his height, his body was lean, but not chiseled with muscles. She then shifted her attention to the apartment.

The apartment she now stood in was small, a single open room, with the exception of the bathroom which was hidden behind a wall of frosted window panes. The rest of the dwelling melded together, while certain areas still maintained its own unique individuality.

The space itself was tidy, with the exception of the bed that remained unkempt, pillows and blankets strewn about the mattress, some of which escaped onto the hardwood floors. There were wires attached to the bed to allow for it to be stored in the wall once it was ready to be put away. Across from the bed was a desk on which two computers sat. The desktop computer, an iMac, was connected to various devices through a USB hub. One of the devices was a digital camera, the word 'NIKON' was embroidered on the strap of the camera. The rest of the apartment held various pieces of equipment, as well as a few storage containers.

“I didn’t forget. You haven’t even given me a chance to get there. It’s not even twelve yet!” Nolen stated, as he desperately fought to stifle a yawn.

“Nolen, that was two hours ago. It’s almost three o’clock in the afternoon.” She spoke, a look of concern suddenly appearing on her face. “Are you still having trouble sleeping?”

Nolen gave a sigh and turned to walk across the apartment. He gestured for her to sit down on a couch next to his computer desk. “Let me grab a quick shower. I probably smell like ass. We’ll get started once I’m done?” Nolen asked as he avoided her question and moved toward a wall with frosted glass panes. It was the only room in the entire apartment.

“Would you like some company?” Emily grinned, watching as Nolen smiled back at her.

“Not this time.” Nolen replied as he moved the glass-paned sliding door open, and then quickly shut it behind him.

The door to the bathroom slid open twenty minutes later. Nolen stepped out, a towel wrapped around his waist as steam billowed from the bathroom. His graying hair was still damp, drops of water hitting his exposed flesh as he moved across the apartment. Emily had moved to his desk, and was perusing its contents when she noticed drops of water hitting her arm.

“You’re dripping a little, dear.” Emily said, glancing up into his deep green eyes. Her hand made contact with his as she released the mouse to the iMac so that he could take over.

“Sorry about that. I tried to hurry. I believe these are what you were looking for snoopy?” He said, opening a folder on his desktop that was marked with a bunch of numbers. He smiled as he shifted his eyes from the screen to hers.

“How do you even know where everything is?! There’s so much junk on this thing!” She exclaimed, referring to the hundreds of icons and folders on the desktop.

“It’s not junk. It’s work.“

"Ever hear of organization? I hear it's bigger than sliced bread.” Emily teased, examining the contents of the newly opened folder. Hundreds of photographs were spread out before her, in each one a familiar pair of eyes peered back at her. The images were so sharp, she could have been looking into a mirror.

“These look amazing, have you finished editing them?” She asked, excitement filling her voice. Nolen smiled at her, pleased with her apparent joy.

“Not quite. I've saved the completed photos in a folder. It should be near the bottom. How many did you say you needed?” Nolen had made his way to a dresser next to the bed, and was now searching for something to wear. He finally settled on a pair of loose khaki cargo pants, and one of his many charcoal gray shirts.

Glancing back at Emily, who was now staring at him with bright eyes, he asked, “So...are you going to stare at me the whole time, or those photographs?”

“I'm fine right here.” She replied, her grin becoming even larger. Nolen realized that she would not be fully content with just looking at the images on her screen, and retreated to the bathroom to dress himself. With the door ajar, he asked her “Mind if we discuss business over breakfast? I'm famished”

“You mean lunch?” She asked, the disappointment in her voice was unmistakable to him.

“Business first Emmie, then we can do whatever you want. I promise.” Nolen said, as he emerged from the bathroom. Gathering up his sling bag, he moved toward Emily. Grasping the camera, he untethered the device from the USB hub. Checking the battery and memory card, he gently placed the device in his bag.

Holding a hand out to Emily he smiled and said, "Ready to go? Since you were patient enough to wait on me, I'm buying."

"Oh really?" The woman asked, grasping Nolen's hand as he helped her out of the chair.

"It's the least I could do, I mean after all, your theater is paying me a decent amount of money to photograph you."

***
Nolen and Emily left the studio apartment on the fifth floor, using the stairs to make their way to the ground level of the building. The lobby of the building was brightly light, the red and orange autumn colors creating a warm, inviting atmosphere. The room was decorated with plastic ferns and multiple cushioned chairs that matched the color scheme. A single employee sat at a desk to their left, greeting the pair as they passed. Exiting the building, Nolen steered his guest to the right, and pointed towards an intersection.

"There's a nice little cafe around the corner. The food is great, and the dessert is phenomenal." Nolen said.

"Dessert? I thought you were wanting actual food!" Emily replied, glancing at Nolen, who was now waiting for traffic to cease so that the pair could cross the street. Noticing the traffic had stopped, he gestured for her to go first.

"There's always room for dessert, Em." He said as they stepped onto the sidewalk. Quickening his pace, Nolen took the lead, turning left at the corner of a building. He stopped at the entrance to an alleyway, turning to face Emily.

"It's down this way!" Nolen ushered his guest to follow him as he entered the narrow street. Emily hesitantly followed him, unsure of what lay down the forlorn street. A single royal blue awning could be seen further up the path. Reaching the awning, Nolen grasped the handle to the door and pulled. The door did not budge. Puzzled, Nolen glanced at Emily, who was now peering through a window next to the doorway.

"Well, this is odd. They're usually open by now." Nolen said as he gave the handle another pull. The green door remained closed, despite his efforts.

"...when was the last time you visited this place?" She asked, struggling to see inside the dark interior.

"Hm, I think it was after that 'Wicked' performance your theater group did. When was that..." Nolen paused, struggling to recall the memory.

"That was almost a year ago! How often do you get out exactly?" Emily teased, giving up on the window. Returning to Nolen's side, she grasped his arm and began to steer him back to the main street, away from the now abandoned restaurant.

"Come on, we'll grab a cab and go to Maxwell's. The special today is your favorite soup!" Emily said, throwing a smile at Nolen in an attempt to lighten his mood. She could tell that he was bothered by the sudden closure of what appeared to be one of his favorite places.

****

The cab ride to Maxwell's was brief, despite the late afternoon traffic. The driver proved to be experienced as he effortlessly guided the yellow cab through side streets, completely avoiding the busy streets of Boston. Nolen stared aimlessly out the window, trying not to think of how long the two of them had spent in the vehicle. On a normal day, Nolen would have never made a trip like this, especially in the middle of the week. The only mode of transportation he possessed, let alone desired to use, was a Trek Transport bicycle. The Trek had cost him a hefty price, but Nolen gladly paid the price to have the ability to navigate through the town. Automobiles were expensive, especially with the maintenance and fuel costs, let alone the price to park in the underground garage of his apartment building. For ten percent of the cost he could store his bike in one of the secure racks in the parking garage.

The car came to a sudden stop, causing Nolen's body to lurch forward. Nolen managed to brace his arm against the glass divider before his head made contact with it. A sense of uneasiness overcame him as he frantically looked around the cab. Emily, who had been texting on her phone, was now bent over, trying to locate her mobile in the dark abyss of the cab floor. Upon retrieving it, she turned her attention to Nolen.

"Are you alright?" She asked, concerned about the sudden change in his complexion. The color had drained from his face, but was slowly returning. He was obviously not a fan of vehicles. Emily could not recall a single moment where she had seen her friend in a vehicle, let alone in one.

"Yeah, I'm fine. Is this place much farther?" Nolen asked, failing to conceal the anxiousness in his voice.

"It's actually just a block over. Excuse me, sir, could you let us out here?" Emily addressed the cab driver, who obliged her request and turned into an empty parking spot on the side of the street.

Nolen exited the cab through the passenger door on the driver's side, feeling more at ease now that he had his feet on the pavement. He retrieved his wallet from his back pocket and was preparing to pay the fare when Emily placed her hand over his wallet. Handing the cab driver a handful of bills, she took Nolen by the arm and directed him down the street.

"Are you sure you're ok? You looked awfully pale back there." Emily hesitantly asked, afraid to offend her guest.

"I promise, I'm ok. Just not a big fan of cars I guess. You should have let me pay the fare." Nolen said as Emily pulled him towards a building. Maxwell's was a brown bricked building with a red canopy and large front windows. Peering inside, Nolen could see an assortment of maroon booths and tables. In the back of the building was a bar of some kind, but Nolen doubted it served any type of alcohol.

"What kind of place is this again?" Nolen asked as Emily pulled him inside.

Nolen struggled to make out the interior of the restaurant as his eyes adjusted to the change in lighting. A few moments later, he could see that the restaurant provided a friendly atmosphere. The bar he had noticed from the window contained a variety of machines, one of which he could see was an industrial juicer of some kind.

His thoughts were interrupted by the appearance of a waitress, who was dressed in a simple black uniform with 'Maxwell's' embroidered on the breast in red cursive letters. A silver name tag was pinned below the restaurant name read 'Jessica'. The waitress brought the pair to a booth next to one of the windows overlooking the sidewalk they had just come from. Nolen thanked her, as she placed two menus on the table, then retreated to the bar at the back of the restaurant. She returned a moment later with two glasses of water.

"Do you two need a couple of minutes to look over the menu?" She asked, placing the glasses of water in front of the guests.

Nolen flipped the cover open, revealing the contents of the menu. He noticed that while there was a variety of items listed, the meals were all vegetarian. Noticing his confusion, Emily began to order.

"Actually, we're ready now. I'll have the house salad with basalmic vinairgrette, and he'll have the tomato basil soup." Emily closed the menu, glancing at Nolen, whose head was still buried in the menu.

The waitress quickly jotted down the order, pausing to see if they wanted to add anything additional to the order. Emily declined and handed her menu to the waitress. Nolen however, was still examining the strange menu. Placing his finger on the page, he lifted his head so that he could look at the waitress.

"Excuse me, miss? How does this taste? I've never had hummus before.." He asked, his eyes returning to the menu as he spoke. The waitress glanced at Emily, who was now stretching as far as she could across the table in an effort to see what had caught Nolen's attention.

"Hummus is kind of like a dip. It's made from chickpeas. Right now we have a new pumpkin hummus, it's delicious. but we also have garlic and roasted red pepper kinds too. It comes with warm pita bread or vegetables. You can do both for a little extra." The waitress replied, clicking the stopper on her pen as she spoke. She was quickly becoming impatient.

"Can we get an order of that as well, with just the chips?" Nolen said as he closed the menu. He held it out for the waitress, who quickly grabbed it and hurried off.

An awkward silence fell upon the table following the server's departure. Emily was staring aimlessly out the window and onto the street, nothing particular catching her interest. Nolen continued to shift his eyes around the room, noticing the various details of the small establishment.

A few minutes passed before the silence was broken by Nolen, who had grown bored with the aesthetics around him. He turned to look at the girl who sat across the table from him. Her blonde hair falling from behind her eye, shielding her bright blue eyes from Nolen's view. Her right hand fiddled with a single golden chain that was draped around her neck, disappearing into the folds of her dress. It was impossible for Nolen to make out what the golden thread held, he could not recall ever seeing it before.

"Is it new?" He asked, his soft voice breaking the silence, as well as the girl's daydreaming. She stared at him with wide eyes, unable to comprehend what he had said. He touched the base of his neckline, snapping Emily back to conciousness.

"OH! This? Not really, no. I've had it for ages. I thought I had lost it when I moved up here." She said as she unconciously began to caress the chain again.
forcing Emily to awaken from the trenches of her mind. She stared at him, the blue irises exposing her confusion. Unable to comprehend what he had said, she tilted her head. Nolen smiled while moving his hand to the base of his neckline, stroking an invisible thread in the air. As he imitated the movement she had just performed, Emily suddenly became aware of what she had been doing.

"OH! This? Not really, no. I've had it for ages. I thought I had lost it when I moved up here." She said as she unconciously began to caress the chain again.

"Can I see it?" Nolen asked as he held an outstretched hand above the table.

Emily fumbled with the clasp, wincing in pain as a few strands of hair that had become tangled in the golden hook were ripped from the back of her neck. As she removed the now severed cord, the pendant was exposed from beneath her yellow dress. The small cross matched the coil that held it around the girl's neck, and was made up of two braids of metal. In the center, a single emerald intersected the braids, shimmering as the sunlight from the window fell upon the table. After examining the fastening, she reattached it to the circular loop at the other end of the chain, and placed it into Nolen's open hand.

"This is a beautiful pendant, is the stone real?" Nolen asked, drawing the necklace closer to his face to study it.

"I'm not really sure.." Emily hesitantly replied. "It was a gift from my grandmother, so it's difficult to say." She quickly added.

Before Nolen could inquire further, he was interrupted by a series of muffled beeps. Emily glanced at her phone, which she had placed on the table next to the window, and then returned her gaze to Nolen who, embarrassed, fumbled around in his bag for his mobile phone.

"Damn..." He said after viewing the screen in his right hand. He passed the necklace back to Emily. Mouthing the words 'I'm sorry', he slid from the booth as he answered the incoming call.

"Rory, hey..." Emily heard as she watched Nolen exit the restaurant. Glancing out the window, she could see him pacing along the sidewalk, staring at his feet. Occasionally, he would glance up at her, making funny faces.

"I hope I'm not interrupting something Nolen, but this couldn't wait" The voice on the other line said, a hint of urgency in his voice.

"It's alright Rory, I was just out for a meal with someone. What's up?" Nolen replied, struggling to hold back the anxiousness in his voice, so as not to sound rude.

"Well, you remember that small film company, the independent one from Lewiston?" Rory asked.

"Lewiston...Lewis-ton...I can't say it rings a bell." Nolen sarcastically relpied, feigning ignorance.

"Nolen..." Rory said, drawing out his name, in a poor attempt to somehow appease his friend's mood.

"Oh! Lewiston, the one in Maine? You mean the one that didn't hire me because they felt I was too 'inexperienced'?" Nolen asked, the bitterness in his voice was unmistakeable.

"Yeah...that one. I don't suppose you'd want to give it a go, would you?" The caller on the other end hesitantly asked, afraid of the impending backlash he would face for merely suggesting such a thing.

"Are you kidding me?! Why would I ever want to work for those pompous assholes?!" Nolen spoke, his voice slightly raised. A few passersby glanced at him as they made their way down the sidewalk, some of whom appeared to be offended by his choice in language.

"They're willing to pay you double what they originally offered -." Upon hearing these words, Nolen interrupted his friend.
"Double?! Why would they pay me DOUBLE when they refused to hire me in the first place?!" Nolen all but screamed into the receiver. He was confused, and slightly furious.

"From what I understand, the other guy backed out at the last minute. They need you to start by the end of the week...they're desperate Nolen." Rory calmly replied.

Nolen felt that there was something else in his voice, which puzzled him greatly. Rory was not the kind of person that would beat around the bush. That was one of the qualities that attracted Nolen to him. It was difficult to trust a manager who constantly fed misinformation to you. Rory, on the other hand, had always spoke freely with Nolen. He was not afraid to give his opinion, even if it might cost him his job. It was because of this that the pair had managed to stay together since college.

"So I get to be the sloppy seconds then? Come on Rory," Nolen finally spoke, hoping to pry whatever it was Rory was hiding from him.

"You know it's not like that at all. They loved your work. Stunning, I think that's the word they used. But, someone better came along. Someone that had a lot of experience. And if you take this job, you'll get that experience! You'll be one step closer to your goal, to our goal!" Rory was desperately trying to lighten Nolen's mood, Nolen could hear it in his voice.

Silence fell as Nolen tried to consider his options. As much as he hated the film company for abandoning him, he was certainly in no position to be turning down work. His studio apartment, while small, cost a small fortune to rent. While the apartment was originally meant to be purchased, Nolen had worked out a deal with the manager that owned the property. He could pay rent each month and eventually claim ownership of the fifth floor studio, but it would be at an increased cost. Instead of a flat fee of three hundred and fifty thousand dollars, he would pay an extra twenty five thousand to rent it over ten years. The sooner he could pay it off, the less he would pay in the long run.

"Fine...I'll do it Rory. When do they need me up there?" Nolen asked as he turned his head and glanced at the restaurant window. He noticed that Emily was now toying with her phone in a poor attempt to pass the time. Realizing he was being a poor host, he decided it best to return to the table as quickly as possible.

"How about by the end of the week? Is that managable?" Rory replied, his voice suddenly changing, seeping with overwhelming joy.

"I think so. Hell, it's only a two hour drive. I'll find some way to make it. But, I really have to go now." Nolen said, jumping as he heard a tapping from behind him. Emily was trying to get his attention. As he turned around to face her again, he could see the waitress behind Emily, placing an assortment of dishes on the table.

"Sure, sorry to have interrupted your date -"

"It's not a date. It's just lunch with a client, nothing more." Nolen replied as he felt a small wave of heat across his face. Thankfully, his back was once again to the window. He could only imagine what Emily would say if she could see his face.

"Well, do tell her that I said hello champ. Oh, and one last thing. The film company has already arranged for your travel. Your flight to Ontario leaves on Thursday. I'll email you the details!" Rory quickly spoke before the connection was severed. He had intentionally ended the call before he had to hear the outrage in Nolen's voice.

Angrily, Nolen shoved the Blackberry device in his left pocket before heading for the entrance to Maxwell's. Before entering the restaurant, he took a moment to compose himself, inhaling deeply. When he returned to the table, his soup was waiting for him, a small trail of steam emanating from the red liquid. His guest had already started to enjoy her meal, and had abandoned any hope she had of his return.

"I'm really sorry about that, Em." Nolen said as he returned to the booth. Unwrapping his silverware, he took a moment to gaze at the plates laid out in front of him. The soup was a rich color, a few flecks of basil could be seen floating in the red sea. In the center of the table lay a small bowl of orange mush, what Nolen could only assume to be 'hummus'. A bowl of triangle-shaped 'chips' was beside it, however they were not what he had expected. Instead of a traditional crunchy chip, these seemed to be no more than pieces of bread.

"It's alright, it seemed important. I noticed you had a small audience out there." Emily said, taking another heaping bite of lettuce and other assorted vegetables.

"Is everything alright?" She added, moving lettuce around on her plate.

"Huh? Oh, yeah. It's fine. Just a last minute job, that's all." He feigned a smile, reaching for a chip. Before dipping it in the hummus, Nolen decided to taste the pita chip. As he suspected, it was merely small pieces of flat bread, however, the pumpkin hummus gave it a neat taste. As he took his first bite, he was immediately reminded of Thanksgiving.

"This stuff is pretty tasty! I'm a little disappointed in the chips, but this hummus stuff is really good." Nolen said, trying not to speak with his mouth full.

"What kind of job is it?" Emily asked, steering the conversation back to the mysterious phone call Nolen had taken during their meal. She was intrigued by his attempt at avoiding the subject.

Swallowing a mouthful, Nolen paused, looking outside at the busy street. He let out a heavy sigh, then turned his attention back to Emily and her bright inquiring eyes.

"It's some job I was rejected from a couple of months ago. It was for a film company, some small thing. They needed a location scout, a grunt who basically travels all over the place to find the right locations for a movie. It would have been, will be my first time doing something like this." Nolen explained, pausing to try a few spoonfuls of his now lukewarm soup.

"The guy they found backed out, so now they want me to do it." He finished, taking a sip of water from the cold glass in front of him.

"So, you're like their backup person? Like what the theater does?" Emily replied, attempting to persuade Nolen to change his perspective on the matter.

"I guess you could say that. I mean, technically yes it's exactly like that. The only thing is that the entire thing is going to be rushed. And I'm not a fan of rushed projects." Nolen said as he finished the last of his soup.

"I leave for Canada in three days." Nolen stated as he watched Emily, trying to gauge her reaction to the news. Whatever she was feeling, her face would not betray it.

"That sounds exciting. I've never really traveled much. This is the farthest away from home I've ever been." She replied, turning her attention to something beyond the pane of glass.

"Personally, I've done too much of it. It gets tiring after a while."

Glancing at a clock above the bar, he noticed that it had gotten late. Retrieving his black leather wallet from his back pocket, he slid from the booth and headed toward the bar, where their waitress had taken up residence after serving their food to the table. He spoke a few kind words to her, exchanging pleasantries, complimenting her on the food. After paying the bill, he returned to Emily, his wallet a little lighter than before.

"Well, I hate to run Em, but I have to start packing soon, so I better be getting back." He said, a note of disappointment infiltrating his words. She removed herself from the booth, standing next to him.

"That's a pity. We didn't even get to discuss the photographs you took of me. Plus, I need to give this to you." She said as she opened the bag at her side. From it she fished out a light colored envelope, examined it, then handed it to Nolen. Inside the envelope was a small piece of cardstock. Printed on the slip was an image of a man, whose face was obscured by a white mask. The words, 'Phantom of the Opera' were printed in white italics. The ticket was for a showing at the theater Emily performed at.

"For me? I can't accept this Em, you gave me a free ticket to the last two shows!" Nolen exclaimed, hoping not to offend her with his refusal.

"We wanted you to come. The cast is so thankful for the work you've done. It's really helped the theater a great deal. Not a lot of people are like you, Nole. They only care about money, they don't have the passion you do. Please take it?" Emily replied, almost pleading with him.

"Alright, you talked me into it. I promise I'll be there." Nolen replied.

Gathering his belongings, Nolen walked with Emily, holding the door open for her as she exited the restaurant. On the sidewalk Emily scanned the speeding traffic, hoping to find a cab.