My bare feet slap against the wood flooring as I race down the hall. I hate being late. I actually hate being on time. I need to be early.
"Where did she put them?" I whisper to myself, spinning around the small bedroom my sister and I use as a walk-in closet. The room is a disaster, still littered with boxes from our move. It's been a month already but both us have been too busy to finish unpacking.
"If I was Brooklyn, where would I leave a pair of flip-flops?" I ask myself. "The closet makes too much sense."
Having already searched for the car keys, hair straightener, and my favorite lip gloss, I am irritated to say the least. Nothing new.
Brooklyn got in late the night before from work. I really don't want to wake her to ask about them. She would breathe fire and tell me to fuck off. Huge waste of time, really.
I am the morning person; she is the night owl.
I dart out of the room and slide into the kitchen. Of course, the pair of sandals sit near the fridge. I shake my head as I slip my feet inside, picturing my sister taking them off as she rummaged the fridge late last night.
"Your screaming woke me up."
I spin on my heel and come face to face with Brooklyn. She looks as exhausted as I feel. Like looking into a mirror.
"Sorry," I say, and I mean it.
"Fourth time this week," she reminds me.
"I'm aware, Brooklyn," I snap. "Is there a reason we can't put the keys on the hook by the door?"
"Because we all can't be as organized and efficient as you, London," she mocks, crossing her arms in annoyance.
Her long brown hair is a knotted mess, her mascara is smudged, and I can see her freckles that are usually covered with makeup. She still looks beautiful even though she just woke up after only a few hours of sleep. Funny how identical we are, but I always think of her as the prettier one. The only difference in appearance is the birth mark I carry on my hipbone but Brooklyn has a sex appeal to her that I don't.
"Well only one of us can be flighty and impulsive. If we both did whatever the hell we felt like, then the world would implode with the chaos."
Brooklyn is the storm to my calm. She is loud where I am quieter. She was the one who thought up the bad ideas. I was the one who thought things out and kept us grounded.
If she were a color, she would be red. Passionate, strong and energetic.
"Maybe the world needs a little more chaos," she argues with a smirk.
"I think you bring enough."
Brooklyn watches me grab my phone and pull my long hair up in a ponytail. Her blue eyes are thoughtful and worried.
"Maybe you should see someone about the nightmares," she says quietly. "It's been weeks now."
I look at my sister and see that I'm hurting her. She and I are all we have, and if we can't protect each other, then no one can.
"It's just the stress of the busy season and the move," I tell her. "Please don't worry."
"You know he won't find us here, London."
I swallow the lump in my throat and nod.
"You're gonna be late," she says, killing the heavy conversation. I fly past her, kissing her cheek on the way.
Glancing at my phone again, I grab my things waiting by the door and rush out of our apartment. I heft the heavy camera bag over my shoulder as I walk quickly down the hall toward the elevators. I almost slam into another resident as I dart into the elevator right before the doors slide close.
"Sorry!" I yell at him as I smash the button for the lobby.
Dark eyebrows rise in amusement as I blush profusely. The guy just stares at me as the open space between us closes in and cuts off our line of vision. I hang my head in embarrassment. I hate being late!
It feels like it takes forever to make it across town and to the beach. Mostly because I get lost and have no idea where I'm going. My camera bag is weighing on my shoulder as I trudge across the sand to the pier where I notice my clients are already waiting.
Starting my photography business over from scratch isn't easy. Nothing matters more right now than impressing them. Changing the name meant I could no longer rely on the word of mouth from past customers. I'm starting over.
I smile wide as I approach the couple and extend my hand.
"Sorry I'm late. I'm London," I say, trying to hide the fact that I'm basically panting.
"You're not late and I am so glad to finally meet you," the bride says, engulfing me in a hug. Her skinny arms squeeze me and I widen my eyes at the smiling groom behind her.
"I'm Jason," he offers when his fiancé doesn't let go and introduce to me.
We shake hands while I am still in a hug. I have been exchanging emails with Amanda for weeks now about the wedding and engagement photos. I guess that makes us best friends judging by our embrace.
"Everyone, this is London, our photographer," she says to the family behind her. For their engagement photos, she wanted to include their immediate family as well.
"Nice to meet you all," I say as I untangle from her arms. "Let me setup and we will get started."
I step away from the group and try to find my calm as I dig through my camera bags. I pull out the lens I need and load a fresh SD card. I quickly play with the shutter speed and aperture until I get the right settings. All the things I like to have done before the clients show up.
The newly engaged couple are easy to photograph. It's a beautiful day on the beach. The sky is clear, the morning light hasn't turned too harsh yet, and the love in their eyes is obvious. It's my favorite thing in the world to photograph. Truth. Honesty.
Amanda is glowing and beautiful. Her eyes sparkle with excitement and love. To me, she is the color yellow. Bright. Happy. Impossible to ignore.
I have always associated people with colors. It's my way of classifying and organizing the people I know. Amanda is yellow. Her husband is a light blue. The pale color of the morning sky after the rain. Calm. Comforting and stable. Everyone I meet is color-coded in my mind.
"Let's get the family in there," I suggest after I take enough shots of the couple with the ocean as the backdrop. I'm getting bored.
The bride is an orphan, so his family is all she has. That was why she wanted them included in the engagement photos. To her, she is marrying the family, not just the man. They took her in, loved her as their own, and gave her somewhere to belong.
His parents join the couple. I fumble with the camera in my hands and lock eyes with his brother who arrived while we were shooting. He wears an amused grin as he joins the group. He isn't watching the family though. He is watching me.
"London, these are Jason's parents and his brother, Kane," Amanda introduces, gesturing to the group. "He gave me your card actually."
I nod and smile politely at them. I'm unable to look away from Kane because he hasn't looked away either. There's something familiar to him but I can't place his face.
He watches me like I'm the most fascinating thing on this beach. He must not see the girls in bikinis all over. They are far better to look at than me right now.
I pull my camera up to my face, shielding myself from the outside world. Through the viewfinder, I can just watch. I am the audience. I'm invisible. I see what they can't.
My instincts take over and I click away. I direct the family as though they are puppets. I tell them where to stand, how to pose. It's the only time in my life when I feel like I have complete and utter control. My subjects do as I say, when I say.
I move the posse all around the beach for the shots I want. They make a sand castle. I direct the others, but I am directing Kane. He watches me as I move, I duck and tilt my body to get the right angle. His attention throws me off and puts me on edge.
"Just the brothers now," I say. I'm in the zone, clicking and moving like it's my second nature.
Kane and Jason stand in my view, smiling and perfect for the camera. Kane has dark hair, dark eyes, and a one of those smiles that makes you think you missed something. It's like he knows a secret that you want to know. My job is to concentrate on Jason, but my attention is on his brother. Because his attention is on me. It's nerve-wracking being the center of someone's attention. It's rare that I ever am and I'm not sure how to handle it.
I try to ignore his stare and do my job. It's like Kane can see through the camera, through the plates of glass and mirrors that stand between us. It makes me feel naked, even through the invisible wall I put up between what is real and what we choose to see.
When the sun is right above us, casting a bright and harsh light, I'm done for the day with hundreds of photographs that I can hand over later.
"I think we are all done here," I tell the couple. "I will email you this week, Amanda."
"Thank you," she says, her eyes glistening as she pulls me in for another tight hug.
There's always a bride who is over-emotional over everything. The ones so in love that they can't believe their perfect day is actually coming. Those women cherish every moment leading up their wedding. They never realize that it's the days after the vows that matter the most.
I start to pack up my bags when I feel him standing behind me.
"You want help taking those to your car?" he asks. He doesn't really wait for an answer, grabbing the heaviest of my bags and throwing it over his shoulder like it's full of air.
"Thank you," I say, brushing the hair that fell lose from my hair tie off my forehead.
Kane follows me to the parking lot and we stop outside my car. I try to discreetly wipe my sweaty palms on my thighs.
I unlock the trunk and he loads my bags like they weight nothing at all.
"See ya around, London."
He flashes one last smirk as he backs away from me.
During the ride home, I wonder what he knows that the rest of the world doesn't.
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