Read At Mr. Cartwright's Command Online
Authors: Ingrid Ash
EDITED BY Rearing Horse Editing
COVER BY Ingrid Ash
ASH Mailing List
TABLE OF CONTENTS
he Cartwright Modeling Agency. I've passed this agency a million times and it never crossed my mind to go in.
I guess you could call me a child of the streets, although you probably wouldn't know it by looking at me. I'm told I have a “little girl's face” which is something a lot of women would kill for, but where I come from it doesn't do you any favors. I've also been told that I'm pretty, another thing that never did me any favors growing up being bounced from one foster home to the next.
I've never had anything that was truly mine except for the clothes on my back, and I suppose I've never been wanted anywhere, by anyone. Even my own mother tried to trade me for a hit – well, actually she succeeded. Depending on how you look at it, things could have been a lot worse for me if I hadn't been found by a well meaning social worker who put me in the system, although it's hard to imagine my childhood being any worse than it was.
The day the system stopped caring about me was the greatest day of my life. I'm sure my last foster mom would've kicked me out anyways, so I made it easy on her and left without even saying goodbye.
Back then, when I was 18, I had big dreams of getting a job, securing an apartment with a roommate or two and working my way up the chain. I stupidly didn't focus on school during my formative years, so a scholarship was out of the equation, making college an impossibility. But it was okay, for a while I was doing alright and living my dream with a roommate who let me stay at her place rent free until I got a job. And I did find one, but that only lasted for a couple of months until said roommate decided to lock me out of
apartment and, subsequently, steal all my shit. The police didn't help since my name wasn't on any lease, and conveniently, no one else in the building seemed to recognize me as a tenant. And without any residency, so went my job.
So there I was, back in the gutter once again. I couch surfed with distant relatives and a few friends who made it out of the system better than I did. That lasted just a few months too—I knew I was unwanted every where I went, and frankly, I didn’t trust any of them. Not even “family”.
My first nights on the streets were rough, and scary. I cried myself to sleep for the first few weeks. Over time it got easier, but being homeless isn't something you ever truly get used to.
Last year I lucked out and got a tip about a new shelter for women and children. This was right before it started to get cold in the city – and winters here are especially brutal. Not to sound ungrateful but life in a shelter wasn't much better than being on the streets—people still harassed you, stole from you, and your bed was never actually yours. But I didn't freeze to death, so who was I to complain?
Recently though, some of the shelters in surrounding areas have closed, so make a point to get in line extra early for a bed these days...
With a roof over my head for the time being, and food in my stomach, I've finally been able to resume my job search. Unfortunately, nothing has stuck besides a few under the table jobs here and there. I'm saving up, I keep all my money on me because I don't want it stolen like my clothes—yeah, I only have one outfit now because some crazy bitch stole all my stuff. Again.
Every day I make my way to the subway, and every day I pass The Cartwright Modeling Agency. It's not something I ever focused on or thought about, being unrealistic and all. But today I see a girl who somewhat resembles me, albeit taller and undoubtedly slimmer, go inside and for some reason, it becomes real. I can't help but wonder what type of life she leads and how much money she makes. I bet she makes enough to afford rent, food and then some.
It's totally unrealistic, but something is urging me to step inside.
So I do.
I'm in awe from the very second I step inside. The walls are painted a vibrant shade of purple and are covered with framed photos of glamorous models on the covers of magazines, wearing clothes that must cost more money than I've ever made in my lifetime. They all look so care free, like they worry more about what they'll eat for lunch and not whether they'll eat at all. Coming from a background like mine, you don't have the luxury to worry about fashion, heels or handbags, you just try to survive. But frankly, I'm tired of just surviving. I deserve something more. I want what they have, but I'm not jealous of them—I want to
A plush shag carpet underneath my feet leads me into a larger room that's illuminated by three sparkling crystal chandeliers. There are stacks of fashion magazines sitting upon several coffee and end tables, each of which are furnished with elaborate floral arrangements and modern bookends. Two leather couches line the walls with three leggy, high heeled women seated in them—all three are well dressed beauties with razor sharp cheekbones, two with coffee colored skin-tones similar to mine, and one fair skinned brunette. They only glance up at me through their bone straight locks for a second before returning their attention to their cellphones and tablets.
I glance down at my ratty old tennis shoes and worn out jeans and realize I stand out like a sore thumb.
“May I help you?”
I spin around to notice a woman sitting behind a desk on the other end of the room. She looks about my age and her arms are folded tightly across her chest, right below the elaborate necklace that highlights her slender neck. Her blonde hair is pulled into a high, sleek pony tail and she watches me through her long and obviously fake lashes.
“Yeah, hi, I'm Tamara,” I say as I make my way towards the front desk with a friendly smile and extend my hand to her. She pauses for a moment, looking me up and down before shaking it weakly. Not exactly a warm reception.
“Do you have an appointment, Tamara?” Her voice sounds pointed and almost annoyed.
“Um, no, I don't, sorry. I just wanted to get some information about your agency.”
“What did you want to know?” she asks with pursed lips. She isn't exactly making this easy.
“Well, I'm interested in modeling and I thought you could possibly help me out.”
She sighed, averting her eyes away from and back to the computer in front of her. “We only take on girls who are under 21 and over 5'7”,” she informs me, in a mechanical tone.
I nod and say, “Perfect. I'm 20,” give or take a year...or two, “and I'm 5'8”. Actually, I'm 5'7”1/2, but who's counting?
Obviously she is, because she looks me up and down again, slower this time. “Mhm. Well do you have any experience?”
“I don't, but I'm a fast learner. And I'm pretty good at posing.”
“Mhm,” she mumbles once more, as she continues to study my face with her eyes. “And do you have a portfolio?”
I shake my head, “No.”
“Well, you'd have to pay for the photos that will go in your portfolio.”
“Yeah, I can do that,” I lie with a fervent nod.
“Alright,” she says with a half roll of the eyes. What is this girls issue with me? She stands up from the desk, grabbing her camera and moves away from me. “I'll need to take some Polaroids of you. It's a good thing you didn’t come wearing any make up.”
“I have a little on, actually.”
She turns back towards me with a smirk and says, “Oh, well I wouldn't have noticed.”
I follow her to another room, her heels clicking and clacking against the hard wood floors as she makes sure to keep her pace ahead of me. I notice how huge her shoes are, yet she's still significantly shorter than me.
“Stand against the wall,” she commands as she fiddles with the camera, not bothering to look up to me.
I do as she says, planting myself against the blank white wall, smiling wide.
“And don't smile,” she demands, and my grin melts into more of a come-hither look.
She snaps the picture, removes the Polaroid and places it on the table. “Turn to the side. You've done this before, I'm sure,” she says with that same arrogant smirk and I want nothing more than to punch the smile off her face. I shoot her the evil eye before turning like she asks.
She snaps yet another Polaroid, removes it from the camera and collects the previous one. “That's all. You can leave your information at the front desk.”
My brows narrow in confusion. “That's it?”
She nods, her blonde ponytail bouncing behind her. “Yup. Just leave your name and phone number, and if we're interested, we'll call
” she says, emphasizing the last part.
I leave the agency feeling even worse than I did before. Why did I put myself through that mental torture when I could have spent the time applying for job I actually had a shot at? I pull out my cellphone— my battery is in the red and it's 3:15. That gives me barely enough time to jump on the subway and get back to the shelter before 4.
For the first time in over a year I don't get a bed that night. The subway comes late and there are just too many people in line. Night falls and I feel the cool air prickle against my exposed skin. It's getting closer to winter now and I'm not sure how I will survive the harsh temperatures on the streets.
Tomorrow I will scavenge for food and blankets, and hopefully look for a job if there's time.
I find an abandoned construction zone that seems safe enough for the night and huddle up as far away from the open air as I can. I try to tuck my hands into my sleeves, but my sleeves are just too short. I cry myself to sleep vowing never to sleep on the streets again.
My phone is dead by morning, and it's not like it matters because no one ever calls me on it anyways. I wouldn't bother if I hadn't already paid the contract.
I wander a few blocks before I find a McDonald’s. There's a dollar in my pocket, which is enough to get a hamburger to hold me over until this evening – or for the day if I'm unlucky. I get my order and I'm lucky enough to find a free outlet to charge my phone.
I eat slowly, enjoying the shelter and the warmth, hoping to get my charge at least half full. As I chew on another bite of my dry hamburger I notice I have a message. I slide the phone on and it's from a local number I can't remember.
It can't be...
the voice spat out my name like poison,
“this is Veronica from the Cartwright Agency.”
Of course it is. I'd know that snotty high pitched voice anywhere. And she sure sounds pissed.
“Please call me back at your earliest convenience.”
What could she want?
Should I even bother?
As usual, my curiosity gets the best of me.
“Hi, this is Tamara Pierce, I was in your offices yesterday and—”
“Yes, I know who you are.” It's Veronica. And, as usual, she does not sound happy. “Mr. Cartwright would like to see you. He'll send a car for you today at 3. Where can we find you?”
He what? No, this has to be a trick. “Mr. Cartwright...as in Cartwright Agency Cartwright?” Okay, that question makes no sense at all, but I'm in too much shock to even think straight.
“Well who else would it be?”
“He wants to meet with
?” I ask incredulously.
“Yes, for whatever reason, he does.”
Veronica's snippy attitude doesn't even phase me at this point. But I quickly realize I have to give her an address.
That's a bit difficult when I don't even have a real
. And I wouldn't dare give this bitch the benefit of knowing I live in a shelter.
“I, um...” My mind scrambles to come up with a solution. I quickly run outside, looking for a number and a street sign.
Veronica sighs on the other end. “I have incoming calls.”
“4684 W 18
St.” I blurt out, “That's where I'll be.”
? Alright, fine. The car will come for you at 3pm. Goodbye,
.” The phone goes dead on the other end of the line.
My mouth is wide and I can't speak, I can't think, and I can't even cry although part of me wants to.