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Synopsis: Jake lets Lilah take him to the photography studio, but...
Author's note: I'm sorry for the incredibly late posting of this. I've been very sick. I don't want to go into too much detail but my immune system isn't great and I have some unpleasant mental health problems that cause me a lot of stress, and when I caught a cold a few weeks ago everything spiraled out of control and...yeah. Very sick Broken Fox. I'm okay now though, for the most part.
So, uh...I'll talk about this story at the end. This is the penultimate chapter of the first part. Thank you so much for reading! Comments and the like are appreciated :)
Chapter nine: A model performance
The banana and raspberry juice was amazing, just like Lilah had said it would be. She made sure I got a large one with added honey and as soon as I took my first sip the flavour exploded through me and I couldn’t stop myself from taking a massive gulp of it.
‘I told you it was good.’ she said with a small smile, sipping from her own juice cup. She looked at my chest again and then quickly back up at me. ‘Are you okay with waiting until after the shoot to buy another shirt? I’m worried that we’re going to be late and I really don’t want to keep Erin waiting. She’s probably already at the studio setting everything up.’
‘That’s fine with me. What’s she setting up?’ I asked and followed her back onto the escalator, relieved that she was keeping herself from asking me anything more about my body.
‘Her cameras and make-up.’ She looked at me and smiled tightly. ‘And the…dresses that we’re going to wear.’
‘Ah…’ I stepped awkwardly off the elevator and slowed my pace. I’d been so focused on my body and mum that I’d almost forgotten what was going to happen at the shoot. Crap! After everything that had happened recently, dressing as a girl was one of the last things I wanted to do right now. But I owed Lilah…
She gently moved me out of the way of a fast-moving young couple and looked intently at me, brushing her hair from her eyes. ‘Are you going to be okay with that? Wearing a dress? After…what you just told me? Because I really need you to do this with me.’
I looked away from her and swallowed anxiously. ‘W-well, what’s going to happen exactly? Like, I just wear a dress and we take photos?’
‘That’s basically it, but Erin’s going to do your hair and make-up so you’ll look your best, and she brought some dresses for you to try on as well.’ She looked me over and a delighted grin appeared on her face. ‘You’re going to look just like your mum once she’s finished! A beautiful little mini Elaine just for me.’
I blinked. ‘Just for you?’
‘You’re pretending to be my girlfriend, remember?’ she said with a sly smile, her eyes shining. ‘And I’m very affectionate with cute little girls like you.’
I gasped and turned bright red, my eyes becoming huge. She’d called me a girl but the fact that she’d called me cute was overriding that, much to my surprise. I remembered her hugging me and a small thrill went down my spine. ‘Will we pose like…like holding hands and h-hugging and stuff?’
‘Yep!’ she leant down to whisper in my ear. ‘We might even have to kiss.’
‘Really?’ I squeaked and she laughed at the shocked expression on my face.
‘Yeah. Would you have a problem with that?’
Would I have a problem with that? I looked shyly at her lips, which were amazing even without make-up. They were shiny, lush and plump, well-defined like the rest of her features. Her skin was flawless, her green eyes dark and inviting behind their thick lashes, and her golden hair hung loosely around her heart-shaped face and framed it amazingly.
My heart skipped a beat as I stared at her and a tingling feeling ran down my back. She was incredibly attractive, definitely someone who’d be able to have a career as a model. I…I did want her to kiss me!
My face burned as I imagined her leaning down to kiss me, her soft lips rubbing up against mine as she ran a strong hand down my side and pulled me into her. Warmth flooded my whole body and cente-
‘Wagh!’ I cried out as I slammed face-first into a haggard-looking businessman’s stomach. I bounced off him and crashed onto my butt, the juice cup hurtling from my hands and splashing against a side wall between two stores. ‘Ah! No!’
‘Sorry.’ the man muttered, barely looking at me as he continued on. He was so large that me slamming into him was probably on par to a fly splatting against a windshield. I was tempted to glare at him but it wasn’t his fault he’d run into me, it was mine. Shit! I’d gotten way too lost in my stupid imagination…
‘Are you okay?’ Lilah asked, kneeling down next to me. She looked concerned but her lips kept twitching like she was about to laugh, and I didn’t blame her.
‘I’m fine.’ I said and she offered me her hand, which I gratefully took. She easily helped me to my feet and I brushed off the coat while avoiding the glances of curious passer-by’s. I looked at my spilt juice and a pang of loss ran through me. It’d tasted so good and I’d barely even drunk half of it! What a waste…
‘You really got lost in your head there for a minute, huh.’ Lilah said and I nodded miserably. ‘What were you thinking about?’
‘N-nothing.’ I said quickly, but a knowing grin appeared on her face.
‘Were you thinking about me?’
‘Sure you weren’t.’ she grinned and grabbed me by the sides, making me squeal. ‘You were thinking about me kissing you, were-’
‘I wasn’t!’ I cried and reflectively escaped her grasp, even though her hands had felt really nice on my sides. ‘I was just thinking about the shoot.’
‘Really.’ Her expression became serious. ‘Are you going to do it with me then?’
All I could think about was her kissing me, so I nodded immediately. ‘Yes! I’ll do it!’
She smiled excitedly and grabbed my hand in hers, making my heart jump excitedly. ‘Thankyou! You have no idea how much this means to me Jake! If we win this competition then it’ll be a huge boost to my future career as a model, and even if we don’t I can still put the photos in my portfolio and show them off to agencies.’
I blinked in surprise, realising that I’d never actually asked why she wanted to join the competition so badly before. ‘You want to be a model? Like mum?’
‘Yeah! Just like your mum.’ She squeezed my hand and then began walking, leading me by the hand through the busy mall hallway. ‘She’s my idol, remember? But I was interested in modelling even before I found out about her. Everyone’s always told me that I’d be good at modelling because of my looks, and I love getting my picture taken and wearing nice clothes. I just never really took it seriously until I found some of your mums pictures online and realised that I wanted to be like her.’
We entered the large open area at the back of the mall where the cinemas where, and the smell of fresh popcorn and ice cream made my stomach once again grumble unhappily.
‘She inspired me.’ Lilah continued as we weaved through a large group of teenagers waiting to buy tickets. ‘It was like…do you ever have those moments where you see someone and everything just clicks? You see them doing something you’ve wanted to do and you suddenly realise that they’re who you want to be, they’re living the life you want to live. Everything takes on a new kind of meaning and you get more focused and driven and excited! It’s like when someone’s first starting out at a type of sports and they see a professional player on TV. Like a boy our age seeing a pro footballer and being inspired by them or something, you know?’
‘I…yeah? Like having a hero?’
‘Yeah!’ She smiled brightly. ‘Do you have anyone like that? Someone who inspires you?’
‘No.’ The only person who really stood out to me was mum, and that was just because I wanted her to come home. She hadn’t really inspired me, and I didn’t see her as a hero. If she saved me from Linda then she was just saving me from a situation she’d caused by leaving me in Linda’s care…
A sick, bitter feeling appeared in my stomach as I thought that and I gritted my teeth, pushing it away. I didn’t need to be thinking things like that! What Linda was doing to me wasn’t mums fault, it was Linda’s. And mine for being too stupid to realise it in time. Mum hadn’t done anything.
That was exactly the problem though! She hadn’t done anything! If sh-
No! She was working hard as a model to make lots of money and support us, like Lilah had said! She was doing something! But…
But still…it hurt…
I sighed miserably and Lilah thankfully didn’t continue the conversation, just smiled tightly and led us out of the mall and into the parking lot. It was raining heavier than before and even through the thick coat I could feel the coldness of the day. People were running to and from their cars with their hands over their heads or huddled under umbrellas, and some were just hanging around the entrance waiting for the downpour to lessen.
‘Will we be able to get to the studio without getting wet?’ I asked as I looked around the soaked parking lot. There were some old buildings across from it but I’d never come out this way before so had no idea where anything was. All I knew was that there weren’t any stores that had Pristine figurines out here, and that was enough information for me.
‘Nah, but it’ll be fine.’ Lilah said confidentially. ‘We’ll get a little wet but we can clean ourselves off once we get to the studio.’
‘Where is it?’
‘Just follow me.’ She grinned and began to jogging out into the parking lot.
I gasped but she was still holding my hand and wouldn’t let go, so I was forced to hurry along with her out into the downpour. Her legs were longer than mine so I had to almost run to keep pace with her, but to my relief it didn’t take that long to reach the other side of the carpark and cross the road over to the buildings. I was wet but not as badly as I had been before, and the coat was still keeping me relatively warm.
‘There we go!’ Lilah beamed and patted my soggy hair. ‘I told you it’d be fine.’
‘I wasn’t really worried…’ I muttered and looked curiously around at the buildings.
Some of them looked to be closed down and the ones that weren’t didn’t seem to have any customers at all. I could see old carpet stores, lonely looking op shops, warehouses, buildings with empty windows and a broken ATM machine. It was surprising how empty this area was considering how busy the mall was, and looking back at it across the carpark it almost seemed like another world.
‘There’s a photo studio around here?’ I asked dubiously but Lilah nodded energetically.
‘Yeah! It’s not too far, don’t worry.’ She increased her grip on my hand and led me down a small alley between an op shop and a deserted pet store.
Another array of buildings greeted us but I didn’t get time to look at them as we went down another alley and then turned into an even smaller one that led to a dead end. On either side of us were the backs of large warehouses and a rather desolate black van was parked up against the end, in front of a battered wire fence looking out into a large green field.
‘It’s around here?’ I frowned, looking for some kind of entrance along the backs of the buildings. All I could see was grey cement walls and rusty dumpsters. There was an alcove a few feet away but I couldn’t see into it, and it didn’t look like it led into a photo studio.
Lilah looked at me and then smiled crookedly, her head tilting to the side. ‘It’s not here.’
I blinked in surprise. ‘Oh! Are you lost?’
‘No.’ A wide grin lit her face and she twirled around me so that I was pulled to face the way we’d just come into the alley. Her eyes shone with a strange excitement and my heart skipped a beat. ‘Sorry! I lied! But I did a pretty good job of it, huh?’
‘W-what?’ I stared at her in shock and then tried to pull my hand out of hers, but she increased her grip and grabbed my other hand too. ‘What’s going on?’
‘Don’t be mad! I didn’t lie about everything, just about the competition and the studio.’ She squeezed my hands and leant down so that our faces were eye to eye. I tried to pull away but she wouldn’t let me, her eyes huge and excited. ‘Your mum really is my idol, Lain. And one day, you’re going to be my idol too.’
I froze as time seemed to slow down for a moment and her words echoed in my ears.
Lain! She called me Lain! What the fuck?!
My stomach dropped and I tried to tear myself out of her grip, but she wouldn’t let go. ‘Why did you c-’
‘You’re late.’ a woman’s voice said from behind me and I choked as a piece of black fabric was thrown over my mouth. I screamed into the fabric and tried to turn around, but Lilah wouldn’t let go of my arms and I felt the fabric pulled into a tight knot at the back of my head.
‘Sorry. We got caught up when it started raining.’ Lilah said to the stranger, her expression becoming more serious. ‘Did you know that he knows about the hormones Linda is giving him?’
‘Really? I didn’t think Linda had told him yet.’ the stranger said as she finally stepped into view. She was a tall, lean woman of Asian descent with short black hair, sharp facial features and pale green eyes that dispassionately looked me over.
‘She didn’t tell him! He figured it out on his own.’ Lilah said and looked at me with a tight smile.
The woman snorted and pulled a white strip of plastic from her grey jacket’s pocket. ‘Not surprising. Linda always was a terrible liar. I knew we should have taken him sooner, or force her to talk to him before now.’
Lilah pushed my hands together so the woman could bind them up in the white plastic strip, ignoring my panicked attempts to get free. They were both far stronger than me and were able to hold me still with ease.
‘It’s okay Lain.’ Lilah said softly as she turned me around to face the van. She smiled apologetically and patted me on the head. ‘We’re not going to hurt you. We just need to take you to your new home, okay? You’re going to meet Rach!’
I stared at her in horror and she grimaced.
‘You’re wasting your breath. She doesn’t know who Rach is.’ The woman muttered darkly as she put a hand on my shoulder and began to slowly walk me to the black van at the end of the alley. ‘Linda really fucked this up. We’ve only got a month before the school starts and this kid doesn’t even know anything! Bloody hell. We should have taken him months ago, not now! This is going to be a shit show. Jesus Christ…’
I let out a muffled yell and tried to pull away from her but Lilah appeared on my other side and held me steady, and even when I dug my feet into the ground they both still dragged me forward. I continued to struggle but it was futile, and the closer we got to the van the more scared I got. What the hell was going on?!
Lilah opened the side of the van and before I could even look at the dark interior properly I was hauled up by the older woman and pushed inside. I stumbled in and fell onto the carpeted floor as Lilah jumped in next to me and slammed the door shut. My eyes quickly adjusted and I could see that the back wall had a long cushion set into its back underneath a row of black meshing, and there were some loose boxes lying around. There was a black sheet blocking the front seats from view, and the back was empty.
‘Okay!’ Lilah said and pulled me up onto one of the cushions, and sat down next to me. I tried to get off but she once again held me steady. I glared at her and she turned red and looked away, biting her bottom lip. ‘Look, I know you’re scared but don’t worry. We’re seriously not going to hurt you! This is just the only way that we could get you to come with us. I think. I know it seems a bit extreme but it’ll make sense once you get to Rach’s! She said she was going to call Linda and finally have her explain everything to her so…so yeah! Don’t worry!’
I tried to ask her what was going on but all I could do was make weird moaning sounds through the fabric. She looked sadly at me and then at the front of the van, where the woman was brushing the sheet aside and coming in.
‘Hold him steady, okay?’ she told Lilah and my eyes bulged as I saw that she was holding a needle in her hands. I screamed and tried to thrash out of Lilah’s grip but the woman knelt down in front of me and grabbed my hands, her eyes cold and unsympathetic. ‘Don’t struggle. This is just going to knock you out for a couple of hours, nothing more. And when you wake up you’ll be safe and sound in your new room, and Linda will be there to explain everything.’
I shook my head and stared in horror at the needle. I did not what that thing anywhere near me! And I didn’t want to wake up in a new room, or see Linda! Oh god!
With a strangled breath I leant back, and then jumped forward with as much force as possible. This caught the woman by surprise and my head smashed into her face with a sickening crunch. She cried out in pain and I dived to the van door, but before I could reach it she wrapped her hand around my neck and slammed me down on the van floor, her face a mask of rage.
‘You little shit!’ she snarled and punched me in the shoulder, so hard that tears stung my eyes and I screamed loud enough to almost overcome the cloth in my mouth.
‘What are you doing! Don’t hurt her!’ Lilah cried but didn’t do anything to stop the woman, just warily stared at her.
‘Him! It’s a boy for fucks sake!’ the woman spat and grabbed me by the hair to keep my head steady. ‘This is such a fucked up situation! You’re all insane, you know that? Fucking retards!’
Lilah swallowed and looked like she was about to cry, but she ran her hands through her hair and took a steadying breath. ‘We’re not insane. You just don’t understand what we’re trying to do.’
‘Yeah, no shit I don’t. Fuck!’ the woman sneered and bit off the needle’s cap, then kneed me in the stomach as I began to thrash around in terror. ‘Stop moving you idiot! Or do you want me to accidentally stab you in the eye?’
I whimpered and froze as she lowered the needle to my neck. I tried to beg her to stop but nothing came out, and she looked so angry that I don’t think anything I said would have stopped her. The needle sunk into the side of my neck and I shivered, feeling like I was about to throw up. Lilah patted me gently on the head and I looked tearfully up at her, but she quickly looked away.
After what felt like an hour, the woman finally pulled the needle out and let go of my hair. I moaned and tried to go for the van door, but Lilah put her arms under my shoulders and hauled me onto the cushion again, then wrapped her arms around me. I blinked as a heavy wave of exhaustion swept through me and I stopped trying to get out of her grip.
‘Keep a tight hold of him, yeah?’ the woman said as she put the needle in one of the boxes. ‘The last thing I need is for him to be bouncing around back here while we drive. Rach would kill me.’
‘I know.’ Lilah said, increasing her hold around me. Her voice sounded like it was coming from so far away…
‘It’ll be an hour until we get there so...she’ll give…Linda wasn’t going to…’
My hearing was slipping in and out so I couldn’t hear what the woman was saying, and before I could even stop it my eyelids slammed shut and unconsciousness tugged at me. I whimpered and tried to force them open but it was too hard, I was too exhausted. What…
To be continued.
Author's note: Thankyou for reading! Now, I wrote half of this while I was a bit sick and the other half when i was getting better, so if you notice a change in quality then I apologize. It's hard to tell if I'm working at 100% mentally at the moment.
This is the penultimate chapter of the first part, with the last chapter already pretty much written
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