"Naked lady wanted," I suggested helpfully.
Simon's brow furrowed. He didn't look up from his notepad, and ignoring my comment completely, he read aloud, "Nude female model required for artists' portfolio."
With a shrug, Decker said, "Wouldn't life-model sound better?" He bit into his sandwich, and the crispy lettuce crunched loudly. A man with tattoos and a closely shaven head had no place being one step short of vegan. He hummed his approval at the first taste of the sandwich that we'd delivered to him.
"Mind them fingers," I snapped at him with amusement.
Our brother might care about animals, the environment and his own health, and of course, the flavor of his sandwich, but he paid not enough attention to Simon's anguish over life's tiniest details.
I picked up one of the tattoo magazines from the pile in the middle of the table and opened it on the first page. "Were you thinking of placing the advert only on campus?" We were all art students, and there were frequently adverts for models around the college campus.
"It would keep things simple because they'd know we were genuine guys from the art department." Simon sighed. "I know students need the money, but I don't want to end up with the same models as everyone else."
"I think you should put an advert up in here." Decker jerked his head indicating the direction of the exit. "It'll be free to put it on the notice board."
The notice board in the artists’ supplies store attracted a wide variety of strange messages. From adverts selling guitars, cakes, and nursery furniture, to positions vacant and new-friends wanted. There were even fliers inviting everyone to a couple of local churches. I didn’t think I’d seen an advert seeking life models, but it wouldn’t be out of place.
I tapped on the magazine. "You aren’t thinking of specifying anything about body type or body art?"
He smiled and shook his head without comment as if he thought it were a joke.
We were going to be photographing naked women, and whether they were tattooed or not, the prospect thrilled me. I turned the page of the magazine and licked my drying lips as I gazed at the images. Photographs from a body art convention filled the page. Scantily clad people, both men and women. There was far more flesh than clothes and the balance of ink to clear skin made for an interesting scene.
"Heavily tattooed women look great, but that's not the look I'm going for." Simon looked at me with querying eyes. We were working together on this project, and we hadn't discussed the physical attributes of the model other than she should be female.
"I haven't thought about it, but if you want no tats that's fine with me."
"Well, I'm not against them."
"I should hope not, seeing as we all have them." I waved my tattooed arm around indicating the three of us. We'd gotten our first tattoos on our eighteenth birthday and became instant addicts.
"I like them, but I'm hoping for a woman who is more, um, natural. I mean, women with tattoos look lovely but it's somebody else's art already on their body. For us as photographers, our photography should be the art, at least in this project," he explained.
I nodded. "I see what you mean. We won't be taking any pictures like this then," I mumbled with just a little pang of regret.
When I glanced at Simon, his pen remained poised above the notepad, and he chewed his bottom lip while staring at the page.
Only when he'd finished his sandwich did Decker join in the conversation. "You might find women without tattoos through a notice here. And we might be able to put a notice in the window. I can ask Frank." Frank managed the arts and crafts shop and therefore was Decker's boss for the few hours that he worked at the part-time job.
He only one day per week in the store, plus the odd few hours here and there. He did it not so much for the money, although he had no difficulty spending it, but because it looked good on his resume.
Of the three of us, Decker was the most sociable and outgoing personality. He enjoyed mixing with the other staff and helping the customers. Plus, Decker was right at home in an artists' supplies.
Not that Decker needed the money. Our father was loaded, to say the least, and he offered to fund us through college. We were each enrolled on a Masters of Arts program at the University.
In school, we all excelled at arts. All of us could draw and paint well. However, while Simon and I had taken the photography specialism, Decker was set to become a filmmaker. Decker had an involvement in our art project too.
One week later
"You’ve cleaned the house the house from top to bottom like a broody hen. Are you feeling nervous about the interviews this afternoon?"
Turning his back on the freshly pumped cushion on the sofa, Simon started to rearrange the flowers in the vase, again. "I’m not sure hens clean houses. If you ever get to enter a hen house, you’ll find it’s full of chicken shit."
"I’m just saying, Simon, the women who are coming for the interview, they’re probably nervous. You need to help them relax."
"That’s the idea behind the flowers. They add a feminine touch to our bachelor pad. It is the sort of little touch that I hope will put women at ease." He spoke directly into the camera.
If there was one thing my whole family could do, it was talk with confidence to the camera, each and every one of them like a like pro news anchorman. They’d gotten used to me carrying a camera around and filming everything ever since we were little kids.
"And they fill the room with a fragrant bouquet," he added with a flourish, adopting a European accent.
Stifling a laugh, I let a grin cover my face and filmed for a few more seconds in silence.
Poking at the flowers, he appeared blissfully unaware of how comic the scene looked from where I stood, and I wasn’t about to tell him; it would only put him even more on edge.
Simon didn’t look like the kind of guy who’d carefully tend a bunch of flowers. The earring did little to soften his roguish look. He looked as if he’d skipped the bad stage of boyhood and went straight to hardened convict. He’s gotten rid of most of his dark curls with a severe haircut around the sides. Tattooed sleeves encompassed his bare arms which emerged from a sleeveless denim top. But he never truly mastered the bad boy image, which might be part of the reason for his awkwardness around women.
To those who knew him, Simon wasn’t bad-boy material at all. He was a kind, considerate, quirky guy who thought things over in great depth and proceeded with caution. It’s a wonder he got anything done at all. But when he did something, he did it well. Simon was a perfectionist with an eye for detail.
It was one thing to make a fly-on-the-wall documentary of fledgling photographers at work, but not necessary to record all of our private and personal family conversations. Ultimately he was my brother and a student. I didn’t want to capture either of us looking exposed and vulnerable on film.
I turned off the camera and placed it down on the table next to the flowers. "I know you’ve not had much experience with women, Simon, just relax. Take some deep breaths. The woman coming for the interview, she’s just an ordinary girl who wants a job for extra cash. If you act too weird, you could freak her out." I wanted to give him the chance to say anything. Ask for advice if he needed to.
"It might not matter if she’s anything like the earlier two."
"Hold on." I picked up the camera again and resumed filming. "Simon, you and your brother interviewed some applicants earlier. How did that go?"
"The first women was too young." Slipping into on-camera interview mode, he transformed before my eyes. "She was over eighteen and legally old enough to model, and we didn’t think about specifying an age range in our advert. It was only when Cedric and I met her that we realized we envisaged a woman at least our age or older, definitely not younger."
"Why is that?"
"The photograph isn’t just a two-dimensional image. We intend to tell a story, put across a message. We think that a more mature model will have more life experience that will shine through in the photographs."
As an artist and a filmmaker, I knew exactly what he meant. "Like the Mona Lisa?"
"Yes. Exactly like her. She’s not just a smiling face. There’s depth and mystery there. And as our model will be nude, we don't want her to look barely-legal."
I hoped he’d keep hold of that calm confidence that I could see through the camera lens while the next woman was here.
"And the second woman, she's aiming for a career in modeling, which might work out for her with her Barbie doll waist and big assets." He cupped his hands at his chest, and I knew exactly what big feature he referred to. "Her long blonde hair didn’t look at all real. I think every part of her body had been artificially enhanced. She was too fake for us."
"Both you and Cedric agreed on both women?"
"We did, yes. We only talked about the women after they'd left, of course, but we both thought the same. We don’t know what the right woman will look like, but we knew the wrong thing when we saw it. Let’s hope it’s third time lucky."
As he said lucky, the door buzzer rang, the shrill sound startled both of us.
Simon went to answer it.
I continued recording assuming it was Cedric and he couldn’t be bothered to use his key.
"Hello?" Simon said to the intercom.
A woman’s voice replied.
Simon’s eyes widened, and I recognized the look of panic on his face.
When he finished speaking to the woman, after inviting her up, he turned to me. "It’s the next one. She’s early. Cedric’s not here yet, but she’s coming up, anyway."
I halted the recording. Although my brothers had consented to me documenting their year, I didn’t have permission to record people coming for an interview, and I didn’t want to invade their privacy. I put the camera down and pulled out my iPhone to text Cedric and let him know the next interviewee had arrived.
Emergency. Simon is opening the door to a female. Send help!
One Minute Later
The knock at the door of the apartment sounded gentle and timid.
When I opened the door, I felt as much dread as if it had been an ominous pounding. Self-consciously, I wiped my palms over my jeans. Perhaps smarter pants would have been better for the interview to make the right impression. I owned smart clothes but never wore them.
"Hi, I’m Karen." With the face of a goddess, the curvaceous lady behind the door looked perfect. She appeared to be a few years older than us, probably in her late twenties. Under minimal makeup, her face said she’d lived a little, and seen life.
I wanted to make a good impression. "Hello, I’m Simon," I swung the door open wide and welcoming. "Do come in. This is my brother, Decker."
He stepped right up and shook the woman’s hand. Damn it. I should have offered a handshake immediately, but it seemed too late now as I’d already backed away leading her into the heart of the apartment.
"Lovely to meet you. I’m one of Simon’s brothers but not a photographer. Our other brother, Cedric, he’s the other photographer, and he should be back any minute for the interview."
She eyed us both carefully. "You do look alike now that you mention it."
"Most people comment on how much we don’t look like each other. We’re triplets, so people expect us to be identical and we’re not."
"Oh." She had that look of fascination on her face that people got when they found out we were triplets, coupled with that look of fascination that women got when they talked to Decker, the brother with the looks and the charm. He attracted women like kids to candy, and he didn’t like to disappoint them. Or at least, that’s what he said.
I didn’t have Decker’s suave personality, and I didn’t have the desire to devour women either. He had them overnight like he was working through every item on the menu in a favorite restaurant. I didn’t have his experience. I didn't have any experience, really.
It’s not that I didn't find women attractive, I did, of course; otherwise, I wouldn’t want to photograph them nude. But I didn’t want to sleep around, to fall into bed with someone who was almost a stranger, or to fall into bed and not have it mean something more. To me, when I made love to a woman, it was going to be the love part that was the critical word. I'd have to be in love. Or feel that there was love between us. Or at least the potential for love.
As of yet, I’d never fallen in-love I had yet to meet the right woman.
I expected Decker to make his excuse and leave me to discuss the details with Karen. He wasn’t a part of this project. The next thing I knew, he had his arm over her shoulder and began to introduce her our artwork, which hung on the wall.
"We aren’t alike in looks, but we’ve similar talents," Decker said; he made conversation seem easy. I don't know what I found difficult about it. "Simon and Cedric are now specializing in photography, and I’m doing my masters in film making, so we're all artists."
She gazed around at the framed artwork hanging on our walls.
He pointed to a sizable abstract splash of color. "This is something I did a couple of years back."
Smooth bro, real smooth.
We all displayed our work around the walls. The apartment looked like an art gallery, and we decided to showcase our own. Sort of, fake it until you make it, and get used to seeing our work on show.