Let me start by thanking everyone who took the time to e-mail me. It's really encouraging! I hope to keep hearing from you all and that you'll let me know what you like (and hate). BTW, this chapter contains a lot of description, especially of my apartment. I've tried not to make it too boring, but I want to get the setting down before I go on.
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This story is not meant to imply anything about the sexuality of anyone in it (myself included). I have no knowledge of the private lives of the members of NSYNC or any other celebrities that show up in this story. After all it is just a story, and is a work of fiction. I am also not in any way affiliated with Boss Models Worldwide. (But maybe someday I will be!) If you shouldn't read this then don't.
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A Model Romance- Chapter One
It was August. Nearly a month and a half had passed since my interview and subsequent hiring at Boss Models. I told them I would need some time to get my affairs in order back home. My parents were not thrilled at the prospect of me taking time off from college to pursue this, but they understood that I needed to follow my dreams. The size of my paycheck helped to convince them too. In addition to my salary I received a signing bonus to help me finance an apartment and move to New York. Even though I didn't officially start until the first of September, I decided to come up a few weeks early to get settled in. I had found a great apartment and was in the middle of decorating it. Carolyn had introduced me to most of the models and with their help I was getting used to city life pretty quickly. I also had my two best friends Casey and Josh to help me out.
My apartment was on the twelfth floor of a newly remodeled high rise. It was pretty close to Central Park and only a few subway stops from work. It wasn't huge or overly luxurious but it was comfortable and suited my needs. It was on a corner of the building, which was nice. The front door opened into the left side a big living room. The right wall was almost all windows and opened out onto a small terrace with a nice view of the city. Back from the door was a bathroom. Next to that, against the back wall of the living room was an office space. It was separated from the main living room by a glass brick partition. One of the first things I bought was an entertainment center and a big sectional leather couch to occupy part of the living room. I also bought a liquor cabinet that I planned to stock as soon as possible. Eventually I thought I would put in a bar. A hallway opened from the back of the living room and lead back to the bedrooms. On one side was a large, well-appointed kitchen. On the other side was the dinning room, with more windows along the outside wall. At the back were the two bedrooms with a bathroom in between. I decided to make the right bedroom mine since it had the wall with all the windows. The other bedroom would be the guestroom, assuming I ever had any guests. Since I didn't expect too many, I bought some big Japanese screens and turned half the room into an exercise area. The whole place was carpeted except for the kitchen. I tried to keep the furniture simple, mostly black and white.
Ironically enough, my bed was one of the last pieces of furniture to arrive because I had ordered it from a catalogue. I treated myself to one of my ultimate desires: a king-size waterbed with cashmere sheets. I figured I deserved it.
The first night I slept in my new bed I knew I was home. I next morning I had my breakfast on the terrace. Life was pretty sweet. By the time I had moved everything I needed to the apartment and gotten the furniture and everything it was nearly September. I knew that Josh and Casey were going to have to leave for college soon and that I'd have to start working. The last night they were there we went out for dinner and went clubbing with a few of the models I'd met.
We had dinner at Tavern on the Green. It had quickly become my favorite restaurant after Carolyn took me there. I found out why she could always get a table. The owner was a friend of David Boseman, the president of Boss Models. David had dinner there at least once a week when he was in town. They always kept a table open for him and he always had the same waiter: Perry.
Perry was a great guy. I had liked him the very first time I met him and had been back to the tavern a couple of times to see him (and eat too). He always treated me and my guests like royalty, always served us drinks, and always got a big tip. This particular night we had dinner so late that Perry was getting off work by the time we were finished eating so I invited him to join us at the club.
I have never been a big fan of clubs. I have trouble dancing in them and they are noisy and crowded. I really only went because I felt like I had to make my last night out with my friends special. After the club we came back to my place for drinks. Casey was the first to express what we were all thinking.
"Zack, I really can't believe you've done this. Y'know even though I was here when you got the job, it didn't hit me until now what a big deal this is. Like you're gonna live here now and we won't see you anymore."
"Casey what are you talking about! This is no different than if I were going back to school! I mean it's not like you and Josh are gonna be around. You guys have to go back to college. You know that you'll always be welcome here, and that I'll come home to visit whenever I can."
"Yeah, I know, but still this isn't college. This is for real."
"This is what I want. I'm going to miss all my friends and my family, but I have to do what's right for me."
"Zack, man, I'm totally behind you on this. I think you're the man. I mean, y'know, it's like..."
"Shut up Josh," Casey and I said at the same time. I looked at Josh carefully.
"I think he's had enough for tonight, and you both have to get up early tomorrow. We should go to bed."
Without further argument both Josh and Casey headed off for bed. They must have been more tired that I thought.
"You have some great friends Zack. That's one thing you never seem to have enough of in this business: friends."
I smiled and looked at Cherise, one of the models that I had met. She was 24 and gorgeous, but it hadn't gone to her head. Cherise and I had bonded instantly. Even though we had met only a week ago we understood each other really well. I already considered her one of my closest friends.
"Yeah you're right. I suppose I should take my own advice and head for bed. Should I call a cab for you and Jeremy?"
"Already taken care of my man," said Jeremy as he put his cell phone away.
Jeremy was also a model. He was rapidly becoming like an older brother to me. He gave me pointers on how to act and promised to show me how to "pull off" being a male model. Both Cherise and Jeremy had helped me to decorate the apartment and also to shop for my new wardrobe. Being a model of course meant always looking like one. I was still a little shocked by how much I had spent on clothes, but I took comfort in the fact that I would get to keep some of the outfits I modeled, so hopefully I wouldn't need to buy any more clothes for a while. `Just one of the many perks of my new job,' I thought.
"Alright guys, I'll see you Monday, and the, uh, office."
"G'night Zack, take care. Don't be nervous, you'll do fine," said Cherise as she walked out.
"Of course he'll do fine, he's been taught by the best," joked Jeremy as he followed her out.
With Casey and Josh off to bed and Cherise and Jeremy gone that just left Perry and me. It was kind of weird because I'd never really hung out with him outside of the tavern.
"So do you think you're ready for this?" Perry stood on the terrace looking out at the city. It was almost serene at two AM.
"Ready for what?"
"Ready for this." He spread his arms out to encompass the city. "When I first came here I thought I was gonna be the hottest thing to hit New York since the Statue of Liberty. I wasn't. People here had seen it all before. I had big plans. I was going to be a Broadway star! Now, five years later, I'm still waiting tables. I wasn't ready for this town. You always have to be on your toes here, Zack, or it'll eat you alive."
"Wow, I...don't really know what to say to that. Um, I didn't know you could act."
"Yeah. Oh I'm sorry man. I didn't mean to get you down. I mean I don't know shit about modeling. All I'm trying to say is that you have to be ready for anything around here. They'll be some rough times, but they'll be a lot of good times too. I don't want to see you end up like me."
"Perry, you're twenty-five and work at one of the most glamorous restaurants in the city. I don't think you have a lot to be sorry about. But thanks for the advice."
"Well, I think I'll get going. Make sure to come by and tell me how things are going. And remember, I'll always be here if you need someone to talk to."
"Thanks Perry. Goodnight."
As I locked the door behind him I started to think about what he had said. I poured myself another Jack and Coke and stepped out onto the terrace. It was a clear night. The stars were hard to see above the bright city lights, but the buildings themselves created a scene almost as beautiful. It was going to be a long and sleepless night, I thought. I smiled and sat down to wait for the sunrise.
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"Zack. Zack. ZACK"
I awoke to the sight of Josh's face staring into mine. He was shaking me.
"Are you OK? Did you fall asleep out here?"
"Huh? Oh yeah I guess I did. I saw the sunrise, and then I guess I must have dozed off."
"Oh, well Casey and I are almost ready to go. We've been looking for you for ten minutes."
"Are you serious! What time is it? I've got to take a shower, call a cab..."
"Relax. Casey called the cab, and we decided that we'll just say goodbye here. Tomorrow is the first day of the rest of your life, or something. So you should just stay put and rest."
I was in no shape to argue. I had slept for about two hours on a hard, uncomfortable patio chair. I came inside and said goodbye to my friends. Then I went back to bed for most of the day. I finally got back up around four, realizing that if I slept any longer I wouldn't be able to go to bed that night.
The rest of the day was pretty much a bust by then anyway. I ate a meal that could have been breakfast lunch or dinner, and took a hot bath. After that there was nothing left to do but get ready for my first day on the job. I picked out my clothes for the next day: a tight-fitting bright blue tee shirt and a pair of black pants. Cherise had told me that there was no point in dressing up for work because you had to change clothes when you got there anyway. That done, I popped in a movie and when it was over I went right to bed.
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My alarm woke me up at the ungodly hour of six thirty. I didn't need to be to the office until nine, but I wanted to work out and grab a shower before I went. I was out the door by eight thirty, hopped on the subway, and arrived at Boss Models Worldwide ten minutes early.
"Well I am impressed. Got here early on your first day and everything. I was sure you would have gotten lost on the subway."
I was surprised to see David Boseman waiting outside his own building for me, but I quickly recovered and stepped forward to greet him.
"Mr. Boseman, it's a pleasure to see you again."
"Please, call me David. Mr. Boseman is my father to everyone except our shareholders. But anyway, I'm glad you're here early. We can get right to work. Now I know you've met all the photographers, so we won't waste any time. I want your face all over New York as soon as possible. What I see is..."
As we walked into the building and rode up the elevator he kept talking. The whole time I just smiled and nodded, a little overwhelmed by how many photo shoots I had been scheduled for. By the time we got to the studio, I was beginning to think that my face would be on every magazine in the world.
That was, of course, far from the truth. In fact, even though I spent hours at a time in front of the camera, I was only in three published ads my first month. I suppose you could say that I was an overnight success. I was good in front of the camera, and my first trip down the runway was a big hit.
I knew that most of the credit for my success was due to David. He had taken a personal interest in me apparently. When big designers needed models, he always put me up front. He took me to cocktail parties and introduced to all the big names in New York. I had an agent, supplied by the company who booked most of my shoots, but David was always there to make sure I go the best spots. Caroyln joked that I was the son he never had. Some of the models said that the reason David was treating me so well was that I was "treating him well." I assume they meant in bed. But I guess some jealousy had to be expected. If anything I was lucky I didn't have more people hate me. On the whole, most of the models liked me. I lived up to my promise of being able to talk to people. When a potential client was worried about having a "rookie" modeling their clothes, I almost always won him or her over. I was happy of course and very busy. But it was not until the middle of October that my life started to go from good to fantastic.
That second week in October was memorable for a few reasons. I received my first three fan letters for one thing. Bigger than that to me was my car though. I bought a new BMW 328i convertible. It was black, with tan leather interior and a black top. I knew it would spend most of the week parked in the garage under my building, but I planned to take it out on the weekends. The biggest event of that week in October was not my car though. It was a particular photo shoot that I was doing. David told me about it on Tuesday when I took him for a ride in my new car.
"Oh, I thought you'd like to know we've moved you to a different shoot on Friday. Jeremy is going to take the one you were doing."
"I see. So what's the new shoot?"
"Actually it's an add for a record company. One of their artists is releasing a new album soon and they need a "pretty boy" to appear on the cover with her."
"Wait let me guess. You've got me making out with some old chick for three hours on a Friday afternoon. Is it anyone I've heard of?"
"Oh I think you might recognize the name. But you know I can get someone else if you don't want to do it."
"No, I'll do it. But who is it?"
"Ever heard of Britney Spears?" David was trying to hide the smirk on his face, but he didn't do a very good job.
"You're kidding. This is a joke right? I get to do a photo shoot with one of the hottest girls in the music industry."
"I thought you'd like it."
"David, listen. I have to ask. I mean, I don't want to offend you, but you've been so great to me and I can't see any reason why I deserve it."
"I was wondering when this was going to come up. Well my first answer is money. When I look at you I see a kid with a lot of potential, and not just in modeling. The way I see it, if I invest the time now to make sure you're a success, then I'll get repaid ten times over. You will too. Now before you go off on me about not caring about anything but money let me finish. I am a businessman. My job is to make money and to run my company as best I can. But more than that, I think you're a great person, and you deserve every chance you can get. I want to see you become a success for you, not just for me."
"Well...at least you're honest. I suppose that's all this business or any business is about. Money."
"No, it's also about friendship. I consider you a friend, and that you consider me one. Business is about money of course, but it's also about teamwork and camaraderie. Actually, it's funny that you waited so long to bring this up, because this thing with Britney is the last shoot I'm getting you. From now on you have to rely on your own abilities. You've got a great place to start from, and if you just keep up being you then I know things will turn out great."
As it happened, David wasn't kidding about cutting me lose. He left on Thursday for a trip to Europe. Actually, I was thrilled to know that I was on my own now, working without a net. When Friday rolled around I was in high spirits and ready for my photo shoot with Britney Spears.
I arrived at work at nine, as usual. I grabbed a cup of coffee and headed up to the studio. The shoot didn't start until ten, but I wanted to see what I'd be wearing. There were three outfits ready for me. One was a high cut three-piece suit. It was charcoal gray with a broken pinstripe. Under that I would be wearing a black shirt and a silver tie. The next outfit was a pair of black pants and a ribbed black tee shirt. Both the pants and the shirt were really tight. The third outfit was what I liked to call the rotten egg. In every shoot I had ever done there was always one set of clothes that I hated. This time it was a pair of gray pants with a red, no, pink button-down shirt. I only prayed that I wouldn't have to wear it.
I put on the suit and let the makeup people fix me up. By the time they got my hair "prefect" and finished with the actual makeup it was ten fifteen. And there was no sign of Britney. I sat down to wait. She finally rolled in at ten forty-five and was yelling into a cell phone.
"Listen, next time just make sure you get me a driver that knows where he's going. No I'm not mad. I'm not yelling. I AM NOT! OK. Yes. Thank you. Bye."
She immediately started around the room introducing herself and apologizing profusely for being late. At last she got to me.
"Hi, I'm Britney. I'm so sorry for being late. It was the driver and..."
"It's fine, no big deal. I'm Zack, it's a pleasure Britney."
"Zack, oh you're the model! I didn't even realize, though I guess I should have. You're the cutest guy in the room."
I blushed a little at that. Britney was not at all what I had expected. She was down to earth, nice, and very capable of carrying on an intelligent conversation. We talked all the way through the shoot, which lasted until one thirty. We both got a good laugh out of the rotten egg outfit. As it turned out she had one almost as bad, but we didn't have to wear them. In fact I never had to change out of the suit. When the shoot was over, I decided to take a chance and invite her out for lunch.
"So anyway, I know this great little coffee shop around the corner. They make a mean sandwich. Interested?"
"Oh, I'd love to, but I have to be on TRL at four. But...maybe we could do dinner?"
"That sounds great. Where do you want to go?"
"Surprise me. I'm sure you know all the good places to eat in this city. I really have to run, but I can't wait for tonight. Here's my hotel number, pick me up at eight?"
"Perfect. See ya then."
With that she was gone, and I stood there a little confused. I was going out on a date with Britney Spears. I couldn't remember the last time I'd been out on a date. I knew I liked Britney, she was a really cool person, but I wasn't really attracted to her. "Just nervous," I thought. I decided to exercise one of my privileges as a model and grab that pair of tight black pants that I never got the chance to wear. I knew they would go well with the silver shirt I had picked up at a photo shoot last week. God, it was nice to work in the fashion industry. The next thing I thought about was where to go. I needed to impress one of the world's hottest pop stars. The answer was obvious. I smiled as I dialed Perry's pager number. I liked having connections.
Dinner couldn't have gone better. Perry was in rare form and made a huge deal out of Britney, but she seemed to enjoy the attention. The two bottles of the very expensive Bordeaux we consumed probably helped though. By the time we had finished dessert Britney was in a very jovial mood. I helped her outside, uncertain of whether to call her a cab or take her back to the hotel myself.
"So Britney, will you be alright if I call you a cab?"
"Cab? Oh, I wanted to see your apartment! Didn't you say it's not very far form here? I don't feel like calling it a night yet. And I have to leave tomorrow so I want to spend as much time with you as possible!"
"Well, that's really nice of you Britney, but I'm not sure that it's the best idea..."
"Sure it is. Where's you apartment? Let's walk there."
And so she set off in a direction that was almost the exact opposite of where my apartment was. I decided that she was probably better off not being alone, and besides, I could use the company. So I gently took her arm and lead her in the correct direction.
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Meanwhile in Orlando, Florida:
"GOD DAMN IT JC I SAID NOTHING IS WRONG!"
Justin Timberlake slammed his bedroom door in the face of his best friend. It hurt him to shut JC out like that. Justin knew that JC only wanted to help, but he just couldn't deal with anybody right now. Despite his constant denials there was most definitely something wrong with him. He had been depressed for weeks. He looked at his reflection in the mirror. His mop of curly hair was a tangled mess, he had dark circles under his eyes from lack of sleep and he had lost weight.
"You can't hide from them forever," he said to his reflection. "They're your friends and you owe it to them. You've got to tell them."
He sighed imagining how that would go. What could he say? "Oh by the way guys, I think I'm gay! So who wants to go clubbing? Yeah right. JC might understand, and Lance. But Chris and Joey wouldn't. At least he didn't think so. None of them had ever talked about it. Britney seemed to think they would understand. And maybe they would. Britney was usually right. She was the one person he could count on to be there. She was the only one who knew that he was gay. Or thought he was. He'd never actually been with a guy before.
"Justin are you OK in there? I heard yelling and they JC just left without a word. What's going on?"
Oh great his mother. If he couldn't tell the guys he sure as hell couldn't tell his mother.
"I'm fine mom, really. JC and I just had a little fight. No big deal. I'm sure he'll be back soon."
"Alright Justin. I'll let it be then. But why don't you try to get some rest, you've been looking tired lately."
Rest. Yeah that would be nice. Too bad he couldn't sleep anymore. He flopped down on his bed and just lay there. What the hell was he going to do about this? Where was Britney right now? New York? Well she always left her cell phone on for emergencies. Justin figured this qualified. He grabbed the phone and dialed the number.
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`Who they hell would be calling at three in the morning,' I thought grumpily as I searched for the source of the ringing. Bad enough that I had brought Britney Spears back here and she had found my liquor supply while I was in the bathroom. But then when she passed out on my bed after trying to get on me for an hour I was sure the worst was over. Of course that was before I had come out to the living room to see if anything was on TV. I didn't want to sleep in case Britney needed anything. I had fallen asleep on the couch after five minutes of flipping through static. And now a phone had gotten me up and I didn't know where it was. By the time I located the source of the incessant ringing: Britney's cell phone in her purse, it had stopped. I went in to check on my guest who was sleeping peacefully.
"At least nothing else can go wrong," I muttered as I climbed into the guest bed and fell asleep.
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`Where could she be at three in the morning,' Justin thought. She always answers her phone. God, I hope she's all right. He was miserable, exhausted, and had no one he could talk to. Justin decided he might as well try to get some rest. He stripped down to his boxers and got under the covers. As usual he was tired, but sleep escaped him yet again.
`What else could go wrong?" he asked the darkness.
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Well there it is. Thanks again for all the e-mails. I think all the positive feedback helped me to write this one quickly. My e-mail hasn't changed, Zack02cool@hotmail.com. I think things are starting to pick up nicely. At this point you can probably see where the story is headed, but it's going to take some interesting turns along the way! I'll get to work on the next chapter right away. Until then!