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The face is the mirror of the mind, and eyes without speaking confess the secrets of the heart.

-         Saint Jerome.

Mirror of the Mind

I step out of the shower and make my way across the cold bathroom until I see it. It is the mirror. It is made foggy by the smoke in the bathroom. I wrap a towel around my waste and make my way to it.

My hand rubs the mirror, trying to clear it up. For a moment, I think I see him...Him...what the hell was happening with my mind?
"You think you're beautiful?" he asks, "Because Caprio or any of the others tell you it."

It is my reflection speaking to me. It hasn't been the first time it spoke to me. It doesn't have my voice though. It has the voice of many. It's the voice of all the other kids in the orphanage from South Africa. They speak to me all in unison. The voices in my reflection.

I never told anyone I heard these things. I just passed it off as my imagination. Perhaps it was. Perhaps the mirror devil was just a part of me...always speaking to me whenever I looked in the mirror.

"They like my face."

"They are patronizing you. You aren't beautiful," the mirror devil told me, "You're just an ugly little black boy. You'll never be anything more. Mauricio will be disappointed and he'll send you back...with nothing."

"He loves me."

"Loves? Really? Is that what you see it is? I see it more as an experiment. He wants to see if you are so ugly that people might confuse you for being exotic. Isn't that what they call you?"

He rips through me...like he always does. The mirror devil doesn't give a fuck.

"Exotic is a good thing."

"No...idiot. Exotic is what they think of monkeys. Fat monkeys at that. Have you seen Mauricio's body? Have you seen Kendall's body? You really think for a minute you can compare?"

I looked in the mirror at my body. The mirror devil was right. I had some tight abs, but my arms and chest were barely there. How could I compare to Mauricio? His body looked like he was sculpted back in Michelangelo.

"I'll do something...I'll stop eating..."

"Idiot, that won't work. You'll never be good enough."

I walked out of the bathroom. I couldn't take it anymore. Yet I knew it was the truth. My reflection had never lied to me. How could I enter the modeling world looking the way that I looked. They kept throwing around the word exotic. It wasn't a good thing...it couldn't be a good thing.

I had taken forever to get dressed. I wasn't good with picking out my own clothes. Mauricio, Kendall and even Angelo all dressed in things to show off their bodies. I wasn't that comfortable.

I walked into the common area of the house. I tried to force a smile as I saw Xi. He smiled back and silently went back to looking through a collection of magazine photos.

Kendall was on the phone and I could loudly hear him from his room. Angelo wasn't even there at all. I figured he must have been still sleeping. From staying with him in LA for as long as we did, I realized he slept really late and Mauricio had no problem with it. He felt some people needed more beauty sleep then others.

That was when I saw him...Caprio. He was standing in the kitchen part of the common area. The kitchen, dining room and living room all blended together. One huge studio. Only thing that separated them was the fact that the kitchen was tile, the dining room had wood flooring and the living room had an extremely thick foreign carpet. The apartment was beautiful. The glass wall let in sunlight that radiated over the living room, lighting it up to express the busy morning of New York.

I smiled as I approached him. He smiled back. We looked at each other smiling and then all of a sudden I couldn't smile anymore.

Mauricio had come out from behind the fridge door. He had on business attire and he had eggs in his hand. All of a sudden the mood I was in seemed to drop. It wasn't the fact that Mauricio was here. It was the fact that Mauricio and Caprio were here.

"Morning," he told me, "I decided to come over and make two of my favorite people in the world some breakfast."

Caprio looked over at me and laughed, "Yeah, forget those other guys. They can scrimmage for our leftovers."

Mauricio laughed, but I just stood there. I sat on the big bar stools that were attached to the island of the kitchen. I wrapped myself in my own arms. The huge window wall made me feel like I was outside. As beautiful it was, it was kind of ... intimidating.

"Why so quiet ugly?" Caprio asked me and before I could answer he turned to Mauricio, "Can you believe he thinks he's ugly. I thought he was joking, but he's serious. Isn't that a hoot?"

The way he addressed the issue, he was so fearless. I could see Mauricio all of a sudden getting protective again. It was a thing about Mauricio where he didn't want to address my insecurities.

"Caprio, leave it alone."

"I guess...so what's for breakfast?" Caprio asked.

I watched the way he stood laying over the island. He was carefree, confident and beautiful. It was everything that I wanted to be. He had a fork in his mouth as he was playing with it. It folded over his lips...god...what I wouldn't do to be that fork.

I used to think that Kendall was the most beautiful of all these models I've met, but I was wrong. Caprio was. Kendall was straight, but he had that whole metrosexuality thing going on. It wasn't attractive to me. Caprio was...such...a man...

"Scrambled eggs," Mauricio stated, "My baby's favorite."

He gave me one of his alluring eyebrow raises. I still hadn't gotten used to being Mauricio's baby...even after all this time, it still sounded so...weird.

"Thanks Mauricio, but I'm really not hungry," I stated and looked over at Caprio, "Hey bud, can you pass me an apple?"

"You forget my name already?" Caprio ask.

"What was it again? I'm so sorry."


Truth was I just wanted to hear him say it again. He made his name sound more sexy then it really was. He would pronounce it slow and a twinkle would appear in his eye. He reached into the fridge and pulled out an apple. As he handed it to me, my skin touched his...god...what was I thinking? My boyfriend was right here.

"You love scrambled eggs," Mauricio explained, "It's going to be a long day...are you sure?"

I could feel myself getting irritated. It was ok for him to eat it. Hell, I hadn't seen Caprio's body but with his face, I was sure it was ok for him to eat it too. It wasn't ok for me to eat it. I needed to lose weight and I needed to work out.

"I'm fine."

"Not even some toast or something. All you want is an apple?" he asked.

"What the hell Mauricio?" I asked, "You going to force me?"

I could feel the tension growing between us. I stared at him directly in his eye. I had a feeling that he was catching on that I was insecure. Hell, who wouldn't be. My body was more similar to Angelo's body then anyone else. It wasn't fun having the body of a 15 year old.

Caprio butt in, "Let the boy eat what he wants to eat. Damn...are you Richard Simmons or something?"

Just like that he broke the tension. Mauricio threw a towel in his face and I laughed a Caprio blew it off of him back onto the table. They made themselves a meal and even made some for everyone else. Xi even came over to join us to eat sooner or later. He didn't really speak much at all. I figured it was more because he was shy then he didn't know the language well.

Caprio broke a long silence, "So how long have you two been dating."

Mauricio turned to him, "Cap, do you really care?"

"Hell yeah. I want to know who is responsible for turning my best friend out," Caprio stated and looked over to me, "Not that there is a problem with it."

Every moment that I was around Caprio, I felt deeper. Yet the relationship between Caprio and Mauricio had elevated from Mauricio being Caprio's sister's business partner, to Mauricio being like a big brother and now to best friend. They kept getting closer and it felt like my little schoolboy crush was getting more and more wrong.

"Are you guys in love?" Caprio asked.

It was such a weird question. Why the hell would he want to know that? It was such a private question. I could never sit and ask someone that especially if their lover is right across the table. Caprio was so interesting to me. I wondered how he thought that this was even the slightest bit normal. He didn't seem to care though. It seemed like he was just speaking his mind and he didn't give a damn about the consequences.

Mauricio pretended not to hear him, "Tatum, I want you to come to Central Park with us. You don't have to do anything, but Caprio and Xi have a photo shoot for Old Navy. I wanted you and Angelo to come see, but I don't think Angelo will be up so you can just come."

I nodded and realized Caprio's face as he smiled.

"I guess that is a no..."

"Of course we are in love, stupidhead," Mauricio teased and got up from the table collecting the plates, "Now you guys get ready to go. We have a busy schedule today."


I watched as Caprio did all these different poses with a girl next to him. They were doing this whole young couple scene and the camera men were everywhere. He was so fucking perfect that it was unbelievable. A tinge of jealousy formed in my spine. Why wasn't my nose shaped like that. Why weren't my arms that big? Caprio was 6'2 and I was just 5'11.

"Nice," I heard someone say.

It was Xi. He was up next. I looked over at him. He didn't even seem nervous. He seemed excited. All these makeup artists and photographers were around everywhere. There were so many damn people for one photoshoot. It was ridiculous.

The photo shoot was in Central Park, near 59th street. It was a kind of chilly day. The breeze shifted in and out of us.

"He is nice model...he's handsome."

Just as I said that the stylist told Caprio to open up his shirt and show off his chest. I watched from the sidelines. Sometime soon Mauricio said that would be me up there, posing and being this big sex icon.

"Me now!" Xi said.

He was reacting to the fact that they were switching scenes. He got up and went back to make-up artist to get final touchups leaving me there alone. Mauricio was busy on his talking to some representatives from Old Navy on the sideline.

I was alone again and I watched how everyone around me seemed so busy. Everyone around me had such intent in their eyes. They all had something to do. The other models filed up and down, with meaning. They all looked like they could never grow old.

All of a sudden, I saw a mirror. One of the female models was holding up a huge mirror to look at her hair. My reflection was in the mirror.

The mirror devil looked at me with cold, emotionless eyes.

"Useless," it said, "You are fucking useless."

I crossed my arms and sat back, looking away from the mirror. A tear almost came out of my eye. How the fuck was I ever going to be able to take pictures without shaking. Even watching Caprio take pictures caused my nerves to start acting up.

"What's wrong?" Caprio asked.

He came and sat right next to me. Fuck...he was so damn beautiful. Why did he have to sit next to me? Why the hell was I so glad that he did? This was wrong...

"Nothing," I stated and looked away.

"Mauricio pissed you off again didn't he?" Caprio asked and smiled, "He really cares about you. I can see it. I've seen Mauricio date a ton of women. He never seems to get so anxious as he does around you. You know how excited he was to make you that dinner before you woke up?"

"You trying to make me feel guilty?"

"Is it working?"


"Well then I'm not trying," he replied and laughed before turning to me, "You do love him right? You didn't answer my question earlier."

"Why the hell do you care?"

"For the same reason you keep avoiding the question," he explained and gave me a suspicious look, "Look Tatum. I'm not trying to be tough on you, but this business has a lot of shady characters. People are using sex to advance their careers. It's ok if that is what you get into, but I just don't want my friend involved."

He wasn't smiling like he was before. There was still a smirk but I could tell that he was being extremely serious. I couldn't believe Caprio was coming at me like this.

"Don't act like you know me. You don't know me."

"But I know this industry. The modeling industry is full of traitors and backstabbers. People would do anything just to follow the dreams of being on camera."

"Mauricio found me," I stated giving him a harsh look, "I didn't find him. This is his dream more then mine."

"I just have this feeling that you don't love him."

"Well you're wrong."


He just continued staring at me. I could tell what the stare was. It was suspicion. I still hadn't answered his question about whether or not I loved Mauricio. I got up off the stool and walked away. I couldn't stand being around him for even a minute longer. Caprio had dug into me and I didn't know exactly if he was wrong completely.

I wasn't trying to use Mauricio.

It was nothing like that.

I did have love for Mauricio. I really did have a lot of love. I didn't know however if I was in love with him. The spark just hadn't completely happened yet. I just wasn't blown away by Mauricio in the way I thought I should be by now.

He was smart... he was goal-oriented... he loved me more then life...he was sexy as hell...he was kind...he was loyal.

Why didn't I love Mauricio?

Speak of the devil. He walked up to me right now. He wasn't alone. He had a few people with him and I hadn't really seen these people before. I knew who they were though. They were important. He'd given me the heads up about it.

"Hey, I would like to introduce you to one of my models," Mauricio said "My personal favorite one actually. This is Tatum. Tatum, this is Gregory Ferns and Mia Horizon. They are here scouting for the Horizons Project Runway Show next week."

They both reached their hand out to shake mine. I smiled, trying to make my smile seem real as best that I could. I didn't know if it was working however.

"Very exotic..." the woman said and that was it.

That was all they said. Then they just stood there and stared at me, with these blank expressions. It almost said that they were looking for something more...something that wasn't present. It was so damn awkward.

"Caprio!" Mauricio called.

Caprio walked over. He and I exchanged looks. He wasn't smiling when he looked at me. It was just some unspoken difficulty between us that I couldn't really understand. He did smile however when he reached out to shake the hands of these new people.


I watched as they examined his face. They were interested. They were much more into him then they was with me. They examined his face over and over, looking deep into him and getting everything under scope. They were interested in Caprio...and they had been bored with me.

I was quiet on the way back to the penthouse. I just kept thinking about how Ferns and Horizon had been so nonchalant with me. Mauricio took us around after we met them to meet a few other people who were important. None of them seemed to show much interest in me at all. They even seemed to give Xi a whole lot more attention then they did to me. I was passed by...I was invisible.

Mauricio put my hand on my shoulder, "Baby, what's wrong?"

We were on the train. Caprio was sitting across from us with Xi. His hands were in his pockets and he wasn't hiding the fact that he was staring at us. He was close enough to hear our conversation too.

"Nothing," I replied.

"I know you, Tatum," Mauricio told me, "You have to let me know what's the problem."

"Maury, just let him be. Maybe he just needs to think about what he wants," Caprio stated and smiled.

He thought he was so damn cool. He was Mr. Extra cool. Mr. Extra Funny. Everyone was supposed to love him. Everyone had probably always found him so amusing. Even I was taken by him. I was sitting here, even now falling in love with this idiot and leaving the one who really cared about me out in the dust. I didn't understand what the hell was happening but it was pissing me off.

I'd had enough. My face wrinkled up and I shot Caprio a death look, "Maybe you need to mind your damn business."

He started to laugh steadily and I could feel Mauricio grab my hand.

"Come on, Tatum. What was that for?" Mauricio asked me.

"He's annoying."

That was all I could say. I got up off the bench next to Mauricio and moved to the other side of the train...alone. I made sure I sat where Mauricio couldn't follow either. I didn't want to be bothered.

I looked back down on the train where I could see Caprio. He was still staring at me...clearly, not hiding it at all. He smiled. He was sexy as fuck, even as he was provoking me.


Instead of going back to the penthouse like I had hoped, we ended up in the new Bella Verino's office. It was located in central Manhattan. The office was pretty big but it was still under construction.

Natalie and her two assistants had been busy walking around with the interior decorator when we got there. I wasn't surprised that Kendall was there too. He was always in the office when we were in LA and I figured he would be in the office all here. She told them all to go on break so she could have a discussion with her.

"Good work Mauricio. I don't know what you said at that photo shoot, but I got a booking already."


"The Horizon Runway...Tatum is up."

Silence fell over the room. I wasn't the only one who was surprised when she said it. Caprio looked at me raised an eyebrow and smiled.

Kendall opened his mouth wide, "Him? I personally requested that Horizon's show."
"They just had room for one more model. They wanted Tatum."

"Wow...congratulations," Mauricio stated to me and walked over, "I wasn't even...planning on that. He just spoke to them for like a minute or something. Wow...they didn't even want to see him walk or want his measurements?"

"No...isn't that weird?" Natalie stated, "Isn't that weird. The show is tomorrow at 8 at night. Tatum, they want you there for make up by 6. ."

"I'm not ready," I stated.

My response was quick and in a hurry. I had made up my mind and it seemed an even bigger surprise. They all looked at me with an even weirder look.

"Is he serious?" Caprio said and turned around, "This is your opportunity. What are you doing?"

"Mind your business...god..." I stated, giving him the same look that I gave on the train.

"He's right," Natalie replied, "You need to take this Tatum. You know how it'll look on us if we start off on a bad note with some of these fashion people? They came to us in a state of emergency when one of their models backed out. The Horizons Project is very important clientele."

"I'll make a fool of myself."

"Now Tatum, I know you're scared," Mauricio said, "But we can help you. You've had acting classes. You've had runway classes. You have all the skills you need for this show."

"I'm not doing it."

"Damn your boyfriend is stubborn as hell Maury," Caprio stated as though I wasn't in the room.

I watched as they all looked at me. They all were thinking the same thing. I was crazy for not taking this opportunity. I probably was. I realized it. I could already see myself going up there and everyone laughing at how ugly I was thinking that I could model some clothing.

"The show must go on, Kendall, you're up..." Natalie stated, picking up her cellphone and walking out of the room as though her life was way too busy to sit in here and spend another moment speaking to us.

"Great, now I'm doing sloppy seconds," Kendall replied.


Mauricio stayed in the office to do work, but he sent us back in a cab. I could see the way he was looking me. It made me feel like shit really. I reached over and hugged him before I got into the cab.

I couldn't help it but to start to apologize, "Mauricio, I'm sorry...I'm..."

"Don't apologize," he replied to me and grabbed me by my hand, "Tatum, you are going to have to start trusting me. I wouldn't set you up for failure. I know this is a bad time for you. You're scared. This is a new country. You've only been here a year. This is a new business...but you have to start trusting me. Ok?"

"I do trust you..."

"You know what I mean. You have to start really trusting me. In here..." she said pointing at my head. Then he stopped and pointed to my heart, "And in there too..."

I got in the car and watched Mauricio as we pulled away. Damn...he was right. I didn't trust him completely with my heart. I couldn't trust anyone really with my heart. Maybe that is why we've dated for so long and I never told him that I loved him.

He used to be patient with it. He used to tell me I could take as long as I wanted, but things changed. He started to keep asking me why I didn't love him and if I did why I wouldn't tell him that. He was so sure that he'd found the person he was going to spend the rest of his life with in me, but I wasn't sure and it hurt.

Caprio was in the middle between Xi and I. He looked at me and I could feel his eyes on me in the back of the cab. I ignored him as best as I could. He just kept looking at me. The cab was so damn small I could feel his breath against my neck. The warmth of his breath turned me on. God, where did this boy come from? He was so different from Natalie. While Natalie was always busy and taken away by life, he seemed to really enjoy it. I wondered how they could even be related.

I finally asked him, "What is it?"

"I don't know. Like...I'm trying to understand you. You are so difficult."

It was the first time I saw him completely serious. He wasn't smiling now. Mr. Smiley didn't even have a smirk on his face. He was just staring at me, his dark eyes piercing through me. What did he see?

"You don't know me."

"If it was up to you, I never will. You don't let people in. Look at you. You've been dating a man for a year and you haven't let him in yet."

God he was right...and if I hadn't let Mauricio in...I definitely wouldn't let him in either. He just kept looking at me with that same haunting stare. What was he trying to get out of me? It was like every time he looked at me he was trying to break into something...something that I wasn't ready to release.

"Why are you so afraid?" he asked me, "Just tell me. Get it off your chest. Why do you think you are a failure?"
All I could remember was that orphanage...those things that happened. I couldn't tell him. I took a deep breath and wiped off the images, before they became too much again. I couldn't remember them until nighttime, when no one was awake and when no one was listening.

"Leave me alone," I told him, "Stop staring at me like that."

"Like what?"

"You know how you are staring at me."

"Don't flatter yourself. I'm straight."

"I never said you wasn't," I replied and then turned away toward the window, "Just stop talking to me."

He seemed real upset about me as he leaned up and moved into me, "You are the most attractive guy in the agency. Period. What does it take to make you see that? Does God have to come down and tell you that you have what it takes?"

"Stop patroni---

"Stop saying that! No one is patronizing you, idiot. Look at you. You can't even take me staring at you. I wouldn't be staring at someone ugly," he stated and grunted hard as hell.

He fell back into the chair hard and crossed his arms. He was really worked up about it. I couldn't believe he just called me an idiot. Mauricio would never call me an idiot like that.

Caprio was still looking at me. This time it was through the mirror of the driver of the taxi. I caught his eye and then where he was... I could see the mirror devil instead.

"They are lying to you," the mirror devil said, "You see how you look like. You know who you are better than any of these people. They want to see you fall."

"Stop it!" I said.

I wasn't talking to the mirror devil, I was talking to Caprio. He turned to me and looked at me.

"Why not just leave then? You aren't in love with Maury. I know you aren't. You are too scared to model. Why the hell are you here? Didn't you say you was from South Africa? Go back..."

"Why won't you just leave me alone?"

"Because your special. You are fucking special and I can't put my finger on it. All I know is you are even going to big trouble or a big blessing. And I'm going to figure out which one."