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"If chained is where you have been, your arms will always bear the marks of the shackles. What you have to lose is your own story, your own slant. You'll look at the scars on your arms and see mere ugliness or you'll take great care to look away from them and see nothing. Either way, you have no words for the story of where you came from...we are our injuries as much as we are our successes."

-         Kingsolver, Barbara


Marks of Shackles

I stood there, trying my best to get my penis back to being soft. Trying my best to think of old nuns, dead puppies and anything else that would turn me off. It was so hard with Caprio so close to me in such small underwear. I felt turned on...more then turned on. My dick was hard as hell.

He was sitting there obviously trying his best to hold back laughter. Caprio found everything funny. That was his damn problem. He found everything so damn amusing.

I closed my eyes and I thought...

I thought about thing I knew that would turn me off completely.

I thought about my past.

"Ok, you're cool. Don't worry buddy, it happens all the time, especially to beginners," the photographer said.

I felt glad that he was saying this because I didn't want Caprio to think I was attracted to him. God knew what he thought. He just stood there and laughed. I crossed over onto the mat.

"How do you want me?" I asked.

The thoughts about my past had wiped all of the excitement out of my face. I just wanted to get this over with. I felt like my mind slowly wandering to it. The orphanage. It was the place of nightmares. I had tried to push the images to the back of my head so many times. I kept trying to forget...

He positioned us facing away from each other, our arms stretched out. I could feel Caprio at my back. I hated being near Caprio. He made me so nervous. This hadn't helped take away my anxiety. It had only made it worse.

"Good...good Caprio, stay there," he said and snapped a picture then got silent for a minute.

"I have to do it over don't I?" I asked.

"No...no...wow..." he said, "Stay like that, let me get a few more angles."

I didn't know exactly what he was wowing about. I was in such a bad mood. I'd opened the flood gates of my mind and the memories were flooding back. I kept hearing the voices. I kept hearing all the pain. I kept hearing the children.

"What the hell? Are you having an orgasm or something?" Caprio asked between shots, "You're body is shaking."

He laughed at his own little joke but I ignored him.

"New Pose," the director said.

He put us in a new position. I was the focus while Caprio was behind me, posing in the backdrop, shadowing me.

Fuck. I knew I was shaking. The nerves were getting to me. I kept seeing the images over and over. They wouldn't stop. They just kept appearing and I was afraid. I was beyond fear.

I was that little child again.

"Oh you still not speaking to me?" Caprio asked from behind me, "You are so god damn childish Tatum."

I ignored him.

"New pose," the photographer stated, putting us in a completely new position. The new position was closer.

I was sitting, Indian style, looking at the camera while Caprio leaned over my back. One arm was positioned over my chest and the other one was placed on my shoulder. We were both told to stare intensely into the camera.

I could hardly stare. As I looked at the lights, all I could see were the lights in Africa. All I could see were the familiar faces of kids that I knew. I could see Raffia, I could see Musu, I could Iman and I could see all the other young boys and girls. They were so young...condemned never to be beautiful. Why did they keep appearing?

The photographer seemed to be losing his focus. Was I that horrible? Was I such a failure? I couldn't even concentrate on the photo shoot.

"One more pose."

"Tatum, are you ok?" Caprio asked, "Seriously man...like are you ok? Maybe we should stop. I'll tell him. Hey! Hey guy...I think we should stop."

"No one more pose...please..." the photographer stated.

I didn't understand. I wasn't paying so much attention. I heard the words they were saying. Caprio seemed to be in disapproval of the photographer wanting to continue. For some reason the photographer seemed persistent though. I didn't have an opinion. The words they were saying made sense and I could comprehend them...I just stopped caring.

I was no longer in this fancy studio in Manhattan. I was back in South Africa.

"I don't want this to go anymore," Caprio said.

"One more shot..."

"He looks like he's having a panic attack!"
"Please! If you don't want to take the picture with him, you are free to leave! He is going to take another shot!"

"Whatever take your fucking picture, asshole," Caprio told him.

The director put us in a position where Caprio was holding me up as though I was a fallen ally in war. Caprio had me propped up on his knee. He held me in his arms securing me and looking deep into my eyes.

"Good just like that...yes...just like that," the photographer said. He had this hint of desperate in his voice. I didn't get it.

"Are you ok?"

"No talking please!" the photographer said.

"Fuck you guy!" Caprio screamed back.

I was in a dream like state. I kept thinking about the past, but every time I looked up at Caprio there was something that pulled me back into the present. He had the same eyes as someone I had known. He had the same name even. Cap. I would never forget the name on the badge. I would never forget my American hero from my past. His name was Cap...the same as this boy here.

I had to look at his eyelashes. If I didn't look at his eyelashes...I felt like I would fall for him. I would be taken away and I couldn't allow that. I couldn't give myself to Caprio...I belonged to Mauricio.

"I'm done," the man finally said.

Caprio helped me to the dressing room. He damn near carried me there. I had felt lightheaded. It was a mixture of the heat, of the anxiety and of the nightmares from the past. I knew if he put me down I would stumble. He handed me my clothes and I could see his shadow waiting outside the dressing room for me to get dressed.


When I got out of the dressing room he handed me a glass of water. I took it from him and drank it. It made me feel a whole lot better.

"Thanks," I stated.

I started to walk away but Caprio grabbed me and pulled me back. He was still in his underwear. As the memories from the past got distant, all I could see is how sexy he was all over again. I could feel the weight piling up...all over again.

I tried my hardest not to stare at the bulge in the front of his underwear, but it was impossible not to notice the chiseled abs or the smooth brown nipples. It was hard not to notice how his bronze skin shined so naturally. His hard strong thighs were everything. Then his face...it was one of Caprio's rare serious moments. It was beautiful.

"That's it?" he asked.

"Caprio..." I stated.

For a minute I looked at his stare and I thought that maybe I should tell him everything. I had even opened my mouth to do so. He deserved it. He had helped me out during the photo shoot. I probably would have fainted if he wasn't there to support me.

He seemed really concerned and not just long enough to crack a joke or made fun of me.

I spoke too soon...

"Boy, I felt like I was doing a photo shoot with Emily Rose."

I turned away. I couldn't believe this. He was joking again. Caprio was always fucking joking. The slight serious face he had on was replaced with his same wide amused grin.
"I don't have the time for jokes," I stated, "Bye."
"Ok...ok it's just how I deal with things...when they scare me!"

He started to raise his voice because I had walked outside. I didn't have time to take Caprio serious because Caprio never had the time to take himself serious. Just when I thought that for a moment he would...he just proved me wrong and was back to joking.


He walked out of the studio taking the back way. I didn't want to get any smirks and teases from the photographer too. I just wanted to leave and pretend like this day never happened. It was such a fucking disaster.

As I walked into the middle of the street, I noticed something. Caprio was still behind me.

"What the hell!" I stated, "Go back inside."


I tried to hold back a laugh. Caprio was such a god damn character. He was standing out here and people were gawking at him...literally. It wasn't a street in Ohio or Minnesota or something...this was a Manhattan street. The street was crowded with people.

Caprio didn't even care. He was standing out here in his underwear talking to me and he was comfortable as hell. He should have been confident. Hell, he looked good. He was causing grown women to giggle and stopping even men in their tracks.

"No...you aren't listening to me."

"People are staring."
"I don't care."

"Please go inside...seriously," I stated, "You're embarrassing yourself and ME!"

He looked up and down at his own body, "There's nothing embarrassing

here...nothing at all."

Damn I hated the fact that he was right. I could see the eyes all over his body. Some eyes were of envy and some were of pure...obvious...desire...

"So you are just going to stand out here in your underwear?"

He crossed his arms, "Until you speak to me..."

He turned to me, "Listen...I was really concerned about you. I was...what was

that about? Seriously."

I looked him in his eyes. I could tell him, but then again this was Caprio. If I hadn't even told Mauricio, then why would I tell him? Caprio was trying his best to break in to places that he didn't have any business being. He was trying and I couldn't let him.

"You don't give a fuck. Why don't you go be a stand up comedian? However, I will not be your comedy material."

I felt bad for saying it but I meant it. I meant it with all my heart. Caprio wasn't serious enough to be concerned. I didn't know what his true intentions were but I didn't think it had to do with him being concerned about me.

He crossed his arms, "Tatum, I was trying to help you. Man...I don't know what Mauricio sees in you. Fuck you."

He turned around and walked away. For a moment I thought about calling him back. Then I realized how sexy he was. I was staring at his butt in his underwear. His sexy butt caused a stir in my dick. I wondered how it felt like to rub it. I wanted to bite into it. God...his ass was sexy.

I couldn't let him turn around. I didn't want Caprio concerned with me. Hell, the way I was feeling about him meant that I had to keep far away from him. I had to keep VERY far away from him.


We were all invited to the opening of the new office. Natalie was throwing an office party and was inviting people from the industry. I knew she was using it as just another networking event. It seemed like they were becoming endless. I decided that since Angelo had to stay home, due to what time the party was, that I'd call up Wednesday and invite her to the party. I just didn't want to end up feeling alone and I already had a feeling Mauricio would be doing his whole networking gig.

To my surprise she showed up in the backseat of an expensive Cadillac town's car to drive to the event. We had light conversation as she arrived. Wednesday was such a nice person. I couldn't believe her breed still existed in New York.

The office was beautiful. Natalie had arranged for caterers and even champagne. The servers walked around handing the champagne to everyone. Everyone was dressed in their evening's best.

"Hey...you aren't going to introduce me to your friend Tatum," Kendall said approaching me. Caprio was at his side.

"This is Wednesday...Wednesday Montague. Wednesday these are some guys from my modeling agency Kendall and oh...Caprio."

If it was up to me I wouldn't have introduced her to Caprio. I just didn't want her exposed to his stupid jokes. He stared with this look of disapproval that I didn't even get.

"Nice to meet you," Kendall said, kissing her hand.

He looked deep in her eyes as he did it. It was so obvious he was trying to seduce her. Kendall was so damn obvious that it was actually just a little bit embarrassing.

Caprio just shrugged, "Have you met, Tatum's `boyfriend'? You know his `boyfriend' is our entire agent."

"Really? I'm sure I'll meet him soon."

"Oh...you knew he was gay?" Caprio stated.


"Good, just making sure," Caprio explained and turned away.

I wondered for a moment if Mauricio had put him up to it. I just rolled my eyes though. Caprio probably thought of a way to blow my spot and it just backfired. Why the hell would I hide the fact that I was gay?

It took us almost an hour to shake Kendall off. He just kept trying to flirt with Wednesday and it was obviously just not working. She kept flashing her ring at him but I don't think even caught it. He was just so blown away. I don't care how young and handsome he was, it would take a while for him to compare to the likes of Rich Montague.

"You got a little admirer," I stated.

"Really for a minute, I thought you did too," she stated and then laughed, "Or maybe it's that you wanted him to be."


She laughed, "Not the white one...the other one. What nationality is he?"

"He's mixed."

She smiled, "Hmm...interesting. My entire family is black and white. What is he mixed with?"

"From what I hear, he's mixed with a lot," I stated, "Why would you think he's admiring me?"

She shrugged me on my shoulders and nodded across the room, "Look."

I stared across the room, trying my best to seem sneaky. My corner of my eyes pierced across the room, maneuvering past a couple figures. There was where I saw him. He was standing next to the office that was going to be Mauricio. Caprio had his hands his pocket leaned up against the wall and he was just staring at me.

As soon as our eyes caught, both of us looked away.

"That doesn't mean anything," I replied.

She smiled, "Yeah...you're probably right. You know I'm like a blonde. Who knows? He is so cute! I want to carry him in my purse and steal cookies for him."

I laughed. It was funny because Wednesday was serious. She really was like a blonde and the things she said just so happened to be hilarious without her even trying.

"I got a boyfriend..."

"O boyfriend...toy's friend. You don't have a ring on your finger."

"Wednesday, you don't understand."

"Tell me then."

She leaned against the window that had Bella Verino Modeling Agency on it in big Script font. I told her the story about how he had found me in South Africa. I told her how he discovered me and what all he had done for me bringing me all the way to America. He had supported me in every way imaginable.

"...Mauricio is more then my boyfriend. He is my hero."

She got silent as though thinking, "Well I'm sure he is your hero, but you have to learn how to save yourself at times you know. Just because he's done something for you doesn't mean you'll always owe him. I'm sure he didn't do those things because he wanted repayment. He's brought you hear and now it's time you became your own person and stopped relying so much on him. Just don't turn your hero into your crutch."

Wow. That was weird. For a moment Wednesday didn't seem so blonde. She actually seemed to be very...very wise.

"Wow," I stated.

"Ha...I surprised myself with that one," she explained just before going back into her old self, "So how did you leave Africa...I didn't know they had planes in Africa..."

I laughed. Yeah...she was definitely back to the person that I had met.

I thought about what she said though. I had to see where this thing with Mauricio was going. I had to figure it out. It wasn't fair for either him or me, if I wasn't in love with him. I had to somehow figure a way to fall in love with him.


I had spent the entire next morning working out with my new personal trainer. Gregory. We all had to go work out with Gregory. I had been the first to arrive and the last to leave. I actually ended up leaving after Gregory left. I felt like my body wasn't tight enough in the photos that Caprio and I took. I looked in the mirror as I walked by to get a drink of water.

"Still so fat," my reflection told me.

I looked at it my stomach. My abs had seemed tighter, my chest had gotten

slightly bigger but my thighs looked a mess. I reached down and I was able to pinch fat. I was so sure Caprio or Kendall didn't have any fat that they could pinch. I wanted Caprio's waistline so much. It was so damn perfect. It was so cut. He had just signed a contract with Abercrombie. I was sure he was going to sell the fuck out of some jeans. I didn't.

"Look at you...you can't keep up with them..."

"I'm trying."

"No...you're not. You are eating. You are always eating. You are so fucking fat."

I started to breath heavy. God...I was hungry even now. My stomach was growling. I had planned to go out for breakfast...but how could I?

Suddenly my phone rang.

I picked it up.
<Hey...can you come into the office?>

It was Mauricio. It was perfect because I needed to talk to him about our relationship. We had to spark it up a little bit. We had to do something with it. It was just dulling out. I needed to feel that love for him that he felt for me and I didn't know how I was going to do it, but I had to figure it out. I cared about Mauricio and I wanted to make him happy. I'd give him anything, even if that meant giving him my heart.

I made it to the office after taking a shower and making some protein shakes. I ended up taking a whole tray of different vitamins and eating some nutritional bars. I ate just enough for my stomach to stop growling. I didn't need carbs or anything. I was going for that slim, tight modeling look that high fashion called for.

As I walked into the office I saw Kendall. He was walking around the office as usual on the phone, waiting to get constant attention from an agent. To my surprise he didn't just give me his usual head nod before he walked away. He actually came walking over.

"Hey...hey bud."

"What's up?"

"Well I was interested in your friend. You know...Wednesday."

"What about her?"

"God...you have to hook me up," he stated and smiled, real excited, "She is everything I need right now. You think you can do that for me Tatum...I'll owe you."

He seemed desperate. Who knew that the perfect Kendall would be so shook up over a girl? He grabbed me by my hand...begging.

"She's married."

"I know...but come on, just tell her to give me a shot. Please..."

All of a sudden Kendall was actually being nice to me. Before he didn't give two fucks about my mere existence. He shrugged with unconcern every time my name was mentioned but now he was actually begging ME!

"No I can't," I stated.

"What the hell do you mean...you can't?" he asked.

He was surprised. People around the LA office rarely denied Kendall. That office had a lot of agents too. He looked completely surprised that I was now.

"Kendall. She's married. That's wrong."

"You are such a hater."

"I have no reason to hate on you Kendall."

He laughed and crossed his arms, "Let's quit playing, Tatum. It's more

then obvious that you look up to me. Look at your nose...you think that's a model's nose. You want my nose. Damn you. Hater."

Damn...had I been so obvious? I look away, making an attempt to walk away.

"I have to see Mauricio," I said.

He didn't let me go. He grabbed me by my arm and pulled me back. I shook him off and pushed him a little but he just laughed. He touched his nose. He had the perfect pointed nose. It was the type of nose that Michael Jackson aimed to have but failed.

"Look at your damn lips. They're big as fuck. No wonder Caprio is always

making fun of you. You're a god damn joke trying to call yourself a model."

I walked away.

I couldn't take it anymore. He was digging into me and I hadn't done anything but say that I wasn't going to sell my friend. I hate feeling the way that I was feeling now. I felt like a helpless victim who could do nothing but stand there and take it.

What could I say about Kendall? He had the perfect nose, perfect lips, and perfect sandy blonde hair. He was America's poster boy. Everyone saw him as beautiful and no one even came close to denying him.

"You ok baby?" I heard Mauricio say as soon as I walked through the door. He must have realized the expression on my face. He grabbed me and gave me a tight hug.

I pulled away, "I'm fine. Listen, Mauricio can we talk?"

"Well...actually let's just take care of this business first ok?" he asked.

It was the same as usual. Mauricio and his business always came first. I didn't fault him. Hell, his business as my business, but it was annoying. I needed to spend time with him. I wanted to really form that bond with Mauricio that I should have had a long time ago.

As soon as he moved out the way, I realized Natalie and one of her assistants were in the room. She had a folder in my hand as I walked in, she handed it to me.

"What are these?"

"Your pictures from yesterday."

I opened it and laid the photos on the table where everyone gathered around the table to see.

God...they were fucking horrendous!

I got up and walked away from the table and started to cry. I couldn't take this. I couldn't do this anymore. I couldn't even take a decent picture. Caprio looked amazing in all the photos and next to him I looked like a goddamn clown. You could see in the pictures the amount of experience that each of us had.

"Baby, please tell me those are tears of happiness," Mauricio asked.

"Why would I have tears of happiness? They look a damn mess."

The pictures just kept flashing in my head. All I could think about was how sexy

Caprio looked. The camera captured every last bit of his sex appeal. It captured every last bit of his masculinity. All my masculinity was misplaced. I looked like a gelatin structure. I had no bones in my body at all.

"Darling, I'm excited about these," Natalie stated, "And I'm a business woman, I don't get excited. You really...you blew me away."

"The intensity in your eyes..." Mauricio stated, "Top models couldn't bring that type of intensity out on camera."

I rolled my eyes, "Don't patronize me."

Natalie shook her head, "Mauricio, talk to this boy. Seriously. I am going to show his portfolio to Donatella and Allegra Versace. He is going to be something incredible darling. I'll sell him as, being like exotic African couture. However...his mind needs to be in it. There is something in there...that needs to be fixed."

She walked out of the room with her assistant.

I had no idea what the hell she was talking or he was talking about. The pictures were flawed. They weren't even "alright". They were disgusting.

Mauricio held the photos up to my face, "What do you see?"

It was the last pose of Caprio and me. Caprio was holding me up and I was looking into his eyes. The photo had captured my eyes barely open with a hint of tear falling from it.

"Caprio did a great job..."

"No...what about you?"

"My nose is too wide...my lips are too big...my body not as toned as Caprio," I explained to him. I kept hearing the words that Kendall said. He had hit the problem right on the head.

"You are perfect how you are," Mauricio stated, "I love Caprio and as attractive as he is, you have a passion about you that diminishes his light. Whoever looks at the picture will only see him as the backdrop. Look at this picture..."

"I don't see it...I'm sorry. I just don't."

What was he looking at?

"When I first met you, I loved the fact that you weren't conceited," he explained to me, "I felt like to be such a beautiful person, you were so down to earth, but honestly...you are too humble. You need self-esteem Tatum, seriously."

"Look at me!" I said, getting up.

I didn't get what he was looking but I stood in front of him and waved my hands to and fro. He needed to pay close attention to me.

"I see you!" he replied, raising his voice just as loud as me.

"No. I don't know who you see. Those pictures are horrible. I'm telling you. I want to destroy them. Please, Mauricio...I'll take some more..."

"Baby, I can't. The photographer said these were the best photos he's taken in his entire career. He said you and Caprio had so much chemistry between the two of you that it made for a remarkable photo experience. ."

"I'll take more!"

He grabbed onto me, holding me as though I was trying to escape from

somewhere. I didn't understand why he would lie to me.

As he held me he looked me in my eyes and then he stated with the most intense look on his face, "Baby...I'll pay for therapy if you consider it. I've called some people..."

I took the picture out of his hand and tore it up.
"That's what I think of your therapy."

"Baby I made copies."

The anger was boiling up in me. I couldn't believe he was doing this. My own boyfriend. If I wasn't comfortable with pictures why not just get rid of them. Why would he keep them? I didn't understand it. I knew I looked horrible in those pictures. I didn't want them at all.

"You know what. If you don't get rid of those copies, ALL of those copies...I'm leaving the agency."

"What? Tatum?"

"If Natalie or anyone else shows those ugly pictures to anyone else, I am leaving you..."

I meant the relationship. I was so pissed off right now that I didn't know if I really meant it, but the anger was boiling up and even though I wanted to take it back, I couldn't. The anger wouldn't let me take it back.

Mauricio looked hurt. He let go of me and just stared into my eyes. I couldn't see his eyes though. Tears were filling mine.

I couldn't believe this shit. I was crying again.

I ran out of the room. There had to be something wrong with my body. I always cried. It was like clockwork. Every time I was going through something, I would just bundle up into a ball and tear up.

It was ridiculous.

As I ran out of the building a few thoughts entered my head. I didn't want to see Caprio most of all. He probably already saw the pictures. He probably already saw how beautiful he looked and how horrible I looked. Instead of going back to the Penthouse, I called Wednesday. I felt a whole lot safer with her then those clowns back at the penthouse.