This story is by Cheryl Kesling and was part of our 2018 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Gwen was the reason I trusted Mr. Goodspeed. She had been my hairdresser for several years; I had no reason not to trust her judgment. Mr. Goodspeed was the owner of the hair salon, and thirty years my senior. He was the fatherly type; good-natured married man, who also did photography work and touted himself as a professional model photographer. His short, roly-poly body approached me saying he wanted to take photos of me for his portfolio. I had witnessed his kindness toward his clientele. I discussed this with Gwen, and she thought it would be a good idea. “Who knows,” she said, “he might make a model out of you.”
I brushed my little whispers of caution aside and met Mr. Goodspeed in the salon parking lot where, thinking of stardom, I proceeded to get in his car. I started thinking about the extra cash I could make if I could get into modeling. And I would need a portfolio too. Right? He told me that he had a condo where he took his models to take photos, then off we went out of the parking lot.
He parked in an empty lot, and as we walked from his car to the condo, a little nervous I asked Mr. Goodspeed, “So, do you have a room here set up for photo shoots?”
“Yes,” he said.
We entered the condo’s musty smelling living area complete with old tweed sofa, end table with lamp, and coffee table; furnishings that reminded me of the 1950’s. I could see the whitewashed cabinets and the green Formica countertops in the kitchen just past the four-chair dinette set. He caught me off guard a bit as I turned around; his back to me as he locked the deadbolt to the front door.
“Why do you need to lock the door?” I asked.
“So, we won’t be disturbed,” he said.
Shit, now all my senses were on high alert, I was beginning to feel things weren’t quite right.
“Okay,” I said with my eyes darting around the room, “what next?” I was beginning to think I’m going to need some options here.
“Well,” he said as he walked toward me. “I’ll show you how you’ll be positioned and what to wear for the photos. Follow me.”
He walked into one of the tattered carpeted bedrooms and motioned for me to follow – which I did cautiously with one eye on the front door. He had his camera hung around his neck; looking somewhat professional. I began to see him in a different light; a squatted old man with greasy slicked back hair. I felt the hair on the back of my neck stand on end and do a flip! Should I run for the front door or try to talk my way out of this? My best bad choice was to try to talk my way out. There was no way I would get the front door open in time to escape before he grabbed me.
“This is what I’d like for you to do,” he said as he continued to the bedroom bathroom. He handed me a white towel and continued with a creepy soft tone to his voice, “I’d like you to take off all of your clothes and drape one end of this towel over your right shoulder and drape the rest of towel over your buttocks then with your left hand you can pull the towel to your waist, holding it with elbow out while resting your hand on your waist. That way I can get a nice shot of your exposed shoulder, and part of your back and legs.” For a second, I pictured Betty Grable’s famous poster; her facing forward in her yellow bathing suit in high heels looking back over her shoulder. But he was not asking me to get into a bathing suit.
“No way am I going to do that!” I protested as I stormed out of the bathroom, past the bedroom heading to the front door.”
“You’re not going anywhere,” he said as he stepped between me and the front door.
“Yes, I am,” I said as I folded my arms in front of me. “You can’t keep me here! I’ll scream if you don’t let me go.”
“Yes, I can,” he said as he pointed his ugly pointy finger at my face. “Go ahead and scream all you want, no one will hear you. You will stay, and you will take your clothes off and pose as I have told you.”
I entered full panic mode; wide-eyed like a walleye fish about to have its head chopped off. Shit Sherry, how are you going to get out of this fucked up mess? Think! Think! Think! It seemed like hours, but I knew it was only seconds had passed when I realized I needed to calm down and think of a way out of this mess.
“Look,” I started as I shuffled to the couch and sat down, “I think you have me pegged for a girl that would do nude photos for you, but I’m not that kind of girl. I’m just one of your salon clients who likes the way one of your hairdressers does her hair. I’m not a model. I’m just a young mom hoping for other opportunities to make money to raise my three-year-old son.”
“Okay,” he said as he softened a bit and the tension melted a little.
However, I was fully aware that he could jump me at any time and I would not win that battle.
He continued, “I take these photos and sell them overseas, generally European countries. No one will see them here in the states.”
“It doesn’t matter where you sell them,” I said, “I don’t want my son to see me like that when he’s older after someone sends them to him asking – Are these photos of your mom? When somehow all the photos circle back to the USA, then I’d have to explain myself to him, he would be forever hurt and changed. Please don’t put my son through this,” I pleaded as I watched him in deep thought; with one hand under his armpit, the other rubbing his greasy forehead.
I took a deep breath as I instinctively watched his body language. Hoping and praying to God he would not do something stupid.
“Let’s just say this was a mistake to bring me here; I’m sure you have willing models to help you,” I said as I watched him cautiously. “Your wife will hear nothing from me; your salon will hear nothing from me. In other words, let’s just get on with our lives. You go your way, and I’ll go mine. Besides, I’m expected at work in an hour. If I don’t show up at the airline reservations center for my evening shift, they’ll be looking for me.”
I’m not sure if it was the pleading young mom routine or the fact that my work would be looking for me, but either way, he turned around and unlocked the door. My heart jumped out of my chest; until I remembered, he had to drive me back to my car. In the back of my mind I wondered, will he take me back to my car or take me out into the desert and kill me because I turned him down. I fought off that thought as I entered his car for the second time. Squirming in my skin as he drove; trying not to show any emotion through my body language, fearing he may have a change of heart and turn around. I sat as still as a baby rabbit, just like its mother had taught it.
Finally, seeing my car in the salon’s parking lot; my heart leaped out of my chest, I’m almost there – I thought. He parked, and I opened my side of the car door, got out and closed the door gently; almost without a sound, click. My sweaty slip stuck to my legs as I walked calmly to my car, got in and drove off without another word. I felt like I had just gotten out from underneath a boulder; a huge weight had been lifted from my body.
I went to work an hour early that day to tell my story to anyone that would listen. I told my manager, Ben, as he sat in his cool green painted office shaking his head.
“Well, did you learn a lesson?” Ben said smiling as if he had caught me in a funny situation rather a scary one.
“Yeah, never to trust your hairdresser to help you make good choices.”