Ben wakes with a start to someone rapping on his front door. He rolls out of bed and rubs his eyes, pulling on a pair of sweatpants and stumbling to open the door. In front of him stands his landlord. She’s just an inch taller than him, with short blonde hair and a killer stare that makes the 6’2 man feel about 3 inches tall. She reminds him of his mother; not in her appearance, as his mother is just over 5 feet tall, but in the way she seems to look into his soul. He could never lie to his mother and he can never seem to lie to Phasma either.
“Morning Phas…” says Ben, with an awkward wave.
Phasma raises an eyebrow in response and looks him up and down. Ben shifts from one foot to the other as he waits to hear the reason for her visit. After a moment, Phasma sighs and stats simply: “Rent’s due.”
“Right. Yeah. Just a sec.” Ben starts to close the door, but pauses, “Come in?” He stands aside and Phasma takes 2 steps into the apartment, allowing the door to be shut behind her. “I have cash. Let me grab it.”
He goes into the bedroom and fishes around in his bedside table for a moment before grabbing an envelope of cash. He hands it to Phasma who immediately opens and counts it. After ensuring that it's she correct amount, Phasma pockets the money then turns to leave. Before closing the door she looks over her shoulder and says, “It better not be late next month.” Before Ben can respond the door has closed behind her.
It takes Ben a few moments to calm down. He takes several deep breaths and counts to ten. Only then is he able to unclench his fists and release his shoulders from where they'd bunched up around his ears. As much as he hates to admit it, his mom had been right about therapy; it was helping him control his anger and stress. With a heavy sigh Ben goes to the fridge. Unfortunately, when he opens the door all he is faced with is a half-empty bottle of ketchup, most of a bottle of orange juice, some cheese slices, and leftovers of something he doesn’t remember buying. Ben poured himself a glass of juice, deciding to save the leftovers for tomorrow when he’ll need energy for work. He had hoped to go grocery shopping, but between rent
and his student loan debt there was barely anything left in his bank account.
Poe had offered to get him a part-time job as a waiter at Benu, the 3-star restaurant where he works as a line cook. “It’ll be perfect! Your name’s Ben and you’ll work at Benu!” he'd exclaimed, as if that was a selling point, but Ben’s job as a nurse left him too exhausted to do much more than sit at his computer in his sparse free time. Poe was right though; he needed some other way to pay the bills.
* * *
That evening, Ben went over to his cousin Rey’s apartment. She knew he was struggling so she invited him over fairly often for meals, much to the distaste of her boyfriend, Finn. It wasn’t that Finn hated Ben, but he disliked how much Rey took care of him, especially since Rey was 5 years his junior. But at just 21, Rey was already the prima ballerina for the San Francisco Ballet. Finn was finishing up his Bachelor’s degree in economics. Where Ben had had to pay for college himself, Finn had gotten a full ride on a baseball scholarship. He and Rey had been dating for about a year and a half.
Ben had just raised his fist to knock when the door opened and Rey jumped into his arms, shouting “Benny!” a name only she was allowed to call him. She was very slender from dancing, but had a lot of muscle. Still, Ben was able to catch her easily and give her a big bear hug. He set her down gently, always a little afraid that he might break her.
“Hey,” he smiled, “I’ll never figure out how you always know I’m here before I knock.”
She returned his smile and, with a shrug, said, “Magic,” before leading him inside.
After a nice meal of chicken and broccoli stir-fry over brown rice and pleasant chitchat about everyone’s day, Rey turns to Ben, places her hand on his, and gives him a look that reminded him of the one his mother gave him when he didn’t get in to Cal Berkeley. (He ended up getting into UCSF, so it wasn’t that much of a disappointment). “How are you?” Rey asks. “Do you need anything?”
That earns her a suspicious look from Ben. “Did my mother put you up to this?”
“No!” Rey exclaims, pulling her hand away as if she’s been burned, “I mean, she asked last time we talked, but I told her you were fine. I’m asking because you look tired. Well… more tired than usual.”
Ben sighs, “I’m fine. I’ll manage. It’s just, you know… this city’s expensive and I have my loans and I’m working long hours, but… I’m fine.”
“Have you thought about getting another job? I’m sure Poe could get you something at the restaurant.”
“He already offered. I’m too busy for that.”
“Well, how about something with shorter hours, that pays well, and doesn’t require you to be on your feet?”
Ben rolls his eyes, “That sounds great. Where can I sign?”
“Don’t roll your eyes at me Ben Solo. I happen to have something in mind.”
“Oh! Shit, really?”
“Yes. There’s an art gallery below our rehearsal space and the curator also runs various art workshops. He’s looking for models. I have his card somewhere…”
After several minutes of digging in her impossibly full dance bag, Rey comes back with a slightly bent, matte black business card. Printed on the front in simple, white letters is the name “A. Hux”, followed by a phone number. The back is blank.
“He seemed like kind of an asshole if I’m being honest. But he said he pays well, so as long as you can keep your temper under control, you should be fine.”
Ben opens his mouth to respond to her comment about his temper, but he knows she's right so instead he just says, “Thanks Rey. I’ll give him a call.”
* * *
Ben is in bed at 9:17 that night. He has to wake up at 5:45 in order to get to his shift at 7 the next morning, but he can't sleep. He keeps thinking about modeling. It’s not something he ever pictured himself doing, but he could use the extra money and it doesn’t seem difficult. Besides, he knows he’s in good shape. Yeah, his nose and ears are a little big and he has a couple of scars from various fuck-ups in high school, but it’s art. Who says he needs to look perfect? So Ben resolves to give A. Hux a call after his shift the next day. The thought that he'll hopefully have a little extra money is comforting, and Ben is soon able to fall asleep.