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Imperfect Pictures

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Sorry for the long a/n in advance.

Hey everyone, so this is a little different.

Here’s the deal. This is not a novel or a short story. This is a serial. It’s going to be more like a television soap opera. I want it to feel like an episodic view into their daily lives. I plan to update 3 times a week. It’s not got a solid ending point yet. You’ll learn details of them and their personalities slowly. You’ll watch the tension build.

Basically, this is the story idea that brought me back into writing. This is my practice to get back to it after almost five years of writing nothing at all. I hope to develop these characters and create a rich world for them to go do all the fun things I’m not going to be able to do in real life. This story will not be perfect. This story won’t be too realistic. I just really like the characters and I hope you do too. This is what I write for fun.

This is an alternative universe and OOC. Some nationalities and details of the characters have been changed. (For example, I’m changing their birthdays for storytelling purposes.) Also, there will be some OC characters. (You’ll see)

Warnings: this story will eventually involve LGBTQ+ themes, drug use, polyamory, graphic sexual scenes, themes of racism, mental illness, homophobia, mentions of sexual assault and murder. I will try my best to put trigger warnings whenever possible. If there is something you think needs to have a warning but doesn’t, please let me know so I can add it. I want to make this enjoyable for everyone.

Yes, there will be some angst but a lot more fluff and smut overall. Lots of fun.

Oh, and it’s Bella’s POV. I do have stuff written from his POV. Please let me know if you’re interested in seeing that.

And, as always… I am a human. I am trying my best. If you see mistakes or typos, please let me know nicely, precisely, or not at all. I’m doing this all by myself. I may be prolific but I’m not very good at this. I am willing to fix any mistakes. Your kindness is appreciated in advance.

Anyway, enjoy!

 

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Chapter one-

 

There was a heat wave hitting New York City. Despite it being a week away from fall temperatures were reaching just over ninety degrees. And New Yorkers were not handling it well. Every window was opened in Jessica's poorly air conditioned office. The building was old and it seemed to be a problem for anyone who wasn't the owner or editor of the magazine, which was housed inside. Vaudevillian Magazine had been in the building since the early 1920s though and they weren't about to change anything now. There were four different fans going in all directions at full blast, Jessica's desk littered with all manner of paperweights. Outside there had been a minor car accident which was causing a traffic jam. Every New Yorker in a car within a mile was laying on their horn like it was their job. There was also shouting in several languages.

Ah, Manhattan.

I waited in the office patiently for Jessica to arrive. She was an extremely busy woman, or at least it appeared that way whenever I had personally seen her. I had worked with the magazine a dozen different times and I always got my work assignments from her. She was the assistant director of the photography department, her and her boss selecting and arranging all the pictures in the magazine. It wasn't the only magazine I worked for on occasion but I had worked with them the most. But mostly I was taking pictures of lipstick or high heels. Which was fine, I was good at it. It was easy. And it was quick. It was hard to break into the business, especially when it was dying.

“Sorry to keep you waiting!” Jessica came bursting in with a bunch of folders in her hand. She was wearing a short skirt in blue and a cream colored silky sleeveless top. Sadly it was sweat-stained basically everywhere and sticking to her body. Her mousy brown hair was pulled up into a very slicked back bun with loads of hairspray. The sweat was beginning to make it frazzle at the edges though.

“Not a problem. Do you need some help with those?” I offered.

She looked as if she was going to say no but I stood just as half began to slide towards the floor. I caught the folders easily and put them on her desk neatly. They were already starting to get things ready for their big Christmas year in review magazine, according to the files. “Thanks. Can I get you anything? Water?”

“No, I'm good.”

“Okay. So, I've got a job for you.” She put the rest of the folders onto the desk before going to get something from the file cabinet. Her heels clicked loudly against the linoleum.

“Excellent,” I replied, wondering if it was going to be something Christmas related. That would be fun.

“It's different from what you've done before for us though,” she explained, letting the air from the fan on the cabinet hit her face for several moments. Her makeup was beginning to literally melt off in beads. There was no amount of setting spray for this humidity.

“How so?” I asked.

“We'd like you to go to Los Angeles and follow someone around for a week. It's for our 'week in the life of'' photo series. Have you seen it?” Jessica asked as she sat down behind her desk. “We do it a few times a year usually for our big issues.”

I was stunned for a moment. “Yeah. I have seen it. They follow them around twenty-four hours a day basically to get intimate pictures of their day to day lives... right? Wow. Um... I'm flattered, but can I ask, why me? I'm not saying no. Just... curious?”

She was in the middle of a long drink of water so she held a single perfect finger up. She dabbed her face with a tissue after, getting the droplets that had slid down her chin. “He asked for you actually.”

“Talk about the pronoun game, Jess. He who? Mr. Jenks?” I asked a little impatiently, referring to her boss. I had only met him once in passing. He had barely looked at me, but he was a busy man.

“No, the celebrity you'll be following.”

“What?” I sat back in shock in the vinyl plastic chair. It squeaked.

Jessica looked through a file while she was talking. “He's very particular about who he does interviews with and how. Very particular. He's all about controlling his image himself. He asked to look at all the photographers we had working for us and he chose you.”

“Are you sure?” I was totally confused. What did they even show him? Lip gloss? A bowl of popcorn I took a picture of once?

“He was very insistent on it when I spoke to his manager,” she explained to me. “He said you were the only one he liked so he'd only do the spread if it was you. So, here we are.”

“That's crazy,” I laughed, feeling half mad myself. I brought the tip of my finger up to chew before I realized what I was doing and quickly put it down. “Who is it?”

“Eddie Cullen.”

The name faintly rang a bell. Maybe. Kind of? I wasn't sure. I sighed and tried to think of how I knew him. Nothing came to me and my brain was Swiss cheese anyway when it came to people, names, and faces. “I don't know. I'm old. Who is he?”

“He is an Australian actor who is on the fast track there in Hollywood. He started on YouTube of all places. Now he's been in half a dozen billion-dollar video games and in several animated award-winning movies and television shows for his voice acting alone. Last year he won a Grammy and he recently signed a multi-million dollar contract with Disney.”

I couldn't imagine his face. “What did he win a Grammy for? Is he a singer, too?”

“I don't think so. It was for a reading of an audiobook. It was some young adult thing I hadn't read before. I don't remember the name of it right now.” She rearranged a couple of folders on her desk. Jessica looked for something but gave up after a moment, shaking her head. “Not important right now.”

“So, is he mainly a voice actor then?”

“Last year he starred in his first major live-action role and he was overall praised for his performance. Got like an eighty-nine on Rotten Tomatoes. He has several projects coming out over the next few months. The crazy thing is that he's still doing his YouTube videos.”

“I'm surprised he has the time,” I commented. “He must be very into himself.”

Jessica pulled out her phone and brought up a video. She reached over her desk so I could see the screen up close. “This is his most viewed video. Check out the view count.”

It had five hundred million views. I had seen the video as well on Facebook or something like that. That's where I had known his face and name from, I guessed. I thought he was a part of Buzzfeed or something, to be honest. I never paid any attention. It was just something to watch to on the train.

But, damn. Not even if I took a million pictures would I get one hundred million views on all of my work combined. I couldn't imagine the ad revenue he was pulling in. That's why he had time to make them. He made the damn time.

“So, are you interested?”

I didn't even have to think about it for a hot second. “Yes. How does this work though? Money wise.”

Jessica beamed because I said yes so quickly. “So, this a time plus space contract. You will get a flat rate per day, plus we pay for your travel costs. Then we pay you per page your pictures are featured.”

“How much?”

“Five hundred per shooting day, plus two hundred on your two travel days. We also give you a hundred per day for food and expenses in cash, so you can keep what you don't spend. Mr. Cullen has offered lodging at his home if you're comfortable with that. If not we can arrange a close hotel but I don't think it'll be as nice. Plus you'll have to pay for your taxi or rental car.”

“I don't mind staying at his place,” I answered, a little star struck by the amount of money she just said. I needed all the money I could get at the moment. I was barely scraping by.

“Great. So, it's our standard five hundred per page, like usual. Oh, and if they use your photo on the cover it's a one fifteen hundred bonus. The spread is usually between seven and twelve pages if we decide to use your pictures. We decide that after we get your edits, of course,” she explained quickly. I wonder how often she had to explain such things.

“So, even if you don't use my pictures I get almost four thousand dollars for a week's worth of work?” I asked quietly. “And I get to go LA on your dime?”

“Um...Yeah, basically.”

“Sign me up, boss,” I smiled so widely that I felt as if my face was going to crack open.

“Fantastic. It's going to be in the middle of October. Sorry for such short notice on that, by the way. We had some negotiation issues with his people. I've got all the paperwork for you all ready though. I'll need you to come in sometime the week before you fly out to come to pick up your tickets and cash for the trip. Is that a problem?”

“Not at all,” I said hollowly, too overwhelmed.

“Great,” Jessica smiled again. “I'm really glad he picked you, Bella. I really enjoy working with you and I hope this leads to more big projects with you soon. I had to talk Mr. Jenks into letting me offer it to you.”

I looked up at her, surprised. She was such a kind woman. “Thank you so much for sticking your neck out for me. When I get paid I am definitely going to go buy you a drink and a full priced appetizer somewhere.”

Jessica giggled warmly, “I look forward to it!” I liked her. We were on the edge of being work friends to being in real life friends.

Thankfully the wrecked cars were gone when I finally got out of the office. I quickly pulled out my phone and did something I normally never did. I placed a call instead of writing a text message.

“Hello?” Alice answered on the second ring, instantly sounding concerned. She hated the phone as much as I did. It had probably been a year since we had called each other for any reason.

“Alice!” I yelled into the phone.”I got an insane job offer. You're not going to fucking believe it. Holy shit, I'm so jazzed right now.”

“Oh, my god. What?” She instantly sounded excited for me. She was always the best person to tell the good news to. She was so good at being happy for others. Most people didn't realize it was a skill you could have, it seemed.

“I'm flying to LA to stay at an actor's house to take pictures of him for a week. And I'm getting around four thousand for it. Four fucking thousand. In Hollywood, baby!”

“Holy shit, Bells! That's amazing!”

“And that's not even if they buy my pictures after, either. I could sell them another four thousand in pictures, conservatively. It's possible I could sell them up to twelve full pages for five hundred a pop. And there is the possibility of a cover photo and that's a fifteen hundred dollar bonus on top of everything else. I'm not going to think about that though. I can't count on it. But, can you imagine? Oh, Al. I'm so excited!”

“That's so great! You're going to get so ahead on your bills.”

“We need to celebrate tonight,” I told her.

“Well, no shit! Of course, we do! Who's the actor, by the way?” She asked as my bus came. I had borrowed her all you can ride MetroCard to get here. She had taken an Uber instead of dealing with the heat and smelly people on the subway.

“Uh...” I dew out as I tried to remember his name exactly. I was too keyed up. “Some guy called Eddie Cullen. He's young and from YouTube.”

“I don't know him,” Alice said instantly.

“I know you don't. You don't know anyone though.” I shook my head, sitting down by one of the poles so I could hang onto it. The bus was pretty much empty. “He does a lot of different stuff. Food videos. Video game stuff. He does life experience stuff, apparently, as well. I don't know. You've probably seen him and not known it. As I said, he is a YouTube person.”

“Why don't we order food tonight and watch his shit?” Alice asked cheerfully.

“Sounds like a plan.”

It was eight in the evening when Al finally got out of the office for the night. I was already in my pajamas, waiting for her on my couch. I had been working for a few hours on finishing up edits for an event I had done the day before. It was a gender reveal party for some hipster parents in Williamsburg. They seemed nice enough. It was a boy and the father ugly cried. It was fun. I didn't have much of anything else planned for events for the rest of the year though. It had me worried before my meeting with Jessica.

“I come bearing gifts.” She showed me the six-pack of hard cider she had picked up at the bodega at the corner of our building. Alice brought me an opened one with a greeting kiss on the forehead before putting the rest in the fridge. She returned to my room, more comfortably dressed, with her own drink of red wine mixed with ice cold coke. “I asked a bunch of kids at the office if they knew the guy and they did.”

“Do they like him?” I questioned.

She was thoughtful for a moment. “They say he's funny. But that he is pretty tame? Like, he's a normal person you could show your cool aunt like me,” she leaned her head on my shoulder and took over control of my mouse so she could go to one of a half dozen food ordering sites we used on the regular. “Their words, not mine. Someone called him white bread.”

“I hope he's normal,” I muttered. “I'm staying in his house.”

“I miss couch surfing,” she mumbled, thinking about her time in Europe in her twenties. Staying with strangers always scared her less than it scared me.

We ordered from our favorite diner. She got her normal breakfast foods. Waffles with bananas, Nutella, and strawberries with a side of country ham and a coffee to drink despite it being so late in the evening. I ordered a chop steak with mashed potatoes. It came with green beans, a salad, and a roll. It was enough for two people. So, of course, I always ate it all.

When we were done ordering Alice brought up YouTube. I typed in his name and it brought up his page before I could type Cullen. He had twenty million subscribers and counting. All of his videos combined had literally billions of views. Eddie had hundreds of videos too, going back a half a decade or more. In the first videos, he practically looked like a child and still had a kind of squeaky baby voice and a very chubby face. Even all of those had at least a million views.

In his most recent videos, he had clearly grown into a very tall and well-built man. He had a head full of thick very well groomed dark reddish brown hair and a glass-sharp jaw and nose. He had a very nice profile. It also looked like he had maybe never seen the sun, despite video evidence otherwise. There were several videos of him surfing. Either he bathed daily in sunscreen or he was exceptionally pale.

We watched two solid hours of food videos with him taste testing and going to restaurants before we switched to him trying on terrible Halloween costumes with friends. We watched all of those. Like fifteen of them, in some embarrassing form or fashion. Then we switched to his video game playlist. It was three in the morning when Alice fell asleep on the couch, but I continued to watch until I began to nod off too a couple of hours later.

That night I had one of my nightmares where I lost my camera in some horrible crazy way that would never happen. This particular one woke me up gasping and grasping at my sheets wildly. I had them a couple of times a week but they always bothered me.

Over the next three weeks, I watched as many of his videos as I could stand and watched all of his movie roles. There were now four of those in total, but a couple was only brief cameos. I watched a few of his television shows as well. The ones on Netflix, anyway. I even listened to the audiobook he won a Grammy for, 'The Immortal Dusk.' It was a teen vampire novel. It was, not surprisingly, better than I expected. In general, I enjoyed his work and could see why he was on the rise. His voice was amazing. He could do so many weird things with it, and accents too. But when he was just speaking normally it was very soothing. It was very rich and deep.

As time ticked closer to the day my stomach twisted in knots and I had a nightmare every day for a week leading up to the job. I tried to keep my mind busy with the work I had but it didn't seem to help. I didn't sleep at all the night before my flight on that Sunday. I simply laid across my couch in the darkness, staring off towards the Manhattan skyline like I had done a thousand nights before when I couldn't sleep. That was better than having the nightmare again, at least.

I drank an entire pot of coffee before I even left for the airport.

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So, There is the first chapter! In the next chapter, you get to meet Edward in person :D

If you enjoyed this please let me know!

Thanks for reading!