Authors: Paige Toon
Tags: #Fiction, #General
‘I don’t know how you do it and still seem so perky,’ I admit.
‘Lots of practice,’ she replies with a grin. ‘And I bloody love weddings. I think you’re either a wedding photographer, or a photographer who does weddings. Some people
might not think it’s very cool to be a wedding photographer, but I think it’s much nicer to have someone who genuinely loves weddings to photograph their big day.’
I have to agree with her, even if I fail on that front.
She beams at me and tucks into her starter.
I’m on a strange high in the car on the way back to London, and it has nothing to do with the few drinks I’ve had.
‘That was such a great day, thank you so much for asking me to help out,’ I say. Maria is staying at her parents’ house tonight, so it’s just the two of us.
‘I’m so pleased you enjoyed yourself,’ Rachel says.
‘If Sally ever lets you down again, please give me a shout. I’d love to help out.’ I seem to have forgotten how hard I found it initially.
‘That’s really good to know,’ she replies with a smile.
I look out of the window and yawn loudly. I’m asleep before we reach Chalk Farm.
I’m still yawning on Monday morning when I go into the kitchen to make tea for my moody picture desk colleagues and myself. I spent most of yesterday at Rachel’s
place going through the photographs and helping her to process them. I was very curious to see mine. Rachel seemed happy with how I did, considering it was my first wedding. There were certainly
some good shots there, but I made my fair share of mistakes, too. Hopefully I’ll learn from them. She put a teaser shot of Suzie and Mike – one of them walking hand-in-hand across the
green field – onto the internet to keep everyone going. Rachel’s website is linked to Facebook and already guests have been commenting on it, and Suzie herself has left a lovely message
thanking us for our hard work. Other guests will no doubt start to post their own photos today, but at least there will be one professional shot to counterbalance the Instagram ones, which
inevitably will feature half-closed eyes and unflattering angles.
The door swings open and I cast a smile over my shoulder, expecting to see Russ, who was making a move to follow me when I walked past. My stomach contracts when I see that the person
who’s joining me instead is Alex. He looks on edge at the sight of me.
‘Hi,’ I say weakly.
‘Hey,’ he replies and I wonder for a moment if he might turn around and go back to his desk, but he doesn’t.
‘How was your weekend?’ I ask in an attempt to make small talk. I could really do with some of Lisa’s skills.
‘Good,’ he says, reaching into the cupboard for a couple of mugs. ‘Yours?’
‘Great.’ The kettle boils and I fill up my three mugs then refill it with water, flicking it back on again.
‘Thanks,’ he says, leaning back against the worktop and looking awkward. ‘What did you get up to?’
‘I had a—’
He cuts me off. ‘Oh, you had a wedding, didn’t you?’
‘That’s right,’ I reply.
‘How was it?’
‘Amazing.’ I can’t help beaming.
‘I thought you didn’t like weddings?’
How does he know that? Oh! I ranted about it when we first met! I try not to show my surprise that he remembers.
‘I don’t. But I love taking photos.’
‘Really?’ He looks interested. ‘Me too.’ We have a common hobby? ‘What camera have you got?’ he asks.
‘It’s a Canon 60d, but I used Rachel’s assistant’s kit on the weekend and she’s got a better model. What about you?’
‘I’ve just bought a Nikon d7000.’
I stare at him blankly.
He smirks. ‘It’s not pro-level, but it’s fine for me.’
The kettle boils, and as he moves past me in the cramped space, I unwittingly breathe in his aftershave. I’m hit with a memory of him kissing my neck in bed.
I turn away and concentrate on fishing the teabags out of my mugs.
‘So how did it go?’ he asks a short while later, leaning back against the counter again and regarding me directly while his tea brews.
‘Pretty well, I think.’ Boy, his eyes are blue. ‘But I did make some mistakes.’
He smiles warmly. ‘What like?’
‘I messed up the focus on a few occasions. One time I thought I was focusing on the groom, but I ended up getting his aunt in the foreground. The shot of her would have been great, but she
was blinking, so Rachel said she might be able to steal her eyes from another shot and Photoshop them in.’
He laughs and my insides go all jittery. ‘No way? Does she do that sort of thing?’
‘All the time.’
‘Well, that doesn’t sound too bad,’ he says commiseratively, passing me the milk and sugar and turning back to his own tea.
‘I struggled with camera shake, too,’ I add, reluctant to draw a line under the conversation. ‘Especially towards the end of the night.’
He glances at me. ‘Was the room quite dark?’
‘Pretty dark, yeah.’
‘Rachel has a monopod. But no, I didn’t use it and I probably should have.’
‘Rachel’s the wedding photographer?’ he asks.
‘Yes. She’s lovely.’
‘I’m curious to see these shots now.’ His smile makes my heart flutter. He is so gorgeous...
I inwardly slap myself around the face. ‘What about you? What did you get up to at the weekend?’
‘Er, it was my girlfriend’s dad’s birthday so we went out for a pub lunch.’
He sounds uncomfortable talking about his fiancée, and I’m not sure I want to hear about her either, but I’ve got to get over that if we’re going to be working together.
I don’t want it to be awkward.
‘Congratulations on your engagement, by the way,’ I force myself to say.
A flicker of some emotion passes over his face, but I can’t decipher it. ‘Thanks.’
‘What’s your fiancée’s name?’
‘Aah.’ He’s just confirmed that he’s marrying the girl he was on a break from when we met.
He gives me a small, knowing smile which makes me feel a little funny inside, and then Russ bursts into the kitchen, startling us both.
‘Wassup!’ he shouts, clapping me on my back. ‘How was the wedding?’
‘Great, mate,’ I tell him brightly, finding his energy endearing.
‘You great big galah,’ Russ teases at the sound of my Aussie-ism.
‘That’s the worst Australian accent I’ve ever heard.’ I shove his arm.
‘Oof!’ he cries, going overboard. ‘You lot are doing Lisa’s nut in today.’
‘What do you mean, us lot?’
‘You Australians. You and your bloody time differences. Lisa got in this morning to find a message from some tourist Down Under saying that he spotted Joseph Strike with his bird today,
hugging a frigging koala with a proper big baby bump. If he’s got pictures, it could be next week’s cover story, but she can’t get hold of him because he called from work and now
he’s already buggered off home, lazy bastard.’
I shake my head with confusion. ‘Who had the baby bump? Joseph Strike’s girlfriend?’ Actually, she’s technically his fiancée, and Joseph Strike is a British actor
who’s huge in Hollywood.
‘No, the koala,’ he says, adding, ‘Dur! Of course I mean the girlfriend.’
I ignore him. ‘Where was the photograph taken?’
‘Some conservation park.’
‘Do you know which one?’
He frowns. ‘I think he said Adelaide.’
My eyes light up. ‘My friend works at a conservation park in the Adelaide Hills. I wonder if it’s the same one? Want me to call her and ask her if she saw anything?’
‘Christ, yes! Do it!’
‘Catch you later,’ I say to Alex.
‘Sure,’ he replies.
Russ follows me back into the office like an eager puppy dog and for a moment I think he’s going to hang over my desk while I make the call, so I quickly put a stop to that.
‘I’ll come and speak to you in a bit,’ I promise, forcing him to reluctantly walk away.
I first met Lily when she covered for me at
magazine in Sydney, the place I worked at before
We became friends when she left Sydney to go to South Australia
with her boyfriend, turning down the chance to apply for my editorial assistant job when I was moved over to the picture desk. My parents live in a small beach town about an hour and a half south
of Adelaide, so we hook up when I go home to visit. She’s a budding wildlife photographer, and I’ve used some of her photos in
in the past, but she also works with her
husband Ben at a conservation park in the Adelaide Hills.
‘Hello?’ A male voice answers in a warm, Aussie accent.
‘Ben?’ I ask. ‘It’s Bronte.’
he calls, covering the receiver.
I hear my friend exclaim in the background.
‘She was just about to email you,’ Ben speaks into the receiver, sounding amused. There’s a scuffle and then Lily comes on the line.
‘Joseph Strike,’ she says. ‘Am I right?’
‘Yes, you freaking are. Did you see him?’ I ask eagerly, as Nicky glares at me from beside Helen on the other side of the desk. She probably thinks I’m making a personal
‘I got pictures.’
‘No!’ I gasp. ‘Does she have a baby bump?’
‘Clear as day,’ she tells me. ‘I got a brilliant one of him with his hand on her tummy.’
‘Wow! Can we buy them from you?’ Helen also glances up, eyeing me over the top of her computer.
‘Ooh, I don’t know... How much do you think they’re worth?’ she asks cheekily.
I laugh. ‘Who would have thought you’d become a pap.’
Nicky is still watching me with annoyance. I’ve piqued her curiosity, and I suspect she hates being kept out of the loop.
‘I did ask their permission first,’ Lily reveals.
‘Did you?’ I’m amazed she had the nerve. Joseph Strike is such a big star.
‘Yeah. His chick and I compared bumps.’
‘What?’ I exclaim. ‘Are you telling me you’re pregnant?’
‘Yes.’ She laughs gleefully. ‘Four months.’
‘Oh, that is so lovely!’ My pitch goes up an octave. ‘I’m so excited for you! Is Ben pleased?’
‘Ridiculously.’ I can tell how happy she is and want to talk more about it, but Nicky is shooting me daggers. ‘Anyway, Joseph didn’t mind having his picture taken at all.
They’re such a lovely couple,’ she gushes. ‘So, do you want to see them?’
‘Yes, please. Have you shown them to anyone else?’
‘Don’t be daft. You were the first person I thought of.’
‘Aw. I really, really appreciate this.’
‘My pleasure. Give me your new email address and I’ll send ’em over.’
I do, promising I’ll call her once I’ve spoken to my boss.
‘What was all that about?’ Nicky asks irritably as soon as I hang up.
‘What did she say?’ Russ interrupts. He must’ve been watching me like a hawk to get across the office this quickly.
I answer his question first.
‘She’s got pictures,’ I reply with excitement. ‘She’s sending them over.’
‘You’re a genius!’ He shakes my shoulder.
‘Who’s got pictures of what?’ Nicky interrupts, scowling.
‘Bronte’s friend in Australia has pictures of Joseph Strike’s fiancée’s baby bump.’
‘She’s pregnant?’ she asks with surprise.
‘Apparently so.’ Russ gleefully shakes my shoulder again and pulls up a spare seat from the production desk behind me. He nods at my computer. ‘Have they come in
I click on my inbox to check. Nicky gets up and comes around to my side of the desk. Helen follows, and then Lisa appears.
The name Lily Whiting pops up in my inbox. I nervously click on the link.
‘Oh my God!’
My colleagues coo and relief surges through me as I elatedly scroll through the five pictures Lily has sent. The first could absolutely make the cover: Joseph Strike in shorts and a slim-fitting
cream T-shirt which reveals the definition of his perfect abs, smiling down at his fiancée as he places his hand on her unmistakeable baby bump. The last picture is of Joseph holding a koala
and by the time I get to it, half of the women in the office have gone gooey at the knees. About a dozen people are crowded around my desk. I feel a little like a celebrity myself.
‘Who’s the hottie he’s with?’ Esther asks, leaning in to get a closer look.
‘That’s Ben,’ I tell her. And she’s right: Ben is hot. Tall, blond and sexy, even in his khaki conservation park uniform.
Simon, the editor, eventually breaks up the gathering. ‘Okay, everyone back to work.’ My colleagues reluctantly head off. ‘Bronte, can I have a word?’
I’m nervous as Simon leads me into the back office, but he just wants to know everything about Lily and his chances of securing an exclusive. He’s delighted to discover that she used
to work at
under his friend Jonathan’s leadership.
‘Hopefully she’ll show some loyalty,’ he murmurs. I don’t point out that I think she’s more likely to show loyalty to me than to a magazine. He means no harm by the
‘Can you call her back now and offer her a price?’ he asks.
We agree a figure and he pushes the phone across the desk to me. I realise he wants me to ring her right now, in front of him, to secure the deal. Pressure!
‘I need to grab her number from my mobile,’ I say, hesitantly getting up from the table.
I feel Nicky and Helen’s eyes on me as I come out of the office.
‘What’s going on?’ Nicky asks.
‘I’m just going to call Lily and try to secure an exclusive.’
‘Oh, right,’ she says a little snootily and I can’t help but feel a thrill at getting one over her. I imagine she’s used to having all the limelight, but she’s been
nothing but a cow to me since I started.
Alex grins at me as I return to my desk. It warms my heart. Maybe there’s hope for us as friends after all. I grab my phone and return to the back office where Simon is impatiently tapping
his fingers on the desk. A few minutes later, we have our exclusive and Simon is more excited than I’ve ever seen him.
‘I’ve got to go and tell Clare,’ he says with a grin, referring to his boss, the publisher. ‘We’ll need to increase our print run.’ He pats me on my back.
‘Well done, Bronte. Absolutely fantastic.’