Behind the Lens

When Emma moves to London with a job at Syco Records and the boys from One Direction as her new neighbors, she is thrilled with the new, positive change of pace in her life. But when Emma starts to fall for Niall, will he reciprocate her feelings? And if he does, will Emma's past haunt her, keeping her from moving forward, or will Niall be what she needs to finally see herself as more than just the disaster behind the camera?

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2. Simon Cowell's Twin

 

            My first day at my new job, and I woke up late. I checked the time and saw that it was nearly 8:45—and I was supposed to be at Syco Records at 9. I. Was. So. Screwed.

            I leapt off the couch and jumped over Niall’s still sleeping form, running to the sliding doors and throwing them open. The way I jumped that railing, you’d have thought I’d been on the Track & Field team in high school. To my dismay, I had no time for a shower, so I tossed my hair into a sloppy bun, hoping that would, at least partially, hide the disgusting amount of grease in my hair. If I didn’t shower every day, my hair just went to hell. There was no time for makeup, not even my usual eyeliner-eye shadow-mascara combo, so I just scrubbed my face and tossed on the outfit I’d picked out days ago and kept in my back pack with my camera.

            “Niall!” I screamed, running back into his flat and making him jerk awake.

            “What? What’s wrong?” he asked, blue eyes wide and clearly concerned.

            “I’m late as hell, that’s what! I need you or one of the guys or something to show me to Syco. I’ve got five minutes to get there before I’m late, and it’s my first day!”

            Niall blinked, and then rubbed tiredly at his eyes with the back of his hand. Then he wasted more time by yawning and stretching out like a cat.

            “Niall!” I shouted.

            “Alright, alright,” he sighed. “Don’t get your panties in a bunch, lass.”

            I stared at him. Oh, he was lucky he was a cute pop phenomenon, or I might have strangled him. I stood in the main room of his flat while he walked back into his bedroom and changed. Finally, when I had only two minutes left before I was officially late, he came back out wearing a pair of Jack Wills’ sweat pants, a gray polo shirt, and an Old Navy hoodie.

            He motioned toward the front door, and let me step out first. After he’d locked up and slipped his keys into his pocket, he started leading me down the stairs and toward the street. “Calm down, lass. You already know you’re going to be late. I’m sure they’ll appreciate it more if you handle it calmly, as opposed to freaking out and hyperventilating.”

            “You’re right, you’re right.” I sighed. “Do you mind if I smoke?” I knew that Zayn smoked, but I wasn’t sure how Niall would feel about it if I did. I always asked if I was around other people because I’m considerate like that.

            He wrinkled his nose a bit, but just shrugged. “I don’t mind. If you could just try to keep the smoke away from me.”

            I snickered. “Niall Horan. I know you’re Irish, but I’m sure you’ve been to London enough to know that the air is practically tainted with smoke everywhere you go. You’re getting contaminated whether I contribute or not, mate.”

            Niall sent me a sideways glance. “Valid point,” he mumbled with a small grin playing at his lips.

            I laughed as I slid my backpack off of one shoulder and scavenged through it for my pack of Marlboro’s. I held the cigarette between my lips and stopped long enough to light it up with my totally kick ass Gemini lighter.

            I eyed Niall in my peripheral vision. He looked tired and weary, not really up to walking me, but still being the nice guy he is and sucking it up. “You don’t seem as happy-go-lucky as usual, today,” I noted carefully.

            He shrugged and rubbed his eyes. “Just tired, lass. The floor is a terrible place to sleep.”

            I pursed my lips and frowned at him. “I told you not to sleep there.”

            “Aye. Ye did, I’ll give ye that,” he sighed. He rubbed a spot on the back of his neck. “I’ll be sure to listen next time.”

            I chuckled. “Everyone should always listen to me,” I informed him thoughtfully, taking a last, deep drag.

            He laughed and reached to open the door of the building we were approaching. “Look at that, only a couple of minutes late.”

            “Four, to be exact,” I stated, checking the time on my phone as I dropped my cigarette butt and stamped it out with my shoe.

            I went straight up to the front desk and asked them where I should be and what I needed to do, as it was my first day and I was unbelievably clueless.

            “Oh, are you that new photographer everyone is going on about? Emma? Girl, you got talent,” the receptionist grinned at me. “I’m Tanya, nice to meet you,” she smiled, holding out her hand.

            I smiled back, taking her hand in mine and nearly jumping when I felt the very tips of her long, manicured nails tickling the top of my hand. I turned her hand over in mine. “Your nails. Holy shit, Tanya, these are intricate.”

            She smiled broadly. “My own personal handiwork, thank you.”

            “You did this?” I asked, my jaw dropping to the floor.

            She nodded as I continued studying the works of art gracing her fingernails. They were a light pink, almost bubble gum-like color, with a fine, black and white swirly design decorating them. They were the coolest thing I’d ever seen—on someone’s nails, anyway. “Being a receptionist here is just how I make the money. But really, I love doing things like this. Making art in the strangest places with the weirdest materials.”

            “You sound like someone I could be great friends with,” I grinned, finally dropping her caramel-colored hand. “In fact, I’ve got this wall in my flat that I’m thinking of doing something with. It’s the only wall that’s not brick. Maybe you could come over sometime and—“

            “Emma Chambers?” a voice called.

            I spun around. At first, all I saw was Niall standing behind me, hands shoved in his jacket pockets and a tired look on his face. But when I scanned the space behind me a second time, I noticed a short, nervous looking guy with a clip board in his hands.

            “I’m Emma,” I told him.

            “Good. I’m Jayden. Sorry I’m late. I need you to come with me up to Mr. Shaughnessy’s office so he can give you your assignment.” The poor guy sounded terribly out of breath, but I was thankful that he was under the impression I’d been on time. Even if four minutes wasn’t a big deal, I didn’t want to start off my first day of my new job by making a bad first impression.

            I nodded at him before turning back to Tanya. “Looks like I’ve got to head off now, but hey, when do you get off? Maybe I can stop by and give you my information and we can talk more about this art stuff.”

            “I probably won’t get off until almost 9 o’clock tonight. Stop by whenever you get the chance, honey,” she smiled at me.

            “Will do,” I grinned. Then I turned to Niall. “Thanks for walking me here. Tell the guys I said hey and I’ll see them later?”

            “Sure thing, lass.”

            I giggled when he called me lass, knowing he was doing in on purpose now because I’d said I’d never heard it before. It was cute. I thanked him and wrapped my arms around his neck, giving him the best hug I could manage. When I tried to pull away, he held on a little longer, our cheeks pressed together. I’d have taken it to mean something until he mumbled into my shoulder, “You make a fabulous pillow, lass.”

            I snorted and shoved him off of me. “Alright then, Nialler. You go find a place to nap until the guys get here.”

            He nodded and I turned back to Jayden. I was short, and he was just barely taller than my 5”. I guess that’s what the poor guy got for being of Asian descent. He had the right skin, but the blood must’ve been diluted, because he didn’t have the usual Mongoloid eyes. Another glaringly obvious thing about him right off the bat was his sexual orientation—and it didn’t help that he was being blatantly obvious about staring at Niall’s bum as he ascended a staircase across the lobby of the building.

            Jayden wore a black and gray pinstriped fedora with a matching vest over a plain white tee shirt. He had a gray and white knit scarf hanging like a cowl neck shirt around his neck. He had on black slacks and a hideous pair of loafers that, if the scuff marks on the toes were anything to go by, he had no taste for. I could tell because he had too much fashion sense to be straight, and no gay man willingly wears clothes that are messed up if he’s choosing to wear it of his own volition. Of course, all of my knowledge of gay men came from my old friend Jordan back from high school.

            It occurred to me as we were walking toward the elevator that maybe I shouldn’t be judging him and assuming that he’s gay –at least not solely based off of his appearance- because who knew? Maybe he was metrosexual or even had a stylist of his own. Then another thought occurred to me: he was an assistant at Syco Records. Why the hell would he have his own stylist? No, he was definitely gay. And I was okay with that, because every girl needs a gay best friend. If I had anything to say about it, he was about to become mine.

            “So, Jayden, how long have you worked here?” I asked casually as the elevator began to rise. I peered at the number Jayden had pressed: 17. Oh god, that was high; I hated heights.

            “Only a week and a half,” he sighed.

            I nudged his shoulder with mine. “Careful there, Jayden. Your nerves and insecurities are showing.”

            He glanced at me with less panic in his eyes than before. “Oh, you’re a feisty one, are you?” he challenged.

            I pretended to study my nails, as if there was actually something there to study. “Feisty? Oh honey, you have no idea,” I fake-sighed nonchalantly.

            “You’re talking to the Queen of Sass here, Emma Chambers. You don’t expect to win, do you?” I glanced at him and he winked.

            I let out a laugh. Look at me, already making friendly with two coworkers and my day had only just started. My new lease on life was working in my favor so far.

            I pulled my camera out of my backpack as we closed in on the seventeenth floor. I acted as though I was just fiddling with it, but without warning, I snapped a photo of Jayden. He gasped loudly. “What the bloody hell was that?” he demanded in all seriousness, which made me burst out laughing.

            “What, a girl can’t get pictures of her new friends?”

            “Not if that doesn’t turn out well,” he said, pointing to my camera.

            I rolled my eyes. “I’m sure it turned out famously. I do know what I’m doing when it comes to the camera, after all,” I quipped.

            “Mmm. Good point.” Then Jayden huddled close to me. “Well, show me then. If it’s good,” he looked up at me, gently tugging at my ear lobe and sighing, “We’re going to get these babies pierced so you can do fashion the right way.”

            I snorted. “And what is ‘the right way’?”

            He put a hand on his hip as the doors slid open. “My way, of course. Now come on. I don’t want Shaughnessy yelling at me again.”

            I nodded curtly, mocking him, and followed as he lead me into a large, open office space with several occupied desks, all of which seemed to have either an insane amount of manila folders stacked on them, or countless different kinds of cloth material, much of which had found its way to the floor. He lead me all the way back to the far wall where a pair of large glass double doors stood, and I braced myself to meet my new boss.

            Jayden walked in, and I dutifully followed as quickly as I could, because Jayden moved at alarming speeds that didn’t seem possible for a human, much less one of his stature. He looked seriously at Mr. Shaughnessy. “Mr. Shaughnessy, Emma Chambers, the new photographer,” he introduced, sounding as if he were presenting me for my first season, making sure all the sponsors –in this case, my boss, Shaughnessy- knew exactly who I was.

            “Thank you, Jayden. If you could retrieve me a cup of coffee, two sugar cubes, no milk, that would be wonderful.” He waved his hand, dismissing Jayden, who ran out of the office and in between the scattered desks with a precision that showed off those Asian abilities of his.

            “Miss Chambers, please, take a seat,” Shaughnessy offered, gesturing broadly at the plush, red leather seat in front of his desk and extending his hand for me.

            I shook his hand firmly before taking my seat across from him. “Very nice to meet you, sir,” I told him politely.

            He pursed his lips. “Just wait until you get to know me. I’ve heard I’m quite like Simon Cowell’s twin, personality-wise. I, however, think I am far more charming and dashing than my old friend.”

            I couldn’t help the giggle that escaped through my lips. “Of course you are, sir,” I flattered him.

            Shaughnessy smiled, and I got the feeling that he wasn’t too bad of a guy. “Now,” he said, opening a manila folder that must’ve contained my résumé, portfolio and the like. “I’ve taken a look at your portfolio and I must say, I was astounded by the talent you have at such a young age. You’re just nineteen?” he asked.

            I nodded. “Just had my birthday recently, sir.”

            “That’s quite impressive, I must say. I particularly love this photo of the young girl throwing petals in the air. Flower girl?”

            I nodded. I’d made extra prints of a lot of the photos that were hanging on the walls of my flat, and a good portion of those were used in my portfolio.

            “Well,” Shaughnessy said, closing the portfolio back, “I must say that we’re glad to have snatched you up before anyone else caught wind of your talent.”

            I think I probably blushed at all the praise I was receiving. “Thank you, sir.”

            He shuffled around some papers on his desk before eyeing one and lighting up. “Ah, your assignment. I have chosen you to be a tour photographer because I believe you will be able to grasp the atmosphere in the photo better than our other photographers could. It seems your forte is more with natural pictures, the ones that aren’t posed for. We’d prefer you on board there since the usual photographers we get need poses.”

            I nodded. “Sounds good. Who for?”

            Shaughnessy looked down and scanned the sheet in his hands. “A band called One Direction,” he answered.

            There was a pause, then I started laughing. “Are you serious?” I asked.

            Shaugnessy’s brows furrowed. “Yes, of course I am. What’s so funny?”

            “I just moved in next to them in my flat building. One of them actually showed me the way here this morning. It’s just a crazy, pretty unbelievable coincidence.”

            “It’s no coincidence. I received your assignment this morning and it says that one of the boys actually requested you,” Shaughnessy said, bringing his eyes up to meet me.

            I stopped laughing. “What? But I just met them last night.”

            “I guess they made the call last night then. But one of them definitely requested you.”

            “Who?” I asked.

Shaughnessy shrugged. “Doesn’t say. But they start touring again soon, so why don’t you get yourself acquainted with the building, get someone to show you around, then go and get to know the band a little better, since you’ll be spending the next several months with them.”

            I nodded. “Well, thank you very much for taking a chance with me, I certainly won’t let you down. It was a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Shaughnessy,” I smiled, taking his hand once more.

            I turned to the door to find Jayden scurrying back in with a mug, froth threatening to slosh over the sides. “Yes, it was a pleasure,” Shaughnessy said to me. Then, directed at Jayden, “Thank you, Jayden, this is perfect. Why don’t you go show Miss Chambers here around the building?”

            “Yes sir!” Jayden acquiesced.

            Jayden followed me out of the office and just as the door was shutting, Shaughnessy called out, “And try to be on time when you’re coming into the office, Miss Chambers.”

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