Sean was great. He was sweet and kind and nerdy, and we got along great. But there was only one teeny tiny little smidgen of a problem that I could see making this difficult. Sean said he was allergic to cats. Whenever he spent the night at my apartment, he would wake up with his eyes swollen shut. The first few times he’d come over we didn’t notice a problem. But then he got sneezier and sneezier, and I ended up having to lock Reggie up in the bathroom while he was there, which made me feel horribly guilty as he usually scratched at the door and yowled nonstop.
There was no way in hell I’d ever get rid of my cat. So I did a lot of research to find whatever I could to stop with the allergies. Nothing worked. Sean was a trooper, though. He still stayed over whenever he could. I suggested taking the dinner dates to his house but he said his roommates were annoying, and his kitchen had no counter space and was as small as my bathroom. So he just decided to deal with it. For my sake.
By the end of the month, I had compiled a good list of recipes for my book. Sean and I had gone through all of our favorites and picked out the best seven of each type that still fit into my theme. And I thought they were perfect. The day I sent them off to the publisher we got drunk and spent the rest of the night in my bedroom. So I didn’t get the email about my photographer until the next day.
The email was from Jacky, my old instructor. She said that her husband looked over the book and thought it looked fun and cute. He hadn’t gone through the recipes exactly yet, but he had a list of photographers that they used for food shots. And once they got me set up with one he would let me know when we could meet. Since they were a small company and I was a first-time writer, I had to make the foods at home (again) and have him photograph them with my own props while everything was still hot. It could take weeks because I wasn’t going to make everything at once and waste all that food. The good news is that I got another check when I sent in my recipes so that I could get the meals done for the photographs.
The photographer called me a few days later. I had just finished making lunch and Reggie and I were zoned out in front of the TV. I wasn’t used to my phone ringing so I jumped when it did.
“Hello?” I said. The person took a moment to respond.
“Hi, is this Piper?” he asked.
“Hi um—this is your photographer. I was told to call you so we could set up a time to meet.”
“Oh, okay. Um—are you busy?”
“I’m free until about three thirty.”
“How about you meet me for coffee at maybe two thirty? I know this really great coffee shop. You can meet me there, and we can make plans. How does that sound?”
“Perfect. What’s the name of the coffee shop?”
“It’s Mississippi River Coffee Company. I know, it’s stupid. But they make really good coffee.” He laughed.
“I know where that is. I’ll be there at two-thirty.”
“Okay, good plan. I’m the girl with the pink hair by the way. You won’t miss it.” He laughed again.
“I’ll keep an eye out for you.”
When we disconnected, I realized I’d forgotten to ask his name. But he had a really nice voice and seemed like a nice person, so I was excited to meet him. I couldn’t wait to get my book finished. But since I had some time to spare I left my house and went to Jaime’s mom’s thrift shop to find props. She had a lot of really cool retro and vintage stuff in her little shop. So I bought a few new plates and tablecloths, and she promised to set some things aside for me. And also told me to call Jaime because she missed me.
I was early getting to the coffee shop and I had all my bags with me. So I ordered my coffee and a little pastry and went to sit down close to the door so my photographer could easily find me. I’d straightened my hair that morning, and the pink was growing out and fading. I thought about wearing a beanie to cover it up, but I didn’t want him to miss me.
I noticed the man the moment he walked into the door. Not just because he was holding a camera case, but also because he was difficult not to notice. He had blond hair that was grown out around his face. It curled at the ends. But not in that douchey way like it had been stuffed under a hat or anything. Just like it was natural and he let it do what it wanted. He had broad shoulders and hazel eyes and was very attractive. I gave him a once over before he turned around and focused on me.
“Piper,” he stated. Then he smiled and it hit me right in the face. I knew it wasn’t the camera or the fact that he was good looking that caught my attention. I knew him!
“Vinnie!” I said. He laughed.
“Oh my God!” I jumped out of my chair and went to hug him. He’d grown at least another foot since I saw him last. He was always taller than me but now he was really tall. His face had matured, and his body felt more solid and strong. He’d grown up so much I almost didn’t recognize him. I bounced up and down as I hugged him. He laughed.
“I’m happy to see you too, Pip,” he said.
“What are you doing here? I never thought I’d see you again!” I stepped away from him and held onto his arms as I looked him over.
“I’m your photographer. Well, they were actually going to hand you off to someone else because I’ve been trying to break away from this job. But when I found out it was your book, I requested it. So here I am.”
“Oh my gosh! This is going to be so much fun! Get your coffee. Let’s sit down and talk.”
“Alright. And what do you recommend, miss professional chef?” I laughed.
“Um—mocha and white chocolate. Hot. With one shot of espresso.”
“That’s what I’m getting then.”
“Good choice.” He walked over to the counter, and I returned to my seat. I couldn’t stop smiling. I still thought about Vincent a lot, but I never thought we’d run into each other again. When they told me he moved away I figured it was to some far off distant place. Not like to the other side of Boston. He got his coffee and came to my table. He sat down across from me and placed his camera bag down on the table.
“So you kept up with the photography thing, I see,” I said, eagerly leaning on my arms. He smiled and nodded.
“Kind of, yeah. I wanted to go into nature photography, you remember? But when you’re living paycheck to paycheck you don’t really get to be picky. So far, all I get paid for is photographing food and people for those annoying clothing ads where everyone looks really stiff and uncomfortable. Sometimes I do prom photos. Or senior portraits.”
“Well, you’re still really young. Keep photographing nature on the side and National Geographic will come banging on your door.” He laughed.
“What about you? You kept up the cooking thing, I see.” I nodded.
“Yeah, kind of. Remember Penis’s Steakhouse?” He almost choked on his coffee.
“How could I forget old Penis’s?” he said.
“I worked there for two years after I quit McDonalds. Then I started going to culinary school here, and it didn’t last. But I got this book deal so I’m not complaining. Money is tight, but I’m happy.”
“I’m really proud of you. I always knew you could do it.”
“So are you living in Boston? I heard you moved.”
“Yeah, I finished out the school year not far from here. Went to college for a while. But then I came back home to do this photography thing. Trying to make ends meet.”
“Wow, it’s so good to see you. I think about you a lot.” He smiled.
“I think about you too.”
“You look different. I mean, still you. But you’ve grown up so much, and you’re so…” Handsome. He smiled again even though I didn’t finish that thought.
“You look different too. Still Pip, but older and more—pink.” I laughed.
“I like pink.”
“I love the pink. It looks great on you. I like your scarf too. I can’t figure out what color it’s supposed to be though.” I laughed.
“My friend knitted it for me. I think its multi-colored, but I washed it, and it felted and all the colors sort of molded together to make this kind of grayish blue with other stuff mixed in.”
“It’s very unique.”
“So we’re going to be working together for a few weeks. I’m really excited. You said you’ve done this before? How do you usually go about it?” He shrugged.
“Depends on who I work with and how they do stuff. I worked with a cook once who made the entirety of their book in two days. Once met a cook who froze all their meals and wanted me to photograph them frozen. Once met a chef who took their own pictures on their phone and wanted me to Photoshop them. I’d really prefer it if we didn’t do any of those things because I’m still freelancing and I kind of have a schedule.”
“Oh ew. Don’t worry about me. We can make it work. Maybe you can come over a few nights a week, and I’ll make you dinner and dessert and you can photograph those things. Then after we get them taken care of, we can work on the breakfast and lunch schedule.” He nodded.
“That sounds great. When are you free?”
“Always. Especially now since I stopped writing.”
“Alright. Well—how about Monday, Wednesday, and Friday?”
“That sounds perfect.”
“Then I’ll meet you on Friday at—seven?”
“Perfect.” He smiled.
“Good. I wish I could stay and catch up more, but I have an appointment in a half hour, and I have to drive halfway across town. So I’ll talk to you on Friday, alright?”
“Okay. Do you have my address?”
“I do not.”
“Okay, just text me and I’ll send it to you.”
“Good plan.” He stood up and lifted his bag and coffee. “See you Friday then.”
“Friday. I’m looking forward to it.”
“It’s really good to see you again, Pip.” I smiled back.
“You too. I really missed you.” He reached over to ruffle up my pink hair.
“You too,” he said.