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Calico(3)
Callie Hart

“How old was he?” I ask.

“Thirty-eight.” Rae announces this proudly with a toss of her hair. She looks up at me, defiance shining brightly in her crystal clear blue eyes. “That’s funny, actually,” she says. “I’ve just realized. That means that even back then, he was still nine years older than you are now.”

“Yeah. That’s pretty hilarious.” But I’m not laughing. I take hold of her hands and remove them from my chest. I don’t really feel like reminiscing with her over some dirty old pervert who took advantage of her way back when. It’s kind of weird that she’s so proud of it.

“You’re jealous,” she whispers, holding her hands up to her face so she can bite down childishly on her thumbnails. “Callan, you’re maddeningly jealous. How fantastic.”

I bend down so that we’re eye level with one another. “I’m not. I’m tired. And I think your moral compass is broken. That’s it. That’s all.”

She gives me a wicked grin. Her lips are full and stained bright red from her lipstick, swollen from the pounding they received when I fucked her mouth not too long ago. Those lips are part of the reason why I can’t really give her up. They remind me of someone else’s. “Your moral compass is broken, too, asshole,” she tells me. “You’re no better than me.”

“See, that’s where you’re wrong. My moral compass works perfectly. I just choose to ignore it. That’s something else entirely.”

Rae seems to think about this. “So, who’s worse, then—me, the woman who knows no better, or you, the man who sins with full knowledge of his actions?”

I return Rae’s awful smile, feeling my insides turn a shade blacker. “Me. I’m the worst. You know this.”

She nods, because she does. “It even said so in High Lite Magazine.”

“High Lite?”

Rae nods. “I bought a copy yesterday. Your face is plastered across the middle two pages like you’re goddamn revolutionary or something.” Her voice is peppered with something that sounds strangely akin to envy. I did an interview with a female journalist who works for High Lite about a month ago. She said she would push for an article about my work, but that I shouldn’t hold my breath. I haven’t been. In fact, I’d forgotten all about it until right here and now.

“Were they awful about me?” I ask.

Rae nods. “So mean. I can’t imagine what you did to deserve such a harsh editorial.” She can imagine perfectly well, though. She’s seen how I talk to people sometimes. She’s seen how abrasive I can be when rubbed the wrong way. Rae’s mouth pulls up at the corners into an impish smile. “The strap line was, ‘Callan Cross is a cunt.”

“Nice. I didn’t know you could say cunt in a magazine.”

Rae shrugs. “They’re sensationalists. They can do whatever they want.”

“What was the tag line?”

Rae puts on her best newsreader voice, which is actually quite impressive. “He’s tall, dark and savagely handsome, and he’s America’s most vitriolic photographer. At twenty-nine, Callan Cross has already conquered the world. Now he’s planning on burning it to the ground, one brutal image at a time.”

“I like the tall, dark and handsome part.”

“They said you were arrogant and potentially delusional.”

“Who gives a fuck what they think about me as a person? What did they say about my work?”

“Incendiary. Wild. Stirring. Transcendental. There were a few other adjectives thrown around, but they got a little fantastical. I stopped reading after a while. I just looked at the pictures instead.”

“They were good, right?” I gave the journo some self-portraits I took of myself last year. My profile was in silhouette, and beneath it tree branches and a cold winter sky were visible in hues of blue and purple, which I transposed onto the image. The writer had asked if I’d created the self-portraits in Photoshop and that’s where the hostilities had begun. I’d told her, no, I had absolutely not used Photoshop. I had used an enlarger to blend the two images together, one on top of the other, and everything was done by hand. She’d looked at me blankly, like she couldn’t give two fucks, and I’d known immediately who I was dealing with: another hipster with an Instagram account, throwing a filter on a selfie and calling it art.

Infuriating.

“They were pretty dark and twisty,” Rae says. “Normally when you have your photo in a magazine, it’s a good idea for people to be able to see your face. You have such a nice one, after all.”

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