“You are too perfect,” Annie said.
“Make me imperfect,” said Virginia.
Annie smiled. “That’s not what I do.”
They were on Annie’s balcony in East Manhattan, an extension of her new, small two bedroom apartment. It was set high enough that traffic and street noise were a pleasant, comforting hum. Twinkling lights were starting to appear.
“I am far from perfect anyway,” Virginia said, with some irritation. “Treat me like any commission.”
They both took a sip of wine. “I’m too expensive for you,” said Annie.
“I’ll give you a jar of my homemade cranberry peach jam,” said Virginia.
Annie hesitated. She pushed her glasses farther up the bridge of her nose. “Ok,” she said. “I have studio time next month. I want you to arrive as your imperfect self.”
“No makeup?” said Virginia.
“No nothing of any kind. Bring your pain and lost memories. We’ll find something.”
Virginia nodded. It was time she was revealed for the fraud she was. She looked forward to it. It would be cleansing, freeing, a path full of stones and dust that would lead to the person she really was, which was not perfectly beautiful, nor perfect in nature, nor perfect in any way at all.
“Your husband contacted me,” said Annie.
There was a slightly chill breeze. Virginia pulled the muslin wrap around her shoulders. “Cash? Seriously?”
“Yes. I didn’t remember him at first, but I think he was at that Vanity Fair couture shoot in Paris? Eating all the eclairs.”
Virginia laughed. “Yes, that’s Cash.” She set her wine glass down on a sleek stainless steel side table. “How did he even get your number? What did he want?”
“How, I don’t know. Am I in your phone?” said Annie. “He wanted advice. He submitted three pics to the PhotoLens international nature photography contest, and seemed surprised that he didn’t win it.”
“Oh no, sorry Annie.”
Annie waved her hand. “He contacted me in text, then sent me the photographs he submitted to the contest. Really nice shots of hummingbirds. He didn’t seem to realize he wasn’t the first to capture a hummingbird mid-flight.”
“Cash believes all his random thoughts are original and kind of genius,” said Virginia. “What did you tell him?”
“That his shots were good. But unoriginal. Even a great shot has to have an essence. His shots were technically ok, but spiritually void.”
“Wow,” said Virginia.
“Yes, sorry, I hope he wasn’t upset.”
“He said nothing.”
“Ask him about it, if you are still talking,” said Annie.
“Yeah we are, mostly,” said Virginia.
“Still not interested in changing teams?” said Annie. “I know I’m too old and too busy and too self-absorbed, but I know some good people.”
“No thanks, Annie,” said Virginia. “Tempted as I might be. And thank you for counselling Cash.”
“Does he even know who I am?” asked Annie.
“Oh god no,” said Virginia. “He knows you are a photographer friend of mine. Cash is like a figure skater, Annie. He skims across the ice, sometimes with great courage and finesse, and has amazing moves and tricks, but has no curiosity about what lies below the surface.”
“I thought he was a treasure to be discovered.” Virginia said. “Annie, he is a treasure, but a box of shiny gems, with no diamonds or gold coins hidden deeper in the treasure chest, but he is…” She paused and picked a fruit fly out of her glass of merlot. She flicked it into the night, over the city of New York.
“Hmm,” said Annie. “More wine?”
Virginia looked at the lights of the lower east side, now shimmering in the darkness. She was incapable of deciding what do do with her life until she understood who she was. “Yes please,” she said. “Thanks, Annie.”