Phone pressed to her ear, Rebecca wove through the crowded New York sidewalk, desperate to find a newsstand. The cool September breeze chilled the light perspiration evaporating off her skin as she walked. A sweater would have been perfect, but there hadn’t been time. Whatever prompted her best friend to force her out of the house to buy a magazine better be good. Barbara was flipping her lid, and that’s saying a lot for a lawyer known for keeping her calm in court.
Rebecca maneuvered around a woman bending over her navy stroller to pop a squeaky pacifier back into her baby’s mouth. Barbara wouldn’t quell so easily. “Some things must be seen to be believed,” she said. But what things? What was she talking about?
Before Barbara yanked her from her lazy Saturday afternoon, Rebecca was elbow deep in an epic pruning session on her crinkly houseplants. Kyle, her boyfriend, loafed on the couch engrossed in a Yankees game. Now, Rebecca found herself weaving through Manhattan sidewalks looking like a harried tourist.
“How long does it take to get to a newsstand?” Barbara said.
“I’m practically running. The two newsstands I remembered are bike lanes now.”
When had she last held a magazine? Cracked the spine to enjoy the glossy pages inside? Not since college. Back then, she bought GQ to hang pictures of hot guys on the ceiling over her bed. She’d lay in bed for hours, getting lost in their chiseled features and dreamy expressions. Too bad they were the closest she got to the male species at the time.
The crosswalk light blinked “DON’T WALK” as she arrived at the corner. A herd of taxis accelerated up the avenue, darting around slower vehicles and causing near catastrophes. Rebecca’s prize stood across the street: a green metal shed covered in lattice work. Colorful magazines hung from clips on every topic imaginable. Fashion. Motor sports. Health. News. Commentary. Sudoku puzzles. But like the New York Times, they were waiflike shadows of their former beefy selves. As a kid, schlepping the Sunday Times home for her dad required a forklift. No more. Digital ruled, which made this panic stroll into the print realm that much more ridiculous.
Rebecca rubbed away the chill settling into her idle arms. “Can’t you just tell me? What’s this obsession with me buying MOD?”
“You must hold the magazine in your hands, and you’ll be glad I’m with you when you do.”
The “WALK” light flashed and Rebecca trotted across, spotting the pink cover of MOD among the other fashion titles. This special issue ballooned to three times the size of Vogue, with “Our Favorites” stamped across the cover.
Rebecca handed her credit card to the guy and started flipping through the glossy title.
“The spread isn’t numbered, but look three pages past 187.”
“Way to make it easy.”
“Hey, complain to the publisher. I’m only a patron. How else am I supposed to see which color is coming next season?”
“Be like every other New Yorker and wear black.”
Barbara sighed. “We need to address your wardrobe, but that’s a conversation for another day.”
“When I make lawyer money like you, we can talk about my wardrobe.”
Rebecca pocketed her credit card and stepped away to lean on a car and flip while the next shopper bought a roll of peppermint Mentos and the New York Daily News.
Un-numbered pages with ads made it hard to find her reference pages, but soon 187 flashed by and three pages later…
It couldn’t be. Was it— No. No way. She looked up for confirmation that she hadn’t shifted to an alternate reality, but the surly man waiting to pay for gum gave her a nasty look. Yeah, same reality. The thumbs on the woman behind him flew so fast on her smartphone, Rebecca wanted to yank the device away. How could she text at a time like this? Rebecca’s world just flipped upside down.
She reached for the solidness of the car behind her. If not for that, she would have swooned.
“THIS is why I needed to be with you,” Barbara said from the phone cradled in her neck.
“How is this even possible?” Rebecca asked.
“I don’t know how he got in MOD, but the story must be juicy as hell.”
There he was. Kyle. Her Kyle. Her boyfriend who wore nothing but T-shirts and jeans, wrapped in a bulky cream sweater with chunky tan buttons. Instead of his trademark Fruit of the Loom, he wore a pricey outfit by designer Calvin Klein.
In the two-page spread, Kyle leaned against a barkless branch with the sharpest, longest thorns Rebecca had ever seen. Scary sharp. Had he gotten cut doing the pictures? What was she saying? Kyle’s face splashed across the world’s top fashion magazine looking like someone who belonged on a dorm room ceiling. His glossy dark hair, blue eyes, and tan skin silhouetted against a cloudless, blue sky. But none of it made any sense.
“What the hell is Kyle doing in MOD?”
“No clue, but go search for ‘Kyle Dillon model’ and prepare to be blown away.”
Rebecca jammed the magazine under her arm and palmed her phone to search. Sure enough, Kyle’s photo results page filled every tile. No random pics mixed in to test whether you were paying attention. All Kyle. Every one.
Red carpet in a tux.
This was nuts.
“You still there?” Barbara asked.
“Barely,” Rebecca answered. “How could he not have told me? This is so big. He must have modeled for what? Years?”
“He better have a good reason to keep something this big a secret,” Barbara said.
Rebecca reopened the magazine. The picture dated from 11 years prior. Yet it ranked as a favorite. Kyle rated good enough for someone to put it in a roundup of favorite shots. Yet, he’d never mentioned being a model in the eight months they’d been dating and the three months they’d lived together.
Rebecca hung up and headed back to the apartment. What would she say to Kyle? What did it say about their relationship that he hadn’t yet told her? The two of them bubbled along without incident since he moved in, all smiles and good times. But they obviously weren’t as close as she had assumed.
“Ouch!” Rebecca yelled as she walked into a parking meter.
She looked around, but no one noticed. And why would they? She could lie dead in the middle of the street and distracted New Yorkers would step around her. They’d probably tell her to die somewhere more convenient next time. Lucky for them, confusion wasn’t fatal. Though, in her case it might be.
Basketballs careened off the backboard of the courts in front of their apartment, sneaker squeaks echoing off the surrounding buildings. Her eyes found their third-floor apartment window. Inside, Kyle sat watching sports. Meanwhile, his face splashed across the pages of MOD.
She took a seat on a park bench.
In the eight months they’d been together, they’d been through a lot. When first together, Rebecca had secrets of her own. Shedding enough shame to come clean took time—but she did. Kyle now knew everything there was to know about 29-year-old Rebecca Sloane. Her warts, her crazy parents out on Long Island, her history of less than stellar bedroom performance. And he loved her anyway. Why didn’t he trust her enough to share his past life?
So he modeled.
Actually, it was a hella big deal, but why the secrecy? Every time Rebecca tried to talk about Kyle’s college years, he’d change the subject.
“There’s nothing to tell,” he’d say.
“My life is boring compared to most people.”
“I’m going to hit the bathroom.”
“Pass the salt.”
He’d been a master evader. But the time for diversions was over. Barbara rightly said some things must be seen for yourself. Now that she had, there was no unseeing.
She stood up, exhaled the tension knotting her chest, and headed towards her lobby door.