Chapter 25 - It's Just for the Photo

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The days that led up to Richard's photoshoot weren't that different from any other. Richard and Mia would go off to work every morning and stroll through their respective responsibilities until dark. Mia was usually home first, but she had stopped waiting for Richard to come for dinner as he became exceptionally busy with a new project. She'd leave him food on the stove or in the refrigerator, but nothing more. Writing was her priority now, and she'd lock herself in the guest room until she drifted off in sleep.

Richard didn't mind. He didn't even notice how much time they had spending apart. It was ironic, actually, because their living arrangements would suggest otherwise, but it was true. Richard would come home exhausted and ignore any bit of energy tempting him to ask Mia about her day, or to tell her about his. He knew that she was too preoccupied anyway, so disturbing her would be a risk.

Unknowingly, they went about their days with mere distractions; avenues that led them away from the fact that their nerves had been heightened, their emotions were amplified, and their relationship was being tested.

They were living in deceit.

Mia stepped out of the cab with Ezra on her tail. The venue was a five-storey building south of the city, and its bricked walls suggested its quirky character and age. The commemorative marker near the door also revealed its printing press past, and the iron touches radiated an industrious aura. Mia and Ezra quickly walked through the entrance and made a beeline for the elevators.

As the lift ascended, Mia turned to her intern, who still appeared to be more anxious for what his tasks were worth. She studied him as he kept his eyes glued to the monitor above that enumerated each floor.

"You're getting paid, right?" she asked him. The information should have reached her by now, but she wasn't involved in managing all of the interns. She was only asked to mentor one.

"We receive an allowance every week," he explained.

He looked at her from the corner of his eye, but never faced her completely. In his arms was his tan messenger bag that he clung onto as if it was worth more than a semester's tuition.

"And I think we get a small bonus at the end of the program for every extra hour in the office."

"Overtime pay? That's very generous of..." She thought for a moment, unsure of whom she was going to refer to. "The lord of interns."

Ezra chuckled. "Mr. Graham is in-charge of us."

"Right." She playfully lifted her right shoulder. "I knew that."

The doors opened in a ding and the two stepped out, an open tiled floor greeting them as chatter filled their ears. The ceiling was surprisingly higher than what Mia had expected, and the accompanying windows matched its great height as well. The lights overhead were shut off, but the sunlight that emerged through the panes was enough; almost angelic. She thought that if heaven truly existed, that was what the gates would look like.

Although the hall was breathtaking, there was a worrisome void in the atmosphere. A camera stand, a few laptops, and lamps were stationed in a corner, but no one was manning them. The equipment remained still like mannequins waiting to be dressed, and not a single person had said a word to Mia and Ezra as they walked toward the mayhem.

Assistants were running about with their cellphones pressed against their ears. Some remained calm and collected, others were panicked and frustrated. Mia scanned the room for Ines, but she was nowhere to be seen. Instead, she spotted Richard looking out the window. She immediately approached him.

"Richard?"

He turned around, surprised that Mia had still shown up considering the time. He was dressed in a cashmere sweater that was a very pale gray, untucked, and paired with black jeans. He was wearing white sneakers, and the silver watch on his wrist twinkled as he crossed his arms over his chest.

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