Footprints

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Chapter 11

Click, click, click, flash, flash, click, click.

The sound of camera clicks and flash was comforting. It may not be something that could distract people from their deep rooted musings. But for some they were sweet melody. And Benjamin was one of them.

He watched as Bethany clicked pictures of the villa. She was changing angles to make sure that the natural light that she was using was hitting the villa at right angle. Every now and then she would get down on her knees. She would twist her waist. She would change the way she held the camera. Just because this time her model couldn’t move, she would try out different positions to get maximum leverage.

She had decided that early morning was the best time to shoot the villa. She had dragged Benjamin out of his bed at twilight just so that she could start shooting right before the sun becomes too bright for her liking.

Although unhappy about it at first, Benjamin had followed suit. And now after looking at her he was happy that he joined her. After a long he was seeing her focused on the project at hand. She was focused and engrossed. She would ask Benjamin to hand her a different lens every now and then. He would follow through silently with her request. He watched her closely and smiled inwardly. Here was a positive sign for him. His mind started racing with what more he could do.

“Good morning”, Vanessa walked in bringing him out of his reverie. The woman was a stunning red head in her early 30s. She had grace and appeal. She was a woman of substance that would be hard to ignore or put aside.

“Good morning”, he wished their client.

“Ms Hill, thank you so much for being here and doing this”, Vanessa thanked the photographer.

“Not a problem Ms Goodman”, Bethany smiled adjusting the lens on her camera.

“I would appreciate it if you call me Vanessa”, the redhead put out her hand.

“Call me Bethany then”, the photographer took the hand and gave a firm handshake.

“I never thought I would get you to do this photo shoot for me”, Vanessa admitted.

“Well you should thank Benjamin here. He is the one who got me here”, Bethany rubbed Benjamin’s shoulder affectionately.

“Well I agree. Your man is definitely a sweetheart”, the redhead millionaire said.

Benjamin blushed. It was hard to tell whether he blushed for the term of affection that Vanessa Goodman had used or because she had referred to him as Bethany’s man. Whatever it was, it did turn him a tad bit red.

“I have the breakfast table all set for you. Why don’t you join me”, Vanessa invited the duo.

“Oh that’s not necessary Vanessa. I would love to finish the shoot here”, Bethany replied.

“Bethany I by no means intend to disturb you on your shoot. But please give me the pleasure of having breakfast with you. I am ready to wait”, the woman insisted.

“I don’t want to be a bother”, Bethany hesitated.

“Trust me dear, you never are”, Vanessa smiled.

“Ok then, we will be done here in another 30 minutes”, Bethany agreed.

“Would you mind if I stand here and watch you work? I mean I don’t want to be an interruption”, Vanessa asked.

“Yeah I am completely ok with it”, Bethany replied and got back to shooting.

For a few minutes Vanessa stood beside Benjamin and watched the photographer work. She watched as Bethany tried to do justice to her villa.

“She is good”, she whispered to Benjamin.

“She is the best”, he whispered back.

“Thank you Benjamin for getting her here. You have done me a great favor”, she touched his hand for a fraction of a second.

“The pleasure’s mine”, he mumbled. “I am sure you will get the value for the hefty check that you have agreed to draw us for this project.”

“The way she is clicking, I am sure I will be getting more than what I expected”, Vanessa smiled at Benjamin.

They both stood there for a few more silent minutes as they watched Bethany work her way through the natural light and her preferred angles.

“Do you think she will agree to teach me photography”, Vanessa asked Benjamin. But before he could reply Bethany walked up to them.

“There, we are done”, she said preparing to put away her camera in its case.

“Great. I can’t wait to see how the photos turn out”, Vanessa said.

“Let’s hope they are good”, Bethany replied.

“Oh no, I didn’t mean it that way. I am sure they will be beautiful”, Vanessa immediately backed away from her comment.

“You have a beautiful home Vanessa”, Bethany looked at the villa. For the first time today morning, she looked at the villa without her camera. It was indeed a beautiful place sprawled across a large piece of land. The place was built to be eco friendly. It didn’t look like a castle or an extravagant French chateau. Rather it looked like a small cozy home tucked away somewhere in the hills. The landscaping was done to look like a small hill and the swimming pool resembled a serene lake.

“Please join me for breakfast”, Vanessa invited Bethany and Benjamin once more.

“After you”, Bethany smiled and started walking behind the rich woman.

The breakfast table was indeed laden with eggs, bacon, toast, jam, and butter. Freshly cut fruits were placed in a bowl and the jugs were filled up with fresh lime juice. There was a kettle of freshly brewed coffee as well.

Vanessa sat beside Bethany while Benjamin sat right in front of the two ladies. The three occupants of the table had already filled up their plates and were now engaged in easy conversation. They had so far discussed the weather, the things to do in Hawaii, the coolest hangout places, the must eat places, and whatnot.

“Thanks Vanessa, the breakfast is really delicious”, Bethany thanked their hostess.

“The pleasure is all mine”, Vanessa smiled at the photographer.

“So you and Benjamin met in a beach café, that’s interesting”, Bethany smiled picking at fruits in her plate.

“Actually he hit on me”, Vanessa laughed and Benjamin started coughing.

“Really, I didn’t know that”, Bethany looked at Benjamin accusingly.

“It was a case of mistaken identity”, he blurted out.

“It was. He mistook me for someone else”, Vanessa said biting into her toast.

“So Vanessa, you live here all alone”, Bethany asked looking around at the house.

“Yes I do. In fact, this house was an anniversary gift from my husband”, she replied.

“It’s a lovely home”, Bethany complemented the placed.

“It’s only a house. I don’t see this as home Bethany”, Vanessa said sipping her coffee.

When the photographer or her companion didn’t say anything the millionaire woman added, “I am selling this place to get rid of the memories of infidelities of my husband.”

“I am sorry I didn’t know”, Bethany apologized.

“You don’t need to be. My troubled marriage is not anybody’s fault. You have in fact done me a great favor by doing this photo shoot. With your pictures I am sure I will be able to interest a lot of potential buyers for this place. I know realty photo shoots is not your thing. This is in fact way beyond your style”, Vanessa said. She finished her plate full of eggs and bacon.

“You are right. I don’t do these types of projects, not anymore. But I couldn’t say no to Benji”, Bethany admitted honestly. “When he told me I had to do this for him, I just agreed.”

“Well I am happy that he brought you here”, Vanessa said.

“What can I say? I am just too good”, Benjamin boasted.

“In that case, why don’t you ask Bethany what I asked you”, Vanessa prodded him.

“Ask me what”, Bethany asked wiping her mouth with the napkin. She was done with the breakfast.

“It’s nothing B”, Benjamin shifted uncomfortably in his seat.

“Benjamin, why don’t you let her decide? Tell her what I told you and let her make her own decision”, Vanessa looked offended by the guy’s response.

“Benji”, Bethany asked him again knowing fully that he was trying to hide something.

“Let me ask you upfront Bethany”, Vanessa butted in not trusting Benjamin anymore. “Would you teach me photography”, she asked directly.

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“Would you teach me photography”, he asked her.

“What, why”, she questioned him back.

“I love photography and I do play around with my camera a bit. But I have never had any formal training. It’s always been amateurish attempts from my end”, he said.

“But why do you want me to teach you”, she still had questions.

“Because I love photography and I want some tips from the best”, he replied.

“So what are you two up to”, Adah said taking her seat next to him.

“I am asking Bethany to give me some tips in photography”, he replied.

“Well it’s nice of her to agree”, Adah smiled at the photographer.

“That’s the point, she has not yet agreed”, he said.

“Oh I didn’t know that”, Adah felt a bit awkward jumping to conclusions.

“Well I have not agreed as of yet”, Bethany replied. “Saahil, you have an excellent teaching staff at Snaps. You can join their classes. You can have a structured teaching session there.”

“I know but I wanted to do it with you. I mean look at your work and look at what Snaps teaches. I am sure they have a good photography learning course but nothing beats learning it from the master”, Saahil made his point.

“I am no master”, Bethany blushed.

“Of course you are. Come on Beth, I am asking you to give me a step by step 6 months tutorial. All I am asking of you is to give me some tips, show me some tricks, and maybe just give me a few pointers. With my involvement in family business and our upcoming wedding I am hardly going to get time to attend your so called structured learning sessions. A few hours spent with you will do me a whole lot of good compared to anything else”, he insisted.

“I understand Saahil, but I need a model. I can’t just show you how to shoot without a model to focus on”, Bethany said.

“Oh that’s not a problem at all. Adah can do it”, Saahil responded with excitement.

“Oh no no I am staying out of this”, the woman backed out.

“Adah, please”, Saahil turned his attention to his fiancée.

“Saahil I have never modeled before in my life. How can you expect me to do it now”, she looked flustered.

“Well there’s first time for everything”, he answered her question.

“I am not a model type”, she blushed.

“Why don’t you let Bethany decide that”, he replied and looked at the photographer for support.

“Adah nobody is a model type and trust me, everybody is photogenic”, Bethany said sincerely. “It’s all the trick of the lens here”, Bethany said lifting her camera and pointing at it. “This is what makes models look beautiful. This is the magic wand.” Bethany waved her camera to emphasize her thought.

“See, she has a point”, Saahil silently thanked his stars, “now will you do it”, he asked.

“Saahil I need to talk to Bethany first”, Adah still sounded unsure.

“Ok, I will you two ladies alone to do the talking while I get us the next round of beer”, he got up and left the two alone.

“Bethany, I am sorry if you feel that I am being a prude here”, Adah apologized. “I don’t know where Saahil came up with this idea. I knew he had it somewhere in his head. I just didn’t know he would talk to you about it.”

“It’s ok Adah. I can understand him. He certainly has a point. And you are not being a prude. You are just being insecure”, the photographer said softly.

“I just don’t want you to think that this insecurity has anything to do with you”, Adah said.

“Then what is it about”, Bethany decided it was time to be honest with the woman.

“I have some concerns”, Adah was still being cryptic with her responses.

“Adah, it’s just the two of us here now. You can tell me what’s bothering you”, Bethany placed her hand on the woman’s hand and encouraged her to talk.

“I am not comfortable shedding my clothes”, Adah ducked her head.

“And who said you would have to”, Bethany was shocked at the revelation but didn’t show.

“But isn’t that what you do? Isn’t that your specialty”, Adah asked now staring right at the photographer.

“Yeah that’s what I do. But that’s not the only thing that I do Adah”, Bethany explained.

“Don’t get me wrong Beth but I am really not comfortable with your style”, Adah said without hesitating.

“Adah I don’t know what to say”, Bethany replied.

“I don’t look at women as objects Beth. But I guess you already know that by now. For you their beauty lies in shedding away their inhibitions and clothes. But for me their beauty lies in their ability to embrace their insecurities”, Adah said.

“I understand”, Bethany nodded her head.

“I don’t want to be one of those women Beth. Day in and day out I work closely with women who are working hard to turn around their lives. They are so much different than what you capture in your photographs. They do not have the svelte figure or the rosy complexions. They don’t have the perfect smile or the sharp features. They are at times disfigured, even damaged to a great extent. But they are strong. Despite their situation or condition they have not given up. They still have hope. They work hard, sweat it out, even assume responsibilities that their male counterparts are supposed to. And they do that with a big heart that is most of the times ready to forgive. Every day they make an effort as if it was their sole responsibility to change their destiny. This strength of theirs is what makes them beautiful to me. This resilience of theirs is what makes them a real beauty”, Adah said.

“I get it”, Bethany replied.

“No you don’t”, Adah didn’t believe her. “I may accompany Saahil to all the fancy photography shows but I am not a part of that. It’s his thing and not mine.”

“Adah you are different”, Bethany started. “I knew that the moment you said that my work was crap during that opening. Nobody had been so upfront with me about it. And I understand where you come from. You have worked with the kind of women that truly deserve to be appreciated and in some ways I envy you for being able to do that.”

“You mean that”, Adah asked.

“Yes I do”, Bethany agreed. “I so wish I could meet these women in person.”

“Well I can arrange for that”, Adah said. “I can introduce you to some organizations that will give you a chance to interact with these ladies.”

“That’s awesome”, Bethany perked up at the suggestion.

“Great, it’s done then. I will make a few calls and you will be good to go”, Adah smiled.

“Adah, like I said earlier you are different. And I want to capture your essence through my lens”, Bethany said. “I didn’t agree to Saahil’s suggestion in the first place because I didn’t know what you thought about his proposition. But I didn’t even disagree to his idea completely. And since it’s clear now that you are more worried about my style, I can assure you that this time it will be different, just like you. I am not going to attempt to make you look sexy or anything. I want to capture you, the essence that makes you you. I want to capture Adah the way she is and the way I see her.”

“I don’t know what to say”, Adah hesitated.

“Say whatever you feel like. I just wanted to let you know that I am inspired by you. I want to shoot Adah Merchant the way she is”, the photographer replied.

“So ladies, what’s it gonna be”, Saahil came and settled down in his seat.

Adah looked at Bethany for a few extra minutes and then replied, “Alright, I am in.”

“Yay, thank you so much”, he hugged her and raised his thumb towards the photographer.

Bethany just smiled and leaned back in her chair. She was happy that Adah had finally trusted her.

The next thing she knew, Saahil had managed to rent a photo studio for the three of them with the help of an old friend. So far Bethany had shown him how she prefers to set up the lights and choose the background.

“Here this is the right angle for the light”, she said adjusting one of the lamps.

“This way”, Saahil asked changing his position.

“No no come over here, stand here”, she pulled him to a particular spot. “If you click from there, the focus lights will give you an added advantage”, she explained.

Saahil clicked a picture from the spot that she had shown and immediately agreed, “You are right. Wow this looks so much better now”, he said looking at the photograph.

“Ok now try this angle”, she took him to another spot and asked him to crouch down. “From here, the throw of light will change the mood of the shot. You can make it look more intimate. Try it”, she said.

“Ok here goes”, he crouched down and clicked again. He then looked at the screen and smiled, “damn you are right.”

“Ok when do I step in”, Adah asked the duo who was now ignoring her presence.

“Patience baby, in a minute”, Saahil replied.

Smiling at Adah’s impatience Bethany turned and focused her camera on the woman.

Suddenly conscious of what was happening, Adah hid her face and said, No please not this way.”

“Ohhhh, this is good”, Saahil also now focused his camera on the shy woman.

“Saahilllllll, stop it”, Adah scolded the lover boy.

“You are beautiful”, he teased her and kept on clicking.

“This beautiful is going to kill you”, she pounced on the man who managed to escape her.

“No you are not getting it so easy hun”, he started running around the place.

“I am so gonna get you for this”, Adah continued chasing the guy.

“Come and get it”, Saahil lifted his camera over his head, beyond the reach of the annoyed woman.

“I will get it”, Adah kept on jumping on her toes in an attempt to reach the camera.

Looking at the antics of the couple, Bethany couldn’t hold back her laughter any more. She started laughing as the duo struggled with the camera in hand. She laughed after a long time.

And then it struck her. Here was an idea that she could try. Instead of doing a studio based shoot, she decided to do it outdoors. She wanted to capture Adah in her most natural moment. And that would just not be possible if done in a studio. The woman had to be out and unaware of the camera on her. Now that was going to be a challenge. But Bethany was going to try it. Their trip still had a few places left in their list. She was going to be stealthy with her camera and try to click photos of the woman without her knowing about it. That would be the best way to capture not only her form but also her thoughts and feelings. And she knew Saahil would be more than happy to help her in her covert mission.

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