Beauty must be served.
Solipsum Paperback and Kindle
New York City, Midtown
Solipsum stood on the sidewalk outside the sleek and priapic edifice that fronted on Fifth Avenue, glad to be back home. He paused to adjust a cuff of the vintage cashmere suit he wore, its buttery cinnamon color in perfect contrast to the clear Fall sky. Something flashed and he looked up at the top floor to see sunlight glinting from the windows of P.M.P., his Agency. He then entered the lobby and walked towards the elevators of the building he secretly owned.
As the doors opened at the penthouse floor, he paused for a moment to gaze about, to see and enjoy the massy light. It poured through curved and arching skylights, cascading down walls to warm wooden floors, flowing and spilling through a layout clean and modern, sculpting of it distance, space, serenity. He entered the Agency proper, the strains of Alphaville’s Forever Young subtly audible. It was insulated from the waiting area by giant faces debossed onto white substrates as thousands of tiny lozenges, washed of all color unless seen obliquely. All else was white, white, everywhere white. The only color permitted was in people’s clothes and, of course, the ubiquitous photos.
He sauntered past the Wall, the white expanse racked with model composites, a sea of faces all staring back – the Beauty Pool – then finally entered the circular desk area that formed the heart of the Agency.
Magma Frost, the Agency’s head, looked up from her flat screen monitor, her face suffused with joy. She was possessed of a particular beauty, Nordic in structure and regal in bearing. She wore white today, as she did most days, except during Collections and Open Call. The thick sheaf of her ice gold hair was carelessly tied back, a few tendrils spilling just so, to frame her cheekbones and pale gray eyes. These were guarded by dark lashes and imbued with ancient tragedy, like some Valkyrie failed on mythic quest, now bound to earthly form forever. Yet for all that she stood aloof, when she smiled you knew that spring lay banked beneath her frosty shell, heat emanating like the borealis glimpsed on distant horizon.
She stood and smiled like she hadn’t in months. “Trey! Darling! You’re back! Was Italy fabulous?! Did you have a good flight?!”
Solipsum laughed, palms raised. “Whoa, whoa, Magma! Yes to both.”
He joined her and they kissed as everyone else looked on, pretending they were not. Two bookers smirked at one another knowingly. Nothing remained secret for long at a modeling agency.
As Magma cheerfully burbled on, she looked into his eyes and – remembered. She remembered how he had found her, a burned out also-ran at twenty-seven, third string booker at a Z-list agency specializing in “real people.” How he’d promised her head position at the top agency in the world in five years. Prestige, wealth, even notoriety, but most of all Power. The only thing she had to do was what she did best – run an agency. That, and quit heroin. It was surprisingly easy. All it took was one look into his eyes the first and only time they’d ever made love.
What she saw there had burned all desire for drugs from her being.
He had delivered on his promise, oh, how he had delivered. Not only did she book the highest paid male model in the world, she also booked nine of the other top twenty men and women. Nearly all had been brought to her by the mysterious Trey Solipsum over the years. His eye for not simply beauty, but commercial, marketable, manageable beauty, was simply unparalleled. She sometimes felt guilty that it was all so easy, but then her mind would flash back to that night. She would remember what he had said as he looked into her eyes and she felt her drug-whipped synapses scream their last of want.
“Beauty must be served.”
And he had been right. She was utterly helpless before it.
Magma made a come-along gesture. “Let’s go to my office, Trey. Penelope,” she sang, “hold all my calls.” He followed her to the large transparent cube at the center of the Agency.
Once inside she touched a switch, causing an opacity to rise in the glass walls like a silk stocking sliding up a woman’s leg. Magma kept her office like the rest of the Agency, predominantly white, the entire space clean, with no personal mementos. One wall was covered in fashion tears from the latest magazines, all featuring their models. Her life was the Agency and it was always lived in the present.
She gracefully sank into a chair behind a desk of palest marble and held out her hand, fingers long and tapered. “Trey, let’s see your book. Three months! It’s too long, even if you were in Italy.”
She began flipping through the leather portfolio he handed her, marveling again at his sheer photogenic presence. Each page was a work of art. He had done every major ad campaign, editorial and magazine cover. He had worked with some of the most beautiful men and women in the world, yet he always stood out. There was just something about him.
Solipsum watched her face as he made himself comfortable in the molded temperfoam chair that fronted her desk, legs outstretched, hands tented, smiling. As Magma went through his portfolio, he reflected on how comfortable he was with her, how she was so totally his creature, and he knew she would never betray him. He also knew that in the place she kept hidden even from herself, she suspected what he truly was but would never admit this to anyone, least of all herself.
“So, Magma dear, how’s business?”
“Fabulous, Trey. Our best year ever.” There was a small spack as she closed the portfolio. “The money we’re seeing from the residuals in the commercial division is utterly mind boggling. To use your phrase, it’s ‘sick cash’. And the new talent is doing quite nicely as far as editorial placement goes. Barbitua just landed a major cosmetics account and it looks like Alabasta Twigg is going to be optioned for another year by Revlon. Oh Trey, I – I really think she could be the next Harlow.”
“Harlow Bleake is dead, Magma. Please don’t mention her name again in my presence.”
“I – I’m sorry, Trey… I didn’t mean… ” Magma cursed herself for a fool, nerves jangly as she tucked an errant wisp behind her ear. He just came back from Italy! Did you think he wouldn’t be reminded of her everywhere he went?
“What else?” His lips barely moved.
She came around the desk and perched on its edge. “I’ve set up a dinner for you tomorrow night at PreVom, the hottest new restaurant in the city. They have a binge and purge tapas that is out of this world. It’ll be just us plus some boys and girls from the Agency.”
“Good. I always seem to come back from Europe with an insatiable appetite for – fresh meat.” Solipsum’s teeth became briefly visible.
She blinked, eyes darting, her laughter quick and nervous. “Oh, and a writer from that new magazine PRY has been asking to interview you. I’ve told him you don’t –”
“Call him back. He can come to the restaurant and interview me there.”
“Trey, you never do interviews.”
“Times are changing, Magma. I’ve decided to make myself a little more – accessible. Any luck luring Phoena over here?”
“No. I’ve offered her everything you authorized.” The words left her mouth like curdled milk spit back into the glass. “I even met her personally over lunch. That cost me more favors than I wanted to call in. And for nothing. She absolutely refuses to budge.”
“Hmmm.” Solipsum’s gaze turned inward as his head tilted back. “This may require a more – personal intervention.”
The sun crept past the skylight’s edge, briefly illuminating the model’s face. Magma found herself in that rarest of moments, catching something so very few had seen.
His blue eyes glittered like the facets of some precious alien gem in the exquisite setting of his face, the planes of bone a sheered symmetry that led to lips the color of cruelty, full and ripe, the fleshy fruit of kiss, his wild beauty a seduction that rendered you powerless, luscious as it sang of dark delight and pleasures beyond imagining, of your soul’s own slick surrender delivered up in laughter and screams, the heat from his core so strong you knew if you stood too close you would burn.
Beholding him like this, she felt again that icy fire racing through her body. How naked and exposed she’d felt that night as her entire essence had been laid bare. She shivered at the memory and thought again how strange it was to feel such equal parts of love and fear for the same man. Then he sat forward, the moment broken, and she continued as if nothing at all had happened.
“One more thing. There’s a rumor going around about a new advertising campaign unlike anything that’s ever been attempted. And it’s big, possibly the biggest I’ve ever encountered. Certainly the money is staggering.”
“It will be all print. And Fa-Shin, Inc. is paying for it.”
Magma’s eyes widened. “Trey. You never cease to amaze me. I just got this an hour ago. How did you find out about it so fast?”
“Your sources are very good, Magma. Mine are simply – better.” He smiled. “I must leave now. I can be reached at the apartment.”
© Daniel Couto. All Rights Reserved.