What Dean Pelton hadn’t told Michelle Slater and Jeff Winger was that he didn’t just keep a list of the most attractive students and faculty to nip any potential hook ups in the bud.
He also kept the list – and the schedules of every student on it – so he would know when to schedule visits for future students and where to lead tours.
(Of course, the dean wanted Greendale Community College to be considered a serious academic institution. But he wasn’t going to ignore the influence a pretty face – or a clearly defined bicep – could have on people’s attitude toward GCC.
After all, though he’d never admit it, Craig Pelton was willing for Greendale to be known as a school of mostly beautiful people first and a home for world-class scholars second.)
“Good morning, Greendale-nam! This is your Dean speaking, and have I got news for you!”
Annie shushed the other members of the study group, turning her attention to the speaker mounted near the ceiling.
“You guys! I can’t hear the announcements.”
“Unless the-” Jeff nearly bit his tongue as he caught himself. (After all, the dean only appeared when he was mentioned, and though he was currently making announcements from an office on the other side of campus, Jeff wouldn’t put it past Pelton to be in two places at once.) “Unless he is announcing that he’s taking a sabbatical, effective immediately, I doubt it’s anything important.”
“Jeff!” Annie’s eyes began to widen and her lower lip showed signs of trembling; Jeff quickly averted his eyes, meeting first Britta’s scowl, then Pierce’s knowing grin.
“All not well in the world of mathematics, Jeffrey, my boy?”
“Actually, Pierce, everything with Michelle is wonderful. Thank you so much for asking.” Jeff glared at Pierce before pointedly turning his attention to the same speaker that had Annie’s attention.
“-which means that our Hmong students should feel more at home. And as a side note to the rest of our students, direct eye contact is not a social norm: Please don’t take this as a personal affront or an invitation to ‘get all up in their grill,’ as I understand the kids are saying these days.” The group exchanged confused looks even as Pierce and Troy bent their heads toward each other, clearly trying to decide if there was a way to use the phrase in a dirty joke. “Next on our agenda: This coming August will mark the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. As many of you may remember, the community of Greendale welcomed many of our Gulf Coast neighbors who left their homes. In addition, for the last four years, our community service club has organized a Spring Break trip to various cities and towns that suffered damage, in which time, I’m proud to report, the club has helped build parts of three whole houses!
However, due to insurance claims and requests from the charitable organizations organizing the recovery efforts, the service club will not be traveling to the Gulf this year. They have come up with a new way to mark the anniversary and help continue the efforts to rebuild the Gulf Coast, which thankfully has not been struck by any other calamities. The GCC Community Service Club is pleased to announce casting calls for the first-ever ‘Beauties of Greendale’ charitable calendar. If you are a female GCC student, are older than 18 and would like to be a part of this effort, please visit my office for a consent form and the shooting schedule.
That’s all your announcements for today. Now, go learn, and Go Human Beings!”
The group’s reactions as they sat round the study room table ranged from bemused to enraged. Jeff and Abed were careful to remain silent as they observed their friends. Annie and Britta were both gaping, in shock and violent revulsion, respectively. Shirley looked perplexed and thoughtful, while Troy still appeared to be trying to work ‘Hmong’ into a dirty joke.
Unfortunately, Jeff only caught sight of Pierce’s gleeful leering moments before the older man opened his mouth to speak.
“So, whaddaya say, ladies? Can we expect Big Boobs, Black Boobs and Other Boobs to take it all off in the name of charity?”
Jeff and Annie were walking toward the cafeteria after their shared computer class, arguing over whether Britta should’ve been allowed to throttle Pierce in study group, when Dean Pelton seemed to appear from nowhere, his hands flying to his face in poorly feigned surprise.
(Jeff and Abed were of the opinion that Britta should’ve been allowed to throttle Pierce that morning and thereby get it out of her system. Annie and Shirley had stepped into the breach, claiming that no matter how offensive Pierce might be, killing or seriously harming him would help no one. Troy, when asked for the deciding vote, had grabbed his bag, clapped his hands over his ears and run from the room, shouting “I’m Switzerland!”)
“Miss Edison! Mr. Winger! What a wonderful surprise.”
“Hi, Dean Pelton.” Annie politely paused and returned the Dean’s smile, though less manically. Jeff leaned close to Annie’s head, speaking low.
“Aw, Edison, you’ll only encourage it if you respond when it tries to talk to you.” Annie shot Jeff a reprimanding glance, then refocused on the Dean.
“I trust you heard the announcement about the service club’s charitable calendar project this morning, Miss Edison?”
“Oh, of course, Dean. It sounds like a very-” Here, Annie’s usual enthusiasm wavered, as she sifted through her mental dictionary for an appropriate word. “Um, a very innovative approach to the situation.”
“It sounds like a lawsuit waiting to happen.” Jeff grumbled to himself.
“That it is, Miss Edison: That it is. Actually, I was wondering if I might speak with you for a moment about the possibility of having you help with this venture.” The Dean watched as Annie blithely nodded and gestured in an ‘after you’ sort of way. Pelton nodded at Jeff, wincing as he took in the taller man’s narrowed eyes, furrowed brow and skeptical countenance, as he turned and walked toward his office.
Jeff caught Annie’s arm as she made to follow. “I’ve got a bad feeling about this.”
Annie laughed and shrugged, pulling her arm from Jeff’s grasp. “Oh, Jeff. The Dean’s not going to ask me to sneak on board an Imperial starship. He probably just wants me to help the service club come up with a production schedule for putting the calendar together. I did that when I helped put together the ‘Hillel’s Honeys’ calendar for my temple a few years ago.” She smiled when Jeff’s frown deepened. “It’s no big deal. I’ll meet you in the caf in, like, twenty minutes, OK?” She smiled and headed after the Dean, turning to look back over her shoulder and give Jeff a reassuring wave.
Jeff nodded at Annie, and headed toward the cafeteria once more: Suddenly, he had a taste for the food service’s chalky sugar cookies instead of the spicy Thai-Buffalo wings he’d been looking forward to at first. He didn’t think his unsettled stomach would welcome the wings.
Annie entered the cafeteria, looking shell shocked and nearly walking into Starburns, who leaped aside at the last moment, shooting the petite brunette a glare as some of his slushy slopped out of its cup and soaked the napkins on his tray.
She slid through the food line like a person in a dream, slipping into a seat next to Britta and Troy.
The group exchanged worried looks, remembering what Jeff had said, when he’d sat down and told them Annie had been waylaid by the Dean, about being concerned as to what Pelton wanted Annie’s help with.
“Annie? Annie? Is everything OK?” Britta tentatively laid a hand on the younger woman’s shoulder, looking to Shirley across the table for help.
“Sweetie? You look like you just found out your grades for the entire semester were invalid for some insane reason, like not using the right color pen or an instructor being a fake or something.” Shirley wrung her hands, shrugging at Britta when Annie still didn’t respond.
“Yo, Annie. You didn’t pop any pills today, did you?” Troy’s tone and expression conveyed the concern his tactless question was missing.
Jeff shot them all a glare and leaned toward Annie, laying a hand atop both of hers where she was methodically but unconsciously shredding a paper napkin. “Edison. What did the Dean want?” He squeezed her hands a little, nodding to Britta when Annie’s eyes cleared and focused first on him, then on the rest of her friends.
“The Dean wanted my help with the calendar.” Annie’s voice was emotionless.
“That’s what Jeff said, sweetie, but that doesn’t explain why you look like someone just told you Baby Jesus stole a candy bar.” Shirley reached out and handed Annie her can of soda, urging the younger woman to take a sip.
Annie swallowed the mouthful of sugary cola, and looked around at her friends, a frustrated little frown growing on her face as she spoke. “I thought the Dean wanted me to help the service club figure out a production schedule or maybe to help them organize the casting calls and shooting schedule.” She shuddered. “But he asked me to be the first student to sign up for the casting call. He said-” Here Annie paused, drawing a deep breath; the murderous look on Jeff’s face grew. “He said other female students would be more likely to sign up if they saw my name on the list. And he said that sometimes, ‘extracurricular activities’ doesn’t just mean helping to organize something; it means actually participating in it. He said being in the calendar would be something big to list on my resume when I apply to transfer to a four-year school.” Annie’s face had gone sheet white except for two spots of pink in her cheeks and her eyes were glazed with unshed tears.
Britta and Shirley exchanged helpless looks. “Well, sweetie, maybe the Dean has a point?”
“Yeah. I mean, it’s a huge step backwards for women’s empowerment and equal rights, but the Dean probably knows what he’s talking about.” Britta twirled a blonde curl around her finger, tugging on it. “I mean, being in a music video and making her application essay into a video where she wore a bikini worked for Elle Woods, right?” She scowled at Jeff, Abed and Troy as they all snorted and snickered. “One of my old roommates loved that movie, OK? And it wasn’t a total crock.”
Annie audibly gulped, shooting a glance around the table before returning her attention to the pile of napkin shreds in front of her. “But that’s not all it is.” She looked up again when she felt her friends’ eyes on her. “It’s not just a calendar with pretty girls in dresses or whatever. It’s going to be a pin up calendar, like you’d see in an auto shop garage.”
Jeff quietly began to grumble to himself as he gripped the tabletop so tightly his knuckles turned white. Shirley fingered the cross she wore around her neck while Troy looked uncomfortable, no doubt remembering that freaky Annie Edison was now Hot Annie who he would never have a chance with, and Britta seethed, the celery stick she held in her hand snapping as she clenched her fist.
Abed sipped his milk at the end of the table, observing everyone’s reactions, paying attention to the mingled anger and protectiveness on Jeff’s face and the utter misery on Annie’s. “Interesting.”
“Look, Edison, you don’t have to do whatever the Dean asks you to just because he’s the Dean.”
“I know, Jeff, but I already signed the consent form!” Annie’s tone was plaintive.
“I’ll look it over. There’s got to be a loophole somewhere.” Jeff replied fiercely. “They can’t honestly expect grown women to pose in their underwear for a school calendar. Even if it is for ‘charity.’”
“And while Jeff looks over that form, I’ll go and give the Dean a piece of my mind.” Britta’s tone was equally fierce as she put an arm around Annie’s shoulders and squeezed. “Viva la sisterhood!”
“Yeah! What she said!” Shirley nodded emphatically. “That bony little twerp better watch himself.” She met Britta’s eyes and smiled conspiratorially. “I’m coming with you to ‘talk’ to the Dean.” Shirley cracked her knuckles and rolled her neck, looking for all the world like a prize fighter before the bell.
“So, Big Boobs. I hear you’re going to be a Calendar Girl.” Pierce set a tray down at the table, and sat down. “I hope you get a good month, like June or December. Girls in the other months tend to be dogs.” He swallowed a french fry. “Well, that and December tends to be a fold out.” He leered at Annie. “Our homeroom angel is a centerfold.”
Annie was pacing back and forth behind her regular chair in the study room the next morning, glancing nervously at Jeff whenever he swore quietly as he read the consent form she’d signed. Abed and Troy had both tried to placate her and talk her into sitting down.
(“Annie, you’re cool and all, but the back and the forth is making me sea sick.”
“Don’t apologize, Annie. It’s perfectly natural for Troy to be sick: Blacks don’t have good genetic memories of being at sea.”
“Pierce, that’s racist.”
“Pfft! Sor-ry, Big Boobs!”)
And Pierce had tried to convince Annie that being asked to be in a pin up calendar was actually a huge compliment.
But it was only when Britta and Shirley appeared in the doorway of the study room that Annie dropped heavily into her chair. The other two women entered with their heads down and a general air of dejection. They sat at the table, but neither would meet Annie’s questioning gaze.
“I’m so sorry, Annie.”
“Me, too, sweetie. Please believe me, we tried.”
“But the dean…” Britta’s voice trailed off as she shrugged and scrubbed her fingers through her hair. Shirley pulled a bottle of ibuprofen from her massive purse and dry swallowed two pills before shaking it in Britta’s direction; Britta nodded and held out her palm. Abed passed her his water bottle, and she downed the pills, grimacing at the medicinal taste.
“What about the dean?” Annie looked between the two in confusion, shooting a sidelong glance at Jeff, who continued to mumble and shake his head as he flipped back and forth through the pages of the consent form.
“He said the calendar needed more diversity, in both race and age-” Shirley began even as Britta spoke.
“He said it would be tasteful and that it would actually be a step forward for women’s equality, as most of the planning committee for the calendar is made up of the girls in the service club.” Britta’s tone was hollow.
“Exactly so!” Pierce thundered, making everyone jump. He grinned when six sets of eyes turned his way. “Maxim magazine’s editorial staff is largely comprised of women, and their photo spreads are always tasteful.” He winked in Annie’s direction. “I’d imagine it’s a lot less embarrassing to have a woman tell you how to cup-and-cradle than it would be to hear it from a man.”
Annie turned back to Britta and Shirley, looking like she might be sick. “You didn’t.” The other two women shared embarrassed glances and tugged familiar-looking sheaves of paper from their bags, tossing them into the center of the study table. Annie only saw the words ‘Greendale’ and ‘Consent’ before she slumped back in her chair, giving a piteous wail.
“Dammit. Dammit. Dammit.” Jeff slammed Annie’s consent form down on the table, banging his other fist down next to it. The tension in his shoulders disappeared as he pinched the bridge of his nose and shook his head. “I’m sorry, but this contract is air-tight.” He looked from Annie to Britta to Shirley, giving them all the same apologetic look. “If you signed this and you’re an adult, there’s no way to back out now.”
The three women shared a disappointed look. “Thanks for trying, Jeff.” Annie gave him a soft smile, but turned away before Jeff could return it.
The group sat in silence for several long moments, Pierce’s phone occasionally beeping as he played some game on it.
“Normally, in a sitcom or movie, when the protagonists face a seemingly insurmountable obstacle, there’s a planning montage set to a jaunty tune and interspersed with cut scenes of the characters sharing pizza or sundaes.” Abed finally offered.
“Ice cream does sound good.” Shirley said tentatively.
The group stood and headed toward the cafeteria, stopping only to pick Pierce up when he walked into an open door because he was still messing with his phone.
“Ladies! So glad you all agreed to join the calendar! Oh, ice cream! Yummy! Watch yourselves though: You know the camera adds ten pounds!”
Annie, Shirley and Britta stared after the Dean as he flitted away, their spoons hovering over their bowls before simultaneously groaning and pushing the bowls away.
“He-he’s right.” Annie sounded near tears as she mournfully eyed the melting bowl of black raspberry.
“I think that saying only applies to motion picture cameras.” Abed said, trying hard to look and sound sympathetic. He slapped Troy’s hand away from Britta’s bowl of butter pecan.
“No, the Dean’s got a point.” Shirley sighed and handed her bowl of lemon sorbet over to Troy before beginning to pull out the various brownies and cookies she had stashed in her purse, making a little pile in the center of the table.
Jeff looked at his friends, frowning as he watched Annie pull out a baggie of carrot sticks. “I’d kill him if I wouldn’t get expelled.”
What Dean Pelton and the service club had called a ‘casting call’ was less a ‘call’ and more a ‘track down and beg every remotely attractive female student on campus to come in for a headshot.’
No one was surprised when Annie, Britta and Shirley were selected. They were joined by White Abed’s girlfriend, Jenny Adams; Courtney from Jeff’s pool class; Troy’s sort-of-ex Randi; the Annie, Britta and Shirley from Abed’s films; and a few other students the group vaguely thought they might’ve passed in the halls or the quad or one of their classes.
The real Annie, Britta and Shirley were less than pleased to report to the guys in the group that the month assignments would be a surprise, especially as Pierce had spent the intervening weeks explaining the importance of placement within the calendar.
(“Why on earth is it better to be in certain months than in others?”
“Ah, Shirley, Shirley, Shirley. You’ve clearly led such a sheltered life.”
“Pierce, stop being an ass and explain yourself.”
“Why, Brittles, such language! Tell me, do you kiss your girlfriend’s-”
“For the love of god, do not finish that sentence.”
“Jeffrey, where is your mind going? I was only going to ask her if she kisses her girlfriend’s mother with that mouth. Because, you know, if the mother’s a lesbian, then the daughter is, too, and all normal social standards about orgies are out the window-”
“Dude. How has no one killed you before now?”
“In any case, which month you end up in is important because like I said before, the summer months and December are the hot girls. All the other months are dogs. I’d imagine either Big Boobs and Brittles might be chosen for a good month.”
“And what about me?”
“Well, I’m hardly going to answer if you keep brandishing that Afro comb at me.”)
Abed, Jeff and Troy had all tried to convince the girls that the photo shoot and the calendar wouldn’t be that bad. Troy even offered to ask other members of the football team – and some of the dancers in his class – to mess with the equipment and the studio room. The girls had declined their offers, though all three had looked like they wanted to accept.
“Mr. Winger, I don’t feel like I’m getting your best effort here.”
“You keep this up and-” Michelle hitched her leg higher around Jeff’s waist. “I’m not going to be able to give you a gold star.” She frowned as Jeff slumped against her a little.
“Sorry. It’s just that the photo shoot for the calendar is this week, and I don’t think the girls will be able to go through with it.”
Michelle rolled her eyes as she stared up at the ceiling and exhaled noisily. “You know, you’re not legally responsible for them.” She shifted against him, hoping it would remind him of their previously scheduled activity.
“But they’re my friends.”
“And they’re all adults, Jeff. They can take care of themselves.” She swallowed her pride and ran her knuckles along the side of his face. “But I’m in a bit of a predicament here, and I do need your help.”
“It’s alright.” Michelle sighed happily as Jeff resumed his earlier ministrations. “Just don’t let it happen again.”
“Thank you, everyone, for agreeing to be part of our first-ever ‘Beauties of Greendale’ charitable calendar.” Dean Pelton clapped his hands together gleefully. “I’d like to introduce the renowned photographer who’ll be shooting our lovely students.” Pelton paused, considering what he’d just said. “Uh, who’ll be taking the pictures of our lovely students. Because he won’t be shooting them. The last thing we need is another school shooting in Colorado.” The crowd of female students murmured uneasily as Pelton laughed awkwardly at his joke. “Any-who! This is our photographer, the great, uh, sorry, how do you say your name again?”
“My name is Jean-Luc Rieupeyroux. I am an artiste. I will take these barren dessert cacti I see before me, and they will bloom under the onslaught of my creativity like the rains of the, eh, how do you say? Ah, yes, the monsoon.” The tall, dark-haired man gestured to himself with an outlandish flourish. Another, equally tall but gawkier man holding a clipboard stepped forward eagerly, giving a friendly wave to the students and bouncing on his toes. He stood there for a moment as Jean-Luc surveyed them all disdainfully, then cleared his throat to remind Jean-Luc he was there. “Ah, yes. This is my assistant, Balki Bartokomous. You may call him Balki. I call him Moppet.” A svelte Black man stepped forward on Jean-Luc’s other side. “This is my stylist, Bollywood Montrose. He comes from a long line of stylists. You will do what he says, or you will perish in my sight.” Jean-Luc sniffed and gave the group of students a final perusal before turning to Dean Pelton. “They will do.” He turned and stalked off, directing a last, barked order to his assistant. “Organize them, Moppet. Jean-Luc needs a moment to himself. Organize them then get Jean-Luc a latte, Moppet. And do so quickly, or Jean-Luc will kick your dog and laugh after.”
Balki was kind and reassuring, organizing the GCC students into groups and sending them in to be made up by Bollywood and his fleet of sullen, black-clad helpers. The photo shoot dragged on through the morning and into the late afternoon.
Jean-Luc banned Dean Pelton from the immediate studio area, but Pelton told everyone who passed by that he had volunteered to guard the door.
Jean-Luc shouted at Jenny Adams and Randi: Jenny cussed him out and was dismissed after ten minutes while Randi dissolved into tears and had to be calmed down before she could continue.
And Jean-Luc eventually offended Fake!Annie so greatly that the young woman stormed out of the studio, wearing a fluffy, feathery black penoir set and clutching her street clothes and backpack in her hands.
Annie, Britta, Shirley and Courtney were in the last group to be sent in to Bollywood and his helpers. Balki caught Annie’s arm as she passed.
“I want you should be careful around Jean-Luc. He can be, how you say, mean, creepy bastard.”
“Is warn you because Jean-Luc he has thing for the short, dark girls. Is good?”
Annie gave Balki a genuine smile and put a hand over his where it lay on her arm. “Is good. Thanks.”
Bollywood Montrose was as flamingly a queen as any little boy who watched Julie Newmar as a child and wanted nothing more than to slip on a black vinyl jumpsuit and stalk around in cat ears.
But that wasn’t to say he was self-absorbed or shallow or silly. (He could be, of course, but he was also a chair emeritus of the PRIDE!Greendale organization and he volunteered regularly at his childhood church.)
Shirley was clearly uncomfortable around him until she realized he was humming one of her favorite hymns as he styled her curls.
(Even then, she was a little unsure of how to act with him. But when he gestured to one of his helpers, who stepped forward with a demure but flattering little black dress, Shirley turned to Bollywood and offered him a brownie from her purse.)
Bollywood put Courtney is a little cheerleader outfit, which had Britta scoffing in disgust.
“What is this? A charity calendar or someone’s wet dream?”
“Well, I don’t see Buddy around anywhere…” Annie trailed off, smirking at Britta who snorted.
“Ladies, trust me, if I had any choice over what I was putting y’all in, I wouldn’t stick a single one of you in any trashy quasi-Halloween costume. But I was told one of you had to be in a cheerleader get-up, and this tall drink of water here?” Bollywood was vehement as he spoke, but he caught Courtney’s hand and gave her a little spin. “She can pull this off and not look like a cliché.”
“I don’t like this.”
“That’s the fourth time you’ve said that.” Abed stood next to where Troy leant against the wall down the hall from the studio, watching Jeff wear a divot in the linoleum as he paced back and forth.
“So? I really don’t like this.” Jeff stopped in front of the two younger men and gestured wildly. “Did you see that photographer guy? He was all tall and dark and-and European!”
“He might be gay.” Troy offered solicitously.
“Nah, they’re just brought up differently over there.” Jeff shook his head, rubbing the back of his neck. “He might try something with Anni- with any of the students.”
“And in the way that any number of disapproving male friends of female protagonists in film have overreacted, you would swoop in to save the day?” Abed’s tone was even, but Jeff suspected he was being mocked.
“No. There would be no day saving. None at all.” Jeff flung a hand out, pointing at the Dean who was lounging in a desk outside the studio doors, working his way through a book of crossword puzzles. “Why aren’t any of us allowed in there? This is being done in our name, after all.”
“What? My name is going to be on the calendar?” Troy’s eyes widened as his voice rose in pitch. “I don’t think the congregation elders would approve of that.”
“No, I meant that this calendar is sanctioned by Greendale, and we’re students here, and consequently we’ll be known as students of the school that exploited its female population for the sake of some half-assed charity initiative.” Jeff assumed a lawyerly pose.
“You’ve been spending too much time with Britta.” Abed quirked an eyebrow at Jeff.
“Look, all I’m saying is that if this was a legitimate enterprise, there would be transparency and that would include the freedom of concerned students to audit the process.” Jeff folded his arms over his chest and gave Abed a confrontational look.
“I thought the Dean said it was a closed studio because he didn’t a bunch of ‘young punks trying to get in and ogle the girls in their underwear.’” Troy looked confused.
At that moment, Troy and Abed’s security counterparts frog-marched Pierce down the hall toward the other three men. Pierce turned to speak to Troy’s doppelganger, who nodded and the trio slowed as they approached Abed, Jeff and Troy.
“Boys, be so good as to tell these nice security personnel that I’m Brittle’s agent, and I was only trying to get into the studio so I could keep an eye on my client’s assets.”
Jeff hung his head and gave Pierce a disbelieving look. “You can’t honestly expect us to buy a load of crap like that, much less repeat it straight-faced to these guys?”
Pierce looked affronted. “Jeffrey. I’m insulted you’d think I was lying about this. The fact that Big Boobs and Brittles would be in their skivvies is just a pleasant coincidence.”
Jeff and Abed exchanged wry looks before Jeff nodded to Abed, who turned to the security guards.
“Book ‘em, Danno.” The security guards nodded to Abed, Troy and Jeff, and continued to force Pierce down the hall and toward the parking lot.
“I still don’t like this.” Jeff shook his head and rocked on his heels.
Troy nodded sympathetically before his face suddenly brightened. “Hey! I’m pretty sure one of the advanced dance rehearsal studios has some windows that look down on the room they’re using.”
Abed cocked his head thoughtfully while Jeff looked at Troy skeptically. “It’s after hours. Aren’t those rooms locked?”
“Not if you have a key.” Troy dug in his pocket for a moment, then patted down his sweatshirt before finally pulling a standard Yale key on a lanyard from beneath his shirt.
Jeff and Abed looked at Troy, then exchanged thoughtful looks before they turned back to Troy.
“It wouldn’t be wrong to just go up and check in on the girls.” Jeff drummed his fingers on his leg.
“Not any more so than when Danny Tanner snuck in and tried to check on his daughter D.J. when she was spending time at her boyfriend’s apartment once he’d started college.” Abed tapped a finger against his chin.
“Right.” Troy nodded solemnly and turned to lead the other two toward the stairs to the second floor of the building. They climbed in silence and walked down the dark, empty hall toward the dance studio’s door. They were nearly there when Jeff had a sudden thought.
“Why do you have a key to an advanced dance rehearsal studio?”
“Dude, I don’t ask you to explain your obsession with checking on the girls, so don’t ask me to explain how I’m able to facilitate it.” Troy paused at the door, giving Jeff a variation on the Forest Whittaker eye. “We cool?”
Jeff involuntarily took a step back. “Oh, yeah. We’re cool.”
Britta and Annie were the last two in the makeup and wardrobe area. From beyond the curtains, they could hear Jean-Luc giving Shirley commands. Shirley’s even but strained tone told them she was minutes from unloading a can of massive hurt on the Frenchman. Bollywood rolled his eyes as he worked gel through Britta’s curls and picked up a hairdryer and a large round brush.
“That boy wouldn’t know a good idea if it bit him in that fine French derriere of his.”
“This entire thing is the complete opposite of a good idea.” Britta grumbled to herself, though she carefully inspected the makeup job Bollywood had done on her and fingered the soft button down shirt she’d been told to put on over the black lacy underwear she’d been given to wear. “Are you sure this shade of lipstick is right?”
“Oh My God, would you please stop fussing over that color? It’s fine, OK? It’s completely fine. I picked it out, and I think I know a thing or two about lipstick, OK?” Bollywood came around the chair to face Britta and put his hands on his hips. “You’re going to look gorgeous, so could you pretty please stop freaking out? Ugh!” He set the hairdryer and brush down on a cart forcefully and turned back to his makeup box to look for something. Britta and Annie could hear him grumbling to himself about ovaries and know-it-all attitudes. He turned back, gave Britta a final once over and sent her on her way.
“Now it’s your turn, sweetie.” Bollywood took Annie’s hand and sat her down in the chair. “Are you warm enough there? Good. Now let’s get started.”
In the second-floor dance studio, Abed, Jeff and Troy were careful not to disturb the various pieces of equipment scattered around the room so they wouldn’t make any noise. Several of the windows that looked down on the lower studio were blocked by freestanding dance barres, stacks of well-worn blue gym mats or heavy boxes of old programs and music scores. A few others looked down on empty parts of the other studio. As the neared the end of the room, where the wall was lined with mirrors and the baby grand piano sat to one side, they finally found a window that wasn’t blocked by anything and afforded them a view of the area set up by the photographer.
Looking down, they saw two, tall dark-haired men fussing around a head of blonde hair, but they couldn’t see any more of Britta.
“Well, this is a bust.” Troy sighed and leaned one shoulder against the window frame.
At that moment, the two men stepped back, one of them reaching out to arrange a strand of hair just so. Britta sat in the corner of a large, deep couch, her bare legs curled up underneath her and the man’s shirt she was wearing gaping in front to show just a hint of the lacy bra she wore beneath. The light coming in through the window behind her highlighted her hair. Her chin was tilted down, with her hair falling over her cheek and a wry smile on her lips.
Jeff, Abed and Troy each sucked in a breath. “Oh. Well, not such a bust.” Troy cocked a head to one side, before glancing past Jeff to Abed. “Would you?” He nodded down at Britta.
Abed looked thoughtful. “If she got a haircut.” He cocked his head to one side. “And a less condescending way of saying things.” He looked back over at Troy, who had become distracted by an old box of gauzy scarves.
“Dude. It’s like a fairy threw up in here.” Troy held up two handfuls of the scarves then turned back to pawing through the box. Abed moved to join him, mumbling to himself about reenacting scenes from ‘Hook.’
Jeff shook his head and turned back to look out the window. Britta had left the main set area and the photographer and the other man – who Jeff could only assume was the assistant – were moving items around.
A dark haired young woman wearing a short black robe came into view, and Jeff felt his palms slip a little against the window sill as they grew a little damp. The photographer and his assistant stood to one side, looking at the young woman and gesturing from the couch Britta had sat on to a wall with several windows but not making any move to pose her yet. Jeff realized he was staring at the back of the unknown woman’s knees and dragged his eyes away, turning his head to check on Abed and Troy. (They were now sifting through a box of what appeared to be half masks, occasionally making little noises of triumph or disgust as they separated the contents into two piles.)
Movement from below caught Jeff’s attention, and he turned back to see that the assistant was taking the robe from the young woman, revealing the burgundy bra and tap pant set she wore underneath. Jeff felt his heart rate begin to speed up as he looked down at the top of the young woman’s head, trying not to think about how familiar that cleavage looked and to focus instead on what flavor of Ben & Jerry’s Michelle might want him to pick up that evening or how many more students still had to have their pictures taken.
(Most of all, he tried not to wonder if it was disappointment he was feeling at the thought he might’ve missed Annie having her picture taken.)
The assistant led the young woman over to a window, placing her hands on its frame and tilting a nearby mirror just so before running over to help the photographer climb atop a box for a different angle. Jeff watched as the photographer leaned down to speak to his assistant, then scowled as the assistant went back over to the young woman and gestured animatedly to her, making it clear that the photographer wanted her to shift so her cleavage would be more prominent.
“Typical.” Jeff mumbled to himself.
“What’s that?” Abed piped up from behind, and Jeff made a conscious effort to relax and make his tone light.
“Oh, it’s just that this is typical of one of these calendars: Treating the subjects as objects and not people.” Jeff wondered if the smile he had on his face looked as fake as it felt. Abed nodded even as he raised both eyebrows at Jeff.
Jeff watched as the photographer jumped down from the box and crossed to adjust the young woman’s arms and the fall of her hair, tilting her chin up a little and leaning in toward her in a way Jeff felt was entirely unprofessional. But it was only as the photographer stepped away and nodded, dragging his eyes over the woman’s body that Jeff felt his heart stutter to a stop for a second or two. He inhaled sharply and saw her eyes snap up to the window where he stood.
It was Annie.
It had been strange for Balki to explain, in his stilted English, how to stand so her cleavage would be more obvious, but Annie had gritted her teeth and done her best to follow his instructions.
But when Jean-Luc had come over to fuss with her hair and had leaned in far too close for comfort, she had been hard pressed not to slam his head into a wall the way she’d seen on the episodes of ‘COPS’ she’d watched with the other patients in rehab.
The dark lipstick and eye makeup felt heavy and foreign on her face, and she briefly wondered what Jeff would’ve thought of her hair the way it was now, considering his reaction to when she simply let it down last fall during debate prep.
As Jean-Luc stepped away and considered her silently for a moment, Annie thought she heard a faint gasp. She looked up and her eyes narrowed as, for a moment, she could’ve sworn she saw Jeff standing somewhere in the upper level of the studio, his own gaze fixed solidly on her.
But as that would require Jeff to have either the ability to hover in mid-air or project his image across time and space – and this was reality, not some lame supernatural teen romance – Annie decided this was probably just a nervous hallucination.
(Thankfully, this one did not include any variation of the ‘people are robots’ theme.)
As Jeff stared at Annie in confusion as her eyes found his and she gave him what he deemed a sexy stare, he did what he always did when confronted with a strange or unexpected personal situation.
He turned away from the window, mumbled some hurried explanation of a suddenly remembered appointment to Troy and Abed, and ran.
Minutes later, as he turned the key in the ignition of his Lexus, Jeff felt an unusual tightening in his chest combined with a sinking feeling in his stomach. As he drove out of the Greendale parking lot, he vaguely remembered the sensation as being ‘guilt’ but wasn’t sure if it was because he’d run out on Annie when that photographer was clearly a letch.
Or if it was because when he saw Annie like that, all thoughts of Michelle had slipped from his mind before he was fully aware it was Annie.
“That! That right there! That’s the look I want from you, Tiny One!” Jean-Luc was shouting encouragement at Annie as he hurriedly snapped photos from his perch on a box.
Annie frowned as her hallucination of Jeff turned and ran away. (In all the fantasies she’d had since the debate kiss last fall – and that one, incredibly awkward conversation with the group several weeks ago – the Jeff in her imagination was always running toward her, not away from her.
But, Annie thought as she started to chew on the corner of her lip, Jeff did have the maturity of a 10-year-old boy. Maybe it made more sense for him to run away.)
“NO! No no no no no.” Jean-Luc jumped down from the box and crossed to Annie, brushing Balki aside with a sneer and throwing his hands up in annoyance. He stopped in front of her, leaning down until his face was inches from hers. “Tiny One, why do you taunt Jean-Luc? What has he ever done to you to deserve this? You make the sexy face for an instant and then you turn it off.” He started to run a hand through his hair but stopped when the heavily moussed strands refused to part. He reached out and ran a finger along Annie’s collarbone. “Perhaps there is something Jean-Luc can do to bring the Tiny One’s sexy face back, hmm?”
Annie looked from Jean-Luc’s finger where it rested in the hollow of her clavicle, up to his leering face. She grimaced, took a step back and slapped Jean-Luc.
“Putain! You dare strike Jean-Luc?” The photographer clutched at his face as Annie retreated to the makeup and wardrobe area, returning a moment later dressed once again in her street clothes and using a tissue to wipe the dark stain from her lips.
“Yeah. I dare strike you, you pompous windbag.” Annie stood, hands on hips and stared him down. “What are you going to do about it?”
Jean-Luc visibly shook with anger. “You will be sorry, Tiny One!”
“My name is Annie.” She turned to leave, calling over her shoulder. “Miss Edison if you’re nasty.”
Jean-Luc stood, pouting, for a moment. “Moppet! Mop-PET! Bring Jean-Luc ice this instant.” He felt Balki tap him on the shoulder and turned to face his assistant.
Or rather, he turned to face his assistant’s fist, which slammed into the side of his face with enough force to break the skin by his eye.
“My name is Balki, not ‘Moppet.’ You deserved much more than a slap from that young lady: In fact, you’re lucky you’ve never been sued into bankruptcy before now. And you’re going to stop threatening to kick my dog. Zsa Zsa is a Great Pyrenese: She could probably bite your leg off if you tried to kick her.” Balki gave his boss a wry smile.
“Mopp-Balki. You speak English.”
“Uh, duh? I was a theater major at UCLA.”
“Good morning, Greendale! This is your Dean speaking, and I have some sad news. Due to, uh, contract negotiations, the service club’s charitable calendar, ‘Beauties of Greendale,’ will not be going into production. Instead, they will be organizing an all-natural bake sale, so be on the look out for signs directing you to their table for their yummy, special brownies! They’re so good, they’ll give you a natural high!” Across the campus, students looked at each other askance, wondering if Dean Pelton was aware of the words coming out of his mouth. “If the students who had agreed to participate in the calendar could please drop by my office sometime this week, I have your negatives from the photo shoot.
In other news, the administration of Greendale is proud to announce that one of our most famous alumni, the man who invented Greendale County’s favorite snack, Grizzly’s Pickled Salted Balls, will be here Thursday evening to give a talk about entrepreneurship.
And to the owner of a maroon 1998 S-class Mercedes, license plate H-A-W-T-6-9, your lights are on.”
“Dammit!” Pierce leapt out of his seat, jogging from the study room. “It’s not from 1998!”
“What did the De-” Troy stopped as Jeff and Abed both held up hands. “OK, OK, what did he mean by contract negotiations?”
“I imagine ‘contract negotiations’ is a euphemism for the photographer throwing a hissy fit and refusing to continue to work with the college. It’s a fairly standard plot device to use to remove an obstacle of this nature for the characters.” Abed looked around the table. “I can provide a detailed list of examples from both U.S. and foreign sitcoms -”
“That won’t be necessary.” Shirley interrupted hastily. “I’m just thankful this calendar isn’t going to actually come into being.” She gave the others a triumphant little smile. “That’s the power of prayer, children.”
“Oh, please.” Britta scoffed. “At least in your pictures, you were wearing real clothes. I don’t even want to think about the ridiculous getup they put me in.” Troy’s knee loudly struck the bottom of the table as Abed abruptly dropped his water bottle. They simultaneously leaned down to pick it up, and their heads came together with an audible ‘clack.’
“Mother…” Troy and Abed both rubbed at their heads and studiously avoided Britta’s questioning glance.
“I know.” Annie piped up. “I can’t imagine posing in the outfit they put you in.”
“What did they give you to wear, sweetie? That was after I left the wardrobe area.”
“Oh.” Annie looked blankly at Shirley. “Um. Well, it was just a, uh, well, it was an underwear set.”
“Oh.” Shirley looked a little piqued for a moment. “I’m sure it was tasteful.” She shot Jeff a reprimanding look when he snorted as he sipped his coffee. “What color was it?”
“Uh, it was sort of this dark purple color-” Annie began.
“No, it was burgundy.” Jeff said before he’d even realized he’d opened his mouth. Annie looked at him curiously even as Britta looked skeptically between Jeff and Troy and Abed, who were both still pointedly ignoring her.
“And how would you know, Winger?”
Jeff fought the urge to gulp and guiltily avoid Britta’s gaze. “Uh, well, it’s just, um.” He took a deep breath and looked back at Annie, who had a single brow quirked in question. “Well, I’d imagine that if these people were professionals, they’d know that purple would not be flattering on Annie.”
“Oh, come off it, Queer Eye.” Pierce said as he reentered the study room and sat down, brushing a leaf from his shoulder. “We all know you can spot a Winter or a Spring from a mile away. Can we please get back to Spanish?”
Amid the noise of books and binders being pulled from bags and opened, Annie leaned over to Jeff.
“Purple isn’t a good color on me?”
Jeff cleared his throat and met her gaze, giving her a soft smile. “Not as much as burgundy is.” Annie tilted her head a little to one side and smiled back. “Of course, I would’ve gone with navy and posed you on the couch, but I’m not a professional, now am I?”