“Rindy! Come on honey! We’re going to be late.”
It was the first day of high school for Rindy Aird and even though all she could feel was excitement, her mother was more nervous than ever, if that is even possible.
“Did you pack your bag? Don’t forget that your father will pick you up directly at school so you can spend the week with him.”
As Carol finished her sentence, she heard someone running down the stairs.
“I’m here Mom. And yes I packed my bag. Look!” she dramatically raised her arm, showing her sports bag full of clothes.
Rindy was Carol’s portrait. As her mother, long blond curls were framing her face, her blue-gray eyes were as piercing as a lake reflecting a stormy sky, and she was almost Carol’s height, way taller than a 14-year-old should be.
“Alright let’s go, the car is already waiting for us.”
Both left the large apartment situated on Madison Avenue, took the elevator, and not even five minutes later, were on their way to one of the most renowned institutions of New York.
“So, how are you feeling sweetheart?”
“I honestly can’t wait, mom,” she almost screamed, “to discover this new world, meet all those people, and just, you know, live a new experience. And... I am also glad that this school is for people more like me.”
At this particular comment, Carol frowned.
“What do you mean more like you? With divorced parents?” She sighed. “Honey we talked about it and you know it’s not that ra-”
“No no no, I didn’t mean that at all.” She reassured her mother. “But… you know… I mean people more like you…”
She blushed for an instant but quickly added.
“You are aware not everyone is nationally, even internationally, known nor is constantly stopped in the street as soon as someone hears their name, to take a selfie or ask for an autograph right?”
“Yes, I am aware.” Carol chuckled, “And first of all, I am internationally not known, my agency is. Second of all I’m not stopped in the street that often,” she added with a perfect arched eyebrow.
“And finally, I am sorry if it bothers you. But as you said, most of the kids here have their parents rather famous, so it might help you to keep your feet firmly on the ground,” she added with a chuckle while riffling Rindy’s hair.
“Mom!!! I spent 30 min on it this morning.”
“We are here Ms. Ross” the driver interrupted.
“Oh! Let me go grab your bag in the trunk and give you a hug, honey.”
“No mom, please. Um, could you please stay in the car?” Rindy asked rather sheepishly.
Carol’s face instantly dropped.
“Why? Does it bother you that much? Why didn’t you tell me?”
“No it’s not who you are, it’s... how you look like...”
“Do I have something on my face?”
Rindy took a deep breath.
“Mom, let’s admit it, you are beautiful,” Carol opened her mouth but Rindy raised a finger in order to not be interrupted.
“I know how you see yourself, but it’s a fact that people stare at you, even when they don’t know who you are.” She dropped her gaze as she added “and I know it’s selfish but I want my first day to be about me, not about who my gorgeous mother is, that mysterious woman no one could stop looking at.”
It is not that Carol wasn’t used to receiving compliments. She ran a model agency and people confounded her with a model on a daily basis. But her own daughter saying this as an irrevocable fact was something she didn’t prepare herself to hear while getting up this morning. And her crimson face was proof of that.
“All right, all right. I don’t want to steal your spotlight.” She made a joke to hide how deeply uncomfortable and touched, she was by this turn of events.
Divorcing her ex-husband, Harge Aird, hadn’t been an easy time, but she did it mainly for her daughter. And creating such a deep bond with Rindy was one of her biggest achievements. Knowing that her daughter looked up to her in this regard, was a great bonus, but nonetheless, it warmed her heart.
“Okay now give me a big squeeze” she hugged her daughter and whispered in her ear “I love you honey, have a great day. And don’t get in too much trouble!”
As Rindy opened the door and answered a joyful “I love you too, see you on Friday”, Carol quickly wiped a tear away.
“To my office, please Robert”.
Carol was the founder and sole owner of Reflections, a model agency known worldwide. She had created it, following her passion for the world of fashion and three months after the creation of the agency, she hadn’t expected to know such success. Over time, the agency became an entity, her models being A-listers to events and every fashion week. But also representing and putting into light every women, and not just women being seen as perfection in a patriarchal society. Reflection had revolutionized the world of fashion and paved the way for body positivity. Carol Ross was considered an icon by many, even if most of them didn’t know what she looked like. She had made sure to put her agency and her models in the spotlight and not herself.
Carol entered the familiar building, noticing everyone either looking in the other direction or flashing her their fakest smile. There was no in-between. Either people were afraid of her, or they admired her so much that they were ready to do almost anything in order to get a simple greeting. But when she entered her office, she was welcomed with a much truthful sight. A coffee waiting on her desk, and a warming smile and open arms belonging to her best friend.
“I know I know, your baby is growing up too fast, you can’t believe she’s already a woman and soon she will leave to get on with her own life.”
“Now don’t mention her leaving Abigail, do you want to see me cry?” Carol joked as she hugged Abby.
“No, I’d rather have you not entering your first meeting of the day with your mascara on your cheeks. By the way, this suit is phenomenal”
Carol was wearing a purple velvety suit. The low-cut neckline would have made more than one person uncomfortable but the way Carol wore it translated confidence in not only the clothes but also her body. She was the definition of elegance and stylish.
“You like it? Rindy picked it up for me the other day while we were shopping.”
“Wait a second.” Abby interrupted her, looking as if Carol had told her she had robbed a bank. “You actually went to a mall? Are you crazy?!” After seeing the look on her best friend’s face, Abby changed her tone.
“Carol,” she sighed, “I know you want to keep a somewhat normal life, but you know it’s impossible. Not after most of your models, and yourself, have made the first page of most fashion magazines and are the first hired for the fashion week”
“I know. It was for Rindy’s birthday alright? We hadn’t done a daughter-mother afternoon in months. And don’t worry nothing happened. I know where to go when I don’t want to be bothered. I am a grown woman and I’ve been dealing with this for ten years now.”
Carol had learned, at her own expense, how to hide from paparazzi, fans, and models wanting to be recruited. She had developed over the years a certain bubble to protect her family and herself and didn’t let anyone in, even more since Rindy had entered her life.
“Your first meeting is here Ms. Ross.” Carol’s secretary announced over the intercom.
“Thank you, Naomi. I’ll be right here.”
She then turned to Abby.
“I don’t feel like seeing people tonight I’m sorry, but we can definitely go eat at some restaurant this week,” she proposed. Then seeing Abby’s disappointed face she added.
“I know but I need to be on my own for a little while. To recenter me. You know how I am”
“Of course.” Abby smiled, “I’ll text you so we can set up a date or I’ll see you on Wednesday. Go work wonders,” she winked as she left Carol’s office.
The blonde took a deep breath, pushed her daughter out of her mind, and went to indeed work wonders.
Carol came back home quite late that night. She always immersed herself in work whenever Rindy was at Harge’s. But today especially, she felt a need to be by herself, to revitalize. Her life had taken a turn 20 years ago when she decided to create Reflections and hired Abby as her first model.
Abby was a gorgeous woman. With auburn hair and deep brown eyes, her posture and forms allowed her to stand out in any crowd. If you asked Abby herself, she’d always say that the beauty was Carol, but the latter never saw herself as such and spent years studying, researching, traveling to expand her knowledge, which resulted in her being the most intelligent and well-spoken person in any situation. They made quite the pair, always had, and were inseparable.
Carol’s life had been a rollercoaster for most of her adult years, and even though she was very proud of the life she had built for herself and the daughter she was raising, she often felt lonely. Paradoxically she was rarely alone. Either at the agency with several clients, taking care of Rindy at home, or even going to soirees and parties each shallower than the last one.
Needing simplicity, she dismissed her maid and cook for the week, took off her makeup, traded her suit for some sweatpants and a large t-shirt after taking a long-awaited shower. She ordered a pizza and put on one of her favorite movies, ‘A Woman Under The Influence’.
Carol woke up with a jolt and realized the movie had ended as the credits were being shown. She looked outside her window. It was dark. Then checked the hour. 10 pm.
“This will have to do,” she mumbled.
She took her keys, a cap, and sunglasses just in case, and without a second thought, went to the elevator, informed the receptionist her apartment was empty and left her building.
She had no destination in mind but found herself in Central Park and just kept walking. This was the fresh air she had been craving for weeks, for months.
She sat at a bench and looked at the people passing by, alone, with their partners, or in a group at night. She enjoyed the anonymity and freedom that New York City allowed.
And that’s when she saw her.
A somewhat short brunette was taking pictures of the park. She seemed to be playing with the light the street lamp that she was standing under provided. Carol could not take her eye off her. There was something in the way the brunette was engrossed in what she was doing, in her own world, completely oblivious to what was happening around her.
As the brunette lowered her camera, she met her eyes.
Suddenly, emerald green eyes connected with her and she stopped breathing. All her senses were focused on this woman. Both were captivated by one another, and couldn't hear anything else than their own heartbeat which seemed louder than ever.
The magic was broken when Carol’s phone rang. She got out of her trance and looked at her screen.
When she looked up again the brunette had disappeared. Carol left out a disappointing sight.
“Of course everything’s alright. So tell me, how was your big day?”
Carol got home an hour later with a different craving than the one she had had when she left. Even though she had listened to every detail of her daughter’s day, her mind hadn’t been able to move on from those green eyes. And neither had her heart.