2007 Valentine's Fiction Contest: Finalist

With the Phone in Her Hand

  The photograph that inspired the 2007 Valentine's Fiction Contest.
The photograph that inspired the 2007 Valentine's Fiction Contest. (Jutta Klee -- Getty - )
By Katharine Coldiron
Thursday, February 7, 2008; 5:46 PM

The hotel was warm, overwarm, and we'd been there for three hours. The phone didn't ring. Stuart smoked my cigarettes.

"Will you tell me who we're shooting today or not?" I asked.

"You figure it out for yourself."

"She's finicky, whoever she is."

"That's a good start," said Stuart, and grinned, gap-toothed. I must've told Alice forty times that he looks more like a piano mover than a photographer.

"For Chrissake, just tell me."

He got up, moved to the window, looked out of it. "Don't want you getting too nervous," he grunted. "You'll find out soon enough."

Too nervous? Who the hell did he think I was? I'd shot for photoplay magazines for years, getting close enough to Betty Grable to spit on her, watching Rita Hayworth blow her nose in the ladies' room. No one could make me nervous. Certainly no one that Stuart could conjure up. Shooting against backdrops in the Plaza was a little different than waiting in the shrubs outside Twenty-One, but I'd been at the classy work for six months now and was learning that often as not, it was just as cramped, just as tiresome.

"She's two doors down from us, isn't she?"

"Yeah," said Stuart, and looked out the window some more. I could hear his nerves singing. He usually wasn't starstruck, and I was worried. I picked up my Luckies and lit another. Stuart watched the cabs in the tiny streets. He tapped a foot.

"It's not the Queen of England, is it?"

Stuart looked at me. "Ned, would the Queen of England be on the cover of Look?"

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