She was going to be late for class. Psyche saved the essay she’d been writing, stuffed her laptop in her bag, and grabbed the latest issue of Chic Obsession magazine from the coffee table as she ran.
It had Eros’ latest photo shoot in there and she wanted to sit and drool over the glorious composition and sense of story in every element of his images. Looking through it would be her post-lecture reward to herself.
She followed the social media accounts of most fashion magazines and all the top photographers but Eros, his pictures demanded the intensity of print. Magazines were a luxury on her student budget, but she always bought the ones with his name on the cover, then carefully cut the pages out, and stored them in an album on her book case.
At the door, she nearly collided with her flatmate, Aglaura and some guy, presumably her latest boyfriend. Aglaura grimaced. “I thought you’d already be gone.”
Psyche grimaced back. “Lost track of time. See you later.”
As she belted down the hall to the stairwell, she heard the male companion say. “Who was that? She’s gorgeous!”
And another one bites the dust. Poor Aglaura, and her other flatmate, Cilippe. Every time they brought a new boyfriend home, he would start sidling up to Psyche. It didn’t matter how cold, or dismissive, or rude to them she was, her face and figure were all they saw, all they wanted, and they would dump her flatmates to ask her out, then get offended when she said no. Hopefully this one would be different but she wasn’t holding her breath.
She made the bus by the skin of her teeth and hoped no one had parked in the clearway on the main route to college. The fates were with her and she arrived with enough time to make it to her lecture before it started. She waved to the driver as she jumped off the bus and ignored the three schoolboys yelling out of the windows for her social media ‘handle’. She did have an account, under a pseudonym, and the profile picture was of her, with her face completely hidden by an old-fashioned film camera. All her posts were pictures she’d taken of the places and people around her. Her online followers were the only people who appreciated her for her work, rather than her looks.
She slowed outside the door of the classroom and walked in at a normal pace. Most of the class were used to her now, and were kind enough to leave her be. Only John, Jamal, and Patrick continued to push, each of them now waving and pointing to the free seat between them. Instead, she took a chair in the back row, by the window. In the next seat along was a five foot nothing goth girl who’d grabbed Patrick’s balls in a squirrel grip the first week and threatened to shove them down his throat if he annoyed her, by annoying Psyche.
The girl later introduced herself as Persephone and the bitingly funny little bundle of spite quickly became Psyche’s best friend.
The lecturer arrived and everyone arranged themselves to pay attention. No one knew who had managed to talk Doctor Thoth into teaching a class at their fairly obscure London design college, or how, but his classes filled up immediately, and stayed full, term after term, regardless of the topic he decided to discuss.
His research area was ancient history, and his passion was using the relics and knowledge he collected to inspire and inform new designs for the current day. He was credited with revolutionising elements of home interior design, office layout, transport, retail experience and more.
A tall, skinny man with a long, hooked nose and a piercing gaze, he peppered his teaching with stories that made the ideas and theories easier to remember. Psyche took pen-to-paper notes in his classes, rather than hiding behind her laptop screen as she usually did.
At the end, he scanned the room with a level stare. “Remember, your essays are due at the end of the week. Please do not disappoint me by being late.”
Everyone gulped, and scribbled, and he gave a satisfied, jerky nod before stalking out of the room.
Amidst the general movement of gathering things and leaving, Persephone said. “You good for lunch? Or are you running straight home?”
Psyche replied. “Lunch would be great, I timed it wrong and was still there when Aglaura brought some guy over.”
Persephone winced. “Yeah, okay, definitely give her time to cool the head of steam.”
Jamal caught up with her as they headed down the corridor. “You’re not going to the guest talk? It’s Aphrodite, you know, Head of PR for Z Corp Fashion.”
Psyche shook her head. “It’ll be packed, I’ll watch the replay online.”
Patrick sidled up as they walked and sniggered. “Yeah, who wants to go and see that old crone when lunch with the lovely Psyche is on the agenda.”
A strikingly elegant blonde woman at the end of the hallway paused and looked at them.
Persephone held up a hand, curled into a purple-nailed claw. “Did I say you were invited?”
Jamal caught Patrick in a not-entirely-playful headlock. “He knows better than to intrude on girl-time, we’ll just eat and worship from a distance.”
The blonde woman disappeared through a door, and Persephone said. “I wonder what got her knickers in a knot.”
Psyche looked at her questioningly, Persephone nodded to the doorway the woman had gone through. “That was Aphrodite, and she looked like she’d been sucking on lemons.”
Patrick sniggered. “Like you’d know.”
Psyche choked and Persephone gave him her best withering glare. “I’m Demeter’s daughter, Mum and ‘Dite are thick as thieves. She and Hera come over every second Friday night, and they all get hammered and trade evil gossip about everyone in Z Corp.”
Patrick did not wither, he brightened and moved closer to Persephone (although still out of claw’s reach). “So… If I wanted to get into Z Corp, you know, working with the models on all their fashion shoots and stuff, who can you hook me up with?”
Persephone looked him over. “No one. I’ve seen your photos, they suck.”
With that, she looped her arm through Psyche’s and dragged her down the stairs.
Over lunch, Psyche and Persephone sat across from each other, each twisting a little to look through the pages of the magazine, Psyche sighing over the brilliance of Eros’s photos. The editorial team had included a portrait of him in the ‘contributors’ section and she wondered how he’d managed to escape to the back of the camera. His finely carved features and mahogany curls were every bit as arresting as those of the Z Corp supermodels, both male and female, he committed to print each season.
Persephone looked up, over Psyche’s shoulder, narrowed her eyes in a glare, then refocused on Psyche. “Your photos are good too. I bet they could be as good as his if you got the right mentor.”
Psyche forgot Persephone’s distraction in her rush to disagree. “Mine are nothing special at all, and even though I am learning about composition and things in the Analogue Imagery unit I’m doing, I can never get darkroom time to learn how to process my film properly.”
Persephone looked confused, then understanding dawned. “All the guys grab your ‘lab partner’ spot and try to romance you.”
Psyche hunched her shoulders and nodded, then turned both their attention back to the photo spread. “See there, that’s what I mean. He creates beauty in everything.”
Persephone leaned back. “I think he finds it, rather than creates it.”
“But then he creates the beautiful picture.”
Psyche heard the faint click and whir of a film camera from behind her. She refused to turn and look. There was another Patrick in the photography class. His name was Christos, but he was another Patrick, and the theme he’d chosen for his term’s assignment was to collect ‘candid shots of fellow students’. The theme he was actively pursuing was ‘sneaky shots of Psyche’.
That afternoon, her Analogue Imagery tutor, Janet, asked her to stay behind for a moment.