“Really?” Bruno asked as he raised an eyebrow at Natalie, trying not to laugh at her. “A beauty pageant? Why would you want to do a beauty pageant?”
Natalie rolled her eyes, laughing at him as she pushed his arm a little at his teasing. “It’ll be funny,” she said simply, shrugging her shoulders. “We don’t know what we’re doing so I’ll get a kick out of it.”
Bruno simply shook his head, not quite understanding their idea in the whole thing. “So when is it?” he asked, glancing back up to her.
Natalie shrugged her shoulders. “It’s like in two weeks. And I still haven’t even planned anything…” she let out a small sigh, not exactly stressed about it in any way. She figured it would be a fun way to start out the summer, and it’d give them all an excuse to dress up for once.
“Guess what else is coming up?” Bruno asked as he grabbed Natalie by her waist, pulling her down on the sofa with him.
She shrugged her shoulders, turning to smile at him. “I don’t know,” she teased.
“Actually, make that two things,” Bruno added as he hooked his finger through the bracelet he’d given her on her birthday last year. He looked back up at her with a small smile, shrugging his shoulders.
Natalie shook her head, rolling her eyes. “Oh whatever,” she said, knowing what he was thinking. “Don’t be acting like anything special is going to happen because I guarantee of all days of the year, that’ll be the one that they’ll be riding my ass over,” she continued with a sigh, knowing her mom and dad were still slightly psychotic over the idea of those two ever being left alone.
“So, it doesn’t hurt to try,” Bruno said in a singing voice, resting his head on her shoulder. He dropped his hands down to her sides, gently touching near her hips. “A year,” he said softly sounding as if dazing off. “That’s a long time.”
Natalie shrugged her shoulders. “I think it went by fast,” she said honestly. “It’s almost been two years since I’ve moved here.”
Bruno smiled against her neck. “Eric said I wouldn’t even be able to last a month in a relationship,” he said, sounding accomplished. “Damn, he owes me twenty bucks.”
“Glad I could be a part of your bet,” Natalie said sarcastically, rolling her eyes again.
Bruno laughed, looking up at her. “Well what do you want to do since my plans are completely shot out?” He asked in the same sarcastic tone Natalie was playing with.
“I don’t know…” she said honestly. “And I still have a couple of weeks to figure it out so settle down now,” she added, pushing his chest.
“Okay,” Bruno said muffled against her neck as he began kissing her.
Natalie squirmed in his arms, unable to free herself from his tight grip. She felt him smiling against her neck as she let out a sigh. “Bruno,” she said in an almost whiny voice. “I have to go. I promised Sav that I’d go to the mall with her.”
“So, you can go to the mall any other time,” he replied flatly, kissing her on the lips now. Natalie tried to deny him, but gave in when he pressed his lips onto hers.
“I’m still leaving,” Natalie said between his kissing, knowing she wasn’t making a very strong argument.
Bruno gently shook his head, not breaking contact. He shifted her body from his lap, moving over her. “No you’re not,” he simply replied, knowing he was right as he smiled against her mouth, leaning on top of her.
“We’re such idiots,” Natalie said a week later as the three of them stood in a makeshift dressing room behind a hotel’s lobby. She blinked her eyes once, feeling the odd sensation of fake lashes weighing down her eyes.
Savannah laughed as she looked over to Natalie. “We look like barbies,” she smiled, glancing in one of the many mirrors.
“But don’t you think it’s a little odd how there are eleven year old girls running around who take this so seriously?” Hadley added in as she glanced across the room, eyeing one girl in particular.
“I think it’s more odd seeing girls who are older than us that take it so seriously,” Natalie said in a lower tone, turning her eyes over to a couple of eighteen year old girls.
“Whatever,” Savannah laughed, turning her head of curls up towards the ceiling. “Either way we’re going to strut our shit,” she smirked jokingly, walking away with a strut.
Natalie glanced at Hadley, shrugging her shoulders as the announcer called for the last five minutes before the pageant began. She looked down at the frilly dress she wore, grabbing the sides of her chest and pulling it up a little with a laugh, turning to follow behind Savannah.
“This’ll be something good to add to the books,” she whispered to Hadley as they filed in the back of the lobby, waiting for their age group to be called.
Natalie plucked the fake eyelashes from her eyelids as she walked back into the dressing room, letting out a deep sigh. She fell back into one of the styling chairs set up, glancing over to Hadley who followed her in the room, taking a chair of her own. Natalie simply shook her head, laughing when she made eye contact with her.
“Well that was fun,” she joked, feeling tried now that the long day was over.
“I can’t believe Savannah won mini supreme,” Hadley added, laughing. “I’m sure that’ll help her ego…”
“Whatever, I mean she still got beat by an eight year old,” Natalie pointed out, referring to the young blonde girl who’d gotten the highest title. “But hey, I won prettiest smile and supreme of our division so I’m happy,” she said giddily, smirking mockingly as she purposely smiled bright.
Hadley shrugged her shoulders, turning to the mirror to begin taking out her hair pieces. “I’d do it again,” she said with a small smile.
“Yeah, except it seems a bit mainstream that they have to do a swimsuit portion because we’re in Hawaii,” Natalie said, rolling her eyes, not exactly comfortable with that event in the pageant. “And plus it sort of creeps me out when there are so many people watching me and I know they’re all looking at me when I’m half-naked,” she added, wrinkling her nose.
Hadley laughed, nodding her head. “I’m sure Bruno was happy,” she said, raising an eyebrow over to her.
“I bet not,” Natalie replied, looking into the mirror, trying to figure out how the hairstylist even got all of her hair into the odd style above her head. “Don’t you remember on Halloween when he flipped shit?” she asked, remembering a not-so-happy night.
The girls had all planned on wearing quite skimpy Halloween costumes to a party they were going to. It was clearly a joke to all of them, but Bruno hadn’t found it as funny. The two spent ten minutes fighting in the middle of Ryan’s living room until Natalie finally stormed out the door, crying and insisting that she was just going to walk home. It took another five minutes for Ryan to convince her to get into his car because she refused to even speak to Bruno. Needless to say she went nearly a week before she finally spoke to him again.
“Oh right,” Hadley replied after a moment of thought, biting her lip back as if thinking about something.
“But he’s always overdramatic so I wouldn’t be surprised if he yells at me for doing a pageant in the first place,” Natalie said, rolling her eyes and slightly laughing. She tugged at her hair a few times, pulling bobby pins and clips out from every direction.How in the hell did she do this? Natalie thought, wondering how the woman who did her hair could manage to hide so many bobby pins in her hair.
After another twenty minutes, the girls eventually washed their makeup off and undid as much of their hair as they could with the amount of hairspray that was cemented in. Natalie was more than happy to tear out of her itchy dress, throwing on a t-shirt and sweats. Her mom, who was still a little questioning on her daughter’s reasoning for wanting to do a pageant, helped her gather her things up. Natalie said she was going with Bruno, and finally left the makeshift dressing room area.
As she walked through the recreation room towards the lobby, Natalie saw a bright eyed man walking up towards her. “Natalie Jackson, right?” he asked as he approached her, causing her to stop walking.
He looked quite young, and smiled at her with flashy teeth when she made eye contact. “Yeah, that’s me…” she replied oddly, giving him a questioning look.
He reached out his hand to shake hers, introducing himself. “I’m Collin Eckley from Elite Modeling Management in Los Angeles,” he said professionally, rising Natalie’s questioning even further. He went on to explaining this company a little further and how he was currently in the state on vacation, but heard of the pageant and decided to check it out. “Have you ever considered a career in modeling?” he asked when she said she’d never done anything relatively close to a pageant.
Natalie smiled, shaking her head, trying not to laugh. “I’m only five foot four. I hardly doubt I’m fit for modeling,” she said, shrugging her shoulders.
He shrugged his shoulders, smiling, understanding her. “But you’re such a natural at it!” He exclaimed with almost more enthusiasm than Natalie thought was necessary. “You’ve got such beautiful natural beauty and a great complexion,” he added, scanning his eyes over her face.
Natalie felt her cheeks grow hot at his compliment. “Thank you,” she said with a small smile, feeling slightly shy now.
“But really,” Collin continued, his face turning serious on her now. “You should really consider the field,” he said, beginning to explain of the company a little more. He proposed an offer to her in Los Angeles and of joining into the agency after a few more minutes of talking. “And you know you can always just try it out to see how things go, and if you’re not liking it, there’s no cost to you and you’ll be back in Hawaii without a contract,” he concluded, shaking his head as he tried to convince her.
Natalie bit her lip for a moment, staring at the ground. Modeling? She thought, wondering how this seemed to appear out of nowhere. She shook her head after a few more seconds, looking back up at him. “I think Los Angeles is a little out of reach for me,” she said, shrugging her shoulders.
“No, that’s alright,” he said, not sounding offended. He shoved his hand into his pocket, moving it around. “Just, why don’t you think about it?” he asked as he pulled out a small business card, handing it to her. “Here’s my card, and if you have any other questions or consideration of it, feel free to call me.”
Natalie looked down at the neatly printed black and white card, nodding her head. He bid his goodbyes to her, telling her to consider herself one more time before turning from her. Natalie read over the card a few more times before she finally began walking into the lobby.
“Modeling?” Bruno asked as he flopped down onto his bed, Natalie sitting across from him, finishing up her story of Collin Eckley. He looked up from the business card that she showed him, raising an eyebrow towards her.
She shrugged her shoulders. “It was the swimsuit that sealed the deal,” she said dramatically, turning her nose up to the ceiling.
Bruno eyed her curiously for a minute, looking up from the card. “I didn’t like that part,” he said, crawling over towards her, grabbing her waist and pulling her down so they were both laying down, facing each other on their sides.
Natalie couldn’t help but laugh at him, covering her mouth as she tried to keep from annoying him.
“What?” he asked, wrinkling his forehead. “Why are you laughing?”
Natalie shook her head, recovering herself. “I totally called that,” she said, still trying not to laugh. “I told Hadley you’d be mad about that.”
“I’m not mad,” Bruno replied, wrapping his arms around her waist as he snuggled his face in towards her neck. “Don’t think I didn’t see those creepy men in the back,” Bruno said muffled against her, making her laugh.
“What?” she asked, still trying to control her laughter. “You’re not comfortable with the fact that I’m strutting my shit all up on a stage, practically naked?” she laughed, feeling him squeeze her as she continued on with the sentence.
“Shut up,” Bruno said, still muffled. “Don’t even say that.”
“You’re just jealous that everyone got to see my body,” she laughed.
“No,” he replied. “Why would I be jealous when I’ve seen far more than that?”
Natalie softly smacked him across the head. “You’re so perverted.”
It was Bruno’s turn to laugh at her comment. He only hugged her closer, wrapping his feet around hers. “But modeling? That’s so random…” he said in a more serious tone.
Natalie shrugged her shoulders “I guess I’m just so hot the whole world should see me,” she said with a shrug and a pretend cocky smile, laughing slightly.
“How about you’re just so hot that only I get to see you?” Bruno said as he rolled on top of her, looking down at her with a smile.
“Okay,” Natalie smiled back as she ran her feet across his. “That works for now,” she added as Bruno leaned down to kiss her.
“For now?” Bruno asked, pulling back from her lips for a second. “I’d like to keep it like that forever,” he said, leaning back into her mouth, kissing her fully with his mouth again.
“What are you looking at?” Bruno asked a few days later as he walked into the aquarium where Natalie was working.
She shrugged her shoulders, flipping through some pages. “I don’t know, just…” she drifted off halfway through the sentence, resting her chin in her hand.
Bruno leaned over the counter, glancing down at the booklet. “California?” he asked, raising his eyebrow at the college pamphlet. “You know you still have a good year to decide on schools…”
“I don’t know,” she said, flipping it shut and glancing up at him, her elbow still on the counter. She shrugged her shoulders once more, biting her lips for a second. “I was just looking.”
Bruno squinted his eyes back at her for a moment as if trying to read her mind. “No you weren’t,” he said simply, leaning against the counter top.
Natalie only shrugged her shoulders again. “Well I mean come on, I can’t say I haven’t considered the idea…” she replied honestly. For the past couple of days she’d found herself curiously staring at the business card, deciding on whether or not she should call.
Bruno let out an annoyed sigh, standing up straight. “Why do you keep going back to that?” He asked, sounding rather annoyed at her.
“I don’t know, I’m just curious, geez,” she said, slightly glaring at him. “And even just a summer in LA, I mean, come on,” she added, trying not to sound too happy at the thought, knowing it’d piss him off.
“Well beings as you still have one more year, I wouldn’t get your hopes up…” Bruno replied, trying to cover the moodiness in his voice.
Oh my God, he’s more of a girl than I am, Natalie thought, rolling her eyes at his drama. “Yeah but I mean I talked to my parents and my aunt and uncle live just a few miles from the agency and there’s a really great school there and all…” she said, beginning to ramble on.
“What are you saying then?” Bruno asked with a curious look, hearing of this for the first time from her.
Natalie shook her head, putting the booklet away. “Nevermind,” she said. “Just don’t get so worked up about it.”
“I just don’t get how you suddenly decide that you want to move to California,” Bruno said simply, watching her eyes.
“I never said I wanted to move there, Bruno,” Natalie replied, beginning to put some things away as closing time approached.
Bruno wrinkled his forehead at her in confusion. “But you keep talking about it and already have plans and shit on staying with your family.”
“It was just a thought, Bruno,” Natalie said in a louder voice. “I told you that already. Can we not fight over something that’s not even happening?”
Bruno let out another sigh as he shook his head, glancing down at his hands. Natalie could tell he was still a little angry, but he didn’t say anything further on the subject.
Natalie continued to finish of her part in closing up as neither of them spoke for some time. After several moments, Bruno lifted his head, speaking in a much calmer tone. “But you’re really considering it, aren’t you?” he asked, his eyes following her as she grabbed her bag to go.
“I don’t want to talk about it I said,” Natalie replied, walking past him towards the door. He turned from his spot, following her outside towards his car. “Can we just get something to eat?”
“Why do you keep avoiding the question?” Bruno asked, putting the key in the ignition.
“Because you are thinking about it,” Bruno interjected, turning to look at her.
“And why in the hell does it matter?!” Natalie suddenly snapped back. “So what if I thought about it?
“Because you keep acting like you’re not!” Bruno said as he hit his hand down on the steering wheel.
“Yeah,” she stated moodily. “Because I don’t want you to worry and flip shit over it like you are right now.”
“So, what?” Bruno began sarcastically as he turned towards her. “If you’ve already got your mind set on something how is it going to change if I know now verses if I find out later?”
Natalie ignored him, shaking her head.
“Just what is it that intrigues you so much to go there so bad?” He asked when she didn’t say anything.
“Oh my God, Bruno!” Natalie snapped, shaking her head. “It’s not like you would even understand beings as you’re so fucking selfish, my god,” She added, feeling a few tears burning in her eyes.
“Natalie,” Bruno stated flatly, shaking his head. ”I just don’t understand why you suddenly decide oh hey look, I got one opportunity to go somewhere so what the hell, I’ll just drop everything right now and take a risk for some fucking agency that I’ve heard of one time. That doesn’t even make sense. And then you’re acting like it’s supposed to be some discreet thing that I can’t know about. What the hell, Natalie?”
Natalie wiped one tear from her eye. Fuck this, she thought. I can’t ever get anything across him without it turning into a big deal. “Can you just take me home?” she asked, staring blankly forwards.
Bruno let out a deep sigh, running his hands through his hair, resting his head on the steering wheel as he waited for the stoplight. “Can you just tell me when you planned on telling me about your thoughts?” He asked flatly, his head still down.
“Fucking, I give up,” Natalie stated, partially to herself. She unbuckled herself from the seat, opening the door of his car and walking out onto the middle of the street as he still waited for the stoplight.
“Oh my God, Natalie,” She heard Bruno groan, ignoring him as she wiped some tears from her eyes, stressed out. She walked across the street and onto the sidewalk, heading in the general direction towards her house.
“Natalie come on,” She heard Bruno say as he slowly pulled up alongside her on the less busy street.
“No, I’m sick of arguing,” she said stubbornly, keeping her pace. “It’s pointless with you.”
Bruno pulled over suddenly, cussing under his breath as he put the car in park. He jogged over to where Natalie was; still ignoring him. “Just come and get in the car,” Bruno said softly, touching her arm slightly.
“Stop,” she said, shrugging him off. “I’d much prefer to get picked up on the side of the streets by a rapist,” she added with the same stubborn attitude, causing Bruno to roll his eyes at her.
“Just let me give you a ride home at least,” Bruno said in a much softer tone, knowing he’d have to cave a bit for her to agree with him. “I’m done fighting.”
Natalie let out a small sigh before stopping, turning back around to where Bruno parked. She avoided his eye contact as she walked past him moodily, getting into the passenger side.
“You’re still an asshole,” Natalie flatly said as he got in the car, driving away.