Rikki Chadwick brushed a few strands of blonde hair out of her face, pouring yet another cup of coffee into her favorite mug. Now that the lunch rush was over, it looked like it would be another quiet day at the café.
Rikki sighed and looked over the small number of orders she had taken today. It was already 1:30 and they'd only had five tables. When Rikki's had first opened, a beautiful Saturday like this would've brought in a crowd of customers. She knew what had caused this abrupt change in business, and she intended to fix it, right that minute.
"Zane!" she called into the office after taking a sip of coffee. She grabbed a menu on the way inside.
"Hey, babe." Zane said. Rikki rolled her eyes. She hated pet names.
As usual, Zane was sitting on the couch with Nate playing some dirt biking game. His eyes didn't stray from the TV when she walked in. Rikki could probably walk around topless and he would've even glance up, not with that stupid game on.
"Zane, we need to talk." Rikki told her boyfriend.
Nate looked up from his controller. "Ooooooh." he called to Zane. "She's got in in for ya, mate."
"I want to talk to him alone." Rikki hinted. Nate didn't move.
Rikki groaned and went to her last resort. She walked over to the TV and quickly switched it off. The two boys immediately started complaining, but at least they started to realize she was serious about having a talk. Nate left with a "good luck" to his friend, and Rikki and Zane were finally alone.
"If this is about that broken plate, I told you it wasn't my fault." Zane said quickly.
"It's not about the plate. It's about these prices! They're ridiculous, and they're driving our customers away." Rikki explained, dropping the menu in his lap before taking Nate's former seat. Two weeks ago, Zane had decided to raise all the prices up two dollars. Ever since then, Rikki had overheard grumbling about the prices and witnessed the people dwindling. Today was a prime example of that.
"But the ones who stay pay more." Zane reminded her.
"Zane...we should be trying to establish a business here. We need people who become regulars and tell their friends about the café, not people who complain about our high prices and drive away their friends." she tried to reason with him logically.
Zane pulled Rikki close and kissed her. "Fine, whatever you want. I'll change them back this weekend...and then we can advertise a price drop! It'll be brilliant."
Rikki smiled good-naturedly, kissed Zane again, and went back out to check on the café. There was a thirty-something year old man waiting to be served at the bar.
"Sorry mate, didn't hear you come in. What can I get for you?" Rikki asked him politely.
It was funny how much she'd changed in the past few years. She remembered waitressing at the JuiceNet with Emma and how difficult she had found it...the endless complainers, having to be nice all the time, and the constant rushing to get things done. Now she loved it, and personally thanked each person for coming and supporting Rikki's. Every time money went into the till, Rikki felt a sense of satisfaction.
The man looked up from his menu. He looked like a business-man type, the sort of person Mr. Bennett would work with. His dark eyes studied her make-up less face and messy bun before ordering. "I'll take a large coffee, black, with two sugars."
"Coming right up." Rikki told him, scribbling the order down on a notepad. She could feel the man's eyes on her as she prepared his drink. When she went to hand it to him, he was scrutinizing her body. Super creepy.
She ignored the staring and cleaned off a few tables. She didn't wash them, of course. That was Zane's job. The last thing she needed was a certain fishy development at work.
Her thoughts were interrupted by the man at the bar. "You know," he called to her, "you've got a very interesting look. Is that your natural hair color?"
"Uh, thanks. Yes it is." Rikki said. She had been asked that question at nearly every hairdressing shop she'd been to.
"How tall are you?" the man inquired, studying her like she was a new car to buy.
"About 168 centimeters." she told him.
The man laughed, a pleasant lilting sound. "I bet I'm coming off a bit strangely, sorry about that. I'm a modeling agent. My name is Darren Montgomery. Perhaps you've heard of me?"
Rikki shook her head slowly. Was this guy trying to pull her leg? "I haven't...sorry."
"No worries, no worries." Darren said and laughed again. "I'll tell you what, you're exactly the type of girl I'm looking to manage. Fresh, young, beautiful...why don't you come by my office and we can set you up with some headshots? Free of charge, of course. I've got a client who I already know would be interested in you."
Rikki considered it for a moment. Rikki Chadwick, a model? Those words just didn't blend. "I don't think so. Thanks for the offer."
Darren looked surprised at her refusal. "Okay, well, I'll leave you my card in case you reconsider. And I highly suggest you do." He dropped money on the table for his coffee, along with a business card, and left. Rikki watched him walk away. Did that really just happen? Sure, someone like Cleo could easily be a model-she was tall, thin and gorgeous. And she could easily picture Bella in front of a camera. But Rikki? Her friends sure would have a good laugh when she told this story!
Rikki totaled Darren's bill, put the money in the till and kept the tip for herself. After, she took a minute to study the card he'd left behind. It had an address, phone number, and a short list of talents he was supposedly looking for.
"Whatcha looking at?" Zane asked, coming out of the office with a big box of fruit.
"You'll never guessed what just happened." Rikki said, cracking up.
"What?" he set the fruit on the counter and grabbed a washcloth to wash the tables.
"A guy just came in here, told me he was a modeling agent, and asked if I wanted to model!" Rikki laughed. "How hilarious is that?"
Zane looked back at her with a grin. "Don't get me wrong, Rikki, you're gorgeous, but that sounds like a scam to me."
"I know, I know." Rikki said. "But his card looks pretty legit." She waved it in the air.
"Let's have a look." Zane snatched it from her and held it up to the light. He read it aloud. "Darren Montgomery, Agent, acting, modeling, singing, and dancing. You know, maybe I should give this guy a call, I've got all those skills." They both laughed. Zane dug his phone out of his pocket. "Let's look up this Darren guy."
Zane was on his phone for a few minutes before he showed Rikki what he found. There were pictures of him with models like Miranda Kerr and Nicole Trunfio. Each article he was in seemed to talk about his success stories, how he'd taken girls off the streets and turned them into supermodels. Both Zane and Rikki were in awe.
"Are you sure this is the guy?" Zane asked in disbelief. "I mean, wow...he went from rubbing shoulders with celebrities to sitting in our café!"
"This guy was in our café." Rikki stated. It was a difficult concept to grasp. "What if he tells his friends about us? The café for the stars!" she declared in a deep, showman voice. "We'll have Lincoln Lewis walking through that door in a few minutes, I reckon."
"Rikki, this is the real deal." Zane said seriously. He picked up the business card and pointed to it. "This is the ticket to money, fame, success...money! Heaps of it! Not to mention..." Zane came to her side of the bar, picked her up and swung her around. "I'd be dating a model!"
Rikki laughed, struck a pose, and kissed him good-naturedly. "Come on, Zane. Can you really picture me getting photoshopped on the cover of Cleo? I'm not that type of girl."
He put his arm around her and they sat down together. "I'm just saying this could be a really great opportunity, for you and us. We could really use the extra money around here." he gestured to the empty café. "Just promise me you'll think about it?"
"Fine." Rikki grumbled. She took the card from him and put it in her pocket. Soon enough, a few tables came in and made the thought of Darren Montgomery and his glamourous offer slide completely out of her memory.
"Dad? I'm home." Rikki called into the small caravan she shared with her father. She found him sprawled out on the couch with a beer and a huge stack of envelopes on the coffee table. Rikki was now old enough to realize what they were. Bills.
"Hey, Rikki." her father was startled. "I thought you were working late."
"Business was slow so we closed early." she replied and grabbed a bottle of Coke for herself. She crossed the small kitchen and sank into the chair across from her dad. It was then that she noticed the expression on his face. "Dad...what's wrong?"
He sighed. "You know that woman I was seeing? Jane?"
"Yes..." Rikki answered cautiously. Jane was an annoying, greedy witch who happened to be the spitting image of Rikki's mother. Naturally, Mr. Chadwick had started dating her a few months back.
"Turns out her name isn't Jane. She tricked us, Rik. I invited her here last night and while I was sleeping she stole all the money I was going to use to pay the bills. Now she's skipped town and I found out Jane Fletcher doesn't actually exist." he explained with another loud sigh. "What's worse is I can't pay the mortgage or any of the bills."
Rikki shook her head. Money was always tight for her family...now some woman decided to rip them off?
"It'll be okay, dad. I can use my check from the café to pay some of the bills, and we can try to get an extension on the mortgage and the one's we can't pay." she suggested comfortingly. "I have a bit saved up, we can use that, too."
"No, I can't let you do that, Rikki. That's your money, you need it for uni. Besides, these bills are months old. I've already got extensions on them. Even if I did use your cash it wouldn't cover them." her dad told her. "I hate to say this, but I think the only way to pay them off is to sell this place and get something cheaper."
"We can't!" Rikki argued immediately. "I've got the café, and my friends...it's my final year. We can't move!" she begged. "How much longer do we have to pay them? I'll work extra shifts, borrow some money, anything."
"Two weeks." her dad said gravely. "I'll try to sell my bike and maybe get another job, but if nothing turns up..."
Rikki nodded and bit her lip. She would make it work somehow. She had to.
A few hours later, Rikki had eaten some ice cream and decided to reassess the money situation. She had a few hundred dollars saved up in case she decided to go to university, but she didn't really need it...that wouldn't be enough to cover all the bills, though. She'd helped her dad go through them all, and they needed a little more than three thousand to cover all of them and the mortgage. Okay, so three-thousand minus two hundred and fifty left them with a debt of about two-thousand seven hundred and fifty dollars.
It was hopeless. Absolutely, utterly, terribly hopeless. There was no way out. She couldn't even ask Zane to borrow money. He had put all his money into the café, as well as some of his dad's. And Rikki seriously doubted there was some more missing treasure to be recovered like last time. Rikki had to face the fact that in two weeks time, she would be moving away from all the people she cared about.
She groaned in frustration and stood up. She couldn't just sit around worrying about the bills. They were there whether she thought about them or not. Rikki decided to do some chores to try and forget about the money for a while.
She grabbed the washing from both her dads room and her own, then walked into the laundry room. She stripped off the clothes she was wearing and put them into the "darks" pile. As her jeans dropped into the pile, a small white paper fell out. Had she written herself a note? She'd completely forgotten the days events after she came home.
Rikki picked up the card and reread it, seeing the opportunity in a new light. Darren Montgomery could be the key that solved all of her problems. He had offered her free headshots, right?
Forgetting about the laundry, Rikki waltzed into her room and grabbed her phone. Her dad was sleeping so she didn't worry about being in her underwear and bra.
Carefully, Rikki analyzed the phone number on the card and pressed each corresponding number on her phone. She hoped someone would answer this late at night. She wasn't sure she could go through with this plan in the light of day.
"Hello, Darren Montgomery's office? How can I help you?" a calm woman's voice answered.
Rikki realized Darren didn't even know her name. "Uh...can you please put me on the phone with Darren?" she asked.
The woman was short, professional and curt with her refusal. "I'm sorry, Mr. Montgomery doesn't usually take calls past eight o'clock. Is this an emergency?"
Rikki's heart sunk. She couldn't possibly be qualified as an emergency. She tried one last time. "I'm not sure. Could you please tell him that...that the girl from Rikki's café has reconsidered his offer?"
Rikki was put on hold for many frantic seconds. Finally someone answered.
"I knew you'd reconsider!" Darren said gleefully. "I'll need a bit of information from you before we can schedule you in for some test shots. First, your name?"
Rikki grinned. This was actually happening! "Rikki. Rikki Chadwick." she said quickly.
"Ah, Rikki...so that was your restaurant earlier?" he asked.
"Yes." she answered. "My boyfriend and I just opened it."
"Lovely." Darren commented. "And how old are you?"
"My God!" he exclaimed. He was a very cheerful guy. "You're barely out of high school! Perfect! It'll be years before anyone will even think about saying you're too young for the industry."
"Um, actually, Mr. Montgomery...I'm still in high school. My eighteeth birthday was just a few weeks ago."
"Call me Darren, please." Darren's voice was much less enthusiastic. "It'll be difficult for you to juggle all of this...school, modeling, and your job. Are you sure you want to continue?"
"Yes." Rikki said firmly.
"Great! We'll get your full information when you come in for the shots. Let's meet in a few days. I had the photographers lined up already for a different girl, but she just didn't have the look. So let's say, Tuesday, at four o'clock? The address is on my card. And if the camera likes you like I think it will, we should have no trouble booking you."
"Sounds wonderful, thank you so much." Rikki said, her hands shaking. She was really doing this.
"See you then." Darren said. He uttered one more sentence before he hung up. "We'll make a model out of you yet, Miss Chadwick."
This story was inspired by the fact that I think Cariba Heine should be a model. It's dedicated to Michelle, Leo, Katie, and all the other Cariba fans out there! The title "Hi, Society" is from an episode of Gossip Girl and it basically shows Rikki's introduction to this higher level of society where fame and fortune lies.
If you would like to read more, please leave a review! Tell me what you like or dislike about the story so far and what you hope to see happen :) Beneath the glamour of modeling there are a lot of things Rikki can discover about herself and the people behind the magazines. Thank you for reading! xo