A week or two ago (has it really been that long?), @rattonic posted an incredible space bodypaint. Since then, I’ve been working on this painting of the design. Its still a WIP - hence the lack of stars, but here’s a snippet of the full piece! (Click for details)
Saturday arrives with the steady beepingof your alarm. You sleepily peel yourself from bed, silencing the persistent noise as quickly as possible. Today, your volunteer shift begins at nine, which means you have a full day ahead. It’s no doubt going to be busier than usual, since most of the pets are being taken to meet patients at a local hospital, but you’re sure it’ll be fun. That said, you waste no time getting ready.
With a sense of purpose, you grab your keys, shelter ID, and hop into your car. The drive is uneventful and slow, but upon arrival you can see that there’s a lot commotion taking place in the parking lot. Volunteers are everywhere, their matching shirts blending together like a green cloud. Most of them are holding the leashes of dogs, but you can spot a few kennels with cats, too. After exiting your car, the barking and mewls seem to come from everywhere.
“___!” someone shouts over the noise. “Would you mind helping us load the truck before you go in? It shouldn’t take long!” You nod, eager to help. Once all the animals are ready to go, your coworker checks the task off their clipboard and says, “Oh, I almost forgot! The boss was looking for you. I think she went back inside.” With a smile, you thank them for the update and weave through the crowd in the direction of the entrance.
It doesn’t take long to find the manager, but judging from her exasperated sigh, she’s not in the best mood. “I’ve been looking for you everywhere!” she exclaims, gesturing to her watch. “I know you’re only a few minutes late, but we’re really backed up this morning. Come with me.” She turns on her heel in the direction of the front desk, going behind it to open a locked drawer. “There’s a cat in labor that ran away from the clinic,” she explains, rummaging through the clutter. “I need you to catch her and bring her back to the operating table for her c-section, so that the vets can work on other things.”
The situation is a bit worrying, but you tell her you’re up for the job. Smiling, the manager fishes a ring of keys from the drawer before closing it. “These should let you into Dog Kennel C,” she says, handing them to you. “That’s where the cat is. Hurry it up, okay? The volunteers radioed me and said they have her cornered.” You nod, the keys jingling as you jog toward the back entrance of the building.
You sprint past Dog Kennels A and B to arrive at Kennel C, the building at the far end of the property. Panting, you ready your keys to unlock the door, but someone looking out its skinny window opens it for you instead. Instantly, you’re met with the sound of barking, the yaps and howls blending together in a wall of noise. Every dog is focused on the back corner of the room, where a mass of lab coats and volunteer shirts are huddled around a wide-eyed cat. She hisses as someone attempts to reach for her, growing puffier and folding her ears flat.
“I’m here!” you announce, slowing to a walk. “Everyone give her some space!” The group backs away with a collective sigh of relief, happily allowing you to take charge. “Volunteers,” you command, noticing that many of them seem to just be standing around, “head back and finish loading the trucks. The vets and I will take it from here.” Many of them exchange looks, but you shoo them out and make sure all the doors in the area closed before addressing the frightened feline.
“Hey there, it’s alright. I won’t hurt you,” you coo gently. You’re sure not to make any sudden moves, and keep your voice steady as you squat down. Now that you’re seeing her up close, you recognize this cat as one of the skittish strays picked up from a dumpster last week. You offer your hand for her to sniff, and she does so cautiously. While she’s occupied, you ask the person closest to you to find something to feed her.
Eventually someone returns with a handful of cat treats, pouring them neatly into your cupped hand. “Do you want some?” you ask, lowering your palm for the cat to investigate. She blinks, silently crawling forth to nibble the soft treats. Using this to your advantage, you use your other hand to scoop her up. She yowls in protest, clawing and hissing as she writhes in your arms, but ultimately accepts defeat with a low cry. The surrounding onlookers erupt in applause, and you smile as the vets lead the way back to the clinic.
The first thing they do is give the cat a shot, which causes her to become incredibly drowsy. As her body goes slack, you gently ease her onto the shiny table, stroking her head until she closes her eyes. “I can’t thank you enough,” the head surgeon says, slipping on a fresh pair of gloves. “She really fought to get away from us, but you made catching her look so easy!” He shakes his head in disbelief, smiling as he instructs his assistant to prep the patient. “If I ever need help like that again, I’ll definitely ask for you.”
You cross your arms with a stern sigh. “Fine, but I don’t want to see you cornering any animals next time. It stresses them out, especially if they’re outnumbered like she was.” The surgeon looks over at the poor cat, admitting that he feels sorry for her. “Well, I guess the only way you can make it up to her is by delivering those kittens, right? I wish I could stay to see them, but I’m pretty sure the manager is expecting me to check back in.” The surgeon nods, and thanks you again before you depart.
You head back to the front desk, where your manager greets you with a relieved smile. “Thank you so much,” she sighs, taking back the ring of keys she issued you. “Could you also check on the trucks before we get started with today’s meeting? I’d do it myself, but I have to finish up the presentation.” You nod, but feel slightly confused. “Don’t tell me you forgot!” your manager laughs. “Today is the day we go over the renovation plans!”
“It completely slipped my mind,” you admit, feeling a bit foolish. “I guess I’ll think twice about skipping my morning coffee next week…” The manager laughs, and says that she’ll have someone make you a cup. “Thank you. I’ll be right back.” With that, you head out to the parking lot.
Immediately, you notice that the trucks are still parked in their original positions. Approaching the nearest driver, you ask what the holdup is. “Everyone should have left five minutes ago! You know the hospital doesn’t like it when we show up late!”
“I thought we were waiting for you to get here!” the driver defends. “You’re coming with us, aren’t you?” Shaking your head, you explain that today the manager needs your help in the office. “In that case, we’d better get moving. You’ll be here to help unload, right?” Nodding, you quickly announce to the surrounding volunteers that the trucks are leaving. People all over the lot begin to take action, and soon everyone has left. After the caravan of cars and trucks are out of sight, you place your hands on your hips and sigh.
What a morning.
The rest of the day is filled with planning, paperwork, and manual labor. You spend about an hour in the manager’s meeting before volunteering to help organize files. After that, you round up a few people to clean the kennels, a strenuous and smelly task, but everything is finished up before lunch. After a quick meal, you’re back on your feet and scooping out litter boxes for the next half hour. Once that’s over with, you organize a few supply closets and help unload the returning trucks. Throughout the day, you also solve minor issues and fulfill plenty of small favors. You’re completely exhausted by the end of your shift, but feel accomplished nonetheless.
Just as you’re about to head out to your car, your hand resting on the door to push it open, the manager stops you. “Heading home?” she smiles. You can tell that she’s just as tired as you, so you do your best to come up with a cheerful response. However, the attempt doesn’t fool her. “Get some rest,” she laughs, patting your shoulder, “I’ll see you next week.” A soft smile forms on your lips, and you slowly head out to your car.
The radio hums as you make your way home, but you’re too busy checking the time to notice. Every second you spend in traffic gets you closer to your appointment with Jumin. By the time you make it to your apartment, you have only a couple of minutes to get ready. You quickly throw together a bag of supplies and change your clothes. As expected, the doorbell rings at seven o’clock sharp.
“Hello!” an older gentleman smiles, removing his chauffeur hat. “You must be Miss ___. I’m Driver Kim, your escort for the evening.” He extends a gloved hand, which you shake politely, and steps back to gesture to the shiny SUV parked on the curb. “Mr. Han’s home is quite far from here, so if you don’t mind, I suggest we leave as soon as you’re ready.” You nod, stepping out to lock the door, then follow him out to the vehicle.
Driver Kim opens the backseat for you, and waits until you’re safely inside to get into the driver’s seat. The first thing you notice, while buckling yourself in, is the new car smell. Along with that, the seats are made of leather, the widows are spotless, and the sound system is superb. Driver Kim hums along with the radio as he begins his route, and that combined with the smoothness of his turns lulls you into relaxation. Your eyes soon get heavy. Before you know it, you’re asleep.
Yet, the second you hear the door open, you wake up. The sudden light is blinding, but Driver Kim is kind enough to help you out of the car. “It’s been a long day,” you laugh, feeling slightly embarrassed. “I guess I dozed off…” Driver Kim hands you your bag, which you adjust over one shoulder.
“Believe me, it happens more than you think,” he assures. “I’ll never know why, but my driving always seems to put people to sleep.” He laughs, then instructs you to head inside to the top floor.
Your eyes follow up the side of the building, squinting against the light of the lowering sun. “All the way up there?” you ask. Driver Kim smiles, but confirms it. You nod, mostly to reassure yourself, but Driver Kim takes it as signal to leave. The grip of the tires crackles along the pavement as he drives away.
After a moment of admiring the hotel-like entranceway, you take your first wobbly step toward the building. Inside the lobby, your heels click sharply against the tiles as you hurriedly strut toward the elevator. You nervously jam your thumb into the call button, trying not to fidget as you wait. The staff nearby smile at you in their freshly-creased uniforms, then quietly go back to work. It makes you feel oddly self-conscious.
The ride up is smooth, and ends sooner than you anticipate. A gentle ding sounds as the elevator doors split open, revealing a spacious penthouse furnished with modern and tasteful décor. You step out cautiously, noticing immediately that no one seems to be home.
“Hello? Are you here, Mr. Han?” you call out hesitantly. “I hope you don’t mind me coming in!” Nobody answers. In fact, you begin to suspect that you’ve made it to the wrong floor. Before you can check, however, the silver doors break into two. Jumin is deeply engrossed in a phone conversation as he steps out.
“What do you mean she can’t make it? How are we going to find a replacement before the shoot date?” He sighs, beginning to loosen his tie. You feel yourself go rigid, as if you’ve been caught doing something bad. Fortunately, Jumin walks by without seeming to notice you. Instead, he picks up a remote and points it straight up. After a few clicks, soft jazz begins to play.
He retreats into what looks like an office, and shuts the door firmly behind him. You practically melt into your shoes, realizing that your nerves are worse than you thought. Wiping your sweaty hands across your slacks, you readjust your blouse and bag to distract yourself. What is it about this place you find so intimidating? It’s not Jumin’s obvious wealth, is it?
You decide not to think about it. Crossing your arms, you wander over to the nearest wall and lean against it. You close your eyes. The moments pass easily as you begin to relax. You can even begin to think about work.
Today’s appointment will mostly be planning. First, you’ll have to ask Jumin what he’d like to see in the finished portrait, then offer your own ideas. If you’re lucky, you’ll even get to meet Elizabeth 3rd! At that point, you’ll do a few quick sketches and be on your way. Just like with any other customer.
You’re feeling a lot better when Jumin steps out of his office. He notices you right away, and offers a small nod of acknowledgement before gesturing for you to follow him down the hall. He still has his phone out, but it’s clear to you that he doesn’t like what he’s hearing.
“I’m not sure you’re understanding the situation, Assistant Kang. We don’t have until next Tuesday because the photographer I want is only available tomorrow evening. I already told you that I’m against rebooking the shoot.”
You raise your eyebrows at his sharp tone, but remain quiet as he ushers you into a room at the very end of the hall. As soon as you walk in, you’re struck by the impressive window that stretches from floor to ceiling. It’s wide enough to take up one wall completely, and offers a gorgeous view of the city. Through it, you can see that the sunset has faded. In its place, the moon hangs heavy and yellow above the city’s skyline. Everything seems to be covered in a familiar, warm glow.
Jumin glances over when he hears you gasp, but you shake your head to let him know you’re fine. After raising an eyebrow, he turns away to finish up his call. “Yes, I’m sure she’s the one I want. Call me if you can get her back. If not, book one of the backup models before tomorrow. I’ll have HR add overtime to your pay.” After a short goodbye, he hangs up, sighing deeply.
As he pockets his phone, Jumin apologizes for taking so long. “Don’t worry about it,” you smile. “I’ve had busy customers before.” Jumin nods, and thanks you for your understanding. He then offers you a seat on the only sofa in the room. “The view is lovely, by the way,” you comment in an attempt to lighten the mood.
“I find it relaxing,” Jumin says as he sits down. You notice that he leaves a considerable amount of space between you both, but you figure it’s only out of courtesy for you. “Shall we get started?” he asks politely. Nodding, you open your bag and pull out your sketchbook along with an assortment of pencils. You also pull out a portfolio of your work, which you hand to Jumin and encourage him to look through.
“Go ahead and pick out some of the things you like, so I can get an idea of what we’re going for.” As Jumin does that, you flip to a clean page of your sketchbook and ask if it would be possible for you to meet Elizabeth. “I’d like to get in a few sketches before I leave,” you explain. Jumin nods, then directs his attention to the bookcase opposite the sofa. His eyes run along the shelves until he breaks into a soft smile.
“I’m afraid she’s a bit out of reach.”
You follow his gaze to the top of the bookcase, surprised to see the white cat sitting next to a globe at the end of the shelf. In all her fluffy glory, you’re surprised at how bright her eyes are. She looks at you directly, her ears twitching as Jumin calls out to her. “Isn’t she beautiful?” He asks.
Your hand reaches for the nearest pencil, flying over your sketchbook in precise, practiced motions. Not a minute has passed before you have a basic feel for her features. Just as you’re about to begin a new sketch, the cat stretches and leaps from the shelf, landing perfectly on her feet.
She mewls and hops onto the coffee table, curling her tail around her body as she sits. You smile and reach out to scratch her head. Elizabeth lets out a purr, closing her eyes as she leans into your hand. “I think she likes me,” you laugh, going back to sketching.
Elizabeth ends up being easy to work with. She doesn’t hiss when you reposition her paws, or bite when you lift her chin to see her face. In fact, she’s quite affectionate, and insists that you pet her with your free hand whenever possible. After the page is filled, Jumin points out the sketches he likes, including one that looks like Elizabeth is smiling. She seems to like it too, because she hops onto the sofa and purrs as she rubs her face over the sketchpad. Laughing, you pull it away before she can smudge anything.
Jumin pulls Elizabeth into his lap with a smile. “My apologies. She seems rather excited today.” You assure him it’s fine, and begin refining the sketches he picked out. After a moment filled with Elizabeth’s soft purring, Jumin asks, “How long have you been an artist? I’ve never seen anyone work as quickly as you do.”
Thanking him for the compliment, you gesture to your portfolio. “I’ve been sharpening my skills since I was a student, but I didn’t start getting attention from the public up until a couple years ago. It was that mural downtown that really launched me into life as a professional artist. Have you seen it before? The one on the side of the library?”
Before he can give a response, Jumin’s phone rings. He quickly digs through his pocket to silence it, not even bothering to check the caller ID. “Please excuse that,” he says with a tight smile. “Work has been rather hectic these days.” You nod, but ask if it’s really okay for him to ignore his phone. You wouldn’t want him to miss something important for the sake of being polite.
“If it’s urgent, my assistant will call back more than once. However, I’m sure she only had bad news. You see, my company is shooting advertisements with a photographer I scheduled months in advance, but the model I had in mind hasn’t confirmed that she can make it.” He sighs. “It’s a shame. She was the only one Elizabeth liked, and I’m not sure we can find a suitable replacement before tomorrow.”
“Well, what are you selling?” you ask.
Jumin seems surprised by your directness. “You’re quite bold, aren’t you? I’ve been working on releasing a new line of cat food featuring Elizabeth as the mascot. However, it’s been difficult to find human models she feels comfortable with.” He looks down at her, and after getting up to stretch, the cat comes over to rest in your lap. She purrs happily, perfectly content to be near you.
“I’ve never seen her so comfortable with a stranger before,” Jumin admits with a smile. His expression goes from amused to serious as he considers this. “It’s almost too good an opportunity to pass up,” he mumbles to himself. You want to ask what he means by that, but his next question answers your own.
“Tell me Miss ___, have you ever considered modeling before?”