#47: I'm Flattered

"Okay. Less sass and more intensity. That's it!"


Julie Ravner had invited Whitley to stop by after her Wednesday afternoon interview with The Decree. Whitley had intended to take Julie up on the offer but she'd lingered afterward to chat with the students about her own experience working for the newspaper at her alma mater. Julie offered Whitley an alternative of dinner, drinks, $300, and "all the weed she wanted" in exchange for two hours of Friday evening modeling. Whitley accepted.

"See where I'm standing? I need you to widen your—oh, perfect!"


Modeling reminded Whitley of one of her favorite volleyball drills in which a hitter would demonstrate a hit and the others did their best to emulate it down to the footwork. Most players would try and come up with awkward or impractical step and pivot combinations to throw off the others. Whitley, on the other hand, drew from her own personal log of in-game scenarios and lineups. Believing no situation, no lineup on the court would ever be the same, she challenged herself to never repeat the same move while still making every hit realistic and practical.

Compared to follow-the-leader spiking drills, modeling was a cakewalk.

Over the course of the two-hour shoot, Julie walked Whitley through an assortment of backdrops, starting with the roof, moving down to Julie's photo studio, and ending in front of the bay windows of the living room. Whitley admired Julie's focus and professionalism. While Whitley knew her stature drew Julie to her as a subject, Julie did not let it feel that way. Whatever personal gratification Julie derived from the shoot, the girl at least did a good job hiding it.

"God," Julie said, stepping back and checking her recent shots. "I want to make love to your legs in the most platonic way possible."

Mostly a good job.

"Okay, now something new. Different from—wow, okay that works."




Whitley glanced out the window between shots, admiring the evening Northshore skyline. She'd always thought of Northshore as a big town, but the view from Julie's apartment made the midsize city look downright metropolitan. Running with the sentiment, she put her hand on her hip, mustered her inner Southern California girl and threw a smirk towards the camera.

"That's great! Hold that...perfect."


Julie flashed 'ok' with her long, thin fingers as she lowered her camera. "That should do it. Takeout Vietnamese will be here in ten. Let's smoke a bowl."

"Sounds good to me," Whitley said, re-tying her ponytail as she strode over to the couch and plopped down. "I can't believe people get paid thousands of dollars for this."

"You easily could. You're a natural."

"I've heard that before."

Julie studied her last several shots, impressed at the results. "I realize 'you're a natural' is an easy thing to say. But in my short photography career, I've worked with a lot of amateur, mid-level, and a few professional models. You have a physical awareness and intelligence most lack. I'm used to having to micromanage stray limbs and unflattering angles. With you, there's so little of that I'm free to play a little more."

"Huh," Whitley said, sparking up Julie's cactus-shaped bong, easily the tackiest thing Julie's condo. She took a long hit. "I guess, I'm gifted that way."

"And you're gorgeous," Julie said. "That certainly doesn't hurt. And your body is...phenomenal."

"Sure," Whitley said, giving Julie a sidelong glance.

Whitley knew she'd been genetically blessed on multiple fronts. With that awareness came a keen eye for people who wanted her for that. She had not entirely deciphered Julie's enthusiasm, but by the end of the session, Whitley was suspicious. Despite it just being only the two of them, Julie dressed in designer jeans, a wrap top, and leather boots. She'd also insisted Whitley join her for dinner and all the weed she wanted.

God, am I on a date?

"Okay this is enough material to keep me busy a while," Julie said, capping her camera. She glanced up when she thought she heard Whitley snicker, before setting her camera on the table and taking a hit from her bong. "You get comfy on the couch and pull up that video of yourself. We can stream it to my TV. Cool?"

Whitley kicked off her shoes. "Will do."

Julie stepped away and Whitley took another bong hit, shooting a plume of smoke into the air that wafted towards the high ceiling and gathered like a mist. Laid out like a gallery there was generous space in Julie's apartment for Whitley to stretch and sprawl. Laying back, Whitley extended her legs off the end of the couch as she studied the paintings adorning the walls of Julie's apartment. While varied in style, all included bold colors that matched the overall setting of home decor. Even from what little Whitley knew of art, she was fairly confident she was looking at several thousand dollars of artwork. Whitley wondered how a mid-20s self-employed photographer from a middle-class family could afford such upscale artwork—let alone such a home—but Krysta had advised Whitley to avoid the subject.

While Julie received their food delivery and unpacked the contents onto the living room table, Whitley followed Alicia's advice and checked her thread on the Amazons Among Us forum. The reactions to her interview were neither unexpected nor surprising.

So sexy. I'd give up a toe for a night with her.

Seconded, but make that two toes.

She seems cool

She seems like a bitch to me.

Do you think shes into guys or girls? I'd love to see her dominate some poor short guy

She's definitely gay. Ex-girlfriend: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hope_Solo

Honestly, I don't care. I could just watch her long beautiful body move around all day.

Whitley sighed as Julie sat down next to her, egg roll in hand. "That's the I-just-checked-the-forums-against-my-better-judgement sigh," Julie said, peeking over Whitley's shoulder at the phone screen. "I've heard that before."

"That's a thing?"

"Krysta sure made it one. She always checks the forums on breaks while she's shooting. Then I have to spend the rest of the shoot telling her to focus and stop furrowing her brow. But that's beside the point. We've got dinner and a movie to dive into. Queue that thing up."

Casting the video to Julie's wall-mounted 80-inch screen, they ate and watched the interview in full 1080p HD. While not a technophile, as a photographer Julie firmly believed in taking in a work in its original, recorded resolution. She also recognized the backdrop of the interview from an elegant condo two blocks down from her apartment building. It had been her first choice when she moved to the area, but the university snatched up the property before she could make an offer.

"Bravo!" Julie shouted, applauding at the conclusion of the interview. "Also: 7'2" Questions with Whitley Valentine was a clever title. Someone on that staff has got a bright future in journalism ahead of them."

"One of several ways those kids exceeded my expectations. It's part of why I ended up hanging out with them afterward."

"So, overall, a plus?"

"Sure, I guess. I did expect to have more time to prepare for the release, but those hard-working kids managed to push it out in two freakin' days."

"Impressive," Julie said, though it was unclear what she was referring to. Whitley had passed over appetizers in favor of powering through two Bahn mi and a large ginger chicken with rice. Julie watched in quiet awe as Whitley efficiently polished off her three entrées with relative ease.

"You think this is impressive? You should see me kill a party sub."

Julie shook her head in a mix of disbelief and wonder. "Whitley, would you call your height empowering?"

Whitley nearly choked on her iced coffee. "Wow, I was not ready for that. Um, no?"

"Really? I'm a measly five-foot-ten, and I find that empowering."

"I'd rather be wealthy."

"Wealth is like using cheat codes in a video game: it's fun for a little while, but soon you just get bored."

Whitley chuckled. "If I were to magically grow you to 7'2", I'm sure it'd be exciting for the first day or week. After that, you'd wish things were boring."

"I dunno. I imagine there are the expected annoyances, but overall you're...over all." Julie frowned, disappointed her stoned brain could not have come up with something more clever. "That's got to be interesting, yes?"

"Nope," Whitley said. "At the end of the day, I'm as much myself as you are yourself. When I look in the mirror, I don't see a majestic seven-footer. I see an annoyingly long inseam, unmanageable hair, and the inevitable weight problems that will surface when my mutant metabolism wears off. Either that or I grow until I'm immobilized by scoliosis and die from heart failure."

"Well, that's dark."

"Part of the package."

Julie gave a slight chuckle. "I suppose, It's easy for me to forget that. A big part of what I do as an artist is dwell on the exceptional. That's not to say I'm trying to get you to do a fetish photo shoot, but when presented with someone as...exceptional as you, I get excited."

"I live with me every day. I can attest to how boring I am." Whitley watched as Julie's eyes scanned her frame for the third time since they'd sat down.


Despite not being Elena Delle-Donne or Mike Colter, Julie probably has about as much, if not more, money than either of them. Mike Colter's still my choice, but, God! The added publicity would be awful. It's enough to make me prefer Elena, where we'd just be "those two big lesbians." Of course, I'm not a lesbian, but if I've never actually been with a woman, am I technically bi? I think it's more a willingness thing. Am I 'willing' with Julie? I feel like I barely know her, and 'short, rich white girl' is hardly my type. I guess she's not SHORT short; she's five-ten, but...is it so bad that 'over six foot' is on my list? God, I'm no better than my 'fans'...not that there's anything wrong with them. I just don't want to develop scoliosis from kissing my partner. Is that so wrong?



"I thought I'd lost you for a sec." Julie paused and took a breath. "Okay, so, I'm just going to put this out there. It's totally out of the blue, and I apologize if it makes things weird. But, I have to ask you—

"I'll save you the trouble. I'm flattered, but no."

Julie paused, studying Whitley curiously. "No?"

"I hope I haven't given you the wrong impression or misleading signals. You're cool—even hot in that artsy-white-girl kind of way."

"Why, thank you."

Whitley casually took another draw from the bong. "I hope that's cool," she croaked while exhaling.

"You haven't given me the wrong impression," Julie said, grinning and taking a hit for herself. "But apparently I have. I was not about to ask you out."

Whitley looked only mildly surprised. "Really?"

"I'm also flattered, but no," Julie said. "That's funny. Do I give off a gay vibe?"

"Besides your haircut, not really. But that hasn't stopped several supposedly straight women in the past."

Julie ran her hand through her hair, reconsidering her recent impulse to try a pixie cut. "Funny. I had not gotten the impression you were bi."

"Only if your name is Elena Delle Donne. So, wait, why are you so dressed up?"

"I'm trying to break in these heels, but I wasn't about to wear them with pajama pants and a t-shirt, so I figured I'd give the whole outfit a test run, an idea I picked up from Alicia."

Julie anxiously waited to see what an embarrassed Whitley Valentine looked like, but Whitley merely chuckled, took another hit from the bong, and offered it back to Julie, who declined. Julie had expected some reaction—a blush, a facepalm, or even an awkward shift. Instead, Whitley exhaled her hit and flipped through one of several art books she'd found under the table. After a minute, she noticed Julie staring at her.


"That would be a pretty awkward moment for most people, but you're shrugging it off like you just mispronounced my last name."

"My life is essentially one, long continuous awkward moment. If it's not me ungracefully displaying my guardedness around people, then it's boob-to-face hugs, inner thoughts from strangers becoming profanely verbal, and catching people taking pictures of my feet."

"So living with Krysta and Alicia must be—"

"Great, because they get it and have their own ways of dealing with it. Alicia assigns all conversations the same inappropriate tone and candor."

"—and Krysta turns every interaction into an exercise in The Art of War," Julie said. "I know what you mean."

"And I essentially do both, just not as well as either of them. I live my life on too many extremes to let day-to-day dumb mistakes derail me. I'm seven-foot-two. Nothing about me is subtle."

"You got that right," Julie said, taking in how Whitley's abundant form dominated not only her furniture but the focus of the entire room. "I gotta tell you though, while I'm not sexually attracted to you, artistically I want to jump your bones through a camera lens every time I see you. Can we still be friends?"

"Sure. You're rich, you have quality weed and you haven't asked me my shoe size." Whitley took one last hit and carefully sat the cactus bong back on the table. "So what were you going to ask me?"

"Ah...yes. So, I shared the shots from our first shoot with a friend of mine who owns a gallery. She wants to see more."

"More shots or more skin?"

"Both. I'm part of a showing there next month. It's a private event with limited access. How would you feel about posing nude?"

"As Alicia would say: 'Lol, no.'"

"Let me try again. How much would it cost to get you to pose nude?"

Whitley took only a moment to consider the request. "A thousand."

"Four hundred."

"Six hundred."

"Deal. You should have stayed closer to a thousand. Also, I should probably tell you that your two roommates will be in on this shoot as well."

Whitley nodded, resignedly. "Of course, they will be. So are you going for an extreme artistic re-examination of perspectives on the feminine form?"

"Sort of. Krysta owes me a favor. While I'd prefer it be the two of you, I owe Alicia several favors. She cashed one in to join the shoot after she found out about it."

"The three of us naked. I gotta' admit, it does make for an interesting mental picture. I hear Alicia can flex, like, six different muscles around her—"

"No, no! I'll let it be a surprise. Anyways, once I got the idea, I couldn't let it go. For me, artistically, that's normally a good sign." Julie lifted her camera. "Don't suppose I can interest you in some test shots tonight, eh?"

"No thanks. Besides, aren't you supposed to have a visitor?"

"Sydney? She's here for a few days, but she's over visiting Krysta. They were roommates at Stanford back in the day. She's the girl who got Krysta into the whole web modeling thing. If I had to guess, Sydney is now four martinis deep and on the verge of getting her grabby self maced."

"Oh. So it's just us tonight?"

"Indeed. So, if more photos are out, how about—"

"—ripping through more snackage and watching Netflix until we pass out?"

Julie laughed. "It's a date."