"Reed! Smile, come on, darling, smile for us, won’t you?"
"Oh Hilde, look at him—he looks scared and confused!"
"That’s ridiculous, he’ll be fine and it’s only a few shots." Hilde turned back to her son, who was dressed in designer Nichol Courie’s line of high-end children’s wear. Hilde was determined to make her son appear radiant in the shoot.
But Reed simply quailed a little bit under all the attention that he was, admittedly, not used to. The tiny boy, looking younger than his age, had his downy curls brushed until they looked silken and he looked positively angelic under the sunshine of the atrium, but his big brown eyes only looked frightened.
When Reed tried to hide behind the over-sized teddy bear he was supposed to be holding for a second time, the photographer almost wanted to call it off—not because he was frustrated, but he didn’t feel right forcing the little boy who looked so spooked.
Just as he threw up his hands, the doors to the atrium opened.
"Marlene! So good to see you, so good…" the designer kissed the cheeks of the beautiful woman who came in with a small escort of assistants.
"Well Bart wanted us to have a look into the shoot… After all he’ll be the one making the arrangements for your designs to be used exclusively for that TV show’s children…"
Reed peered up from behind the bear. The pretty lady who came in was leading another little boy with wide green-gray eyes that looked with mild interest at the adults, but with lots of interest at the pile of toys to be used for the shoot. He broke away from her.
"And you brought your son!" Nichols sounded a little surprised. He glanced back to the boy with the curly black hair who was now looking over the toys, one of the assistants keeping close guard on him. "Which one is he?"
"Shane. My older son is with Bart back in California. We’re supposed to go fly out to Malibu the moment we finish up here. I’m so sorry…" she sounded embarrassed. "But he really wouldn’t let go of me today."
"Well at least he’s wearing one of my designs," the designer laughed as he and Marlene watched Shane pull out a giant plush beach ball from the pile—and then fall flat on his rear doing so.
"He’s grown so big, though! Do you think you can make him get friendly with that little one over there with the bear? They’re about the same age…"
"Oh he looks absolutely adorable! Is he your model?"
"Yes, Hilde van Kamp’s son."
"Oh, he looks scared to death, the poor thing."
The designer laughed as the photographer snapped a few shots of Reed looking curiously at the other little boy hugging the ball. “I know. But he looks perfect and I really don’t want to lose him.” He looked up to the photographer. “Teddy can we take five for now? Maybe Reed just needs to calm down?”
As the photographer lowered his camera, Hilde strode into the area and started brushing Reed’s clothes free of lint. “Sweetheart, come on now. There’s nothing to be scared of! You have to smile for the camera! Remember that last shoot? Just like that.”
Reed nodded timidly. Hilde finished fixing his curls and said, “I’ll go get you some juice, you sit and stay right here, okay?”
"Can I have grape juice?" Reed asked.
"Yes you can. Stay here." Hilde moved away to talk with Nichols, Teddy, and the fashion assistants.
"Hi! I’m Shane."
Reed looked up quickly and saw nothing but giant stuffed beach ball nearly at his face. Did the ball talk…? “Huh?”
A head of dark curly hair popped out from the other side, grinning. “Hi, I’m Shane,” he repeated.
"Hi…" Reed blinked.
"What’s your name?"
"I like your bear."
"It’s—It’s not mine."
Shane stared. Then he glanced back to where his mom was standing. He said what he was supposed to, but he didn’t know what to do next. Marlene was just standing there, waving him on. “Go on, sweetie,” she said.
Shane looked back at the other curly haired boy. “Do you want this?” He held up the stuffed beach ball.
Reed shook his head. “No…”
Shane put down the ball and plodded over to him. Reed blinked at his shoes—the soles lit up when he walked. “Mom said you were scared,” Shane said. “Of what?”
Reed glanced to where all the older people stood. He could see his mom already holding the box of grape juice with the straw in it, but she was still frowning as she talked to the designer and the photographer.
A plush starfish collided onto his head. “Ow!” Reed jumped, startled, and saw Shane laughing hysterically, holding the starfish. The younger boy fell onto his rear again, laughing hard.
His laughter was infectious and a delight to hear. Reed turned crimson. “Why did you do that??”
"You look weird!" Shane hugged the starfish and grinned.
"So do you!" Reed shot back, turning redder, but it only made Shane laugh harder. Then the younger boy grabbed the bear out of Reed’s hands and ran for it.
"Hey!" Reed burst out as he got up and chased him. "That’s mine!"
"No it’s not, you said it wasn’t!" Shane yelled, running for the tower of plush toys nearby.
"Shane, sweetie, give Reed back his bear!" Marlene called.
"No!" Shane yelled from behind the battlement of the plastic play castle.
Reed, panting, pouted and picked up the abandoned beach ball. And he flung it at the castle. “Give it back!”
"Reed!" Hilde said indignantly.
The ball simply bounced off the battlement. Shane popped up wearing a plastic knight helmet. “This means war!!” he yelled and began throwing stuffed toys.
Reed ran for cover behind the other plastic play castle not far off. “Oh yeah?!” he cried back as soon as he found a plastic army helmet and put it on, refusing to be outdone. He picked up another large beach ball and threw it at Shane’s castle.
"Go!" Nichols told Teddy excitedly. "Go on, take a shot of them like that!"
The photographer laughed, shook his head and did so. Both boys were now screaming in laughter as they threw the plush toys at one another from their respective castles, gaining some direct hits and others missing wildly off mark. Sometimes they were laughing too hard for the ammo to even make it to the other side, falling flat between the two sides.
Presently, the assistants planted foam swords nearby, and Shane did not hesitate. He picked up his sword, ran out of the battlements and charged for Reed’s castle. Reed gasped and looked around for a weapon. He saw his own sword and dashed out of hiding and met Shane (who was whacking the walls of Reed’s castle) head on.
The adults grinned as the two boys continued to slash away, oblivious of the attention. “Surrender!!” Shane yelled.
"No!!" Reed yelled back.
Finally, Reed seemed to have an idea. The moment Shane was forced backwards, he ran for Shane’s castle. He ducked into the battlements and pulled out his teddy bear. “I got it!” he yelled. “I win!!”
Shane fell into the floor, laughing hysterically. Reed was giggling wildly from the castle, holding the bear and waving his sword at Shane. “Then I’m taking your castle!” Shane declared, running into Reed’s abandoned structure.
"I’m in yours!”
"All right, Shane, sweetie…" Marlene laughed as she bent down and picked the boy up. "That’s enough."
"What?! But mom…" Shane whined, looking up at her, black curls sticking to his sweaty forehead. "He took my castle!"
"And you took his bear."
"I got it back!" Reed said helpfully from the other side.
"Yes you did," Marlene beamed at him before turning back to her son. "We have to go now, Shane."
Hilde walked up to Reed. Amusing as it all was, now Reed was a sweaty, breathless mess and she tutted at the sight of his designer clothes. For once, Reed was barely bothered as she started to pat away his sweat.
Shane waved wildly from where his mother was pulling him away. “Bye!” he yelled over the hubbub of the adults.
"Bye…" Reed smiled, waving back.