Through the Lens - K.K. Allen


Before you, life came in bursts of muted colors.

Everything changed when you somehow slipped under my skin—and then stole my heart.

Layer by layer, you stripped me bare, leaving foreign skin beneath lost feathers. You blinded me with your light. And with streams exposing my every weakness, I became yours.

Your words lit a match against my soul, and the flames licked through me like an inferno. Thick. Heated. Wild. Infuriating.

Still, I’m afraid.

I learned at a young age what can be seen through the lens is often a skewed version of reality. A bent perspective. Manufactured, therefore losing all sense of authenticity.

That was me.

The woman through the lens.

The lie.






Delicate fabric falls against my skin, causing a wave of excitement to roll through my body. I’m a statue for my stylist, Robin, as she pins the thick, crystal-encrusted tulle together in the back, giving the dress just enough pull at my waist. The gold-and-silver-sequined fabric gathers like an accordion on my chest as the long, flowing skirt grazes the scuffed tile at my feet.

We’re backstage at the hottest runway event of the season, mere minutes from showtime. Music pumps through the speakers, perfectly synced to the multicolored lights slashing through the stage’s backdrop. Not a single stone was left unturned with this event, which showcases a brilliant fall line of the most well-kept fashion secrets. And I’m wearing the biggest secret of them all.

I’m currently being stuffed into the “dress of the season,” which will close the show. It’s the one everyone came here to see. And designer Gabriele Amante handpicked me to wear it.

Chaos is a delicate term to describe the scene behind me. Photographers are stealing last-second pictures. Models are forming lines at all the directed entrance points. Hair and makeup staff give their assigned girls one last touch-up. Soon we’ll all be hit with harsh stage lighting that manages to make even us girls with darker complexions look like relatives of Casper.

Robin places her hands on my shoulders and twists me toward the mirror. “Focus, Maggie.” Her thick Russian accent comes off just as harsh as she intends it to. Robin is Gabriele’s right-hand woman, and while we’ve never worked together before tonight, she seems to see right through me.

I glance up, catching a full view of my whole ensemble, and gasp as my pulse takes off at a sprint. The outfit is pure magic. The mirror’s reflection reveals all, and my fellow models know it.

As hard as I try to ignore my peers’ jealous reactions, I can see the side-eyed glances and pinched smiles. I hear the acidic, low-toned mutterings of disdain.

“Why her?”

“You know who her mother is, right? Talk about a free ride to the top.”

“She won’t last, not with those proportions.”

I resist an eye roll and snuffle the anger fighting its way up my chest. Their comments are ones I’ve gotten used to hearing over the years. Nothing is wrong with my proportions. And while my mother certainly has influence in the industry, I’ve been modeling my entire life. There isn’t a single opportunity I haven’t worked my ass off for.

My peers are picking me apart because I was chosen to be tonight’s lead model for one of New York’s fiercest fashion-forward designers on the catwalk to end all catwalks. My eyes float to the mirror again. Damn, I look good in this dress.

“They’re going to talk,” Robin says as she fidgets with a piece of loose fabric at my spine. “Let them. Gabriele chose you. He needs you.” She places her hands on my waist and squeezes. “Take a deep breath, shut out the noise, and show the world how proud you are to wear Amante.”

I release a heavy breath and nod to ease her worries. “I’m ready.”

She rewards me with a tight smile and pats my hips one last time. “Good. You look exquisite.” Her eyes stop on my breasts, and she cringes. “Hold that thought. Don’t move.”

As Robin steps away, I close my eyes and try again to tune out the noise. A nagging voice seeps into my thoughts.

“This is it, Maggie,” my mom-slash-manager said when I first got the offer. “This is the event that will catapult your career. It’s only up from here.”

I could see the stars in her eyes as she spoke. Witnessing my career transition from professional model to super model had always been her dream for me. It was a goal she had placed on my vision board when I