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My arms are killing me! The five foot ten inch model groaned internally, cursing the very day she was cursed to be a mannequin. Oh, the joys of being created in a factory, of having a fiberglass body molded by a sculptor, of arms and legs being torn off and set into the most uncomfortable positions. Miranda longed for the mall to close. She had been standing in the same pose for twelve hours, and the familiar pain began halfway through the day. That meant six full hours of excruciating, throbbing soreness.
Miranda’s friend Shelly stood beside her. Shelly’s elbow was bent near her torso, and her other arm’s hand was set on her hip. Shelly was far from experiencing Miranda’s pain; Miranda’s right arm was stretched out loosely, her palm upwards as if holding something. Her stoic expression betrayed no hint of her burning struggle, only the common disinterested look all mannequins shared.
The last of the customers walked out through the door after the robotic P.A. announcement. “Pearlfield Mall will close in five minutes. Please make your purchases.”
Miranda began to count down the seconds until the tired mall employees locked the doors and headed home. However, two teenage girls interrupted her countdown. They sat down by her feet. The redhead’s shoulders shook as if she was crying, and her brunette friend put an arm around her shoulder in a vain attempt to comfort her.
“What am I going to do without him?” the redhead wailed loudly.
“Lucy,” the brunette said. “You’re better off without him. He’s a frigging jerk.”
“He cheated on me! He was with another girl…” The redhead couldn’t finish the sentence because she was sobbing so hard it sounded as if she were choking. A mall guard had to come in and escort the two girls outside, then locked the doors behind them. Miranda watched the entire scene, feeling a strange sense of longing to join the girls, even if it meant going outside.
Lights still on, the other mall guards set up their posts in the main Pearlfield Plaza. The metal gate went crashing down, separating Miranda’s department store from the rest of the mall.
Miranda moved. The first thing she did was blink. She blinked like her life depended on it, eyelids fluttering furiously. The slightly bent elbow of her right arm straightened with a crack, joints flexing and squeaking; she lowered her arm as the throbbing soreness gradually began to dissipate. Fingers wiggled, each one showing a dull red nail polish shade. Mannequin makeup was often dull. There wasn’t any way to make the fiberglass models “lively,” a fact that amused Miranda.
She stepped down unsteadily, not because she was wearing four inch heels but because she hadn’t walked all day. Obviously.
While she adjusted her V-neck, short-sleeved, baby-blue dress, Shelly stepped down next to her, swearing under her breath at light speed. Shelly usually got the prettier dress (strapless, sparkly red mini-dress that showed off Shelly’s toned but fake legs), so Miranda didn’t know why she was so angry.
“They should have given me a better pose to fit with my dress,” Shelly complained angrily.
“We don’t have any say in the matter,” Miranda deadpanned.
She and Shelly started walking through the department as they usually did every night, getting used to walking comfortably. Unfortunately, they couldn’t change their outfits or shoes, so they were stuck with whatever clothes they had stood in all day. Mannequins really had a horrible life.
Miranda and Shelly passed a mirror. Shelly stood in front of the mirror first, pursing her lips back and forth, an action that suspiciously reminded Miranda of monkeys. Her friend fixed her dress, pulling it dangerously low for a strapless. Miranda suddenly thought of the song they played in the mall that day and decided it was the perfect theme song for Shelly. My Humps by the Black Eyed Peas went running through her mind.
Compared to Shelly’s blonde, wavy locks and voluptuous body, Miranda looked like a stick. But she did have a great, loving boyfriend, unlike her best friend, who kept moving from guy mannequin to guy mannequin every night. Joe seemed to be content with her dark curls and violet eyes.
“Let’s go,” Miranda said, anxiously craving Joe and his buff, muscular fiberglass arms and strong, rock-hard chest.
Shelly stopped admiring herself and the two tall models headed over the men’s department. They climbed up the frozen escalator, trying not to get their thin heels stuck in those dangerous, lethal steps.
Miranda and Shelly reached the men’s department on the second floor. Miranda felt butterflies in her stomach just seeing all the guys walking around in hot tuxedos. Others had no shirts and just bulging swim trunks. Shelly oohed and aahed appropriately, but Miranda remained the faithful girlfriend and instead looked for Joe. She fussed with her hair, straightened her dress.
She remembered a couple nights ago. They had relaxed on one of the couches by the escalators while Shelly went off to the dressing rooms, dragging guy after guy inside. Joe played with her hair, whispered in her ear sexily. She had clutched his stomach tightly, never wanting to let go. Miranda ached for his presence, desiring the hotness of his body that every male model envied.
Shelly squealed suddenly, bringing Miranda back to the present. “Oh, God, he’s fricking hot!” She pointed a long nail towards a guy walking towards them. His sleeves were rolled to the elbows and the top three buttons of his shirt were unbuttoned.
He lifted his chin at the two girls, obviously thinking he was too cool to wave a hand. “’Sup?”
“Do you know where Joe is?” Miranda butted in.
The guy’s eyes wandered to Shelly, but he answered, “Third floor.”
Miranda gasped. “That’s the lingerie department!”
Shelly and the guy were too busy staring at each other and checking each other out to notice her apparent distress.
“Hey! My freaking boyfriend is in the lingerie department! What the crap?”
Miranda didn’t wait for their reply. She raced towards the up escalator, climbing it two steps at a time, nearly spraining her ankle in the process. She made it to the third floor in a frantic, disheveled mess, and that’s when she spotted Joe. His dark-haired head stood out in the crowd of nearly naked mannequins, who fawned over his every body part, it seemed.
“Joe!” Miranda screamed.
Joe’s head whirled towards her. “Miranda baby! Hey!”
There wasn’t anything that could have disguised his expression of alarm. “What are you doing here?” Miranda asked, not quite glaring but staring accusingly.
“These nice ladies came down and brought me up here. They gave me a treat—I mean, tour.” Joe cleared his throat as the girls in assorted underwear giggled naughtily.
It was then that she noticed the state of the third floor. Multi-colored disco lights flashed and pulsed in violent Technicolor. Underwear was strewn everywhere along with abandoned hangers. The lingerie mannequins really were the naughtiest of all. The manager of their department would have a cow in the morning. When mannequins messed with the clothing items, managers either blamed the staff for not cleaning up or the mall guards.
“You’re cheating on me?” Miranda said, her supposed confident statement turning into a question. She wasn’t so sure how to use the term, but her thoughts wandered to the two teenage girls who sat at her feet earlier that day.
“No, baby, I swear it was just a tour!” Joe made his way through the crowd of giggling, scantily clad mannequins over to her. He took her face in his hands. It was so tempting to forget about everything and just fall into Joe. Irresistible Joe. Her boyfriend, not a cheater.
But she pulled back. The scene with the two teenage girls was just too familiar. Forget the different species barrier. Mannequins and humans had the same issues. Miranda ripped her face out of his hands, trying to hold herself in. She met his imploring gaze evenly. “Have fun with Brittney and Candy and Mandy. Whatever their names are. I bet you don’t even know.” Her voice sounded odd and toneless. Mannequins couldn’t cry, but they experienced emotions just like humans.
Joe looked helpless and confused, but he was still so hot. Miranda sucked in her feelings, buried them deep in her gut, and walked away.
She met Shelly back in their own department. Her head hung dejectedly, and for the first time, she truly felt like something manmade. A fiberglass, human-sized doll.
Shelly exclaimed excitedly, “You know that guy that we talked to? We totally hit it off. He’s totally—”
“Hey, Shelly? What happens if mannequins go outside?” Miranda interrupted.
Shelly gave her a blank look, so Miranda repeated the question.
“I don’t know, Miranda. God, why are you asking this?” Shelly frowned.
“I’m curious,” Miranda shrugged. Inside, however, she was more than curious. The feelings of sympathy and the desire to join the human teenage girls altered something in her mind.
Miranda wanted to cry.
Going outside seemed to be the solution to her problem.
She walked slowly towards the clear, locked doors. She stared contemplatively out into the night. Joe was gone from her life, Shelly didn’t need her. She couldn’t see herself starting over inside the mall at all, couldn’t imagine another crush, couldn’t stand another pose. “Then let me out,” she whispered.
She plunged right through.
Aaron often walked alone in town. He didn’t care that it was past the generic “walking time” like the morning or afternoon; he enjoyed the silence when the sun began to disappear along the horizon. His hands set in his pockets, Aaron walked along the sidewalk, not at all swayed by the darker shadows of the trees. He was thinking about an appropriate whistle-like tune when he saw the flashing lights and heard the horrible blaring alarms.
It was Pearlfield Mall. Aaron began to jog, wanting to be a curious witness of all the commotion. He reached the huge building, prepared to see fires blazing or a mysterious white van waiting for masked robbers. Instead, he was met with the sight of a tall, beautifully shaped figure standing frozen in front of a broken glass door.
Aaron approached the figure, nearly yelping in surprise when he realized that she resembled a mannequin in a baby blue dress. On the occasional times he visited the mall, he had never liked the strange, creepy beauty of the display mannequins. However, the one standing in front of him held his attention, not because she was striking, but because her expression contained the impossible combination of hope and hopelessness.
He pitied the beautiful creature standing in front of him. Brushing glass shards from her smooth face, Aaron stared into her violet eyes.