Celine had to cut corners until she got her big break, the fame & fortune that always seemed just out of her grasp. The pretty, slim, twenty-something brunette knew she had the potential but things just weren’t ‘click’ing for her and money was always tight. She had the sort of firm, lithe figure that looked much better in swimwear than parkas along with a cute oval face, blue-grey eyes, and a small mouth with bow-shaped lips.
Waitressing between acting or modeling jobs, she'd found a room in midtown from talking to a friend of a friend of an acquaintance. It wasn't much, it sure wasn't big, but Amelia was too scattered to press for the rent most times and that was a good thing, too. Paying off the last set of promo one-sheets had hit Celine hard.
She hears the sound of the locks turning and quickly buries her face in the script she’s been trying to get through. Her part seems to be a menial role in a shallow off-off production; it’s more of a vanity play really than a genuine gig. For now, reading gives her something to do to avoid talking to her erstwhile 'landlord'.
Amelia is about six years older and doesn’t seem to have any kind of steady employment though she always has plenty of cash as well as seemingly unlimited free time. Celine secretly suspects that her buxom, tall, frosted-blonde roommate is actually an escort or call girl but has never worked up the nerve to ask. Amelia possesses a too-perfect classic beauty along with an exquisitely proportioned body, both hinting at having some work done; at least she hasn’t made herself into a caricature, Celine thinks.
Throwing the last latch, Amelia half pushes, half kicks the apartment door open. Burdened down by a pile of bags and boxes, she can barely see where she’s going and almost trips over a pair of boots that Celine had left in the tiny entryway.
"Way to help, Celli," Amelia grumbles. "You could have least gotten the door!" She whirls in place to shove the outer door closed, packages heaped around her like a kid's snow fort.
"Mmm, wha'd you say?" Her roommate improvises, pulling headphones from one ear. "Was into this scene; sorry." To avoid more conversation, or eye contact, she instantly ducks back into the script.
As on most days, the ploy works. After a weak resigned "Yeah, right," Amelia gathers up the bags and retreats to the back bedroom, slamming that door as final punctuation. Typically, she would probably spend the rest of the afternoon there, opening her purchases and trying them on before filing them away in her walk-in closet that seemed bigger than the rest of the apartment combined.
Celine on the other hand didn't really have a bedroom, sleeping on the trundle bed in the couch most of the time. With Amelia hiding out in her room or going shopping most of the time it’s almost like Celine has some space to herself. Almost. As soon as the bedroom door closes, she tosses the script on the floor and turns the TV back on. Soon she is deeply absorbed in one of her favorite soaps.
"Taking a break from your reading?" Her tone was light, but Amelia's voice holds a tinge of sarcasm also. Who knows how long she has been standing there behind the couch, out of eyesight.
Celine blushes, hoping it doesn’t show, and tries not to act so surprised even though she knows she already jumped at hearing the other girl's voice. "Um, yeah, that's it. My eyes were getting tired…"
"Good, then. I wanted to talk for a coupla moments anyhow." Amelia sits on one arm of the couch, crosses her long denim-clad legs, and just about shoves one foot in Celine's face. "Notice anything new?" she hints broadly, gyrating her ankle so the silvery slingback shoe she’s wearing was unmistakable and unavoidable. There’s a faint smell of new leather.
"Getting ready to go out dancing again, I see," Celine observes. Her roommate always seemed to devote more time to her own pleasure and possessions that anything else.
"You bet, and I got a super-slinky slipdress to go with these. New club up in 'beca; wanna come along? It'll be a blast!" Amelia prattles on, completely ignoring that she is talking over the soap opera.
"No way, and you know it. Tonight I gotta work. Just like every night. Is that all you wanted, to parade around in your new shoes for me?"
"Oh, no; not really," Amelia recalls and Celine cursed herself for bringing that back up. “Now, that you mention it, they do divine things for my legs, you have to agree.” It wasn’t a question.
“Didn’t you say you had someplace to go tonight – out to a club or something?” Celine snaps, turning back to the TV and tuning her out. The unread script remains on the floor. After an awkward silence, Amelia goes away; a few minutes later the apartment door slams.
At the next commercial break, Celine picks up the newspaper and scans the roommate-wanted section, finally tired of listening to her roommate’s self-centered prattling. She has to get out away.
* * *
That evening is one of those magical one-in-a-million moments when the city lights seem almost like a fairly tale land as the day’s reality fades away. There’s no hint of rain in the sky, so Celine decides to walk to work instead of taking the bus, saving her a few dollars and letting her stretch those legs a little bit. Glimpses of a fading spectacular sunset can still be seen between the tall buildings.
At the edge of the arts district, she comes across a street vendor at a card table who looks to be fencing some oddball items on the side. Celine glances through the typical hodgepodge of portable music players, generic knock-off watches, and bootleg CD's; vaguely disappointed as usual. She pulls her purse up higher on her shoulder and begins to walk away, until the sparkle from a pair of crystal clear pumps catches her eye. Squatting down, the willowy waitress (actress/model) picks up the unique high-heeled footwear for a closer look. At first the shoes look like ordinary acrylic stripper platform-heels, but this pair has a cool mineral denseness and are quite heavy considering their delicate eggshell-thin design. She turns them around, clearly intrigued, as their glassy surface picks out glints from the streetlights.
The flack who’s selling them sees his chance to make a quick sale and turns on the charm, which isn’t difficult for this gorgeous customer.
“Evenin’ there ma'm . . . how yall doin' ? Some mighty fiiine weather we be havin' today!"
Celine politely smiles, as she looks inside the shoes for a size; finding none. She brushes her locks away from her eyes before asking," How much for these?"
"Them shoes is off tha' hook! Jus’ came in off the truck yesterday. They s'posed to be imported!" spouts the hustler.
The pretty young woman continues to look the shoes over for a brand name, size, anything! But the only thing she manages to find is an intertwined script logo branded into the bottom that, oddly enough, looks almost Middle-Eastern. She looks back up at the tout, "So . . . how much?"
The vendor replies, "Honey, fo' twenty five dollas' – ya'll can take em' off my hands!"
Celine declines with a brief shake of her head and starts to place them back on the table . . .
"Come on – fo' only twenty dollars, I'll toss em' in a bag, and you be wearin' em' at the club this weekend!" offers the vendor.
Celine replies, “No, I don't think so,” as she hitches up her purse and starts to turn away. . .
"Ten dolla!... Jes’ ten dolla's fo' these fine imported shoes... They the last pair I got left!" warns the vendor.
Celine hesitates a bit longer, before finally giving in. The girl opens her purse and the hawker cracks a smile as she comments, "What the hell; I'll buy these as a practical joke for my roommate!"
"There ya go!" agrees the vendor, before sticking out his greedy hand. "Thanks ma'm, and ya'll have a nice day now!"
Celine says nothing more after passing over a crumpled five and some ones, then stuffs the shoes into her handbag, where they make a noticeable bulge. With a fleeting wry smile to the vendor, she continues walking to work, picking up the pace since she’s now slightly late.
The vendor watches the girl walk away, appreciating the sway of her hips and legs, then flips open his phone to make a call. "Yeah, this is Barry . . . yeah, down on seventh street. Lissen, tell your man that the girl picked up those shoes . . . Yeah, I’m sure; she just left. Aighht, it's a pleasure doin' business with you too dog, Peace!" The man flips his phone shut, before pulling out his wad of money to add up the take.
* * *
Next morning, the girls’ tempers have cooled a little as they putter around, getting ready for their day. In point of fact, Amelia has forgotten all about the previous day.
Celine has a go-see planned; she’s putting her face on and choosing from the chic side of her meager wardrobe rather than the random T-shirts and cut-offs she normally wears around the apartment. It’s also a change from the pleated white shirt, vest, and slacks that her job at the restaurant demanded. Some days she has to keep reminding herself she is an actress and was not going to end up waiting tables the rest of her life.
Amelia notices, “Hey, that outfit looks good on you; should have worn it last night and you would’a had a good time,” she grins with a glow, leaving the unsaid ‘like I did!’ hanging in the air. She’s showered and fresh-looking, also dressed more finely than for a typical day shopping.
“Thanks,” Celine allows, trying not to get dragged into their usual pointless argument. “So do you, of course; have fun with anyone interesting?”
“Oh, just a middle-eastern prince, you know; the usual,” Amelia chuckles airily. “He invited me to his estate in the country that he’s leasing until he can find a place of his own; that penthouse suite in-town is just for when he can’t get away overnight. Yeah, he’s that loaded! So, today we’re going to explore mansions together and then later, who knows, maybe try out some bedrooms. Again.”
“Congratulations, and good hunting,” Celine replies with only a slight icy edge in her voice.
“Thanks; maybe I’ll finally be able to get out of this dump,” Amelia commented, scanning the apartment and leaving Celine with mixed feelings.
“Yeah.” She could never afford ‘this dump’. . . A beat or two passes. “Hey, I ran across something yesterday you might enjoy, seeing as it looks like you’ve met your prince charming and all,” the struggling actress changes the subject. “Since you’re so into shoes and stuff… when I saw these I knew I had to get them for you. Just a moment!” Celine rummages in the clutter around her trundle bed and returns holding the clear crystal pumps by their heels, presenting them to Amelia, who smiles politely. “I hope they’re your size; there was only one pair. You could always just display them in your closet, or make up a good story. Anyway… here,” Celine holds out the glass shoes.
“Oh, that’s so sweet of you,” Amelia replies, “they look expensive and – wow – so solid, she clucks as she takes the offered gift. “They may actually fit,” she comments while kicking off her own designer heels. “Wait; I don’t have anything for you,” she pauses, looking towards Celine.
“That’s OK; it’s a gift,” the young actress/model demurred.
“Hang on; yes I do!” Amelia brightened. “I almost forgot, with all that happened last night, but Prince Azbar gave me this. He wanted me to wear it to bed, but events sort of took over on their own, if you know what I mean.” She looks deep into her purse and pulls out a braided golden necklace that is encrusted with what had to be imitation gems: rubies, emeralds, and sapphires. “It’s kind of gaudy, but it should go well with that scoop-neck outfit you’ve got on now. Here…”
“Oh! I can’t accept that; it’s too expensive; must be worth a fortune,” Celine objects, suddenly blushing.
“The prince gave it to me and I’m giving it to you, so don’t think about that any more. Besides, he told me all of the women he really likes get one of these; it can’t cost that much. ‘Cause I know I’m not the first,” she concludes cattily.
“You’re OK with that – being part of his harem?” Celine blurts, then regrets saying it.
Amelia laughs. “Of course! This thing with the prince is just a fling, and he knows it too. It’s not like I’m going to end up with him permanently; that just happens in fairytales. I’m a big girl now.” She holds out the necklace to her roommate again.
“If you’re sure…?” Celine hesitates.
“Yes, for the last time, it’s now yours,” Amelia insisted. “In fact, I’d like to see you wearing it; here, let me help you with the catch,” she continues, fiddling with one link on the ornate gold necklace that opened.
“All right, but then you should put on my gift too, at least for a moment,” suggests Celine, looking over at the crystal pumps on the table.
“You got it,” Amelia chuckles, slipping her own shoes off and inserting her feet into the cool last of the glassy shoes. Amazingly, they fit almost perfectly and were only a little tight. She stands and the additional height brings her eyes above Celine’s. The crystal shoes seem heavier than normal leather ones would be and it takes her some effort to move her legs in them. “These feel odd, almost as if they’re magnetic or something. My toes are tingling…” she comments, puzzled.
“They look like they were made for you, but if they’re hurting, take ‘em off,” Celine cautions.
“I can stand it for a while; it’s not like I’m going to have them on forever,” her roommate remarks, taking slow steps toward the mirror. “Now, let’s see to that necklace,” she said as she loops the golden braid around Celine’s swanlike, sculptured neck and clicks the clasp closed. The exquisite jewelry piece contrasts well with the younger girl’s pale skin, resting just above the swell of her small breasts. “There you go; take a look at yourself in the mirror,” Amelia suggests.
“OK, super,” Celine agrees, taking a few steps to where the big full-length mirror sat just inside the doorway. She catches a glimpse of her reflection and gasps; the gold necklace looks amazingly beautiful on her as the jewels sparkle in the light. The precious metal is cool against her bare skin and seems to bring out the blue in her eyes and the blush in her cheeks. She could look at herself endlessly there.
“Celine? A little… help?” Amelia’s voice seems unusual, sleepy, for some reason.
The actress tears herself away from her intoxicating likeness in the mirror and turns around to see her roommate standing exactly where she was before. “What’s going on, Ami?”
“I can’t move… my feet… Whole body’s… getting numb… Stiff,” she manages to say at a snail's pace while raising her arms in what looks like slow motion. “Take… off…” she begins to say, then trails off into uneasy silence as she continues to stare blankly ahead. Her arms remain held in front of her, awkwardly grasping into empty air.
“Take off what; the shoes?” Cecila calls back, then realizes Amelia isn’t moving at all; she’s posed there, frozen like some sort of living statue. Her eyes are starting to look glassy and empty; as the seconds pass her skin is picking up a slightly glossy, eggshell sheen. Touching her roommate’s smooth skin brings another surprise. “Holy shit! You’re hard as a rock… can you hear me at all?” Celine wails, but Amelia doesn’t move a muscle. “Wait a sec; I’m going to try and tip you over, don’t be afraid…”
Celine takes a step back, or starts to, and then notices her feet seem stuck to the floor too, even though there was nothing down there to stick to. “Oh, shi…” she begins to say, then her voice fades at the same instant her neck starts to feel tingly and numb. She can’t turn her head; she has to rotate her entire body around. Reaching for the phone, she realizes her body is now stiffening up as well and her legs feel leaden and stuck. Her fingers and hands are becoming more solid and rigid with every passing second; soon they don’t respond to her thoughts either and remain locked in position. There is no way she can unclasp the necklace now without help.
What’s happening to meeee? her thoughts wail in panic. Suspecting the unbelievable truth, with one last effort she pivots at her slim waist so she can glance into the mirror before her body also freezes into position. She can see the reflection of Amelia standing posed and immobile behind her, looking very artificial now, and watches with shock as her own skin seems to be hardening and turning solid with that same unusual, painted-on sheen as her roommate’s. Realizing she is longer breathing, the beautiful Celine surrenders to her fate, knowing only a few seconds more remain before: Nothingness…
Seconds pass into minutes as the two young women remain absolutely motionless and still. It would be easy to imagine them as merely elegant display figures in a window diorama depicting a messy midtown apartment. Minutes pass into hours.
* * *
Towards late afternoon, there is an unanswered knock, then the apartment door opens and two bulky men in business suits enter; one had a 9mm pistol drawn. Ignoring the two mannequins with barely a glance, they proceed to clear the rest of the rooms before returning to the main living area.
One of them has a cell phone out: “Yes, we are at the correct location now… Yes, Excellency, as expected, but there is – how to say it – good fortune today. The second chosen one is also present!
Yes… Another shipping container is required. Very well. At the rendezvous, yes. The vagrant will be silenced as well. Of course.” He breaks the connection and nods to the other man as they begin erasing any trace the two girls had ever been here, or had even existed for that matter.
While his partner is out of the room, he takes time to notice the truly exquisite mannequin that is wearing the charmed necklace. He runs one callused finger along the hardened curve of her slim neck down into the valley between her mounded breasts. The mannequin continues to stare glassy-eyed at its reflection in the mirror, an unwavering image of loveliness.
“Do not defile the chosen one!” The other thug orders, sweeping quickly into the room and surprising the first man.
“His Excellency’s tastes in decorations are improving; usually he becomes attracted to the more superficial ones,” he comments, casting a glance over at where Amelia stands.
“Now, it seems, he will have the choice. Destiny has smiled once again… It is a good day!”