Barbara, Cyndi, Laura and Kelly were inseparable in high school. Friends to the end. All for one and one for all. They all had classes together. They all went to the prom together. They practically dated together. The Four Musketeers. Nothing could separate them, or so they thought.
All girls grow up and with the end of high school, separate paths opened to them. Barbara, Cyndi and Laura went to college, Barbara at a nearby state college, Cyndi at a large university in a neighboring state and Laura at an arts school on the other coast. But Kelly stayed home. Kelly had fallen deeply in love in high school, and unlike most high school romances, this one stuck. Kelly was going to work until she and her man had enough money and then they would be married. Well, it finally happened. He asked, and before the words were out of his mouth, and the ring out of his pocket, she said yes. There was no doubt in her mind.
Now the planning began. Finding bridesmaids was no problem. Even though they went their separate ways, the Four Musketeers were still inseparable. The only problem was choosing which one to be the maid of honor. After spending a long time trying to choose which one she liked best, Kelly threw up her hands. "Iíll take all three of them," she laughed.
The next step for Barbara, Cyndi and Laura was to find dresses. Usually, its the brides choice what the bridesmaids will wear, but Kelly couldnít do that to her friends. She only asked that all three dresses be floor-length and the same style. What they chose was up to them. They could even have different colors. And Kelly also asked that they use the same downtown bridal shop where she got her gown. So Barbara, Cyndi and Laura decided to meet and make their appointment for a day January during their college vacation. If they ordered now, they ought to have their dresses in time for Kellyís June wedding. It was like high school when they met downtown for lunch. They shared old times and caught up with what was going on in college, what kind of guys they met. Lauraís stories about the male models in her drawing class were the source of some serious laughter. Then, filled with food, coffee and good feelings, the three of them were off to the bridal shop, just a few blocks away.
"Hmm, Bridal Impressions," said Barbara scanning the four display windows before her. There were two wedding gowns and two bridesmaid dresses. Barbara was the most attractive of the four, a tall, brunette with a flair for fashion. She knew exactly what she wanted. Something simple yet elegant, and definitely something she would wear again. She wasnít majoring in finance for nothing.
"This place looks awfully pricey," complained Cyndi, a little wary of the sumptuous displays. Cyndi was a light-hearted redhead majoring in education. "Why did Kelly want us to go here? There are two or three malls in the suburbs with perfectly good stores." Cyndi had no idea what she wanted, except to make sure she didnít end up in some godawful taffeta and tulle arrangement.
"She said we would have a little fun if we went here," replied Barbara.
"A little fun?" questioned Cyndi. "What did she mean by that?"
Laura was strangely silent. She knew that she was never going to wear the dress again, except at maybe another wedding. Formal gowns werenít her style. Laura wore her blonde hair long and straight with hardly any makeup. She scanned the dresses in the window, no doubt with an artistic eye. But she was most interested in the mannequins. There was something odd about them, but she couldnít place it. Perhaps it was the way they were posed or their hair or something. Laura stared long and hard but came up with nothing.
Whoosh! The doors opened and the three stepped from the gray, snowy street
into a glitteringly decorated boutique. There were a few racks of dresses, but
most of the space was devoted to mirrors and displays. It was clear to
Barbara that this was no wedding gown warehouse. The dresses here were going
to be upscale and she instinctively clutched at her purse. "I only hope these
dresses are going to be worth the price," she thought to herself. Cyndi was
infatuated with the accoutrements. Globe lights hanging from the ceiling,
gold and mahogany everywhere and mannequins showing off the wares of the house.
"Wow," she thought.
"This is cool." Laura was drawn directly to the nearest display. It was a single mannequin wearing a gold, french satin bridesmaidís dress. She gazed closely at its construction. An off-the-shoulder neckline, princess lines and a band of emroidered flowers setting off the empire waistline. From there, the skirt dropped in a-line fashion to the floor.
"Look at that," said Laura almost without thinking. The three friends were
drawn to the display.
"I wouldnít mind being seen in something like that," mused Cyndi. "Maybe thereíll be a cute guy in a tuxedo at the wedding."
"Letís find out how much it is before we jump to conclusions," said Barbara.
But again, Laura was strangely silent. She was drawn to the mannequin. It had blonde hair with a wave that extended past the shoulders. The head was cast slightly down and to the right and the eyes looked demurely at the floor. Arms covered by over-the-elbow gloves restedlimp at the sides. Bright display lights reflected off the material.
What was it that enraptured her?
"Barbara...I think that dummy is.. real," Laura stammered.
"What are you talking about, of course it's real," replied Barbara impatiently.
"No, I mean I think its alive," said Laura her voice a little higher.
"Oh, they all look real nowadays," said Barbara. Ever the practical one, Barbara stepped forward and began flicking and snapping her fingers in front of the mannequinís eyes. It responded with complete immobility continuing a steady gaze on the floor. "Satisfied?" huffed Barbara.
"But it does look real, doesnít it?" asked Laura, searching for reassurance?
"Yes, Laura, it looks real. Now letís see if we can get some service in here," said Barbara.
With that, a young, attractive, well-dressed woman approached them.
"Good afternoon, my name is Lynn and I am here to help you. If Iím not mistaken,
Iíd say we have some bridesmaids here."
"Is it that obvious?" blushed Cyndi.
"Well, one is able to spot these things after a while," replied Lynn. "Actually, you are the only ones with an appointment for this time. Are you interested in that dress? Its beautiful, isnít it.."
At that moment, Lynn manipulated a floor device with her foot. The mannequin began to slowly rotate on its base. Its golden dress and hair shimmered in the light and the three of them all got a good look at it. Laura was ever more entranced, watching the life-like dummy twirl on display and feeling her breathing get ever shorter.
"Yes it is," said Barbara getting to the point. "How much is it?"
"Oh, Iíll have to check for sure but I think that one is about $150," answered Lynn. "Would you like to try one on?"
Fortunately, among the many other things they had in common, Barbara, Cyndi, Laura and Kelly were all approximately the same size. There was endless confusion in high school as the four exchanged clothes on regular basis, sometimes coming home with a different outfit than what they left for school in, to the constant infuriation of their mothers. Now this would turn to their advantage. It is virtually impossible to find a bridesmaidís dress that looks good on any three to five randomly selected women. Friendships have ended over this. Barbara, Cyndi, Laura and especially Lynn were not going to have that problem.
"Well letís see," said Lynn happily, "I make you all about a size 8, right?"
"Close enough," said Cyndi.
"Iím pretty sure we donít have three size 8s in this dress but I know we have
one. You can all try on the same dress and if you like it weíll order one for
each of you." The three nodded in agreement.
Before Lynn disappeared Laura blurted out what had been on her mind thewhole time. "Can you tell me something about this dummy? It looks so real. How do they get it to look like that?"
"She looks real because she is real!" chuckled Lynn. Looks of stunned
amazement came over the three women.
"What?" gasped Cyndi.
"She IS real. She is a real woman. All of our mannequins are real women." Lauraís heart began to pound and she felt the blood rising to her head.
"But how do they keep so still for so long? Weíve been here ten minutes and she hasnít even blinked once."
"Oh, thatís easy. It's a new discovery. The model drinks a liquid preparation before going on and simply steps into position and poses. The liquid doesnít do anything until these special display lights are turned on. That activates the liquid and the model is frozen." Barbara, Cyndi and Laura began to move away from the display. "Oh, goodness, its OK," laughed Lynn. "Those lights have no effect on anyone who hasnít had the drink."
"But is it safe for them?" asked Barbara.
"Oh, yes, of course," replied Lynn. "Its very relaxing. After about five minutes it starts to feel like your mind is divorced from your body. You lose sensation but you are perfectly alert and aware ofeverything going on around you."
"You mean she can hear us," asked Cyndi, looking at the frozen statue.
"Oh yes, every word. It will last for about six hours and then we switch shifts."
"Switch shifts?" queried Barbara.
"Yes, sometimes we are working in the back fitting dresses, and sometimes we are on the sales floor and sometimes we are mannequins."
"You mean you do this too?" said Laura.
"Oh yes. My shift will be coming up soon. Thereís a beautiful Bianchi wedding gown I want to model today."
The three remained silent, gazing at the mannequin, out of questions but not
out of astonishment.
"Iíll get that dress for you now," said Lynn. As she disappeared into the back the bridesmaids began wandering aimlessly around the room. Barbara and Cyndi stopped at a display featuring two mannequins wearing Nicole Miller dresses. The first had straight brown hair and wore a ruby red long satin empire dress. She carressed a matching shawl, wrapped around her back, in her arms. The second, with copper-red hair, wore a blue satin tank ball gown.
"You could wear those to a party," said Barbara, trying to think of something
normal to say.
But the other two thought only of the still women wearing the dresses. They were fixed motionless, eyes staring blankly in front of them. What were they thinking? Cyndi looked at the body of the second one. It was in a bit more motion than the first, with her left arm up in a forty-five degree angle and the right down and away from her. A slight smile was chiseled across her face. Cyndi wondered what she was smiling at when the lights were turned on her.
Laura was still transfixed at the first display. She stared into the mannequinís eyes and became motionless herself, deep in thought. Her heart began pounding faster and faster. What would it be like to be a living statue, a beautiful goddess on display for everyone to see? Laura felt her body begin to shake. In a few minutes, her crotch was getting moist. Men would desire her. Women would envy her. The arousal was becoming too much to bear. Already she was fantasizing about that dress and how she would wear her hair and how she would pose... and how she would feel as everyone gazed at her, when suddenly her wet dream was interrupted by Cyndiís calls.
"Barbara, Laura, come quick!" cried Cyndi.
"What? What is it?"
"Look at this!"
The three stood before yet another living mannequin. This one was standing very erect with blonde shoulder-length hair. Her bridesmaidís dress was a black, sleeveless a-line dress with empire waist and square neckline that fell to just above her ankles, exposing matching dress shoes below. Her right hand was wrapped around a small fake tree and her right clutched a bouquet of very red fake flowers.
"Do you know who that one is?" asked Cyndi.
"No, who," said the other two in unison.
Lowering her voice and signalling the others to huddle, Cyndi revealed the
secret. "Itís Jennifer Bascom!" she whispered.
Barbara gasped with delight. "Youíre kidding. It is!"
"Shhh, keep your voice down, sheíll hear you," warned Cyndi. The three rose from their huddle and observed the bane of their high school existence, Jennifer Bascom. Jennifer was the most attractive girl in school, the one who always had a pack of boys trailing after her with their tongues hanging out. She and her clique were merciless to any girl less attractive than them, including the four musketeers. She had always bragged about how she was going to be a big model in New York after graduation.
"I guess she never made it to New York," snickered Barbara.
"Iíd say her progress has been slowed considerably," mocked Laura. "Wasnít she a brunette?" asked Cyndi. She wasnít anymore! She was a platinum blonde or that was a wig? Jennifer looked off to her left with a very earnest look on her face. Her arched-back pose looked awfully uncomfortable. Very deserving, thought the three, for one who had made their lives so uncomfortable.
They were having trouble containing themselves but were brought back to earth
by the reappearance of Lynn with the dress. "Come on back to the changing rooms.
There arenít any brides here at the moment so you can use the mirror display
if you want to."
The mirror display is a normal apparatus in bridal shops. Brides can stand half-surrounded by mirrors so they and their party can see all sides of the dress. Oddly, there was a bride standing before the mirrors in a gorgeous Jessica McClintock with full veil. She turned and hurried past them. Barbara was about to tell her how beautiful she looked but before she could, the bride had disappeared into the store. "Strange," thought Barbara. "Lynn said there were no brides here."
The three friends tried the dress on in turn and cavorted playfully before
the mirrors, first Barbara, then Cyndi.
When Laura emerged from the changing room, she stepped onto the pedestal and stood before the mirrors. Suddenly, her former thoughts of self-display came flooding back to her and she involuntarily struck and held a static pose. Her friends at first were dismayed that she didnít answer their jokes but then realized she was mocking the living mannequins in the store, or so they thought.
Laura became even more aroused and was finding it hard to break her pose, but finally she did. Her friends thought the joke a scream, never realizing that Laura wasnít kidding. Regaining her senses, she turned around to her laughing friends.
Even Lynn was chuckling a bit. "Weíll have you working here in no time," said Lynn. The thought sent a chill down Lauraís spine. She was about to offer her services when reality hit her. In a week she would be returning to school in California, not standing still in a bridal shop.
"I donít think so," said Laura.
After the laughter died down, Lynn returned to making the sale. "So, is this the dress you want?"
The friends looked at each other and smiled. "Yes," said Barbara, "weíll take it."
"Excellent," sighed Lynn, thankful that it had been so easy. "Now what about colors? This style comes in red, blue and this gold."
"Oh, red for me," said Barbara.
"Blue," piped Cyndi, almost as quickly.
And after a short pause, Laura added "Iíll take gold," with a smile.
"And matching gloves?" asked Lynn.
"Yes," said the three, giggling at their uncanny unity of mind. After taking leave of Lynn, Barbara, Cyndi and Laura replaced their coats and headed out into the wintry street.
"Kelly was right," said Cyndi. "This was fun." The other two agreed.
As they passed the window displays, they stopped in front of one in particular.
It was the "bride" in the Jessica McClintock they had seen before the mirrors.
She was frozen in place as a living mannequin!
"Wow," said Cyndi.
"Yeah, wow," answered Laura, barely moving.