Jane was pretty happy in her new job.
That is, she was glad to be back in work once more: there's nothing concentrates the mind on the attraction of work like a period of time without it. But, if it were just that, she knew, she'd soon have tired of her new job. Like she did with her previous one.
No. Before joining the staff of Johnston's, the city's largest, most expensive and most chic department store, Jane would have been the first to say she'd never settle for a job as a 'mere shop assistant'. She had goals and aims and ambitions, had Jane!
So she was surprised, nearly four weeks after she began, to find herself actually looking forward to going into work. She liked the company of the other staff. She enjoyed serving the customers. She simply loved being so close to the latest fashions. Because, as part of her daily routine - as new girl on the block - she was responsible for changing the mannequins on her section of the floor.
She even - despite initial misgivings - was beginning to warm to David Scott, the Floor Manager. It was not that he was unattractive: far from it. Each day, he arrived before anyone else, immaculately turned out, wearing a smart grey or black pinstripe, and sporting a carnation in his buttonhole. He was well-groomed, fit, handsome...but also something of a perfectionist.
On Jane's first day, one of the older assistants had asked her to re-arrange the bridal display. Which Jane eagerly did.
She was just starting to remove the veil from the female mannequin, the bride at the centre of the display, when an angry voice boomed out behind her.
'Girl! Just what do you think you are doing with poor Traci?'
That was when Jane first learnt one of the store's more idiosyncratic policies: 'never change a mannequin out in the open', as Mr Scott lectured her afterward, when he had cooled down slightly. 'We live or die by our reputation for fashion and the magic that lies behind the fashion. How much magic do you think we'd have left if we started stripping off our poor girls in public?'
Jane conceded he had a point. She could remember walking past a shop front, and seeing a collection of mannequins, half-naked, hair astray, missing limbs. It did subtract from the magic: the grand illusion that they were all working together to create.
Yes: Mr Scott had a point. But it was disconcerting: the way he didn't seem to distinguish between his flesh and blood assistants, and the more plastic version out on display. They were all - assistants and mannequins alike - his 'girls'. He even had names for his mannequins. In her first few days at Johnston's, it was more likely he would remember their names than get Jane's right!
Four weeks further in, and Jane was beginning to feel comfortable. For once in her life, she could imagine herself settling down, staying put.
They were busy that morning.
Also, with the summer season coming up, they needed to change round a few of the displays. More swimsuits. Fewer warm coats. And, whilst people were in the mood for taking some clothes off: more lingerie.
Jane had just finished serving a rather difficult customer, when Mr Scott touched her lightly on the shoulder. We need to set up a new lingerie display opposite the main aisle. Why don't you take 'Traci' and a couple of the others from the fashion coats section, and turn them out in something a little sexier.
Jane nodded, and hurried to comply. Another way to get on the wrong side of the Floor Manager, she had learnt, was to dawdle. She identified the three mannequins that needed changing, hunted down one of the store porters, and had them moved to a changing room out of sight of the main sales floor.
This was one of the store's changing rooms: not one of the claustrophobic cubicles available for would-be customers. When the store put on its weekly fashion parade, it was used by real live flesh and blood models; otherwise, it was where she and the other assistants were supposed to do all the costume changing for their mannequins.
She liked the room. It was wide and spacious: the latter effect was enhanced by the presence of a full-length mirror running all the way down one wall - like a ballet school.. At the same time, it was totally enclosed: no windows. Just the one door. Artificial lighting. There was a relaxing, womb-like quality to the place.
Jane enjoyed working in here: it made a nice contrast to the hectic life out on the floor; and whilst she would never trade people for the solitary life, it was good, every now and then, to be left to herself.
Well. Herself, and the three 'girls'. Jane kicked herself mentally: Mr Scott had got her doing it now. 'They are NOT girls', she told herself off, sternly: 'just mannequins'.
A couple of porters had delivered them on a trolley to the room a few minutes before Jane arrived. Whilst they did the lifting and carrying, she had spent an enjoyable few minutes picking out items for display from the current range. Nothing TOO over the top was one rule. Nor too expensive.
What she was looking for had to be tasteful, sexy, and within the budget of the average Johnston customer. A bit more than most would spend on underwear: but not over-the-top extravagant.
For the first two mannequins, Jane picked out a beautiful flowing nightdress, and a silk bra and pantie set, with matching dressing gown. For the third - her old friend 'Traci', she couldn't help noticing - she picked up a soft shimmering teddy in light blue. Momentarily, she touched it to her cheek: enjoyed its soft silkiness.
If only she could afford to shop at Johnston's....
Then, dream over, she scurried to the changing room to check that the porters had done as she asked. They were, on the whole, pretty efficient. But there had been times - one just a week previous - when a simple request from her had been followed by a swift disappearing act on their behalf:
No. All was as it should be. The three mannequins stood at the far end of the room, like three smartly dressed shoppers waiting for a bus.
'Soon change that', smiled Jane. 'You wouldn't want to wait for a bus in what I've got here'.
As she entered the changing room, she caught sight of herself paused briefly in the entrance. That was, if truth be told, another reason for her liking this room. It gave her the chance to admire herself.
And there was much to admire. Reflected back at her was approximately 5'9" of slim, stunning blonde. Not quite your average blonde. She didn't go in for 'big hair': she kept her own short, straight and manageable - a pageboy cut framing fine, strong features.
A firm, rounded bosom: again, neither too much, nor too little. Flat slim stomach. Strong hips. Legs kept smooth and supple by regular exercise. There was a slightly Swedish look about Jane, which puzzled her, as - to the best of her knowledge - there was not a trace of Scandinavian ancestry in her family.
No matter. Wherever it came from, it looked good: and that was good enough for her.
Jane moved down the room, and started work on the first mannequin. She stripped her, then halted briefly to admire her figure.
Of course she wasn't going to start getting sentimental about them. Like Mr Scott. But she DID like the way they looked: the way she looked, sometimes, when she had on something especially figure-hugging and cat-suit-like in lycra. She liked the smooth rounded perfection of their breasts: the sexless sexuality they displayed between their legs.
She liked, though would never admit it, the way they stood there. Naked. Unashamed. Poseable. Sometimes, she wondered what it would be like to be in their place.
She shook her head, and got back to work.
Hot work. She was breathing heavily after she had finished dressing and re-dressing the second mannequin.
That was the down side to this room. The lack of windows made it a very airless place to be. If you stayed in it for any length of time, you started to get hot. If you stayed too long, Jane wondered, perhaps the air would get bad, and you'd pass out.
Of course, she knew you wouldn't. So why was she feeling ever-so-slightly faint?
'No breakfast', she decided. 'I really must get into the habit of eating before work'.
She stepped closer to 'Traci', and slid the thick woollen sweater she was wearing over her head.
Oh. That light-headedness again.
Jane paused to catch her breath. and re-adjust her 'Traci's' wig.
Underneath, she saw, 'Traci' was wearing a white blouse, a sensible knee-length navy-blue skirt, and long high-heeled walking boots.
She'd have to get the boots off. It would look decidedly strange for a mannequin to be wearing a teddy and boots. Maybe it would amuse some of the customers: it certainly wouldn't amuse Mr Scott.
Jane detached 'Traci' from her stand and laid her down on the floor. She pulled hard, one leg, then the other.
Then, she stood 'Traci' up again and balanced her body against the wall opposite the mirror.
This was really silly: here she was leaning 'Traci' against the wall. But she felt so faint, herself, that she was leaning on both the wall and Traci for support.
Jane undid Traci's skirt, and let it slid down to her ankles. She'd lift her clear of that in a moment. Thankfully, she wasn't wearing any panties.
Then she started on the buttons of her blouse. Only, now Jane was feeling stiff as well as faint. She undid the top button with a struggle: then she started wrestling with the buttons lower down.
For some reason, each time she tried to grasp a button between thumb and forefinger, she found it hard to close her fingers together. Then, as she grasped a button, her fingers would spring apart again, leaving her pawing frustrated at the front of the mannequin's blouse.
'Rest'. She told herself. 'I just need a moment's rest. Then I'll be fine.' She leant forward again, resting against the mannequin. She liked the way that felt. Her breasts brushed against two hard plastic breasts concealed beneath 'Traci's' seemingly unremoveable blouse.
In fact, if she closed her eyes just for a moment...she could almost imagine that they were just two mannequins, leant against a wall, waiting for their dresser to come.
'What?' Jane's eyes snapped open with a start.
She had felt...thought she had felt...something stirring beneath her. Impossible. She started to stand up, away from 'Traci', to get a better look.
Perhaps it was a practical joke. Someone dressed as a mannequin. Such things had been known to happen. But surely not: 'Traci' felt so hard, so plastic. She had to be real.
Jane couldn't stand up.
Her body felt stiff, rigid even. She was still leant against 'Traci'.
And 'Traci' moved. This time she wasn't imagining it.
'Traci' lifted her arms and pushed Jane backward. This gave 'Traci' a little leeway for movement, and she used it to escape from the space between Jane and the wall. She stepped to one side. Then?
She disappeared from Jane's field of vision. Presumably she was stood behind her.
Jane felt two strong arms on her own. Two arms lifted her up, and carried her back to the end of the room where the other two mannequins were stood. As she went, she could watch herself go past in the mirror.
It was an odd, disturbing sight. 'Traci', the former mannequin, was carrying Jane, her former dresser along by her arms. Only, 'Traci', so stiff and artificial before, now seemed so lively: and Jane seemed frozen; half-way between human and mannequin.
'Traci' stood Jane up just in front of her own stand and stepped back to get a better look at her. Seeing Jane's frozen and slightly surprised expression, she smiled.
'Your first time, is it dear?'
Jane could do nothing but stare blankly back at the attractive brunette who seemed to have turned the tables on her. It was an odd experience. Odder still, was the way that 'Traci's' face was changing. Her lips, painted harsh red, were softening. Her eyebrows, also only painted, appeared to be taking on depth: becoming more real by the second.
Everything about 'Traci' was becoming more real. Her movement was becoming less jerky: her body more supple and rounded.
'You're Jane, aren't you', 'Traci started gently. 'Only started recently?'
Mentally, Jane felt herself nodding agreement. Her head, as she saw in the mirror, remained still.
'Well, I'm sure you'll get used to it.'
Used to what?
'Traci' stepped forward and unbuttoned the top button on Jane's blouse. Then the next...and the next. It made Jane feel remarkably inadequate: the way this mannequin was doing with such ease what, minutes before, she had been so unable to do.
Working swiftly, professionally, 'Traci' undid all her buttons and slipped her blouse back off her shoulders.
A slight scrabbling behind her back, and Jane felt her bra being removed.
To her surprise, the next item 'Traci' took off was her own blouse.
She dropped it on the floor, and picked up Jane's bra. She put on Jane's bra. And her blouse.
Another smile. 'It fits nicely'.
Now....No! 'Traci' was removing her shoes: and undoing the belt around her waist. Jane felt her skirt being undone: felt it fall to the floor. Next, 'Traci' was pulling down her tights and panties.
If she could have moved, she would have gasped: in outrage at the violation of her body; and in horror at the sight she could now see reflected in the mirror.
It scarcely bothered her any more that Traci was putting on her clothes. Jane's clothes!
'Traci', her undresser, seemed to catch the thought precisely. 'Hmmm. You know, 'Jane', I think you'll do very well indeed'.
No. No. No. Jane wanted to scream that she wouldn't do well at all. That she wasn't the smooth, hairless, plastic form that the mirror reflected back at her in all her nakedness.
Traci turned her round slightly, to get a better view.
Of her smooth, firm plastic breasts. Of her hairless, featureless plastic crotch. Of her red painted lips and rouged cheeks.
The figure reflected back at 'Jane' was undoubtedly a mannequin. A beautiful, statuesque, blonde mannequin, posed with an expression of slight surprise on her face. Even as she watched, Traci determined to do something about that. Jane felt hands on her face, pushing firmly at her mouth and lips, changing surprise to smile: and smile to warm, inviting, sexy smile.
What was it Traci had said. There had been something in her voice. The way she'd spoken to her. The way she'd called her 'Jane'.
It so reminded her of the way Mr Scott spoke to his 'girls': his 'mannequins'.
I'm not a mannequin, Jane screamed inside, against all the evidence. I'm a dresser and an assistant in Johnston's department store.
Traci lifted her up and carried her backward a couple of paces. Jane felt something cold and hard nudging between her legs. She heard a sharp click. She was impaled upon the metal pole rising from the centre of Traci's stand. Her stand, she realised.
I'm the mannequin now.
As though to prove it, Traci chose that moment to lift up 'Jane's' arms and ease the blue teddy over her head and shoulders.
As she did so, the teddy caught on her hair, knocking it out of place. Off her head.
Her beautiful, blonde cut was nothing more than a wig. Underneath it, 'Jane' was as bald as any other mannequin.
Traci put her wig back on, adjusted the teddy, and gave 'Jane' a little peck on the cheek.
'Be good', she told her. She turned and walked out of the room, without so much as a backwards glance.
'Jane' stood there, her mind a whirl of mixed feelings. How could this happen. She hated it. She...liked the way she looked. She had been posed and...to her surprise, she found herself quite enjoying the sensation. Despite herself, she felt a sensation of warmth and contentment beginning to rise up inside her body.
A few minutes later, the porters arrived to move her back to the floor.
It was the first time that 'Jane' had been present when they were at work and thought no-one was looking. It amused her, as they swore about the 'stupid brunette with the nice titties' to realise that they were talking about Traci.
Then she was back on the floor. Though not quite in any way that she had been before.
On display. Herself and two other mannequins. Showing off the lingerie.
Strange how quickly she began to think of herself as a mannequin. Strange how little she was embarrassed. Despite the fact that she always used to be the shy one.
Posed, semi-naked. In the middle of a department store.
Two people were walking down the aisle toward her.
Traci. 'I've finished off the display, like you asked me', she was saying.
And Mr Scott. 'Splendid, Traci. They really do look magnificent'.
As he got nearer, he stopped to gaze in delight upon the arrangement. 'My beautiful girls', he announced to no-one in particular.
'And beautifullest of them all', he stepped forward to adjust a bow on the front of the teddy, 'my beautiful 'Jane''.
'Jane' knew she shouldn't. She really shouldn't...
She suddenly felt so good and warm and sexy.
She really did enjoy working at Johnston's. She liked working for Mr Scott. Perhaps, for the first time ever, someone would be prepared to bring a little stability into her life.
It did look as though she'd found herself a permanent position at last!