In a mall Porsha had passed through many times before, something new caught her eye on a windy Sunday morning.
Where there had previously been dull windows, showing the hollow shell of a store, now there were polished panes of glass windows to the right of the front door. One glance at what was on display in those windows, a female mannequin, told Porsha that this was a clothing store. Porsha did not need new clothing at that moment—her current collection was large enough—but she still felt the compulsion to go and window-shop for a minute.
Being a fit woman for her age of twenty-seven years, Porsha was not afraid of showing off the efforts of her work. This applied as much to her job in property management as her pursuits into physical fitness; the latter “job” led her to work out at the gym at least three times a week, primarily on cardio and weights to build up her muscle mass and stamina. She displayed her body’s physique best during the warmer seasons when short-sleeved clothes are worn more often in public.
The natural air was turning cooler that Sunday as summer changed to autumn, but this did not stop the new clothing store from displaying short shorts and tank tops hanging in rows beyond the reach of the store’s entrance. Porsha wore neither of those clothes that morning, instead opting for a blue long-sleeved shirt made of thinner material to match a pair of well-worn jeans and slip-on shoes. A purse connected hanging from a shoulder strap completed her desired image, casual wear for a casual stroll through the local mall.
The mannequin in the store’s display window was not wearing casual clothes. Porsha’s eyes widened a tiny degree as she took in the mannequin’s long red dress with thin straps around the shoulders. She then trailed her vision down a plunging neckline that drew her to the decorative ring of lace around the bodice. Similar rings were on the ends of the dress’s sleeves, the fabric stretching down a few inches from the wearer’s arm to enhance the wearer’s appearance.
Porsha had never worn a dress like that before. She did not want to wear one soon, either. It was nice to look at, at least, so she kept looking at it. She looked at the dress’s bottom, how it ended at the mannequin’s ankles with more of that same lace pattern. She looked at the mannequin’s feet and imagined heeled shoes to add a few more inches to their height, the better for a ballroom or high-class dinner.
Porsha’s wandering eyes reached the mannequin’s face, and she froze in momentary shock. The mannequin looked painted. Maybe sculpted? It had a very lifelike appearance, something that must have taken hours to construct. Blue eyes, brown hair that flowed down to the middle of their back, nails painted with red to match the dress—
The mannequin twitched. Porsha almost missed it, but she saw one of the fingers move. Or she thought she saw it. Then, squinting her eyes to get a more precise look, she saw a small rise and fall happening with the mannequin’s chest. Was it… breathing?
Porsha swallowed and broke her gaze, turning away from the sight and back to the rest of the world. The mall’s indoor lights appeared blinding until she adjusted herself. She scratched an itch on her scalp, running her fingers through her short black hair. Just a trick of the eye, she told herself. Nothing more.
Still, Porsha looked back at the mannequin. It had not moved from when she had turned away. It wore the same clothes and had the same expression on its face; a distant curiosity, as if staring at something only it could see. Porsha turned away again and went to the store’s front door, stopping when she saw the “CLOSED” sign hanging on the other side of the reinforced glass. Above the sign was the name of the store: “What You Wear”.
Looking down below the “CLOSED” sign, she saw a small poster detailing contact information for volunteer work at the store. “We want to display fashion from the heart,” the poster said in bold lettering. “You can help us! Scan the QR code and fill out an online application form today! Customer service experience a plus!” Below that was the mentioned QR or “Quick-Response” code, a specific two-dimensional matrix barcode that appeared to link to the mentioned application form.
Porsha looked at the sign’s letters again, and then at the store’s funny name. She pictured herself standing behind the store’s cash register, wandering through the shelves to rearrange items, or even handling those lifelike mannequins. Each job had some charm to it that her current job did not allow.
Could I work here? Maybe just part-time?
Porsha had customer service experience but dealing with people renting properties required different skills than dealing with people buying clothes. There would be less ability to move around inside a store than when touring a house, for example. Porsha liked her freedom, as well as the ability to answer questions at her own pace. Customers waiting to buy something at a counter would not be willing to wait very long. However, if that mannequin was any sign of this store’s personality, it was not an ordinary distributor of clothing.
There had to be something it was hiding, a secret technique or strategy not yet publicly known. Something that made mannequins look beautiful…
Steady on, Porsha!
Porsha slowly exhaled a breath she had not realized she had been holding. She recorded the website name on her phone before using the device’s camera to access the QR code’s link. It brought her phone to a webpage, but she did not touch that any further before putting her phone into her purse’s inner compartment. She made a mental note to submit an online application later that day. Depending on how quickly they responded, she might be able to start learning more about how the clothes people wore defined the person.
Porsha smirked as she turned away from the store and continued down the indoor walkway. My wardrobe could use an upgrade, and where better to get it than a place like that?
After filling out an application form the same evening, Porsha was not surprised to get a reply from the managers of “What You Wear” in the middle of the next week. What surprised her was a request by the sender to come to the store for an in-person interview that Thursday afternoon. She had expected a phone call to screen out the first wave of applicants. This was moving faster than she had expected.
Porsha made sure her schedule was free for the mentioned day and time and got to the store without incident. It was around 5:30 when she approached the store’s front door, her workday shift having ended thirty minutes ago. Her stomach growled from a growing hunger, but Porsha was more concerned about making sure this interview was worth her time and effort. Working here would be difficult, sure, but over the week Porsha had felt a growing sense of interest in having a new working environment. Now, she was about to learn more of what the store’s working environment looked like.
The front door opened easily to Porsha’s efforts. There were no customers inside, but two women were standing behind the checkout counter’s cash register and sorting through the till. They both wore blue long-sleeved collared shirts, their legs and feet hidden behind the counter. They both looked up at Porsha’s arrival, brightening after a moment to process who the stranger was.
“Hello!” said the taller of the two women, a blond-haired lady who did not look a day over 35 years old. “Welcome to our store! Are you Porsha, for the interview?”
“That’s me, yes,” Porsha replied as she quickly stepped over to the front of the checkout counter. “I got here after my shift ended for today.”
“Glad you could come.” The blond woman extended her hand to Porsha, who took it with a firm shake she had used with lots of prospective renters. “I’m Tanya, and this is Abigail, but she prefers to be called Abi.”
The black-haired woman standing beside Tanya smiled warmly at Porsha when Tanya introduced her. This brought out the freckles on her face and gave it an extra layer of beauty. “We’re joint managers of What You Wear,” she said while keeping eye contact with Porsha, who was still holding on to Tanya’s hand. “We are both thrilled you are interested in working with us.”
“Thanks for agreeing to meet with me so quickly.” Porsha was able to gingerly end her handshake with Tanya, both women lowering their hands back to their sides. “I had assumed you would be calling my cell phone number first.”
“Doing things differently is our style,” Abi said. “Now, let’s get into our office, we’ll conduct the interview there. We just need to fully close first, okay?”
“Go ahead.” Porsha stayed by the counter as the two managers went to work. They changed the store’s front sign to the “CLOSED” side, locked up all cash sources, and double-checked the different shelves of what Porsha was not seeing as not so large a place as she had thought. There were several shelves containing shirts, underwear, a few pairs of shoes, and some dresses placed in boxes. The other biggest feature in the store was the display window, but there were no mannequins on display at that moment; the place looked bare without them.
Porsha now saw that both managers wore the same type of black skirt that stretched down to their knees, and beneath those were sleek black pants that went straight up the thighs. They also wore matching black shoes with a few centimeters of heel. The combination of blue top, black bottom seemed odd to Porsha’s mind, but it appeared to work in the store’s smaller environment. Too bright or loud a color choice, and the customers might be put off their nerves.
Once Tanya and Abi had completed their tasks, they led Porsha to a back office at the store’s far end. They went through another door to get to two rooms joined together. There was a small break room located to the left, going through another open doorway. Porsha recognized it as a break room because of the small refrigerator and microwave inside there. Tanya closed the door to the break room as Abi went behind a rectangular office desk in the room on the right and carried three foldable chairs over to Porsha’s location. She set them all up, gesturing for Porsha to sit in whichever one she wanted.
Once Porsha sat down, wiggling her back and bottom a bit to get more comfortable, Tanya and Abby each took one of the other chairs for themselves. Porsha took a breath to calm herself, looking back at the door closed behind her for a moment.
“Let’s start with some simple questions,” Tanya said to officially begin the interview. “Abi will swap with me in asking these.” Tanya tapped the side of her chair with her fingers as Abi watched Porsha’s movements. “How much work history have you had in clothing stores, Porsha?”
“None, I’m afraid.” Porsha’s confidence fell as she gave an answer that did not sound good to her own ears.
“Your application said you are currently working in property management,” Abi asked next, “so I trust you are looking for something less than full-time employment?”
Porsha nodded while shrinking down a bit in her seat. The interviewers easily picked up her discomfort. They subsequently switched their choice of questions and began confirming other information Porsha had put on her resume. She answered those bits of information with more ease of mind.
Soon, the back-and-forth pattern between the interviewers proved almost rhythmic to Porsha. Bouncing between the two women, her tensions faded, and her answers became more relaxed. When she was given questions like, “How far would you go to display clothing you consider excellent for a patron?” and, “Are you comfortable with explaining how to properly wear clothing to a stranger?”, her instinctive sense of customer service worked to generate answers she felt were at least satisfactory.
Porsha also found looking back and forth between Tanya and Abi easier as time went on. Whoever was talking was the one she listened to and looked at, not lingering on either manager despite their differences. It helped that Tanya and Abi did not speak over each other, allowing the conversation to move in a single path, back and forth, until all questions the two managers could prepare had been answered.
Tanya stood up from her chair first. “Thank you again for coming and taking the time to do this,” she told Porsha. “We’ll confer on this interview later today.”
“We’ll get back to you within a few days whether we want you to start working for us or not,” Abi continued while Tanya picked up the chair she had used and folded it up again. Abi and Porsha stood up together, Porsha moving a bit slower while blinking a few times. She felt a moment of dissociation, like she had not been paying attention to something important. That feeling passed with a round of handshakes between the three women.
After Porsha was led out of the store, she walked back to where she had parked her car while trying to recount how the interview had gone. She was not able to remember things beyond her answering questions without panicking, and a sense of ease with being in the presence of strangers.
How long did the interview take? It didn’t feel like a long time. It even felt kind of nice. She smiled as she remembered the happy expressions Tanya and Abi had for the entire interview. I like those two. They are showing what they can do and loving it at the same time. If I can do that as well, maybe I’ll be happy like them.
Reality gave Porsha a firm reminder that she had a job that she enjoyed, just in a different field of work. Granted, Porsha had to adopt a certain image for that work—the collected and eager manager of property open for rent—and she enjoyed being that kind of person for people. She also had to keep some of her physical accomplishments hidden from public view, her toned and muscled arms being one of them. This did not irritate her, but the cost of hiding that sign of success was a mark on her character she had tolerated for years.
Steady on, Porsha. You aren’t leaving your job for this new bit of work. You are smart and skilled at what you do; this is an experiment. Don’t get your hopes up.
On Saturday morning, Porsha woke up early and dressed herself in her casual style of clothing. She checked her cell phone’s messages and confirmed a specific voicemail she had first listened to the day before:
“Hi, Porsha. This is Tanya from What You Wear. We are willing to hire you as an assistant to our store if you are still interested in the position. If so, we would appreciate you coming to the store grounds on Saturday at eight in the morning. If you cannot arrive at eight, please try to arrive as early as you can. The store opens at ten-o-clock sharp. Have a good evening!”
There was enough natural light outside before eight in the morning for Porsha to drive by. By the time she had parked in the mall’s sizeable lot, fit for a baseball field but mostly empty at that time, it was after eight-o-clock. Porsha rubbed her eyes after she had turned her car’s engine off, taking a moment to wake up before what was probably going to be several hours of hard work.
Why do they want me here so early? They don’t open until ten-o-clock. How much am I going to learn on the first day?
Porsha felt nervous as she entered the mall’s main doors, walking into a space lit up but only populated by the early-morning shoppers. These people usually got up earlier than Porsha, and some of the stores were getting set up or were still dark inside. Porsha ignored them, moving quickly across the mall floor to keep her energy high. When she saw the front door of “What You Wear”, she beelined towards it in the hopes of getting rid of her nervousness through some honest work.
Porsha slowed down when she saw another woman, one she did not recognize, standing at the same door. She stopped when she got close enough to the door that the stranger turned to face her. She wore a thick brown coat over a white crop top with long sleeves; the top exposed her navel and highlighted her generous bosom. Her legs were covered by thick jeans, and a pair of brown lace shoes and ankle-high socks covered her feet.
“Oh, hello.” The woman’s voice was soft, clipped with an accent. Her eyes were brown, the same color as her hair and coat. Said hair went to the middle of her back in smooth waves over the back of the coat. The woman’s face was what drew Porsha’s attention the most; a memory resurfaced in her head at the sight of it, and she shuddered in shocked realization. It had not been that long ago she had seen that same face looking very much at peace.
“You…” Porsha raised a finger to point at the woman. “You look just like that mannequin.” She lowered her finger after a moments’ passing. “The one from last week. How are you…?”
“Calm down.” The stranger put a hand to her chest in a gesture of goodwill. “My name is Mia. I will be your mentor for your first day working here.”
“But—” Porsha started to say.
“No buts,” Mia pointed to the store’s front door. “If you have any questions, ask Tanya and Abi. They get here the earliest.” She said no more before opening the door and quickly walking inside, Porsha sticking close behind with a growing sense of dread in her chest.
The store’s interior was dark, and Tanya and Abi were split between cleaning a spot on the display window and polishing one area of the store’s counter. Both women used cleaning sprays and rags to wipe down the surfaces they were working on. They both looked up at Mia and Porsha with relief, though for what purpose Porsha could not define.
“Hello, Mia,” said Tanya, standing by the counter with a nod and a smile. “Hello, Porsha. Ready to get started?”
“We certainly are,” Mia replied with a smile of her own. Porsha just nodded, not as openly eager to get to work just then. These three knew things here, she had to respect that.
Abi came over to the counter as well, her cleaning tools still in her hands. “You both will be displaying today,” she told them. This got Porsha to stiffen up in shock, but before she could say anything Abi looked to her and said “Porsha, Mia will show you how that works. She’s an excellent teacher.”
“Ah, you’re having me on. I’m not that good.” Mia blushed under the praise of her employers, which only made her look more beautiful to Porsha. She said nothing about that feeling at the moment; a workplace to Porsha was not a place of romance.
“We think you are,” Abi told Mia, and that shut down any further downplay of the comment. She then gestured towards the office door at the back of the store. “We’re going to start opening things up after we are done cleaning. Call us if you need us, okay?”
Porsha licked her dry lips. “Sure. Yeah. We’ll be ready.” She continued following Mia around, and in the office space she kept the door open a tiny bit. To circulate some air, she told herself, but subconsciously she desired the chance to step out again and speak to the managers in case she had more questions. Porsha watched Mia step into the break room, and then stop and turn around. With a “come here” gesture, Mia signaled Porsha to join her.
Steady on, Porsha. The new employee took a quick breath and followed Mia into the smaller room. Unlike the last time she had been here, the room had two folding chairs set up facing each other. Mia sat down in one of them, and after a moment’s consideration Porsha sat opposite her. Then they just sat there, with Porsha looking at various places other than the woman in front of her. Mia did not seem to mind at first, but as moments turned into minutes Mia sighed and stood up again.
“You look so tense, Porsha.” Porsha flinched beneath Mia’s words; was it that obvious to see? She did feel nervous, but wasn’t that expected from a newcomer to this kind of job? “Being tense won’t help you when you are displaying,” Mia then added as she rolled her own shoulders back.
“Okay, what does “display” even mean here?” Porsha’s question had Mia stop in her movements, waiting for a further explanation. “How to “display” something wasn’t explained during the interview,” Porsha clarified, “and it was not on the application anywhere.”
Mia’s face showed understanding. “It will take me some time to explain the full story. While I do, would you like a massage?”
“I… What?” Is she being forward with me? Porsha leaned back in her chair, trying to get some more distance between her and Mia.
“Oh, I’m sorry.” Mia looked genuinely upset by Porsha’s response. “Are you sensitive to having other people touching you?”
“No, you can do that. Just don’t do anything, uh, not safe for work.”
“Oh, of course!” Mia nodded emphatically, agreeing with Porsha’s request in a heartbeat. “Just sit comfortably in the chair for right now. I will work on your upper body for right now. Tell me if you feel too much pain to continue.”
Still hesitant, Porsha did as Mia instructed. Sitting up straight, her hands on her knees, she tried to keep her eyes looking straight ahead. This was made more difficult by Mia going around behind her with slow steps; Porsha felt as if she were under examination, Mia being the microscope that would look at the inner details of her body.
“For the record,” Mia told Porsha as she walked around Porsha’s chair, “you look very fit and able. How often do you exercise?”
“As often as I can,” Porsha answered. “That changes per week. I’d say my arms are my biggest accomplishment when I am not hiding them under clothes.”
Mia hummed in agreement. A few cursory taps along Porsha’s shoulders from Mia’s fingers got the sitting woman to flinch, but it also helped Mia find out specific points of tension. Mia started her work there. Spreading her fingers out a few centimeters apart, she squeezed the tense points and then released them in a slow repetition. Forwards and backwards, she executed the same motions and slowly pressed down harder on the tense spaces. There were no other sounds in the room save for the women’s breathing; any work being done by Tanya and Abi was not heard inside this enclosed space.
Porsha gave a hiss as a sensitive nerve near her neck was pressed on by Mia’s fingers. “Does that feel good?” the masseuse asked a moment later. Porsha gave a quick, “Yes,” that incentivized Mia to do swirling movements around that space, washing out the tenseness like water down a drain. Porsha’s lips curled upwards as tingling sensations danced along her neck and back and head.
Porsha’s fingers locked around her knees when she felt Mia’s breath on her neck. She was so close to Porsha’s face; one wrong move and they could be…
“Porsha,” Mia whispered as she moved her hands down to Porsha’s shoulders and upper arms, “I am so pleased you are wanting to work with me and Tanya and Abi. We need more people to help promote our collection. This mall is a popular place in the community, but if we don’t have more people behind the counter than in front of it, we won’t last long here.”
That made sense to Porsha. There were several colleagues at her management firm, taking calls and leading guided tours for prospective renters. They were the first people customers interacted with, and Porsha knew giving a good impression made for good businesses.
“Do you have any questions for me, Porsha?” While whispering, Mia raised Porsha’s right arm and slowly squeezed and twisted the muscles there, as if it were a towel she was gently wringing dry. “I will answer as best I can.”
Porsha gathered up her courage and waited until Mia moved to her other arm before asking the big question: “What is displaying, exactly?”
“It’s modeling, Porsha. Only instead of a runway to walk on, you stand in front of a window.” Mia’s technique left a dull pleasure in Porsha’s right arm that she felt seconds after she had moved somewhere else. “That’s where Tanya and Abi put their most prominent and eye-catching clothes, so people can visualize how it will look on themselves.”
“Are the models… are they people? Or mannequins?” Porsha sucked in a breath as the same dull pleasure grew in her left arm. Mia let it slowly drop down, limp and free, as Porsha seemed to want, while she walked back behind Porsha again.
“I think you already have an answer to that, Porsha,” Mia moved back to Mia’s neck, letting Porsha’s head bob around as she worked. “Can you answer your own question for me?”
Porsha blushed as she tried to come up with an answer that was appropriate for the workplace. Her first thought had been too raunchy, and her second too far-fetched to be real. “The models… The models are people. Real people.”
Mia hummed in a noncommittal tone. “Then what am I, Porsha?” she quietly asked while pushing gently against the back of Porsha’s neck. She caught Porsha’s teetering head with one hand, holding it still while she continued to press against the same space.
“You’re a model.” Porsha’s eyelids fluttered; she suddenly felt tired, which seemed normal for a massage, but she had not expected it to happen so fast. Mia must have hit a sweet spot, she hypothesized, somewhere that needed to be cleared of tenseness.
“Try again.” Porsha grunted in confusion. “Think harder on it.”
Porsha narrowed her eyes while looking at a space on the room’s upper wall. She tried to think harder about it, but that caused the inappropriate thoughts to return. She thought back to when she remembered last seeing Mia, causing her cheeks to turn crimson from embarrassment.
“You’re a… display?”
“That’s right. A display.” Porsha gave a breathy moan as Mia quickly swirled her fingers on Porsha’s shoulders. “I stand behind that window, wearing clothes Tanya and Abi want, showing them off to anyone walking by. And people do walk by and look at me, lots of people. Those two always work hard to present me in my best form, no matter where we set up shop. But we had to move here from our old place because we weren’t getting enough traction.”
“How do you… stay… calm?” It was getting harder for Porsha to speak clearly, harder for her to see the room around her.
“Relaxation and discipline are two key points, as well as hypnosis. While I am on display, I tell myself I am just a display, to be adjusted, observed, and appreciated for what I wear. What’s amazing about that is I can make the desire to stand still a reality, just through the power of my mind.”
“Wow…” Mia’s actions combined with her words to produce a sense of calm in Porsha’s mind and body. “That’s very nice. Very… nice…”
Mia noticed Porsha sliding down the chair, her back so loose it could no longer hold her up straight. She raised one hand up to Porsha’s ear, after taking a deep breath herself, snapped her fingers. The sound caused Porsha to jerk up, startled.
Mia stepped back as Porsha regained full awareness of the situation. “What…? What just happened?” She turned to look at Mia, shuddering as the motions her upper body and neck did sent further good feelings through her body.
“Don’t worry, Porsha. You’re still in the office. I’m still here.” She was standing a few feet from Porsha, beyond her reach of the chair, her hands raised in a gesture of calm. Why she was showing that was not made clear to Porsha until she remembered what Mia had said, and did, to her in the past several minutes.
“You just… You just used hypnosis. On me!” The unspoken question after that was, “Why?” And Porsha figured Mia had an answer for that, so she waited for Mia to state her reasons. She did not have to wait long.
“I must prepare you properly for being on display.” Mia’s hands went back to her sides, a solemn expression on her face. “But I can see you are conflicted about this. If you don’t want to go further, you can leave right now. I’ll tell Tanya and Abi about your choice, and we won’t hold you accountable in any way.” She gestured to the only way out of the break room. “There’s the door.”
Porsha looked that way. Her body, loosened as it was, did not want to move so quickly. Her mind worked out as best it could what was happening and what it meant. Being “prepared” for “display” did not feel good to Porsha, but Mia had looked very nice when behind that window. If she were up there, would she look nice as well? Would Tanya and Abi put her in nice-looking clothes—maybe even add some makeup on her face while she hypnotized—to bring out her beauty?
Porsha’s thoughts whirled as a maelstrom of self-denial, sticking to rules, and holding back on her innermost wishes. She wanted to show off who she was and what she could do, but her job and lifestyle did not make that easily possible. When she was in the gym, it was for the goal of staying fit and potentially getting fitter. When she was touring, she looked and acted for the goal of helping people find a good place to purchase from the agency she worked with.
Porsha had never had a chance to feel beautiful for the sake of being beautiful. Until now, or so it seemed. She could step out of the image she had set for herself. She could be someone different, someone people could look at and not see as Porsha, just as a woman who looked beautiful.
“Porsha? Do you want to stay?”
Porsha looked back at Mia. She tried to read Mia’s face and saw, as far as she could tell, worry and concern in those lovely eyes. Lovely might have seemed a strong word, but Porsha went with her gut instinct. Mia was beautiful, lovely, and… someone she wanted to help her through this time of transition. She nodded, feeling like a little girl before a preschool teacher.
“Are you okay with me preparing you like this?”
Porsha nodded again.
“Can you tell me why?”
The words came up from Porsha’s heart and down from her brain as one large wave. She spoke, and kept speaking, as the wave washed out of her. “I want to feel what you felt. You were alive, but you looked frozen in time. Like you didn’t have any worries other than looking pretty. But I saw you breathing, and I knew you were more than a statue. You were beautiful. More than I can be with all my workouts and muscle and sweat and—”
She stumbled in her rant, her words losing coherence. That broke the wave, and she subsequently broke down and began crying. Crying! So much fear and worry all unleashed at once. She managed to keep from openly sobbing, but the shaking of her shoulders and the tears leaking from her eyes were clear signs of her depressed state.
Instantly, Mia darted to her side and held her in a tight embrace. “Porsha, dear, don’t cry. You are beautiful, too. Everyone is beautiful when they stop telling themselves they are ugly. You are not ugly, just pretty in a different way. I will help you realize that here, I promise.”
Porsha trusted Mia at face value. It felt nice to be hugged and know someone cares about you. It was something she did not experience often anymore. Being hugged by a stranger was oddly comforting. Porsha welcomed that comfort along with the comfort Mia’s massage had given her.
Mia took Porsha’s silence as a sign of her consent. Still, she waited a moment longer before she broke her embrace and went behind Porsha’s seat again. “Sit up straight, Porsha. I’m going to rub away your worries with a special technique.”
Porsha complied, sniffling a bit as she wiped tears out of her eyes with the back of her hand. Mia knelt behind Porsha and gently placed her fingers atop Porsha’s temples. Looking straight on at what she was doing, Mia began to slowly rub her fingers along those muscles, spreading sensations along several connected nerve cords that reached Porsha’s brain. The effect was quick to produce a satisfied sigh from Porsha.
Every rub removed some of the knots in her muscles and brain, stretching them out like taffy. Every rub expelled some of her thoughts, chipping away the excess desires and wants. And she liked the feeling, too. Soon enough, her head began to bobble and sway, but Mia was there to keep it steady; slowly, she let it spin forward and back on a little circular track, sending Porsha’s mind even deeper into a hypnotized state.
Eventually, only the core of Porsha’s thoughts remained, the pieces telling her to relax because she was safe, because she was with people who would help her, who knew she was pretty. She was not afraid of the job, or what she would have to do later today, anymore. Mia and her bosses would help if necessary. She trusted them.
Mia leaned forward to whisper more words in Porsha’s willing ears: “Let yourself relax into my touch, Porsha. Relax and be happy. We are going to be so pretty, up there on display.”
Porsha’s eyes lost their focus as a content smile graced her lips. She was happy. She wanted to be happy. Mia kept whispering, but Porsha had lost the strength of will to try and listen, sinking into a relaxed state of mind and body. Her eyes closed at Mia’s suggestion because she trusted Mia to help her be happy and pretty.
The office door opened fully some time after Mia had brought Porsha into a hypnotic trance. Tanya and Abi found Mia kneeling behind Porsha, whispering quiet words to the newcomer’s ears while massaging her temples. Porsha was fully gone, zone out in hypnotized bliss; she could have been sleeping from Mia’s masseuse skills if the two managers did not know the reason why Mia had done this. Mia looked up from her place behind Porsha and ended her trail of words with a final sentence for Porsha to relax until called for by Tanya or Abi.
“Well done, Mia,” Abi said, knowing Porsha would not be able to hear her and wake up. “Ready to join her now?”
“So much, dear.” Mia looked incredibly eager to be hypnotized, smiling like a child knowing they would be praised by their parents. She knew she had done a good job, and now she would be rewarded for it.
“Prepare for display,” Tanya said. The specific emphasis on these words was picked up by Mia, who slowly stopped rubbing their hands on Porsha’s temples. Mia’s eyes glazed over as her head tilted slightly to one side; her happy smile shrank down to a content one as her hands drifted down to her sides. In just a few moments, she was as deeply hypnotized as Porsha.
Tanya gave the first true order to both employees: “Porsha, Mia, stand up.” Both women slowly did so, their bodies moving as if underwater. “Both of you, turn to face us. Porsha, open your eyes.” The women obeyed, ending up looking at some space in a dream realm but subconsciously listening to what Tanya and Abi had to say.
Abi took over with giving orders. “You will both go to separate changing rooms; Mia, you will guide Porsha to where they are.” She paused to lick her lips, her eyes scanning over both women and working on how they could be “displayed” together. “Once there, we will hand you the clothes you will wear on display. Once you change into them, wait by the exit of the changing rooms for us to set you up. We will give you further instructions then.”
“Remember,” Tanya added a moment later, “while on display you are willing to be adjusted by others and receive instructions from ourselves and people you trust. You accept this because it will help you perform your job better, to look more pretty on display. If you understand this, say “I understand” now.”
Five seconds passed before Porsha and Mia both said, “I understand,” in breathy voices. Tanya and Mia looked at each other and nodded as Mia reached out for and found Porsha’s hand to hold onto. Porsha let herself be pulled by Mia out of the break room and back out into the store, which now looked clean and tidy. The display window was empty, the store going to open in approximately thirty minutes. That was enough time by Tanya and Abi’s standards to have two people ready to display the store’s best clothing choices together.
Porsha floated in a cocoon of warm puffiness. But she was not puffy, she was rigid and firm, a solid object amidst a realm of clouds. Instructions bounced in her head to stay still and silent, that it felt good to stay still and silent. She looked at the face of another person in front of her, someone else who was still and silent and looked beautiful while doing so. It was a woman like Porsha was, smiling like she knew Porsha was herself.
Outside of Porsha’s sense of mind and range of vision, Porsha and Mia wore similar sleeveless track outfits and stood facing each other. Both women wore tank tops over firm sports bras, short shorts that fit over wide panties without exposing anything, ankle-high socks, and white-colored running shoes. They posed with their hands on their hips, standing tall as if having completed a long run and happy for it. They breathed very slowly, their bodies hypnotically compelled to not break their posture or composure unless told to.
At several points, one or both women were checked over by Tanya or Abi, the managers adjusting postures or wiping excess sweat or dust away with hand towels. At least once, they were each taken off the display area and carried by both managers to the store’s staff restroom to take care of any waste buildup in their bodies. In the process, further affirmations and suggestions were whispered into their ears, rejuvenating them as food and drink would any other day.
They continued to display themselves and their chosen clothes for hours, until the store was ready to be closed. At that time, when no one was passing by in front of the window, Tanya went over to Mia and whispered, “The display is closed,” into her ear. The manager then stepped back and watched until she saw Mia bend her head down and let her hair fall in front of her face. Leaving them alone, Tanya went to resume her duties for closing the store.
Mia breathed in and out several times before turning to face Porsha. “The display is closed,” Mia repeated to her fellow model. Porsha’s mind awoke over several seconds, unused to leaving hypnosis on command. Her expression shifted to momentary shock as she felt her legs wiggle uncontrollably. She collapsed against Mia, her legs feeling as light as reeds and just as supportive.
Porsha tipped forwards, but Mia snapped her arms out and caught her. “I’ve got you,” she said, “I’ve got you, Porsha.” And she did, her grip surprisingly strong for someone who had spent hours in one position.
Porsha’s legs continued to wiggle as she took deep, slow breaths. “I saw them,” she gasped out to Mia, “I saw people looking at me.” Porsha’s eyes glittered with delight. “I was pretty.”
Mia smiled back at Porsha. “You always were. This is just a new way to show it.” They stayed like that for a few more seconds, and then Mia slowly raised Porsha upright and let her stand on her own. Porsha looked down at what she was wearing, and then what Mia was wearing, and could not stop herself from giggling in amusement. They really did look beautiful together.
Porsha’s eyes rose to look around the now-empty store. “Where are the managers?” she asked Mia.
“Tanya and Abi always give me a few minutes to recuperate by myself. But I much prefer having someone else here to share this moment with than doing so alone.” Mia held Porsha’s hand and drew her a bit closer. “Would you like to do this again? Say, next weekend?”
Porsha did not answer immediately. She put this into perspective in her head. She saw herself going back to her job with the property agency, working with people she had for years, talking to strangers in the image of conducting business. This experience had been very different, and after some seconds thinking about it, she could see herself coming back here again. She even visualized herself being a “display” again and found the image satisfying.
“I would love to,” Porsha told Mia. They smiled and shook hands, not needing to do or say anything else.