One pair of trousers, that’s all June required. She repeated it over and over in her mind as she hurried down the high street – “one pair of trousers, one pair of trousers, one pair of trousers”. The mantra fell in time with her footsteps – “one pair” with the left foot, “of trousers” with the right. It wound in her mind so quickly and so often that it became white noise and eventually she found herself completely forgetting that one pair of trousers was all she needed.
The shop fronts were both beguiling and revolting with their 6ft tall, plastic, headless mannequins draped with clothes two sizes too big. Even they – the grotesque characters with elongated necks and stick-like fingers – wore clothes better than June did.
Pea green winter cuts hung stylishly from their petite frames, while form-fitting, rust-coloured jumpers accentuated their petite waistlines. Plaid skirts, as small as napkins, grazed the tops of their slender thighs, which wore cosy, knitted tights tucked into sleek, knee-high leather boots. Dried leaves, attached to fine strings trussed up from the ceiling, floated charmingly throughout the display.
Autumn had vomited violently upon the high street store displays that day, and June wanted a piece of it.
She found herself – as if by magic – inside a store in search of that precious pea green coat, “one pair of trousers” still running in her mind and still forgotten. Her skin tingled as she ran her fingers absentmindedly down the sleeve of a sumptuously soft, knitted jumper. Her heart skipped a beat when she noticed a tiny plaid skirt in just the right size. Her head swam as she stumbled upon the rail which held the hallowed coat.
The changing rooms were enticingly cosy with their dim lighting and luxe velvet curtains. June noted this, but was unsure how she found herself there, arms overflowing with garments. She lined the hangers up methodically on the rail provided then peeled off her clothes, taking care not to peek in the mirror until she was safely covered with the clothes that would make her beautiful.
Each item fit like a glove and enveloped June in a reassuringly cosy hug. She looked down and saw the epitome of autumn style. Then she looked up into the mirror, and the spell was broken.
Her heart broke with it. The plaid skirt strained at her thighs. The jumper sagged at her bust. The coat hung like a sack from her shoulders. She’d been fooled again by the svelte mannequins and she could almost hear them mocking her.
“You look fine.”
The voice was deep and calm but it startled June nonetheless. She carefully pulled back the velvet curtain and peered behind it. The changing rooms were empty.
“In the mirror, idiot.”
June’s focus snapped back to the mirror and, disappointingly, back to herself.
“I don’t look fine,” she whispered.
“Sure you do. Not great, but fine. You’ll do.”
June shook her head. “I don’t want to just do.”
“What you need is a world where everyone looks just fine. A world without mannequins.”
June nodded. If only.
She stared at the mirror a while longer and her eyes began to swim. Her image blurred, then slowly swirled into a whirlpool.
“Come on in,” the voice commanded.
June reached out to the mirror and her fingertips passed seamlessly through its surface and into the whirlpool. She took a deep breath, then climbed right in.
Her old clothes lay strewn on the floor.
This short story was inspired by prompt no. 45 from ThinkWritten.com