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 looped so quickly, so incessantly, that it became white noise and nonsense and she disremembered altogether why she’d ever walked into town. Trousers? Forget about it. Not with so many other beautiful garments on display to entice and torment her.
The shop fronts were both beguiling and revolting with their six-foot tall, headless mannequins, each one 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 coats 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 legs which were wrapped in cosy, knitted tights and tucked into sleek, knee-high leather boots.
There was a plague of chic autumn style upon the high street that day, and June was desperate to become victim to 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 as she found herself inside one such room, arms overflowing with garments, not quite remembering how she got there. She’d operated on autopilot, entranced by the clothes, desperate to become autumn itself in slick new garbs. She lined the hangers up methodically on the rail provided and peeled off her clothes, taking care not to peek in the mirror until she was safely covered with the new apparel that was bound to make her beautiful.
Each item enveloped June in a reassuringly cosy hug as soon as it touched her body. She looked down and saw the epitome of fall 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 for ever believing she’d be as lithe or sophisticated as their plastic forms.
“You look fine.”
The voice was soft and gentle, but it startled June nonetheless. She carefully pulled back the velvet curtain and peered out from her cubicle. 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.”
“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, leaving her old clothes strewn on the floor behind her.
She never did buy that one pair of trousers.