Thank You For Thinking Of Me
A short story
by Nikki Magennis
A girl walks in. She goes straight to the little stage, climbs up. Against the red curtains she's as pale as a larva.
'What's your name, love?'
'Hi. I'm Gemma. I'm sixteen.'
It's a nice, light, icing sugar voice. Her eyes are sky blue, as round as globes. I look at her chest, her lines, as she hovers.
I run down the tick list on my clipboard. Build. Hair. Skin.
'Tell me about yourself, Gemma.'
She talks about hanging out with her friends.
'I like to find funny things in second hand shops and make them into something new.'
She is picking at her own hands.
I used to draw. I have this sketch, in blue biro. Me and Elle and Trudy - Superstars. Cheeks like dents. Painted mouths, see-through clothes. We were perfect dolls. Really, we had no breasts or periods. Our cunts were dry. Trudy carried Vaseline in her purse. Once I borrowed it - put it on my lips and got a faint smell of her other, hairy, animal mouth. The scent lingered all day.
We shared hotel rooms and a king size bed. We didn't touch much - only grazed elbows. Sometimes we placed the soles of our feet against each other and played bicycles, lying on our backs on the floor. Unless we got drunk after a show. Then we'd cry, and hold each other's porcelain shoulders, chins digging in.
The shows were heaven. Backstage was a place where gods moved around. The sight of it took your breath away, made your heart race. I wanted to scratch myself with joy, tattoo it under my skin.
A King walked among us. A big furred bear with a mutilated stomach and hair on his knuckles. Crowds parted.
'Coffee tastes like piss,' he said.
He gripped Elle's waist. I looked at her fat smile, her insect eyes and felt ill. My skin was raw, the lights were burning and every flash pointed at me hurt like a smirk.
The king's lips drew close to her ear and there was a blink. Elle shook. Then she was gone. As if she'd been no more than a slight afterimage, something caught in your eye.
The papers reported it. Her new face repeated on TV screens, soft and smiling. She carried a small purse with a gold clasp.
Trudy and I tried getting drunk but the tears made us bloodshot and puffy. I kept bursting out laughing.
Laughed without covering my mouth, with food spilling down my chin, clear snot coming out my nose. I wept and clutched at myself, at Trudy, leaned in to the hollow of her ribcage, tried to curl in the nook of her neck.
I lolled around in cafes and spoke to journalists, readily, loose-tongued, drunk and in hysterics.
It all unravelled quicker than you could imagine.
Dressers ignored us, tugged our limbs out of the clothes. No one wanted us to walk. Trudy booked into a clinic.
I went home. I thickened.
Last year I got hired to measure the girls. They stumble into my shoebox office, a dusty room with magazine sheets sellotaped to the walls. They're entranced by the camera, its tripod spread wide, its open glass eye. They're looking for a tiny window just like this one. If they're thin enough, whittled to perfect, they could fit through that aperture. Disappear into colour.
'You were so beautiful', Gemma says, suddenly, and I remembered the sad streets of Paris, my red blistered raw heeled feet and the sting of cocaine and the sweetness of vomit, 'supermodel perfume', Elle called it.
Only now I realise where else I smell that - every time a new girl hands over her fifty pounds, her signed release form, and I clip her details into a folder, toss her photo onto the desk with the others, slip the money into my purse. All along, that warm, comfortable, dirty scent: it was just the smell of used notes.
Nikki Magennis writes when she can. She edits FeatherLit - a zine of the literary erotic - and thinks too much about birds. Find her at nikkimagennis.com