fiction logo

APRIL 1999 | VOL. 3, NO. 4



Virtual Murder | Tim Clifton


Faint Light | KC Cowee

SUSAN BROXON, a part-time writer who "wishes that she did not have to work in the corporate world to make her living", is a contributing writer to Renaissance Online Magazine. Susan hopes to make many positive changes both personally and professionally before the year is out. She lives in San Francisco, California.





What's Wrong with this Picture


I should be dressed and on my way to pick up Tiffany for our Saturday shopping spree. Instead, I'm lingering in front of my full-length mirror wearing only my panties and bra. I examine myself from head to toe. My hair is long, wavy and auburn. I have big blue eyes, a fair clear complexion with a light sprinkle of freckles on my nose, and a pretty nice smile. My legs are long and slender, and my waist is reasonably small. I examine my breasts last. They're not huge, but are definitely healthy sized. I guess I'm pretty. I've been told I am. Still, I'm only girl I know of in her senior year in high school who has never had a date.

"Ah...enough obsessing," I say aloud to myself. "I'm late!" I hastily slip on blue jeans and a pink gingham blouse then pull my hair back with a scrunchy.

Finally ready to go, I walk outside. It's a beautiful day - sunny, clear and unusually brisk for Los Angeles. I glance down our cozy tree-lined street and spot my favorite neighborhood cat, a gray and white tabby named Chelsea, basking on our neighbor's neatly manicured lawn. She's so cute. I wish I could have a cat. I'm not allowed as my mom claims to be allergic. I get into my VW Rabbit and put the top down. I decide to remove the scrunchy and let my hair down so I can feel the wind whip through it as I'm driving. I arrive at Tiffany's house. Before I have the chance to honk the horn, she comes running out and jumps into the passenger's seat.

"Oh my God...I thought you would never get here, Claire! You won't even believe what happened last night!" she blurts, as her blond bob bounces around her face.

"What? Tell me," I answer anxiously.

"Jeff called! He asked me to go to the Homecoming Dance with him! I've been hoping he'd ask me out ever since he broke up with Marie. You have no idea how excited I am! Yeess!" she says doing a cheer.

"Wow. That's great," I say. Jeff! He's the cutest boy in school. I remember the day Tiffany and I saw him at the beach last summer. He was coming out of the water carrying his surfboard and stopped to talk to us. Well, Tiffany mostly. I suspected then that he liked her.

"Now, if you were going to the dance things would be perfect," Tiffany said.

But of course I'm not. Tiffany is my best friend and I am happy for her. Still, I'd be lying if I said I didn't feel envious and left out. And, it doesn't help that we end up spending most of the day searching for a dress for her to wear to the dance. After I get home from shopping, I realize it isn't just the dance I'm not going to, but I'll be spending another evening alone at home. My parents left yesterday to go on another ship cruise. Except for Mara, the cleaning lady, who comes on Mondays and Thursdays, I have the house to myself for the next ten days. My parents always say they trust me. With good reason. Most kids I know would be having a party, or at least a date over for dinner. Here I am after dining on a bland tuna salad, getting ready to curl up with my history book for the rest of the evening. Ugh. There must be some way for me to break out of this tedious shell. After an hour of reading about the execution of King Louis and the Queen during the French Revolution, I shut the book feeling restless. I'm not into this tonight. I pick up the paper off the coffee table and begin flipping through it. I come across the Classifieds and decide to glance through. Maybe a part-time job would be something to think about. I get to the M's before I see an ad that catches my eye.

Models Needed: seeking young women to model beautiful, seductive lingerie. Must be attractive and in good physical shape. Ages 18-25 preferred. No experience necessary. Pays $200 per day. Please call (213) 555-0234.

Yeah, right. Still, I read through a second time. It does sound daring and a little exciting. I wonder if I could do something like this, if I wanted to. I consider calling for the heck of it, but down deep, I seriously doubt I can go through with it. Besides, I'm not even 18 yet. I'm lying in bed the next morning trying to picture myself as one of those sex symbols I've seen on the cover of Playboy. Would that ever blow everyone's mind. Me. The "goody-goody" who couldn't even get a date in high school. The more I think about it, the more I realize it couldn't hurt to call the number in the ad. I get up, go to the living room and get the paper. After finding the ad, I take a deep breath, pick up the phone and dial the number.

"Studio," I hear a youngish sounding male voice say after the third ring.

"Um...uh yes," I say. "I'm calling about your ad in the paper for models."

"Oh, yes. I'll need to ask to you a few questions, if that's OK," the man says.

"Sure," I hear myself say.

"First of all, how old are you?" he asks.

"Eighteen," I lie.

"OK. What are your measurements and height?" the man continues.

"Um...35-24-35 are my measurements and I'm about 5-foot-7," I answer to the best of my knowledge.

"And what is your name?" the man probes further.

"Claire," I answer, hoping he won't ask my last name.

"Thank you, Claire. It sounds like you might be what we're looking for. Would you like to come in today and talk to us?" he asks.

Today! I wasn't prepared for this. "Uh...what time?" I ask. "I'll be here most of the day. How about 1:00 p.m.?" he suggests.

After a long awkward pause, I finally speak. "Yeah, sure. I guess I can make it." I take down an address on Sunset Boulevard, the man's name, and am told to check in at the front desk when I arrive.

After finally finding a place to park my car, I walk down Sunset looking for the address the man gave me. I feel numb as I hurry down the street trying to ignore the street bums, prostitutes and drunks that color the sidewalk. "Hey! What's your name, Baby? What's your name?" I hear one of them holler. Yikes. The area improves after a couple of blocks. However, when I come to the address, I am dismayed to see a run-down old building in need of a paint job. I enter a dark lobby, go to the elevator, pull open a heavy iron door and ride up to the third floor. I get off and enter a small cluttered reception area.

"May I help you?" asks a girl not much older than I.

"Yes. I have an appointment with Jerry Fisher," I say, wondering if it's too late to run.

"Oh. You must be Claire. You can go right through the door to the studio," she says pointing to the door.

I walk in the studio and see a man thumbing through a rack of lingerie. He looks up.

"Hi. Are you Claire?" he says. "I'm Jerry Fisher." "Hi," I say. He looks to be in his mid-thirties and is even kind of cute. He has brown wavy hair and a nice smile.

"Why don't you come over and have a seat?" he gestures toward a black leather sofa in the corner of the studio and takes a seat in an adjacent chair.

He hands me a catalog and explains that they're a new lingerie company looking for young women to model merchandise in the studio for potential clients and for the monthly catalogs they put out.

"The way we do this is to start a model out here in the studio in front of our clients. That pays $200 per day. You usually are here for up to four hours. That includes the time it takes for make-up and preparation. If you do well, we start you doing catalog work, which pays even better," he explains. "So, what do you think? Are you still interested?"

It seems safe enough and I don't have to get completely nude. Still, it will be the scariest thing I've ever done.

"Well, yes. I think I am," I tell him.

He smiles. "Good. Still, in order for me to know for sure if you're right for this, I would need to see you in one of these." He walks over to the rack and pulls off one of the outfits; lacy rose colored panties and a matching tank top. "If you'll go over to the dressing room and put this on please." I feel my hand shake as I take it from him. Despite the weakness in my knees, I make it to the dressing room. Before I know it, I have the outfit on and am back in the studio facing Jerry.

He eyes me for what seems an eternity. "Very nice," he finally says. "I must say Claire, I get many types of girls who are interested in doing this type of work. Rarely do I see any like you. You have a dynamite figure and exude the perfect blend of youth, innocence, and sensuality. I'd like to put you to work as soon as possible."

Wow. That night at home, all I can think about is what Jerry said about me. Then I look through the catalog he gave me. All the women are young and beautiful and scantily clad in risqué lingerie. Some are even exposing their breasts. Soon, I could be one of those women. I stand in front of the mirror, put my hands on my hips and try to flip my hair seductively like all those movie stars do. Monday, after school, Tiffany and I are walking home. Part of me is dying to tell her about my modeling offer, but I can't find the words. Before I have a chance, a horn honks behind us. We turn around. It's Jeff in his green convertible mustang.

"Hey, you guys!" he calls leaning out his window. "How about a ride?"

He truly is cute. Those big brown puppy dog eyes and that boyish smile. I look at Tiffany and see that her face is lit up like a Christmas tree.

"Sure. Thanks," Tiffany says as she runs to the passenger's side and opens the door. She stops and turns around. "Aren't you coming, Claire?" she asks.

"Oh, no," I say. "You guys go ahead. I need to make some stops before going home."

"Oh well, I'll see you later then," Tiffany says.

As they drive off, I'm standing there feeling quite inadequate and trying not to feel that all too familiar pang of envy. I tell myself that soon it will change for me. I won't be a misfit forever. The phone rings later that evening as I'm getting ready for bed. It's Tiffany.

"Hi. I hope you don't mind that I left with Jeff today," she says.

"Of course not," I say.

"Good. I didn't mean to be rude. Anyways...I've got something to tell you," she says.

"Really. What?" I say.

"I found out today that Jeff's cousin is going to be town the weekend of the dance. That means you can go with him and be his date! I know he'd like you. The best part is, I saw a photo of him. He's really cute." Tiffany says.

"Oh, I don't know," I say. "That would be sort of embarrassing. I'd feel like a charity case. Are you sure he'd even want to go with me?"

"Don't be silly. Of course he would. You're so pretty and smart. You're just so quiet and wrapped in your studying. Once you're seen out with him, guys will realize that you are interested in dating. You'd see how easily you'd start getting asked out," she says.

"I doubt that. Anyways, something about a fix-up just doesn't feel right. I will start going out. I just want to make it happen on my own," I say.

"OK. But if you change your mind, let me know. I don't think you'll regret it," Tiffany says. "Oh come on, Claire. You've got to take a chance."

Believe me, I think I'm about to.

I awaken late Saturday morning after a restless sleep. Today's the day I start my first modeling session at Jerry's studio. Looking out my window, I see that it looks dreary and cold. I haven't told a soul I'm doing this. Not even Tiffany. After a quick shower, I pull on jeans and a sweatshirt. I get in my car and drive to the studio. When I arrive, I'm greeted by the same young girl as before. She tells me to go right in.

"How are you today, Claire?" Jerry greets me.

"Fine. Thanks," I say. I'm scared to death. "Good. Good," he says. "We'll start you off with a short session today. I'll have you model a series of outfits for Mr. Seizer, a new client. He should be here in about a half an hour. Stacy will help you with your make-up."

My heart begins to race. Part of me really wants to run out of the studio. The other part really wants to go through with this. Thirty minutes later, my make-up has been completed by Stacy, the Receptionist/Make-up Artist. Yikes...bright red lipstick, heavy face powder, black eye-liner, bright pink blush and mascara. I wonder why I need all of this. I'm modeling lingerie after all. Now it's time to get into my outfit. That turns out to be black and red polka-dot panties with only a g-string going up the back, and a sheer black lace bra. I take a long look at myself in the dressing room mirror. From the neck up, I look like a kid who got into her mother's make-up. From the neck down, I look like a whore.

"Lovely, Claire," I hear Jerry say as I walk out into the studio.

Mr. Seizer, the client, is standing next to him. He is paunchy with a full beard and gray hair. Must be close to sixty years old if he's a day. I stand for a moment feeling awkward and exploited.

"Claire. Try to relax. Smile! Why don't you turn around and show us the whole outfit," Jerry suggests.

Aarrgghh. I can't believe I bring myself to oblige.

"What a beauty. Where did you find her?" I hear Mr. Seizer whisper to Jerry.

I want to be sick.

The rest of the session passes by in a daze. I make it through at least half a dozen skimpy little outfits before we're through at last. I have never been so anxious to get dressed in my life. This is what it's like? I hate to admit it, but that was sheer torture. I want to cry. Maybe all models feel this way the first time around. I have my street clothes on, have collected my $200 check from Stacy, and am on my out. I feel a tap on my shoulder. I turn around and find myself looking the paunchy, bearded client mean in the eye.

"Honey, you could make a lot of money with your body. Give me a call sometime," he says, handing me a business card.

"I don't think so, Mister," I hear myself say. I tear the card in half and let it fall to the floor. I feel my eyes sting with tears as I run out.

When I get home, the first thing I do is go to the bathroom and wash all the make-up off my face. Maybe one day I can tell Tiffany about this. Until then, it's my secret.

In the meantime, I'll just put the whole degrading episode behind me. Hey, though. I did it. I broke out of this shell and now it's time try something else. I should call Tiffany. Maybe she's right about going to the dance with Jeff's cousin. I think I will call her. And then maybe we'll go shopping. I do have this money to spend. After all, if I do go to the dance, I'm going to need a beautiful new dress.

* * * *