Friday, 17 February 2012

Model Mannequin (Chapter 1)

Credit for the pictures used in these photos go to Neef Fresh!
This story began as an experimental joint venture with Vixen Mafia Productions(a girl group of writers from an old forum I used to post Starlit on) but I've developed it a lot since and its become a treasured piece of starlit (mzdarkstarliterature), also I must say, at the time my work was still under 'Darkest Star Entertainment'... buuuuut I feel like that name has a lot of old stigma attached soo let's not bring the past to the present. Kay?

So the idea of this story, obviouslayy, came from fashion, but it also includes a magical twist that I quite liked when I got to chapter ten or something. In short, this story was plain fun - and much of the credit for that goes to Hassana's character. Saying that, I guess this story is for the people who support me at the time, Tally (Playgirl Savage), Nida, Crystal, Chante, Rosie, Kamaria, Lola, Brianna, Portia-Lyn, and naturally for the VM crew, Camara, Adrienne, Rashana, Hassana, Moneice, Aaliyah, etc... but mostly, it's for my second-oldest sister.

Peace and Love,
Isha. xx



Chapter 1 .
Mannequin Vixen
written in April 2011


It’s hard to explain what it’s like to be a twin.

There’s this real sense of power we get when people look at us in awe, and they can’t possibly understand things for our point of view, but we can definitely understand it from theirs. We understand what people think when they see us, how to play with their emotions and confuse them, enlighten them, or intrigue them if we wish. It’s that feeling of control that’s so delicious. We understand how to control ourselves and each other.

Everybody who knows me and my twin sister knows that we’re a mischievous pair. Ever since we were old enough to realise that there wasn’t a floating mirror beside us but an actual separate self with an identical face, we’ve pulled every trick in the book on every person we’ve met. We’d share the same Myspace and swap places at the dinner table. Every day without fail, we’d get up and pick out the same clothes to wear for the day, and when we got dressed there was an art to making sure that every aspect of our appearance was identical; pulling our hair over the same shoulder, wearing different earrings in each ear, making sure every unique blemish was carefully concealed with almost-microscopic granules of foundation.

‘Hassana.’

I remember jumping and staring at a smirking Moneice, who’s been our friend for as long as we could remember. ‘How did you knowwww?’ I cried with dismay.

‘I heard Rashana call your name and saw that your collar wasn’t folded down properly,’ she cackled. ‘So I remembered that the twin with the neat collar was Rashana and the other one was you. Very sloppy, Hassana.’ Then, I must’ve groaned or done something similar.

In my head, I always see that memory as clear as day, how Moneice could tell us apart because my individual appearance was flawed, and that’s why I never forget it. Every time something like that happened, my sister and I learned from it and never made that mistake again. Believe me when I say we’ve been pulled up on the angle of our hairclips, a slight stain on our jumper, the fastenings on our shoes, almost every distinguishable feature. By the time we reached our sweet sixteenth birthday, we were professionals at looking exactly the same from head to toe.

It hurt to leave her behind.

We’d never been apart for as long as even a week before, but my current circumstances makes it... inadvisable... no, impossible to stay with Rashana. It’s just not possible. I used to think that I’d die before I was separated from my twin – but before I knew it, six days turned into six months, and I haven’t seen her once.

“Don’t tell me this is it.” I heard her say, the sound of awe in her voice. We stared at the sparkling glass building in front of us, the rhythm of our heels on the sidewalk slowing to a stop when we realised that we’d reached our destination. I pressed my lips together and tried not to show that I was impressed, but if this place was truly the Quartz Glamoura, then I’ll admit that it was really something. The way the sun glinted off it made it look as if it was made from clear diamond. Instinctively, me and Isha slowly looked at each other, then simultaneously turned our faces skywards to see how high it went.

“Holy shit. It looks like it’s got more floors than I’ve had birthdays.” I murmured. Through the ground floor glass windows, I could see rows of chairs set out across the wall of the large reception area facing the glass reception desk – and in every chair sat a beautifully manufactured figure, many with long limbs, glossy hair, flawless faces and designer apparel, either gossiping or simply sitting there with their heads held high, trying to look pristine. When I was younger, it was daunting to walk into a room filled to the brim with beautiful girls, girls as beautiful if not more beautiful than you. The only thing that gave me courage was knowing that my twin sister was beside me, because our little stunts highlighted the fact that we were two copies of the same cheeky girl. Most of the photographers fell for the bait and jumped at the chance to use us together. Others were a little offended at such a dirty trick and separated us, to see if we could really model at all or were just using the twin thing to dazzle them. I can’t help but feel pretty damn smug when I say that we were still amazing on our own – if the number of shots in my portfolio counts for anything – so naturally, anyone who was wise enough to take advantage of twins was really getting a two-for-the-price-of-one deal.

“Keeping girlies on their feet, that’s how we roll.” Isha sang playfully, repeating words I’d once said scathingly to a lesser model, and giving me that little burst of assurance I needed. Well, I’d actually phrased it as, ‘Keeping bitches on their feet’...

Why was I even nervous? I’ve done this hundreds of times before! All these freshie girls? They’re dollies compared to the real thing.

The way we burst through the glass doors of Quartz Glamoura into reception, you might’ve thought we were already on the catwalk. Like dominos, heads turned. As Isha and I have no choice but to stick together at all times, we’ve had plenty of opportunity to learn each other’s habits and she’s kinda become my new twin. She saw right knee bend and knew which foot to start walking on so that everything was perfectly synchronised; right, left, right, left, our hair swaying, right arm gently swinging forth and back. Dozens of models were staring now. Of course, they must’ve done that to everybody who’d walked through the door – inspecting their competition – and like any establishment you’ll see all types of girls, though none like us. As always, our outfits matched. My playsuit was in shocking scarlet, Isha’s in a bright, vivid violet, and that was already an eye-catcher. By the time we reached the reception desk and gently placed our right hands on the desk at once, I knew we had them all entranced. Even the receptionist was taken aback, her face the image of surprise, awe. It’s easy.

“Hassana Vanity,” I said.

“Ishani Kijanna.” she finished.

The receptionist nodded dumbly and quickly scanned a clipboard for our names, checking them off when she found them. “Please take a seat. You’ll be called for your interview in just a mo –” She suddenly stopped, frowning at her computer screen. “Oh. Miss Kijanna, you’ve already been called.” Isha stiffened. In an instant, her face was the picture of mortified. “You need to go straight through those double doors and turn right, follow the corridor and go into the second interview room you come to – you need to hurry, before they call the next candidate for their interview.”

We looked at each other with eyes wide as the words began to take effect. “But... so wait, I’m late?” Isha half-turned to me for confirmation, dithering between hesitancy and horror. I felt a pang of something that was both pity for this girl who was such a perfectionist, and a guilty smugness that this instance was proof that she couldn’t be perfect all the time. But even I dislike a lack of punctuality from anyone, and Isha was the Get-There-Early-Just-In-Case type. She was visibly panicking and not looking any of the models in the eye as she walked briskly to the set of swinging glass doors, before dashing through and making them squeak crazily. I struggled to keep up on Babyphat heels, taking one last glance back at the interviewees to confirm a growing suspicion – I don’t think I saw a single boy. As we sped down the corridor, the smell of lavender air freshener lingered.

“Shit, I’m late! I can’t believe it! They haven’t even met me and I haven’t given them a good impression of me.” she whispered, her hands twisting around each other, then darting to her hair, her clothes, reinforcing perfection. Just the fact that she’d lost her cool was enough to make me want to slap her.

“Hey!” I said sharply. “Calm and composed, remember? Calm. And. Composed.” I gripped her hand tight to make sure she was ready to enter the room together. She nodded quickly, but I still held her there for a few seconds to make sure she was calm, before pushing the doors open as gracefully as I could and striding through.

Four voices ceased talking at once, four pairs of eyes rose to meet ours – still, I beamed as bright as the sun. Isha’s beam only made moonlight, because her worry and slight embarrassment had descended her. I wouldn’t have minded about that, but then she couldn’t even walk in time with me as we walked in and that pissed me off. I clicked my tongue with irritation. She read the sign at once and quickened her pace until the sound of our shoe-soles rang together.

In the centre of a sunlight room with windows on every wall and a chair right in the middle, we stopped.

A row of tables were positioned across the room to face the door, a stack of chairs neatly neglected in the corner of the room. No pictures were on the walls but potted plants decorated the room in abundance. I felt a little like I’d walked into a greenhouse, but the atmosphere lifted my mood. It still smelled of lavender . Four people sat at the tables, waiting and watching us carefully as we made our entrance. I’d read the audition details to Isha about a million times; cooking in the kitchen, getting ready for bed, while watching America’s Next Top Model – so we instantly knew that we were looking at the main governing body of the Femme Royale company.

The female photographer leaned over and whispered something to the beautiful woman sitting in one of the middle two seats, and that woman abruptly spoke.

“Hassana Vanity. Ishani Kijanna. You’re both late.”

The voice was so hard and so confident that I fought not to jump when it tore through the silence, especially with the very accurate use and pronunciation of our names. The woman who’d spoken tilted her head and placed her fingertips together, eyes intent and observant. Her skin was the colour of rich, dark coffee and jet black hair was piled majestically on her head, with small curls escaping from the clips and dangling playfully beside her ears. A bizarre coincidence; she also wore a playsuit, deadly black in colour, one that accentuated her shape and made her look longer in all the correct ways, delicately accessorised. Her fashion sense was off the chain. She looked so regal that I found myself involuntarily shift on my feet, smoothing down my playsuit and trying not to feel like a pile of ashes under her intense gaze. Finally, I knew who she was; Sava, mainly known as Playgirl Savage, CEO of Femme Royale. It was only when I forced my eyes away from her and to the other panel members that I got a huge, huge shock.

I could tell the woman on Playgirl Savage’s right was photographer by her insanely bored expression coupled with a haughty air of being too good for anything and anyone. I vaguely recognised her, but I knew we’d met before. To this day, I don’t believe she was born with a name; everybody I knew simply called her Femme Photog. and she never instructed them otherwise. As for the two on Playgirl’s left – they looked like they could’ve been male models born in Heaven. Only, one of them was Satan, and the other was Sin. The infamous PPB, Parker Prescott Baskerville, also called ‘Prettyboy’, was our biggest rival, the face of the devil, and Isha and I would kill never to see that face again. He smirked at us, and I flashed him a ‘Why Hello, Bitch’ smile. As for Sin, he’d been staring right at me with this huge smile of recognition his face. Well I wouldn’t be surprised – it’s not like I’m unpopular. But with a second glance, realisation slapped me in the face like a bitch without a manicure. Karlo Antony, temptation incarnate. And boy, did we have a history.

In the silence was the shared feeling of acquaintances in the room, which caused Playgirl to throw around some raised eyebrows instead of looking at us expectantly for a reply to her statement about our lateness. Even Isha was stunned that everybody on the panel was somebody we knew, not counting Playgirl. Karlo gave this little pout with his lips, like an air-kiss to me. To hide a playful smirk threatening to emerge, I automatically and unthinkingly did what I always do when I’m trying to hide that I’m feeling a certain way; I pressed my lips together. When I realised I’d just did my trademark habit, I bit my lip instead. Then I realised that had flirtatious implications and pushed my lips out into a pout – and suddenly, I’d made all of my ‘model’ faces. I could see Karlo trying not to laugh. Feeling suddenly emboldened by his amusement, I decided that I was going to reply after all.

“Yeah, so... Isha and I are sorry about being slightly late and that. But,” Sensing what was coming, Isha gave me the tiniest glance before we both grinned and said together, my voice considerably more cheeky; “- we’re both here, and that’s what counts.

The photographer tutted, her index finger pressing awkwardly against her pen as if it was a remodelled version of her beloved camera. “Don’t get smart! You geerls holding up a long queue of people vaiting to be intarviewed. Now take a zeat bevore we reject your applications vis-out even looking at it.” she scowled, her mouth was firm but we could see the smile in her eyes. It was all I could do not to laugh; hers was a voice Isha and I knew well; harsh and without mirth. But as strict as she was, she adored us really. I heard Isha chuckle.

“So.” Playgirl said finally, forcing the word out as if the sound of her voice was physically pushing aside a weirdly unusual silence. “You’re Vanity and Kijanna, thee, um...”

“Double Act.” Parker and Karlo said together. Then they began to chuckle, and Femme Photog. joined in. Isha gave me a hesitant look, but my grin was bigger than a Cheshire cat’s. They knew us. They’d heard of us. That was definitely a good start.

Karlo was making faces at me again. I nudged Isha as I passed her to grab a chair from the edge of the room, and she sat in the lone chair in the middle. “Ignore him, Sanaaa…” she muttered, on my return.

Playgirl Savage cleared her throat.

“Alright, well, in any case – I seem to remember calling only one of you in here. One of you will need to wait outside.” she said pointedly, as I united my chair with Isha’s and sank into it.

“I’m sorry,” Isha simpered – we crossed one leg over the other in unison – “Either we get interviewed together, or not at all.” We beamed together.

Playgirl stared at us for a long moment, and for a moment I could have sworn that she was about to shrug and curtly tell us to leave. But then the moment passed, and four eyes stared at us for a long moment before Female Photog. burst into laughter, shaking her head and pressing a hand over her mouth. “Sorry, sorry.” she said, but Playgirl Savage, Parker, and Karlo all wore expression of both wariness and disbelief. Told you it was so easy to dazzle.

From opposite ends of the table, Karlo gestured to us with a lazy hand and asked no-on in particular, “Are they always like this?”

Parker grumbled something inaudible, probably a curse at us, then shot back atKarlo, “You don’t know the half of it. They’d give you a song and dance if you asked.”

I struggled against the urge to tell him that I wouldn’t do a song and dance for his mother. With a sigh that told me that Savage felt like she was dealing with more than she bargained for, she leaned backwards and held her hand out. Parker shifted backwards in his chair and rifled through a box of files until he pulled one out and laid it beside the one already on the table, which I’m guessing was Isha’s. She opened my portfolio and then Isha’s, without any of the expectancy that you would get from someone who didn’t know what they were about to see, like she already knew what lay inside. Sure enough, it was our portfolios – I could see the colours and sheen on our pictures even from where we sat. We had tried to apply for the interview together, but it hadn’t been accepted, thus the two separate applications. Our snaps were so Professional – capital P – so glossy; in some of the shots, you might’ve thought we were dolls.

“Fine, let’s just get on with it.” Playgirl Savage sighed, the sort of sigh your mother gives when she’s letting you have your way, because she knows what you’re like.

“Very natural,” Femme Photog. ‘murmured’ to Playgirl, but obviously we still heard her. Femme Photog. really can’t do subtle, something Isha and I learned quickly. If she hates something during a photoshoot, that first thing she’s going to say will begin with ‘I hate’ and end in ‘it all’, ‘this shit’, ‘this shoot’, or ‘my job’.

“Very scenic.” Playgirl Savage replied, and I knew what she meant. I had a slight issue with simple white backdrops... fine. I had a big problem with that. It makes it obvious you’re taking a picture – I love images that tell a story. Most of our – mine and Isha’s – shoots were taken in such a way that yes, although done for art, could have been real.

“So, explain to me why you would be invaluable to the company.” Playgirl Savage said, her voice now slightly lazy, moving onto what was clearly the first generic question. I didn’t like it; I felt she was losing interest in us already. Without panicking, Isha and I continued with routine and flashed cheeky grins towards the judging panel.

“Well.” we said together, and I began, “We’re a little bit like –”

“ – mannequins. Give us a theme, we come to life. We like to see what we’re capable of when it comes to modelling. Sometimes we do sincere shoots that show who we are and sometimes we just have fun. Dress us up or –”

“- undress us,” I said, trying not to give Karlo a look too sly, “ – we like to experiment either way, we’ve have experience in a lot of styles, not just the crazy stuff that seems to be in fashion now, like the Lady Gaga type stuff. We’ve done vintage as well. We like to push limits. We have a lot of ideas we can bring to the company –”

“- and to be the face of Femme Royale and its debut models would be such a honour.” Isha nodded eagerly. “We’re devoted, we work hard – we have a lot of experience, as you can see from the –”

“ – portfolio –” we said together, gesturing to the table in unison.

“ – and we know a lot about the sort of thing you do. We admire your style and think ours is quite similar. See, you’re classy.” I said.

“We like classy.” Isha agreed.

“Either way, we’ll – ”

This time, Isha interrupted me with words I wasn’t going to say. “ – suit to your liking, we’ll fit any style. And if we don’t, we –”

“ – MAKE it the style.” I said firmly, with a look to Isha that she ‘shut up, my turn to talk’. Did she just say ‘any style!’ For God’s sake, I told her last night not to get too ahead of herself.  I could feel our little act losing impact and becoming cheesy. I had to say something solemn and modest now, to calm it down. I’d only been racking my brains for about three seconds, but just as I opened my mouth –

“Thank you. That’s enough.” Playgirl Savage said, with a final tone. Parker was practically crying with laughter, although I’d like to know what he found so fuckin’ funny.

“Well that was certainly very entertaining...” he said brightly. Oh how I wanted to slap that asshole, the little, stuck up, arrogant camera-hoe. Fuck’s sake.

Playgirl Savage nodded once, seeming more apprehensive than impressed. “In the world of fashion, who would you say are your role models? Who is your inspiration? One at a time, please.”

Her final statement caught us off guard, as we’d both taken a small inhale and opened our mouths to speak together. With a hesitant glance at each other, and I could see Isha calculating so I hastily jumped in to speak first in case she fucked it up – she could follow my lead.

“I personally adore Marilyn Monroe.” I began boldly, “It’s a little bit predictable, but you can’t really blame me. She was such a icon.” I went on like this for a little while and threw in some additional comments about Audrina Patridge until I felt like I’d made enough of an impression, then I stopped, gave my trademark smile once more and looked at Isha, giving her the green light to speak. Playgirl Savage didn’t seem too moved by what I’d said – but I’d come to the conclusion that maybe she just didn’t have many facial muscles, or else was too indifferent to use them much.

Isha didn’t speak for a long moment. “To be honest, I don’t really have a role model in the ‘world of fashion’,” Isha admitted, and I almost groaned out loud. How easy would it have been to just say ‘Madonna’?!

“I had an awkward style growing up, we weren’t exactly in the money so a lot of the stuff I wore were hand-downs. By the time I was old enough to buy my own clothes and decide what I wanted to wear, I didn’t know anything about dressing properly and... you know... ‘horizonal stripes make you look wider, vertical stripes makes you look thinner’, that sort of thing. I know what things look nice, but not like, what to mix and match, what to wear where, the Fashion Philosophy sort of stuff.” I frowned as she made a wringing motion with her hands to show her uncertainty; last night she promised me she would stop doing that. “So, my role model and inspiration was pretty much my older sister. She loves dressing up and buying clothes and that stuff. I pretty much looked up to her in a fashion way because she wasn’t in the money either so she was the boss at bargain hunting for nice clothes. I was copying her style for a while until I found my own... although to be honest, I was still getting her hand-me-downs at that age so it was kind of inevitable that we’d end up in almost identical outifts.”

Female Photog. gave a small laugh at that. Karlo had been listening intently – even Prettyboy was showing some sort of interest. The smile Playgirl Savage gave her once she’d finished was pure, and fond.

I was unimpressed that Isha honest monologue had gotten those reactions from the interviewing panel, and yet, very proud of her for exactly that. After all, I hadn’t prompted her to say that shit.

“Thank you, Miss Kijanna.” Playgirl said gently. She glanced down to her desk for a brief moment. “Actually, I only like to ask you each one more question.”

“Well, I think we only had time for one more anyway, we’re running over now.” Karlo murmured to her, flicking his wrist to glance at his watch.

“Okay.” She pointed at me. “Who’s your twin?”

I was so taken aback by the question that I couldn’t answer for a moment. “My... you mean... Rashana? Rashana Vanity.”

Playgirl nodded. “I knew I’d seen you somewhere. Two of you, even.” She gave a short laugh. “Do you both still model together?”

Getting the words out was suddenly difficult. “No...”

“Why not?”

It was worrying how short my answers had become, but I really didn’t know what else to say.

“I... I don’t know....”

Her lips pouted thoughtfully before she turned to Isha. “Who’s your older sister that you look up to so much?”

Isha went very still, and I couldn’t help doing the same. I knew all too well how much Ishani hated the subject of her sister, even though, she was the one who brought it up in the first place. So it’s her own fault, really.

“Eyani. Celestine.”

Karlo snapped his fingers and sat up dead straight. “Of course! You’re Eyani’s sister.”

‘Eyani’s Sister’. That’s me.” Ishani said, quietly, bitterly.

“I knew you looked familiar also, but I couldn’t place it. It must be because you look like your sister.”

“Well Eyani Celestine won’t be Bargain Hunting no more.” Parker said boredly. “Rich and famous now, isn’t she?”

Isha stayed silent, so I gave a cutting retort in her place. “Not exactly, but she’s still richer than you, Mr Baskerville.”

“Oh really?” He jerked a ring off his finger and tossed it towards us. Isha jerked, taken aback, but I was ready and caught it deftly. “Pawn that. See how much it’s worth. That’ll help you with your rent.” he snorted.

“That’s enough of that, Parker.” Playgirl Savage said firmly, with distaste. After a moment’s thought, she carefully closed our portfolios.

“Seen enough?” he laughed. Playgirl gave him another cutting look, then glanced up to us.

“Thank you, ladies. I’d count on us being in touch.” She told Female Photog., “Can you please tell the receptionist to rush in the next one – we might have to cut the next few interviews a couple minutes short.”

Isha and I thanked her in unison and stood up, leaving both of our chairs asthey were and hurring out the door. I realised something slightly different about this scenario. She hadn’t said, ‘We’ll be in touch.’ As I was used to hearing. ‘I’d count on us being in touch.’ That’s what she’d said.

I looked at Isha for a long time until she caght me looking and frowned. “Why are you smiling so much? This is only the first stage.”

“Yeah, but we passed it, didn’t we?”

“There’s no guarantee...” Isha began warningly, until she thought about it and reached the same train of thought as I had. The smile she gave then was insanely hopeful. I flashed one of my own stunning smiles, unprepared for when we both said in unison; “Perfect.”
 

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