The Toy Maker (Under Construction)

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Backstage

After digging through a closet filled with lingerie, I decided on a simple lace push-up bra and whatever underwear that would cover the most of my body. The girls pointed me to the dressing rooms and warned me to hurry if I still wanted a place in the show.

I needed the job to keep myself from living a nightmare and I would consider almost anything short of prostitution. When I was done I stumbled around like Bambi until I found Kat sitting in front of a golden vanity. Beauty products littered the table and spare thongs hung off the sides of the mirror.

I coughed to get her attention.

“Tara!” Her smile managed to calm my nerves just a few seconds before all broke loose. She looked me up and down and motioned for me to spin. I felt the heat rise to my cheeks as I let her inspect my outfit choice.

“You look fine for today but if you get the job you’ll have to get much bolder.”

I almost worked up the nerve to ask how much bolder when another girl stole Kat’s attention.

The neon pixie who showed me the way to the back frantically waved around a dirty towel, “Amy just puked her guts out on Jesse.”

Jesse must have been important because the look on Kat’s face said they were in SlutCon 1. Suddenly, she started barking orders to the girls around her. I watched as they scurried to complete the tasks she demanded to be done.

“Find Macy and tell her to be ready to go in five.” I figured Macy worked as the understudy for whatever role Jesse could no longer fill.

“Macy is home with the flu.” The neon girl said with panic in her eyes.

“Then get Jesse into the showers and make sure she is prepped to be on stage in five.” Mass hysteria washed over the girls who flocked to their leader in a time of crisis.

“There’s no way.”

“Her hair took thirty minutes to do.”

Kitty’s face was shrouded in anxiety. She floundered under their needy looks and seemed to be overwhelmed by the sudden changes. “Then we move the opening act.” When all the girls left to adjust their wardrobes Kat noticed me standing beside her. “Looks like you get to prove your worth faster than I thought.” I wanted to ask what she meant but before I could she pulled one of the Cherries aside and demanded I be taken to the changing rooms. “And tell Amy she’s shitting out for the night,” Kitty barked, “The last thing we need is her getting sick on everyone else.”

The Cherry assigned as my keeper grabbed my arm and dragged me to the back. She tossed a washcloth size piece of fabric at my face and commanded me to strip.

“I’m not really big on being naked in front of women.” I started retelling my history in middle school locker rooms but the look she gave told me she’d rather die than listen. I continued anyway, “One time in middle school I was changing out of my gym clothes and-” She dove down to the elastic band of my underwear and pulled them down then spun me around and began unfastening the bra.

“Just do what we tell you to so we don’t end up having to do it for you.”

Before I could protest she lifted the swatch of fabric up to my boobs and tied what looked like fishing wire around my neck to keep it in place. I started having flashbacks of being five years old and unable to tell my mom how much I hated the outfits she put me in. At least those outfits kept me covered and didn’t rely on string to keep them together.

The Cherry grabbed a pair of socks and started to shove them underneath my boobs. “What are you doing?” I went to enough HR meetings to know sexual harassment when it happened to me.

“Lifting them.” I had a feeling HR meant nothing within Pink Cherry walls.

“My boobs are big enough.”

She rolled her eyes, “Look, I’m just following orders. If you have a problem complain to Kitty.” A certificate of completion from the YMCA self-defense class and there I was, getting my boobs jacked up with a pair of socks at the hands of a woman I just met.

I stopped questioning the ways of the seventh circle of hell I fell into by the time my breasts were pushed up to my chin. When she came at me with neon paint I didn’t try to fight it, instead, I let her fingerpaint on my face like a cheap dollar store canvas. When she finished she barked at someone else to come retrieve her creation.

After they traded me, and I came to terms with my feelings about being treated like a toddler, they shoved me into a chair beside one of the only open vanities. My scalp screamed for a break while they tugged on my hair and complained about the knots.

While they brushed some of my hair, other parts were being yanked off. Five minutes of relentless pain before they spun me around to reveal the final product.

They burned my hair into uniform curls that flowed down my back and shoulders. The paint turned out less Picasso and more whimsical with soft spirals of iridescent green paint. It managed to bring out the blue in my eyes and made my pale skin look much brighter.

I stared for ten seconds before Kitty came back to check on my progress.

“So, what do you think?” She asked while moving a few stray hairs around. I didn’t know how to feel about the girl looking in the mirror.

“Doesn’t feel like me.”

Kat nodded, “We all felt that way at first.” I doubted I would ever get used to the pain it took to get me prepared for whatever show they planned for the crowd outside. “You ready?”

I turned to look at her in a gold trim bikini. “You haven’t told me what I’m doing yet.”

She grinned, “You’re modeling.”

Panic hit me in waves, “I can’t model,” I stood up from the chair, “I don’t have the coordination or the bone structure. My mom told me I resemble an ostrich.”

She laughed and ran her fingers through her hair, “We don’t have much of a choice at the moment. So, if you could just get your butt onto the stage and walk in a straight line with a smidge of sass you’d be doing me a huge favor.” I stared at the powerhouse of compulsion in front of me. “And you’ll get the job.”

An eviction notice flashed through my mind and the idea of walking in on my mother and Walter in the shower pushed me down the hall where the other girls were lined up. As I listened to Kitty address the crowd, I fought down the swarm of nerves in my stomach.

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