“I just wish you didn't look so worried,” Darcy sighs, tilting her head to the side as she considers the mannequin filling up a large corner of the window display. The mannequin stares sightlessly back, blue painted eyes, unfaded by time, unlike the rest of the treasures in Foster’s Antiquities Emporium. She rolls up on her toes to touch the crease between the mannequin’s perfect painted brows.
Jane and Selvig found him in a barn in upstate New York, covered in cobwebs and dust, wearing a moth-eaten blue suit, and a red and white striped tie. The woman who owned the barn, Mrs. Dugan, said the mannequin had originally been in her grandfather’s department store in Brooklyn until it closed sometime in the eighties. He belonged in a museum; with his perfectly preserved paintwork, impossibly wide shoulders, narrow waist, and flawlessly sculpted face, he was more artwork than clothes hanger. He didn’t belong in a kitsch antique store in Puente Antiguo, New Mexico. Then again, neither did she.
“Alright, dude, if I’m going to talk to you, and strip you out of your clothes you really should have a name. What about Edgar? Or Johnny? Stefano?”
The mannequin doesn’t reply.
He stands tall and stoic, blue painted eyes focused somewhere over Darcy’s left shoulder, with that same worried intensity that had Darcy glancing behind her more than once as she fiddled with old leather suitcases, books, and one of the innumerable clocks Selvig was so very fond of. Rolling up on her toes to brush dust off the top of the mannequin’s perfectly sculpted blonde head. Pity you’re made of wood and not flesh and blood, she thinks.
“Over here, boss lady,” she shouts, waving her hand over her head.
“How’s the window coming along?” Jane asks, not bothering to look up from the clipboard in her hands.
“Well, Beatrice has her gladrags on,” Darcy answers, nodding her head towards the other mannequin in the window when Jane pokes her head around the corner of a china hutch. Beatrice’s nose is chipped, eyebrows raised high in permanent surprise, with blank orbs for eyes and hair the same faded color as the rest of her. The mannequin is wearing a pink floral dress, red shoes, a necklace of red beads and a pink hat perched at a jaunty angle on top of her colorless curls. “...but I’m not sure about him.”
Jane looks up then, blinking slowly and taking in the disaster that is the window display. “It’s getting late you know. I have…”
“A date with the cut guy you ran over last week, I know. Don’t worry, Jane, I’ll have the window fixed up before I leave.”
“Thor. His name is Thor.”
“Whatever, Jane. Which jacket?” Darcy asks, holding up two hangers for Jane to inspect. One, a green army jacket from the 70s, the other, a cracked black leather jacket with ‘Howling Commandos’ in curving script and a pair of stylized wings on the back.
“The leather,” Jane nods. “It’s a good look.”
The bell on the door jingles, and a booming voice calling out Jane’s name quickly follows. Jane’s eyes widen comically, and she shoves her clipboard onto the china hutch, toppling a hardback book to the floor with a thud and upsetting a blue and white teacup. The teacup falls off it’s saucer, rocking back and forth precariously on the edge of the hutch.
“You’ve got keys right?”
“Yup,” Darcy says, clutching the jacket to her chest with one arm and patting the store keys in the back pocket of her jeans. Thor’s voice booms again, and Jane lets out a nervous little squeak, and dashes around the corner. With bemused shake of her head, Darcy sets down the jacket beside the mannequin’s feet and set the teacup back on its saucer. No way in hell was she paying for Jane’s damages.
The book, The Mythology of the North Lands, is unharmed by its fall and Darcy pops it back onto a random stack of books on the hutch. She listens to the door chime and the sound of Jane’s keys in the lock, a moment later Jane and Thor walk past the window. She waves and turns back to her work.
“It’s just you, me, and Beatrice, big guy,” she says, glancing up at the mannequin and patting his arm. “I’m going to call you Anthony. Or Michael. Or maybe-”
“Steve,” the mannequin says, deep voice echoing through the empty shop, scaring Darcy half to death.
She stumbles backwards, blindly reaching for anything that could be used as a weapon. “What? What did you just say?” she squeaks, raising her hand, fingers curled around the same blue teacup.
“I’d rather be called by my name,” the mannequin says, head turning to focus on her, one eyebrow ticking up. He crosses his arms, his very well-sculpted arms, over his chest and takes in a deep breath.
“Your name is Steve?”
“And you’re my...uh, the mannequin?”
“I am,” Steve says, tilting his head down the ghost of a smile on his lips.
The air between them ripples and his face hardens, once again becoming little more than wood and paint.
“Steve?” she says softly.
God, she’s losing her mind if she imagining the mannequin is actually going to answer her.
The bell on the door tinkles merrily.
“Forgot my phone,” Jane calls out.
“S’okay, I think I just lost my mind.”
“Nothing! Have a nice date. Do fun things,” Darcy calls out, never taking her eyes off of the mannequin.
“Bye,” Jane says, slamming the door behind her.
Darcy steps forward and taps him on the cheek. The mannequin is solid and cold beneath her fingers. “You were dreaming,” Darcy tells herself. She traces her fingertips along the firm line of the mannequin’s jaw, down his neck, over his chest. The cotton of his shirt warm beneath her fingers, and she darts her gaze up to meet warm blue eyes and a crooked smile.