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Undressing her was like unwrapping an expensive Christmas gift. First you had to take of the corner bow, tryst with which she helped. She took of her half-moon hat and laid it softly on the bedside table. There was a barely visible smile as I proceeded with the next step, just like I had learned as a child. I had to control my emotions, because I had to be careful with the wrapping. Her heavy cocktail dress sparkled just like I remember the wrapping of my gifts used to. It was midnight blue with a white trim, the skirt bloomed out right at the hem of her waist and it was complimented by midnight Maryjane shoes. Taking of her dress revealed a bodice of smooth, white lycra and a shudder from the women in my arms.
Working in her fashion house, modeling her creations down the staircase and marble floor of the acclaimed couturier I had learned a thing or two about grace. Working as her assistant after I had helped dress and undress a milliard of beautiful girls. I never felt a thing, it never made me nervous or anxious as I zipped and unzipped, held safety pins on my lips and did last minute repairs. No, it was never like this. My hands never trembled and my eyes never skimmed. It had been so sudden, the feelings we had been wanting to act on for so long. Madame Priestly had asked me to stay for tea, “would you accompany after the show to tea?”
I nodded, her request was not uncommon, we often saw the practice run-troughs together and I sometimes would point out opportunities. I didn’t do it always, she was known for her temper and her strong character. Before I became her personal assistant, she had fired six other girls in one year. I had watched it all from the ground floor, sashaying down the catwalk for the rich and privileged society of 1930’s Germany. That was what I had been hired to do, model the dresses, and two- piece suits that took hours to create. I had the perfect body for it, slight curves and large round eyes. Madame was divorced but no-one ever spoke about it and somehow, I got past the chilling persona and met the real person behind the silk and the pearls and imported wool.
“Of course! the usual tea house?” I had asked that day.
She hadn’t answer, that was another thing. She didn’t like questions. She often left you with unanswered words, pursed her lips and walked away. She had high expectations of people, she expected you to know, to anticipate, to recognize, to excel. That was how I ended up helping her with designs and checkbooks instead of wearing her designs for others to admire. When the last girl was fired I offered to help with check-ins and sale records for that show. In the frenzy of those last pre-show minutes she had agreed. Nigel had shaken his head and stormed up the stairs at his now usurped position. Nigel was in charge of the seamstresses and the design team. He had known Miranda as she liked the staff to call her for many years. The rumor was they came from the same impoverished Jewish neighborhood but that was something else we never talked about. Especially not in the current political climate. After that afternoon, I started coming early and leaving late to help with records, appointments and purchases. After a month, she offered me the job.
“It would mean no more modeling,” she clarified.
“A girl can’t model forever,” I said.
“There is a contract to sign,” she said ignoring my attempt at comic relief.
“Where do I sign,” I had answered.
That was three years ago, I had never regretted it.