Gina Rubin’s comfortable life is about to be upturned by a single act of kindness. She opened her door to find a mannequin. A mannequin who talks.
This story resulted from another writing prompt I came across last week. “When I opened the door, I never expected to be hit by ‘that‘.”
I hope you enjoy it.
An Act of Kindness, Returned
Gina Rubin put the shopping bag from the mall at the foot of the stairs. She headed to the kitchen to make her afternoon green tea. The doorbell rang before she could fill the kettle.
Gina opened the front door to come face to face with a mannequin. A female mannequin. A mannequin wearing black slacks, an ivory blouse, a black blazer, black flats. No jewelry, no makeup, no wig.
What the hell?
Gina stuck her head out of the doorway, looking right and left. No one. She stepped around the mannequin to look out to the sidewalk. Still no one.
I don’t like being pranked.
She started to close the door when she heard a voice, “Aren’t you going to ask me in?”
Okay, now I’m hearing voices.
She stepped back from the door. The mannequin walked stiffly past her, moving inside, through to the kitchen.
The mannequin quite awkwardly sat, placed its hands on the table.
Gina said, “This is some kind of joke, right?”
The mannequin shook its head slowly. “No.”
“There’s a ventriloquist behind you somewhere. This is all explainable.”
“Just me,” the mannequin said. “I followed you home.”
“How did you do that?”
“It wasn’t easy.”
“You helped me. You were kind to me.”
“You’re a mannequin. How could I have helped you?”
“You were shopping for shoes. You sat in a chair next to me. My left shoe had slipped off. You reached over and put the shoe back on.”
“Yeah, I remember that. I’m kind of a perfectionist. You looked awkward with one shoe off.”
“Well, you were kind. I am here to return the kindness.”
Gina shook her head. “This is seriously weird.”
“I get that. This is the first time I’ve done this.”
The two sat staring at one another. Gina got up and finished making her tea. “I don’t suppose I can offer you a cup of tea?”
The mannequin shook its head. “I have a purpose. How can I return your kindness?”
“What can you do?” Gina warmed to having a kindness done for her.
“Pretty much wide open.”
Gina gestured with both hands. “I’m sitting at my own kitchen table…talking to a mannequin…a mannequin who speaks…saying she can do me a favor.”
“Weird for me too. Actually, I don’t even know what I can do for you. Gotta try me.”
Gina looked around her kitchen. Several pots and pans needed washing. No, don’t waste this on on dirty dishes. Laundry should be done. Again, don’t waste a favor on laundry.
Okay, we can make this work.
“Does anyone live here with you?” the mannequin asked.
“What do you need?”
Gina thought for a moment. “Well…I was thinking about getting a cat.”
“Too easy. You can go to the shelter and get one. Gotta be more than that.”
“More? All I did was put your shoe back on.”
“And I need to return the kindness.”
“I’m at a loss.” Gina sipped her tea.
“Where do you work?”
“I got laid off last week. I was in customer service.”
“Maybe I can help you find a new job.”
“I don’t really know.”
The mannequin appeared to be thinking. “I know…you must be tense after being laid off.”
“To say the least.”
“How about a massage?”
Gina smiled. “That could work.”
She grabbed a kitchen towel and walked to the couch.
“The towel will keep me from smearing makeup all over the couch.”
She stretched out, face down. The mannequin knelt next to the couch, began massaging Gina’s back.
“Wow, it feels good, but your hands are really stiff.”
“I didn’t tell you…If I actually help you, if I do a genuine act of kindess, I have a chance at becoming a real person.”
“Huh? What is this? Another version of Pinocchio?”
“What is Pinocchio?”
The mannequin continued the massage.
Gina pushed herself up, leaned on one elbow. “Wait a minute. If you become a real person, where would you go? What would you do?”
“I don’t know. There was one mannequin I knew, but after she changed she never came back.”
Gina stretched out again. “Do all mannequins get this chance?”
“Apparently no. Very few. Before the department store, I worked at a vintage clothing store on Magnolia Blvd. The Magic Shoe. Most of the mannequins there are head mannequins. They model hats and scarves. I was a full-body mannequin. Madam Ruby touched me.”
“She had gifts. But she herself was a head mannequin. Anyone full-body she touched had the chance to become a real person. I was lucky.”
Gina snuggled down into the couch, enjoying the massage. “So what happens if you become real? Do you have ID, a personal history? Can you get a job?”
“Again, I don’t know.”
Gina popped up again. “Wait a minute. If you become a real person while you’re here with me, am I responsible for you?”
The mannequin shrugged.
“Do you even have name?”
“I always liked the name Meghan.”
“Okay, I’ll call you that.”
The mannequin gazed at Gina. “If I become a real woman, I could stay here with you.”
“Hold on.” Gina sat up, swung her legs to the floor. “You would need an ID. A personal history from birth till today. You would need a job, a place to live.”
“You can help me with that, no?”
Gina shook her head. “What you’re telling me is, you return my act of kindness, Meghan. I then become your keeper. I have to set you up in the real world. You want to move in here with me…Your one act of kindness would create a huge burden for me. It would turn my life upside down.” She shook her head. “I can’t do this.”
Meghan the mannequin looked down at the floor. “I see what you mean. I would rely on you for everything.”
Gina nodded. “Exactly. I don’t think I’m ready for that.”
“I should go back to the department store. Leave you alone.” She stood.
Gina watched Meghan the mannequin walk toward the front door.
“Wait. Do you know for sure that you would become a real person?”
“That’s what Madam Ruby said. If I perform a genuine kindness, I become real.”
Gina sat with her head in her hands. Her mind ran to her comfortable life. Alone, yes, But all to her liking. No one to hassle with. Her choices were all hers.
Meghan the mannequin stood with her hand on the door handle. “Goodbye. I hope I get anothr chance at this soon.”
Gina looked at her. “Come back to the massage. We can think this through. Maybe you would come with a package to get you started in the real world.”
She lay back on the couch. Meghan the mannequin returned to her position, continued the massage.
Gina was about to comment again on the stiff, hard hands when she felt a softening. The fingers on the mannequin’s hands spread as they massaged. Gina heard Meghan moan. “Something is happening.”
Gina propped herself on an elbow. The hard features on the mannequin softened as she looked on.
Meghan the mannequin stopped massaging, stared at her hands.
“I’m becoming a real woman!”
In a matter of moments Meghan the mannequin morphed into Meghan a real woman. Hair sprung out on her scalp. Fingernails grew on her hands.
Gina felt a tremor pass through her body as she realized there was no going back. Meghan the woman was now her responsibility.
Shit! Now what?