5 - Silk

“Do I have to pay for all of this?”

Lydia gave Jia a scolding look with a furrow of her perfectly plucked eyebrows. “Don’t be silly,” she chided before dropping the pile of clothes into the other woman’s arms. “Who would make you pay to take old discards? Imagine. We have to pay to get our trash taken out, you know.”

Jia’s eyes dropped down to inspect the expensive fabrics with an apprehensive grimace. True, she had never had an eye for fashion. But these looked just as stylish and modern as any ensemble fitted onto mannequins in department stores, all far beyond her budget. Trash, Lydia had said, but if this was trash, what did that make her wardrobe?

“Are you sure these are discards?”she repeated skeptically, and squinted at the topmost article on the stack. Was that a Gucci logo? Discard, really?

“Well, all right, not all of them are,” admitted Lydia. “But the damage you would do to our image if you were ever photographed in that...atrocious getup exceeds the cost of any of these by miles, so it’s more than worth whatever tiny loss we incur. Remember, Mr. Grayson is practically public domain, and so am I since I'm always in the camera shots with him. And now, so will you. So hop to it.” The blonde clapped her hands before grabbing Jia’s shoulders and spinning her around, clothes and all.

Jia was sent stumbling into the dressing stall curtain with one firm push, and she disappeared with a yelp inside. A loud cascade of rustling noises made half a dozen other women nearby look up, but Lydia waved away their disgruntled expressions.

"Official business for Mr. Grayson,” she whispered conspiratorially. “I’m his new assistant. And she’s my assistant. It's all a marvelous system that Mr. Grayson has arranged, I can't believe how much more streamline everything feels already.”

Instantly, the demeanor of the other women changed - their eyes widened, their stances straightened, and the semi-scowls of annoyance on their faces vaporized like so much steam.

“New assistant?” one of them demanded.

“What’s your name?” another one asked.

They rushed over to crowd around her, half-dressed and one who had only one of her stilettos on her feet and the other clutched in her hand like a pocketbook.

They chattered like a mad flock of birds, all simultaneously talking over each other and yet somehow successfully registering and processing the information flying wildly between them. Behind the curtain, Jia was having a hard enough time figuring out how to put on some of these complicated clothes with all their straps and decoy buttons. She couldn't even begin to try to discern the specifics of their gossiping. 

“Well? Are you done?”

Jia whipped around just in time to see Lydia yank back the curtains. “Excuse me!” she exclaimed as she hastily scrambled to do up the rest of her top (wait, this was a false zipper? Things like this existed?). But the other woman didn’t quite seem to understand what the problem was:

“No problem,” replied Lydia, leaving Jia reeling in compounded confusion at the incorrect response. “Now turn around and give me a slow spin - oh, oh. God, no. I don’t think so. Wear the next one.” And then with a decisive jerk, she closed the curtains again with a metallic clatter. “Chop, chop, remember we have other places to be. Anyway, ladies -”

Jia looked at the pile of untried clothes hanging over from the wall, utterly miserable. With a quick rifle of her fingers, she counted how many articles of clothing remained - fourteen? And half of these looked exactly the same! Utterly defeated and overwhelmed, she hung her head, and then reluctantly got to work.


“Oh, hmmm…Not bad,” commented Lydia.

Jia looked in the mirror, thoroughly horrified by her reflection despite the begrudgingly admiring sounds her senior colleague was making behind her. She promptly turned around and checked her rear, suspicious about the strange tightness around her hips - “Not bad!” she exclaimed incredulously. “Don’t you think it’s a bit tight!”

Lydia scoffed. Loudly. The outrageousness of what Jia had just said was apparently enough to wipe away the approving expression that had been on the blonde’s face just a second ago. “Don’t be ridiculous. This is what it’s supposed to look like. If anything, it’s a little loose, but there was only this size left on the rack.”

“You can see everything through this -”

“First of all,” admonished Lydia. “Even if that were true, that’s why you should wear a thong to work. Secondly - oh, come on, we’re both women, don’t look at me like that - secondly, as I was saying, that’s what it’s supposed to do. Like I said before.”

Jia turned her head back around to check the mirror again in disbelief. Holy God, she thought. Every step she took, she might as well be flashing her bum at everyone walking behind her. It would be a full moon every night as far as this skirt was concerned, even in broad daylight. Its black color failed to mask anything at all, with the pencil skirt hugging every embarrassing curve of her rear and thighs as it was.

“Good, keep that on. I already have a pair of heels here, slip these on.”

Jia reluctantly turned around to find the woman already dangling a pair of black stilettos in front of her. “Wait,” she said, though she took the shoes anyway. “This shirt’s a defect, I think. I’ll have to change.”

Lydia bent over slightly to peer closely at the blouse, inspecting it from the top down. “What do you mean?” she asked curiously, still searching for whatever flaw Jia was referring to. “It looks fine to me.”

Jia pointed at the collar of the blouse. “It’s missing a button,” she explained. She took one edge of the deep, open collar and turned it in her fingers slightly to emphasize her plight. “I think it’s missing two of three, actually.”

The blonde gave her another strange look. “Enough jokes,” she said dismissively. “It looks like everything is fine, so let’s slip these shoes on and get going. We still need to stop by the IT floor before going back to the office.”

Lydia turned around to shoo the gawking, whispering women who had begun to crowd in semi-circle around them.

"Good lord, I forgot it was almost nine. All the talents will be pouring in soon. Hurry up, Jia, Mr. Grayson is waiting. I need to make a call, so come find me by the elevator after you put those shoes on.”

Jia was left to stare in stunned disbelief at her retreating back. Her eyes flitted back to her reflection, and she blushed bright red at the amount of bare skin she saw winking back at her. The skirt barely came past her knees, and the blouse’s deep-cut neck was so plunging that it threatened to reveal a hint of her bra. On unsteady feet, she slid her bare feet into the black, strapped heels.

How was it, she wondered when she peeked at her reflection for the last time, that she looked even less clothed with shoes on than when she was barefoot? They looked so provocative, she thought, if shoes could be such a thing.

She sighed, rubbed her eyes, and tried futilely to cinch the edges of her blouse collar closer together before wobbling away.


“Lydia, where are you.”

“On my way, sir, I apologize, Mr. Grayson, sir -”

Atlas cut the intercom before she had the chance to finish groveling. He had long since stopped hoping that each new assistant would be better than the last, but this one had seemed a little more promising than her immediate predecessor. Amber-something-or-other. That one had lasted only a week before she resigned via a panicked phone call. She had been the most disappointing of them all by far.

“Yes, sir!” Lydia all but charged down his door three minutes later, clearly out of breath but attempting to conceal it anyway.

Atlas didn’t even look up from his laptop to greet her. His fingers flew over the keyboard as he constructed a particularly aggressive email to a correspondent who had not answered his last message quickly enough. “Pencil in a video conference with the president of Burma Ideal at one tomorrow. Move everything that conflicts one hour earlier.”

Lydia was already madly tapping away at the screen of her smartphone. “Yes, sir. Done, sir. I’ll contact your other appointments and let them know immediately.”

“I’m expecting a quarterly profits projection report from Daniel, but it can’t wait until the end of the day. Let him know I need it within the hour.”

“Yes, sir.”

Atlas finally closed his laptop and looked up. “The printer is running low on toner -”

He froze.

“Yes, sir,” his assistant was saying, still furiously tapping away. “I’ll take care of that as well.” Atlas said nothing after she responded, however, and Lydia glanced up from the device with a questioning look. “Sir?”

But Atlas only continued to stare past her instead of continuing his rapid-fire instructions. “What is that?” he demanded sharply, eyes boring into Jia as she shifted uncomfortably behind the other woman’s back. His icy gaze raked her from head to toe, taking in her dramatic change of appearance.

Lydia turned around only long enough to realize what he was referring to, and then promptly spun back around. “A Mencia skirt, A-13 midnight black, thirty percent embellished black wool and sixty percent silk-blend crepe,” she rattled off immediately. “The top is a limited edition Llorona charmeuse silk, 304-C pale blue, with mother of pearl buttons and a Magnolia buckled belt to cinch at the waist. The shoes - well, they were part of the Sinful line of the Rutgers brand we were promoting last season, but I chose the best of what we had available.”

Atlas remained motionless, but his gaze continued to drag up and down Jia’s body with an intensity that she clearly noticed but seemed to misunderstand. He saw her try to discreetly drag her skirt down with an uncomfortable grimace, and the muscles in his thighs tightened with an involuntary spasm at the motion. He was suddenly glad he was sitting behind his very large desk, as he did his best to keep his attention on the clothes instead of the milky-white skin of her collarbones boldly peering out at him.

“Did you pick that out?” he asked carefully, and somehow, despite his eyes remaining glued to Jia, Lydia seemed to understand that he was directing the question at her.

“Yes, sir. Fortunately, there were some spares in the dressing rooms…”

Atlas clenched one fist over his thigh, gathering the material of his expensive suit pants and twisting it in his grasp. “You did well,” he said, his voice a little rougher than before. “Before you leave for the day, find several more to send Ms. Moon home with.”

“Of course, sir -”

“I do have clothes at home I can wear.” Jia’s voice, although of average volume, cut through the room and the conversation like a butcher knife. “I’d hate to impose,” she added lamely when the silence persisted. "I...know I’m wearing company property.”

Atlas’s eyes flickered to Lydia, who had slowly turned around to pin her colleague with a desperate, warning glower. “That won’t be necessary,” he said coolly. “You’ll do as I instruct. I won’t risk you compromising the agency’s value because you don’t know which brands we do and do not represent.”

“Brands you represent?” Jia repeated, and this time, Lydia flailed her hands slightly to dissuade the other woman from speaking any further.

Little did she know that Atlas was procuring far too much enjoyment watching Jia’s collar flutter open a little wider every time she glanced between him and Lydia in growing confusion. He even found himself answering her question, eager to keep the conversation going no matter what that entailed.

“Pandora Lights Agency’s marketing power is one of the strongest in the nation, simply by virtue of what we choose to dress our talents in,” said Atlas, and he saw his assistant whip back around with an expression of utter shock. No doubt she had expected him to guillotine Jia’s head from her shoulders for her daring to question him.

“And conversely, there are companies and brands we choose to not promote this way, deliberately. I require my employees to keep up-to-date with our stances on several dozen of these brands at all times and to act accordingly.”

Jia was staring at him with an almost comical, fish eyed astonishment. “I...yes, sir,” she said reluctantly. Her eyes darted anxiously around the office as if she were looking for something that could explain those very stances, but when she found nothing of the sort, her dark eyes nervously inched back to Atlas’s face. He saw it all. His hand twisted the fabric of his suit pants again and threatened to cut off his circulation.

“If that’s settled, then handle everything I’ve mentioned and return here once you’ve done so.” Atlas nodded in the direction of his double doors, still as unsmiling and cold as ever.“Now.”

Lydia grabbed Jia’s wrist and proceeded to scurry out, leaving Atlas to stew alone in swiftly growing frustration. He pushed his rolling office chair back so that he could look down at his lap, and he forced his fist to slowly unclench around the bunched up fabric of his pant leg. He scowled at the wrinkles that his hand left behind, but it was the memory of Jia Moon’s bare, slender calves that made him slam his fist down on the desk in half-stifled anger.

Fuck, this was annoying.

Comments (1)
goodnovel comment avatar
Trisha Sunshine
Shocked he didn't whip it out hahaha

Related chapters

Latest chapter Protection Status