Poster Girl

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic

A professional model wants to change her life.


The cold light of the floodlights lit up the face and half the body of the woman in the enormous photograph: perfect, plasticized, and with a fixed smile. Captured forever in an attitude of total abandonment, at the same time encouraging the public to buy the perfume.
‘Buy a bottle of Blue Magic in order to attract the man of your life. You will captivate him with just a few drops.’
As easy as that. With one bottle you will have captured and tamed the man you desire. Apart from the dustbin men, very few people saw the perfume girl at night. From time to time a passer-by stopped to stare at her and then move on. A drunk who usually passed in front of the advertisement in the early hours of the morning, greeted her, “Good night, Gorgeous,” and blew a kiss to the face with the eternal smile. What was left of the night, the girl spent alone with the enormous bottle of perfume in one hand, lighting up the cold darkness. Between night and dawn she was the link, because she saw everything from up there. In the morning when everyone left for work, there she was perfumed and smiling – the poster girl. The local people got used to her and she soon formed a part of their lives. There was almost no one who hadn’t bought a bottle of her perfume, however small it was, so they all identified themselves with her. The ladies dreamed of being a little like her, and the men dreamed about waking with her beside them.
One day, at the end of spring, two men arrived in front of the hoarding armed with a bucket of paste, ladders, large brushes and rolls of paper. In a short time the face of the girl with the eternal smile had been covered in paste, then they unrolled the paper in pieces like a giant jigsaw puzzle and began to fix the new advertisement on top of the old one. A couple of boys stayed to watch until the men had finished their work. Then a mother and child stopped in front of the advertisement. In a bar opposite a waiter said to a customer, “It was about time. I was fed up with seeing the same silly face all winter. Let’s see what they’ve stuck up now.”

Irina, as had been her habit for a long time, was wearing a light blue scarf over her head, and big sunglasses, the only part of her face that was visible was her mouth. She looked at the advertisement carefully, detail by detail, without missing anything. This time the photograph was with summer in mind, and instead of being perfume it was toilet water with shower gel and talcum of the same fragrance. Irina in the new poster invited passers-by to a fragrant, fantastic, and happy summer with the undeniable help of Blue Cascade.
‘Let Blue Cascade refresh you like a gush of crystal clear water.’
‘On the hottest days and the cool nights wear a touch of seduction.’
The boys began to say silly things, “Look at her, she’s wearing fewer clothes than I don’t know who! Is that twit her boyfriend, do you think?”
“Don’t be silly. With the expression on his face like that, no one’s going to fancy him.”
The boys started whistling towards the advertisement, one of them took out a chewing gum from his mouth and stuck it on the poster. “A present for you, Beautiful.”
And off they went, to carry on misbehaving in other places.
Irina adjusted her sunglasses and felt a great pain in her throat. What idiots those boys were. What did they know about life? For a brief moment she had the double sensation of anger and frustration. Irina realized that the lady with the baby was staring at her curiously. Slowly, Irina turned and crossed the road. Her car was parked a bit further on, past the bar, she opened the car door automatically, started it up, and left that place for home.

Her home was situated outside the city in a residential area. There were two floors and it was surrounded by a large garden. The day that had started so promising was now a long shadow spreading itself over everything. The house meant a great deal to Irina, it was her dream come true, and also her refuge. She parked her car in the garage and removing the scarf and the sunglasses went indoors. Her maid was in the kitchen preparing dinner, and so Irina, with nothing to do, went up the stairs to her bedroom with its en-suite bathroom.
While the bath was filling she got undressed. She was not wearing make-up so the signs of a profound tiredness showed up on her face, no one seeing her at that moment would have associated her with the girl on the hoarding. Dressed in pyjamas, Irina lay down on top of the bed. Her body shuddered a few times before the much desired sleep came. A sleep without dreaming which was interrupted by Maria announcing that dinner was served. After a lonely dinner Irina switched on the television and she had it on till eleven o’clock, when she switched it off to go to bed. The night was not her friend, but a torturer determined to make her suffer.
That night was just one more in a long chain. Irina’s dream was always the same. She was at a party and as usual someone had introduced her as the girl in the perfume advertisements. Everything was fine till a man approached her saying, “This is not a fancy dress party!” and had tried to take off her make-up and her dress. This was the moment when Irina woke up, switched on the bedside table-lamp, and stared hard at herself in a small mirror. After having the dream she usually read for a while and then slept till seven o’clock when she was woken up by Maria with a cup of coffee. Some time ago Irina didn’t feel like posing or smiling, but worst of all was that she had become aware of fine lines around her eyes. At first she panicked, as time passed, however, she got used to them and had forgotten about them till the last photographic session had taken place.
“I think we’ll have to find another girl, younger, newer and more up-to-date. Irina is not young enough to do this work, she needs more tricks with lighting and more make-up, and yet even with that she still doesn’t look twenty years old.”
The photographer had been talking to one of the people from the publicity agency. Irina, even though she hadn’t heard the reply, knew that the photographer was right, but she wanted to find a way to leave the agency without losing her dignity. What they would never be able to understand was that Irina wanted to get rid of her image. She was more than fed up with being recognised as part of a perfume. She wanted to shout out that she was a person and not a product. However, it was as if no one gave any importance to her – only to her work.
Some idiot or other at parties or meetings with the agency would come out with words like, “It must be very exciting seeing your own face everywhere.”
Exciting? What did anyone know! It’s not so pleasant. Oh, yes at the beginning it was all very nice. It suited her to have the admiration of the public, but two years ago Irina had fallen in love with a young man who had nothing to do with the publicity world. They had met one November day.
She was on her way home. Feeding the ducks was something he liked to do, and so one day he offered her some pieces of bread to throw into the lake where the ducks lived. Irina never told him who she was, and he didn’t ask her what she did for a living. For two weeks they met daily to feed the ducks and take a walk.
One day he told her he knew who she was and for Irina it was the worst piece of news she had ever received in her life. From then on she never went back to the park and she didn’t even go up to him the last time she had seen him. In Irina’s opinion that was another end of chapter in her life. She had thought she could be happy, but when she discovered he knew she was the perfume girl, she felt she couldn’t trust him or his motives in going out with her. He said that it was not important to him what her profession was, but Irina couldn’t stop thinking that he had deceived her.
Her reflection in the mirror told her everything she wanted to know and didn’t want to know. Something had to be done about who was going to win the battle, the ‘Poster Girl’ or her, Irina. Red hair was the latest colour. She could dye her hair, but that was not the solution, she had to kill ‘Poster Girl’ but how? If she were a real person she could get a knife or a gun to do it. How do you kill an image? In the two years after her little romance, Irina never left home without the scarf and sunglasses. This way she was able to watch without being watched.

Through the bedroom window the rosy light of dawn rose behind the silent black trees. The world was still asleep. Irina was sitting in an armchair opposite the window wrapped in a blanket and asked the new day to give her a final answer to the question that had been absorbing her during the last months. How to get out of ‘her’ and begin to live life as Irina, woman and person, instead of through an image projected on all the publicity hoardings all over the city?
Irina soon fell asleep, this time without dreaming, and woke up with the soft warmth of the sun caressing her face. She yawned and put her hands behind her head. She had made her decision.
“Maria, would you make breakfast, please.”
In a few minutes she had taken off her nightdress and had put on trousers and a blouse. After a rushed breakfast she ran out to the garage.

The hairdresser was satisfied with his work, but he was unable to understand why the lady was so insistent on having her hair cut at that precise moment. Irina had very long hair and it was the main reason that she had been chosen for the perfumes. Now her image was quite different, her hair was shorter and a shade darker, the girl in the photo on the hoarding was already gone, and in its place was an attractive woman with a style more suited to her age and in accordance with what she wanted to do.
The destruction of the old image had already begun, the image of the enemy, the woman who had taken away her identity, leaving her with just a suggestion of the original. This idea had grown slowly bit by bit until it had come to fruition at the time when Irina needed to recuperate her self. The boutique she had chosen to buy new clothes that would go with her new hair was not one she would have normally gone to. Irina bought several articles of clothing, but no dresses. There was no hurry, she had all the time she wanted to choose well. Irina then went to the beauty salon where she put her face in the hands of an expert for half-an-hour. The young girl’s hands were so delicate that Irina was soon asleep. On waking up she saw a new face in the mirror. Her eyebrows were finer and the make-up was more up-to-date. She was fully satisfied with the answer to her problem. The woman reflected in the mirror had no resemblance to the one in the advertisement.

At three in the afternoon, showered and dressed in her new clothes, Irina presented herself at the publicity agency. The receptionist raised her head and could hardly believe her eyes. There was an awkward silence. “Hello, Irina, come to see the boss?”
Irina sat down on an armchair. “Yes, please.”
“Is it important?”
“For me, it is.”
The receptionist wanted to say something but lacked the courage.
Models are not good at gossiping, they are too involved with their physical appearance than with useless questions. That’s why the receptionist didn’t ask Irina any questions but went directly to see the boss. Irina looked around her knowing that it was the last time she would enter the agency and cross the door into the boss’s office. She wanted to feel nostalgia but was unable to find even the tiniest bit. She just wanted to get it over with. After all she was making it easy for them, they ought to be grateful to her, but of course they had no suspicion that she knew of their plans for her.
The boss came out of his office and from the expression on his face she knew the receptionist had already told him about the change in Irina’s appearance.
“Irina, Darling, how nice to see you. What are you doing here at this time of day?”
Irina stared him straight in the eyes and said, “I don’t want to renew my contract in the autumn. I’m off. It’s time I left. I’ve had a good time here but everything comes to an end, the blue perfume girl has ended. I don’t want to see me ageing in the photos. This is the end, in all senses of the word. I’m tired, and I lack the freshness of other years. A new image is needed for the publicity campaign. I’m going away, maybe I’ll go on a trip. It would be fantastic to be just another passenger and not a model on a work trip. I’m tired of not having my own identity. Wherever I go people only recognise me as the blue perfume girl. They never know my name. Just one other thing, the Blue Magic perfumes are horrible, really awful. I’ve never used one, I always use one from the competitors.”
The boss didn’t try to stop her. With a simple, “Well, Irina, I see you have made up your mind. You know it won’t be easy to find a new modelling job, as you have been the Blue Magic perfume girl for so long.”
“I know. Who said I wanted to continue working as a model?”
“I was assuming.”
“Well, don’t assume too much.”
“I see you’ve changed your hair and clothes. Is that for your new life?”
“Yes, it is. Maybe in the future I’ll grow my hair again, but for now I’m keeping it like this.”
“If you have a problem come and see me, you know I’ve always liked you.” The boss held out his hand to Irina. Both knew that they would never see each other again.
“Goodbye, Boss.”
“Goodbye, Irina.”
Irina got into her car and at last felt free of the agency. She laughed at the look on the boss’s face. She had done them a favour. They hadn’t tried to keep her, then the firing had been closer than she had thought. Irina stopped her car went into a travel agency and picked up some travel brochures.
She couldn’t arrive fast enough to her bedroom and locked herself in. Lying on her bed she started thinking about strange and exotic places, while outside the enormous hot sun slid slowly down towards the horizon, bathing everything in gold. Irina looked at it and smiled to herself.

A light rain was falling when the men arrived at the publicity hoarding. After being exposed to the sun all summer the colours in the photo of the boy and girl of the Blue Perfume were faded. Inside the bar opposite, the waiter was serving a beer and said, “Let’s see if they repeat the same girl.”
When the job of changing the poster was over some people moved closer. A flaming redhead stared down from the poster. This time the perfume line was gold. Irina watched as two boys shouted out at the image in the photo and began defacing the poster. Irina felt a sense of relief. The rain, the redhead and the gold perfume – at last she was free.

She went to a phone box to ring one of her old friends from long before she was a model. She still had fond memories of their friendship and she simply wanted to see her for old times’ sake.
A strange voice answered at the other end.
“May I speak to Amelia please?”
“Hello, Amelia speaking.”
“Irina here.”
“Oh! Hello, Irina. How are you?”
“I’m ringing to see if we can meet somewhere. What do you think?”
“Aren’t you working for the modelling agency?”
“Now, no, so I’m free to catch up with my old friends.”
“I’m sorry but I’m very busy with my husband and children. I can’t say when we could possibly meet. I don’t understand why you aren’t with the agency, you always liked it so much. Anyway, I have to go. Thanks for ringing. Glad to know you are well.”
“Goodbye, Amelia.”

Irina’s sentiments at that moment were nameless. But she was conscious the past had no place in her present.
She got in her car, started it up, and went home.

Submitted: March 25, 2012

© Copyright 2022 Georgina V Solly. All rights reserved.

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