Changing Room Conversations

tagIncest/TabooChanging Room Conversations

Preamble:
This is a light teasing story. Much of the action is imagined from the overheard changing room banter. If you are aching for wailing and caterwauling sex, this is not for you.
Chapter 1: My Business
Chapter 2: Modus Operandi
Chapter 3: Briony and Seb
Chapter 4: Olivia (and Oliver)
Chapter 5: A Surprise Client
Epilogue
***
Chapter 1
My Business
I have a trade secret. It is a commercial necessity. But, I will let you on.
My name is Gwyn. But, you may call me Gwyneth, if it is not too strenuous on your vocals. I am from the UK.
I am an indeterminate sixty year old, as of whenever, so I have been advised by reliable sources who know these things. I take that in good faith.
My husband is a bigwig in an important organ of Her Majesty's government, the Foreign Office. In reality, he is a glorified state serf. He puts in many hours in service of this organ. He is on work travel close to seventy percent of the time.
In the early days, I used to follow him dutifully on these travels, if only to stock up on my postcards. And shop exotic lingerie, sheer delight, on idyllic afternoons after high teas, when my flesh is willing me. A wifely Sancho Panza on the strident heels of Don Quixote. But, I have grown weary of these frantic airport-hotel-airport carousel spins, and the yawning void in between. Not to mention the numbing conversations with the social mountaineer wives of my husband's work counterparts, on the Gwyneth of England, and the England of Gwyneth.
My parents bequeathed me a tidy sum when they passed on two years ago. Initially, I agonised deciding what to do with the largesse. I consulted a wise friend who is a sage on such matters. She advised to choose the thing that I want to do a lot more of. It is that elementary. It can be something new or old, it does not matter.
I used that bounty to fund my dream. An upmarket sensual apparel boutique. Sheer lingerie of minimalist proportions. Swimwear. Mostly female. A small select complementary male collection to fuel and feed female-male pairing cross-sell opportunities. Sensual, sexy. But, god and I forbid, never ever lewd and lusty. That is the zone I have marked out for my enterprise.
I know that people nowadays are squeamish discussing social class. I'm not.
I do not have customers. Not one. I have Clients. If you do not know the difference between Client and customer, you already know all you need to know.
My target tier one segment, the mother lode of my business, comprises the Aristocracy, the Old Money, and tolerably the New Rich who have just landed on the money. And selectively, established celebrities and prominent persons with untainted reputations. I will not blight my business reputation. Lingerie is a fragile business.
Tier two. A slender seam of hand-curated Upper Middle Class types who demonstrate promise of ascent of a worthy summit, deserving of my cultivation and forward investment. Only the cultured who can discern a brasserie from a brassiere.
Chapter 2
Modus Operandi
"Sensualesce" is on the top floor of a four-level upmarket boutique complex. It is nestled away, down the end of the passageway. Well-appointed for exclusive by-appointment trade, with no expectation of walk-in customers.
I own four contiguous shop units, commandeering the retail space at the U-shape end of the passageway. Not having to carry the annoying burden of shop space rental expenses gives me the latitude to be circumspect about who I choose to be my clients.
The space is configured into four sections.
A front office reception lounge. Behind it, a small back office, which connects to the stock room. Business is conducted in the client lounge.
The reception is imperial-styled. Dominating. Thick mustard-yellow carpet. Opulent pink sofas and armchairs with raised patterns of vines and scrolls. Brown oil paintings of racehorses at grass. Fragonards of bucolic ladies on swings in immense gilt frames. A hissing fireplace will complete the decor, but the building management does not permit it, and a faux construction is an abomination I cannot allow. These gird up the sensual pageantry that sets the tone of my business.
The client lounge is completely mirrored. All four walls, ceiling, floor. Every surface the eye can glean. A dizzy giddy 360 degree imagery, any way the client pirouettes. Mirror, mirror on the wall. And the ceiling and the floor. How do I check out, every which way and all?
It is completely out of character from the serious classically rendered reception area. A sensorama to stun. And yet, dignified drama. That is the concept and design.
The client lounge is soft partitioned into a mini lounge, and a changing room demarcated by an electronically controlled draw curtain. The curtain can be drawn open completely, folding into a vertical recess so that the entire lounge is seamlessly mirrored.
The lounge is minimally furnished so as not to clutter the mirrored panorama. A classic small round table. An armchair. A matching chaise lounge.
This is my business model. I target high-end discerning clients. Advertising awareness is by social word of mouth. Clients are serviced by appointment only. A shopping experience based on a sustaining intimate client relationship. Not a banal transaction. Think Swiss bankers in Geneva servicing private clients.
Now, this is my trade secret. I maintain low inventory, hence, low carrying cost. I have back-end specialist suppliers who can deliver stocks on-demand to my boutique quick time. They operate in the shopping belt of my boutique. I post photos of their products in my online catalogue. If you browse my website, you will be astounded by the extensive range I carry. In contemporary parlance, I am an aggregator.
For this to work, I need to operate close to the beat of my clients' needs, preferences and instinctive whims. I need a tentacle spanning awareness that is seeing, unseen, all-knowing. I'm guided by God here. It is said that God is omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent. I would like to think that I've the first two capabilities.
When clients book their appointments, I prompt them to outline what they are looking for. That gives me an intimate heads-up to plan the stock availability, and craft my sales strategy. This is all proper and above board.
My clients are almost invariably accompanied by a partner.
Girlfriend. Hubby. Boyfriend. Fiancé. Partner. Sister. Daughter. Sugar daddy. Clandestine lover. Tall dark mysterious stranger. Confidant.
This is arguably the insidious part. The client lounge is wired so that I can listen in from my wireless earphones that are disguised as earrings.
From the private client-partner banter, I can shape my sales tactics on the fly. I have mastered the art of conversation analysis. It is not so much the words themselves, but the motives that animate them.
I can call for stock from my suppliers in speculation and anticipation of the client's preferences arising. I can sniff cross-sell opportunities and act on them. And so on. All in real time.
Should I have any moral scruples listening in on my clients? Yes and no.
I could well have designed the client lounge partition walls to be thin so that I can listen in from the other side. I could also well have installed an intercom system between my office and the client lounge for client communication, and I inadvertently forget to flip the switch to mute the client lounge end.
So, it is a small innovation leap to the audio system. The system is of the highest sensitivity level. I am doing this to provide top bespoke service to my clients. My intentions are noble.
A client engagement plays out like so. The client makes an appointment. I ask if she is bringing along another person, so that I can prepare the champagne, truffle and other small delights. I guide the client to give me an insight on what she is looking for, the purpose, and her sensual aspirations.
Maybe lingerie for the wedding night. Swimsuit for an Aegean interlude. A memorable anniversary night. A sizzling birthday gift. Libido rocket fuel.
On the day of the visit, I welcome the client and her partner at the reception. We make small polite talk. We repair to the client lounge. The partition curtain is drawn back, totally recessed away. A new client will inevitably be awed by the mirrored sense surround effect of the lounge. The client and her partner sit down. I stand in dignified servitude. We revisit the client's shopping aspirations just to be sure. I ask some leading questions, teasing forth more morsels of information.
I lift the lid off the ornate box on the table with a touch of light drama, as if revealing treasured artefacts.
Voila! The curated garments.
I tap the pink button on the table top. The partition curtain emerges from seemingly nowhere. It whirrs alive and draws across the room. It is translucent.
At this point, depending on the particular client-partner relationship, the client may cast a curious glance at her partner. Sometimes a smirk. I process all these little nuanced signals.
I show the client the little drawer below the table. Pen, mini notepad, a small pair of scissors, a portable electric trimmer, small mirror, lotion, tissues, wet wipes, small receptacle. Utility implements which may come in useful.
I tell the client that I will take leave. She can summon me whenever by pressing the grey button on the table top.
I go to my office.
I sell sensuality. I sell experience. Lifestyle. Class. Lingerie and swimwear are incidental.
***
Chapter 3
Briony and Seb
Briony's ringtone. The sound is so her.
I adore Briony Lyth best of all my clients. Forties, elegant, cultured as a pearl, incisive smart. Socially confident and intellectual in a down-to-earth demeanour. Top band of her game, a whizz kid in her professional league. Upper middle class, on route to somewhere over the rainbow, way up high.
Briony (chirpily): Hello
Me: Sensualesce
Briony: You sure are!
Me: Briony?
Briony: Yes
Me: How's my favourite client?
Briony: Hmmm… you say that to all your favourite clients. Gwyneth, I'm fine.
Me: Sir Cecil?
Briony: Muddling along stridently. He's on business travel half the time. I'm a de facto widow.
Me: How was your month-long assignment in Vienna?
Briony: The shopkeepers look like professors. The barmen like tenors. The street sweepers like jazz musicians. You won't find a more rationally ordered society.
Me: And Sebastian?
Briony: Seb just finished his A's. Which is why I'm calling you. We're going on a Mediterranean holiday. A conspiratorial mum and son thingy before Seb set off to university, and then the oyster that is his world.
Me: How can I help?
Briony: Seb doesn't say it outright. Bashful maybe. He's hinting at a euro-bikini. I've no idea what it is. A continental male swimwear fad I presume? Can you help?
Me: I do carry a collection. When can Sebastian and you drop by?
Briony: Friday, after I knock off. Say, half five.
Me: That is fine. May I ask Sebastian's size?
Briony: The speedo I last bought for him was medium.
Me: I hope this is not awkward, but, can you tell me a little more on his particular build?
Briony (puzzled): Build?
Me (sheepishly): Yes, for the euro-bikini sizing. The garment has a compartmentalised design construction.
Briony (realising): Hmmm… I see what you mean.
Me: Yes, that bit of detail.
Briony: Let me do this. I'll send a recent swim team photo of Seb in his speedo to you.
Me: Perfect! Any colour preferences?
Briony: It's really up to Seb. I do know he is partial to yellow and blue.
Me: Good
Briony: Now you got me piqued what a euro-bikini is.
Me: And what about your needs?
Briony: My needs?
Me: Your holiday wear?
Briony: Well, this is really about Seb. But, since I'll be at your boutique, I'm open to try on a couple of your recommendations. Maybe matching Seb's to look good in photos.
Me: You're a jolly good sport. Any preferences?
Briony: None. As a Queen's Counsel, I trust your judicious decisions implicitly, unconditionally.
Me: See you Friday then.
Briony: Bye!
***
Shortly, my cell phone chimes. Again, this is so Briony. The model of agency. This is why she is at the top of her profession.
Sebastian in speedo. Briony is next to him, in a high-waist racing swimsuit. A recent photo. Briony was a champion swimmer in her schooldays. Swimming is their bond.
I study Sebastian. He is tucked north. He is what every mother will wish on her son.
The accompanying message quips, "All grown up. And out. Check him out."
I don't know why, but I feel a twitch.
***
Friday.
I meet and greet Briony and Sebastian.
Briony is in a figure hugging power suit, perched on treacherously high heels. Most women inhabit their dresses. An exalted few wear theirs like a second skin. Briony is the epitome of grace and efficacy. She is incapable of an ungraceful gesture or movement. Her top is just picture perfect. A delicate swell thrust of woman. Her smooth derrière, not a hint of panty line. I'm so proud. My work in live animation. She is strutting my lingerie. I can tell.
Sebastian looks the part of the strapping son. The lad tops six feet. Lean. Mean. A competitive swimmer's arrow of V-build. Fresh faced. Exactly what a young Englishman named Sebastian should classically look like. A lovely young man in our Brit vernacular.
He has a clipped public school precise way of speech. When he smiles, the right corner of his mouth slants upwards, and his eyes half-closed, almost owlish if in dim light. It is the smile of someone who knows he is the luckiest person in the world, and trusts that you are generous enough not to resent him for it. Cocky. Yet, somehow winning.
After our execution of pleasantries, we move to the client lounge. Briony has been here, and done it, so she knows the drill. She is eager to get started.
I suggest that we begin with Sebastian. Briony arcs her eyebrows as I open the box revealing two euro-bikinis, a yellow and a blue. Sebastian's eyes shine, but with a hint of unease.
I tell Briony and Sebastian to buzz me if they need help, and after Sebastian is done with his fit. I return to my office.
***
Briony: So, this is a euro-bikini?
Seb: It's all the rage on Mediterranean beaches. It's outrageous not to wear one.
Briony: Hmm…
Seb: I'll try it on.
Faint rustling sounds. All is quiet for a good three minutes.
Briony: You're awfully quiet in there. This is a lot of fitting time for a miniscule shred of textile. Everything cool?
Seb: I'm a little conflicted.
Briony: Why is that?
Seb: I can't decide if it fits. I feel a wee vulnerable. I can't imagine it any more snug. On the other hand, it feels a tad loose.
Sound of curtain drawing.
Briony: Take off your shirt. It's in the way.
Rustling. Then silence.
Briony: Hmm… economical! Effectively a man sheath. A cock sock masquerading devilishly as a swimming costume. The yellow does suit you.
Seb: See here…
Briony: This serpent?
Seb: Mum!
Giggle
Briony: I see what you mean.
There is silence for a minute. Rising and falling male and female breaths.
Briony: This is how I see it. If euro-bikini is what you want, accept the sense of vulnerability that goes with it. Having made this decision, you then fit it right, even if it heightens the feeling of exposure.
Seb: Now that you frame it that way, yes.
Briony: Now, this maybe a little awkward and intrusive, but pertinent.
Seb: What?
Briony: You're a sack of hormones. You'll get flourishes when you eye the biodiversity on the beach.
Seb: What are you getting at, mum?
Briony: You've wiggle room in a speedo. You can kind of coil it, obfuscate it away into a stash. In this stark costume, you don't have that convenience.
Seb: You're suggesting I fit to a stiffy?
Briony: Perhaps you should, for good measure. You don't want to suffocate yourself on the beach when you get really hot.
Seb: Mum, you can be pointillist.
Briony (mischievously): Who is doing the pointing here?
Drawing of curtain. Silence.
Briony: How's it going?
A flurry run of curtain.
Briony: Hmmm… if I can be of assistance?
Seb: Oh mum! Oh!
Soft rustling.
Briony: We got a fit here.
Seb: Thanks, mum!
Briony: It's one thing for you to grow into it. It's quite another to get into it when you're in full flourish. Shall we try that? Just to be sure.
Seb: Err.. alright, mum.
Briony: Is this awkward for you?
A pause. And then a little silence.
Seb: A little. It's not every day custom that mums help their sons in a fit out. But, best to get it right. I believe there is a no-change policy for intimate garments because of hygiene reasons.
Briony: We do that with the blue one, so that we can check out the fit and colour at the same time.
Seb: Mum, we'll do it here. No sense for me to flit back and forth behind the curtain. You can help me.
Briony: I'll help you lose the yellow.
A heavy male anxious breath.
Briony (gently): I'll be more careful. Hmmm… bigger than dad!
A footfall thud. Then another. A female gasp.
Slap
Briony (jocularly): You ungrateful dick! I liberate you, and this is what I get?
Seb: Lots of laughs!
Briony (giggle): And in my face too! The cheek of it all!
Seb: Lots of laughs!
It appears that the atmosphere is lightening up a bit. Mum and son have reached a sort of tensioned equilibrium.
Briony: I prime you a little bit first.
Seb: Oh!
Soft rustling. Heavy breathing. Gasps.
Briony (in a neutral tone): You like this?
Seb: A rhetorical question, don't you think?
Briony: Here we go with the blue. We've a logjam here!
Seb (betraying concern and rising excitement): Go easy, mum.
Briony: A delicate operation indeed. You're so well formed. Pleasing. Tender and firm all at once. Like Mintons bone china, fine and brittle. Charming irony…
Seb: Will Gwyneth beetle in suddenly?
Briony: Quite impossible. Gwyn is the model of discretion.
A minute of silence.
Seb: Oh! Sorry mum, I just couldn't help it.
Briony: Don't worry about it! This is what healthy lads do.
Silence
Briony: It's just a little moist. The natural state of a swimsuit is wet. So, we're testing its fitness for purpose. It fits, and blue looks as good as the yellow. If you're cool, we'll buy both.
Seb: Alright. It'll be a little awkward though when Gwyneth sees the state of the blue one.
Briony: We'll tell her that you like this so much that you've decided to keep it on. Test drive it. Gwyn understands these things.
Seb: Alright
Briony: There're some wet wipes and tissues in the table drawer. Let me dab you up a bit.
Footfall. Creak of drawer. Footfall.
Briony: Hmmm… I smell the Mediterranean.
Seb: Mum!
Briony buzzes me.
***
She is sitting, placidly sipping the complimentary Krug, pecking a fiery strawberry.
Sebastian is behind the curtain. He emerges and joins us in the tipple.
Me: Are the garments to your satisfaction?
Seb (emphatically): Perfect, just perfect!
Me: Sebastian, you've discerning impeccable taste. Like mother, like son.
Briony: Brilliant curations as always. We'll take both. In fact, Seb is so enamoured of them that he is wearing the blue one home.
Seb looks a little embarrassed, and makes a tiny pelvis movement as if confirming his mum's statement.
We banter a bit about the Mediterranean in the spring. They will be staying in a seafront villa with a private cove. The property belongs to a friend of Sir Cecil.
I open the second box.
Me: Briony, I've chosen two swimsuits. A one-piece, and a bandeau bikini. Diversity to match your particular beach mood. I know you like them high-waist. I'll leave you to try them on.

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