The only English on the sign above the door said, Abeth Xiu: Universal Finery. The Mandarin below was more expressive: custom clothing for any personal style. In the lighted window, yards of pearlescent fabric the color of eggshell draped gracefully off of one impossibly tall and thin mannequin. Beside it, its grotesquely bulky counterpart stood enshrouded in midnight purple velvet scattered with crystals. An old-fashioned display in one corner of the window gave exchange rates for euros, yen, reals, and rands. A note below apologized in three languages that neither lunar or arean currency could not be accepted at this time.
I scowled at the shop window from the passenger seat of Jing’s two-seater. “I’m not sure how I feel about this.”
The fox turned to me, zir ears flat in a frown despite the amusement in zir voice. “Excited, maybe?”
My stomach did a dip and roll to the left. “More like anxious. If this doesn’t work out—”
“If it doesn’t work,” my roommate interrupted, “then you still have something nice to wear.”
“I can’t eat something nice to wear,” I hissed back.
Jing barked a laugh. “If you have something nice to wear, you can get plenty to eat. I can show you how.”
I stuck my tongue out at the fox. “I’m not peddling myself on the street.”
“Not in an outfit from Abeth Xiu, no!” Jing quickly agreed. “We’ll go to the Six Excesses and I’ll introduce you around.”
“That’s not what I meant!” I sputtered in exasperation. “I mean—”
“You mean you don’t like thinking of what you’re doing that way.” Jing’s cheerful intrusions into my thought processes was starting to make my fur itch. “You’re signing on with a high-paying client for a short-term contract contingent on meeting certain performance criteria, one of which is that you can look good in formalwear. That’s nothing like prostitution.”
My ears went flat against my head. Behind me, I could feel my tail trying to crawl between my legs. “I still can’t believe I let you talk me into this. There’s got to be a cheaper option, something that won’t set me back half my savings.”
Jing shook zir head quickly. “If this client is everything you’ve said zie is, zie’ll know quality at a moment’s notice, and zie won’t appreciate those business suits you wear. That means trying to rent a Dennison or buy a Xiu, and either would be the same price. This way, at least, you have something to show for it afterwards.”