She had gotten the bright idea--after talking to a edgily fashionable young woman who had an elderly aunt coming to town--to have a mid-week collection of more "modest" eveningwear and daywear that older ladies might like.
But if Zoe thought Rafael was going to be any help to her selling clothes, she was dead wrong.
He had finally finished writing his autobiography (although actually his publicist had written it): "The Naked Rafael," and he had advertised a book-signing at Zoe's Boutique that day. (Without, of course, having mentioned it to Zoe in advance.)
And then there was the matter of ... umm ... Rafael's "promo picture":
"Rafael?" Zoe called through the bathroom door. "Are you ready yet? Because we're just about to open."
Rafael was busy primping in front of the mirror. "Just a minute, Princesita--I am getting ready to face my adoring public!"
Zoe sighed and opened the store.
"You know this photo isn't centered, right?" Zoe asked Rafael when he had at last emerged from the bathroom.
"But that is the point, mi amor!" he insisted. "It is as if I am about to leave the frame--it makes me 'elusive.' The viewer will want to plead with me to stay."
Zoe had absolutely no response to that.
She had been so busy that she hadn't even had time to unbox--much less read--any of the hundreds of copies of "The Naked Rafael" that had been shipped to the store.
"Umm, about this 'Naked Rafael' business--you're not actually naked in the book, right?" she asked. "Because I don't think we should be selling porn in our clothing store."
"Mostly no, my dear," he assured her. "But there must be a few--shall we say--'suggestive' visual images, to keep my many ardent fans happy."
It was a good thing that Zoe was distracted by the day's first customer just then....
The two "little black dresses" sold well even to younger customers, as Zoe had predicted they would.
Ringing up a customer, Zoe worried that he was trying to sell a copy of "The Naked Rafael" to Cassandra, and about what legal action Mortimer Goth would undoubtedly take if he got wind of some seemingly attempted corruption of his teenage daughter.
Zoe managed to complete her sale, anyway.
Several young men showed up to purchase Rafael's book as Valentine's Day gifts for their mothers,
and they all seemed to want Rafael to fill the title pages with extravagant professions of undying love such as, "To my greatest passion, Edna -- my heart will beat for only you until the end of time!"
Apparently, Rafael had quite a fanbase among the local elderly women....
Cassandra Goth ended up buying the oyster quilted leather jacket that -- despite the extravagance of the formal dresses -- was actually the most expensive item in the store.
Zoe was surprised, upon looking up from restocking Rafael's books, to find Cristobal. "Didn't Rafael tell you that we don't need to be picked up till 10 p.m. tonight?" she asked him, confused.
"Yes, he told me, Senorita Zoe," the chauffeur explained, "but I am here in the hope of finding a suitable Valentine's Day present for Detective Lana."
Zoe was delighted to hear that her best girlfriend would be receiving a gift from the handsome man on whom she had a mad crush.
"I have some beautiful dresses over on the other side," she told him. "Lana would look great in either of the little black ones."
"Oh, I had in mind something less ... suggestive," he said. "I do not want to seem pushy," he hastened to add. "I would like something she could wear all the time -- perhaps a very nice sweater, or a coat, or something like that?"
So Zoe sold him the exquisite quilted leather jacket, below cost. She knew Lana would love it, and would wear it every day.
Occupied with Cristobal, Zoe did not notice that Rafael seemed to be selling a copy of "The Naked Rafael" to a small girl.
The formal dresses started flying off the mannequins,
'I sure wish the markup on these damned books was as high as the markup on the clothes!' she grumbled to herself.