Our tutor keeps talking about how we shouldn’t be afraid to ‘keep things small’, and to take one little object and turn it into a story, which is what i’ve attempted to do here. I’m actually going to be handing this one in as my first assignment, so there’s every chance that i’ll end up with a reworked version that’s changed quite dramatically, in which case i’ll post again.
also, just to clarify: i may live two doors down from a bridal shop, but the dresses have never spoken to me. promise.
It started off as just a whisper. Barely audible, but just about there. She heard it every morning on her way to the station, and for a while she couldn’t work out where it was coming from. “Look at me,” the voice whispered “look at me”. It occurred to her that it might be a homeless lunatic, out to freak her out, but it seemed unlikely that a loony would have such a sensuous voice. After a fortnight, she’d given up on solving the mystery, so when it finally came, the realisation was a shock.
“OI! I’M OVER HERE!” The forcefulness of the voice made her jump. She spun around to see where it had come from, and was surprised to see the bridal shop. She’d noticed it before, but only vaguely. Mostly she’d seen the idiots walking into the shop to spend a small fortune on a dress to celebrate being shackled to one man for the rest of their lives. The most attention she’d ever given it was a moment of fleeting disdain for the dresses and all they represented, but here she was, stood stationary in front of the shop while the dress in the window talked to her.
“Very kind of you to finally notice me” It told her. “I’ve been trying to get your attention for weeks”. Now it wasn’t yelling, the voice matched the dress – floaty, intricate, and absolutely beautiful. She stood there aghast, staring at its lace and chiffon. It was incredible. Who cared that it was talking to her and that possibly meant she was crazy? It was the most beautiful thing she’d ever seen, and if insanity was the price to pay for finally noticing it, she was more than happy to be mad.
* * * * * * * *
In the pub, her friend was baffled. “You don’t even believe in marriage. How the hell can you love a wedding dress?” Abby asked
“This isn’t just a wedding dress” She replied “it’s most beautiful dress out of all the dresses that have ever been made.”
“Yes, but it’s still a wedding dress, that symbol of all that you hate. Are you going soft on me?”
“No, god, not at all. I still hate marriage. I just love the dress. You should see it – it’s got this amazing empire neckline and gorgeous little lace straps and it swooshes in the most amazing way when you walk”
“How do you know what it does when you walk?”
She racked her brains trying to think of an excuse. “Erm…well, I don’t really. I’m just imagining. It looks like it’d swoosh really well.”
“You didn’t say it ‘looks like’ it’d swoosh really well. You said it DOES swoosh well.” Abby eyed her with suspicion. “You’ve tried it on, haven’t you?”
“No! Of course not! Why would I want to try on a dress which is basically a prison?”
“I can’t believe you tried it on”
She realised there was no point in lying, that she’d been found out. “Alright, I might’ve. I just wandered in and asked if I could try it on and that was all.”
“So you didn’t book an appointment?”
“You normally have to book appointments”
“How the hell would you know that?”
“I happen to know about these things. And don’t look at me like that. You’re the one who doesn’t believe in marriage, not me. I can’t believe you tried the dress on. What happened to all your ‘it’s a patriarchal institution designed to keep women down by forcing them to define themselves in terms of a man’ spiel?”
“I just wanted to see what it looked like!”
“I want to buy it and I want to wear it all day every day”
“Ok, maybe not all day every day. But I was thinking that I could buy it and wear it for an ‘I don’t need a man’ party as the ultimate subversive statement”
Abby looked at her sceptically, one eyebrow raised. “Please tell me you’re kidding”
“No, think about it. It’d be the most incredible anti-patriarchal statement – taking the ultimate symbol of tradition and co-opting it for my own cause”
“It would be an incredibly expensive and completely ridiculous statement. If you buy the dress because it’s been talking to you, and try and convince people that it’s a feminist statement, then I’ll be forced to have you committed”.
* * * * * * * *
The next day she found herself stood outside the bridal shop again, staring at her beloved dress in the window. She knew in her heart that Abby was right, that buying the dress would be completely insane. She’d have to clear out her holiday fund and abandon her plans for her American roadtrip. And try and explain to her mother that the dress wasn’t a symptom of some deep-seated longing to get married and have babies.
“But maybe you do want that really” the dress told her gently. She looked around the street, checking that no-one was around.
“No, no I don’t” she whispered back, hoping that couple coming towards her wouldn’t hear.
“But I think you do. You’re 29 years old. Your friends are all getting married. Soon it’ll be just you left.”
“I’m happy just me” she hissed in return.
“Oh yes, you are now. But what about in five, ten years when they all start moving away so they can be near the good schools? You’ll have no-one to go to the pub with then.”
“I can make new friends”
“You’ll have to. Nobody will want to be around the sad drunk auntie anymore. It may be fun now, but when you’re sat alone in your flat drinking wine from the bottle and talking to your cat because you haven’t had company in weeks, you’ll think differently”
“That won’t happen to me”
“That’s what they all think. And then it does. You’ll regret not buying me when you’re all alone. You’ll sit and think about how I could’ve changed your life, how if you’d found the right man to wear me for I’d have made sure everything was OK in the end”
She took a step back from the shop window “You’re starting to sound like my mother”
“Your mother’s right, dear. You can’t do this all on your own”.
“NO! YOU’RE WRONG!”
She didn’t realise how loud she’d been until she noticed the couple had stopped and were staring at her like she was mad. Standing there, fists clenched into a ball, shouting at a dress in a shop window, she maybe was. Trying desperately to salvage the situation, she pulled her hair over her ear and turned to the couple while pointing at her newly hidden ear, mouthing the words “Bluetooth headset”. They didn’t seem to buy it, so she did the only thing she could think of. She ran. And she made sure to never walk past the shop again.