I just bought a wedding dress online. Yay! Ok, so it’s the second wedding dress I’ve bought. I was a bit inspired by my online shopping endeavors and whipped up a sort of horror story for the #goplay October Challenge hosted by Nerd in the Brain and Part-time Monster.
When Maggie got home from work, she saw the brown box perched against the front door. As soon as she noticed it, her eyes grew wide with excitement and her thin lips turned upward into a huge grin. Her dress had finally arrived. Hugging the box to her chest, she skipped with excitement to the kitchen and delicately set it on the table.
As she stared at it, she started to grow nervous. The horror stories she had heard about ordering clothing online came rushing back. Chewing her bottom lip, she opened the box with caution, half expecting to be disappointed with a neon green prom dress instead of an elegant ivory wedding gown. When she carefully pulled the dress out of the box, she gasped.
It was perfect. She could already envision her fiancé Kevin’s jaw dropping as she walked down the aisle. She grasped it by the dainty lace sleeves and admired the exquisite detail along the low neckline. She held the dress high in the air before her so her eyes could follow the lace details down to the empire waist and then to the long train.
“I think I’m just a bit too short. I’ll have to have it hemmed,” she said dreamily to herself.
With the wedding a month away, the last thing that Maggie could not make up her mind about was the dress. She and her friends had ventured off to countless bridal stores several months ago. She never found anything she liked that was also the right price. After all, she was on a tight budget, and couldn’t rationalize spending a fortune on a dress she would only wear once.
After trying on dresses at stores to her dissatisfaction (she hated shopping anyway), she took to online auction sites. Her friends warned her, reminding her of their friend’s cousin’s daughter who ordered a dress and it came scrunched in a tiny bag that bounced around from halfway around the world, which wasn’t good for the ill-fitting blue polyester that was supposed to be white satin. She consoled them. She did her research carefully; she was an expert in this after all. This was how she preferred to do all of her shopping, in the comfort of her own home. Realizing she couldn’t try on the dress before she bid on it, she knew it wouldn’t fit precisely. It didn’t matter; she knew her future sister-in-law was an excellent seamstress.
The dress was tucked away in the closet for days now, but Maggie would dream about it. Once, she even tried it on. She snuck into the bathroom in the middle of the night and slipped into it. She knew when she won the auction that it would be a touch too long, but she was surprised that the fit was a little snug as well. ‘Still,’ she thought to herself, ‘it hangs beautifully.’
It wasn’t until later in the week that Maggie was able to schedule time in her hectic life to have Kevin’s sister, Kelly, make some adjustments. Her responsibilities at work were increasing, and in addition, she had taken on a part-time job in the evenings to save money for the wedding. Kevin had also taken on some additional evening work to help recoup any savings they might run through. Some days they only saw each other as they were falling asleep.
The woman who owned it previously, must have been a tall, slender woman. Maggie was more on the petite side, shorter than most people. Standing in front of the mirror, Maggie imagined herself as a woman at the turn of the century, hair falling down in soft ringlets. The reflection in the mirror gave her a slight chill.
“Breathe,” Kelly advised as she measured and pinned the dress tighter. Maggie didn’t even realize she was holding her breath. She quickly glanced back at the mirror. For a brief moment, she thought she saw dark thick hair around her shoulders instead of the blonde pixie cut she wore since college. She let out a small gasp.
“Well, don’t hyperventilate,” Kelly groaned. “I don’t want to prick you.”
“Sorry, it just feels strange to wear it.”
“At least you found one,” she laughed. “We were all beginning to think you were going to get married in your yoga pants.”
When Kelly finished up, Maggie took the dress off and delicately set it back in the box. “I’m getting started on this tonight—keep it out of the box. Plus it has a mothy smell—you’ll either need to have it cleaned. No telling how many girls have worn this in the last few decades.” She immediately saw Maggie worry, her eyes darting all over the fragile lace. “We’ll at least let it air out. That won’t hurt it.”
Maggie let a sigh of relief. “I just don’t want anything to tear it up.”
“I promise I’ll take good care of it,” Kelly reassured her. “And you’ll have it back tomorrow. Just don’t go walking around in the house with it on. It’s bad luck if Kevin sees you in it, right?”
After they chatted for a while, Maggie went home, still worried about the dress. She couldn’t stop thinking about it. It seemed to be calling her. Even Kevin commented on the dazed look she had in her eyes. He tried to talk about some of the finer points of the big day, but he had to keep snapping her back to reality.
“Hello? There’s more to our wedding day than that dress. Are you even listening to me?” Kevin asked, annoyed.
She was also irritated with him. Why couldn’t he be happy that she actually found a dress? He rolled his eyes the entire time she spent her weekends at dress shops. He joked that his tomboy fiancée was turning into a little girly-girl. She hated that. She just wanted to look as beautiful as the shadow of a woman she thought she saw in the mirror.
Ignoring his pleas, she blurted out, “What if I dyed my hair? What if I were a brunette for our wedding day?”
Startled, he stuttered, “Ok. If that’s what you want. Um, why?”
“Just trying something different. Don’t you want me to look elegant in my dress.”
“I don’t care if you wear your yoga pants. I’m going to marry you, not what you’re wearing,” he retorted.
“Your sister said she thought I was going to wear yoga pants. Is it so hard for everyone to think that for once I want to feel and look amazing?”
They didn’t speak that night. The next day, she skipped work to check on her dress.
It was hanging lifelessly from a metal dress form in Kelly’s store. She stood staring at it for a while, and was startled when Kelly tapped her on the shoulder.
“You called out at work?” she asked.
“Yeah, I just wanted to see how it was coming along. Can I try it on?” She asked sheepishly. Kelly obliged and began taking it off the form then handed it to her.
Once again, she wore the dress and stared into the mirror. It fit her perfectly. The hem was shorter and the waist let out just a bit. Kelly was talented, even a trained eye would struggle to find her adjustments. She dazed dreamily into the mirror, and in her trance, she thought she saw the woman again. At first it stunned her, but once the image disappeared, she looked closer, hoping she would return.
“I worked all evening on it after you left,” Kelly informed her. “Are there any other adjustments I need to make?”
“I don’t think so.”
Customers started filing into the store. “Ok. I have a full day of appointments,” Kelly hinted. Maggie was annoyed that she was being rushed out of the store, but she kept quiet because she knew she wasn’t even a paying customer; Kelly had offered to adjust the dress for free.
As they said their goodbyes, Maggie sensed that Kelly was acting strange toward her. She struck Maggie as cold and aloof. Maggie presumed that she was jealous, and her mind turned toward the dress. She raced home to try it on once more.
Standing in front of the mirror of her bathroom, she adjusted the lace around her body. She noticed it was a little tighter than earlier in the morning. Looking down at her feet, she also saw that the length was just a bit too long, even with the heels. ‘How did I not notice this earlier this morning at Kelly’s shop?’ she thought to herself.
She texted Kelly about her observations, knowing that Kelly was busy and wouldn’t be able to help until she had a break in between her paying customers. After pressing “send”, she felt her skin heat up and the dress began to feel tighter. She moved to sit down, but ended up tripped over the hem of the dress.
Maggie woke to Kevin rubbing her head. She moved her hand to her head. He bandaged it where she hit her head on the corner of the countertop. Glancing on the floor, she saw blood. She panicked.
“It’s only on the rug, not on your dress,” he immediately tried to ease her distress.
“How long have I been lying here?”
“Not long, I heard you fall when I came home from work,” he answered. That couldn’t be right. She couldn’t have been standing in front of the mirror all afternoon. She only put the dress on for a few minutes.
She finally peeled the dress off carefully, laughing about the bad luck Kevin created when he saw her in the dress, lying on the floor.
For the remainder of the week, the dress was at Kelly’s shop. She was tirelessly working on various other wedding parties, proms, and dresses for upscale galas. Maggie tried to focus on work and the remaining details of the wedding, but every shop window she saw her reflection in, she was both frightened and curious about what she saw. It wasn’t her reflection at all.
The dress was finally ready the day before the wedding. Standing in front of Kelly’s mirror with her new darker hairstyle, she admired herself in the dress. It was a perfect fit.
“Are you nervous?” Kelly asked.
“Not at all,” Maggie answered. Her tone made Kelly a little uneasy.
Laughing unsteadily, Kelly responded, “Well, you’re not wearing that dress tonight. We have a few minutes to get ready and meet the other girls for your bachelorette party!”
Maggie took her time; she didn’t want to trip again, and she knew how clumsy she could be. She also couldn’t take her eyes off herself in the mirror. Kelly saw a petite girl with a blonde pixie cut in the reflection, but Maggie saw her, the original owner of the dress. She dared not say anything to Kelly, who already thought she was acting peculiar lately.
The next morning, Kelly drove Maggie to have her hair and make-up done. The car was silent. It was hard for Kelly to simply chalk Maggie’s behavior up to bride-to-be jitters.
“I’m sorry,” Maggie said softly.
“You spent nearly the entire night in the bathroom, looking at yourself in the mirror.” Kelly hoped that Maggie would return to her normal self after the wedding.
After hair and make-up, Maggie was able to slip into her dress again. The tightening around the waist and the length of the dress puddling in the floor beneath her would be the last thing she would remember.
There was a soft knock on the door. It was Kelly. “How does it fit?”
From Maggie’s voice came the reply, “better than I remember after all these years.”