Girlhood, Adira Bennett
Today, on an especially beautiful Saturday morning, you run through a list of errands. First grocery shopping, then laundromat, license renewal, and a gift for your sister’s birthday. It has been a long week, but it does not matter as you tend to live with a quiet acceptance and general focus on the task at hand. After completing the penultimate chore on your list, you enter the antique shop, which takes up more than half of the strip mall’s rental space. At the front, near the checkout is a cheap tea room complete with wood paneling and plastic chairs. There, older women chat, delicately lift teacups to their lips.
You move past them into the neatly sectioned-off vendor stalls, small nooks which hold the absent seller’s belongings, each numbered with a little sticker. You chose to come here because your sister loves antique spoons. She keeps them in cases on a shelf in her living room. Rubbing your eyes, you must sift through shelves and boxes of crap and kitsch. Dozens of collectible plates, dolls, beanie babies, CDs and VHS tapes, porcelain and glass figurines. Eventually, you select a spoon that is visually interesting and has been priced high enough to be an acceptable gift for your sister. Its handle features an intricately carved fern frond. You bring it to the front counter and pay for it. As you glance up while signing the receipt, a swath of white in the very back of the store catches your eye.
The most beautiful dress you have ever seen hangs there. As you drift toward it, you look around at the few other patrons browsing nearby. It seems nobody else has noticed the sheer radiance glowing through the stitching. You take the fabric between your two fingers and thumb and it feels like a petal you might peel off of a wilting rose, softest paper veined with life. The price tag gives you a papercut and you watch it turn pink, aching. Checking your surroundings, you stuff the dress into your bag, careful not to use the bleeding finger. As you quickly exit the store, your breath is giddy with the oscillation between lust and love.
Once you are alone in your home you lock all of the doors and windows thrice. In your bedroom, you block the cracks under the doors with quilts, stuff the keyholes with cotton. Pulling the dress out of the bag, it unravels perfectly, not a wrinkle from skirt to bodice. You strip every piece of fabric off of yourself, the gentle ripping results in a thousand pieces of cloth littering the floor. Naked and clean, you unzip the dress, stepping in, a guest over the threshold.
When you pull it up onto yourself, the skirt brushes against your feet, covering you toe to ankle in snowmelt. A similar chill emanates from the sleeves. The hairs on your arms prick up. The bodice hugs your waist and chest tightly. You have run so very far that you fear your torso will collapse. The neckline’s fingers press into your skin. An invisible hand of fear clutches your throat. An animal— no, a creature— pursues you, the sound of the snarl which emanates from its awful chest is tangible on your back. You sink to the ground, the full skirt forming a circle of protection, and suddenly you’re back in your bedroom.
Somebody knocks on the door. The knocking grows louder and louder until the room shakes and you must crawl. You call out and nobody answers. The knocking resumes. You reach out for the doorknob and open the door. Nobody stands there, before coming into your room and kissing you, shutting the door behind them. Nobody turns the lights out, whispers to you that they’ve missed you, thought about you here and again. You fuck nobody with the dress on. You lay for hours in the dark beside nobody, listening to their familiar stirring and wondering.
What feels like seconds later, you open your eyes to find yourself lying on top of your neatly made bed. It is mid-afternoon. The room is the way it was before you entered it. You are still wearing your commoner’s clothes. When you check your bag it is empty save for receipts, keys, wallet. And the spoon, which tomorrow you will take to your sister.