1. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Past Contest Authors Revealed for Contest #163, theme: "The Little Black Dress"

    Discussion in 'Bi-Weekly Short Story Contest Archives' started by GingerCoffee, Sep 14, 2014.

    Thanks for your patience.

    Short Story Contest 163
    Submissions & Details Thread
    Theme: "The Little Black Dress" courtesy of @BeckyJean

    Submissions will be open for 2 weeks.

    IMPORTANT: PLEASE READ THE CHANGES!

    If you wish to enter the contest post the story here directly in the thread. It will show up as an anonymous author.

    This contest is open to all writingforums.org members, newbies and the established alike. At the deadline I will collate all entries and put them forward for voting in a separate thread. The winning entry will be stickied until the next competition winner. As always, the winner may also PM me to request the theme of the subsequent contest if he/she wishes.

    Entries do not have to follow the themes explicitly, but off-topic entries may not be entered into the voting.

    Word limit: 500-3000 words
    Deadline for entries: Sunday the 28th of September, 2014 1600 (4:00 pm) US Pacific time

    There is a 10% word-limit leniency at both ends of the scale. Please try to stick within the limit. Any piece outside of the suggested limit may not be entered into the voting.

    If we reach 20 entries, the maximum number of stories for any one contest, I will consider splitting the contest into two. Only one entry per contest per contestant is permitted.

    Try to make all your entries complete and have an ending rather than be an extract from a larger one and please try to stick to the topic. Any piece seemingly outside of the topic will be dealt with in a piece by piece basis to decide its legitimacy for the contest.

    A story entered into the contest may not be one that has been posted anywhere on the internet, not just anywhere on this site. A story may not be posted for review until the contest ends, but authors may seek critiques after voting closes for the contest. Members may also not repost a story anywhere, or bring attention to the contest in any way, until the voting has closed.

    Please remember to give your piece a title and give its word count in brackets [xxx words ] at the top of your story.

    If there are any questions, please send me a PM (Conversation). After the entries close, posting in the thread is open for comments.

    ***And thanks to even more long hours put in by our very special mod/member @Wreybies, winners are now awarded with olympic style medals displayed under their avatars.

    Thanks, and good luck!

    Be sure to preview your entry before you hit 'reply'.
    Check italics and bolding as sometimes the end code for bold or italics doesn't copy/paste affecting large stretches of text. If you need to fix the formatting, hit 'control a' to 'select all' and clear all bold and italics code. Then re-add it back in using the board's font controls before you hit 'post reply'. Same thing with extra line spaces, delete them directly from the post before hitting 'post reply'.
     
  2. Delise
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    Delise Member

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    [538 words]


    My Husband's Victim



    "Wear it for me." he whispered in her ear.

    The last few years had started to wear thin on their marriage.
    In an attempt to fix her marriage she decided to have another child.
    His behavior only became more withdrawn and erratic.
    Constantly hiding away in his den.
    He would stay in there with the door locked.
    For hours he would stay in there.
    It was off limits to everyone.
    The last time her caught her in there he flew into a rage and threw her out.
    Finally, she decided to find out what it was he was looking at before he came to bed at night. Find out what it was he had to do before he could be with her.
    What she found were photos of a pretty young guy, along with home recorded sex-tapes of her husband beating and abusing a young male.
    Her eyes widened. Her finger tips growing cold.

    "No. It can't be."

    She couldn't watch the rest. She stopped the tape. The very core of her body began to tremor.

    "My husband isn't a rapist. My husband doesn't like men. Is this joke? What is this? It has to be some sort of game. Yes it has to be..."

    She could hear her daughters laughing in the other room. Her hands trembled as she hurried to put the tapes back where she found them.
    Her hot tears fell onto her hands. Everything became a blur before her.

    "All these years..." She she cried in a hushed voice.


    She looked on his computer and searched through all his files. A picture of a long-haired auburn person struck her as familiar. She understood now why he had asked her to change her hair color.
    He was stalking the man on the internet in secret, after ten years. Her husband knew what he looked like, the old photos were mixed with the new. He knew every detail and wanted her to become him.
    He was obsessing.
    He was reliving how he raped him.

    He spent more time in that room than he did with his daughters and her.

    Her sobs broke out of her in ragged gasps.
    She staggered to her bedroom.
    She spotted the little black dress he had placed on the bed that morning. She stifled her urge to scream as she grabbed the dress and tore it right in two.
    Her knees became weak and gave out under her.

    Her daughters came running into the room.

    "Mama! Come play with us!" The girls giggled with excitement.
    They stopped when they saw her face.

    "What's wrong Mama? Why are you crying?"

    They ran over to her and hugged her.

    "Don't cry. Daddy will be home soon."


    More sobs shook her before she could compose herself.
    She held her daughters tightly.

    "I know..."

    Her panicked mind screamed to leave him.
    She did not know the man she slept with.
    Her husband was a stranger to her.
    A stranger that could rape and beat a person
    and then relive that moment every night.
    Every night before he fucked her.
    She kissed her girls and wiped her tears with the dress
    before she threw it away in the trash.

    "Don't worry. Mama's going to be fine."
     
  3. Jaro
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    Jaro Active Member

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    One More Night (1,073 words)

    “John, I have an idea,” Mary said. John looked up from the mess he was making of his tie and found Mary’s reflection in the mirror. “Let’s go out tonight,” she said. “On a date like we haven’t had since we were young.”
    “What do you mean?”
    “I mean let’s go all out. Dinner, a movie, maybe even dancing afterward? I have a new little black dress I’m dying to wear.”
    “That sounds great, hun, but I’ve got the Nelson Project this week. You know I have no idea when I can make it home.”
    “I don’t care about the Nelson Project. I need you tonight. It’s important.”
    John turned and looked at Mary, noticing the moisture in her eyes and the single tear slowly falling down her cheek. “Hey,” he said, and walked to her, putting his hand to her cheek. “What’s going on?”
    “Nothing, I just really need you to be with me tonight.” John put his arms around her and hugged her tight.
    “Come hell or high water, I’ll be here,” he whispered into her ear. “Now I have to get out of here, before I am late. Love you.”
    “I love you too,” she replied as he turned and left the bedroom.

    She couldn’t bring herself to tell him. It would devastate him and she knew it. She still couldn’t wrap her head around the news, herself. She began to sob and fell to the bed, screaming into the blankets as she squeezed them tight in her fists. It was hopeless. It literally didn’t matter what she did. It wouldn’t change anything.

    * * *

    John quietly unlocked the front door and entered the dark house. He knew he was in trouble, and he knew this time he wasn’t going to be able to just talk his way out of it. The project he was assigned to was a really big step for his career. He hated doing anything to disappoint his wife of 15 years, but he knew if he handled this project just right, they would be set for life.

    He placed his briefcase on the floor and quietly walked to the kitchen. He found an empty vase and used it to hold the bouquet of flowers he held in his hand. He reached into a cabinet and grabbed a small cup, and then filled it with water and then poured it into the vase. She is going to kill me, he thought to himself.

    John then picked the vase up and walked toward their bedroom, his head hung end eyes shut tight, preparing for the verbal onslaught he expected once he opened the door. But when he did he was greeted only by darkness and silence. He could make out Mary’s shape on her side of the bed, her body turned away from him. He kicked off his shoes and placed the vase on the dresser beside him.

    John turned and entered the bathroom, took off his clothes and turned the shower on. After the temperature was to his liking he stepped in and quickly washed himself, turned off the water and dried himself off. He hung the towel over the shower curtain rod and picked his clothes off of the floor and tossed them into the hamper near the sink.

    He knew he had messed up, and the reflection in the mirror knew it too. She has to understand I am doing it for us, he thought. No more struggling to pay the mortgage, the cars will be paid off, and we can plan on life’s greater things. Like maybe even children. It all depends on this promotion, and the massive bonus it comes with.

    John turned out the light and left the bathroom and slowly crawled into bed. Mary didn’t stir a bit. If she’s awake, she is playing it off pretty well, he thought. He stared at the ceiling for a long time, imagining shapes and patterns in the popcorn stucco. He could barely see by the small amount of light coming from the street lamp outside the bedroom window, but it was just enough. He picked out faces, and animals, and even the shape of Texas, before finally drifting off to sleep.

    When john awoke the next morning, the room was brightly lit from the outside. He turned over and noticed Mary still asleep facing away from him. She never sleeps later than I do, he thought. But something seemed off. She wasn’t moving. Her chest wasn’t rising and falling. He stared at her blanketed form for several more seconds before panic tightened his chest.

    “Mary?” He asked, and placed his and on her shoulder and gave a little shake. Mary still didn’t move and he noticed her skin was cold. “Oh my god, Mary,” he shouted and pulled her toward him, rolling her onto her back. Mary’s eyes were closed, her eyelids still. “No Mary, please god, no,” he sobbed. He reached to the bedside table and grabbed his cell phone and dialed 9-1-1.

    * * *

    Three days had passed since the death of his wife of 15 years. John sat in an uncomfortable chair in the front row of a viewing room. Friends and family were gathered around him, but they could have been a million miles away for all he cared. His life, his world, was lying in a box in front of him, unmoving, and looking as beautiful as ever. It was very easy to imagine she was just taking a nap. But that fantasy never lasted long. How could it? He knew she could never wake up.

    Come hell or high water, I’ll be here, he thought. One of the last things I said, and it was a lie. As it turned out Mary had been diagnosed with a very aggressive form of brain cancer. She was given a week to live, but that estimate had turned out to be an over-estimate. She just wanted one more happy night, and I couldn’t give it to her.

    “It’s time, John,” said a man. He didn’t even look to see who it was. He stood up and placed a flower he had been holding in to Mary’s cold hand. He took in the sight of his wife one last time before they shut the lid of the coffin for the last time. She finally got to wear that little black dress. But it was three days too late.
     
    Last edited: Sep 26, 2014
  4. Storysmith
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    Storysmith Member

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    Dolls [1785 words]

    “Mummy! Mummy! She's stolen my dress and won't give it back!” Arianne looked down to see her daughter Daphne running at her knees, tears springing from her big brown eyes.

    Arianne made her excuses to the most eligible bachelor she had met in months, and crouched down to enclose Daphne in her arms.

    “What are you talking about, sweetheart? Who took it? You're still wearing it,” she said, indicating the threadbare red party dress that last fit Daphne properly last Summer.

    “Not my dress. Susie's. The little black one. Barbara took it,” wailed Daphne. Susie was Daphne's Barbie doll, and the dress was Arianne's birthday present to her just two weeks ago. It wasn't much, but money had been scarce since Flynn had walked out on them.

    Engulfing Daphne's hand in her own, the two made their way through the barbecue to where Daphne had been playing. When they arrived, Arianne saw Susie lying on the ground. The old doll had seen better days, with dirt encrusted in every line and her hair and face polluted with orange felt-tip. The brown loom bands ensconced in her hair gave her crazy looking pig tails and a pony tail. On the grass beside her lay her other clothes: old and worn, little more than patches of fabric. Arianne recognised them all: here a red gown, there a brown skirt or an orange blouse.

    Opposite Daphne's pile lay Barbara’s. Her dolls were immaculate, their blonde hair looking like they had spent the morning in a salon. The clothes, too, looked as though they had just been unboxed. Was Barbara a freak child who kept the dolls and clothes like this, or did her parents simply buy her new ones whenever they showed any wear?

    Barbara could almost have passed for a Barbie doll herself. The white dress, cherubic face, angelic blue eyes and divine platinum hair: all were imlicit slights against Arianne's daughter. Then Arianne spotted the doll in Barbara’s hand, and the black dress that she wore – this one of Daphne's still as unsullied as the other dresses on Barbara’s dolls.

    “Barbara, sweetie, is that Daphne's dress on your doll?” asked Arianne, keeping her voice as calm as she could.

    Barbara shook her head. “No. This dress is mine. Mummy bought it for me.” The girl's face was so sweet, so trustworthy, that Arianne could scarcely doubt her. She turned to Daphne.

    “Are you sure that's your dress?” she asked her daughter. It was the wrong question, and Arianne immediately felt that she'd betrayed Daphne by asking it. Her eyes welled once more, and Arianne couldn't catch a word of the squealed reply.

    At that moment Ophelia appeared at Arianne's side. The perfect mother for the perfect daughter.

    “Barbara, what's going on?” asked Ophelia.

    “Daphne says I took her doll's dress, but I didn't. You bought it for me,” she said, holding up the doll like evidence in a court.

    “Well, we have to be going now,” said Ophelia. “We're skyping Drew in thirty minutes. He's in China with his work.” Drew was the inevitable perfect father and husband, though Arianne could never quite remember what he did. Lawyer, accountant, trader? All that mattered in the neighbourhood was that he was a source of great wealth for the family, and all knew it.

    “But are you sure that Barbara has a dress like that?” asked Arianne. She felt like a peasant petitioning a queen.

    “I can't keep track of all of my daughter's dolls' clothes,” laughed Ophelia. “Besides, it looks more like one of Barbara’s” No need to say that that was because it wouldn't fit in with Daphne's ragged clothes. Arianne was about to object, when Eloise appeared to leave her outnumbered.

    Eloise was Barbara’s au-pair. If Barbara was a Barbie doll in girl's form, Eloise was the grown-up version. Hair that outshone the Sun hung to her waist, and a tight blue dress drew stolen glances from every man there. Arianne had often wondered whether Ophelia had hired Eloise to fit in with the Barbie collection. Secretly, she hoped that Drew had chosen this stunning woman and was cheating on Ophelia with her, though she couldn't truly believe that their perfect marriage would ever have any such problems. What did a woman with one child, who spent all of her time with the child, need an au-pair for anyway?

    All words caught in Arianne's throat as the au-pair collected up the dolls and took them away, the black dress included. Daphne took her hand and watched.

    Bed had never seemed so tempting. Arianne felt like she'd been walking no-stop for days, and what felt like an iron clamp on her lower back made her wary of bending over.

    For the rest of the day, she'd led her daughter around every toy shop in town, searching for a replacement dress. But they were never right – blues and whites and greens, but never a black to replace the one Daphne had lost. Now Daphne was asleep, and Arianne gratefully slipped between the covers into her own bed too.

    But sleep wouldn't come to her. She felt terrible for letting them take the dress away. Daphne never mentioned it, never got upset when they couldn't find a dress in the shops. Somehow that made it worse than if she had blamed her mother. And she new that Daphne's father would get her the dress if she mentioned it to him. After hours of deliberation, she reached a decision – she would enter Ophelia's house under cover of darkness and take the dress back.

    She would need to dress like a burglar. How did they dress? Like spies in the movies? Looking through her wardrobe, she could find no skin-tight black outfits. Instead she made do with a black party dress that had known better days, with black tights underneath.

    As she turned to leave the room, she thought to cover her face. Looking through a drawer, she found a blue ski mask that Flynn had bought her for a holiday. She'd throw it away after tonight; no more skiing holidays for her, and no more presents from Flynn. But she would wear it one last time. With one look in the mirror at the strange figure that she presented, Arianne turned and left.

    Getting into the house was easy: Ophelia had lent her a key in case she ever locked herself out. But entering a stranger's dark house without their permission left her nerves on edge. What would she do if she was caught? Would Ophelia call the cops? If they did, what would happen to Daphne? The butterflies in her stomach fluttered more and more as she climbed the steps, with each creak a cry of alarm to the sleeping household.

    On the landing, Arianne paused, wondering which way to go. She'd never been upstairs in this house before. A patch of yellow light showed under one of the teak doorways. That must be Barbara’s room, she thought. Ophelia wouldn't need a night light.

    The door creaked slowly open to her touch. Stepping onto the plush carpet in the candle-lit room, Arianne's breath caught in her mouth. This was Ophelia's room, and she was lying on the bed just in front of her. Beside Ophelia, Arianne could see the mound of Drew under the duvet. Heart in mouth, she backed out of the room.

    Anger flashed up in Arianne's heart. Ophelia had told her that Drew was in China. Why had she lied?

    Unless... Could Ophelia be having an affair? Arianne had to bite on a knuckle to stop herself from giggling. Surely not. But she knew that she couldn't leave without making sure. Mentally calling herself a fool, she re-entered the room.

    Dropping onto all fours, she made her way to the other side of the bed. The sound of the breathing of the couple was like a weight crushing her, breeding fear in her every pore. But finally she reached the far side of the bed.

    Praying that he would still be asleep, Arianne stood up to look into his face. Was it someone she knew? But the face staring back at her was that of Eloise, the au-pair. Ah Eloise, thought Arianne, so you're Ophelia's Barbie doll.

    Shortly afterwards, Arianne was finally in Barbara’s room, looking through the sleeping child's dolls by the flickering street light outside. At last she found the doll wearing her daughter's black dress, and a surge of victory swelled in her heart.

    An unbidden thought flashed across her mind. This doll meant nothing to Barbara, but would mean so much to Daphne. It wouldn't even be missed if she took it. Immediately she felt guilty for considering it. Was she a reverse Santa Claus, to enter a child's room by night and take toys away? Even taking the dress felt wrong now. She would leave it.

    Even as she decided to leave the dress, she felt her fingers removing it from the doll. The Velcro fastening let rip a cry of alarm, but no watchmen came running. Balling the loot, Arianne left the room.

    As quiet as a mouse, Arianne left the house. As quiet as a mouse? As quiet as a rat.

    Arianne awoke in her bed. Did last night really happen? She felt for the dress, and there was an empty pit where her heart should be when she couldn't find it. But then questing fingers brushed against the familiar fabric, before cupping her treasure.

    Taking it to the window, she threw back the curtains to admire her grail in the orange glow of the early Sun.

    Navy! No, it wasn't possible. But it was true. The dress was navy blue, not black. She had taken the wrong one in the poorly lit bedroom. She hid the dress under a pillow as she heard Daphne approaching her door.

    “Mummy, mummy, look what I found! It's Susie's new black dress”

    Arianne stared in bemusement.

    “Where did you find it?” she asked.

    “It was in my room. I didn't take it out yesterday, because I didn't want to lose it. But I forgot.”

    Arianne held Daphne as Daphne held Susie in her smart black dress.

    “Mummy, did you go out last night?” asked Daphne.

    “Yes,” said Arianne. “I was looking for something I'd lost.”

    “Did you find it, mummy?”

    Arianne looked into those deep brown eyes. Did it matter if other families seemed to have more than hers? She had Daphne, and that was all that mattered to her.

    “No,” she replied at last. “But I did find something else I'd lost.”
     
  5. BeckyJean
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    BeckyJean Member

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    A Dress For Two Occasions (words; 2209)

    Stefanie reached into the back of her closet and pulled out the dress. She hadn’t worn it in a long time; years, in fact. When was the last time, she wondered. It might have been that night; the night they met. Holding it against her, she turned to look at herself in the mirror. It would still fit. Surprisingly, she wasn’t showing yet.

    Her eyes grew misty. A single tear made its way down her cheek and slid off her chin. Slowly, robotically, as if in a daze, she wiped away the moisture. Stefanie marveled that there could still be tears left in her body. Surely she was depleted by now. She hadn’t stopped crying since Sergeant Zuniga and the chaplain stood at her door three weeks ago to give her the news.

    Brandon, her husband of eight years, had been killed in action in Afghanistan. He and his platoon had stopped to assist what looked to be a disabled American tank on the side of the road. They had no way of knowing the soldiers from the tank were already dead.

    As soon as Brandon descended the back of the truck, they were fired upon. Those that weren’t cut down by bullet spray were dragged to a ditch and shot, executioner style; a single shot to the back of the head.

    There was one survivor. He had crawled out of the cab and under the truck, somehow, magically, dodging death, having also been shot. He was rescued a day later, taken to safety by U.S. troops. It was the truck driver, Stefanie remembered. He was how they had learned what happened that day.

    She was torn, having learned it; both grateful and ungrateful to know the truth. Brandon being dead was excruciating. Knowing how he died was almost unbearable.

    She knew – they knew – the risks when he joined the Army right after they were married; especially during these trying times. But he felt it was his responsibility, his patriotic duty to fight for his country. He was gallant that way; a warrior for the good of mankind. He embraced that role; proudly, courageously.

    He convinced her that the long term benefits for their one-day family would be worth those risks. And it seemed he was right; he had made it, or so they thought - was just six weeks from returning home after his third deployment to the Middle East. They were home free, both ecstatic and celebrating three months ago, when Brandon was home for two weeks of temporary leave.

    They’d spent two nights catching up with family, and the rest of their time in their small condo, wrapped in each other’s arms. They drank wine, ate junk food, watched movies, made love… they made plans for when he would be home for good. Plans to expand into a larger home, into the neighborhood near the lake.

    They made plans to start their family.

    That thought brought a searing pain to her side; something familiar from her days as a jogger. An emotional runner’s cramp, she thought wryly.

    Many times over these weeks, mostly in the morning as she’s waking, Stefanie found herself suspended between what was real and unreal. Intellectually, she understood the truth. And yet her heart seemed to constantly, almost chronically scream This isn’t real, this isn’t real!

    She knew how futile denial was; how it served no one. More than that – it was just dumb. The more rational, perhaps smarter side of her knew this, too – because there was a black, infected spot that’d taken up residency in the center of her chest; an eternal reminder of the loss she was sure she would feel until she was gone from this life.

    Stefanie felt shell-shocked. It was too big, all of it – too much. Knowing her eyes would never rest on Brandon’s profile again, knowing she’d never feel his breath on her hair as they awoke while spooning as the sun rose into the sky... knowing she’d never see his smile as he came through the door after a long day on base, looking handsome and brave in his Army uniform. She would never again catch him playing with Toby – a cat that he swore was an annoying pest – running a tube sock across the floor for him to chase.

    She was still unable to grasp that all of their dreams had nowhere to go; unable to fathom that he would never know his son… or daughter. And they would grow up never knowing him.

    Another tear fell. And then another. Again, as before, mechanically and dazed - she wiped it away. There was a knock on the door. From the other side she heard her mother’s voice.

    “Steffi, honey? You almost dressed? We should leave soon.”

    Stefanie remained silent. She continued to stare at her reflection, at the black dress she held against her body, recalling every detail of that night eight and a half years ago.

    She had been walking through the mall, in search of something to wear for a holiday party that evening. She spotted the dress on a mannequin at Dillard’s. It was simple and exquisite, and with the right accessories, ideal for New Years Eve. She found her size and tried it on. Perfection. It hugged her in all the right places, showing off her voluptuous figure without looking slutty.

    She took it to the sales clerk, paid and went to the accessories department for jewelry. Stefanie wasn’t one that gravitated toward sparkly or blingy anything. It wasn’t her style. But for this dress – and for the party she was attending – she decided to go all out. She selected teardrop shaped rhinestone earrings and a long, matching necklace to be worn down the front of her dress. It would drape perfectly over the sweetheart neckline.

    Hours later she arrived at her friend Sherry’s party. The house was crammed full with guests by the time she got there. Traffic had been bumper to bumper, and she lived on the other side of town. She was an hour and a half late.

    Maybe it was meant to be that way, though; the reason Brandon saw her exactly when he did. Because to hear him tell it (I’ll never hear him tell it again, she thought and a sob escaped her.), he was thunderstruck at the sight of her walking through that door.

    Time and time again through the years, he would tell their friends how he made his way through that packed living room, like wading through deep water. And then he would stand up and move his arms, miming how he supposedly pushed Sherry’s guests aside. And everyone would laugh.

    He would tell how he was focused only on the ‘stunning, raven-haired beauty’ looking around shyly as she closed the door behind her. He would then embellish, telling it always the same; how he slinked up beside her, leaned against the door, and said, “How you doin’?” – in the voice of Joey Tribbiani from Friends. And they'd all laugh again.

    But that wasn’t how it happened. Not exactly. It was much simpler, much sweeter.

    “Hi, I’m Brandon,” he had said, standing in front of her, his hand extended. She remembered he smelled of cologne. She liked it, even though she’d never been drawn to the kinds of men that wear it. She deemed those men vain and superficial – needing to impress. At some point in the night, she remembered telling him that.

    She recalled how he’d laughed, (and how moonstruck I was, seeing his brilliant smile, she thought), saying that he wore it so that he could smell it, telling her he knew it was weird, but he had always liked things that smelled good, so he wore it for him. She had laughed with him, because it was weird, but also real. She’d liked that, too.

    Then he’d complimented her perfume. She was wearing her signature scent, Calvin Klein’s Escape, something she’d worn for a long time, a scent she loved. Over the years that followed – Brandon would say how much he loved it, too. Thinking on it now, she knew she would wear it forever. It was theirs.

    Later, at the party that night, he had reached over, lightly touching her necklace, saying how flattering it was against her dress with her long hair. And he smiled at her again, and Stefanie was hooked.

    They were married six months later.

    “Stefanie? Are you okay in there, sweetie?” her mother’s voice said through the door, snapping her out of her reverie.

    “I’m fine, mom - almost ready. Twenty minutes, okay?” she replied, a quiver in her voice.

    There was a long pause. She knew her mother was struggling between leaving her in privacy, and coming in to comfort her only daughter. There would be plenty of time for comfort later, Stefanie thought. Right now she needed space.

    And anyway, the next several hours – the next several days, with all of Brandon’s and her family in town – she would have little of that. “I’m fine, mom. I promise. I’ll be out shortly,” she called out.

    Another short pause, and then, “Okay, honey. Let me know if you need me… if… if I can help.”

    “I will. Thanks, mom.”

    “I love you, sweetheart.” her mom said softly.

    Stefanie’s lungs constricted, her tears starting all over again. She clamped a hand over her mouth, stifling more sobs, not wanting her mother to hear. “I love you too, mom.” she finally said, perhaps too brightly. “I’ll be out soon.”

    “Okay, honey.”

    Stefanie laid the dress, still on its hanger, on her unmade bed and pulled the old football jersey – Brandon’s high school jersey, something she’s slept in for most of their marriage – over her head. She held the jersey up, looking at the worn and faded numbers, imagining him as a teenager, running toward a touchdown.

    To hear his family and childhood friends talk, he had been quite the football start back in the day. One would never know it, though. He wasn’t one of those jocks that lived in the past, reliving his glory days. It was just a fun game he happened to do well, he had told her.

    Stefanie always loved that about him. His down to earth nature, his humility. He didn’t seem to know what a gorgeous chick magnet he was, either; having eyes only for his wife. Something else she adored. You were such a good man, Brandon Welsh, she said aloud.

    She pulled her hair up, stuffed it into a shower cap and quickly showered. After, she toweled dry, donned her undergarments, slipped into the black dress and stepped into her black leather pumps.

    It struck her then, the irony of how this dress had led to the beginning of her life with Brandon. And now – only eight and a half years later – it marked the end of it.

    She ran a brush through her hair, and then twisted and pinned it into a bun. Then she went to her jewelry box. The earrings and necklace she wore to the New Years Eve party were nestled in the corner, under her everyday jewelry. She realized how inappropriate it might look to wear something so flashy, so festive to a funeral service. But Brandon loved this, she thought, pulling out the necklace, letting it dangle from her fingers.

    Yes, she decided. This was right. She wanted to wear, wanted to be what drew Brandon to her in those very first moments on that night so long ago. She draped the necklace over her head and hooked the earrings through her lobes. They sparkled and glimmered under the dim light from the ivory lampshade.

    Next she applied lipstick, a light dusting of blush across her cheeks, and mascara to her lashes. She finished with a spritz of Escape to her wrists and the nape of her neck.

    Standing in front of her mirror, she took note of her pale skin and red eyes. She ran the palm of her hand over what would soon be a baby bump, imagining the life growing inside her, picturing the facial features forming that would reflect the cheekbones, perhaps the nose of the man she loved.

    She recognized that her reflection wasn’t the same as the woman she had been at that party. But she wasn’t the same… she would never be the same.

    She went to her side of the bed and picked up the framed photo of Brandon from the small antique table. He was kneeling amongst the rocks and rubble in his dessert cammies, his helmet under his arm. She looked for a long time at his face, at his smile, into his eyes – hoping in some part of her that wherever he was, he could see her, feel her.

    I miss you… God, how I miss you, she thought desperately. She kissed the flat of her fingers, pressed them to his face through the glass, and put the frame back on her nightstand.

    Stefanie then walked to her bedroom door. Hand on the doorknob; she turned to look one last time. She smiled at the picture… she smiled at him.

    “Okay... here we go,” she breathed, and left the room.
     
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2014
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