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Valerie Collins

I’d never had a little black dress. Nor even a big one. Shapeless grey, that was me. But this, this was something different. It seemed to beckon to me from the shop window as I walked down the High Street. I stopped, and stood for a while, my gaze lost in the black silk. The dress seemed to whisper to me, promising me everything I had ever desired. The following week I heard the dress murmuring, calling me softly as I turned into the High Street. It was still in its place in the centre of the window. So beautiful it was, and yet it had not been sold. 
No. I’m waiting for you. 

I stepped inside the shop. I did not even get to try the dress on. The assistant looked at me sneeringly. Up and down. As if I was a blot on the landscape. A monstrous carbuncle. Which I was. How presumptious of me for having a large body. A body which men like to touch and squeeze. 
I want you to do something for me. 
“Please let me see it!” I implored.
The assistant pursed her lips and brought it from the window. She held it out for a moment and I caressed the silk. Waves of warm energy flowed to me. Warm loving energy. 
Would you like to have me? What will you do for me? 
Anything, I said. Anything.
It was a size 10. Yes, I sighed, anything. I love you. I want you. 

I went to the supermarket and filled my bag with carrots and lettuces and low-fat yoghourts. I threw out all the foods that would prevent me from having my heart’s desire. Every week I went to the shop on the High Street to visit the dress. And every week it was still there, in the middle of the window.
 I’m waiting for you. 
There came the day when the assistant looked me up and down and measured me with her snooty eyes, and allowed me to take it to the cubicle and hold it, while she stood guard by the door, her arms folded. The dress shimmered and whispered close to me. It cleaved softly to my body, and soothed me. 
Soon I’ll be yours. Very soon

The hunger was difficult to bear, as I lay the night in my big black wooden bed, hearing the mice pattering and the cat scratching and the old house creaking, sensing the scowl of the big black spider in the corner. But whenever I thought I could bear it no longer, the dress stole into my mind and reminded me of my pledge.
Every week I went to the shop on the High Street and was allowed to hold the dress. It seemed the thinner I got, the smaller the dress got. It was a test of my devotion.  One day, after many weeks, as I held the dress hunger made me swoon, and for just an instant I hovered out of time in a swirl of silk. 
And one day, as I reached out to touch the dress, my fingers shimmered, iridescent, merging with the silk. 

And then came the day when I woke up in the morning, light as air. I knew today was the day. I called the cat, but she didn’t come. I floated out of the house. The bus conductor didn’t take my fare. I glided into the shop. This time the assistant didn’t stop me. Didn’t look me up and down. Didn’t sneer. She looked straight through me. I soared on a wave of light to the window and at long last I closed my arms around my dress. And a puff and a swish and we were one. 

Now I see you coming along the High Street, your shopping bag filled with cakes and pastries.
Would you like to have me?
What will you do for me? 

 © Valerie Collins 1999 

Black Dress was the winner of the 1999 Autumn Competition at the Jacqui Bennet Writers Bureau and was featured in the winter issue 2000 of the Rose & Thorn Literary Ezine.

Valerie Collins is a British writer and former translator who has lived in Barcelona, Spain, for many years. She is a contributor to the Insight Guide to Barcelona and the author of several prize-winning short stories published in World Wide Writers and the Rose &Thorn Literary Ezine. She has written for a variety of magazines including The Reporter: The Spanish Connection, Flying Colours, The Broadsheet, Verbatim, Kafeniocom and The Rotarian. She is co-owner and co-editor of the Worlds Apart Review a website for expatriate writers, and is now finishing her first novel, set in a vibrant fictional city not unlike Barcelona.


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