The plastic jacket I wear is heavy with dust. My straps are on their final threads, clinging to my body as someone dangling from the edge of a cliff would cling with their finger nails; it would take but a nudge for them to release their grip and for me to fall in a heap on the floor of the wardrobe. My zip remains half shut, unable to move for the rust and for the part of my body that has been caught in my teeth for so long; an endless pinch in my back. I want to bask in the light that teases me through the crack in the wardrobe door. I miss being left with the lingering scent of the previous night’s perfume. I long to hear the whoosh of my skirt as someone twists and turns in me.
I met Alma in a worker’s cottage that had been reborn as a charity shop. I was not hanging with the other clothes; I had been thrown over the back of a chair in the kitchenware room, in need of repair after my previous owner had split the stitches under my arms. Alma picked me up and held me out in front of her. She tilted her head to one side and smiled.
“Is this one for sale?”
An old lady sitting on the floor unpacking cups from a box looked up at Alma.
“Hmm? Oh, hang on.”
The old lady grunted as she went from sitting, to kneeling and to standing. She shuffled over to me and Alma, adjusting her glasses. She leaned towards me with squinted eyes.
“Well, if you don’t mind that it needs some work, you can have it for five dollars.”
“I’ll take it. Thank you.”
Alma draped me over her arm and carried me home. On our first night together, she sat with a blanket over her lap and mended the stitches under my arms. Before bed, she hung me on a padded coat hanger with sachets of lavender sewn inside. She didn’t put me in the wardrobe with the others but instead hooked the hanger over the curtain rod in her room. That night, I was able to take in the view while I hoped she would choose me the following morning.
I’d never fit anyone quite as well as I fit Alma. I hugged her curves and my new zip glided shut when she pulled me on; it was almost as if we were made for each other. Her perfume smelled of flowers and I drank the scent up.
It was a special occasion tonight. I knew it was going to be because Alma paired me with her best shoes, jewellery and purse. As she sat in front of her mirror blotting her lipstick onto a tissue, there was a knock at the door. She took a deep breath and exhaled loudly before we went to the door. A man stood before us with a bouquet of bright, yellow flowers.
“Hello, Alma. I’m a little early, I know.
“That’s fine, I’m just about ready.”
“These are for you.”
The man extended his arm that held the flowers.
“Thank you, Grady. They’re lovely.”
We leaned towards the man, Grady, and I was drawn closer to his handsome, grey suit. Alma planted a soft kiss on the man’s cheek.
“You look beautiful, Alma.”
Alma smiled. She brought the bouquet to her nose and hid her face in the flowers. Her skin felt hot.
“Come in, won’t you? I just need to get my purse and we can get going.”
We arrived at a restaurant called Cecil’s.
“This is the best restaurant in the city!”
“Is it? I hadn’t heard.”
Grady winked at us and Alma linked her arm with his. After dinner, Grady took Alma’s hand and lead us to the dance floor. I loved to hear the whoosh of my skirt as he twisted and turned us around. At the end of the night, Alma planted another soft kiss on Grady’s cheek.
“See you tomorrow.”
I watched from the curtain rod as Alma went to sleep with a smile on her face.
We went to Cecil’s’s again tonight. The last time we had dinner there was the first time that I met Grady.
“Six months ago today. Can you believe it?”
Before dinner, Grady put a small box in front of Alma on the table. Instead of opening it, Alma stared at the box. She put her hands on her chest and breathed heavily. Grady got out of his chair and knelt on one knee beside us. Alma watched as he picked up the box, opened it and pulled from it a beautiful ring. Alma placed a hand on either side of her face.
Alma nodded, her hands still planted on her face. Grady gently pulled at her left arm and slipped the ring on one of her fingers. He hugged us when Alma began to cry. They ate dinner and Alma invited Grady inside at the end of the night.
The next morning, Grady stood on me as I lay in a heap on the floor. Alma left me that way after he stayed over. When I heard her stir in bed, I waited to be reunited with my hanger. As she went to walk away after hanging me on my rod, her new ring snagged on my skirt and a stitch was pulled.
Alma surveyed the damage and made a tisk noise with her tongue and her teeth. I waited that night for her to take me down, drape me over her lap and mend me. Instead, when she arrived home I watched as she climbed into bed, Grady following
I am covered in plastic and I hang on wire with the others in the wardrobe. Today, I watched as Alma and two of her friends sat on her bed and opened a large box. From it, Alma pulled out a flowing, white dress. They all screamed with happiness as she tried it on and Alma looked at it in the same way she looked at me on the day she found me. Later, when her friends had left, Alma lifted me from my rod and took me off my hanger. She laid me out on the bed and I watched in horror as she took the white dress, looped its straps over my hanger and hung it from my curtain rod. From the wardrobe, she pulled a wire hanger. The weight of my skirt tugged on my straps as she let me drop on the hard wire. She pulled a piece of plastic over my body and I struggled to breathe. The last thing I saw as the door was closing was the flowing white dress dancing in the wind.
Grady opened the wardrobe door and began taking clothes out. He was wearing the same handsome suit that he wore on the night we met. I can see the white dress is gone and the room is bare. He took the others out, one by one. As he got closer, I thought I could smell her perfume again. When he finally reached me, he grabbed at my hanger and stared. Something caught in his throat and he closed his eyes. He let go of my hanger and closed the door. I hung in the darkest corner, alone.
I counted the passing days by the light that came and went through the crack in the wardrobe door. Every time the light reappeared I hoped the day had come when the door would open again but I remained hanging in my dark corner.
The plastic jacket I wear is heavy with dust. My straps are on their final threads, clinging to my body as someone dangling from the edge of a cliff would cling with their finger nails; it would take but a nudge for them to release their grip and for I to fall in a heap on the floor of the wardrobe. My zip remains half shut, unable to move for the rust and for the part of my body that has been caught in my teeth for so long; an endless pinch in my back. I want to bask in the light that teases me through the crack in the wardrobe door. I miss being left with the lingering scent of the previous night’s perfume. I long to hear the whoosh of my skirt as someone twists and turns in me. But what’s this? The wardrobe door creaks as it is swiftly opened. The dust from my jacket dances in the beams of light pouring from the window. She pulls my hanger from the rod and removes my jacket. She gasps as her eyes fall upon my struggling straps. She takes the weight of my skirt and my straps are able to lift themselves from the edge of the cliff.
“Ma! Look at this dress!”
She gently lays me on a bed. Her touch is as delicate as Alma’s once was. A woman joins the girl in the room.
“Oh, look at that. It’s beautiful. ”
The woman runs her fingers over my straps, gently turns me over, and does the same to my zip.
“It needs to be repaired. The straps need to be restitched, and it will need a new zip. It looks about your size though.”
“Can we take it to Grandma’s? She’ll be able to fix it. That’s the dress. That’s my prom dress.”
I’d never fit anyone quite as well as I fit Alma until I met Eve. I hug Eve’s curves and my brand new zip glides shut when she pulls me on; we were made for each other. She stands in front of the mirror and fiddles with the small cluster of lilacs that adorns one of my straps. She runs her hands over me before her arms fall to her sides. She begins to swivel her hips and I hear it. Whoosh.
This story was inspired by one of my favourite suburbs in Brisbane, Paddington, and one of my favourite pieces of clothing. Paddington has some of my favourite charity shops. One day, I found a vintage, blue dress in the kitchenware room of a shop. It is one of my favourite dresses. I still have it today.