If You Dress for It

Something different this week. A bit of flash fiction. Hope you enjoy it. xo Viv

“This has been such a strange day,” I muse as I wait for Lucy to arrive. We’ve started this thing we call dress-up dates. We both love to put on our Sunday best and go out, but what with her recent retirement from professional life, my having a rather dress down sort of menial job presently, and of course the pandemic’s influence on social outings, our cute clothes have been gathering dust.

We hadn’t really articulated to each other how much we missed professional attire. When she invited me out to one of our favorite cafes for my birthday, I thought, “what the heck. I’m going to dress like a girl!”

To our mutual delight, Lucy did the same thing!

Eventually our conversation turned to how fun it is to dress up and somehow we decided to do it on a regular basis. Since then, about every 2 weeks, one of us will choose a destination and invite the other.

I check my watch again. 3:00. Lucy is never late. Ever.

I’m sitting in the window, sort of hiding behind a potted palm. I only feel brave in a dress when I’m with Lucy. The strange thing is, even though I’m somewhat obscured, I’m getting all these double takes. Like, so many I’ve lost count. Customers walk in, casually swivel their heads over in my direction and then heads snap back to me.

It feels kind of creepy. And a little bit good.

I can’t wait for her to see this get-up. I look so incredibly cute.

I’ve had this shirt-dress fantasy for over a year now. Just fleeting impressions really. Not even a clear image. I’ve felt I was wearing a shirt dress and spectator pumps.

And the fantasy had more to do with the feeling this frock gave me. Hard to express exactly -which is what fashion is all about, right? – but I’d have to say I felt… otherworldly.

The vintage creamy white 1940’s vibe shirt-dress and I met online one recent Thursday evening when I was supposed to be writing. I knew that was the dress for me; that was the dress from my recurring reverie.

There’s something about a dress. It is distinct from an outfit.

A dress says, “This is an occasion.”

Everyone in the vicinity is dignified by the appearance of a dress. The occasion could be anything – a luxurious mood that one wishes to express in color and form. Perhaps there’s been a promotion, a baby shower, happy tidings from the lab.

I’m sitting in a cafe in Saint Andrews. And what’s strange about this, I mean aside from the double-takes, is that this isn’t where we originally agreed to meet. Lucy called me early this morning.

“So, this is going to sound weird,” she says.

“Okay-”

“But I think we should change where we’re meeting. Last night, I dreamed we were sipping cappuccinos in this gorgeous seaside cafe,” she says.

“Neat. Not really weird -”

“No. But then I get up and I’m having breakfast and I’m thumbing through this travel guide. You know Janice from Hawaii? She wants to visit this summer and she wants to spend some time in Canada so I ordered some New Brunswick travel guides to get some ideas.

“Yah, yah,” I say urging her on.

“-and I’ve never seen this travel guide before.”

I wait.

“-and so I’m thumbing through and three pages in – there it is! The cafe from my dream. Exactly.”

“No way!” I say.

“and!”

“And?” I say, thinking I’m already convinced.

“And! There are two women sitting there – back to the camera – and its us! I mean- same size, same builds, same hair, same us-ness.”

“Holy cow!” I say. “I’ve got to ask – what’s the me of us wearing?”

“Well. It looks like – I don’t know. I think you’d call it a shirt-dress.”

A little shiver runs through me.

“And the shoes?” I ask looking over at my latest e-Bay acquisition – tan and white spectator pumps.

“Well, kind of pumps, but not regular pumps. There’s a name for them. They’re two-tone – ”

“Spectator pumps.”

“Yeah!”

She texted me the photo and the name and address of the cafe.

3:02. My inner first alert system revs up.

French music. My phone.

“Oh thank God! You’re alright!” I answer.

“I am!” says Lucy. “I haven’t left my driveway yet! My cousin and aunts just surprised me!”

“Oh cool!”

“And they’re whisking me away to Martha’s Vineyard for a long weekend! I’m sorry I’m just calling you now. I was actually leaving early and then they pulled in and its been such a whirlwind. Ugh! I stood you up!”

“Nonsense. You were hijacked!” I said.

“Awww. Thanks Fran! I’ll bring you a present.”

“You better!”

Well.

I’m just wondering ‘what’s a girl in a creamy white vintage shirt-dress and spectator pumps to do all by herself in a seaside town’ when I hear a bit of a kerfuffle in the cafe kitchen. Words, if I’m not mistaken. Someone is having words. And they’re getting louder.

“That’s it! You can take your stinking vinyl records back home. And your toothbrush. And your Irish Fisherman’s sweater that looks stupid on you anyway. You’d move in with Donna in a heartbeat wouldn’t you?! And you can take this job while you’re at it!”

Then I hear a huge smash that as a former klutzy waitperson I recognize as a large full tray overturning onto a tile floor.

A pink haired waif storms through the cafe and out the door.

“Come on! Please! Everyone else is quarantining!” The stinking vinyl record owner is on the phone by the time I mosey to the counter. “I can’t run this place by myself and I have to make some money to-DAY.”

He hangs up the phone and sags against the back counter.

“This is probably a bad time to ask for a cappuccino with an extra shot,” I query.

It’s as if a bolt of lightening runs through him and as he turns to face me, all the color drains from his young face.

He swallows. Oh no, he’s going to cry.

“You sound exactly like my mom,” he says, so quietly.

“And you look exactly like her,” he says, limply indicating my face, my clothes, his eyes falling to the pumps. His mouth tugs down uncontrollably and he quickly places a large hand over it.

He’s a very pretty male. And quite young, so I decide to construe the mother comment as complimentary.

And then I know it all in a heartbeat. His mother used to work here with him. She’s the woman in the picture in the travel guide. I know that she’s gone.

“I am a superb baker,” I say. “And I make the best cup of coffee on the planet.”

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