the dress

(this week’s assignment: write a story from the POV of the person in this painting)

This night, one that had all the markings of a triumph, now seemed destined for ruin. A girl plucked from the social margins, Charlotte had been chosen as the star of her school’s musical. She had delivered a flawless closing night performance. The arc of her narrative had captivated the entire community.

Yet, here she sat, dress torn, all alone.

Well, that’s typical, she thought.

No good comes from trying to be someone you’re not, her father always said.

Laying back on the bed, the crinoline of her designer gown scratching at her legs, Charlotte tried to ignore the urge to scream. Below her people were laughing, celebrating her success, without her.

The house was full of cast members, crew and school staff. And her mother, the woman she hadn’t seen in fifteen years.

God, what did she do to deserve this new layer of hell? That woman, whose only connection to Charlotte was her DNA, suddenly shows up.Tonight. The one time in her life when she thought, maybe it’ll be okay. Maybe I can fit in.

Her father always said, your mother is useless. A selfish bitch. A taker. Well, she definitely stole something from me, thought Charlotte.

My night. This was supposed to be my night.

Rolling onto her side, Charlotte noticed the ornate fixtures on the sink in the adjoining bathroom. One of the taps was dripping and although she could not hear the sound over the noise of the party below, she noted the rhythm of the drip and began to tap it out on the footboard.

You need to calm yourself, her father always said. Don’t be a hysterical woman like your mother.

By focusing on the drip, her breathing slowed, and her anger began to subside. She did not hear the door open, but the increased audio intensity of the party broke her meditative state.

“Charlie?”

Charlotte’s fingers stopped midair.

That’s a boy’s name, her father always said. No good comes from trying to be someone you’re not.

The woman entered the room cautiously, closed the door and leaned against it.

“I didn’t mean to upset you, and I really didn’t mean to rip your dress. It was my bracelet, it just caught…”

Charlotte stood up abruptly, placing her hands firmly on her hips. “Stop. Don’t make excuses. Father says that’s what you do.”

The woman flinched at the mention of her ex-husband.

Your mother’s the devil, she’ll scratch out your eyes if she gets close enough, her father always said. Who was he describing? Certainly not this mousey creature before her?

The older woman straightened up, trying to square her shoulders.

“Your friends are waiting for you. The hostess says there’s a sewing kit in the room next door, why don’t we see if we can fix your dress?”

Charlotte pushed her mother aside and began to open the door. “No good comes from trying to be someone you’re not.”

 

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