WRITTEN BY SUE JOHNSON
Could the dress really be responsible for the strange magic between them…?
Alice wanted the red lace dress in Christabel’s Antique shop as much as I did. We’d spent all morning searching for something to wear to the party before ending up in the familiar shop near the market.
The shop smells of lavender and mothballs and Christabel Lyndhurst is like an ancient black spider. She reeks of gin and stale perfume but she tells the most wonderful stories about the people who once owned the things she sells.
Alice picked up some painted glass earring with a label that read Once belonged to a Russian Princess in faded brown ink.
“I’m having these, Rachel. One nil to me.”
She was still crowing when I noticed the dress.
It was draped over a dummy in the gloomiest corner of the shop. I was just reading the label, Worn by a Lady on the occasion of her engagement, when Alice saw it too.
“That’s mine. You’ll never get into it.”
You’re too pale for this colour…
“You’ve already got the earrings,” I said, “and you’re too pale for this colour.”
“Go behind the screen dear and try it on,” said Christabel as she tottered towards us on scuffed black stilettos.
“The smell of mothballs will drive the blokes wild at the party,” said Alice as she grudgingly gave her approval when I stepped out into the shop.
“I hope it brings you luck in love dear,” said Christabel as she wrapped the dress in crumpled tissue paper.
Alice teased me all the way home on the bus.
Lucky in love’s the last thing I want
“The minute a bloke gets serious, I’m off. Lucky in love’s the last thing I want,” I said.
“Just imagine a Russian Princess wearing my earrings,” said Alice dreamily.
“Christabel makes up all that stuff – I bet none of its true,” I said.
“Just imagine if it was though.” Alice is a true romantic.
“Those earrings were probably painted last week in a sweat shop. You don’t want to believe everything you read.”
“I wish you had more imagination,” grumbled Alice. “Life might be more fun for you.”
“It’s exciting enough thank you,” I said as I got off the bus.
I felt strange when I slid into the red lace folds of the dress. It was high-necked and short-skirted and it hugged my body like a second skin. I felt light-headed, as if I’d been drinking champagne. I wanted to dance and I ached to feel someone’s arms round me – someone special.
I laughed at my reflection in the mirror. Alice’d really think I’d gone mad. Me – Rachel – the girl who’d never wanted a serious relationship saying she felt romantic.
No harm in a change of style, I told myself defiantly as I put on my make-up. It won’t last beyond tomorrow.
I hadn’t been at the party long when a guy called Rob asked me to dance. He had spiky dark hair and eyes the colour of violets, and was wearing a distinctive ruffled shirt. We were still dancing two hours later.
“You must be keen on him,” whispered Alice when Rob went to get drinks. “You’ve been dancing with him for two hours and you haven’t argued yet.”
“He’s OK,” I shrugged. I knew it was no good building my hopes up. I told myself I was only feeling special because of the dress. By tomorrow the strange feelings I was experiencing would’ve disappeared like fairytale magic.
Rob walked me home and I didn’t want to say goodbye. We kissed for ages under the canopy of stars and I felt sad when he said goodbye.
I couldn’t sleep. The red lace dress was on its hanger on the back of my bedroom door. Could something like a dress have created the magic? I tossed and turned, feeling certain I’d never see him again.
I had to see you again to make sure last night was real
At eight o’clock, my doorbell rang. Rob didn’t look as if he’d slept either.
“Christabel sold me this shirt,” he said. “She said it’d be lucky for me. Thing is, I don’t usually believe in stuff like that. I had to see you again to make sure last night was real.”
I looked at him and felt the magic again.
“It’s real,” I said as I kissed him.