Something was drawing her back to the shop…
WRITTEN BY SUZANNA ROSS
Bella dashed across the road towards the shop. She only meant to have a quick look, but couldn’t resist going in.
“I wonder,” she began, intimidated by the assistant’s bright lipstick smile. “How much is the dress in the window?”
Her shoulders slumped at the reply. The concoction of silk and lace was way beyond her budget.
“I’m sorry,” she muttered, heading for the door. “I think I see my bus…”
She found a seat near the back and gazed, unseeing, out of the window.
The proposal had been a surprise. It couldn’t have come at a worse time financially. But they were in love and wanted to be together – and Bella believed true love could conquer.
In truth, Bella was a romantic.
Good thing too, she recognised as she let herself into the shabby flat she shared with Holly. A romantic outlook had seen her flourish where lesser mortals might have cracked under the strain.
Holly had gone out. Unable to settle to the situations vacant column in the evening paper, Bella wandered into the smaller of the two bedrooms and opened the wardrobe.
Inside hung a dark blue suit. She touched the lapel and sighed.
A woman always remembered her wedding outfit. It should be that dress hanging here, waiting to be worn – not some charity shop bargain.
The dress drew her like a magnet and, next day, she once more found herself at the shop, staring longingly.
“Hello again.” The saleswoman from yesterday popped outside to join her. “It’s lovely, isn’t it?”
“Gorgeous,” Bella replied. “But so expensive.”
“Worth it, though.” The woman’s smile was kind.
“I don’t even have a job. I might as well reach for the moon.”
She felt the assistant’s eyes on her and wished she hadn’t been so candid.
“I’m Martha,” the woman said. “I was about to make myself a hot drink. Would you join me?”
Two cups of coffee later, Bella and Martha were chatting like old friends.
“The redundancy couldn’t have happened at a worse time. But I was last in, so had to be first out,” Bella revealed. “They called it downsizing.”
“Huh – a fancy name for making those left behind work twice as hard.”
Despite herself, Bella laughed.
“I think fate must have sent you here,” Martha said. “I’m looking for an assistant.”
“Are you serious?”
“You’d be entitled to staff discount. And I could take payments for the dress out of your wages in instalments.”
She took her prize home that night. Lifting the dress from its nest of tissue paper, she draped it over her bed.
“What’s this?” Holly demanded, pausing in the doorway.
Buying a wedding dress for another woman might have been a risk. But Bella was as sure as she could be that this was the style of dress Holly would have chosen, had money been no object.
She smiled, seeing the delight on Holly’s face as the dress worked its magic.
“Try it on,” Bella urged and Holly didn’t need telling twice.
“I don’t know what to say.” She twirled this way and that, gently gauging the swish of silk and lace.
“Do you like it?”
“I adore it. It’s exactly like the one I fancied in that bridal magazine.”
Holly couldn’t take her eyes from her reflection.
“I know.” She’d seen the look on Holly’s face when her gaze had lingered on the page. “I’ve wanted you to have so many lovely things over the years and you never grumbled when I couldn’t afford them.”
Bella didn’t try to hide the tears running down her face.
“I never minded.” Holly sniffed.
That was the very reason Bella had been desperate beyond reason to buy this dress for Holly.
“It’s been hard since your dad died, but I couldn’t see you married without a proper wedding dress.”
Holly launched herself at Bella and held her in a hug so tight, Bella suspected she might have cracked a rib.
And Bella hugged her right back.