WRITTEN BY LYNDA FRANKLIN
Maria’s daughter had inherited her unusual taste, but could she afford it?
Daisy pulled a face. Hadn’t she told her mum a thousand times how much she hated spaghetti bolognese? Pushing her plate away, she gulped down a swallow of water.
“Daisy’s not eating her dinner.”
Mia was six. Daisy didn’t remember being six but doubted she’d been as tale-telling as her young sister.
Her two brothers said nothing. There was little on the planet they wouldn’t eat.
“What’s wrong with it?”
“Nothing’s wrong with it, Mum. I just don’t like spaghetti bolognese.”
“Since forever?” Daisy gave her the withering look only teenagers can pull off.
Her mother Maria shrugged. “You’ll have to have beans on toast then.”
“Well at least I can eat beans on toast,” Daisy muttered, scraping back her chair to fetch the beans.
Maria sighed. She was sure Daisy had eaten it last time. Anyway, mince was cheap and money was tight. They all seemed to take turns at growing out of clothes and shoes.
“Keira’s got hers already,” Daisy observed, waiting for the beans to warm and toast to pop up.
Maria looked up. “Got what?”
“Her dress, of course.”
Maria felt her stomach tighten
The Prom dress. Were they going to have that conversation again?
“I haven’t seen it yet but she says it’s really lovely.” Spooning clumps of beans on to her toast, Daisy sat back at the table. She was in a better mood now.
“I expect it’s all bridesmaidy though. I want something different. I’m not going to have the same as everyone else.”
“Prom dresses can be really expensive, Daisy.”
“I’ll know it when I see it, I know I will.” Daisy wasn’t listening. “I can’t wait. Keira’s dad said he’ll drive us in his sports car – you know, with the roof down and everything.”
“But what if it’s raining?” Mia again.
“Then we’ll keep it up, obviously.”
“The town centre’s got a few sales on at the moment.” Maria said hopefully.
Daisy shook her head.
“No. I hate all those shops.”
“All of them?”
Maria took a swig of water. Her dinner was getting hard to digest.
“Well, plenty of time.”
How she was going to find money for a Prom dress, she had no idea. Daisy wasn’t easy to buy for at the best of times. She was so particular about everything she wore. Her friends admired her unusual taste. Daisy style, they called it. It was certainly unique! Yet sometimes Maria just wished she would wear jeans and T-shirts like every other teenager.
“It’s your fault,” Ben said affectionately when she told her husband later. “You were just the same. You were wearing flares long after the world had stopped wearing them. Sequined tops and weird scarf things. I’m surprised I recognised you some days.” He was grinning. “Even your hair changed colour from week to week.”
“Yes – well, I liked fashion back then, if that’s what you’re trying to say.” She looked down at her sensible black trousers and long blue jumper and sighed. “I’m not entirely sure what happened to that person.”
“You always look nice,” Ben told her.
Maria smiled then. She was rather pleased that he remembered the clothes she used to wear.
Maria flicked on the internet the next day and scrolled around looking at the price of Prom dresses. There were some for thirty to forty pounds, but she knew Daisy would never agree to wear any of them.
Anyway, thirty or forty pounds was still too much to find at the moment. If only the boiler hadn’t broken and Jacob didn’t want a new bike for his birthday.
She sighed and, as usual, dived into the biscuit bin for solace. No wonder she was always dressed in long, forgiving jumpers these days.
As the weeks went on, Katy, Megan and Carla acquired their dresses too.
Not the sort Daisy would ever be seen in, of course – much too ordinary. But as she kept saying, she’d know the perfect dress when she saw it.
That’s what Maria was afraid of!
Mulling over Ben’s words in bed one night, remembering some of the outlandish outfits she used to wear, she suddenly thought about her wedding dress. It had caused quite a stir at the time. In fact she’d had a big argument with her mother when she told her what she intended to wear.
Red! You want a red wedding dress! Don’t be so silly. Brides wear white, or ivory – cream maybe. You can’t wear red. What will Auntie Sue say?
Auntie Sue. Maria smiled in the dark. If ever there was a scary aunt, it was her. She was in Australia now, having emigrated years ago. At least she didn’t have to worry about Auntie Sue’s take on things these days.
Maria relaxed. Her beautiful red wedding dress was in the loft, wrapped in tissue paper. It would make a perfect Prom dress for her daughter. She turned over and snuggled under the duvet, sure she’d solved the problem. She also felt quite excited about getting it out again.
The dress looked pretty crumpled in the box, but then it had been up there for twenty years. Lifting it out gently, she hung it on a hanger on the door and stood back to admire it.
It was a bit faded despite her careful wrapping, she had to admit – but it could be cleaned, pressed back into shape, restored to its former glory.
She decided she wouldn’t show it to Daisy yet. She would have it cleaned properly and then reveal the beautiful chiffon layers in brilliant red to her daughter. She’d adore it!
A week later Maria found herself listening for Daisy’s key in the door.
She heard the door open and slam shut, the thud of a heavy school bag being thrown down somewhere, and Daisy’s boots clumping down the hall.
The red dress hung on a hanger from the picture rail. Maria quickly smoothed one of the chiffon folds and waited for the lounge door to be flung open.
“Hiya, Mum. I’m starving. What’s for dinner tonight?”
Maria didn’t answer, just stood there smiling, waiting for Daisy to notice the dress. Suddenly she did.
“Yeah, well I can see that. What’s it doing hanging there?”
“Do you like it?”
Daisy shrugged. “All right, I suppose.”
“It’s my wedding dress, Daisy. I was a bit off-the-wall myself in those days,” she added, needing somehow to assert that she hadn’t always been a black trouser plain jumper kind of girl.
“Wedding dress?” Daisy screwed up her face. “Looks a bit weird for a wedding dress.”
Maria was gradually growing aware that she wasn’t getting the reaction she’d anticipated. Daisy was already heading for the door.
“I thought you might like it for your Prom dress,” she blurted out.
Daisy gave a short laugh and stopped.
“You serious, Mum?”
“Well, yes. I mean, it’s a lovely dress and I’ve had it cleaned and everything, and I’m sure it will fit you.”
“Mum, do you really expect me to go to my Prom wearing your old wedding dress?” There was an amused look on Daisy’s face.
“You said yourself it doesn’t look like a wedding dress, and –”
“No, Mum. There’s no way I’m wearing that flouncy bright red dress. Sorry and all that – but no thanks.”
“Can I have it for dressing up, then?” Mia asked, poking her head round the door.
“No!” Maria tried to compose her face. This was her wedding dress. They had no idea how special it was to her. How the swishy soft chiffon had billowed in the breeze, soft against her skin. How the congregation had gasped when she entered the church. She made an entrance in those days. She’d bucked the trend. They had no idea at all.
She carefully took it down from the rail and held it against her.
“I can’t imagine you in that, Mum,” Daisy said smiling, then headed out in search of the biscuit tin.
Maria packed the red dress away.
“Oh well, I still love you,” she told it.
A week or so passed and more and more of the girls had apparently bought their Prom dresses. None of which were admired by Daisy.
“They all look the same,” she said, adding as always, “I’ll know the dress for me when I see it.”
“How are we going to pay for this dress, Ben?” Maria asked her husband that evening. “She has to have one. You only go a Prom once in your life.”
“Can’t you alter your wedding dress into a different style or something?”
“No, Ben. I’m not going to cut up my wedding dress.”
“You won’t wear it again, love.”
“Ben – it’s my wedding dress!” Why did no one understand the importance of such things in this house?
“Anyway, she doesn’t like it.”
“Ah, right. Well we’ll have to find the money then, won’t we? There’s a bit put by in case the car claps out. We’ll have to use that for now.”
They both agreed it was Daisy’s day, and she had to have a special dress. Hopefully their old car would manage to keep going a bit longer.
Saturday lunchtime and as usual they were having egg and chips.
“Why do we always have yucky eggs on Saturday?” Mia said.
“Because it’s easy,” Maria told her. “Help set the table, will you – boys, sort out the knives and forks please.”
The door suddenly crashed open and Daisy bungled through with a large carrier bag in her hand. Her face was flushed, smiling. “I’ve got it!”
Daisy nodded madly.
It’s perfect! I told you I’d know as soon as I saw it, didn’t I? Well, I saw it and I bought it!
“How? How on earth could you buy it? Where did you get the money from to buy a dress?”
“Keira’s mum lent it to me. I met her and Keira in town by accident and she said she would lend me the money. I told her you’d pop it round later.”
“Pop it round? Well I don’t know –”
“I’ll go and try it on.”
“I thought you didn’t like any of the shops in town.”
“I like this one.”
“Oh – right.”
Daisy ran upstairs to try on her dress and Maria looked helplessly at Ben. Thank goodness they had the emergency car money. How embarrassing it would be otherwise.
“Ta-dah!” Daisy came back a few minutes later and did a small twirl. “Well? What do you think?”
Maria gave a small gasp as she looked at the soft green and cream vintage lace dress clinging to her daughter’s slim frame. The sleeves were short and delicate, the low neckline perfect against her smooth toned skin, and Daisy’s hair, free from her make-do bun, cascaded around her face in red gold waves.
“Oh my goodness. It’s beautiful!” she murmured. “You look beautiful.”
Daisy gave a whoop.
“Great, isn’t it? I love it.”
“How much?” That was Ben.
“For goodness sake, Dad, all you think about is money. Do you like it?”
He nodded. “Very nice. And expensive by the look of it.”
“Keira’s mum lent me the money no problem. She doesn’t go on about money all the time.”
“Well, we do have a tight budget, love,” Maria said. “It’s a beautiful dress, and you look beautiful in it – but, well, how much do I owe Keira’s mum?”
“Will we need to pay her in instalments?” Ben asked.
“It cost five pounds.” With both her parents speechless Daisy added, “It was up for ten pounds in the charity shop, but I found a very small loose thread on the back and asked if they’d accept five.”
“You made an offer in a charity shop?” Maria asked, stunned.
Daisy gave another twirl. “Isn’t it the most perfect dress in the whole world? As soon as I saw it, I knew it was the one. Oh – ” she paused at the door – “don’t forget to give Keira’s mum the money, will you?”
Maria shrugged in disbelief as her daughter ran back up the stairs.
“Well – Prom dress sorted it seems.”
Ben put his arm around her.
“I’m glad she didn’t wear your wedding dress.”
“We would have saved five pounds,” she reminded him.
He gave her a squeeze.
“No one could look as lovely as you did in that dress on our wedding day. I can still remember looking round and seeing you walking down the aisle.”
Maria snuggled into him, laughing softly.
“And I can still remember the look on Auntie Sue’s face!”
Our My Weekly Favourites series of lovely short fiction from our archives continues on Mondays and Thursdays. Look out for the next one.
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