October 1987, Boulder, Colorado
“Oh, Eve, don’t tell me you’re going to work on that creative writing assignment now instead of going to the homecoming dance.”
In her dorm room at the University of Colorado, Eve Barry was staring at the blank piece of paper in her typewriter, waiting for her poised fingers to produce something. She sighed and ran her fingers through her long, black hair as she turned to her roommate, Charlene Tucker, who was fresh from the shower, clad only in a black terry-cloth robe, her dark, wet curls plastered to her head.
“I’m really not interested in going to the dance, and this assignment’s due Monday. I went to the game this afternoon.”
“Yeah, wasn’t that awesome? We creamed the Wyoming Cowboys.”
“Wait a minute! You’re from Wyoming.”
“Yeah, but I’m in Colorado, now, and we have something to celebrate. You really should come to the dance. I know you don’t have a date, but I’m sure Alex wouldn’t mind if you came with us.”
“I really should work on this tonight, so I’m not cramming to get it done tomorrow on top of my other assignments, especially since I have writer’s block. With just about everybody at the dance, I shouldn’t have any distractions, and maybe something will come to me.”
Charlene rolled her eyes and moved to her side of the room, where she switched on her bedside radio, tuned to a soft rock station.
“What was the assignment again?” she asked as she removed her bathrobe and began applying lotion.
“I’m supposed to write about a memorable piece of clothing.”
“That’s easy. Write about the dress you wore your first day of kindergarten, when you threw up all over the nun who hit you with a ruler for being late.”
Eve almost laughed. “That’s not my story. You’re the one who went to a parochial school.”
“So? It’s still a story. Your professor will never know the difference.”
Eve sighed again. She wasn’t surprised by her roommate’s attitude. Charlene didn’t understand or appreciate literature the way she did.
Eve watched Charlene finish applying lotion, dry her hair, and put on her undergarments, then rifle through her closet for something to wear. All the while, Charlene prattled on about Alex Smith, the boy who would accompany her to the dance, the captain of the football team-about how handsome he was in his uniform, how he could throw a ball and run. She realized why Charlene was suddenly loyal to the University of Colorado team and felt like throwing up.
Finally, Charlene said, “Ugh! There’s nothing good here. If you’re not gonna go to the dance, could I borrow something from your closet?”
Eve was anxious for Charlene to leave. She turned back to her desk.
Hangers in her closet scraped against the metal bar as articles of clothing were shoved aside.
“Oh, look at this!” said Charlene.
Eve turned and could only stare at the bright red dress she’d almost forgotten.
Charlene held the garment at arm’s length, admiring the three-quarter-length sleeves, low neckline, and gathered waist. “Oh, my God! This is beautiful! Where did you get it, and why do you keep it way off to one side in your closet?”
Eve then heard on the radio the mellow strains of “Lady in Red,” the song she’d pushed to the back of her mind and hoped never to hear again.
Charlene laid the dress on Eve’s bed and hurried to her side. Kneeling and taking her hand, she said, “Hey, what is it?”
Eve could hold back no longer. With tears streaming down her face, she said, “I wore that dress, and we danced to that song.”
“Oh, God,” said Charlene, leaping to her feet. She hurried to her side of the room and turned off the radio, then returned.
The next thing Eve knew, she was crying on Charlene’s shoulder as her roommate knelt on the floor next to her chair and held her. The incident had occurred several months earlier, but the wound was still fresh. Finally, when no more tears would come, Eve sat up and blew her nose.
“There’s your story,” said Charlene. “But maybe you’d better tell me first.”
Eve found herself blurting it all out.
“Mom made that dress for my senior prom. I had a date with Trent Boyer, the cutest boy in school. He was the captain of the football team, and I loved watching him play.”
“Wow, just like Alex.”
“Yeah. Well, at the prom, we danced to that song, and I felt like I truly loved him, and I thought he loved me. Afterwards, he said he had to use the restroom. Other boys asked me to dance, and I got to talking with my friends, and when I looked around the gym later, I couldn’t find him. I asked my friends if they’d seen him, and they just shook their heads.”
“Like I said, I thought he loved me. I didn’t think he’d leave me. I decided to go out to the parking lot to see if his car was still there. He’d dropped me off at the entrance, so I didn’t know where he’d parked. It took me a while to find his car, but I did, in a dark corner up against the fence by the football field. I looked in the window and saw two figures in the back seat.”
“Oh, my God.”
“I thought I was imagining things. I was on the driver’s side, so I opened that door, and of course the light came on, and there they were, Trent and my best friend, Adele Matthews. Or at least I thought she was my best friend.”
Eve paused to fight back more tears, and Charlene asked, “Were they actually having sex, or were they just necking?”
“They were totally naked. Of course they stopped when I opened the door, and they both looked at me like I was from another planet or something. I said a few choice words I’d learned from my dad, then slammed the door and ran back into the building.”
“Good for you.”
“I went to the restroom and cried my eyes out. Fortunately, no one was there. Then I washed my face and put on more makeup so I wouldn’t look as if I’d been crying. I went to the pay phone in the hall near the main office and called home. Mom answered, and she could tell something was wrong, so she came and picked me up.”
“I’ll bet you didn’t want to go back to school after that.”
“I didn’t, but Mom and Dad said it wouldn’t do any good to hide from my problems. I had to face them head on.”
“What did you do when you saw Trent and Adele at school?”
“I didn’t speak to them, and they never spoke to me. Other kids knew, I think, but nobody said anything to me about it. Boy, was I glad a few weeks later, when graduation came.”
“I’ll bet. Have you heard from Adele or Trent since then?”
“No. Adele was planning to come here with me and major in drama, like you, but I heard that Trent got her pregnant, and they ran off to Las Vegas to get married.”
“So why did you bring that dress with you?”
“Mom insisted I take it in case there was something formal here.”
“Like the homecoming dance.”
“I’m not going to the dance. You can borrow the dress if you want.”
“You know, I can see why you put this dress off to one side. It’s only hurting you now. Let me take it off your hands. You don’t need it anymore.”
“But my mother made it. Of course I wanted a store-bought dress, but she wanted to save money and make me one. She worked long days at her job as director of the public library. There were only two weeks left until the prom when I told her I wanted a new dress, so she stayed up nights and scrambled to get it done.”
“Oh, you poor, homesick baby. Now you miss your mommy, who made this beautiful dress for you. Are you gonna cry now? Go ahead, crybaby. Cry.”
Eve was stunned but shouldn’t have been surprised. Her roommate cared little about others’ feelings. Her sympathy and curiosity were only a ploy, and she would stop at nothing to get what she wanted.
“Fine, take the damn dress. I don’t care,” Eve said before turning away in disgust.
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Charlene slip the garment over her head. She had to admit it looked good on her.
A few minutes later, there was a knock at the door. Charlene opened it, and a tall young man with dark hair and blue eyes stood on the threshold.
“Hi, Alex,” said Charlene. “I just need to grab my cigarettes, and we can go. Come in and meet my roommate.”
“You’re not coming to the dance?” Alex asked after they were introduced.
“No,” Charlene answered. “Eve’s going to stay here and write the great American novel. Or something like that.”
“Wow,” said Alex with a smirk. “Good luck. I can’t wait to read it. Let’s go, babe.”
After they left, Eve sighed, turned to her typewriter, placed her fingers on the keys, and started writing
The above excerpt from The Red Dress appears in the spring/summer issue of Magnets and Ladders, an online publication featuring work by disabled authors like me. If you like what you just read, check out more here. This excerpt can also be read on my website.
By the way, My Ideal Partner and The Red Dress are now available on Smashwords as part of its sale to support those isolated by the coronavirus. This sale will run until the end of May. Please click here to visit my Smashwords author page and download these books. As always, thank you for reading.
Copyright July 2019 by DLD Books
When Eve went to her high school senior prom, she wore a red dress that her mother had made for her. That night, after dancing with the boy of her dreams, she caught him in the act with her best friend. Months later, Eve, a freshman in college, is bullied into giving the dress to her roommate. After her mother finds out, their relationship is never the same again.
Twenty-five years later, Eve, a bestselling author, is happily married with three children. Although her mother suffers from dementia, she still remembers, and Eve still harbors the guilt for giving the dress away. When she receives a Facebook friend request from her old college roommate and an invitation to her twenty-five-year high school class reunion, then meets her former best friend by chance, she must confront the past in order to face the future.
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