HA! I should post this unedited and see how many of you can interpret it. I dictated this on day 2 of Nanowrimo, and it is sometimes funny how the program interprets my “No’the’n speech.” But I will re- interpret for you…
A couple of days after Candy’s 10th birthday, Martha was over visiting. They had a pretend tea party, with sugar water, and Vienna fingers. Candy’s mother had to go on a rare trip to the store, and admonished the girls to behave themselves. “Don’t let anyone come into the house,” she said sternly. “Not even family.”
Candy thought that was an odd thing to say, but her mother had never left her alone with a friend before, either, so the thought soon left her head. The girls cleaned up their mess as they had been instructed, and then went to the living room to sit in the Canadian glider rocking chairs. The two of them studied the ceiling as they thought about what to do next. Candy had a few suggestions, like playing cards, or pretend games, but Martha wasn’t interested, and started studying the door, as if she wanted to leave.
“I know. Let’s go up to the attic and poke around,” Candy said at length, surprising herself. Martha looked doubtful. Candy doubled her courage. “No, Martha, seriously, you’ll love it. My mother has some old dresses up there from when she went to the prom in high school. Real old fashioned fancy dresses, with stiff skirts and layers and stuff. They’re beautiful. You”ve never seen anything like them.”
Martha looked a bit interested “Can we try them on?”
“I gue–ess,” Candy said hesitantly. “If we’re careful.” Candy knew instinctively that her mother would not appreciate Candy even knowing they were there, never mind touching them or, God forbid, trying them on. But, she wanted Martha to stay. Needed Martha to stay.
As they crept up the narrow stairway to the attic, Candy smelled the delightful smell of what she thought of as “old.” Old furniture, old clothes, old lamps, old letters, just old “stuff.” Forbidden stuff. As she tried the attic door it occurred to her that this door was usually locked. Maybe this was a trick on her mother’s part, she thought for a moment, trying to catch me at doing something bad. But she ignored that niggling feeling in her belly.
She eased the door open slowly, noticing the dancing dust particles in front of the big round window of the attic. That window was its only light and the only reason that Candy dared to creep up to the attic at all. “They’re over here,” she said to Martha, gesturing toward a big wardrobe across the room.
It gave Candy happy goose bumps when Martha said, almost with awe, “Your attic is so big! Ours is what my dad calls a crawl space. There’s no room for nothing. Here, you have a whole world!” Martha stopped in front of a low, dark brown bureau with an oval-shaped mirror. The outside edges of the mirror were prism-like, distorting the girls’ image. “Dahling…” Martha simpered, primping n front of it and frowning sternly. “Fetch my wrap, would you?” she said to Candy.
“Yes, Madame,” Candy said, wrapping a pretend cloak around her friend. “It’s just lovely.”
“Yes, lovely.” Then she dropped the play-act. “Candy, where are those dresses? I want to try them on.”
“They, um, they’re in here, but …” she stood protectively in front of the wardrobe. “We can’t touch them. We can only look.”
Martha tilted her head at Candy, frowning. “Are you trying to tell me you’ve never touched them?”
“Yes, but … my mother …”
“Your mother, your mother … that’s all I’ve heard all afternoon. Let me see them!” She pushed Candy out of the way.
The wardrobe itself was magical. It reminded Candy of the one in “The Chronicles of Narni” stories, and she cringed at the thought of Martha opening the door. This was her place, her fantasy, her escape. She hadn’t realized what she was doing when she invited Martha. Especially since Martha didn’t seem to realize the import of what they were doing.
“Oh! These are great!” Martha pulled at the skirt of one of the dresses and ripped it from its hanger The hanger swung wildly as the dress came free.
“Careful!” Candy gasped. “Wait! Let me see your hands!”
“My … hands?” Martha held them out, one at a time.
“Rub them on your pant leg. They’re clean but they’re all sweaty.”
Martha shrugged. “If you wish.” She briefly swiped at her thighs, then picked the dress up again. “Here, this one’s yours. I want the red one.”
Candy secretly preferred the pale yellow one Martha had rejected, but none of the gowns should be handled the way Martha was grabbing at them. The red one had a cream-colored bodice covered with a sheer layer of material, and a dark red rose applique on the right bodice. The skirt was of the same dark red color with many layers of chiffon, and again, a layer of sheer material overlay. Martha held it up against herself. “I love it!” She swiftly turned it in her hands and pulled roughly at the zipper until it snagged half way down.
“Wait! Stop it! Be gentle!” she yelled, grabbing at Martha’s hands.
“I’ve got it! Just wait!”
“You’re ripping it!” Candy could barely breathe. “Give it here!” She grabbed the dress and pulled.
“No!” Martha pushed at Candy as she held tightly to the gown.
The dress slowly gave way in their hands, with an almost soundless ripping sound. “Nooooo! Lookit it! It’s ruined!”
“It’s not. It’s fine. See? You can fix it easily.” Martha pushed the edges of the rip together.
Candy’s eyes filled with tears. “No, Martha. Oh man are we gonna get it.”
“We? Your mom can’t punish me.”
“Oh but she will make me pay!”
“No, I will take it home to my mom. She can fix it.”
“We can’t let it out of here! Mom will know!”
“Now, think about it, Candy, would you rather she find it here all fixed, or would you rather she find… this!” and Martha held up the dress.
“Oh my gosh! I don’t know what to do!”
“I’ll tell you what to do. Here. Give me that bag over there.” She balled up the dress and grabbed the bag from Candy. “I’ll take it home to my mother. She can fix it. I’ll bring it back. Easy-peasy.”
Candy nearly hyperventilated, seeing the dress all balled up in Martha’s hands and then stuffed into the bag. But she didn’t know what else to do. “Okay. Okay! Well, we better get you out of here fast.”
The two girls thumped down the stairs and opened the front door. Candy peered left, then right. “Mom! she’s coming!” She pushed Martha out the door. “Run home! Quick, before she sees the dress!”
Martha ran, in the opposite direction of the maroon Pontiac coming down the road. Martha ran up the stairs to the attic to close the wardrobe doors and make sure everything was in place. Thankfully they had not made much of a mess. Candy ran down the stairs to her room. Out of breath, she was sitting on her bed just as her mother came into her bedroom.
“She – she had to go home.”
“Oh, I thought she was going to stay the afternoon. So what are you doing in here?”
“I was doing my homework.” Candy looked down at her bed. “I was about to, I mean. Martha just left. Martha just left and I’m about to do my homework.”
Her mother studied her for a moment. “What’s going on here, Candy?”
In the pause that followed, Candy felt her face turn red and a drop of sweat run down the side of her face. “Nothing,” she finally said, too late too late, she chided herself.
“Now, come on now Candy, there is something going on.” Her mother crossed her arms and waited.
“I … I was just upset. That Martha left. I was just upset that Martha left.” Candy’s eyes filled with tears, and then she felt a hopeful relief, that she had landed upon something plausible, and that even the tears might help her story.
She felt her mother’s eyes continue to travel over her face, looking for lies, she supposed, and she would find them, Candy feared. Then her mother sighed. “That’s why it’s no good to have friends. I don’t think you should have her here anymore. Go wash your face. It’s another hour before you have to set the table. Go get your “homework” done.” This last she said with a bit of sarcasm. “You don’t have to make up stories with me, Candy.”
Oh yes I do, Mother, Candy thought, nearly throwing up after her mother shut the bedroom door behind her.