This story is by Soleah K. Sadge and won the Grand Prize in our 2022 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Soleah K. Sadge is a contemporary fantasy author who enjoys traveling to places tied to legends and folklore she can use in her stories. She resides in the United States where she reads, writes, knits, and teaches. For more information, visit Soleah’s website at soleahkennasadge.com.
I am the last one. My sisters are long gone. They were soft, floaty, shiny, and beautiful. We were the muses that enhanced her charm and enchantment. Then he came, and my sisters either broke, tore apart, or choked in trash cans.
Did she hide me on purpose, or did she forget me? All I know, I am still hanging here plastered against the far end of the wall, biding my time.
My beads have lost their shine in the damp air surrounding me, but my hope has endured. The newcomers—thick, itchy, poky—are unattractive and bulky, the cruel reification of the new man she brought home.
A muffled voice sounds through the thin sliding door. “Yes, yes. I’ll be there. I know I promised. I will come…. No, he’s not here. I’ll come alone, stay for a bit. Of course, I still own a fancy dress…. I miss you too. I know it has been too long, Katie.”
The closet door wheezes open. As her quick hand flips through the hangers, the metallic clicks become more furious. The pressure against my beady bust loosens. I cherish the flow of fresh air through me. Sensing that she is looking for me sends shivers down my rigid back. Now is my time to shine again. Hope makes my crepe ripple, but I shrink back against the wall. Once he sees me, I will meet my sisters’ fate. If he realizes she has hidden me, I’ll remind him he didn’t break her completely. A last sparkle of rebellion persists, hidden in a closet.
She grabs my hanger and unglues my back from the wall, setting me free. A glow touches my sleeves and soon envelops me. I remember how I used to hang high at the white bedroom door while she was getting ready for parties, dinners, and brunches. The sweet perfume of magnolias would fill a room already sparkling with joy and laughter. Now, in this grim, new reality, all is dark despite the warm afternoon sun.
Still, I am free and will not think of darkness now. The gray tulle covering my skirt wiggles in the air. She lets out a small laugh, and I puff my bust. She holds me tight against her bosom and caresses me. I twitch as the new callouses on her once smooth palms snag at my material. My soft crepe stretches and breaks at the thought of all she has endured. I catch my reflection in the tall mirror, my purple skirt, black belt, and striped beady torso in all their glory. Her brown eyes mirror my sparkle, and we shine.
She hugs me against her bloated body, her gaze saddened. Perhaps too much stress, too much comfort food. Her phone rings. She picks it up while still clutching me. “Yes, yes. Do not worry…. No, I didn’t tell him anything. I’ll be back home before he realizes it anyway. It’s Katie’s big day. I’ll be there…. What? Jon is coming too?” Her voice quivers. Hearing the familiar name brings fond memories of Green Shirt. My stitches shiver. We were the perfect duo. But then the new man with his white shirts came, and the Green Shirt was gone. “I don’t mind. I’ll be there.”
She throws the phone on the unmade bed and sets me reverently on top of misshapen pullovers and sweatpants on the only chair in the room. A single hot tear falls on my beads that used to cover her heart. She wipes it away and applies her colored mask to hide the dark circles under her eyes and the fine lines marking her face, before adding long dangle earrings to frame it. As she sprays a cloud of citrusy perfume in silence, a small upturn lingers at the corner of her lips. With a trembling hand, she gathers me. I can already tell I will fail in making her look as pretty as before. She pulls me down over her head, and I stretch my bodice as much as I can.
My bust tightens around her chest, but I fit. As she adjusts my right sleeve, a swift sharp pain cuts through my stitches along the seam at the inside of her wrist. I hide the small wound well, for I don’t want her to have any excuse to stay home. This evening is ours. As if to agree, she gives an approving nod at her reflection in the mirror, grabs her purse, and together, we venture out. As we wait for the elevator, I pray she will enjoy this rare jaunt.
She enters the ballroom with confidence while I absorb the music, chatter, and mirth filling every corner. I whirl around, spreading my lengthy floaty skirt as if I hadn’t been imprisoned for months. I even welcome the myriad droplets that jump out of glasses, so glad I am to be seen again and praised again.
Suddenly, through the multitudes of fancy chiffon, lace, and satin, I spot Green Shirt’s back. Sensing her freeze, I realize that she has seen him too. Dampness spreads across my crepe back, sticking me to her. As she makes a few tentative steps toward him, her phone rings. She immediately answers, probably thankful for the distraction.
“Hello…” Instant cold runs through her veins, and I shiver. “N-no, no, I just came to congratulate Katie, that’s all….” Her shaky voice becomes a whisper; the waves of dread ripple through my bodice. “You do not need to come. Please, I’ll go back home now. No, no—don’t come.”
She hangs up.
Her phone rings again. She clenches it in her hand, her entire body shaking. Green Shirt is closer now, barring the way to the door. He probably hasn’t seen us yet. What will she do? I quickly widen my bust as she takes deep breaths that make me spread thin. Her shoulders slump, creating sudden folds in my fabric. She has made the wrong decision. She heads toward the door.
But even if she has given up on genuine love, I am not ready to join my sisters, not yet. I need to make Green Shirt notice her. I send my skirt against a nearby chair, tangling it around one of the legs. She stumbles toward his back.
As she settles herself and straightens up, my beads face Green Shirt’s buttons. Her frissons mirror mine, while the warmth emanating from her body softens me. It takes everything I’ve got to spread my fabric to accommodate her heaving. Green Shirt’s sleeve caresses mine. The linen’s sweet musk sends me to heaven.
“J-Jon,” she lets out in a shaky voice.
“Lea?” he whispers. “You are as beautiful as I remember.”
Her phone blares ominously, announcing my murder. No.
“I-I have to go.”
Jon’s hand tightens against me; he must have felt her dread. “Wait, Lea. I can’t let you leave again.”
Trembling, she pushes away from Green Shirt.
I cannot let her doom us both. As she squeezes his arm goodbye, I settle the hole in my seam around Green Shirt’s cufflink. Green Shirt instantly adjusts the cuff to lock it better. I tighten my hold just as she pushes away. Unable to go far, she startles then freezes. Head bent toward our union, teardrops pour on my sleeve.
Jon hugs us tight. “I should have fought for you.” His deep voice resonates through the cuffs and buttons, calming her down. “I swore if I ever found you again, I would ask you to choose me this time.”
His fingers spread against our back, his palm resting on the velvety blue bruise I am hiding. A breeze comes in through the big double doors, wrapping me around his legs.
Please, listen to me.
As if she heard my plea, her small voice resonates through his broad torso. “I have changed since we were together, Jon.”
“So have I. We will get to know each other again. Please, give us a chance.”
Her nod is so subtle I would have missed it if the tips of her earrings didn’t brush against my collar.
Lea lets her ringing phone fall to the ground, and hand in hand, sleeve against sleeve, we run outside toward love and freedom.
Stephanie Newbern says
What a cute, charming, original story! Congrats on winning the Grand Prize!
Janet Jones Bann says
I love this! So well done. Congratulations on your win.
Jane Bolton says
In a word, beautiful.
So clever!!! Loved this story. Congratulations on your win!!