JBWB Autumn Competition
The winning story
Iíd never had a little black dress. Nor even
a big one. Shapeless grey, that was me. But this, this was something
different. It seemed to beckon to me from the shop window as I
walked down the High Street. I stopped, and stood for a while,
my gaze lost in the black silk. The dress seemed to whisper to
me, promising me everything I had ever desired.
The following week I heard the dress murmuring,
calling me softly as I turned into the High Street. It was still
in its place in the centre of the window. So beautiful it was,
and yet it had not been sold.
waiting for you.
I stepped inside the shop. I did not even get
to try the dress on. The assistant looked at me sneeringly. Up
and down. As if I was a blot on the landscape. A monstrous† carbuncle. Which I was. How presumptious of
me for having a large body. A body which men like to touch and
you to do something for me.
ďPlease let me see it!Ē I implored. The assistant
pursed her lips and brought it from the window.†
She held it out for a moment and I caressed the silk. Waves
of warm energy flowed to me. Warm loving energy.
like to have me? What will you do for me?
Anything, I said. Anything.
It was a size 10.†
Yes, I sighed, anything. I love you. I want you.
I went to the supermarket and filled my bag with
carrots and lettuces and low-fat yoghourts. I threw out all the
foods that would prevent me from having my heartís desire. Every
week I went to the shop on the High Street to visit the dress.
And every week it was still there, in the middle of the window.
There came the day when the assistant looked
me up and down and measured me with her snooty eyes, and allowed
me to take it to the cubicle and hold it, while she stood guard
by the door, her arms folded. The dress shimmered and whispered
close to me. It cleaved softly to my body, and soothed me.
be yours. Very soon.
The hunger was difficult to bear,
as I lay the night in my big black wooden bed, hearing the mice
pattering and the cat scratching and the old house creaking, sensing
the scowl of the big black spider in the corner. But whenever
I thought I could bear it no longer, the dress stole into my mind
and reminded me of my pledge.
Every week I went to the shop on the
High Street and was allowed to hold the dress. It seemed the thinner
I got, the smaller the dress got. It was a test of my devotion.
One day, after many weeks,†
as I held the dress hunger made me swoon, and for just
an instant I hovered out of time in a swirl of silk.
And one day, as I reached out to touch
the dress, my fingers shimmered, iridescent, merging with the
And then came the day when I woke up in the morning,
light as air. I knew today was the day. I called the cat, but
she didnít come. I floated out of the house. The bus conductor
didnít take my fare. I glided into the shop. This time the assistant
didnít stop me. Didnít look me up and down. Didnít sneer. She
looked straight through me. I soared on a wave of light to the
window and at long last I closed my arms around my dress. And
a puff and a swish and we were one.
Now I see you coming along the High
Street, your shopping bag filled with cakes and pastries. Would
you like to have me? What will you do for me?
Valerie Collins 1999
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