The floor wasn’t big enough for all three girls to lay out their paper patterns so Jenny went first. Her dress would be full-length pale blue satin, spaghetti straps.Anne and Liz sat and watched. Jenny had sewn things before, the short tartan wool skirt she was wearing now was home-made, fully lined and everything. Jenny knelt on the floor, pins between her lips, smoothing fabric and smoothing paper, pinning along the lines. Her treasured scissors were in her sewing box. Satin was horribly slippery fabric to sew and Jenny wished Anne and Liz would do something rather than just sit there like wet weekends. All she could see was their feet. Anne’s white tennis shoes were muddy around the rubber sole. Liz was in bare feet, the red polish peeling off her toenails. The Rag Ball was on Saturday. She had no idea how Anne and Liz intended to sew their dresses. She got the feeling they only bought patterns and fabric because she had. This happened a lot. If she’d said she was going to bleach her hair blonde, they probably would too. It had been like this for almost three years. At first it had been giggly, all girls new at university. They’d been a team and she’d felt flattered they wanted to know her opinion on things, looked for her guidance.
It was Christmas when her appreciation turned to annoyance. At the market, the fine snowflakes had turned to sleet and the three girls sheltered beside the gas fire at the stall selling hand-knitted jumpers. Then Anne bought the snowflake sweater Jenny had purchased to wear on Christmas Day, and Jenny was furious. The next day, Liz appeared wearing the green version.
Three years later, everything they did annoyed Jenny. The radio was on and the four feet started tapping and twitching, as if dancing sitting down. Jenny opened her mouth to shout ‘Shut up, will you?’ but the words never left her mouth. Anne and Liz started to sing All I Want for Christmas is You in their best Mariah Carey impersonations. They held out to Jenny a bundle wrapped in red tissue paper and tied up with a silver ribbon.
‘It’s for you-hooo….’
The shout died in Jenny’s throat and she felt instantly mean. Inside the package was the glitzy blue necklace she’d admired on the jewellery stall at the market yesterday. It was exactly the same colour of delicate watery blue as the satin. She tried to say thank you but a lump in her throat prevented the words from passing. Her cerulean eyes filled with tears as she jumped to her feet and together they all danced together. Swaying in time to the music, their feet carefully picking a safe path around the panels of blue satin still laid out on the floor.
Mariah Carey segued smoothly into Kool & the Gang and together the three girls sang ‘Celebrate good times, come on!’ at the tops of their voices.
© Sandra Danby
[this story was first published at Ether Books as part of the ‘Flash Fortnight Challenge 2014]
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CELEBRATION: a #shortstory about friendship… & dresses via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-2vp