This was one tough morning. No real coffee left in the canister and only enough bread for him to have toast. I get to the store late, wishing I wore my comfortable shoes, I am just lifting the window gates from in front of the storefront display
when I see them park the car.
I recognize the older woman. She was in here last week looking at wedding gowns, something for her oldest daughter. The girl is a surprise, very young, very tall, so very not in possession of her body’s recent blooming. Staring into the glittering window display of bridal gowns, veils, peignoirs, special day shoes,
her misery is striking. Her mama puts her arm around the girl’s shirt-waisted body, kisses her curly blonde hair urges her forward into the store into a future. I almost protest this child is not old enough to be married off. “Please, for me,” her mama asks. It is not the heat’s shimmer I see in the room with us
but time closing in on them.
I am skilled at imagining, then creating gossamer dreams for all kinds of wedding days and nights leading to long days of laundry, babies, and bills beyond. But this, it is clear there is not a real wedding day to plan, the groom is still unknown. This is
a mercy mission, comfort for an absence coming.
I cannot hesitate. I have a business to run, real bridal parties due for fittings in an hour. The mother knows, “Please can she just try on one or two dresses so I can see her?” To the girl, “Honey, let’s pretend, which dress?” When the girl’s tongue starts to move around her closed mouth, the mama makes a quick choice. A fairy tale of a dress with long lace sleeves, and offset neckline, fitted waist, and a skirt that will move with those long legs but not too too
I help the breathless girl into it. Looking in the mirror I see her start to realize
whom she might become. We walk down the long aisle into the front of the store. Her mother is crumpled in a chair. She looks up and smiles at her daughter’s glory. “You look like a precious dream,” she whispers. The girl is already at the mother’s knee. She is now in command. Opening her mother’s purse she quickly gives her
a tiny pill from a medicine bottle.
I look away. This girl moves fast and is suddenly changed back into the plain blue shirt waist dress. She thanks me, helps her mother up and out the door.
They are gone.