By Helen Murray
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Janelle and Meredith had been in competition for the top position at the dressmaking school that year. As it worked out, Meredith won the prize for daywear and Janelle won the prize for evening fashion.
Janelle was not impressed with Meredith’s win, saying “I gave you the idea for that outfit – remember we discussed it at lunch?”
Meredith, more generously declared “Yes, and we worked on the idea for your evening gown too. Don’t you remember we were considering red or gold for the base colour, and how much black you wanted? You really came up trumps with that creation!”
“Yes, but you stole my idea to get your prize”
“Oh, come on Janelle. That idea came from my grandmother’s going away outfit at her wedding don’t you remember? You suggested shortening it, but I had already considered that. “
“That’s what you say now, but you liked my idea.”
“Janelle, let’s not argue over this. We have enjoyed working together with each other, and we don’t need this kind of argument to spoil our wonderful results.”
“Both prizes should have been mine, and you took your prize on false pretences!”
Meredith just looked at Janelle. It was no further use trying to change her mind. She shrugged her shoulders and decided that a cup of coffee might be a better solution at the moment.
“Hi Meredith. Congratulations on a great show. You deserved to win. Well done.” Meredith turned to receive a rapturous hug from another competitor.
“Thank you Frank. Your presentations were fantastic also. What will you be doing now it’s all over?”
“I’ll be working at my uncle’s business. Hey, would you like to come visit, now that uncle has seen your work? You never know what might happen!”
Oh, Frank, thank you. Yes, I’d love to come.
“Hi Frank.” Janelle had overheard the invitation and minced over towards him.
“Well done Janelle. What are you doing after this?” Generosity was always a strong feature of Frank’s large persona.
“I’d like to find work with a big fashion company. “ Simpering. “ Know anybody?”
“Well, yes, as a matter of fact. My uncle is in the business. Perhaps you’d like to come over with Meredith, now that he has seen your work, and see what happens.”
“Oh, Frank, how lovely you are. Yes, I’d love to come. When should that be?”
“Just a moment. I’ll go talk to uncle and make a time.” He left in search of the magnate of fashion.
Janelle looked down her nose at Meredith and sauntered off in Frank’s direction.
Flabberghasted, Meredith decided to turn her attention to the other students, commending each on their presentations, and finally discovering her own family in all the melee.
Saying nothing of the intrusion, she simply continued her own plan of action in the work arena, and Frank’s invitation did not eventuate. Eventually she set up her own bridal shop and within three years was running a major business in the town.
Then, one day, at the big wedding show day, she was participating with a business presentation and gaining much attention. She noticed that Frank also had a display representing his uncle’s fashion business, but could see no signs of Janelle, whom she had not seen since graduation.
As the day folded, and exhibitors were packing up their displays, Frank came over to her and invited her for dinner later that evening. Curiousity aroused, she accepted the invitation, and selected a modest colourful gown for the occasion.
Meeting him at the loveliest restaurant in town, she gave him her dazzling smile, and asked “How goes it Frank?” They chatted, covering the business of the day. They had admired and enjoyed each other’s work and the beauty of the garments was enough to lift anybody’s heart.
Finally, “Meredith, would you like to visit my uncle’s establishment. He’s having a catwalk fashion show on Thursday at 10 am. I’d love to see you there.”
“I had an invitation like that once before Frank. What is different this time?” Meredith liked to set things straight immediately.
“Yes, I got a bit carried away. Janelle came over and made her big eyes at my brother. She became pregnant, but my brother wouldn’t marry her. She went and aborted the baby, and my brother has been beside himself with grief ever since. The family will have nothing more to do with her. And that day was supposed to be your day. I’d like to make it up to you.”
“That’s OK Frank. Thank you, I’d love to come. Where is Janelle now?”
“I believe she’s gone to Sydney looking for work. Don’t know how she’s getting on. Hope she stops drinking so much. She can’t stop herself.”
They chatted a little more, and finally “See you on Thursday Frank. I’m looking forward to seeing some of your work.”
Thursday arrived, and Meredith selected an exquisite gown in red, gold and brown, with masses of frills and necklaces declaring her sense of fun. She was greeted heartily by Frank, and presented to his uncle as an honoured guest, offered a seat with the family. The fashion was exciting, and new, and her ideas flowed vigorously as she watched. Frank seemed much more interested in watching her.
Then, out of the corner of her eye she caught a glimpse of a red and gold dress emboldened with black lace. It couldn’t be. Surely not. But it was. There, quietly studying the fashion was Janelle. Frank followed Meredith’s surprised look and saw too what she saw.
He stood. “It’s OK Meredith. I’ll deal with this.”
“Wait, Frank, wait.” Meredith was looking closely at the lined face, hardened now and agitated. “Let me go, Frank.”
Frank’s surprised look surmounted his frozen body.
Meredith approached Janelle, smiling gently. She was glad she had some background knowledge of what she had been through, but assumed nothing in her address.
“Janelle, I haven’t seen you for years! How are you?”
Janelle seemed to jump as the recognition, and then looked down before gathering herself together and looking directly at Meredith.
“Hallo Meredith. I’m fine. Well, not so fine really. How are you these days?”
“I’m great. I’ve a business in wedding gowns and it’s the best fun. What are you doing?”
“Oh, I’ve had my ups and downs. I’ve been to Sydney for a while, and just recently returned home. Just thought I’d come and see what’s happening.”
“It’s so good to see you. Let’s go out to lunch next week and have a girlie chat. OK?”
“Oh, yes, thank you Meredith. Have you heard what happened?”
“I did hear something, but you can tell me all about it at lunch.”
“You mean you know what happened.”
“I heard bits, not the whole story.”
“And you still want to have lunch with me?”
“Yes, Janelle. We were good friends. I’d like to recapture that.”
A deep sigh escaped from Janelle as a tear rolled down her face.
“I have to go now, but give me your phone number, and I’ll come for you. My treat. How about next Tuesday?”
“Yes, Tuesday is fine,” and having given the number, Janelle retreated hastily as Frank’s somewhat imposing figure appeared.
‘Oh, Frank. I think she’s had a rough time. I’m taking her to lunch next week to see what I can do for her. We were great friends, you know.”
“You’re amazing Meredith. Meanwhile, I’m taking you to lunch right now.”
“Oh, thank you Frank. It was a wonderful parade. I got so many ideas. It’s alright. I’m professional. I won’t steal your limelight! And she laughed that tinkling laugh that lifted the room.
Ten months later Frank and Meredith were married in grand style. Janelle was working in Meredith’s bridal gown business, and able to manage while she was off on her honeymoon. Janelle gave her plenty of room to design her own gowns and expand the business with her special expertise. She needed her again when she had her first baby, and the second, and the third. Finally, because there was so much to do in Frank’s business, Meredith sold the whole company to Janelle and bought the blocks of land that would become her children’s homes.
They kept up a very down to earth friendship over the years, but Janelle preferred not to get involved with her family affairs, and that suited Frank’s brother Nick.
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