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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Charade (08/14/08)

TITLE: Eclectic Haven
By Noreen Ophoff


The red, black and pink skirt adorns the mannikin inside the store, while it’s black fringe twitches in the breeze wafting through the screen. Kennessy McAlroy wants this costume. She can almost feel the silky threads tickling her own ankles.

Miss Corrie, the proprietor, beckons with her hand for the young woman to enter the eclectic shop. A purple cape clipped to fishing line swoops down from the tin ceiling. A pungent incense infiltrates Kennessy’s senses, luring her inside, its essence hovers in the air like fog. The atmosphere is intriguing with tinkling music playing. A bureau displays hand-painted music boxes while tapestries of people doing folk dances hang above needlepoint chairs.

Kennessy fingers the fabric of the special outfit. Touching the price tag, a pang twangs her heart; $183.99 is out of reach. The gore skirt is a red-print depicting girls picking apples, then a black-checkered section, then bright pink silk. Miss Corrie approaches while keeping the beat of the music by clapping her hands in a criss-cross motion. Her slippered feet step precisely to the tune’s staccato.

“It’s a beauty, isn’t it.” She speaks in a singsong style.

“Oh yes, I adore it. Wearing this, I might be transformed to my fantasy.”

“Your fantasy,” Miss Corrie raises her right eyebrow, “what might that be?”

“I think of myself as a gypsy, playing my guitar, singing ballads while sitting in the grass. I’m silly, because I work in a corporate office and no one would imagine, what I imagine.”

With clever reasoning, the owner persuades her prospective customer to try it on in a roomy dressing area that closes with a green velvet drape. Slipping out of her dowdy black blazer, black skirt and white tailored shirt, Kennessy steps into the flowing skirt, fastening the textured black wooden beads. It disguises her full hips, thinning her image in the wall-sized mirror. The blouse’s neckline is not too low, although it is more daring than anything she has ever worn before. Her black onyx necklace will be the perfect accessory.

“I’m invited to a masquerade party,” Kennessy spoke, while admiring herself in the three-way mirror. “My grandfather on my mother’s side was a gypsy and I want to resurrect that aspect of my heritage, but I can only afford $100.”

Corrinne Stalmos was anxious to make a sale, any sale. Her business was slow so she was willing to dicker, to compliment, to cajole. “The colors of the skirt make your green eyes mysterious. Let’s talk about the price and figure out a way.

I’ll lower it to $92, and when people ask where you got it, you tell them here, Eclectic Haven, and give out a few business cards. Would you do that?”

Emphatically Kennessy replied, “With those terms, I’ll take it ” She placed a $100 bill in Corrie’s eager hand.

Kennessy Tangen-McAlroy donned the costume when she got home to her modern apartment, while emailing the RSVP to Margo for Saturday’s party. Grabbing four windmill cookies she began her research on gypsies, intent on wowing everyone with her knowledge of her ancestry. She gleaned information about exiled Roma people in the Balkans, rummaged out bangle bracelets and gaudy rings, found a peacock-feathered barrette to top off the ensemble.

Cedric Galloway was stunned by the transformation of his business colleague as she sashayed up the limestone steps of the downtown museum. She was sure she had all the facts and names memorized to keep a running commentary on gypsy life. On her arm dangled a beaded bag holding the business cards and her other evening needs of spearmint candies, a little money, her ID, an orange hankie, and that divine ruby red lip gloss.

She gave her grandfather the name Cormen, meaning a crafty raven. Her grandmother became Roxy, for sunrise. She dropped the words vagabond, meadow, nomads, artistic and greenwood like honey dripping off the comb. Her friends were impressed by her transformation and her knowledge of her roots, of the unconventionalism that lurked in this otherwise traditional women, who was tonight sipping champagne and nibbling hors d’oeuvre’s like a seasoned sophisticate.

Kennessy had rehearsed the facts, dispersed fitting names on her family tree, and was sure she impressed all her friends. No one was the wiser of the ruse, the utter joy she felt in pulling it off. It was the outfit, the vocabulary, the curiosity that made her seem to be what she really was not.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Carole Robishaw 08/21/08
It can be so easy sometimes to take on a new persona, then you have to ask which is the real me? Good story.
Jan Ackerson 08/22/08
I could certainly visualize every outfit! Good descriptions.

You started this story in present tense, then switched to past tense halfway through. And I wasn't clear on if you thought there was something wrong with her deception: after all, she was at a masquerade party, wasn't she?

I'd have loved to be "shown" the party--it sounds like fun.
Marlene Austin08/26/08
Lovely descriptions in this enchanting "Cinderella" story. Glad your MC got to live out her fantasy. The scary thing about your concept is that I've seen some try to live their "fantasy" in sin and take such pleasure in it they never desire to leave. I hope your MC easily reverts back to the sweet person you began the story with. :)
Patty Wysong08/26/08
Great descriptions--what an outfit!
Judith Gayle Smith08/27/08
You certainly teased my gypsy roots! I often wondered if my Hungarian Gram was a gypsy, or of the Aristocracy. She spoke seven languages fluently, but she looked like a pirate! (see Paprikash Dreams!) I have a penchant for bold florals and lots of jewelry...hmmmmmm. Shake your tambourine, gal - your story is a positive delight!


Heather Sargent08/27/08
Great story, your imagery is fantastic. This was fun.