Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: In and Out (04/30/09)
TITLE: The Dress
By Myrna Noyes
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"Good-morning, Miss Morrison. Lovely day, isn't it?" greeted a cheery female voice.
Sally glanced out at the somber, dripping November sky. "Yes, Miss Shafer, I'm sure it is. What may I do for you?"
"I need to have a dress made. A very special dress. And it must be finished by next week." Elizabeth Shafer looked excited and nervous.
"Well, we've been quite busy, with a fancy-dress dance coming up in two weeks. My father is working on the men's shirts and suits, and I have several ladies' dress orders. I don't see how..."
"But Miss Morrison, you don't understand. It's my wedding dress, and I must have it before my fiancÚ leaves town. He's joined the Indiana Volunteers on behalf of the Union and will be mustered in on the 21st. We'll be married on the 19th, and I do so want a new dress. I'll gladly pay extra."
Sally did some quick figuring. She didn't know if she could manage it--but a wedding dress for a soldier's wife. She must do her part for the cause, no matter how small.
"I'll try, Miss Shafer. Do you have the pattern already made? Have you chosen the fabric and trimmings?"
"Yes! It's a pattern my cousin used, and we're the same size. My grandmother gave me the material, and I've kept it for a special occasion." She pulled a lovely blue silk out of its paper wrappings and held it out for Sally's inspection.
"All right. I'll take your measurements now, in case we need to make adjustments, and I'll pin and cut the pieces tonight. Come by tomorrow evening for an initial fitting."
"Thank you, Miss Morrison. I'll be here at six."
Sally stopped her she was leaving, "Miss Shafer, will you divulge the name of your special man?"
"Of course," she laughed. "It's Mr. Walter Pruett." She shut the door without noticing that Sally appeared to have turned to stone.
If anyone else had asked Sally if it was a "lovely day," she wouldn't have been able to agree at all. Throughout the afternoon she struggled within herself over that dress. Could she make it? Father would insist, she knew. No, she simply would not.
But that evening after supper and dishes, she spread the material on the floor and began pinning the paper pattern to it. When her father went up to bed, she remained to cut out the pieces.
As she worked, Walter Pruett's handsome visage rose before her mind's eye. He'd been so kind at the church picnic last summer when he'd first come into her life. The heel of her shoe had come off, and she'd fallen with a plate of fried chicken in her hands. He'd been standing nearby and rushed to pick both her and the chicken up from the grass. He'd been very solicitous, making certain she wasn't hurt. Later, he'd sought her out again to inquire of her ankle, if it might be sprained. She'd assured him she was fine.
That night she'd dreamt of his compassionate brown eyes as they looked down at her. Ever after that, he always raised his hat in friendly recognition whenever they met anywhere and sometimes stopped to pass a few moments in casual chat. No one, least of all Mr. Pruett, guessed that she fancied herself falling in love. Her romantic imaginings often whiled away the tedious hours of basting and hemming.
The next few days flew past, with dresses for the dinner dance to finish during the day, and the wedding dress to sew in the evenings. Her needle flashed in and out of the fabric as she continued her inner debate.
Oh, how can I let Mr. Pruett go out of my life and marry someone else? I should destroy the dress after the final fitting, so Miss Shafer has nothing nice to wear! No, I will rip out and redo some seams so it will be too tight for her to get into!
The 18th arrived, and the bell over the door jangled again as Elizabeth Shafer came into the shop, wearing an expectant smile.
"Thank you," she breathed, accepting her package from Mr. Morrison. Sally simply nodded at her from across the room.
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