I run my hand across soft folds of material, inhaling the scent of new fabric and soap. Drifts of hairspray dampen my skin and I wonder again that I’m here; that my lifelong dream is about to become a reality.
Outside the dressing room, the atmosphere rustles with life. The crowd is expectant and when I peep through the curtains, it stretches in all directions, divided only by the carpeted ramp. “This is so exciting, Lord,” I whisper, exuberance bubbling inside.
“Get back here, Kelly,” Gaynor hisses. I soak in one last look before heading back to the mirror. As a child, I attended a modelling course only to be told I was too short, too dumpy, too plain. Of course they didn’t put it quite like that but the photos revealed the truth. Ten years on, nothing much has changed.
“Finish dressing and I’ll help you with the headgear,” Gaynor says.
I pull the tights on, silky knit that clings to my legs. The green bodysuit comes next followed by the skirt that falls in layers of pink, brushed with cream and blurred with maroon. Its contours and colours transform my stout little body into something of beauty and grace. “This is amazing,” I say, twirling across the dressing room. “Look at me, Gaynor.”
She nods pulling me back to mirror. “You’re on in five, Kelly. Work with me now.”
The activity in the room steps up a notch as models preen and strut and hairdressers and makeup artists pin, pull and powder. The final piece of my outfit is the hat and I stand still as Gaynor lifts it from the stand and skilfully clips it to my hair. “Thank you for this chance,” I breathe heavenwards. “I’ve never felt more beautiful, God.”
Gaynor sprinkles some glittery dust across my hands. “Now remember to keep your head down when you’re on the ramp. That way the crowds will get the best view.”
Seconds later, I’m standing behind the curtain with a group of other models as the commentator introduces the show. “Welcome to the World of Wearable Art Fashion Show, ladies and gentleman. First up we have the rose garden.”
I lead the way through the folds of velvet, head down so that the hand-stitched petals fall into place like a magnificent rose bloom. Ahead of me, the ramp unfurls, a star studded walkway that leads to the crowd. There are six of us roses and we follow the steps we’ve rehearsed so many times.
“Thank you, Lord,” I whisper as we hold our pose. The spotlights are warm on my skin, and the crowd thunders its applause. “How I wish I could be this beautiful all the time,” I continue my prayer, keeping my head bowed. I know the audience can only see the beautiful rose petals and I tuck my chin in to give them the best view possible. The moment lingers interminably, and I absorb every sensation, every nuance of pleasure as the people whistle and shout.
It’s as I’m walking back that a thought unfolds in my heart, its message soft as petals, as gentle as the sun on a spring morning. “You are beautiful in me, Kelly. When you bow your head and keep a humble attitude, I shine through you. I’m the petals, the colour, the bloom of life within your heart.”
Later, when the crowd has gone, the floral costumes are packed away and the spotlights dimmed, I walk along the ramp one last time. This time I’m clothed with the confidence and joy of knowing that what I experienced tonight was not a one-off thing. My heart overflows with God’s love ... and for just a moment, the fragrance of a rose garden seems to spill across the room.
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