Red and Strapless
2014 Barrett Winner
2nd Place Benjamin Villa
Red and Strapless.
I caressed my leg as I stood gazing at my sister’s red strapless dress. I had only but a minute to admire its sleek design hanging there in the closet. I stood there, entertaining the thought of me trying it on.
Oh what a marvelous figure, it would give me, I thought.
Dresses just seemed to make every young girl beautiful. My best friend, Susan, is constantly wearing sun dresses in the spring and has the best formal gowns for the school dances; she always looks beautiful in them. Unlike Susan, my body is flat and thin. I am often compared to a piece of thin notebook paper by my peers. I envy Susan’s body every time I see her sporting a new bright dress. However, right now, as I ponder the thought of trying on this dress, my head is clear and I feel beautiful.
“Sam. Sam get down here right now or I’m not going to drive you.” Patrick said. “Coming.” I closed the door to the closet and rushed down the stairs. “Why were you in Erin’s room?”
“I was looking for my green hoodie. You know, the one she likes to steal.”
Patrick is my mother’s new boy toy. Since my father left when I was about six, my mother became passionate about getting her life in order. She obsessed herself with dressing nicely and exercising excessively to stay in impeccable shape. She held to a strong belief that a woman is to look good at all times and that there should be a dividing line between meeen and women gender roles. To her, men and women where black and white, if a grey area occurred then so did a disability in the human genome. She’s an incredible woman but her only flaw is she uses men. Patrick is the type of guy my mother wants me to grow up to become. Patrick is just some up-and-coming big shot at an accounting firm, he is completely unaware that my mother will be done with him as soon as I can get my license and she doesn’t need him to drive me to school in the morning. I enjoy talking to Patrick and a part of me wishes he wasn’t as disposable as my mother thinks. We often talk about his time at Notre Dame and the girls he dated. He always reminds me not to tell my mother about the activities he did with his ex-girlfriends, he is so ignorant to the fact that my mother would not care. She does not hide her tales of past sexual experiences.
I hopped into Patrick’s car and we began our forty minute drive to James Polk High School. Patrick’s car was the average boy’s wet dream, a Cadillac ELR. To any normal teen boy, driving to school in this would make them an instant bad ass, however, to me it was a normal thing. Mother loved guys with luxury cars.
“Sam, I’ll tell you one thing, don’t buy a Cadillac.”
“Why?” I chuckled, “Last week you told me that getting a Cadillac is the quickest way to get some ass.”
“I know what I said, get a Ferrari instead. My buddy just got one and you should see his girlfriend.” Patrick scrolled through the texts on his phone and found the picture that was sent to him. Patrick was always on his phone while driving. I looked at the girl in the picture. She had an hour glass figure and wavy blonde hair that reminded me of a girl in my gym hour. I snatched the phone out of Patrick’s hand and looked at her closely.
“Whoa there squirt, she’s hot but you didn’t need to steal my phone away to get a peek.” “Sorry, I just couldn’t gain control over myself.” Patrick would easily believe me because he didn’t know about my obsession or that the girl in the photo had the same strapless red dress I was staring at just ten minutes ago. Patrick took back his phone and as the phone left my hand my eyes stayed fixed to the illuminating crimson coming from the screen. “I understand she is Cameron Diaz hot.” Patrick had this idea that female celebrities where on a different scale of beauty then normal women. He often compared the girls on his phone to girls from his favorite movies. He didn’t see the same universal beauty I saw. “So did you get a date for Junior Prom yet?” Patrick asked.
“Yeah, Susan and I are going.”
“Oh that cute girl you are always around.”
“Yep that’s the one.”
“Nice little bro, good choice. I remember I took a senior girl to my junior year winter formal she was a hot mess and got me my first DUI.”
We arrived at the school and Patrick told me the same phrase which he always says, “Try not to break to many girls hearts today.” I stepped out of the car and Susan greeted me at the door.
Fridays normally flew by and recently with the weather getting warmer, time has been reaching light speed. However, today was no usual Friday. In economics, as Mr. Hayes talked about the market equilibrium, I stared off at my phone. I did not dare to pick it up off my table and get caught texting in class. Su and I had plans after school and a detention would just ruin everything. So I kept touching the home button starring at my background of Su and I. I had my arm draped around Susan’s thin waist. She had a pink formal gown on and I was sporting an all-black suit with a turquoise tie. The picture was from our fall Homecoming dance just seven months ago. It was that night I told her about my obsession. She was understanding when I told her, but since then she has treated me more like her gay best friend than the possible partner. I did not think to tell her my other big secret that night. The secret that I loved her.
My phone lit up and a quiet vibration quaked my desk. I checked what it was and I saw Su had text me.
“Wanna go grab a smoke 6th hour???”
“Yeah, usual spot??”
The day picked up quickly after that. After fifth hour, Susan and I snuck behind the Paterson wing. Each inhale of my cigarette made my cares part one by one. Su and I knew that smoking was unhealthy and that our parents would be upset if discovered us, but we didn’t care. To us, smoking took our troubles away for a minute. We used our smoking breaks as a time to melt away into our own world where we could be whoever or whatever we wanted.
“What time is it?” Susan asked.
“Almost 2:45, we should head over to the math hall so Patrick doesn’t have to sit too long when he picks us up.”
“Ok give me one minute to finish this.” Susan inhaled gently and slowly. She blew smoke rings towards the clouds. She savored her last few puffs of freedom from the books and folders. I looked her up and down she graced the world today in a white sun dress. Her dress shined in the bright spring sun. The dress was almost blinding to look at, however the bold blue belt wrapped around her waist so tightly caught my eye’s focus. Her dress was a work of art on her beautiful frame. Susan Jessup was to James Polk High school as Nascita di Venere is to Sandro Botticelli.
Susan finished her cigarette and we began to make our way to where Patrick would pick us up. I opened her door and we sat in the back seat, both of us sat back in our seats and listened to the radio as Patrick rambled about his fraternity days. Lana Del Ray played on the radio.
“Patrick you like this stuff,” Susan said.
“Hell yeah, I love Lana Del,” Patrick turned up the radio until only the music could be heard in the car.
The word “I got my red dress on tonight” during Summertime Saddness captivated my interest. I placed my hand on my upper waist and began to hold on to what little curvature I had. I looked over to my left and noticed Su giving me a strange look. Without hesitation I slipped my hand in my pocket and pretended to check my phone.
Upon arriving at my home, Su and I rushed up into my room. On my desk was a note from my mother.
“Skinny Bone Jones, I left some taco meat in the fridge. Heat some up if you and Susan get hungry. Also, keep the volume down I am going to be down stairs taking a nap when you get home. I Love You, Momma Bear.”
I crumpled up the note upon reading it and left it on my desk. Mother always felt the need to write embarrassing notes by using nicknames, thank God Susan didn’t read it. “So are you going to try it on tonight?” Su asked.
“Try on what?”
“Erin’s prom dress.”
“I don’t know. I’m scared that I might rip it.”
“Oh shush,” she stated as she walked out of the room. I laid on my bed waiting for her return. When she walked back into my room she had my sister’s dress in her hand. “Su put that back now.”
“Erin is at LSU she won’t even know. Here I’ll set the mood.” Susan quickly cued up Summertime Sadness and pulled out a pack of cigs. “I saw you getting into the song, you creeper.”
With my hands trembling I lit a cigarette and began to blow smoke rings like I had seen Susan do.
“Come on Sam. For me,” She made a puppy face and laughed.
Sternly I said “Okay, put no photos.”
I began to undress slowly in front of my tall wall mirror. With each pair of clothing I saw my body. It was ugly and pale. My ribs where highly visible and my stomach had a small pudge of fat where abs where supposed to be. My five foot six thin frame displeased me. After I had removed all my clothing except my briefs, I stood looking into the mirror. With a long deep breath I slid the dress on. Susan clapped as though I was an actor on stage.
“Zip me up,” I said. Susan ran over and quickly and zipped up the dress.
Su stood in silence. She understood that I wanted to keep this moment special. I spun around and ran my hand through my hair. I took my cigarette and took a gentle inhale like Susan. I took one long look in the mirror and told my reflection, “Kiss me,” and so I did.
I walked over to Susan and she smiled at me. I was half way across the room before I heard my door creak open.
My mother’s sharp yell pierced my ears, “Turn down the m---, Samuel James Roberts what are you doing in that dress!”
I looked back towards Su, her body and face was motionless but her hands trembled. I looked at my hand and saw that I was completely still. My mother walked over to me. With one hand on my waist and holding my cigarette in the other I blew a smoke ring in her face. My mother’s expression of anger melted away and time seemed to stop.
Mother’s lips kept motioning like words were about to be emitted any moment but her tongue released none. I walked over to Su with my waist swaying and kissed her. Susan’s lips were warm and soft just as I had imagined. Upon kissing Su, I performed a perfect catwalk turn towards the mirror. I could see both women looked at me as a monster but when I turned to the mirror I saw the girl from Patrick’s phone.