I tiptoed across the hallway from my Mother’s room to mine, and closed the door slowly, quietly, but the lock clicked loudly. Mother probably heard it. Maybe she didn’t. But, she probably did.
“Did you finish your homework?” A loud voice echoed from downstairs.
She heard it.
“Not yet! I needed the bathroom!” My soft voice shouted back down.
With my ear cupped to the door, a response never came.
The dress was gorgeous. It wasn’t exactly right, but it would do. It was white and full sleeved, not exactly what Eliza wore to The Ascot. What it needed was a bow at the left shoulder and knee, and some lace at the cuffs. But, it would do.
I picked up my desk chair and carried it to the closet to hang the dress from the door. I never saw Mother wear it. All I knew about it was that it was her mother’s dress, and that she wore it to marry her first husband before she met my grandpa. I bet she was stunning in it. Just like Eliza. What a night it must’ve been. She must’ve been the perfect bride on a perfect day.
“The rain is Spain stays mainly in the plain.”
That was my favorite scene. At the horse race, when Professor Higgins showed off Eliza in that white mermaid dress and black and white hat. She was so beautiful. If only I could look that beautiful. One day I would, when I was old enough to move away. I would change my last name to Doolittle and wear dresses like her, and hats too. I could learn to speak like a proper lady.
“But, in Hertford, Hereford, and Hampshire, hurricanes hardly ever happen.”
I took out a fresh sheet of paper to start reimagining the dress. It needed more than the two black bows and lace on the cuffs. There were the three black strips at the hips and knees and across the chest too. I was going to look just like her. I was going to be her, and meet a Freddy in this dress. We would get married. And there would be nothing Mother could do.
“So they said. But it’s my belief they done the old woman in.”
I was about to put pencil to paper when I heard a creak on the floor outside the door. My body froze—my breath just as static. I lowered my eyes and prayed. “Please don’t be Mother. Please don’t be Mother. Dear God, please don’t be Mother. I will do anything. please don’t be Mother.” I stayed like that, frozen, until I couldn’t hold my breath any longer. Nobody knocked. Nobody opened the door. Maybe it was Calvin. I prayed that he didn’t start meowing. If the lock was quieter, I would’ve let him in. At least it wasn’t Mother.
I started to draw. The hat was going to be the hardest part. But one thing at a time. First the dress. Grandma’s dress had a bateau neck line, but at least it had full sleeves and a court train. I started to draw it with a Sabrina neck, but it didn’t look right. Eliza’s neckline was almost a full neck. The dress needed a full neck. It would frame my face perfectly. Eliza’s face was framed perfectly.
“And what become of her new straw hat, that should have come to me?”
The only way to get it perfect was to put it on. I had to see it to imagine it. One day I would have a tailor. Freddy would hire a tailor, and my dresses would be perfect. I took off my clothes, past my underwear, so I could feel the texture of the fabric. I climbed the desk chair to take down the dress.
“Not her. Gin was mother’s milk to her.”
The hips were at my feet and the arms fell to the floor. The neck line nearly hung to my belly button. I had to hold it up so it didn’t fall off. But, it was incredible—the way it draped and flowed. I couldn’t help but to twirl and twirl as Freddy spun me and dipped me. It was my wedding day, and I was the most beautiful and the dress was the most beautiful. Nothing could ruin my day.
“Eric! It’s time for dinner!”
It was Mother. I let go of the dress and it crumbled to the floor.