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The Dress

It was a Saturday night and I was fifteen and I had this blue seersucker dress.

I was fifteen and I had no idea of how much power I had. Only the slightest edge of an idea. But I knew, when it was a hit I wanted, to put on the dress.

It was a hot night, a Sydney summer night, and the dress had been hanging in my great-grandmother’s wardrobe because in summer I would stay with my grandparents and have her room. She died when I was seven and my grandparents had not removed her things. I would sleep my summer nights in her old bed and hang my clothes in among hers. Everything in that room smelt of Eau-de-cologne, the kind that grandmothers or aunties used, and it reminded you of their kindness.

"Do you want something to eat?" my grandmother called out that night and the budgerigar said "something to eat? Something to eat?" My grandfather looked at me in the dress and said "you are so beautiful. The stars will be jealous." We went out in his olive-green Valiant and he dropped me off outside the house with the music wafting through the open windows to the summer street. He kissed me on the forehead like he always did.

That night, I felt that every boy in the room could see me. Boys wanted to dance with me and touch my hair and hold onto my waist when there were slow songs, and one boy with long hair and torn jeans took me out onto the back porch and offered me a joint and I took a drag. Then he tucked my hair behind my ear and kissed me on the neck. I saw he had the darkest eyes in the world and I wanted badly to know where they led.

Girls didn’t lose their virginity at fifteen in those days and not at parties. Not the girls I knew. The boy in the torn jeans smelt like smoke when he kissed me on the mouth and touched my breasts and stopped to breathe into my ear. "I’ve got my bike outside," his hot breath told me, "we could go somewhere," and I said sure. I told my grandparents I’d get a lift home.

People watched us as we left the party. The Beatles were playing Ticket to Ride. I still remember all the words and stepping over people kissing on the floor. The house was on Military Road on the harbour side, with a wall made of sandstone bricks and the boy had a motorbike. He let me wear his helmet.

I had never been on the back of a motorbike or smoked grass or kissed a boy who smoked cigarettes, but I had met the boy before so I wasn’t scared and I was sure I wasn’t being stupid.

We stopped at the beach. It was a short ride but I felt like I had always been there on that leather seat, with my arms around the boy who smelt of cigarettes. He took the helmet off my head so gently that it felt like love.

When I was fifteen, boys didn’t think that you would sleep with them. I was waiting for someone who would know how to touch me, and then this boy with the darkest eyes came along. I had known that he would. It was because of the dress, because of how I was inside it.

We lay down on the sand and the boy kissed me, and pulled me to him hard and touched my body through the dress. I didn’t have to say anything. He left his leather jacket on and touched me through my clothes, as if the dress was part of me.

Ruth Lacey grew up in Sydney, Australia, and currently lives in a small community near the Sea of Galilee. She is completing her M.Phil in writing at Glamorgan University in Wales and is working on her second novel and a short story collection. Her stories have appeared in Overland (Australia), Voyage (UK), Arc (Israel) and Carve Magazine, and her poetry has been featured on NYCpoetry.com.

 

Top Photo "Rainy Days 3" courtesy of Arlynn Bodette.
Bottom Photo "In the Dark 2" courtesy of Dave Sackville.


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