Saturday, 15 November 2008
The Wishing Dress
So anyway, I knew this woman once. Her name was Jane and she was a dear and wonderful friend. When she and I were working together, I had remembered seeing a new dress shop open on the High Street. Jane and I loved fashion. She could wear it well and had a great sense of style. Me - well I was just interested in it. When we had a quiet moment, we would talk about clothes and I mentioned the dress shop.
"Oh," she said with a puzzled look, "I don't remember seeing that. I'll have to go into town at lunchtime and have a look."
I asked her to tell me what the shop was like and what sort of clothes they had there. We didn't have the same lunch break that day, our job just didn't work that way always. I knew that she'd been having a rough time of it and I hoped that at least looking at the shop might cheer her up. So I was not entirely surprised when I came into the office midway through the afternoon and saw a smile on her face.
"Was that shop that good?" I asked her with a smile.
She looked up and her smile broadened. Then she chuckled and said, "It will be if that dress does what the lady in the shop said it would."
I was curious, but she would say no more except that I would see. Well now I was eager to know what the dress was like. Two days later I came in early and she was there already. She wasn't wearing a coat, scarf or boots, only a fabulous dress. It was not like I thought it would be - with a large floral motif on it. I'd seen one like that in another shop on the High Street but hadn't thought of it for Jane.
This dress was certainly covered in what looked like flowers, but these were tiny blossoms almost like jasmine or something similar but a dark red. A gentle scent of honey and flowers seemed to be around her. The dress looked exquisite and I admit I was quite astonished at it's beauty. That it set Jane off like a gem did not surprise me. Her blonde hair and pale skin were lit with a sort of soft glow from the dark red contrast of that dress. On her feet, instead of the boots I'd expected her to wear for it was winter, she wore the most charming ballet flats. They were clearly satin and of a similar colour to the dress except for the heels, which were orange.
I complimented her on it and she stood to show it to me better. The neckline was modest but the backline plunged to the middle of her back, just above her hips. Across this gap were bands of orange silk satin ribbon.
"It looks expensive," I said after a while, for it was clearly very finely cut to fit her.
"Not much," she answered and named a very modest sum for such a dress.
"It's called a 'wishing dress' apparently, because it gives me nine wishes. You know what they say about being careful what you wish for though," she said.
I remarked that if nothing else she looked happier... then I asked her if she was cold.
"No," she said, "I wished I could always be just comfortably warm when I'd put the dress on and I'm fine."
I began to wonder about that. Her work was done very quickly that week and her mind was utterly clear. She came into some money on the Wednesday and it was then I asked her if there were any penalties with the dress.
"Only that if I am careless enough to wish for ten wishes when I'm wearing the dress, it will disappear and I will turn to stone," she said casually.
"But that's not going to happen because I've been very careful to number all my wishes," she added.
I knew her dress size and hearing that, I brought a spare dress into work and left it in her desk drawer. Then I went down to the dress shop one day at lunch time. The shop was small, despite the big window at the front and behind the counter was a tall and almost painfully exquisite woman. I could not help but notice that her skin had an almost translucent quality to it and that her eyes were wild somehow. I asked her what I could do if a friend of mine turned to stone. She smiled, though it was less a smile and more like a wild animal baring it's teeth.
"Has a friend of yours turned to stone?" she asked quietly but very clearly.
I had heard the sound of workers at the back of the shop and suddenly all I heard was my own heart thumping in my chest.
"Not yet, but my friend has been told that he might," I said levelly, looking into those wild dark eyes and trying to keep my head.
She laughed softly and answered, "Only a fool will turn to stone. Is your friend a fool?"
"No he isn't," I said shaking my head, "But I would like to help him if he should forget himself."
She leaned forward and I caught the dry scent of decaying leaves and trees. In that instant I knew what I was dealing with.
"If he forgets himself then he will belong to the faeries of the Wildwood forever. Only a cross of iron can save him from that, but should you steal what the faeries have marked for their own - it is you who will suffer... so the old tales say," she replied staring directly into my eyes.
I felt as if she were looking into the very heart of my being. My memories, my conversations, all that I am and was were caught up in that gaze. It was as if she held me by the throat without touching me. I reached up and clutched at my shirt and the tiny iron crucifix that lay beneath the cotton. As suddenly as I had been in her power it seemed switched off and I fled from the shop with her laughter tearing at me like brambles in a wood.
I went back to work my heart racing, thinking of what the faeries would do to me. Yet, I could not allow Jane to suffer their attentions - a friend protects his friends as he protects himself after all. As I entered the office, Jane threw up her hands and declared,
"I wish the clients would..."
In that instant, I pressed the cross in her hand and as her fingers instinctively closed over it, the dress vanished as if it had never been there. She gave a short shriek and sobbing I tore open the drawer hearing the swift rustle of air and flung the dress there at her. She clutched it to her chest and pulled me to the floor my hand caught in hers, the tiny crucifix between our palms. I felt a thousand tiny hands clawing at my hair and skin, pinching and pulling at me. I wanted to let go of Jane, but as if she knew, she held the spare dress up about her and pulled me to her, her free hand holding me. There was suddenly peace and quiet, then mercifully I fainted.
When I awoke, Jane was in the spare dress kneeling beside me.
"Are you ok?" she asked, then, "I really shouldn't have bought that dress should I?"
"You needed to feel good at least and it did that," I answered.
We still keep in touch, a letter an email, a phone call now and then. But we never talk of that dress or what might have happened.