It’s backless, green, thick thick satin.
It’s how I’ve always wanted you to look, he told me in the shop. And I knew it was true. The dress is that bright emerald green film stars wear to contrast with red carpets. Shining. Plunging down just beyond the point of safety at the front. He loved it so much he didn’t wait to hear what I thought.
I drape it on the bed and shape it as if I’m dancing inside. One hip swaying slightly to the left as if it’s searching for another body, swaying in the way that calls to be stopped, swaying the way I rarely dare any more in real life. Or at least not when he’s watching. He prefers me to stand still so he can look at me. Like an object. Or a possession.
I spread out the hem so it kicks up one heel behind and leave it like that to wait for when he comes back. I’ll let the dress simper up to him. Look at me, I’m so beautiful. See what an effort I’ve made. Just for you.
Do I give the dress a backwards look as I leave the bedroom? Not for one second. I imagine it straining to sit up on the other side of the shut door, muscleless despite the heavily boned corset. Hey, it’ll scream, its voice too shrill just as that green is a little too bright out of the shop’s fluorescent lights. Let’s get this party started.
I stand and stare at myself in the hall mirror before bending down and pulling the laces on my black boots a little tighter.
Heels are nice, the dress shouts from the bedroom. Your feet hurt like hell but it flatters the calves. And you know he always looks at women’s legs.
I smooth both hands along the front of my legs from my thighs to my ankles, feeling the wool of my thick black tights warm against my fingers.
Sheer stockings, it yells. And suspenders. He likes to glimpse those thin slivers of flesh.
A black t-shirt and denim shorts. I feel ready for anything.
He prefers to have something to undo. The dress sounds as if it is breathing heavily now. Not too obvious. You must always present a man with a challenge. A row of tiny buttons to fumble with or interlocking ribbons.
I undo the buckle on my belt and slide it out of the waistband. Better.
Remember jewellery, the dress squawks.Too many women forget that earrings, necklace and bracelet should match. Neatness is so important to him.
I rub my bare neck. Pull my bare earlobes.
You’ll want your hair up. Show off your neckline. Just leave some tendrils falling down at the back. It takes forever but it’s worth it when he feels he only has to touch a strand for it all to collapse.
I run both hands through my newly cropped hair leaving it to stand up around my face like a dandelion. Like a halo. Now in the mirror, I seem to be able to see myself more clearly, more openly, than I have for a long time. Hello, I nod at my reflection. Hello, you.
Perhaps some perfume? Something sophisticated and ladylike he can remember you by.
The dress’s voice drops down to a whisper as I take the stairs two by two.
I pause briefly at the front door. It’s as if I’m expecting to catch the click of the bedroom door opening and the sound of heavy satin swish-swish-swishing after me.
Outside I gulp the fresh air down as if I’m starving. And then I run.
Sarah Salway lives in Kent, England and is the author of three novels including Getting the Picture, a book of short stories and a poetry collection, You Do Not Need Another Self-Help Book.