There is a cute red dress in the window, on display for all to see. Sequins cover its surface like rubies, a million tiny mirrors that reflect light and make the dress glow with an almost unearthly ethereal beauty, and the spotlight that shines on it seems to descend from Heaven itself, and the price tag only seems to further that assumption. In this town it is a rarity; surrounded on all sides by forests and wide-open plains, the only constant visitor to the small town is the mail truck and loneliness. The red dress is a rare gift, a status symbol that has never been available before. All of the girls gaze at it with envy as they walk by, and even the boys give it a sideways glance (not that they would ever admit that). The shop has other dresses, like all good shops do, but the red dress in the window is by far and large the most desirable. People have been saving money for months on end, all in the hopes of obtaining the red dress.
Today it’s gone. “I sold it,” says the store owner. “The girl who bought it was very pretty. Maybe you will see her around.” It’s strange; no one in the town matches such a description. Yet still the citizens keep trying. But no matter how hard the residents search, look, and scan, anyone who was beautiful enough to deserve the red dress was absent. So they march back to the shop owner and ask for more. And they keep going back.
“She had a face like fresh-fallen snow.”
“Her hair was like braided silk.”
“Her lips were rosy-red and her eyes were as blue as the sky.”
Searching high and low, the red dress continues to elude them. It’s funny, almost; they never think to look in a closet. And every night, it is removed from its obvious hiding place, and the girl wears it. And for a few moments, the girl feels beautiful. She feels loved like the girls in her books, and she feels pretty as she looks in the mirror and sees the sequins reflect the light of her room a thousand times over. Then she looks again, really looks, and she reconsiders. She doesn’t feel beautiful anymore. She feels like a dead-end girl in a dead-end town, and the dress feels like a heavy burden that she cannot bear and will never be able to. So every night she takes it off, hangs it in her closet, and promises herself that tomorrow will be the night she wears it outside.
One night she ignores the mirror. She forces each step, lead coursing through her veins and stopping her heart with each motion, until the door is open and before she knows it she is outside, naked everywhere except her body. Her eyes, until this point shut so tight it hurt, slowly open and the sun blinds them.
There are only a few people around, scattered on the sidewalk as they go on with her daily routines that have suddenly been interrupted. The dress is breathtaking, glowing and shimmering more than it ever had when wrapped around a mannequin.
The townspeople are blinded, and the jealousy and hatred start to bubble up, higher and more ferocious than before.
The girl is gorgeous. The dress hugs her like a lover, gently gripping her curves and showing off the girl that nobody ever saw, the one that was always hiding in the background, the girl who never thought she would have the courage to step outside.
She is an angel. Until a scream banishes the illusion.
“You stole it!”
A rock takes flight, leaving a red mark on the girl’s thigh. She gasps, and suddenly her arms become shields as more rocks and sticks bombard her, angry yells filling the air.
“How dare you!”
“Give it back, you thief!”
“What gives you the right to wear that?”
The bruises are everywhere now, and creamy skin is barely distinguishable from dark purple. The crowd, much larger at this point, finally calms down. Breathing heavily, they stare at what they have done, and bile threatens to overtake them at the sight.
The girl is broken, her tears flooding the grass and her sobs filling the air. Her body is curled in a ball, cut and damaged arms clutching dirty and bruised legs, hoping to preserve some shred of decency and find some solace within. The dress she wore, her salvation, is scattered. Bits and pieces are everywhere, shredded to scraps by the rocks and sticks that had been hurled its way.
Near the girl, lying on some grass, a single sequin catches the sunlight and reflects it back, catching the girl’s hair in its beam.
Anthony Petro is a rising senior at Wissahickon High School with the world stretching out endlessly in front of him. He loves to read, write, and is in denial about his addiction to video games. He really loves superheroes, and his dream is to one day write comic books to be read the world over, which will doubtlessly be made into a blockbuster Hollywood movie that will make millions of dollars.
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