The Affair of the Dress

Alexis stepped into the violet confection of taffeta and pulled it up; she carefully zipped it and watched in horror as the ruffled top sagged down, down into a crumpled mess just above her hips. Her breasts peaked out of the material like two frightened eyes.


            “Oh shit,” she said.


            Six weeks ago the dressmaker had clucked around her at the final fitting and pronounced her finished. Alexis thought she looked like a weird flower. She hated ruffles and frills and the stupid hats all the attendants had to wear. Worst, as maid of honor, her dress was the brightest, most ruffled dress of all.


            “You look beautiful,” Jen said and hugged her.


            Alexis knew perfectly well that she look frightful, and Jen only picked the dresses because they were designed by Miranda Palmer, Jen’s sister-in-law to be.


            “Did she have to make them so frilly?”


            “Oh, Alex, you know you couldn’t show up in a business suit. Anyway your waist looks tiny.” Jen was always diplomatic.


            Today, however, diplomacy wasn’t going to help shrink the dress.


            Alexis held the dress over her breasts and walked down the hall to Jen’s room where people buzzed about her. She walked in without knocking.


            “Jen, I have a problem with the dress,” she said and let it go.


            Jen squealed, “Oh my God.”


            “Oh my goodness, what happened here?” Jen’s mom Ruth came over to Alexis and surveyed her. “Well, you can’t go up the aisle in that, dear. No good flashing the guests. It would be in bad taste. We have two hours. I’m calling Arnold. He’ll find you something.”


            Alexis just nodded. Ruth dragged her out of the room and pulled out her phone. Arnold seemed to be on speed dial.


            “Arnold, darling, It’s Ruth. I’ve got a problem. Yes, it’s this damn wedding.” She glanced at Alexis again. “It seems that one of our bridesmaid gowns has come in the wrong size. No, darling, it’s huge. She’s just a little thing. You saw those awful purple gowns. I need something purple. She’s the maid-of-honor. What can you bring me? Coloring? Oh, yes. Green eyes, very dark hair with a touch of red. I’d call it mahogany. No more than five two.” She put her hand over the phone. “What size do you wear, dear?”


            Alexis felt her cheeks turn pink. “Six or eight,” she mumbled, feeling hefty.


            “She says six or eight, but how about I measure her and text you? Yes, she’ll need shoes to match and some kind of hat. Well, you saw those idiot hats, didn’t you? Just find me something, dearest, and try to be here in a half hour. Kisses.”


            Ruth pushed Alexis into her room. “Strip,” she said. “I’ll be back with a tape measure.


            Alexis was used to Ruth. She ran the house like she did everything else, as if she were the queen of the universe. No body said no to Ruth Foster Granger. It just wasn’t done. This wedding was scheduled for three, and it would happen at three. The sun would shine; the lawn of the house where the reception was to be held would be perfectly manicured; the imported flowers would be perfectly placed; and the light would sparkle beautifully over the Atlantic Ocean behind the house. All would go as planned. Nothing so petty as a dress would spoil Ruth Foster Granger’s daughter’s very special day. Alexis was surprised that she allowed the purple dresses in the first place.


            As they waited for Arnold, Ruth paced the room.


            “If you’d rather be with Jen, it’s fine. I don’t mind waiting,” Alexis said. “I’m sure if they send Arnold up here, we can figure it out.”


            “You’ve lost quite a lot of weight, Alex,” Ruth said as if Alexis hadn’t spoken. “How did you do that?”


            “I didn’t plan it. I just work long hours at Fleming Price. I don’t have much time for long lunches and most nights, it’s tuna and carrots before I fall asleep on the couch.” Alexis smiled. “I love it though. I like being busy. It feels good to pay off those college debts.”


            “You always did have a lot of initiative,” Ruth said. “Jen never really knew what she wanted to do.”


            “Some people just figure it out faster than others,” Alexis said.


            “You mean some people have to figure it out faster than others.”


            Alexis shook her head. “No, Jen’s always been great. She’s kind and generous. She could run a charity or work with kids. She’s smart; she could do anything.”


            “And she’s my daughter, so she will get the chance,” Ruth said. Her face softened for a moment, and she touched Alexis’s cheek. “You’ve always been Jen’s rock. I don’t know about this idiot she’s marrying except he’s stinking rich with new money. Be there for her, won’t you?”


            “Of course.”


            “Promise me. Always.” Ruth produced a folder. “Look this over when you get the chance. It’s their pre-nup. I had it drawn up. It’s a good one. I want you to make sure there aren’t any gaps, and if anything goes wrong, you handle it.”


            “Ruth, you know that’s not my area of expertise.” Alexis felt as if the envelope weighed a hundred pounds when Ruth handed it to her.


            “But you’ll take care of it anyway.”


            “Of course, but do you think?”


            “I think a woman needs insurance, especially someone as naïve as Jen. Promise.”


            Alexis nodded. “I promise.”


            A tentative knock on the door sounded.


            “Enter,” Ruth shouted.


            A thin man in a bright blue suit entered. He wore a white shirt with white stripes and a hot pink tie and carried garment bags and assorted other bags with him.


            “Arnold,” Ruth said. “This is Alex. Do your magic. I’ve got to see to my daughter.”


            Arnold smiled. “Just so. It will be an honor. Now away with this monstrosity, and I will make you a queen.”


            “Give me what you’ve got,” Alexis said”


            By three o’clock, Arnold and his team had re-done her hair, pulling it into a soft twist and decorating it with a cascade of purple flowers, and he had dressed her in a Valentino gown of deep violet silk. It was simple and tightly fitted around her body with a small keyhole opening in the top to give a chaste glimpse of her breasts. The purple Jimmy Choos made her four inches taller.


            “You’re the maid of honor. You don’t wear a hat,” Arnold said.


            Alexis saw the envious glances of the other bridesmaids as she sailed down the stairs and waited for Jenny. Miranda Palmer hissed, “Where’s your real dress?”


            “It didn’t fit,” Alexis said. “Ruth got me a new one.”


            The mention of Ruth’s name was enough to make Miranda back away, her face screwed in a tight frown.


            Jen looked radiant, and squeezed Alexis’s hand. “Thank you for this,” she said.


            Alexis grinned. “Hey. What are friends for?”


            “We’ll always be friends, won’t we?”


            “You’re stuck with me,” Alexis said.


            Alexis could hear the music starting, and Jen’s father came over to take her arm. “Look of the pair of you,” he said. “The most beautiful girls here.”


            The doors opened and the procession started.


            On that Saturday afternoon, the wedding ceremony went without a hitch, the weather was perfect, and the bride and groom danced their first dance to “You Stepped Out of Dream”. Alexis sat back in her chair having slipped out of the Jimmy Choos and sipped on a mimosa and enjoyed the seabreeze wafting over her. It was cool but not too cool. Tomorrow she’d drive home and get back to reality, but tonight she was happy to bask in the glow of the joy of the evening. She didn’t want to think about the manilla envelope sitting in her room. Weddings were about celebrating joy; the ugly aftermath came later. She didn’t want to think about it on this evening. She was wearing her first designer dress and wanted to enjoy the evening.


            A man approached her. Parker Howe Blackwood the twenty-second or some such nonsense; he was one of those tall, good-looking rowing gods who never gave her a second glance in high school. Of course, she wasn’t in high school any more.


            “Alexis, right?” he said, white teeth flashing against his perfect tan, and she thought it was unfair that he should be rich, athletic, and good looking. No one should have that many aces.


            “And you’re Parker.” She watched him carefully. Smart or smarmy?


            “That’s right. Jen said you work at Fleming Price, and I’d better pray I don’t come up against you.”


            “I’m in property law. I don’t go to court.”


            “Thank God. Maybe you’d like to dance?”


            Alexis gave him a smile. At least he didn’t seem smarmy. Overall, it had been a good day. “Well, Parker, I would love to dance.”