The Red Dress

By , Los Angeles, CA
Mary woke up early the Saturday morning of her 8th birthday to the smell of waffles and cigarette smoke, wafting into her bedroom. Her brown hair when brushed just barely reached her belly button, and Mary let her long legs slide into each pant hole. She throw on her coat and ran downstairs just in time for the weather channel to come back from commercial break. “Mary, your just in luck, the rain stopped and we can still go to the open air market today. Looks like its going to be your special day after all!” Her dad said. Every year for her birthday, Mary’s parents take her to the open market just down the street. The market only happens once a year and it coincidently always falls on Mary’s birthday. Her mom set down a fresh batch of waffles in front of her. She just sat there for a minute and took a deep breath of the sweet smell of her favorite breakfast. Who knows, maybe today was going to Mary’s special day after all.
As they pulled up to the market, Mary let her surroundings embrace her. Her big blue eyes smiled as she looked around at every person, she couldn’t help wondering what their stories were. The day carried on and Mary’s parents were the happiest she had ever seen them. This made Mary never want to leave. Then Mary saw it. The one thing she had been looking all over for. It was the most beautiful dress she had ever seen. It was a simple red dress. She stumbled over to the vender excitedly, but he couldn’t help overhearing her dad talking to her mom. “Oh God, you just know this one isn’t going to be cheap. “ But Mary didn’t care. “ Well Mar, you are lucky this is your special day.” And that day, was indeed Mary’s special day. Because that day, Mary went home with a new simple red dress.
School began all too soon for Mary’s liking. Every morning she would throw on her red dress and run to catch her bus. Every day after school Mary would sit and do her work while her dad worked in his study and her mom hummed and set three table settings down for dinner.
As the days got colder, Mary realized that her parents weren’t as happy as they were the day they bought her dress. Every day when Mary came home from school, instead of doing her work in the kitchen with her mom humming in the background, Mary sat in her room and tried to ignore the constant bickering that was now taking place in the kitchen. As it began to snow, the bickering turned into arguing and Mary cold no longer do her work in her house. One day after school, on Mary’s walk to the library, she saw a girl no more than seven, with her two parents walking home from school. “ I can’t believe you got an A+ on her spelling test!” The mom told her daughter. The girl grinned as she walked holding hands with both her mom and her dad. Mary was devastated that this was no longer her life. She wanted to run up to the girl and rip her spelling test into pieces, and tell her that her parents one day won’t be this happy. But why tell her? She’ll suffer one day, just like Mary was. As the days turned into weeks, Mary slowly became more and more stressed out about her parents at home. When Mary even thought about the silent dinners or how she might not be tucked in that night, she began shaking. As a nervous habit, Mary began playing with the lose red string on her dress. Intertwining it within her fingers, allowed her to feel a sense of protection from the dress. Days turned into weeks without seeing her father, and more and more loose red string accumulated. Her dress was unraveling, just like her life.
The first time Mary ever witnessed her father hitting her mom, she was wearing laced up black snow boots. She remembers because no matter how hard it snowed, Mary never wore those boots again. One late January night, Mary’s parents were fighting like never before. The house was shaking, and Mary was pretty sure the whole neighborhood could hear. Mary tried to ignore her parents but just like the rest of the neighborhood, she too, was intently listening. And that’s when it happened. The one last string that held the dress together, ripped. And Mary’s dress fell apart.
It soon became weeks since Mary had last seen her dad. It had become weeks of constantly listening to her mothers sobs. It had been weeks without a kiss goodnight. And worst of all, it had been weeks of Mary buttoning up her coat, without the simple red dress lying beneath.
The year carried on. Mary’s dad rarely made appearances and when he did they were kept short and sweet. He had no intention on giving the neighborhood any more shows. Never mind Mary. Every visit, he would give her a hug and a kiss, then he would give her mom a check, and he was gone. Just like that. Mary couldn’t look at her dad in the same way. He was no longer the dad that so generously bought her a simple red dress on her 8th birthday. Now he was the dad that never showed up, and frankly Mary was content in keeping it that way.
Summer was now right around the corner and her mom had stopped crying incessantly. Mary was now able to do her work at her home, with her mom in the kitchen humming. Instead of setting stable for three, it was now a table for two and Mary was okay with that.
Mary woke up early the morning of her 9th birthday to the smell of just waffles wafting into her bedroom. Her brown hair when brushed now reached past her belly button and Mary let her even longer legs slide into each pant hole. She throw on her coat and ran downstairs. Her mom set down her breakfast in front of her. She just sat there for a minute and took a deep breath of the sweet smell of her new favorite breakfast: pancakes. Mary spent the whole day at the open market with her mom. It was the first time, in a long time that Mary was finally at peace with her life. Mary’s 9th birthday was a very special day. Because that day, Mary went home with a new simple blue dress.





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