TOPIC OF THIS CONTEST WAS:
Sitting on the porch steps, she stared, ignoring the scent of lilacs from the overgrown bush. Her heart lurched when she saw the mail truck approaching, dust in its wake. Would it arrive today? The ancient mail carrier took his time handing her some envelopes and, finally, a large package in brown paper. As he drove away, she dropped the envelopes on the porch, and walked quickly around the side of the house, praying nobody inside saw…
(Entries must touch on the topic in some way to qualify.)
“Please don’t look out the window,” I prayed as I hunched past the living room, crouching down into the shrubbery so I wouldn’t be seen.
Clutching the package awkwardly to my chest, I sprinted across the lawn, opened the shed door and quickly locked it behind me, breathing a sigh of relief.
At last! I’d scrimped and saved for months, and agonised for just as long over which items, exactly, to choose. I’d changed my mind a million times, but I’d finally been brave enough to place the order.
I’d been smart, too. I’d used the computers at the library, and I’d erased the search history, so nobody knew what sites I’d been looking at. And I’d used a bank cheque to pay, so nothing could be traced back to me.
I’d been very clever.
Growing up with four older brothers, I was always included in the rough-and-tumble. We wrestled, played football and built forts. They taught me how to fish, climb tall trees and fix my own bike chain. I learned not to cry when I got hurt, to be brave and take chances, and to keep my mouth shut and not go running to Dad every time something was unfair.
My eldest brother was the clever one. The second excelled at sport. The third could take apart anything and fix it, and number four was a budding musician.
And then there was me. The afterthought, the addendum. Mum died shortly after I was born, so I grew up without a female role model. Dad did all he could, but he worked so hard to keep food on the table there was little time for me. I slotted in as best as I could, tagging along with my older brothers and trying to be as strong and tough as them, despite the age differences.
I wore hand-me-down everything – jeans, shoes, baggy shirts – even socks. At least I was allowed my own underwear; otherwise I’d have been a complete carbon copy of my brothers.
No wonder I was excited by the contents of my box! For the first time I was going to express who I really was, unwrapping the me on the inside.
I carefully tore open the carton, exposing a smaller cardboard box and four opaque plastic bags, squishy, plump and inviting. My heart fluttered with excitement.
First I opened the box. Nestled inside were the most beautiful blue satin high-heeled shoes, with tiny diamantes on the toes. I nearly squealed with excitement – I’d never held anything so dainty and feminine in my hands before.
Inside the big bag was an elegant, form-fitting cocktail dress, with a tight waist and plunging back. The taffeta rustled as the fabric moved against itself, and I could imagine Grace Kelly descending a staircase or Audrey Hepburn sipping champagne at a party. The dress epitomised the feminine ideal I’d been yearning for.
One of the smaller bags held undergarments the likes of which I’d only seen in films. A matching brassiere and panties set trimmed in lace, with little bows on the straps and waistline. A coordinating set of suspenders and a pair of silk stockings rounded out the ensemble.
It was such a far cry from my usual serviceable underpants I nearly wept.
I stepped out of my jeans and faded tee shirt, kicked off my socks and left the old clothes puddled on the shed floor. Embarrassed, even though I was alone, I stripped naked and slipped into the delicate wisps of the new undergarments. It was like putting on a new skin. I felt like a grown-up woman, even though the bra needed filling out. Hopefully in time that would happen.
Taking care not to ladder them, I rolled the stockings up my legs as I’d seen Ginger Rogers do in the black and white movies I loved to watch. I squeezed my feet into the stiletto heels, teetering at the unaccustomed height. Already I felt more ladylike – the undergarments pinching me in here, boosting me up there so that I felt less gawky and more womanly than ever before in my life.
With a sigh, the silky dress flowed over my head and settled onto my hips. The fabric flowed around me and I couldn’t help twirling a little to see the skirt swishing back and forth.
Opening the final bag, I added a simple string of pearls, a velvet headband and some clip-on earrings to my ensemble. I’d been growing my hair a little, and the red curls set off the dark blue of the dress perfectly.
Stepping back, I viewed myself in the cracked wardrobe mirror stuffed between the lawn mower and a patio umbrella. I looked stunning. I carefully applied lipstick I’d stolen from my aunt’s handbag, pooched my lips together and blew myself a kiss before twirling around to catch a glimpse of myself from the back.
My gawkiness had turned into elegance, my sporty frame now hinted at bust and hips, and I felt utterly beautiful and womanly. And shy. Slipping into new clothing was one thing – stepping into the new role would take some time.
After one last look in the mirror, I pulled off the earrings and undressed in reverse. The jewellery went carefully back in the bag. I stepped out of the dress, catching it before it could drag on the dirty floor of the shed. The shoes were nestled in their box with a loving pat and the undergarments came off piece by piece.
It felt odd to be back in my rumpled old clothes.
I just had time to conceal the box underneath an old tarpaulin before I heard voices calling me from the house.
“Dinner time, Stanley!”