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The Dress

Lace. Silk. Tiny crystal beads. This dress had everything.
Belle eyed the ornate antique dress in the shop window, a soft sigh of delight escaping her lips as she pressed herself against the glass. She stared in wonder. She’d never seen a garment so beautiful, the intricate beadwork, even after all these years, in perfect condition.
Behind her, lunchtime shoppers raced to get out of the cold. Snow was expected tonight. Christmas would be a white one this year.
The thought filled her with a sprinkling of joy. Belle normally loved Christmas, loved the race to the big day, unwrapping presents, roasting chestnuts. This year was different. Everything had changed
The dress still held her captive.
“It would be perfect,” she said aloud, trying to convince herself.
Perfect for what? There was no party, no Christmas tree, no twinkling lights. This year was silent.
Belle held back the tears. They’d been too many, for too long. But still her eyes filled.
She gazed with awe at the beautiful garment, eyes shuttering a moment as she imagined the laughter of its wearer, the gaiety of another world, another life.
Within seconds she found herself inside the store. It was a quaint place, one she’d never noticed before. Everything smelt old, but not in a musty way. More like lavender and violets. Perfumes that reminded Belle of her grandmother.
“It’s beautiful isn’t it?”
Belle spun round as she heard the voice and came face to face with the shopkeeper. At least eighty, the elderly woman stared at her from beneath half round glasses, her gray hair tied up in an intricate bun. Diamonds glittered from hear ears, but it was the sparkle from her wise eyes that caught Belle.
The woman held the dress out and Belle automatically reached for it, fingers scraping over the aged silk and the tiny crystals. “Yes,” she whispered. The dress felt as ethereal as it looked. A longing, deep down inside her clawed for attention.
She had to try the dress on.
“Can I…?” The rest of her question went unspoken as the woman seemed to pre-empt her question.
“Of course my dear.”
Behind the drape of a luxurious velvet curtained changing room, Belle quickly divested herself of her jeans and sweater and reached for the dress.
For a moment she held it with reverence. Something so beautiful, so delicate. She held it to her cheek.
From the other side of the curtain the tinkle of the shop door chimed. It snapped Belle out of her wistfulness and she quickly slipped the dress on. It fit perfectly. With the minutiae of pearl buttons at the shoulder done up, her hands slid down the dress, smoothing it across her hips.
Womanly hips Frank had called them.
Frank! Belle’s heart ripped at the thought of her husband. Dead. Too early. Too young. And now she was alone, starting again.
Starting?
She hadn’t stopped crying yet.
Belle lifted her gaze to the ornately gilt-framed mirror and her eyes widened.

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