It doesn’t get much more raw than this. Here’s the first pages of my current WIP. A little different approach for me, but let’s just say I was inspired. (Wait’ll you meet TJ. I’m in love!)
Update, 10/17/13: G2L is a Beacon Contest finalist! Below is part of the revised version the final round judges will be seeing. 😀
Update, 6/24/14: and now G2L is also a Sheila finalist! Something tells me if this piece has finaled in the only two contests I entered, I may be on to something. 🙂
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“We’re all just walking each other home.” – Ram Dass
“Why did I tell Eddie I’d go to his wedding?” I flipped through a rack of dresses that would only look good if I had the body of a life-sized Barbie doll. I didn’t.
“Because you got custody of the best man in the divorce.” Sandy browsed the rack next to mine. The mall dress shop’s offerings didn’t seem to bother her as much, but for a fellow forty-something, my best friend had the figure of a young Cindy Crawford. Mine looked more like an old circus elephant. Okay, not really, but I felt the part, even if I didn’t I look it.
“Oh. Right.” I sighed, rejecting another dress when all I’d seen of it was the shoulder. In my defense, no one looked good in that shade of green.
Damn Eddie. Not only did he walk out on me, but now he was making me dress-shop for a wedding I damn well didn’t want to go to. I hated dress shopping. Nothing ever looked right on me. None of my parts were where they had been fifteen years before when I married the sonofabitch.
I looked out the shop window at the people walking past, going about their lives already in progress. What I’d give to be any one of them. Some were prettier than I was, some were thinner, some were better dressed, probably most of them had more money, but I’d bet they were all happier.
A couple in their twenties laughed together, walking hip to hip, arm in arm. When the woman put her head on the man’s shoulder, he kissed the top of her head. The smile on his face broadcast to anyone in five miles, “I found the one I wanted.” I sighed out loud but on the inside, I wept. In the five years since my change in marital status, I’d dated three men, none longer than three months. Two years had come and gone since my last date. Sure, I had total control of the remote, the bed covers, and the refrigerator–as much as my teenage son allowed–but what about my life? I’d whined about it, drank over it, and cried my eyes out, and none of it got me anywhere.
Maybe it was time to give up the ghost. The love train had come and gone while I was at the airport. I had to accept that I’d missed my chance at finding a soul mate and slouch onward to the grave. With an acid knot in my gut, I sang softly under my breath, “I’ll say goodbye to love. No one ever cared–”
Sandy kicked my ankle. “Stop that.”
“Why? If it weren’t for romance novels, I’d have forgotten the mechanics of sex. At this point I couldn’t pay a man to flirt with me. I quit. It’s over. Stick a fork in me; I’m done. I said goodbye to love. There are no tomorrows–”
“If you’re only saying that so Fate will take pity on you and throw Channing Tatum in your path, think again. He’s married, but there are lots of single men our age out there. You just aren’t looking in the right places.”
“And that’s reason number two for giving up. I don’t get out anywhere. I go to work, I go for groceries, I go to the library, and twice a year I meet with Aaron’s teachers. Some of them are damn cute, but they’re also younger than my car.”
“So maybe you should go where the available men our age are.” She held up a sequined black number with spaghetti straps. “What about this one?”
I threw my shoulders back. “Where’s the bra going to go?”
“Get a strapless.”
I laughed, though the conclusion I’d just reached still made my heart hurt. “Remember your New Years’ party, when the underwire in my strapless bra broke free and speared me in the chin? I looked like a hooked trout.”
She put the dress back on the rack. “As I was saying. Have you considered online dating?”
I snorted. “Really? Wasn’t your experience with James enough of a warning?”
She opened her mouth, her face a vision of sincerity until the date I had in my mind entered hers. “Okay, point taken.” She pulled something in blue off the rack. “Well, who knows. Maybe you’ll meet somebody at Eddie’s wedding.”
“Yeah, that’ll happen. His friends are all knuckle-draggers. I’m not sure any of them can complete a sentence that doesn’t include at least one sports reference.”
Sandy turned to me, hands on hips. “Have you, for one minute, considered that maybe you’re a little too picky?”
I waved her off, flicking through the rack. “So you’re saying I should settle for another Eddie?”
“Good God, no, but what about someone younger?”
“Please. Younger men want younger women. Show me a thirty year old who’d give me a second look and I’ll show you a guy who has more issues than Life Magazine. And what’s worse is that men my age want younger women too. They want some smooth-skinned sweetie to make them feel like they’re twenty again. Older women are just a reminder that they still do everything wrong and they’re that much closer to death.”
“There are ways to not look so old, you know.”
“You mean Botox? Right. I already smile like Grumpy Cat. You want me stuck like that?”
Sandy threw her hands up. “I quit. You’re right. You’re never going to find love, particularly not with an attitude like that. Let’s just get you a shroud and get the hell out of here. Thanks to you, I need a martini the actual size of Rhode Island.” She glanced across the store. “Is there a section here for Puritan-style dresses? You know, the kinds with high necklines and hems down to the floor? We wouldn’t want you showing your ankle or anything.”
“Now you’re talking,” I said, stepping away from the rack of lingerie labeled as evening wear. When Sandy didn’t follow, I turned to her, grinning. “Oh come on. You know me. I’m just moping. It’s been a while since I’ve even made eye contact with a guy. Get me some fudge upstairs at Gertrude’s and I’ll be fine again.”
“You know, maybe that’s part of your problem. You’re looking for refuge in chocolate instead of endorphins.”
“Says the gym owner who thinks the answer to everything is found in a pool of sweat.”
“Look at me. I work off my stress. And once I dropped those last five pounds, I wasn’t invisible to men anymore.”
“How could you ever be invisible with a rack like that?”
She grinned. “Honey, I hate to tell you this but you’d look a lot like me if you’d just mix it up a little. Brighter colors, a change of hair style, a couple of days a week at the gym, and you’ll be beating them away with a baseball bat.”
I leaned on a dress rack, prepared to debate her argument, when something fell off. I bent to retrieve the sheath of dusky blue material that, when held to the light, had the finest hint of silver shimmer. I whistled. “Oh, now that’s my color. Wouldn’t this be pretty? What size is it?”
Sandy stepped over to me. “It’s got spaghetti straps. You know what that means.”
I sighed, loving the subtlety of the color with the allure of the sparkle. “Yeah, I know. Strike one, but…” I found the tag. “Ah, there we go. Strike two. It’s two sizes too small.” I put the dress on a hanger and hung it up again. “Never mind.”
Sandy pulled the hanger back off the rack. “Wait a minute. Don’t go writing it off just yet. Is there another size?”
I searched the rack but couldn’t find the same dress. “Damn. Looks like it’s the last one. How ironic. Just like my search for men, the only one I liked wasn’t a good fit.” I turned to put it back, but Sandy didn’t let go.
“Hang on. It’s only two sizes. You have time. You could get there by June.” She looked serious.
I was ready to argue with her, but I couldn’t stop looking at the fabric. It was so soft, and the color almost matched my eyes. I’d have considered trying it on, but two sizes too small would make me look like twenty pounds of cottage cheese in a five pound bag. I didn’t dare dream.
I took the hanger from Sandy’s hand and held the dress up, turning to face a mirror. The glimmer of the dress lit me up. “Oh no.”
“What, ‘oh no’? This dress is you. A simple diamond pendant at your throat, a nice hair style”–she lifted my hair back at the sides; was that really me?–“the right shoes, and Eddie will rue the day he walked out on you.” She let my hair go. “I say get the dress and work your way into it. You have two months, and I know a great gym. Carpe diem, Jane.”
I loved the way the dress felt against my skin. It had a bit of weight to it, just enough that I knew it was there. It flowed like water and rustled when I moved. I craved the sight of it on me. I could even be tempted into going commando, as much to feel all of it against my skin as to avoid panty lines. “You know, even if I didn’t wear it to the wedding, it’d be a great dress for going out.”
In the mirror’s reflection, Sandy looked like a cat picking her teeth with canary feathers. “I thought you said goodbye to love.”
“Well, I did, but, you know, I might need it to go out to other events. Aaron’s wedding, maybe. When he wins a Nobel Prize. Parties at George Clooney’s. That kind of thing. This would be perfect.”
Sandy slapped me on the hip. “You’ll need to fit into it too. So, can I expect to see you at the gym tomorrow?”
I hugged the dress against me a moment longer, then turned for the register. “Maybe.”