The gold and lace ruffles of the dress were hypnotizing. It was like a dress from a storybook; something you’d never wear out clubbing, no, no. This dress belonged at a fête, a promenade, or—as the upper-class New Yorkers kept saying—a do.
Every time Melissa’s breath fogged the glass, she would wipe it away with a mitten, just to keep looking a little longer.
“Um, are you done yet?” Julie asked pointedly.
“No!” Melissa said. “How are you not transfixed by this? It’s the most beautiful dress I’ve ever seen…”
“Yeah, and the Mona Lisa’s just oil paint on a canvas,” Melissa scoffed, though her eyes never left the dress. “You have no appreciation of art.”
Julie sighed. “And you have no appreciation of reality. Mona Lisa is painted on wood.”
“Yes. It is oil paints, though—you got that part right. But back in the 16th century, da Vinci painted them onto a panel of poplar wood, not canvas. Mona Lisa isn’t even its actual title. The painting is called La Gioconda in the original Italian. But at the Louvre, where it’s displayed, it’s listed as Portrait of Lisa Gherardini, wife of Francesco del Giocondo. Which is a little sterile, I feel.”
Neither spoke for a few moments. Melissa continued staring at the dress, and Julie checked the time on her cell phone.
“Boy,” she said, “I’d love to lie to you and say that we need to hurry—”
“It’s only 7:23; we have 37 minutes,” Melissa interrupted. “It’s a casual party, too. We don’t have to be there right at 8:00.”
Julie looked puzzled. “How in the world do you know what time it is so exactly?”
“Magic!” Melissa shouted, fogging the glass. She wiped it away again. “Also, there’s a, uh… clock in the store.”
“Do you even need a fancy dress?” Julie asked, using non sequitur to hide her embarrassment. “I don’t think any princes are going to be inviting you to any balls anytime soon.”
“But that’s not the point. I’ve…” Melissa finally turned to Julie. “I’ve lived in New York City for a few months now, but I still feel like a Michigan girl. Like this is just a place where I am, instead of the place I live. I know it’s winter now, but I think that buying some nice clothes would make me feel better about my life decisions.”
“That sounds like a very immature decision for very mature reasons. Can’t you just do what everyone else does: buy a tube top at Old Navy and drink your worries away?”
“It’s not the same,” Melissa pouted.
“Can you put it on a payment plan or something?”
“I… don’t know.”
Curious dread began to spread across Julie’s face. “Don’t tell me that you’ve never been inside.”
Melissa glanced upward for a moment, then slowly turned back to the dress.
“Oh, that’s it,” Julie said decisively. “Come with me.”
She grabbed Melissa’s hand and began dragging the other girl along.
“No, wait, I don’t want to leave!” Melissa mock-whined. “Five more minutes, Mom!”
“Oh, we’re not leaving,” Julie said as she pulled open the door of the dress shop with her free hand. “No more of this Hamlet crap; you’re going to try it on. Either you hate it—in which case we never have to stop here again on our way to Karen and Jim’s—or you love it. In which case we’ll… I don’t know. Ask about layaway or something. But no more being wishy-washy, you hear?”
“Yay!” Melissa beamed as she was shoved inside. “Aggressive friendship!”