The Right Dress

Author’s Note: So once again, I am pulling from the childhood side project. This scene seemed fitting to use for Wednesday Wardrobe, since it has them trying on dresses. It later lead to a whole series of scenes about a school dance, but I am only posting this one today.

The Right Dress

Alik glanced at the two bags sitting on the table, stopping to rub his neck. He was going to have to talk to the foreman about his schedule. The idea of him having a couple hours after school for homework had been nice in theory, but in practice, it did not work. He kept falling asleep the moment he sat down, and that wasn’t helping much.

He checked the clock, missing his ability to wear a watch without destroying it. He only had a few minutes before he needed to go.

He shook his head, walking away from the kitchen. With their father working in other cities and their mother gone most days, the house was a disaster. Enadar ignored it, always in his books, and it wasn’t fair to make Malina do it all, but she was the only one who seemed willing to do it, who was home to do it.

He would have to do something about that, too. If he figured out his schedule, he should be able to make time to do more here, too.

He stopped outside the door to Malina’s room, hearing voices inside—were those two actually arguing? Since when did Lisea argue?

“Malina?” He knocked on the door. It opened, and he found himself staring at his sister, trying to decide if he’d woken up or not. “What are you wearing?”

She laughed, pulling the door open wider, letting him in. “I knew it. I tried to tell her, but she wouldn’t listen. Can you believe that this is what they expect Lisea to wear to the party her family is having next week? This is terrible. The color is bad, the fabric is itchy, and the design… I told her it was hideous, but she wouldn’t believe me. So I put it on, and she’s still trying to tell me she should wear it. There’s duty, and there’s insanity, and that is insanity.”

He didn’t know or want to know anything about fashion, but he agreed with his sister. He didn’t think he’d seen an uglier dress, and people had tried to give her some terrible ones in the past.

She took hold of his arm. “Tell her that one is a much better fit—in color and style and everything else. That looks good. That is what she should wear. I don’t care if her grandmother got her this one. This is wrong. That is right. Tell her.”

Alik did look, and as his eyes took in the line of the dress that Malina had chosen for her friend, the way it fit and molded her, emphasizing where it should and concealing where there might have been flaws, unpleasantly aware that both of them were becoming women—a fact he did not want to know about his sister—he understood the purpose of the dress the others had chosen for Lisea.

He leaned down to his sister’s ear. “I think the whole point of that dress you’ve taken on is that she’s not supposed to be flattered in it. It’s meant to make her seem more shapeless, less attractive, less noticeable… more dowdy.”

“What?” Malina demanded, shaking her head at him. “Why would anyone do that? That’s not right. Are they trying to humiliate her?”

“Malina,” Lisea said, sounding rather humiliated at that moment. “Please help me get this thing off. I will wear the other one. I don’t want to be embarrassed.”

“This is the dress that would be embarrassing. This one’s meant to make you look—I can’t even say like an old woman because it’s not. It’s worse than that.” Malina crossed over and took her friend’s hands. “I can’t understand why they’d ask you to go looking less than your best, to make you feel so… Why would they make you do that? It would only hurt you, and that is not what I want.”

“I think I’d be more comfortable in it.”

“I am not giving you this hideous thing back. Your grandmother can be as mad at me as she wants. I’m burning it.” Malina looked back at him. “Alik, I know you’re hopeless at this, but help me convince her. That dress is one she looks good in. Pretty. You’d dance with her at the party, wouldn’t you?”

“I don’t dance.”

Malina sighed. “If you did?”

He must be late for work by now. “Yes. If I were the sort that went to parties and if I were the sort that danced, then I would. I have to—”

“Would I get a dance, too?”

He let out a breath. Sometimes he wanted to hate his sister. He stepped forward, giving Malina a kiss on the forehead. “Yes, sister, you would. Now I have to go to work. Will you take care of the kitchen?”

She winced. “Yes, but you owe me a dance.”

“Robots don’t dance.”

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