Hello! Here is my story about haunted wedding dresses, just for you! Because it’s long (~3000 words), I’m experimenting with spreading out the story over a few blog posts rather than all at once.
Do you ever write serial blog posts? (E.g., the same article or story spread out over several blog posts.) Do your readers appreciate the continued story/article, or do they prefer having one long article or post? Do you prefer to read a single long post or to read several shorter posts with a continuation of the story or article? I’m still in learning mode, would love to hear your thoughts.
Leila worked among the wedding dresses. Not in the front where the ecstatic anticipation of soon-to-be brides slopped into the fitting room and flew about the brightly shimmery racks of pearled and satined garments. Not in the musky design studio rooms where new creations were born of pencil and vellum, of draping lace and taffeta. Leila worked in the back.
Leila did all the bridal alterations. It should have been a job of glamour. She held the fluffy pleats and stiff gay bodices in her calloused and needle-lined hands, placing them tautly on the dressmaker forms drawn from an army of forms lined up at the back of the workroom like so many soldiers in the service of love. She worked diligently with the dress at hand, before her on her lap, intimate as a lover’s embrace or the happiness of a child. But this was not a task of glamour and glitz. This was a work of duty. Duty to the orders, to the designers, to the brides who had chosen and purchased their dresses for the day of their dreams.
For Leila it was work she dreaded. She dreaded it with all her being.
It was the dresses. It was the way they behaved. Or – misbehaved.
Leila’s fellow staff were uncommonly kind to her, knowing her quick eye and deft needle made the dream of creation a reality, or the ambition of an off-sized bride fulfilled. They brought her small gifts, spoke gratefully to her, and respectfully asked her opinion on the choices in their work. Princess line bodice or straight seam? Sweetheart neckline or round? Tucks at the waist to cover a bride’s sudden loss of a few pounds, or a sly letting-out of seam to disguise a bit of added weight in the wrong place. She was a wizard with the refitting of a too-revealing neckline, a drooped back lace collar, a too-short sleeve cuff. Her fellow workers adored Leila.
Not only that, they protected her from shielded her from selfish demands of the customers, the last-minute vain request, the ultra-persnickety mothers’ demands. Leila was largely shielded from client irrationality and lack of human grace by her Leila’s highly competent co-workers.
But oh! – the dresses. The wedding dresses gossiped. Terribly. It was worst in the morning when Leila had been away for twelve or fourteen hours and the dresses had the workroom to themselves. During the day Leila’s presence, her work with the dresses, her hands on their fabric, her fingers working the seams and the fasteners, pleating the lace, calmed them. But at night. What rows would break out among the pristine whiteness of the bridal garments!
It did something to Leila’s nerves. The terrible hissing gossip clouded her mood and made her anxious. It had not always been this way. When she had begun in her mother’s shop, as a teenager, helping with fittings and making changes in seams and fasteners, adjusting lace overlays, there had been none of this gossip. Those dresses had been well-behaved. That had been a happy time, working with her mother and a beloved aunt to find and provide the perfect wedding dress for each client who came to their little shop.
That was before her aunt’s terrible illness, before they lost her aunt so suddenly one night, before her mother withdrew into herself and would not leave the house. Leila had had to close up the shop, as she couldn’t care for her mother and mind the shop at the same time.
But now her mother was better. She was well enough, in fact, that Leila had taken this job a few months ago, hoping to recapture the happy sense of accomplishment that she had once had.
Was it all in her head?
As Leila arrived each morning, cup of coffee in hand from the local high-end coffee retailer, going in through the front showroom and passing the open design studio, exchanging friendly greetings with co-workers, she would come to the door of her workroom with its blonde wood and its one porthole-style window, like an eye in the breast of the door. She would pause and take a deep breath, then grasp the smooth doorknob and turn it, hoping all would be quiet within. Once inside, she left the door open as a sort of wishful safeguard against the whining snipiness of the dresses. For the first few minutes all would be silent. It wasn’t until she had sat down, reviewed her sheet of alterations, pulled out her sewing things, and selected the first dress that the nastiness started.
Hissing, vengeful nastiness. One dress cast aspersions on another. Whispers about sequins (too flashy), low necklines (too risqué), high necklines (too snooty). About lace (too exotic), about trains (“Thinks it’s a duchess or something!”) about puffy sleeves and skirts (“So fru-fru! Ugly!”).
And on and on. It didn’t matter which dress Leila chose to start with, the other dresses instantly began their ridicule. Having noticed the dresses calmed down with the touch of her hands, she sometimes thought that if she worked quickly, the gossip would subside. But this only exhausted her, and the benefit was disappointingly temporary.
She had tried things. Earbuds. Music. No music. Noise-canceling headphones. She tried singing to herself. Humming to herself. For a couple of days she even tried “laying on of hands,” going about the workroom periodically, making a circuit of the racks of dresses, caressing them as best she could. But it did not seem to make a difference; the cacophony of ugly voices plagued her nevertheless.
At first she thought it was somehow her fault. It was all in her mind, surely. The shock of first, her aunt’s death, then the long convalescence of the mother she loved dearly, these things must have compounded her own grief to the point where these hallucinations had begun.
But that line of thought unnerved her even more. Could she be having a breakdown? It could not be. Somehow she must remain sane. She must believe she was still sane, and she must remain sane.
Day after day, day after exhausting day, the torment continued.
(to be continued!)