Hello! Here is the next part of my story about haunted wedding dresses.
In Part 1 & Part 2 & Part 3, Leila is a seamstress who does alterations on wedding dresses. Unfortunately, the dresses in Leila’s workroom are haunted They gossip terribly about each other in her workroom, yet only Leila can hear them speak. After Leila confides in her friend and co-worker Shareen, Shareen scolds the dresses, and they behave – for a time. Afterward Leila agrees to see a therapist recommended by Shareen.
Leila took a deep breath and closed her eyes. Here is where it starts, she thought.
Little by little Leila pieced together what she had been experiencing in her workroom for the therapist. She did not try to explain, she simply described how it was. That she came in every morning, hoping the workroom would be quiet. Instead, the minute she took up a dress to be altered the voices started. That the voices said nasty things about each other (“Not about you?” the therapist asked. “No, just about each other,” Leila answered.) That it had never been like that in her mother’s shop. That it had started a month or so after she began working at the wedding shop.
“And have you ever heard any voices before?” the therapist asked. (What was her name? Tiana? Tatiana?)
“And what do you believe it to be?”
Leila paused. If she had to be truthful, she would say the dresses were jealous – but clearly ill-behaved. Spoiled brats.
She told this to the therapist. “Not like my mother’s dresses,” she finished.
“Tell me about your mother’s dresses,” the therapist said.
Ah, where to start? Lace-pearled bodices like dewy white snowdrifts. Intricate white-on-white embroidery like tiny invisible rabbit tracks in a pristine white forest. Cascading silk-voile overlay skirts like the white foam of a waterfall in spring’s first thaw.
When Leila had finished, the therapist smiled.
“Well, the way forward is simple.”
Leila braced herself. Here came the recommendations for medical testing, perhaps medication for hallucinations. A lifelong habit of mental illness ahead.
“What do you think I should do?” she asked.
“Well, if it were me, I would talk to the dresses in your workroom.”
Talk to them?
“You believe me, then,” Leila said quietly.
“Oh yes. There is no doubt.”
“No doubt about what?” What the therapist humoring Leila’s delusion?
“You think I’m crazy,” Leila added.
“On the contrary.”
“But, you’d have to think I’m crazy,” Leila protested. “Hearing voices, that’s a delusion, right?”
“Not if the voices are there to hear,” the therapist said. “Then you are normal.”
“But, well . . .” She cast about, trying to understand what the therapist meant. Shareen did not hear them. Nobody heard them. Except her.
When she told the therapist this, the other woman said, smiling again, “It does not mean they are not there.”
Leila did not really believe her. A sane person did not hear things that other people did not.
But Shareen had believed her about the voices. And the therapist believed her too.
As she left the therapist’s office, Leila felt oddly liberated. It seemed improbable, but she somehow felt lighter. The daily anxiety she was used to was gone. It was as though her fate were set. No need for second-guessing.
The next morning when she arrived at the shop she came in as usual, but she hesitated at the door of her workroom. After a couple of minutes she turned away, instead slipping into the design studio. She asked about Shareen, who wasn’t in yet, but “she should be here any minute.”
Leila waited. If she could get Shareen to accompany her to the workroom, she’d have the courage to actually try talking to the dresses. She still didn’t know what she would say. Should she scold them? Rebuke them? That had worked for Shareen . . . but it wasn’t quite her style. Perhaps she should cajole them. Coax them into behaving. But that didn’t seem like it would work, either.
As she waited, she watched the other designers, some sketching, some poring over fabrics of fine textures and weaves, some at the computer scanning their illustrations and finished designs into the archives. It was busy, but not unpleasant. It reminded Leila of a busy colony of interrelated beings, like a beehive or an ant colony. Social insects.
Something clicked in Leila’s mind, not exactly an idea, but more like a vague memory.
Something about the workroom of her childhood. About the relationship – loving and beloved – among herself, her mother, and her aunt, and the long hours they spent together in that workroom, surrounded by dresses that were calm and, seemingly, well-behaved.
Shareen arrived then. She looked surprised to see Leila, but she quickly agreed to help when she heard the plan. “Let’s go talk some sense into those girls,” she said, meaning the dresses.
In the hallway on the way to her workroom Leila asked, “You don’t mind, even though you can’t hear the dresses speak?”
“Not at all. I got your back,” Shareen said.
They walked down the hallway together. At the door to her workroom, Leila took a deep breath and turned the doorknob.
What do you think will happen? I have a surprise in store – more about that next time. There is probably one more part to the story, which I will plan to post next Friday!
p.s. A big THANK YOU to readers who have let me know in particular that they’re excited about this story. Your encouragement has meant more to me than you know! As promised, here is a pingback to some of the readers who have let me know they’re looking forward to it: Tanglewood Knots|I think, I say, I do|Ronel the Mythmaker|Showers of Blessing|A Note to Hugette|Look Around!|My Silver Streaks|A Writer’s Life|Mabel Kwong|lyncrain
Let me know what you think!