The Black Lace Gown has been edited by Riya Jhala.
I couldn’t stop looking at myself. The black lace gown that I had longed to wear for months settled perfectly on my slightly curved frame, its deep dark shade a perfect contrast to my fair complexion. My reflection in the trial room mirror left me bewitched. Suddenly, someone was banging on the door. I heard the sharp aggressive shouts of Nita, my co-worker. She yelled, “Come out you thief, and stop hiding in there!” Confusion and panic set over me, and without a second thought, I opened the door.
My manager and co-workers were staring at me in amazement and disgust. “I told you, sir! She is a thief. Had I not seen her sneaking the dress inside, she would have escaped unnoticed. Oh dear! She had the courage to steal my phone too.” Nita said, snatching the phone from my hand with a hidden grin. Before I could explain, my manager fired me. I was told to leave and never come back. Company policy.
It all began a month ago.
My eyes shifted from dotted shirts to short skirts to various other tops that were displayed on the perfectly shaped white mannequins, while some were hanging according to size and colour. I wandered around, looking at all those beautiful pieces of clothing. Soon, my eyes found a mannequin, dressed in a black lace gown delicately flowing down like a brook on its (supposedly) perfect figure.
I pictured myself in the dress, twirling around in high heels and could not help but blush. Saleswomen trod around, their white shirts tucked neatly into their black trousers. I had not noticed them until one of them asked, “It is a wonderful dress ma’am, the material is light as air, and it slides beautifully on the body. I am sure it would look great on you.” She took me by surprise.
Dressed in a simple salwar kameez and plaited hair, I did not expect anyone to approach me. No one expects a person like me to shop in such fancy malls. I replied hesitantly, “I am actually here for a job. My cousin told me that there is a vacancy for a saleswoman.”Oh! Acha. Come.”, she said, leading me to a small room with “manager” written on the door. Asking me to wait outside, she knocked gently on the glass door and walked in.
Within seconds she came out and asked me to follow her into the cabin. The interview was not very tough, and I started work that very same day. The manager introduced me to Nita, who was going to train and guide me for a week. I was a fast learner, and my technique was improving with every sale I made. There were sales everywhere, and the mall bustled with the hungry women wanting to grab every piece of clothing they could. The peak hours were chaotic. We had to be all over the place – answering queries, folding clothes and neatly stacking them at their allotted place.
Sales fascinated me. The dressing rooms with long queues, and the time that a woman took looking for clothing always amazed me. But the best part was the patience that the men accompanying them kept. I always giggled as those poor creatures dragged themselves along and searched for corners to sit.
“That would really suit you, ma’am. It is beautiful, and on sale as well. This is the last piece.”, I said to the young woman looking at the black gown, even though I knew the dress would not suit her lean frame. She smirked and walked away to look at the other clothes on sale.
I could not help staring at it again. There was something about this gown. “You can stare at it later”, I heard Nita telling me as she went to assist a customer. The black lace gown was a luxury that I could not afford. But I could not stop looking at it every day. My desire to wear this beautiful gown increased with each day. Sale month was almost over, but nobody bought the dress. I wondered why.
It was late, and the mall was about to close. We were all winding up, busy in folding and stacking clothes into different piles. “Hey, do you want to wear it?”, Nita asked me as she removed the gown from the mannequin. I could not resist touching the delicate silk with my fingers. “No, are you crazy? It is against the rules!” I let go of the gown. But she whispered, handing me her phone, “Oh, what rules? Listen, I will guard the room while you change. Take some beautiful pictures in there.” “But–”, I hesitated. “Come on, I will be right outside”. I beamed and rushed into the trial room. I was finally going to live my dream for a few moments, unaware of the loud bang on the door about to shatter my dreams.
The black lace gown had worked its evil charm.
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