It’s a special day, today. Susie’s new party dress is cotton, blue with little white sprigs of flowers. Pretty, maybe, but not sophisticated. What she longs for, more than anything, is to be like Melisande: sleek, chic, understated in sharp monochrome lines. To be so innately stylish that you don’t even have to think about it. And Melisande, always; never Mellie, never Sandy. Susie resolves that she will become Susanna – no, Suzette – from today.
At school, they’d asked, ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’ ‘My sister,’ she replied, and they all laughed, as if she’d made a joke.
The flowered dress has spaghetti straps, a flared skirt and a wide elasticated band that clamps her chest. Not the most flattering of shapes – not sleek – but at least she’s thin enough for it not to make her look fat. Each strap ties in a bow on her shoulders, snug against the knob of her collarbone.
She stands patiently by her father’s side as he plucks cinder-black sausages from the barbecue and piles them onto the tray in her hands. She carries it carefully to the long wooden table in the middle of the lawn, then returns to be reloaded with plates of smoky burgers and chicken wings. Melisande and David, her boyfriend – no, no, from today the word is fiance – watch her. Melisande smiles indulgently and pats her on the head. David just watches.
David watches her fetch jars of relish and bundles of paper napkins from the kitchen, watches her refill the iceboxes with bottles of beer and cans of Coke, watches her do whatever she’s told. She is very good at doing what she’s told.
And every now and then, his eyes stray to the straps of her dress. They aren’t as functional as they look; the elastic is tight enough across her chest that the dress won’t fall even if the straps are untied.
But still his eyes linger. Occasionally his fingers twitch; little phantom pulling motions. She doesn’t think he’s even aware of it.
Yesterday, Susie probably wouldn’t have been aware of it either. But it’s a special day today, and she is Suzette now. Suzette catches David’s eye, and smiles.
Michelle Ann King lives and writes in the UK. Her work has previously appeared in The Waterhouse Review, Every Day Fiction and Daily Science Fiction. Links can be found at https://sites.google.com/site/michellekingfiction.