I bought my dress the day before the wedding.
Getting a proper wedding dress was never in the cards. We were getting married in Cam’s living room so I didn't feel like there was need for me to dress up like I was getting married at the Four Seasons or some other high-class venue. Instead, Cam would wear a nice suit while I'd planned on wearing one of the nice dresses in my closet. Simple, yes, but that's what I preferred.
Cam had some work at his company, so I decided to wander out to Mayfair by myself while he did his thing. The feeling of the warm, morning sunshine on my shoulders eased the away any lingering anxieties. It was the first time I’d gone out alone since ghosting my mom and agreeing to Cam’s proposal. As I took ginger steps further away from Cam's front door, I clawed back at the irrational fear that my mom would arrive out of thin air and drag me back home. She didn't know about Greenview and it made no sense to stay home when I had this second chance at life sitting in my hands.
I thought I would just wander around the mall and take in all the sights, the shop windows with their bright lights and creative displays, beckoning shoppers to come in an peruse their wares before I going back home. I couldn’t help but scoff at it all. A month before, when I’d look at these windows, I’d look with a bit of bittersweet resignation. I didn’t want everything, but the things I did want, I could never afford due to my situation. Interesting how everything changes when you have a platinum credit card in your wallet. Not only could I buy whatever I wanted, Cam would probably encourage me to do it. I was still hesitant to use it, but it still rocked me, knowing how much my life had changed over the course of this past week. I didn’t know how I’d get used to it or if I would ever be used to it. On the bright side, at least Cam could take solace in knowing that he wasn’t about to marry a gold digger.
I saw it on the way to the food court, in the window of a store named La Vie Belle. It didn’t look like a wedding shop, though. Just beyond the window were racks of the usual selection of women’s clothing – blouses, skirts, pants, and so on. But there it stood, in the middle of the window, looking resplendent against a soft white spotlight.
A wedding dress.
On paper, it shouldn’t have caught my eye. It was simple and chic, but the plunging V-neck gave the dress a little spice. Something I didn’t need on my wedding day. But I was already doomed. The longer I looked at the dress, the more I felt enchantment. That dress was made for me - that's what kept repeating in my head - and I would regret leaving it behind.
But I still had my doubts. Did I have the right to buy such a flashy dress? Especially since at the end of the day, we were having a shotgun wedding?
I mean, I could just try it on. What harm would it be to do that? I’ll just tell them that I’m starting to look for a dress and I just happened to be passing by. Hopefully, they won’t pressure me into commitment.
Gingerly, I stepped across the metal threshold into the store. As a middle-aged lady came over to greet me with stars in her eyes, I braced myself. She looked like the type to push a sale, no matter what. Just my luck. “Hello, my dear, how can I help you today?”
“I-I know this is going to sound weird, but I was hoping to try on that dress in the window.” My voice was so shaky, I feared the Richter scale might get a reading. “Is that possible? I know it’s last minute.”
“Isn’t it a vision?” the sales lady cooed. “It’s definitely had its fair share of admirers this week. Are you a bride-to-be?”
“Yes, but…” My voice quieted in embarrassment. “It’s just a small wedding. Nothing special.”
“My dear, big or small, every wedding is special! And this week, this store is also a pop-up shop for our affordable wedding dress brand, Beloved. We have ready to wear wedding dress without the lead times of several months. You can either order a dress and have it shipped to you in a week or you can buy one of our dresses off the rack and take it today, including that lovely dress in our window. Would you like to see about trying it on?”
The sales lady ushered me to the dressing rooms, where another customer and her mother were fawning all over the dress she wore with pride. My heart tightened as I watched the mother reach for a tissue, emotional over seeing her daughter dressed up as a pretty bride. Her daughter ordered her not to cry because then she’d start crying as well before reaching for a tissue herself. I sighed. It was a beautiful moment, but it reminded me that it would a beautiful moment that I would never have.
My helper must have had rent coming up soon because she didn’t allow me to wallow in my pity. She rushed to give me exactly what I wanted – the beautiful dress in the window, but in my size. The irony of this moment wasn't lost on me. I’ve spent my life up to this moment never making a big deal about wedding dressing and there I was, in that fitting room, making a big deal. If Cam where here, he wouldn’t hold back his laughter and he’d tell me “I told you so, Nonon” while busting a gut.
“There we go,” the sales lady spoke as she finished zipping me up. She patted my back and guided me to turn around and face the mirror. I saw my reflection in the mirror…and my heart stopped. Behind me, the sales lady gasped. “Just as I suspected – this dress was made for you! Just look at you, you’re a vision.”
I took a deep breath. I couldn’t recognize myself in the mirror. Instead, I saw a girl far more beautiful, wearing this dress with elegant confidence, commanding the attention of everyone lucky enough to be in her presence. It was just a dress, yet it transformed me, showed me a side of myself that I didn’t think existed, or was even possible. But it was me, beautiful, ethereal, divine, standing in this wonderful dressed as though it were the center of the universe.
Tears pooled around my eyes. This was so stupid. Why was I crying? It wasn’t like I’d never worn a dress before. I was making such a big deal out of this. So what if it was white? So what if it fit me perfectly?
And yet, it meant the world.
“What do you think?” The sales lady asked after a bit.
“It’s beautiful.” Ugh, I hated how dreamy my voice sounded. It was just so…ew. “I wasn’t sure about the v-neck at first, but it’s fine. I really like it.”
“I know I’m biased, my dear, but this dress is definitely for you. You don’t even need alterations, it fits like a dream.”
“Yeah. I can’t alter it anyway. My wedding is tomorrow.” My eyes bulged. Had I really just let that slip? This gorgeous dress robbed me of all my common sense. “At my house.”
“Really?” I nodded, embarrassed. Thankfully, she didn’t judge me. Instead, came around with a sly smile. “You know what this means? This means you were meant to find this dress here. You simply cannot leave this store without it.”
“I don’t know. I mean, can I wear something like this? It’s just going to be me, the groom, a witness, and the officiant. Is it too dramatic?”
“I’ve seen women wear dresses worth thousands of dollars to the supermarket. It’s you day, you can wear whatever you want. Including this.”
I looked back at my reflection. I couldn’t help myself. I twirled, watching the sweep of the train flare out and lift from off the ground. My hands smoothed down the curves of my hips, the feel of the fabric felt good against my palm. A million little bubbles popped all over my face. Was I giddy? This dress made me giddy! This dress made me emotional.
This dress made me happy.
“So, what do you say, my dear?” I guess this sales lady would be making her rent this month after all. “Are you buying this dress today?”
It was just a dress. Just a bunch of fabric sew into a distinct shape. And yet, it gave me a feeling hadn’t felt in a long time…and I didn’t want to let it go. “I’ll take it.”
Happiness didn’t cost a fortune, thank goodness. Somehow, the dress ended up being $400 – roughly one-third of what I saved to move out of my home. It meant I didn’t have to spend any of the money Cam insisted was available to me. The sales lady and I were all smiles as she boxed my dress with care, wishing me all the best before sending me on my way.
The experience was so overwhelming that I forgot my appetite. Instead, I went searching for shoes and accessories to wear with my dress. Shopping for items to complement my wedding dress was just as surreal and shopping for a new wardrobe with Cam earlier in the week. So was sneaking into a nail salon and getting a French manicure so that my nails wouldn’t look terrible for the big day tomorrow. But the big part was when I went to the drugstore and bought make-up. I’m not a make-up person in the least, but even I knew that I couldn’t wear a gorgeous wedding dress and not do anything to my face. I guess when one says that they will never shop for a wedding dress, it gives the Fates the opportunity to turn around and say, “we’ll see about that”.
I guess it showed me.