The fabric beneath my fingers is silky smooth and cool to the touch. My dress is nearly restored to its former glory; the thought makes my mind go numb with joy.
Soon. The day is soon.
I examine the pearls lining the waistline and resew them with an iridescent silver thread, fingers shaking in excitement. The dusty, neglected telephone starts to shriek, begging for my attention. I turn a deaf ear to the rancoring machine, finishing off the pearls.
Light starts to stream through the lone window in my sewing room and I scowl, hating the way it hits my eyes and ruins my efficiency. I shut the blinds as tightly as I can, hobbling back to the station and picking up the needle again. I dust off the glorious white skirt, smiling through cracked lips.
I am giddy as I sew one more pearl onto the waistline and start on the hem.
There are only two pearls out of place and I am laughing, the most emotion I have felt in so long tearing its way through my chest and out of my lips. I sew the first pearl on with a flick of my wrist, and then the second.
I pick up the dress, hanging it on the rack it sat on before.
It is done.
There are tears streaming down my cheeks as I laugh and scream and hug the fabric to my chest, because this day I have been dreaming for is here.
It is finally here!
I open the door to my home, cradling the dress in my arms. The sunlight is blinding and I lower my eyes, wincing at the pain that sears through my head.
I skip through my town with a wide grin on my face, knocking on the door of my neighbor, excited to show her what I have finally finished.
There is no response.
My smile falters for a moment as I try the door handle, frowning when I find it unlocked. Gingerly, I push open the door and it creaks, as if it hadn’t been opened in ages. I step in and find the once homely place abandoned. Pots and pans lay untouched in the sink, cobwebs whisper in my ear and around my body. I clutch my dress closer to me, fearing it might pick up some of the dust.
I stumble out of the house, fear clawing holes in my chest.
Where did she go? Surely, she wouldn’t move without letting me know.
I see a human silhouette in the backyard of the house and I rush over, tapping the woman on the shoulder.
She turns to look at me and I blink at the wrinkled face that is definitely not that of my neighbor.
“What is it, girl?”
“Where’s… Agatha?” My throat feels scratchy and my voice sounds croakier than I am used to.
“She moved out 4 years ago.” I freeze.
But right before Erin passed away, I had talked to her.
I had visited her house and had cookies with her.
“What? What year is it?” The question sounds undeniably foolish, and I flush a little at the thought.
No, no, no.
It can’t be.
Erin died 4 years ago. I have been working on my dress for 4 years. I haven’t seen any of my friends or family for 4 years.
This woman is crazy. She’s lost her mind.
Yes. She’s insane. That must be it.
“Right. And cars can fly.” I laugh and the sound is too highpitched, too unnatural.
The woman stares.
I walk away quickly, dress still balled up and clutched to my chest.
I walk towards the market I used to go to every week. Someone there must know the real date. I have to take several breaks along the way; my legs are far weaker than they used to be. When I arrive, I walk towards the newspaper stand.
The newspaper reads November 11th, 2024.
My hands tremble.
My eyes water.
I shake my head. It must be a prank of some sort. A practical joke. If I look behind these papers, I will find the dates of 2020. I grip the fake one and throw it to the ground.
The next one is still fake. I grit my teeth and claw it away from the stand. I scream and swipe at the papers but they do not relent.
It is 2024.
I step away from the ruined stand, running towards an empty market stall. I grap a dusty mirror from the ground and prop it onto the wall.
At least my dress is done. At least it is ready. It doesn’t matter the date.
I shove the dress onto my body, fingers tightening the corset top. I pull the diamond necklace I wore on that day out of my bag and clasp it onto my neck, letting it rest between my collarbones. I strap on the heels I walked down the aisle in.
I look up at the mirror.
I am just as I was on my wedding day.
Just as I was when Erin and I promised to be together forever.
I touch a hand to the mirror, ignoring the way the dust clings to my skin.
Look, Erin. I fixed it. I fixed us.
I walk out of the stall, fingering the waistline. The pearls.
Everyone stares. I smile.
Then, they scream.
“She’s back! It's the zombie bride!” I run in my heels, yelling at them to stay. What zombie bride? I never died.
“Why?” I whirl around, seeing a familiar face.
Kind brown eyes and wavy brown hair, now tinted with hints of gray.
“Agatha?” I reach out a hand to her face, wondering how the wrinkles had gotten there.
“Julia.” Her eyes are filled with pain as she stares at me, stares at my dress. “Why would you do this?”
“I-I thought this would make me happy.” I stare at the flawless dress, not marred with the slightest bit of wear or tear.
“And did it?” I meet her eyes and I open my mouth to say yes. That I spent so long working on this dress and I was ecstatic when I finished it. But somehow, it feels like a lie. Instead, I tell her the best truth I can.
“I don’t know.”
“Did it bring him back?” The words hit me like a harsh blow to my chest. Tears start to escape down my cheeks and I blink them away.
“You have spent been locked up in your house for so long that everyone thought you had passed away. You spent four years fixing your wedding dress in hopes that it would bring you peace about Erin’s death. Now that you have finished it, has it changed anything?”
No, I realize.
But I cannot bear to say the words outloud.
Instead, I cry into Agatha’s shoulder.
My tears ruin the dress. Somehow, I can’t find it in myself to care.
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I love how you keep the reader in it with the question of how she lost four years. How you depict the narrator's evasion of reality and ultimate realization is also a strong point. A very nice piece of writing!