Fiction Fantasy Teens & Young Adult

Getting the Line Just Right

Deborah Elliott

The rain was coming down and the wind was blowing fierce enough to bend the trees that shaded the front of the house. It was the kind of day that kept everyone inside. Melinda didn’t care because she wanted to work on her line anyway. She always rehearsed upstairs in the attic because no one ever bothered her there. After a lunch of chicken noodle soup and crackers, she climbed the creaking wooden steps that led to the attic. (Everything creaked in the family farmhouse.) 

She walked up to the cheval mirror that was by the window. The oak mirror had war wounds from generations past. Its frame had worn splintered places where lots of grandparents’ hands had touched it to set it at just the right angle. Tipped too far upward, and the lights overhead got in the way; too far down, and no one looked right. It had to be nearly perfectly straight, so Melinda worked hard to adjust it. She smiled; the glass had a few scratches but she truly loved looking at herself in it.

She turned and went to the tall closet at the other end of the attic, and after a bit of thought, she chose a red polka dot dress with lacy ruffles. She slipped it over her head and buttoned the front, and tied the back. She picked out a hot-pink shawl with feathery fringe, and the highest pink heels that she could find on the floor of the closet. They had a bow on the toe with a sparkling stone in the middle. She thought they would look great with the polka dot dress.

 After dressing, she sat at the old vanity in the corner that had a large, round mirror, and added a smudge of blue over her eyes and then a rosy blush that would get her cheeks noticed. The red lipstick was hard to get on perfect but it would show off her smile. She picked up the silver hairbrush and worked at making her light brown hair shine. She thought that she had too many curls, but God had given them to her – so she just wore them. When she thought she looked just right, she slid the wooden vanity seat back, and got up.

She was ready to practice her line. Taking her place in front of the beautiful mirror, Melinda batted her eyes thinking that they were the prettiest thing she had. She pursed her lips into a rosebud a couple of times, and then in just the right voice, she practiced her line, “No, no, NO NO Noo.” She repeated the line several times; sometimes louder; sometimes softer. As she kept her eyes on her image in the mirror, she lectured herself, “Melinda, stand up straight, straight, straighter. That’s better.” Standing up straight would make people like her.,

After a few minutes, it dawned on her that she’d forgotten something that was extremely important. She hopped off of the high, high heels and raced across the attic, leaving a trail of dusty footprints. Throwing open the double doors on the closet she quickly ran her eyes over each shelf. When she didn’t see what she was looking for, she began to rummage. Things fell off of hangers, some of it flew out onto the floor. She tripped over the sloppy pile, and just kept digging. All that mattered was that she find what she wanted. The closet was in complete disarray when she finally located the hat that she saved for special occasions, like church and parties.

Traipsing back across the attic, she carefully slid her feet back into the high, high heels and took her place back in front of the mirror. She fluffed up her soft brown curls and then planted the red and white hat with the small feathers on her head. She moved it around on her curls as she stared into the mirror, and when she finally felt it was just right, she complimented herself, “Now, I look pretty good.”

She fidgeted with her dress because it had twisted around when she’d been busy looking for her hat. She pulled at it until it looked neat, and then she went back to practicing her line. She just had to get it right. “No, no, NO NO Noo … No, no, NO NO Noo … No, no, NO NO Noo.” 

She released an exasperated breath. Something wasn’t right. She looked closely at herself, and then like any normal female, she decided that her dress wasn’t quite right. She blew breath of frustration, and then she marched across the attic, and plundered the closet again. She considered a dress with flowers, and decided against it because who would believe her line if she wore flowers? There was a bright yellow dress with lace; nope that wasn’t right either. She finally chose a long purple skirt and a pink blouse, thinking her bright pink shawl would still look nice. Once she changed her clothes, she felt much better. She was positive that her line would sound much better now that she looked so much better. She smiled because she remembered that her mother had always piled a lot of clothes on the bed when she was trying to dress just right. That thought pleased her.

Back to the mirror she went, where she straightened both her skirt and her back. Once she stood up straight and looked herself over, she felt much prettier. Now the line she was rehearsing fit. Happiness flooded her.

Once more she took in a deep breath, and said, “No, no, NO NO Noo … No, no, NO NO Noo … No, no, NO NO Noo.” She smiled.

Hearing voices coming through the attic floor vent, she knew everyone was in the kitchen. She sighed and laid down the pretty shawl, took off her fancy hat, and slipped out of the beautiful skirt and blouse. Leaving the high, high heels on the floor, she hurried down the stairs. Dinner was on the table. Pork chops, mashed potatoes, and peas with pearly baby onions in them. Just as she poked her finger in the cup of chocolate pudding that was to be dessert, she heard her mother sharply say, “No, no, NO NO Noo.” 

Melinda smiled because she just knew she sounded just like her mother when she played dress-up and practiced in the attic mirror. Maybe tomorrow she'd see if she could sound like grandma.

December 05, 2021 16:22

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Tabetha Wilson
01:02 Dec 16, 2021

Loved this story! You caught a little snapshot of time and space that was really sweet, and taught a poignant lesson about the effects we have on our children! One thing I found a little distracting as a read was the amount of "that"s in the essay. But it's a really small thing, and on the whole I think your essay has a really strong impact! Thank you so much for sharing, and I'm glad you were in my critique circle :)


Deborah Elliott
18:26 Dec 16, 2021

I appreciate your note of "that's" because sometimes we don't see our own errors. I'll work on it.


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16:04 Dec 15, 2021

very nice story


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Boutat Driss
14:22 Dec 12, 2021

nice tale!


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