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The woman in the dress shop had told her mother it fitted perfectly. ‘This is so in now you know,’ she’d said, standing next to her in front of the ornate mirror. ‘Red is the colour at the moment, haven’t you seen it on the best cat walks?’

Her mother shrugged, pulling the dress down over Rosie’s knees. A whisper of gauze underneath, to complete the look.

‘Please mom, can I have it, please?’

The ring of the bell on the way out, the parcel tucked under her arm, a grin across her face.

*

Now, in the shade of her bedroom, she wasn’t so sure. The taffeta clung to a bosom that was still as unfamiliar to her as the teenage spots that had appeared on her face practically overnight. The dress fitted just below her waist, straining across her stomach; puppy fat and wobbly thighs hidden underneath its folds. She pulled at the thick unyielding material, supposedly meant to fit across her shoulders in a chic 50s style. She groaned, rubbing at the ugly red marks where the sleeves dug into the tops of her plump arms like a vice. Turning sideways, the patterned black and red flowers seemed to mock her, spread as they were across her back and finishing on her bottom, making her feel like an overgrown rose garden, fallen into disrepute.

‘You look lovely, Rosie,’ her mother stood in the doorway.  ‘A good choice.’ Her slim arms were folded across her chest, her jeans snug across slender hips and thighs.

She smiled encouragingly. Pushing long locks across a face that was barely lined.

For the thousand time, Rosie cursed her own well rounded body, a throwback to her father’s mum, her granny Beatrice. Why couldn’t she be long limbed too?

As if adding insult to injury, her older sister Taylor bounded in the room, the image of their mum. Taylor wore teeny denim shorts, a seersucker top and tanned legs that seemed to go one forever. She sat down onto Rosie’s bed, her limbs tucked under her like a young gazelle.

‘You look like a flowerpot!’ she giggled, exposing a set of iron braces across her gums. A sprinkle of freckles across a perfectly upturned nose and sparkling blue eyes completed fifteen-year-old Taylor’s look.  Naturally gorgeous without even trying!

Rosie turned away, her brown eyes filling up. I can’t show I’m upset; I can’t! she thought, glancing at her reflection for a second time.  If the flowerpot look was in vogue, she’d win it, hands down.

Taylor had a point.

Her mother looked at her watch, encased around a slim wrist. ‘You’d better hurry, Rosie, or Amber will be waiting. Dad’s downstairs. Come on.’

She grabbed her around the waist in a familiar hug. Rosie’s blonde hair fell across her cheek and for once she was glad that her unruly locks betrayed the hurt she’d felt by Taylor’s remark.

‘Thanks mom,’ she smiled, the remark rolling off plump shoulders.

That was her, ever the trooper, the solid one, who let everything slide, like water off a duck.

*

The party was just starting.  Music blasted from somewhere inside, mixed with the shrieks and laughter of people arriving, chatting, having fun. Rosie clambered out of her dad’s car and smoothed the folds of the dress, staring at the bows on her pumps. How she wished she’d chosen to wear the brown dress instead! Colour did not suit her, she knew that, especially not the Scarlett look. The brown one had been worn, it was an old faithful, but she felt comfortable in it.

An arm hooked under hers, and Amber smiled at her. ‘Don’t look so scared Rose; we’ll have a drink and a dance and forget all about anyone else, you’ll see. Bye Mr Gardener,’ she waved to Rosie’s dad as he drove away.

A couple of giggling girls ran past, dressed in bright colours and flouncy skirts; a flash of skinny legs in pumps.

‘I’m starting to think that the 50’s were the least flattering time in history!’ she moaned.

‘Come on, you look fine.’ Amber frowned, and pulling at her arm. ‘You know how cool Lily Anderson is, and her parents are well loaded. We were lucky to get these; everywhere in town is sold out,’ she remarked, pushing her coiffured bangs away from her eyes. Her deep blue dress looked well fit on her petite frame. ‘Trust Lily to be the trend setter of the parties.’

‘It’s okay for you. You look as if you’ve not eaten for a week! Whereas me……,’ she sighed, pulling on the off the shoulder sleeve for the hundredth time.

A dark haired boy walked up the path in front of them, hidden from view by a large rose bush in front of Lily’s house. His head was down, hands in pockets, shuffling his feet.

Why was Alex, the science nerd, invited?

‘Hey Amber, get you a soda?’ Blake Magill slid up behind them, and Amber giggled.

‘See you later, Rose,’ she called over her shoulder as they ran the path.

Great.

Now she was truly on her own. Just as she was thinking of calling her dad, Alex appeared. She could see him approach from the corner of her eye, and her heart sank.

This was turning out to be an awful night.

‘Hi Rosie,’ he stammered, looking awkward. Did she want to spend time with a geek?

‘Hi Alex,’ she answered, then stopped herself. From this angle, his eyes looked deep blue, his eyelashes thick and dark. He was wearing a baseball jacket and sneakers, a 100% improvement on the nerdy bowtie and sensible lace ups that he normally wore on a school day.

‘You look lovely,’ he smiled.

This close, he didn’t look half bad.

‘Say, why don’t we try that new frozen yoghurt place down by the pier? I can get my dad to drop us; he’s just around the corner in his shop. Then we can take a walk along the beach…. if you want to that is.’ He stammered, and in the darkening light she could see the blush on his face.

Rosie had to think. Ice cream down the pier, against an awkward party?

She smiled.

*

Suzanne Bowditch, 2016

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