1) Take a friend who will tell you the truth.
2) Maybe means NO, you’ll never wear it.
Suggested Guideline: Don’t bring a camera, you might regret it in ten years.
* * *
Sunlight filtered through the top of the red and gold maple leaves cresting the home of George and Bunny Gutierrez in Gig Harbor, Washington. It cast a crown-like shadow on our driveway. Bunny and Clarissa Taylor walked among the jewels reflected from the driveway toward our house.
I opened the front door for them. A bit of crisp air brushed passed me. Goose bumps landed on my arms.
Bunny walked in first. She sniffed the air. And smiled. “Is that the legendary chocolate mint Frango cocoa you’ve been telling me about?” she asked, with her refined Texas accent. Her long blond hair swept back in a pony tail, crowning her statuesque figure.
Clarissa smelled the air. She said, “That should be illegal.” She twisted one of the red curls framing her face. “I remember that smell from when we were kids.”
Smiling, I said, “Well, it’s fall after all. Why not warm our bones with some heavenly cocoa. So, what did you two bring to go with it.”
“I was feeling nostalgic last night and made some of my grandmother’s short bread cookies,” Bunny said, handing me a small metal tin.
“In a tin, no less,” I said, nodding, biting my lip.
“I had insider information, so I brought some raspberry jam,” Clarissa said, winking, “and I pulled a box of Girl Scout Thin Mints from the freezer last night.”
Laughing, I asked, “Does your mom know you’ve crossed over?”
“No, and you have to pinky swear you won’t tell her,” she said, holding up the pinking of her right hand.
“You’re on,” I said, hooking her pinky with mine.
Bunny stared at us. Her pony tail wagged out of alignment. Her mouth open wide enough to catch a dragonfly. “What in heavens name are you two talking about?”
“Clarissa’s mom led our Campfire Girl troop,” I said, leading them into the kitchen. “She was also the local candy depot coordinator.”
“So if she ever found out I was eating thin mint cookies instead of the time honored mint patties, she’d have a cow and two cotton-kittens,” Clarissa said, laughing.
I poured cocoa while Clarissa plated the cookies. Bunny wandered into the library and stopped behind the Chair of Much Nappiness. She scanned the photos tucked between the books.
A quick, sharp gasp escaped her lips. I spilled a little cocoa on the counter.
“Bunny, are you all right?” I asked, putting down the pan.
She grabbed a picture from the shelf, and waved it in the air in front of her. “What . . . what . . . what were you two thinkin’?” she asked, her drawl thickening over the words.
Clarissa and I glanced at each other.
“You didn’t, did you?” Clarissa asked, shaking her head.
“I couldn’t help myself,” I said, laughing. “Richard and I found the photo in a box in the garage. When Aunt Verla saw it, she said she had the perfect white elephant frame for it.”
Clarissa grabbed the black and white zebra-stripped and polka dotted frame out of Bunny’s hands. She stared at the picture for a moment. The corners of her lips twitched up and down. She squeezed her eyes shut. Laughter burst through her lips deciding the battle.
“The Wizard of Oz Dress?” Clarissa asked, when she recovered, “I don’t know which is worse, that I let you talk me into this ridiculous photo, or the woman we saw actually wearing that dress in public.”
Clearing her throat, Bunny asked, “Are you going to tell me how something like this could ever happen?” She wagged her index finger at the photo with such intensity, Clarissa took a step back.
“Bunny, it’s not as bad as it looks,” I said, running my fingers through my short brown hair. “We were shopping for Bride’s Maids dresses for my wedding.”
Bunny’s eyes widened far enough I could see myself.
“Here,” I said, handing her a mug of steaming cocoa, “have a seat and I’ll explain.”
* * *
Live piano music greeted us as we walked to the escalator. Clarissa stepped onto the escalator in front of me. Leaving behind the smell of perfume and leather goods. We stepped off at the second floor.
The clothing spread out before us like the fruit from the garden of Eden. Dresses graced mannequins under spotlights. The speakers above carried the notes from the piano. Clarissa stood next to me in the aisle. We froze like deer in the head lights.
A woman with long, curly blond hair, deep green eyes, and wearing a tan blazer, red silk blouse, black silk scarf, black skirt, and matching red flats approached us.
“Hi, I’m Jessica, can I be of assistance?”
I nodded. Words froze on my lips. Clarissa elbowed me, shoving me forward.
Laughing, I said, “We need help. I need to find Bride’s Maids dresses for my wedding.” Pointing at Clarissa, I said, “She is the only tall red head in the group. My sisters are short like me with brown hair.”
“Do you have any colors in mind?” Jessica asked.
“Green,” I said.
“Full length or cocktail?” she asked.
I ran my fingers through my hair. Looking at Clarissa, I said, “Cocktail I guess.”
“Follow me,” she said.
We walked to the back of the section next to the entrance for the couture dresses.
Inside the glass case next to the couture entrance, a single black and white dress hung on a mannequin. The black and white polka dotted bodice bore a sweetheart neckline. Attached to the padded shoulders hung a black and white broad stripe cape. Three-quarter, black and white polka dotted sleeves ended in a black and white striped band. The full length black and white broad striped skirt flared from the hips of the mannequin touching the floor with its scalloped hem and a moderate train draped elegantly to one side.
Clarissa stopped in front of the case. “Oh dear god, did that escape from the Wizard of Oz movie?” she asked. She slapped her hand over her mouth. Her cheeks turned pink. She glanced at Jessica.
Jessica laughed. “You know, I felt that way when I hung it on the mannequin, but I couldn’t say anything.”
With a grin larger than the Cheshire cat, I asked, “Can we try it on?”
Clarissa’s bright blue eyes launched a volley of letter openers. “Fannie, I don’t care that you’re my best friend and it’s your wedding. I’m not wearing that dress for anyone.”
“Come on, where’s your sense of adventure?” I said, jabbing her in the ribs. “This is not for the wedding, but think of it as a warm up to a dress you might actually wear.”
“Fine,” she said, laughing, “but you owe me big time for this.”
Jessica carried the dresses into the dressing room. She demonstrated how to detach one side of the cape to access the zipper. I climbed into the stiff taffeta bodice, shimmying into the rest of the dress. The dress rustled like a pair of maracas.
Clarissa fell backwards into the wall. She held her ribs as laughter vibrated through her body. “You look like an out-of-control Munchkin.”
Clarissa used her sleeve to wipe the avalanche of tears cascading over her cheeks.
“Yeah,” I said, “I’ll bet you look like a red-headed Glinda when we’re all done.”
She took a deep breath and climbed into the dress. Winking, she asked, “Are you a good witch, or a bad witch?”
I grabbed the camera from my purse and handed it to Jessica. “Would you take our picture?”
Jessica took the camera. She shook her head as we posed like two escapees from Oz.
“I know some day that picture is going to come back and haunt me,” Clarissa said, shaking her head.
* * *
Bunny tilted her head to one side. She scratched her jaw. Her pony tail came to a stop, it allowed gravity to do its work. “You actually saw someone wearing that dress?”
Clarissa snorted. “Yeah, two weeks after we escaped from Oz, we met in Pioneer Square for dinner and more wedding planning,” she said.
“As we walked out of Umberto’s, Clarissa spotted the woman across the street,” I said, turning pink. “It probably wasn’t our most shining moment.”
“What do you mean?” Bunny asked, looking from me to Clarissa.
“We laughed loud enough our voices carried across the street,” I said, shaking my head. “The woman looked at us and her little Yorkie poked its head out of her purse.”
“I couldn’t help myself. It just popped out of my mouth,” Clarissa said, staring at the floor. The color climbing from her neck to her cheeks.
Bunny shook her head. Her pony tail bobbed. Her eyebrows knit together.
Suppressed laughter made me shake. I closed my eyes, took several deep breaths, and said, “She said, ‘I’ll get you my pretty, and your little dog, too.’”