Fenella knew the shopping precinct better than anyone, after all she spent a lot of her free time there, yet she hadn’t seen the dress shop before. Mostly there were sports shops, shoe shops, charity shops, chemists, and a couple of general stores. For a while she tried to remember what was there before but quickly gave up when she saw the dress in the window. It was long and white and shimmered like a mantle of stars under a single spotlight. Against the black backdrop it was quite enchanting. Fen was so captivated she had the wild idea of trying it on. It would fit her slight figure, certainly, but did she dare? What would the shop owner think if she tried it on and then couldn’t afford to buy it? The price was undoubtedly withheld for a reason.
To hell with it, it’s a free country. I can try it on ... I don’t have to buy anything.
With that thought in mind, Fen pushed open the door. The interior was exotically designed in gold and white with arum lilies everywhere; in vases, on tables and shelves, and some floor-standing beauties that quite took her breath away. Ceiling drapes swayed in the draught from the door, accompanied by its melodious chimes. Almost immediately an old, bent woman emerged from a back room. Her face bore the signs of age but her eyes sparkled in the artificial light. Dressed entirely in black, she was not quite what Fen had expected!
‘Can I help you, m’dear?’
Fen pointed to the dress in the window and asked if she could try it on.
‘Why, yes, m’dear. That dress is on special offer for one week.’
Oh! It might be affordable after all.
‘My daughter and I decided to offer it for a seven-day free trial. If it suits then you have the option to buy when the week is up.’
Fen was flabbergasted. She wanted to look glamorous for the company’s annual banquet and in that dress she would look stunning, like a film star, or millionaire’s daughter. She could use it and lose it within a week and not pay a penny. Knowing it would be a legal transaction made her feel good. Even if she faced a dry-cleaning bill it would be worth it to please Desmond.
It had been two months since she resolved to give up fraudulent practices, knowing the day would soon come when she would be found out, prosecuted, tried and sentenced. Her role as the CEO’s lover demanded that she kept up appearances but the pretence of breeding and wealth was a constant worry. She had ‘borrowed’ more outfits than was comfortable in order to maintain her image and just lately she felt her confidence slipping. The clothes and jewellery were always returned with the most outrageous excuses as to why she had to return them, often maintaining that her ‘boss’ either didn’t like the style or something didn’t fit. Not once did Fen let on that the garments were for her. Of course, there were times when she merely ‘bagged’ a garment before leaving the changing room.... those were quite difficult to return. Subterfuge was her thing and so far she had been successful but lately she’d had a niggling feeling that her luck was running out.
Fen followed the woman to the changing room, waited while the dress was draped over a regency striped couch. It was chilly in there; the sort of cold you feel from ceiling fans, if there was one. The second the woman closed the door behind her, Fen hurriedly discarded her sweater and skirt, threw them on the floor, and struggled to remove her blue trainers. There were no hooks to hang clothes on and no chair on which to sit. The only seating was the couch and that was covered by the fabulous dress. She couldn’t put that on the floor.
When finally she slipped the dress on she couldn’t help exclaiming over its sheer magnificence. She stroked the material and marvelled at how flat her stomach looked, how well her breasts fitted into the lightly boned cups, spilling over the fine layer of jewel bedecked lace that edged the bodice, like diamonds nestling against her skin. Desmond would love it. He would be so happy to show her off to the visiting dignitaries.
It was when she twisted round to look at the back view that she noticed something terribly wrong. Surely the mirror was faulty. Her butt seemed distorted and the dress fabric seemed to be splitting open. She fumbled behind her to find the gap, and felt something wet and warm on her fingers. She looked again in the mirror and saw ... blood. It appeared to be oozing out of the dress. Oh my God, the dress will be ruined.
Calling for help, she twirled round, at the same time clamping her palm where she thought the wound was, just above her left buttock. She felt no soreness or pain but it must have been a sizeable cut to be oozing so much blood through the material.
In desperation she called again for assistance.
Fen tried to get the dress over her head but by this time the blood had soaked into the fabric. Just when she thought she had a grip, the material slithered out of her hands. She reached down to tug up the bottom of the skirt but the blood had almost reached the hem. She brushed hair from her eyes, smearing blood across her forehead.
Hearing the tinkling chimes of the shop door, she shouted for help.
There was no response.
With one mighty effort Fen jerked the bodice down. Twisting round to reach the zipper, she forced it down and stepped out of the bloody dress. She turned to examine herself in the mirror, expecting to see a gaping gash on her backside. Her skin was clear. No cut, no bruise, nothing.
‘Are you all right, m’dear? Do you need any help?’
Hastily, still fearful that she might find more blood, Fen donned her own clothes and left the changing room, carrying her trainers in her hand. As soon as she saw the old woman she blurted out the story. The woman pulled aside the curtain and picked up the dress, pristine white with jewels still sparkling. Fen immediately rushed at her and snatched the dress out of the woman’s hands. She turned it over to examine the back..... now as white as driven snow.
‘I don’t see any blood,’ said the woman. Her smile was lopsided, distorting her mouth. ‘You must have been dreaming. Or maybe you suffer from delusions. I’ll just go and wrap the dress but remember it is only yours for a week. After that you must pay the full price.’
Fen felt dizzy with it all. She’d never had a delusion in her life. She did feel a bit queer though, a headache was coming on and everything seemed far away. She couldn’t take the dress, not now. The horror of it might come back. ‘I’ve changed my mind,’ she said. ‘The dress doesn’t suit me.’
‘Ah,’ said the woman, ‘that’s where you’re wrong. The garment belongs to you in more ways than one. It will be your talisman. There is no escaping the fact that the lovely dress IS yours.’
Grabbing her bag and shoes, Fen hurried barefoot to the door. The sooner she got away from the awful place the better.
Once outside she breathed in the fresh air, only then realising that the shop had emitted a musty smell; its owner too. Wondering if the mustiness had tainted her own clothes she lifted the trainers and sniffed. They seem okay, she thought, as she looked round for somewhere to sit in order to put them on. The shop entrance had no step but there was a low window sill she could use in order to tie the laces. She’d just have to wobble on one leg while she put them on. It was a mid-wobble that caused her to overbalance and fall, cursing, to the pavement. Thankfully she wasn’t hurt but seeing the old woman grinning at her through the window made her feel ultra foolish. Forgetting the shoe laces she started to walk away, turning once to see if the woman was still there. That’s how she came to notice, for the first time, the sign in the window.
Change your personality with one of our designer dresses.
Be amazed at what it can do for you.
The parcel reached the house before Fen. It was on the top step, propped against the front door. Even before she saw the address label, she instinctively knew what was inside. It didn’t occur to her to wonder how the shop owner knew where she lived. Filled with fear, she picked up the box and hurled it to the end of the front garden whereupon spots of blood began to seep through the wrapping like slowly forming tears. Fen stared and shuddered and left it where it was for the rats to sort out. That same feeling of remoteness hit her again, like it did in the shop. Quickly she opened the door and rushed into the house. All she wanted to do was shower the whole episode away.
Fen didn’t buy a dress for the banquet. She turned up wearing black trousers and white sweater. Desmond openly showed his disgust and ordered her to go home and change before his guests arrived. She did go home but didn’t return. On the way she passed the shop and saw that there was no dress in the window. In its place a rack of strange looking bottles, different sizes, different colours. One minute a dress shop, next minute ... Fen looked up at the boarding over the window, at the name: Witch Haven. And below that: Purveyors of spells and potions.
Several months later, Fen was admitted to the psychiatric ward at All Saints Hospital’s. She had been diagnosed as delusional ... the only thing she could talk about was blood.