Sadie stared, in horror, at the dress her mum held up proudly before her. She scrunched her nose up, grimaced, and slowly, painfully shook her head from side to side.
“Mum“ she said. “If you think I’m wearing that to the formal…woman…your outta your mind!”
Her mother winced, but held her smile. “Babe. Come on,” she cajoled. “You know how adorable you would look in this. It’s a dress fit for a princess!”
Sadie turned from her mum and opened the fridge, pretending to look for something before the words that were on the tip of her tongue burst forth. “Come on, mum. This is the millennium, not 1990. I ain’t wearing that. All my mates will laugh at me.”
In her head, Sadie had already predicted the name she would be given if she walked into the assembly hall with that hideous thing on. She imagined the entire student body falling silent as they turned towards her, mouths agape. The laughter that would follow she could already hear ringing in her ears. It was a princess dress, alright. It looked exactly like the blue dress Cinderella wore in the animated version of the movie, except it was pink. Upon the shoulders were clouds of puff balls. The bodice was fitted with fake rubies, and the dress flared out endlessly. It was horrible. An ugly mess. The worst dress Sadie had ever seen.
Her mates would name her candy floss. She could see it now. The name would haunt her for life.
“I thought you said it was a Fairytale theme?” her mum queries, carefully placing the dress back in its bag.
Sadie didn’t trust herself to speak. She just rolled her eyes, bit into an apple and shrugged. Her mum didn’t know anything.
“It is mum,” she finally answered. Then trying to turn the topic around, she continued. “You know, there’s a store down Epsom Gate, Ally. They have a special on at the moment, 25% off all dresses!” Her voice rose enthusiastically. “Can we take this back, and get one from there mum! Pleeeease?”
She watched her mother’s face as it darkened. “Isn’t that a lingerie store?”
Sadie couldn’t help it. She rolled her eyes again. “Oh come on, mum.” she said, somewhat impatiently. “Get with the times. They have dresses, too. They mint dresses, all my mates are getting them from Ally. Can I get mine from there, aye? Please mum. Its only, like, twenty dollars for this long black one I saw in there yesterday!”
“Babe,” her mum said, choosing her words carefully. “Remember last year, that day you told me that you wanted a dress exactly like this? You lay in my arms, talking about wanting to be a princess and being the belle of the ball. Do you remember that?”
Sadie nodded, non-committally. She did remember. She’d been twelve then. A year makes a big difference, and times had changed. “I’m still not wearing it,” she declared, stubbornly.
She watched her mother’s face drop. “Well, maybe we can take this back. I don’t know, I might not be able to get a refund You might have to wear this I cant really afford another one.” She looked Sadie squarely in the eye. “Your father was hoping to get a picture with you in this. He misses you, Sadie.”
At the mention of her father’s name, Sadie felt her blood begin to stir. Her dad? What the hell did he have to do with anything? He sent a birthday card once a year. Called her once a month, and only ever blabbed about his new girlfriend, and how Sadie would love getting to know her. He didn’t even know Sadie, hadn’t seen her for five months! What the hell did he want a photo of her in a ball dress for? But more importantly, why did her mother even think she would wear that – just to please a man who made her feel like she was just a thing on the fringes of his life.
She couldn’t hold her words back. Her mother should have known.
She spat, with as much venom as she could muster, “That cunt can go to hell, as far as I’m concerned!”
“What!” she whined. “Why the fuck would I do anything for him hes done nothing for me!”
“You better watch your mouth, Sadie,” her mum snapped. “Your dad loves you. I don’t want to hear you bad mouthing him, you hear me!”
Sadies anger rose up, high as a mountain. “Nah, I don’t hear you,” she snapped back. She felt her face flush as she yelled. “And no I don’t want to wear that ugly dress! Its hideous! My friends are all going to laugh at me! And you don’t even give a shit! I’d rather not go at all than be seen in that!”
“That’s enough.” her mother demanded. Sadie glared at her, fuming. An entire minute went past before her mother spoke again. “We’ll go to Ally’s and get you something, ok? I’ll have to take this back, see if I can get a refund.” She grabbed her keys off the fridge and turned to her daughter. “Do you wanna stop in and see your dad on the way back?”
“Whatever, I’m not coming,” Sadie grumbled, not pacified one bit. She tried to storm towards her room, but her mother blocked her way.
“Don’t you want to…”
“No I don’t fucking want to!” Sadie shouted at the top of her lungs. She clenched her fists, trying, but failing, to control the built up anger that had been accumulating within for the past year. Ever since the divorce that had tipped her entire existence upside down. “Wouldn’t care if I never spoke to him again! Or you! You can both go and get fucked!”
And with that, she forcefully shoved her mother out of the way, stomped into her room, and slammed the door shut with an almighty bang.
“Are you ok, Sadie?”
The familiar voice seemed to be coming from far away. Yet when Sadie managed to lift her head, her father’s face loomed just in front of her. She blinked up at him, trying to bring her blurry vision back into focus. In a trance. She was in a trance. It felt like she was drifting through a nightmarish dream, and fervently prayed that she would soon wake up.
But then her dad laid his hand upon her shoulder, and she knew. She would never wake up from this one.
Her mother was dead. And all she could think about was the last words she spoke to her.
“You can both go and get fucked.”
It was a hot day. The sun blazed down upon the small handful of people that stood, milling around Epsom church, engaged in somber talk. Madison Stevens had been a lovely woman, even if she had been as quiet as a mouse, and even a little eccentric. To her co-workers, she was pleasant and polite, but had been a woman of few words. She kept her head down and just did her job. To her few friends, she had been a good listener, often opening her arms and home without hesitation to those who she deemed worthy of her friendship, offering tea, talks, and a sympathetic ear. To her one and only sibling, her sister, she had been the world. Nobody knew her like her sister did. They both grew up within the confines of a strict catholic upbringing. An upbringing Madison fled when she was fifteen – for her ex-husband As a result, she had been disowned. Besides her sister, not a single member of her immediately family had attended Madison Steven’s funeral.
Sadie couldn’t think straight as she sat on the church steps, two of her best friends sitting on either side of her, trying to cheer her up. They sat there, cracking jokes and whispering, pointing and making fun of the people that stood around them. Sadie wished they would just go away.
Her heart was in a blender. Guilt shredding it into little pieces as she recalled their last conversation in her head. Playing it over like a song on repeat. To Sadie, Madison Stevens had been her mum. Her everything. Her one and only. And now she was dead.
“You can both go and get fucked.”
She had been on her way home from her ex-husbands when a green Hilux, attempting to evade the cops, came gunning down the highway at 140 km’s per hour, and hit her. The lights had just turned green, and Madison Stevens was moving when the truck came hurtling, full throttle from the right, smashing into her little Astra with such devastating force that the car was airborne for two seconds flat before landing in a crushed heap on its head. Madison Steven’s was pronounced dead as soon as paramedics arrived on the scene. Instant death.
“…wouldn’t care if I ever spoke to you again…wouldn’t care if I ever spoke to you again…wouldn’t care…”
Words she’d never be able to take back. Sadie felt the tears pricking at her eyelids, and knives poking at her conscience.
She stood suddenly, mumbled something to her friends about needing to do something, and high-tailed it to her dad’s car, parked out the back of the church. She threw herself in the passengers and pulled the door shut. Closing her eyes, and resting her forehead on the dashboard, she attempted to shake the last conversation she had with her mother out of her head. But it popped up, again and again and again, weighing on her mind mercilessly, and threatening to drown her. She turned slowly and reached out for the bag that lay on the back seat. She pressed the bag to her face and closed her eyes again. Embracing the bag tightly, as if it were her mother.
The hideous pink dress.
She bowed her head into the bag, and sobbed.
The service for Madison Stevens was about to begin. The church was silent and the minister was just stepping up onto the pew when Sadie entered the church. The man in the robbed-cloth stared ahead for so long, that all heads turned to see what was holding his fascination. So by the time Sadie was halfway down the altar, all eyes were glued on her.
But all Sadie could see was the polished coffin ahead of her, the one that held her mother. She walked slowly, tears falling freely down her face. When she reached the coffin, she realized for the first time, that the casket was closed. Whispers and murmurs broke out in the crowd, but Sadie was oblivious to it all.
She placed both hands on the coffin, caressing it gently. She rested her cheek upon the lid, her heart shattering into a million pieces as the tears continued to fall.
“Look mum,” she whispered, her voice shaking. “I’m wearing the pink dress.”
She would have stayed like that forever, if her father hadn’t gently eased her off, and guided her to her seat. Sadie sat next to her father, standing out amongst the sea of black in her pink ball dress with the fake rubies. Her friends can call her candy floss. They could all laugh at her. She didn’t care.
She would wear this dress to school any day, if only her mum would come back to her…