“Oh, there you are, Jimmy,” said my mom. “What are you doing out here?”
I looked away from the store front window I had been staring at. Mom had been at the store next door to buy sewing stuff to make my new cousin a sweater or something. While she’d been busy looking at the sewing and crafts stuff in the store, I’d snuck out to stare at my latest obsession; a beautiful blue dress that was just my size. And it was on sale for only thirty-five dollars. Sadly, I didn’t even have thirty-five cents.
Looking at Mom for a second, I said, “I just wanted to come outside and look.”
Wrinkling her brow, Mom walked over to me, looked at the store front and said, “Why are you looking in this window? They just have girl stuff in there. Nothing for boys.”
The store was April’s Formals and Bridals and they always had the most beautiful dresses. Mom of course, had no idea that I thought any dress was beautiful. I was always careful and never left much evidence that I had been in hers or my sister’s clothes and make-up. I also managed to squirrel away a bra and several pairs of my own panties that I’d bought with birthday money instead of computer games.
For a couple of months now, this store had had this beautiful blue dress in the window. Every chance I got to go with Mom downtown, I’d sneak off to look in the window. A couple of times I’d gone into the store to look at this dress and the others and daydream that I was wearing them and out on a date.
“It’s chilly out here,” said Mom. “Let’s go home and make some hot chocolate.”
I took one last look at the dress, sighed heavily and followed Mom back to our car. I hated being a boy.
A ten minute drive later, and Mom was steering the car into our driveway. Mom tossed me the house key and said, “Be a dear and take this stuff in the house for. I’ll go check the mailbox.”
I caught the keys and nodded. I picked up the package Mom had bought at the cloth store and took it inside. About a minute later, Mom walks into the house looking through several envelopes.
“Bill…bill…bill…oh!” Mom said looking at the handful of envelopes. “You got a card. Looks like a Christmas card from your Aunt Staci.”
Mom handed me the card as she continued looking at her new stack of bills. Aunt Staci of course just had a baby; my new cousin and was my Mom’s younger sister. I tore open the envelope and read the outside of the humorous card. And then I opened the card.
“Mom!” I shouted. “Look what Aunt Staci gave me!” I wagged a brand new fifty dollar bill in the air.
Mom smiled at me and said, “Wonderful! You can get something nice you want for Christmas.” Last year, Aunt Staci had bought me one of the latest, hot games…for the wrong game system.
I grinned as I knew exactly what I was going to buy with that fifty dollar bill.
That night, I fell asleep daydreaming about wearing that dress. I put the fifty on my pillow.
The morning dawned bright and sunny. It was the first real day of my two week break from school. I had money, I was off from school and it was going to be a great, sunny day. I felt like a million bucks. Well, at least fifty.
After consuming the bologna sandwich and potato chips Mom had made me for lunch, I said, “Hey, Mom. Can I have bus fare so I can go downtown to the game store and see what I can get with my money?”
Mom looked up from the TV and said, “Honey, as soon as my show is over, I can take you there.”
There was no way on God’s green earth was I going to let Mom drive me to the store. I wouldn’t be able to hide going to the dress store. I said, “I’m fourteen Mom! I want to do it myself! Can I have the bus fare please?” There was a bus stop sign about half a block from our house.
Mom picked up her purse and rummaged around for change. She said, “In such a hurry to grow up! Here. This should be enough.”
I took the money with a grin and said, “Thanks Mom!” and then I darted out the door.
Twenty minutes later found me stepping off the downtown bus. The bus stop was right in front of the game store, which meant walking a block to the dress store. Despite the sun, it was actually pretty chilly and there were few people out.
As I approached the store, I noticed a girl about a year or so younger than me looking through dress store’s window. As I got closer, I saw that she was dressed like a homeless person. Her jacket was pretty worn and had holes in it. Her shoes were badly worn and her hair looked like it hadn’t been washed for several days.
I don’t think she was saying it so much to me, but just as I was walking behind the girl, she said, “Isn’t it just beautiful?” She looked over at me and said, “That’s the most beautiful dress I’ve ever seen.”
I said, “Yes. That’s a very beautiful dress alright.”
She smiled as she stared at it and said to her refection in the window, “The girl that gets to have that dress is the luckiest girl in the world.”
As I started to reach for the door, I said, “It’s beautiful, but it is just a dress.”
The girl shook her head and said, “It’s *the* dress.”
I just looked at her for a moment, and then went inside.
The sales lady, who wore a name tag that said, “April” came up to me and said, “Yes young man? What can we do for you?”
I pointed towards the store window and said, “I’d like to buy the dress you have in the window. I noticed it’s been marked down.”
Shrugging, April said, “It’s a gorgeous dress, but some reason it just didn’t sell. So we marked it down.”
April walked over to the store window and pulled the dress off the display stand. The girl outside ran up to the window and placed her hands on the glass. Though muffled, I could hear her shout, “No!” She then turned away from the store.
As April ran up the sale of the dress, she said, “I’ll make you a deal on these cubic zirconia stud earrings for only twelve bucks. They’ll go nicely with the dress.”
I looked at them. It would completely finish off my fifty dollars. They were pretty and my ears were pierced. I said, “Sure. Why not?”
April put my new dress in a box and the earrings in a smaller box. She said with a grin, “You must have someone special on your Christmas list.”
I smiled at her and said, “Yes! I do!” That special person is me. I couldn’t wait to get my new dress home and try it on.
As I walked out of the store, I saw the girl sitting on the curb crying. She looked up at me and said, “Somebody bought the dress. Now I can’t even look at it.”
I stood there, holding the box with the beautiful dress inside. I said, “It’s just a dress. They have plenty of pretty dresses.”
She looked up at me, a tear running down her cheek and said, “But not that dress. Not now. When they marked it down yesterday, I asked my mom if I could have it. She started to cry and told me to wait until maybe next year. Or the next.”
I looked at the girl and then I looked at the box. I sat down next to her.
I held the box in front of her and said, “Here. Merry Christmas.”
She looked at the box, not touching it and said, “What’s in the box? Mom told me to never accept gifts.”
I said, “That’s generally a good idea. But here. Make an exception. At least look in the box before you say no.”
Her eyes went wide and she gasped as she saw the dress inside the box. She said, “I can’t take this. You bought it. You bought it for someone special.”
I pushed the box into her hands and said, “I did.” I put the box of earrings on top of the dress box and said, “You can have these earrings too.”
She set the box on the sidewalk between us and said, “No. I can’t take your dress.”
I stood up and said, “Yes you can. Merry Christmas.” I started to walk away.
The girl hesitated a moment and then she picked up the boxes and started running down the street shouting, “Mom! Mom!”
My heart sank as I thought about the beautiful dress. I then allowed myself to smile slightly and started walking back to the bus stop.
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