This is the unabridged version. I had to cut it from 12 pages to 7 pages.
Wedding Dress Never Worn
The room was filled with the sour, almost sickening smell of mothballs, and the sweet scent of lemon furniture polish. From the ceiling hung small cylindrical spotlights that cast their light through the darkness onto the many racks of women’s vintage clothing, arranged through the downstairs of the old house. Scattered among the racks of clothes were several antique dressers, vanities and trunks. On one wall, a closet had been converted into two dressing rooms and divided by small-mirrored alcove. In the back of the room, behind a brass railing was a glass counter filled with many types of jewelry and accessories.
Samantha Hardgraves sat behind the counter at a roll top desk, entering the day’s receipts into a computer and tallying the monies. Every item was separated and arranged very neatly. The day’s receipts in one pile, the checks were in another and the currency was in several stacks according to denomination.
It had taken Samantha weeks to work out a system for running things smoothly. Those first few days after taking over the shop, which her grandmother had passed on to her, were very trying. Having had no previous experience with running a retail business, nor any knowledge of vintage clothing, Samantha had a lot to learn. She decided that she would make this work and was going to be a success. The business had been very stable when her grandmother died and Samantha managed to keep it that way.
She pulled her foot out of her shoe and used a toe to slip her heel out of the other white pump. The shoe dangled from the end of the foot for a moment then dropped to the floor. Black hose, with tiny red hearts clung to her long sensuous legs that melted into the white leather mini dress. Samantha’s long shiny black hair flowed graciously onto her shoulders and delicately draped her shapely figure. She had a small oval face, with hazel eyes and thin red lips that parted slightly to reveal glistening white teeth. At twenty-six, Samantha was doing well with a successful business and was happy with her life style. She only wished her husband were still here to see it. He had died in a tragic car crash a year into her marriage.
The telephone rang, interrupting her thoughts. She picked up the receiver with one hand and removed her earring with the other. “Good evening, Way Back Fashions.”
“Hi Samantha, how was business today?” inquired Gayle Rollens; she owned the card shop next door. They had become good friends.
“Good, but it was a long rough day.” Samantha answered.
“Want to go across the street to Bistro’s to eat and have a few drinks?”
“Thanks for asking, but I just got the Mae West dress I ordered and I’d like to get it in the window tonight.” Samantha paused, “Why don’t we get a six pack, order a pizza and work on the window display. You always seem to have good ideas for that kind of thing.”
“Sounds great! I’ll get the beer and be over in a few minutes.” Gayle replied.
“Fine, that will give me time to finish up here. See ya in a little bit.” Samantha placed the receiver in its cradle and hurriedly completed the day’s bookkeeping, tidied up her desk and ran up stairs to her apartment.
Samantha removed a pair of gray sweat pants and a white tank top from the dresser and tossed them on the bed. She wiggled out of the mini dress and took off the other confining clothes of the day. As she slipped into the comfortable sweats and tank top she thought of her husband Jim, he loved it when she wore tank tops. When he would run his large tanned hands over her shoulders it made her tingle all over. She could smell the spicy scent of his cologne, as she would rest her head on his smooth muscular chest. Samantha’s thoughts faded as the sound of knocking at the door brought her back to reality.
Gayle was a stocky woman in her late twenties, her blonde hair was in a pageboy cut, and she was not one for wearing makeup. Not to say she needed to, actually she really looked well without it. Gayle had been very instrumental in Samantha’s success in taking over the shop.
After ordering the pizza and having a beer, Samantha wanted to get a mannequin out of the attic. They walked down the long hallway that led to the attic door. The door opened with a faint squeak revealing only a staircase leading up into the darkness. Samantha turned on the light switch and started up the stairs, with Gayle close at her heels.
A single light, which hung from a frayed cord in the center of the ceiling, burned dimly casting ghostly shadows against the walls. The air was thick with the dust of time and the cobwebs draped the rafters like sheets. The layer of dust that covered the floor seemed to leap upward with each of their steps. The attic was cluttered with boxes of all sizes, some with their contents overflowing around them. An old rocking horse lay discarded on its side. Next to it was a large trunk surrounded by several toys that a small child must have once played with.
“Let’s see if we can find that mannequin. I was hoping it would be easy to find,” said Samantha as she scanned the room looking for the mannequin, “it must be hidden or covered up.” Samantha took notice of an old sewing machine and radio stacked in one of the corners. She ran her hand over the face of radio dial removing some of the years of dust that covered it. She turned the knobs as if trying to turn in a radio broadcast from the past.
“Yeah, I guess we’ll just have to get a little dirty and move some of this stuff around. Boy, this place sure is dusty,” Gayle said as she started to rummage through the stacks of memorabilia and other old discarded bits of the past. “You’d be surprised how much you can find out about someone just from the things they keep.”
“Then I guess I better get up here and see how much I can find out about grand Mary,” jested Samantha.
“No Sam, I’m serious. I used to spend hours in our attic at home going through all my parents’ stuff to see if I could find out what they might have been like before I was around,” Gayle said.
“What kind of things did you look for?” asked Samantha.
“High school year books, letters, photo albums,” Gayle replied as she began to rummage through a pile old clothing, books and shoes. She picked up each item and examined it then tossed it to the side. As she was moving some rags and papers she saw what looked like a hand sticking out from under the pile of stuff she was sorting through.
Gayle reached down and touched the hand. “My god!” she screamed. She stepped back tripping over a box and fell to the floor.
“You okay? What happened?” Samantha asked as she turned around to see what the scream was about.
“I found the mannequin but when I touched it, it felt cold, cold and fleshy.” Gayle’s voice trembled as she spoke.
“Come on, stop playing around Gayle.” Samantha started walking over to where Gayle was sitting on the dusty floor. “We are gonna both need a shower when we get done up here.”
“I ain’t messin’ with you. It really did feel cold and fleshy, like a dead person’s hand.”
“You’re just tryin’ to scare me. Another one of your practical jokes.” Samantha extended her hand to help Gayle get up.
“I’m telling you the truth,” said Gayle as she took Samantha’s hand and pulled herself to her feet. She slipped her arm around Samantha’s waist and gave her a gentle hug.
“Help me move this junk out of the way,” grunted Samantha. They moved the pile of stuff aside revealing the mannequin.
“Look at this, Sam! It has a white lace dress on it.”
“An old Victorian wedding gown,” Samantha said. “This is the strangest thing though, it looks as if was just put up here.”
“There’s no dust on it. It’s not even wrinkled.” Gayle kneeled next to the mannequin and ran her fingers through the thick lace of the dress.
“Gayle, you sure you didn’t do this?” asked Samantha.
“Yes, I’m sure,” Gayle, replied firmly. “Let’s just get this thing downstairs.” She scooped up the mannequin as she stood and motioned to Samantha for some help.
As Samantha moved to help Gayle, her foot kicked something on the floor. “Hold on a second.” She bent down to examine the object she had kicked. She picked up the cloth-covered book from out of dust on the floor. “I think I’ll take this down with us, there might turn out to be something interesting in here.”
They carried the mannequin down stairs and took it into the living room. “I still can’t get over how clean the dress is. The damn thing is cleaner than we are and we were only up in the attic a few minutes. It’s spotless and perfectly pressed. Kind a looks like it was never worn,” replied Samantha with a puzzled look on he face.
“There seems to be something very strange about it,” Gayle said imitating the voice of Dracula.
“See, there ya go again. This has got to be another stunt of yours.”
“Saved by the bell,” laughed Gayle, as the doorbell rang. “Pizza’s here. Where’s the money Sam?”
Samantha slapped the money in the palm of Gayle’s outstretched hand and then went to the kitchen for another beer. Gayle put the pizza on the coffee table and turned on the television.
When Samantha returned she picked up the book and opened the front cover. It seemed to be a scrapbook filled with pages of newspaper clippings. As she read further she noticed that some of the clippings dated back to the early nineteen hundreds. The stories all seemed to be about the deaths of young women who were found dead in front of a mirror. When their bodies were found, they were either naked or clothed in their under garments. They had all died from a puncture wound between their breast that had been made with long pointed object like an ice pick or hatpin.
“Gayle this is a major trip, you have got to look at this.” Samantha handed the book to Gayle so she could look through it.
She scanned through several pages of the book then looked up at Samantha. “I don’t want to read anymore. Now you’re the one trying to scare me.” Gayle closed the book and put it back on the coffee table. “Where’s that Mae West dress you got?” Gayle inquired.
“Down stairs in the shop,” answered Samantha. She stood up and began removing the wedding gown from the mannequin. She folded it neatly and placed it on the arm of the couch.
“Are you going to bring the dress up here so I can see it?” asked Gayle.
“I’m just going to take this down stairs,” replied Samantha as she motioned to the mannequin. “Then I think I’m just going take a shower, eat some pizza, drink a beer, then stretch out on the couch and relax. I’m not up to anymore work, but I will bring the dress up for you to look at.” Samantha took the mannequin and headed down the stairs to the shop.
Gayle picked up the wedding gown and held it up in front of her to see how it would look. Surprisingly it looked like it might even fit. She could not resist the temptation to try it on, so she quickly slipped out oh her tee shirt and jeans. Gayle took the dress with her and stood in front of the full-length mirror on the closet door. She momentarily surveyed her nude reflection then slipped the dress over her head and let her arms slide into the sleeves. The dress settled softly on her shoulders. Gayle smoothed out the dress and gave it a few tugs here and there until it felt comfortable. She looked down and adjusted the fit of the top and then returned her eyes to the mirror. A sickening feeling wrenched her stomach; she went pale and her legs became weak as she saw the image in the mirror. It was not her reflection she saw but that of a young lady with long red hair, her makeup was running down her checks and her blue eyes were rolled back. The white dress had a large red stain between her breasts, from which protruded a large jeweled hatpin. Gayle tried to force out a scream but to no avail and then everything went black.
Carrying the mannequin in one arm and firmly gripping the railing, Samantha descended the steep stairs leading down to the shop. Dark shadows danced on the walls as bright flashes of lightning sliced through the darkness. The roar of thunder crashing down from the twilight sky rattled the old windowpanes and sent needles shooting through her body. The loudness of the thunder caught her off guard and almost caused her to miss a step and tumble down the remaining stairs, but her tight grip on the rail saved her from the fall. She paused for a moment, took a few deep breaths and tried to get a grip on her nerves. She continued down the stairs and placed the mannequin by the desk. Still shaken by her near fall, Samantha sat down and stared out the window into the storm. The wind was blowing so fiercely that the light pole across the street was swaying from side to side and the big raindrops were falling almost horizontally.
A hazy cloud began to materialize by the front door of the shop; the apparition began to take shape and became visible. It was the figure of a young lady, her long red hair was matted in a tangled mess and she seemed to be distraught over something because she was crying and muttering to herself. In her bloody hand was a jeweled hatpin from which blood was dripping and splattering on the floor. Samantha watched in horror as the specter turned and looked directly at her with her dark dead eyes.
“Who dares to wear my dress,” screamed the phantom. A blast of cold wind blew past Samantha, mussing up her long black hair and sending chills up and down her spine. The spirit turned and began to float up the stairs.
Samantha jumped up out of her chair and screamed, “Gayle!” Before she could utter another word the demon spirit attacked with another ghostly wind, but this one knocked Samantha to the floor. As she struggled to get to her feet, the apparition vanished through the closed door at the top of the stairs. “This can’t be happening,” she thought, “I don’t even believe in ghosts.” She ran up the stairs towards the apartment taking two or more steps at a time. She reached the top of the stairs and grabbed the doorknob. With a might force, the door was flung open almost ripping her fingers from her hand.
Standing in front of the mirror was Gayle in the wedding gown. While the specter was floating in the air between Samantha and Gayle, the storm outside was increasing in its rage. The lightning and thunder had become almost constant and the wind was whistling loudly through the windows.
“Who are you?” demanded Samantha.
“Someone you shouldn’t interfere with,” the specter barked.
“What do you want here?” Samantha volleyed back.
“I want her,” the specter raised her arm and pointed at Gayle. “First some sleazy tramp takes my wimp of a fiancé to bed and now this whore is wearing my dress. She’s got to die just like them.”
“No, you can’t have her,” screamed Samantha.
“It’s too late,” laughed the specter as she merged with Gayle’s body. As Gayle’s lifeless body began to move, she turned around and stared at Samantha with her rolled back eyes and stone like face.
“I’m going to kill you.” Gayle raised the blood-covered hatpin above her head and started towards Samantha. Samantha charged wanting to knock Gayle off her feet. Before Samantha could even take two steps a force slammed into her throwing her against the wall behind her. She fell to the floor dazed and hurt.
She wasn’t able to move her arm, “It must be broke,” she thought. Dazed, she struggled to her feet only to be picked up by an invisible force and sent crashing into the dining room table. Unable to move, she lay there and watched as Gayle turned and slowly walked back to the mirror.
Gayle stood there clutching the hatpin in both hands. The room was suddenly illuminated by several blinding flashes of lightning, accompanied by ear shattering claps of thunder that seemed to last for an eternity. The strobe like effect from the flashes of lightning made the scene look like an old movie. Gayle turned the point of the hat pin towards her, and with both hands she forced the shaft deep into her chest. Blood sprayed the mirror and ran down its smooth surface. As Gayle’s body crumpled to the floor the room was filled with a loud ghastly scream that echoed in Samantha’s head.
Samantha walked over to where Gayle’s body lay curled up on the floor and knelt beside her. Samantha’s eyes watered and tears rolled down her cheeks. She took Gayle’s hand in hers and gave it a gentle squeeze. Gayle’s eyes opened and her lips moved but Samantha couldn’t hear what she said.
“What did you say, Sweetie?” asked Samantha.
Gayle smiled at Samantha and then closed her eyes and expired. The wedding gown that had so mysteriously appeared now vanished leaving its victim lying naked on the floor.
Samantha stood up and limped over to the window. The storm had ceased as quickly as it had started and outside the giant full moon shown yellow as it climbed above the trees. The wet streets below glistened in the moonlight that beamed through the cloud streaked evening sky. Samantha had lost another friend. Through her teary eyes she saw a shooting star streak across the sky. She sat the bay window and wept.