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Yardsticks: Chapter 37

It was emerald green with silver beading, a silver sash draped over the shoulders. It was a pretty dress, definitely elegant. But…
Yelena

F

rom the day Mina hung her daughter’s wedding invitation on the boutique’s invitation wall, I knew my dress was going to be a problem.

It wasn’t that I didn’t have what to wear. I had a party dress; the dress I’d worn to Benish’s wedding eight years earlier. Mama had come along to the store when I’d bought it, to give her opinion. She’d had good taste, back in her prime, and we’d always gone shopping together.

But then Benish divorced Zoya, and I’d stowed the dress in the corner of my closet, out of sight, and never worn it again.

When Mina invited us to her daughter’s wedding and the sewing staff excitedly marked the date in their calendars, I came home from the boutique and pulled the dress out of my closet. I held it up and analyzed it.

It was emerald green with silver beading, a silver sash draped over the shoulders. It was a pretty dress, definitely elegant. But…

Doubt pitted in my stomach. I saw the kind of dresses the people in this community brought in for alterations; I’d mended countless dresses after hours in the boutique before Yocheved started sniffing around. And somehow, I wasn’t sure this dress would cut it.

Hesitantly, I tried it on and inspected my reflection in the mirror. It was pretty; I liked it. I felt… young in this dress. Alive. For a moment, I considered asking Mama’s opinion, but I quickly nixed the idea. Mama had lost her flair, along with her balance. I didn’t trust her opinion.

Really, why was I obsessing like this? Who said I couldn’t wear something a little different? Buying a new dress was out of the question, and besides, there was nothing wrong with this one. It would have to do.

Now, getting ready for the wedding, the qualms returned. The last thing I wanted was to stand out among Mina’s guests as that “Russian seamstress from the boutique.”

“Oh, wow, Mama, you look so pretty!” Benish commented when I stepped out of my room.

I sighed, glancing in the hallway mirror to adjust a pin in my hair. Then I went to the bathroom vanity where the lighting was stronger and carefully applied makeup.

It was pathetic, to worry so much about this wedding. Who would even care how I looked? But I couldn’t help it, my nerves were on edge.

At eight o’clock, Olga showed up in front of my building. I slipped into my shoes — the same shade of green as my dress with a big silver buckle — and hurried down the stairs.

We took a taxi together to the wedding hall. “You look beautiful!” I told Olga as we stepped out of the car.

She really did. She was wearing a cobalt blue suit with a cluster of violets near the lapel. She’d stuck a matching flower into her hair, which made her eyes come alive.

But as soon as we entered the hall, I had an urge to yank that flower out of her hair. Looking around at the guests, I realized I’d made a mistake. I should not have worn this dress. Everyone — everyone — was wearing black. Like it was a dress code I wasn’t informed of. And not only the clothing. From hairstyles down to shoes, all the guests looked identical.

I glanced at Olga, but she seemed oblivious. She’d caught sight of the other seamstresses, standing around a table on the far right, and was happily waving to them.

“Come,” she said, pulling my elbow, “that’s our table.”

I dragged my feet after her, cringing. Here we were, the Russian seamstresses, colorful as a rainbow. I wanted to disappear.

(Excerpted from Family First, Issue 681)

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