Tonight the Streets Are Ours / Page 18

Page 18


And that, of course, made her think of her mother.

When Arden’s mom left

Arden’s mom did not leave because of the dress. But if the dress had never existed, maybe she would still be here now.

Arden had seen the dress in a photo of the movie star Paige Townsen, featured in an issue of Us Weekly a few months ago, which Arden had borrowed from her friend Naomi. Naomi was on stage crew and was a celebrity gossip junkie. Deep down, Naomi really did believe that stars—they’re just like us!

Although Arden didn’t think she was anything like a star, she wished that she were when she saw this dress. It was maroon, with cap sleeves and a belt at the waist that could create the illusion of a well-defined waist even though Arden did not exactly have one for real. The dress was classy and stately and seemed like it belonged in a movie from the 1940s, along with a veiled hat and elbow-length gloves. Arden clipped the image from Naomi’s magazine and taped it to her mirror.

“Wouldn’t it be great to have a dress like that?” Arden asked her mother one night as her mom quizzed her on the elements of the periodic table.

Her mother stood to inspect the picture more closely. “I don’t know where you could buy such a thing.”

“Oh, it’s by some designer and costs a trillion dollars,” Arden assured her. “You can’t buy such a thing.”

“I could sew it for you,” her mother offered.

“Really?” Arden blinked. Her mother had needlepointed wall decorations and done quilting. She’d sewn dresses for Tabitha when Arden was little. But Arden didn’t know that her mom could make human-size dresses, too.

“I bet I could figure it out. And then you could wear it to the Winter Wonderland dance!” Her mother smiled in the way she did whenever she solved a problem—even though this time, Arden hadn’t even known that a problem existed.

“If Chris and I are still together then,” Arden cautioned. It was hard to imagine Chris breaking up with her—they’d been a couple since last April, so another few weeks together seemed like it should be a given. But it didn’t totally feel that way.

Her mother gave her a knowing look. “That boy is wild about you. Trust me, honey, you don’t have anything to worry about. Don’t be silly.” Arden’s parents were themselves high school sweethearts, so to her mother, being silly was imagining that a teenage romance might even end.

And so Arden’s mother set to work on sewing the dress. She mostly worked on it while Arden was at school, so Arden didn’t have much awareness about how it came together. She just knew that one day there was red fabric and then one day there was a dressmaker’s dummy and one day she was getting measured and then, a few days before the dance, the dress suddenly existed and she was trying it on.

“Well?” her mother said as Arden modeled it in the living room. “What do you think?”

“I think, can I have my screen time yet?” Roman asked from his perch on the arm of the couch.

“Soon. Say something nice about how your sister looks first.”

“You look red,” Roman said.

“Roman,” their mother said in a warning tone.

“Your dress, I mean,” he said. “Your dress looks red.”

“Dennis!” their mother called toward their dad’s closed study door. “Do you want to come out and see your beautiful daughter?”

There was a pause, and then he shouted back, “I’m in the middle of something right now, sweetie. I’ll be out in a minute.”

Arden rolled her eyes. “Out in a minute” was dad-code for “I’ve already forgotten that you asked me to do something.” Only about two weeks remained before the Super Bowl, which meant her father was chest-deep in fantasy football. Ostensibly he was working on some important legal case right now, but it was equally likely that he just wasn’t coming out of his study until he’d read every post about every game on every NFL news site that he frequented.

“What do you think of the dress, Arden?” her mother asked.

Honestly? Arden thought it looked slightly off in some way. It just didn’t look on her like it did on the actress taped to her mirror. The cap sleeves seemed too long, the neckline too high and bunchy, the waist too low, the fabric too matte. Or maybe this just wasn’t the dress for her—maybe when she saw it in that magazine and pictured it on her own body, she was picturing herself as somebody else entirely.

“I love it,” her mother went on. “I can’t believe it—this is the first dress I’ve made in years, and somehow it turned out just right. You look stunning, honey. So grown-up.”

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