The Magic Wedding Dress
Sylvia Patterson, a well known figure to the Forbes household, walked up the drive one Saturday afternoon to visit her sister Sheryl. Together, they went up to Sheryl’s spare room to get her old wedding dress, which Sylvia had requested. The dress did not really belong to Sheryl since it had been given to her by her mother who got it from her mother-in-law. It was a family heirloom that had already been worn by six Patterson brides before Sylvia and there would be others; for her brother, Dillon, and his fiancée, Margaret, had already asked for it for their wedding in August next year.
The dress had captured the imagination of all the women who had entered the family. Sheryl even remembered one occasion, when she was a very little girl, in which her grandmother had said that it had been specially blessed by the Gypsy woman who had made it for her great-grandmother Lydia, who was then a young bride in Glencoe, in Scotland. Her grandmother had said that it was a good luck charm and that it had magical qualities. She said that the dress ensured that not only was the wearer’s wedding a beautiful event, but also, that her marriage would be long, happy and successful. Sheryl didn’t believe that, even as a child, but there was no denying that it was a very beautiful gown. It had come to Jamaica with Lydia’s niece, Lillian, in 1920 and had been passed from hand to loving hand from that time on.
They opened the cedar chest which contained the dress and parted the soft tissue in which their treasure had been wrapped. The two young women were startled by a sudden movement.
“It’s a mouse!” exclaimed Sylvia, disappointedly.
She stared at the little white creature as it cowered in the corner. She was afraid that the dress had been ruined.
“William! Is that you? What have you done?” Sheryl shouted at him in dismay.
William belonged to the children next door. Carole and Robbie had visited her home two days before with their mother, and William had escaped from his shoe box and become lost. Sheryl had forgotten about this incident, but now she remembered how much Robbie had cried.
“Hey!” she exclaimed, “Do you know that its only the lace on this sleeve that’s slightly chewed.” She held up the left sleeve so that her sister could see it for herself.
“It won’t be too hard to repair. It wouldn’t even show if we had to leave it like that. You’ll see, it will be just as good as new when we’re finished with it,” she said, cheerfully.
“Oh, that’s a relief,” Sylvia said.
After Sheryl telephoned Mrs. McMillan, Carole and Robbie’s mother, and asked her to come to collect William they went downstairs to the kitchen to get some beef soup and to warm two patties in the microwave as the day was cold and bleak and they were rather hungry. The November rains had begun to fall only the week before, putting an end to five months of drought. In fact, it was because of these rains that Sylvia had not collected the dress before, since they began on the very day that she had made up her mind, for once and for all, to wear the dress. Although Sylvia didn’t want it to rain on the day of her wedding, she was very thankful for the showers which fell during the evenings because they would make the grass green again and wash the dust from the leaves of the trees and help the garden to form a pretty backdrop for some of her wedding photographs.
Sylvia spread the dress carefully on the sofa in her sister’s drawing-room because she did not want to get patty crumbs or soup stains on it. She sat on the settee across the room and admired the lovely pearl and lace decorated bodice and organza and lace covered lame sheath skirt of the dress from a safe distance. The family legend held that it was over a hundred years old, and that it contained a diamond and six hundred of those intricately beaded pearls and that the skirt fanned out into a lace train that was three metres long. The dress was no longer white, but rather, it had taken on the colour of a very old and beautiful ivory. Sylvia planned to wear it with a lace veil headdress that she would borrow from her future mother-in-law, and carry a bouquet of flowers sprayed bronze, peach and mint green to match the motif in the Church and at the reception.
While sipping her soup, Sheryl reminisced about her own wedding. Her anecdotes caused both sisters to laugh. Sheryl had married Scott Forbes, a business man, four years earlier. She knew how excited her sister was. Sheryl reminded Sylvia how she was her bridesmaid four years ago, and she said that she was happy that now Sylvia had asked her to be her Matron-of-Honour. She knew that this was a very important job that she had been given.
As Matron-of-Honour she would be expected to see that everything flowed smoothly for Sylvia at the wedding. She would ensure that Sylvia’s hair, make-up, clothes and flowers were just right. She knew that although Sylvia was excited now, she would be very nervous on the day of the wedding and she would need as much emotional support as possible. She promised herself to see to it that her sister had nothing to worry about.
Sylvia and her fiance, Frank Ashton, were to be married on the sixteenth of February. They had three months in which to complete their plans.
“Sheryl, do you realise that I’ll be a Patterson for only three more months.”
“Don’t be silly. You’ll be a Patterson forever because you are still a part of our family even if you marry Frank. Don’t tell me you’re having second thoughts, Sylvia.”
“No. Not at all. Frank’s perfect for me, but I was thinking of the great responsibility that I’ll have being his wife. I’ll have to be more careful about how I spend my money. It would look really bad for me to be always broke and not able to help him pay the bills. I’ll have to be more understanding and not want my own way in everything and I will definitely have to be neater!”
The sisters both laughed at this. Sylvia’s untidyness was legendary in the family.
“Let’s practice being neat now and clear these things away before you try that dress on,” said Sheryl.
The sisters returned upstairs to the Forbes’ bedroom where Sylvia held the dress up in front of her as she stood before a full-length mirror.
“Put it on,” Sheryl suggested.
Sylvia did this, remarking that the material was of very fine quality.
“I’d be very proud to wear this,” she declared, her eyes opening with wonder at how beautiful she looked in the dress.
Sheryl agreed that it was, indeed, very becoming and offered to have it cleaned for her.
Two days later, Sheryl took the dress to ‘Kwality Kleaners,’ the oldest and most respected dry cleaning establishment in Montego Bay. She was a little nervous about letting the dress out of her sight, but she told herself that it was absolutely necessary and that it made no sense to worry. She understood that they had done excellent work on the dress when her mother was having it cleaned for her wedding four years ago and when it was being prepared for storage after that and they had never let Scott down in cleaning his suits. She almost managed to convince herself that nothing would go wrong this time either.
“How long will it take?” Sheryl asked the clerk who came to attend to her. He was Curtis, the nineteen year old son of the owner. He was a very pleasant young man who had told Sheryl that he decided to work his way up in his father’s business.
“I’d say you’ll have to give it two weeks Mrs. F. This will be a very complicated job; the material is quite old and I’m not sure that we won’t have to remove some of these pearls,” he said. “I hope you noticed that the lace on this sleeve is damaged,” he added delicately.
“Yes, I saw that. Two weeks? That will be okey. How much will it cost me?”
“I’ll have to check. One minute please.”
The young man took the dress and walked toward the cashier and another clerk who worked at the other end of the shop. Sheryl saw them arguing about the dress, hold it up to the light, turn it around and point at certain sections of it from time to time. She was a little annoyed to think that there wasn’t a regular price chart on display on the wall. Although she had noticed this before, she didn’t minded so much since it didn’t seem to be so important at the time; but now, her sister’s happiness was involved and she could not be so nonchalant. The price for her might still be more than it was for someone else, but at least she would know if it was exorbitantly so.
She glanced at the luxuriant planter at the far end of the store and wondered idly how many of the customers realised that the floral display was really thermoplastic and silk. She then stared at the many rows of plastic bag covered clothes which gave either ghostly reflections of the scenes that passed directly outside the window, or peacock-like spectra where the light hit them obliquely. Business was obviously very good for the owners of ‘Kwality Kleaners’. Sheryl felt a little more confident; for after all, she was not the only person who trusted this company.
“It will cost one thousand dollars,” Curtis said as he returned to her.
“Yes mam,” he said smiling at her. “I’ve already put in a two hundred dollar discount just for you.”
“Is that right? Okey, here you go,” she said handing her credit card to him. Curtis was really good at managing his customers. She hoped that he was being well paid by his mother and father.
“Don’t worry,” he said as he returned her card to her. “We’ll take very good care of your dress for you.”
Sheryl realised only then, that she really wasn’t afraid anymore. The dress had been a presence in her family for a long time and suddenly, she felt sure that it would always be.
It was because of this new found confidence that the lead story on the early morning newscast eleven days later came as a real shock for Sheryl.
‘NIGHT SHIFT CLEANS OUT KWALITY KLEANERS – MILLIONS STOLEN’
The story described how thieves had broken into the shop during the night and had stolen most of the clothes and all of the money and cheques in the safe. It was suspected that they had also taken the credit card information of the customers, as the stubs were seen to have been disturbed.
Sheryl’s stomach hurt and her hands trembled as she clutched the telephone and tried to dial one of the numbers on their card. The telephone rang thirty times without an answer. She tried another number, but this was busy, so she tried the first number again. It too, was busy this time – probably another frantic customer trying to get through.
She was trying not to cry as Scott sent an email to the company and made a cup of sweet tea for her. He kept telling her to try to calm down and they argued about whether it was still too early to go to the business district to try to sort things out for themselves.
They eventually decided to go to the store immediately, because they were not doing themselves any good sitting at home and speculating. Sheryl could not bear to think that she had lost the dress, but even worse than that, was the thought of breaking the news to Sylvia and their mother.
Although it was only eight-thirty there were already scores of onlookers outside the Kwality Kleaners building. Most of these persons were merely curiosity seekers who were simply looking for some excitement. Oddly enough, it was only a handful of genuine customers who had made their way to the store to inquire about the true state of affairs. Sheryl and Scott alighted their car and joined a small group of these.
Through listening to the gossip, they soon learned how the theft had been discovered. They heard that the staff had closed down as usual at a few minutes past ten on the previous evening. It was about one-thirty in the morning that the security guard on duty at a neighbouring shop in the mall had noticed that there seemed to be a light in one of the inner rooms of the shop. He had noticed a peculiar glow through the glass pane and had gone to investigate. He saw that the place had been ransacked and so he called the police.
Scott hugged Sheryl as she began to cry on his shoulder. The policeman on duty would not allow anyone to come close to the door let alone to get in. Suddenly, they heard a shout.
“Look! Someone’s coming!”
They all turned to see one of the company’s delivery vans coming up the road. It moved slowly toward them; as if it did not really want to go to the shop.
“I wonder what they’re going to tell us now.”
“Let’s just give them a chance to say how things stand.
They all waited impatiently. Eventually, Mrs. MacDonald, the owner, her husband and Curtis all came to talk with the crowd. Mrs. MacDonald told them that the company was fully insured against fire and theft and that everyone would be fully compensated for their loss. Shery’s heart sank, for she knew that her loss had more than a monetary value to the members of her family.
She and Scott had turned and were walking away when they heard quick footsteps advancing behind them. Someone was running in their direction.
“Mrs. Forbes! Mrs. Forbes, please wait!” Curtis cried out to her.
Sheryl and Scott tried to smile with him when he came up to them.
“We’re very sorry about the break-in,” said Scott.
“Well, so are we. It’s going to be a real setback for us; but we’ll survive. We’ve had this happen before. I think it was about four or five years ago we actually had a break-in and a fire in about a two month time span. Can you believe that?”
The Forbes’ glanced at each other.
“Actually though,” Curtis continued, turning to Sheryl, “I have some good news for you. Your dress wasn’t among the things taken!”
She was aghast.
“How comes? I would have thought that it would be among the very first things to go.”
“It probably would have been if it had been here,” said Curtis smiling, shyly. “What happened was that it was just finished when we were getting ready to lock up and I decided to take it home with me; just a little extra insurance,” he explained. “I just had a very funny feeling about leaving it behind and an urgent need to take it with me. Sometimes you have to trust your sixth sense. Boy am I glad I did!”
“This is amazing Curtis! I can’t believe this. I just can’t believe it,” Sheryl said and began to laugh a little hysterically. “Thank you. Thank you so much,” she said as she hugged him.
Scott shook his hand, enthusiastically, and slapped him on his shoulder. “Great work, as usual, Curtis! We’re very grateful to you,” he said.
Curtis looked a little uncomfortable, and Sheryl thought that it was because the youth was embarrassed by how she was behaving.
“Actually, Mrs. Forbes, my mother has said that we won’t be cleaning this dress again. She recognized it when I took it home last night. She said that she remembered it from four years ago. She said that she had felt the same way about it, and that she had taken it home with her the night before that last break in. She seems to feel that the dress must be cursed.”
Now it was Sheryl’s turn to feel embarrassed. She had always been told that the wedding dress was magical, and that it was a blessing to her family. She had not believed this, but now it seemed that there was something about the dress. Certainly, the MacDonald family had suffered twice, even as they had saved the dress from harm!
“I’m sure that’s not true! But if you don’t want it around then when are we to come to collect it?” Sheryl asked anxiously.
“It’s at home, but you may go there for it now if you like. A dress like that is a little too much responsibility for me so I’d be really happy to let you have it as soon as you can take it. Of course, I don’t really believe that it’s cursed, but even so.”
Sheryl never told Sylvia or her mother about her scare with having the dress cleaned. There was really no harm done and she thought that it was best that they did not know how close she had come to losing it; for after all, this was just a very unfortunate incident and it could never happen again, could it?