I heard a click from the door and opened my eyes. Quarter after five.
Eleanor slipped into the darkened room. I pretended to be asleep.
“Are you awake, Kate?” she said in a voice slightly above a stage whisper. When I didn’t answer, she turned to whoever she’d left at the door, “Let me get my books and put this over by the closet.”
Whoever it was didn’t respond. It was probably Gwen, who had taken Eleanor home with her for the weekend since I wasn’t feeling well. Sister Dorothy, the principal and sometimes nurse at our boarding school had declared me “well enough” late last night, but I still felt sleepy.
When Eleanor left, I opened my eyes and turned on the light. I looked around, to see what she’d brought back with her and spied a garment bag that seemed new. Like me, Eleanor had been at St. Agnes’ since she was 12, and we’d been roommates the whole time and rarely went home on holidays. We knew everything about each other.
I crept over and listened for a moment. No one seemed to be in the hallway, so I grabbed the garment bag and brought it over to Eleanor’s always-organized desk to look at it. Slipping down the zipper, I saw a long, white dress with a blue sash and some weird-looking blue bows on the side. It was lacy, but felt uncomfortable to the touch, all scratchy, and the underdress seemed to be made of something not much different than a bell-shaped sheath material and whatever fabric it was, it didn’t feel breathable. I wasn’t sure at all how the shoulders would go since they seemed too wide. I held it up and realized it would be off-the-shoulder. Why would anyone wear this? I thought about where I’d seen such dresses before, and realized that it wasn’t JC Penney catalog material. Wait, it was! This was the kind of dress in the special section for the spring dances.
I looked down and saw a small stack of magazines I hadn’t noticed. She had been starting to pick up Tiger Beat and Dynamite magazines, and I laughed at them with her, though she seemed to be taking the celebrities profiled a lot more seriously than I, but on top was a Seventeen. I flicked through the magazines with one hand, holding the scratchy dress with my other, and saw ‘Teen and Mademoiselle. We had all the same classes, so what kind of project was this?
I tossed the dress on her desk and fled back to my bed. I grabbed the nearest book, some Lloyd Alexander paperback I’d already read a half-dozen times, and tried to read, but I kept finding myself staring at the blue-sashed scratchy white dress. I crossed back over to Eleanor’s desk and grabbed her orange-handled scissors.
It was then the door opened, and Eleanor came back in. She looked at me, scissors in hand, left hand clutching the dress that had suddenly started to spill over the edge of the desk onto the floor, and crossed over, picked up the dress, neatly tucked it back into the garment bag, which she zipped up securely before hanging it into her half of the closet. I put the scissors down and went back to my bed. I caught Eleanor and Gwen, who was standing at the doorway, glance at each other. I saw Gwen open her mouth and Eleanor shook her head.
I looked down at the scissors, resting on Eleanor’s clean desk and then at the magazines in the crate on the floor. I waited.
“Did you study for the science test?” Eleanor asked me.
I shook my head. I was forgiven. Again.
We got out our books, Gwen sitting at Eleanor’s desk and Eleanor and I moving to our beds, and we started quizzing each other. I don’t know what I would have done with the scissors had she not come in on time, but she always did.
I caught Gwen looking at me sometimes, while we studied, but there wasn’t anything to say. More words couldn’t help when even I couldn’t rationalize what I was about to do and why.