by Ellen Scheuermann
The slip is the color of a warm plum, with scalloped trim at the bust and knee. Chelsea buys it at a thrift store and washes it twice to get the grandma smell off. When she holds it, she imagines herself full of mystery and promise. When she slides it on, the straps feel so delicate she knows it’s only a matter of time before she snaps them with a hasty tug.
She and John listen to NPR as they dress for work. The bathroom door is open and he is talking, talking, talking about whom he has to fire today. Chelsea sits at the vanity in her new slip, mouth in an O, applying eyeliner. “Hot date?” he asks, rubbing her neck. “You like it?” She keeps her gaze steady on the mirror. “It was on sale. See, the tear in the back?”
Around five, Rick Miller leans on the door to Chelsea’s office. Rick is in design. Everyone in design dresses like a barista, but Rick wears crisp wool suits. “Join us for a drink,” he says, and she does. From their corner of the table she watches, terrified, as red-cheeked colleagues slip away toward home. She knows he’ll touch her knee when they’re alone, hopes she’ll resist somehow. She remembers the roast thawing in the kitchen sink, John’s favorite, and she’s relieved he can’t see her now. She pushes him away, but the hand returns, higher now. Rick notices the slip. “How ladylike.”
She blushes all the way to the parking lot. It’s empty. In the dark he says, “I want to make you happy.” She kisses him, believing he can.
A graduate of St. John’s College in Annapolis, Ellen Scheuermann is a freelance writer and fiction reader for Ploughshares. Her work has appeared in Shoots and Vines and Calliope Nerve. She lives and writes in Boston.