The reservations were made: three for non, for 9:00 Saturday night. Silke and Ariana had decided – which is to say, Ariana suggested, and Silke could think of no valid objection – to make late reservations to give them some time with Silke’s mother beforehand. As excited as Ariana was about the visit, Silke was dreading it. There were already two people in her life with whom she found herself in totally different relationships, and she wasn’t looking forward to a third. John’s relationship with his mother was largely characterised by his guilt over never seeing her or returning her calls. He loved her, but they had nothing in common. After years of awkward conversations in which they both avoided the topic of her jackass husband (whom she had married when John was five, to replace her other jackass husband), there was nothing to talk about.

The one good thing about dreading tomorrow night, Silke thought, was that it helped her get her mind off of the more immediate dread she felt at the prospect of “digging up her closet” with Ariana. If she had just thought for a second before agreeing to Ariana’s brainstorm, she would have realised that a trip to a restaurant like Il Forno almost certainly meant wearing – in public, no less! – clothes from the vast Unwearables section of her closet. Oh well, it’s too late to go back to Door Number One now.

            “Ready?” asked Ariana, grinning.

            “Ready as I’ll ever be,” Silke smiled. “Let’s start with you.”

Walking into Ariana’s bedroom was as strange an experience for Silke as seeing her own for the “first” time. The room itself was very familiar; she’d spent many nights there in another life, and it looked exactly as she remembered. The bed was king sized, and covered in lavender Egyptian cotton sheets. Beneath it was a deep red woven rug. The windows were framed by gauzy white curtains, above a whitewashed desk piled high with casebooks and notebooks. The one thing missing was the stuffed Eric Cartman doll that John had once bought her for her birthday.

Silke braced herself as they proceeded to Ariana’s closet. She wanted absolutely no part in any of this, but she also did not want to hurt her friend any further. And so she stood and accepted hanger after hanger, as Ariana emptied her closet of every potential outfit.

“How about this?” Ariana asked, as she held a knee-length black slipdress up to her frame.

“Hmmmm,” Silke allowed.

“One for the ‘possible’ pile, then. Could I see the red thing you’ve got in your right hand there?”

“Good pick,” Silke smiled in spite of herself. Ariana had always been a knockout in red.

That was enough to make Ariana decide to try it on. And once again, Silke felt absolutely nothing as Ariana slipped off her sweater and let her jeans fall to the floor as she adjusted the dress at her waist. With her back still turned to Silke, Ariana motioned for her to zip her up. She complied.

“So?” Ariana asked as she turned around to face her friend.

“You look gorgeous,” was all that Silke could think to say as she looked Ariana over. John, she was certain, would have trouble concentrating on anything other than the anticipation of seeing the dress off, but all Silke could think about was how radiant her best friend looked in the red strapless dress she’d helped pick out. For the first time in days, a genuine smile crept across her face.

“You know,” Silke added, holding up another of the hangers, which bore a black knit shrug, “what about putting this on over it?”

“Definitely!”was the enthusiastic answer. “Now,” she added, as she returned the dress to the hanger and put her jeans and sweater back on, “let’s take care of you.”

Couldn’t you have drawn this out a bit? You and I both know this shit can take hours, and you let her get done in fifteen minutes? For fuck’s sake. You do realise what this means, don’t you? You’re going to go into that girly-ass room, and, in all likelihood, she’s going to ask you to try on a damn dress. How could you agree to this? How could you not have realised what going to a nice restaurant would entail? I can assure you, my friend, there isn’t a single suit and tie hiding in that closet to save your ass. So now you’ve got three options: One: you can go in there and play dress-up and pretend not to hate it; Two: you can say you don’t feel like it and disappoint Ariana; Three: you can lie again. This is all your doing.

Silke sighed.

“Aren’t you coming?” Ariana asked, already halfway out the door.

“Oh, right, of course,” Silke laughed, trying to feign absentmindedness.

The walk down the hall to Silke’s room felt like it took hours. With the gait of the condemned, she took the last step into her room, where Ariana was already digging through her unwearables.

“We might be here a while,” Ariana laughed. “You have so much great stuff here.”


All your damn fault.

“So,” began Silke, trying not to sound disgusted, “what’s up first?”

After a moment’s pondering, Ariana grabbed a pair of hangers from the on-deck circle she’d assembled on a nearby chair. Silke maintained a pokerface as she saw a purple silk skirt and light red blouse being handed to her.

“What do you think?” Ariana smiled expectantly.

“I’m not sure.”

“Why don’t you just try it on, then?”


Feeling even more self-conscious than usual, Silke pulled off her t-shirt and slipped the blouse over her shoulders. She fumbled with the buttons, which were on the wrong side, but eventually got it on. Much as she hated this, she had to admit that she loved the feeling of the silk against her skin. So soft and light, like a caress. Maybe this wasn’t so bad.

Don’t get all relieved yet. You’re not done.

She took the skirt from Ariana’s outstretched hand while unbuttoning her jeans with her free hand. Then

(here goes nothing)

she stepped out of her jeans, and into the skirt. It felt strange, as if something was poking her. Running her fingers under the waistband, she realised that the label was square in front, and turned it around the right way. She straightened, and faced Ariana.

“Have a look!” Ariana said, ushering Silke over to the mirror. Once there, Silke realised she hadn’t been breathing. With a deep breath, she looked up at her reflection.

“Wait a sec! You buttoned one too many,” Ariana said as she undid te offending top button, “there!”


Silke’s first reaction to her reflection was notable for its absence. She felt nothing. Not the disgust she had been feeling since the day took this turn, nor anything else. She drew an emotional blank. She eyed the figure in front of her slowly, deliberately. And then, it felt wrong. Simply wrong, unequivocally wrong. Why was this happening to her of all people? At least with jeans and a t-shirt, there was some degree of denial available to her. Bra notwithstanding, those looked and felt more or less like what John had always worn. But with this outfit, there was simply no denying her femaleness. This was all such bullshit. And yet, there was something else there. There was something…

Something not at all bad.

Something not at all bad mixed in with the devastation and anger. She couldn’t help but feel slightly enchanted by the beautiful young woman looking back at her in the mirror. Something about seeing herself looking like this actually felt the most minimal bit good. And just a little familiar.

“So?” came an expectant voice from behind her.

“Nice,” Silke allowed, smiling slightly.

“Next!” Ariana announced, ushering in a flurry of outfits from Silke’s “unwearable” category that would not end for another hour and a half. It resembled a juggling act. Off came one outfit, passed to Ariana, back on the hanger, while a new one went from Ariana’s hands to Silke’s, who tried it on, exchanged noncommittal comments with Ariana, and handed it back. It all slowed down as Silke stood in front of the mirror in a scoop-neck black dress with a full, swishy skirt that ended just below her knees.

Ariana inspected her from all angles, finally declaring, “I think we have a winner.”

“Yeah,” replied Silke, shocked to be agreeing, “I think you’re right.”

Silke breathed an internal sigh of relief, realising that this little ordeal was over. She slipped off the dress, put her jeans and t-shirt back on, and followed Ariana downstairs. Dinnertime was fast approaching.

After she caught up to Ariana on the stairs, Ariana turned to her, "It's good to have you back."

Silke said nothing.

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