While Hannah was certain that the other women in her life meant well she was also sure that she did not want to be wear the dress her roommate was holding. "Just try it Hannah," Olivia coaxed. "What have you got to lose? And it will look good on you." This last sentence was delivered with all the positive sincerity Olivia could muster. Her rationale was that since she knew how to put outfits together for herself she would be able to help her roommate. Stubbornly Hannah shook her head. Why couldn't Olivia leave her alone for a change?

"Come on Hannah," impatiently Olivia tapped her foot on the sill that divided Hannah's room from the hall. Ungraciously Hannah studied her roommate. Olivia's long dark hair had been pulled back, twisted up and secured with a genuine peacock feather that had been made into a clip. Olivia's exaggerated pout made Hannah feel uncooperative although past experiences had taught her that no matter what kind of help she had Hannah was never going to be in the same class as Olivia. "You have a good body Hannah, you just have to learn to work with what you've got."

Despondently Hannah stared at the peeling skin on her upper arm. Last Sunday at the beach Olivia's skin had taken on a uniform bronze while Hannah's had gone from sensitive pink to painful red. Studying her legs more closely Hannah noticed a hairy patch that her razor had missed. When Olivia wore a swimsuit it flowed over her body like a second skin. Previously Hannah hadn't minded her practical black racing suit but that was before she had started sharing an apartment with Olivia. Now Hannah knew that her suit covered everything it needed to but it flattened out an already too small bust and emphasized her wider than average hips.

With a sigh Hannah reached for the sundress her roommate wanted her to wear. After a day like today she didn't have the energy to fight with Olivia. The sooner Olivia saw how bad the dress looked on her the sooner Hannah could shower, eat supper and curl up with the book that Olivia's little sister had let her borrow. "Not that bra," Olivia made a face as she handed Hannah a cream colored demi-bra. The unflattering color washed out Hannah's pale skin, half of her breast stuck out the side, none of it peeked up from the top, the band was too tight around her chest and the straps kept falling down. Bravely Hannah sucked in her breath praying that this would go quickly.


At the mall Hannah wandered into a store that Olivia normally shopped at. Several sales people stood near her but Hannah was too intimidated to ask for help. Hannah wouldn't admit this to Olivia but she thought this guy that she had met the other day was cute. After Hannah had found out that Phil was going to be in her summer research program she renewed her vow to go the gym every day after work.

Resolutely Hannah avoided the food court even though her stomach was growling. Finding new clothes for her internship was turning out to be a lot harder than Hannah had anticipated. Enthusiasm for her new job dwindled after she left a fourth dressing room wearing yet another pair of pants that were too tight across her butt and baggy around her waist. Frustrated by the unproductive shopping expedition Hannah left the mall with a pair of socks and some earrings she couldn't resist.


That weekend Hannah was not looking forward to shopping at the outlet mall with her mom. Being the good roommate that she was Olivia reminded Hannah that at the very least they'd get a free meal and maybe her mom would help her pick out some clothes she could wear to work. On the trip out to the mall Hannah's mood improved.

It was fun riding in the car with Olivia who talked about the two guys that flirted with her during their summer physics class. At the mall Hannah kept to herself while her mom and Olivia poked through the sale racks hunting for bargains. After lunch Olivia announced that their next mission was to find Hannah some new work clothes. Hannah gave her mom a dirty look hating that Olivia got along better with her mom than she did.

The first store they went had nothing that Hannah was interested in however listening to her mom talk to the sales people gave Hannah some new insight. Why had she been afraid to ask people for help? That was their job after all and it was so much easier to stand in the dressing room trying on clothes if the salespeople kept bringing you new things that they thought might work.

Normally Hannah chose items that were on sale or would go with everything. Olivia and her mom told the clerks what Hannah was looking for and talked Hannah out of a yellow striped tank-top that she would have bought if she had been by herself. As she tried on more clothes Hannah was able to see that in the past she had focused on things she liked rather than styles that would look good on her. Olivia really was right Hannah thought, from the skin out Hannah needed makeover.


Monday afternoon Hannah came home in a fantastic mood because Phil had commented on the new outfit she had worn to work. Her face burned when she told him that the rose strewn scarf was Olivia's but he had liked her earrings and those she had picked out herself. With a spring in her step Hannah tossed her work clothes in the hamper and grabbed one of her new sports bras that actually fit. Having a good bra made a difference Hannah decided as she gazed at her reflection.

The idea of a bra shaping someone's figure hadn't occurred to her earlier but now that she had some good bras Hannah found that it did improve the way her shirts fit. She felt better about her appearance too. The new dress pants that her mom had insisted she get hemmed fit her well, a belt from Olivia had helped the khakis she had, alone with the mirror Hannah felt like she was starting to understand clothes, fit and fashion. Smiling to herself Hannah pulled her hair back and went out for one of the best runs she'd had since the summer vacation had started.


Tuesday was not a good day for Hannah. Halfway to work she realized her lunch was still sitting on the counter. After she drove back to get that she left her purse on the small table where Olivia's physics homework sat in a cluttered pile. The storm the weatherman had predicted drenched Hannah's hair as she ran across the parking lot and since her badge was sitting in her purse back home she wasn't able to let herself in through the normal entrance. When Phil said 'hi' to her Hannah backed into a filing cabinet.

Wincing she rubbed her elbow and made a lame excuse about having to drop off some records across campus. In the bathroom she saw that her period had come two days early. Savage cramps twisted her uterus until she was in so much pain she asked her male boss if he would let her have the rest of the day off. At home she fell asleep wearing her rain soaked clothes. Her last thought was that the day Hannah chose to wear a dress was also the day she spent a total of ten seconds with Phil.

Surprisingly he called that night. Hannah talked with him until Olivia appeared in her doorway holding a large takeout box. Now that Hannah was feeling better she took a huge bite of pizza while listening to Olivia. "I wish I could eat like you can." Still chewing on an overly large bite Hannah gave her roommate a quizzical look. "You're way skinnier than I am Olivia." Delicately Olivia picked a sliver of onion off the pizza she had ordered on her way home from school. "I have to watch what I eat. You run and you're always doing things. That dress looks better on you than it does on me. You can have it if you want."

A guilty flush went through Hannah. The last time she had been in Olivia's room she had pictured herself wearing it on a date with Phil. Secretly she had thought that the dress looked better on her than it did on Olivia. "You can have that jacket I never wear." Hannah told her roommate. Years ago Hannah's aunt had bought her a white denim jacket that wasn't her style at all. 

While she appreciated the effort her aunt had made Hannah had worn the jacket once to go out with some friends and stuck it back in her closet after she washed out the beer someone had spilled on it. Excitedly Olivia dug the gold trimmed jacket out of the front hall closet. Privately Hannah thought it was ugly but when Olivia wore it her eyes were brighter, her skin seemed darker and it pulled her outfit together even though she obviously hadn't planned on Hannah letting her keep the jacket.


Friday night Olivia entered Hannah's room with one towel wrapped around her body and another covering her thick black hair. "I can't decide what I should wear. Come and help me as soon as you're done getting ready." Annoyed with her roommate Hannah rolled her eyes and went back to the magazine article that gave detailed instructions on how to apply liquid eye liner. Blinking rapidly Hannah coated her lashes with mascara. It was getting late and a more sophisticated woman would make a man wait for her but to Hannah punctuality was a virtue and besides, she was eager to see Phil again.

Applying eye makeup shouldn't be this complicated Hannah thought to herself as she cursed all cosmetic companies. Frustrated by her in-expertise Hannah threw Olivia's magazine back on her bed and yelled at her roommate to turn down the music. When Olivia turned the volume up Hannah yanked open her roommate's door and almost killed herself tripping over a pair of heels that Olivia had discarded earlier.

Furiously Hannah rubbed her ankle, bent down and threw a pile of clothes onto Olivia's unmade bed. Begrudgingly Olivia turned her stereo down. The overpowering scent of Bath & Body Works spray perfumed Olivia's room making Hannah sneeze. On Hannah's way out of her roommate's room she heard Olivia calling her name.

Counting to ten before she turned around didn't help once Hannah found out that Olivia wanted to try on the dress she was already wearing. After the initial shock wore off she almost ripped the dress that Olivia had given to her by pulling it over her head. Angrily she ran over to the hall closet but the white coat she had given to Olivia was gone.

Back in her room Hannah grabbed the only pair of jeans she had that fit. The jeans had been her one indulgence this summer. A friend of Phil's worked at the store she had bought them at, he probably wasn't supposed to give her a discount but according to him the hand written tag meant that some other customer had returned them so the store couldn't sell them for the regular retail price.

Even with a ten percent discount Hannah couldn't afford a pair of eighty dollar jeans but after her first meager paycheck she splurged. At the back of her closet was a halter top that Olivia had given Hannah for her birthday. The bright turquoise color did good things for her skin and hair. In the bathroom Hannah splashed cool water on her face. Near the door she stuck her feet into the sandals she sometimes wore to work and by the time she pulled into the parking lot to meet Phil her face was glowing with youth, health and righteous fury.

Since this was a date Phil had dressed up but after seeing Hannah he was glad she had gone casual. Eagerly his eyes worked their way down a body that hadn't missed a day at the gym since the internship had started. Perky breasts beneath a shimmering halter top gave him something to savor as he took in Hannah's flat abdominal zone.

The jeans he had wanted her to wear clung to the curves she despised and because her sandals had a bit of a heel her jeans weren't dragging on the ground the way they normally would have. Standing next to a silent Phil Hannah thought that some of Olivia's body spray must have hit her back since her hair smelled like Olivia's room. Hesitantly she shifted her weight from one foot to the other as she wondered if she should say something and what Phil was going to do next.

Phil gave the back of Hannah's jeans another lingering look before shrugging his shoulders. Nervously Hannah started to explain about the fight with Olivia; how she had given her the dress and then taken it back. Patiently Phil listened to her enjoying the way she paced across the pavement. A beaded anklet he hadn't noticed earlier captured a ray of dying sunlight.

This was Phil's first offical date with Hannah but he had been working with her for weeks. Typically the clothes she wore reminded him of a much older woman. Tonight Hannah was cool, her look was fresh, her hair slightly wild and she leaned into his chest when he put his hands on her hips. Before their lips met he thought he heard her sigh.

Later on when Hannah was telling Olivia about her date Olivia apologized for being a bitch to her earlier. Being the forgiving type Hannah shrugged and handed her the rest of the mint chocolate chip ice cream. When Olivia asked what Phil had said before he kissed her contentment settled over Hannah's face. With a soft voice she repeated what her boyfriend had said about Hannah's outfit and the dress that Olivia had demanded back.

I probably shouldn't repeat this but Olivia told me that what Phil said and the way Hannah remembered it differ slightly. What Hannah remembers hearing is that Phil didn't care about the dress and he liked the jeans Hannah was wearing. What Phil told Olivia was that he's pretty sure his last coherent thought was: 'to hell with the dress, bring on the apocalypse'.