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?
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."
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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."
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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'.