A Tight-Dress Ghost

A Tight-Dress Ghost

flash fiction by Allison Boyce, age 17

She stumbled into the basement bathroom, her head intoxicated with smoke and the heavy bass line of the too-loud music that was everywhere at once. The sound was so loud that she couldn’t hear her own heart thumping mechanically in her chest anymore, grounding her to the party.

As she washed her hands, she caught a glimpse of a figure in the grimy mirror hanging crookedly on the wall. The image was disconnected, bits and pieces sticking in her mind: blank gray eyes, red lips, a pale girl in a tight red dress. She fixed the figure’s smeared lipstick, reapplied her mascara, and smoothed the wrinkles out of the dress.

For a split second, she thought back to her past, and there was another girl that she saw in the mirror, pale with freckles and wide gray eyes that swallowed her face whole. She was wearing a looser dress, a blue halter made of stiff cotton that couldn’t cover up her knobby knees and scrawny legs. It was her first high school dance, and she stood staring at herself in the gymnasium bathroom mirror with her best friend Lindsay, reapplying her hot pink lipstick that she’d gotten as a free sample from the supermarket. The two of them stared at their reflections, trying to look nonchalant, their eyes betraying their manic eagerness as they watched upperclassmen come and go from the dance floor. They giggled in the bathroom until Lindsay’s mother came to pick them up promptly at ten.

The girl in the blue polka dot dress did not yet know that boys would start staring at her legs, and all it would take was a short skirt to feel on top of the world. She did not yet know that it was better to share her biology homework with the juniors in her class so that they’d drive her home and she wouldn’t have to watch as people on the bus threw paperclips at the back of Lindsay’s frizzy red bun. She did not yet know how to play the flirting game, exhausting but necessary, dropping strategic glances and laughing at boys’ dumb jokes until she got what she wanted. She didn’t know how to deflect, how to smile at her mother and repeat that Lindsay was fine, busy, that she couldn’t stay for family dinner because she was going out with friends. The girl in the blue polka dot dress didn’t know anything at all.

Charlotte stared at her reflection with a small smile. Those gray, tired eyes were so damn wise now, no longer wide-eyed and full of trusting idiocy. She remembered the way it had been, walking into school, clutching her notebook like a shield, as she wandered the halls with Lindsay close at her side, two expendables in a tide pool of glistening and dirty things.

This was what she had wanted: evenings in smoky rooms, a perennial vacant smile on her lips, an endless stream of shiny faces and crude jokes and popularity. The thrill she got when eyes followed her as she walked through the crowd in her circle of polished friends, knowing that anyone would have died to be in her place. Knowing that she had killed herself to earn her spot.

There were two girls living inside of her, one wearing a tight red dress and the other a blue polka dot halter. She wasn’t sure which one she hated more.

2015 Scholastic Writing Awards Gold Key

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