Friday, 26 May 2017

the girl in the yellow dress - part 20

The girls sat in silence for the first twenty minutes of the journey. Melanie concentrating on driving the unfamiliar narrow roads, Alice lost in her own thoughts.

Once they hit the motorway and Melanie relaxed into her usual driving style and the conversation flowed.

“He’s an arse!” She said. “Thinks he’s something special but none of it is real. I think Celia found out and that’s why she ditched him. Of course I don’t know the whole story but I have my suspicions. I know for a fact it was a mistake bringing him in on this. I’m not sure quite how I salvage this to be honest. Not that’s not your concern.” She paused. “Sorry, did you like him very much?”

“I was surprised he asked me out actually, I’d been fantasising about him for weeks when he came in the coffee shop. He was tall, dark and handsome, bit of a cliché really, too good to be true. But he was supposed to be taking her to the ball wasn’t he? Celia?” The name rolled heavily on her tongue.

Melanie nodded as she pulled into the fast lane.

Alice was desperate to ask what Celia was like but she imagined she was tall, willowy and blonde. Another cliché.

She continued, “Of course Celia would have worn the right black dress and fitted in not a bright yellow one and none of this would have happened.”

“Perhaps.”  And Celia had daddy’s trust fund so we would certainly be better off, Melanie thought to herself but she felt sorry for Alice so she didn’t say it.

“Although I do remember Sebastian backing away from me when he realised I was wearing the wrong colour outfit as if he was mortally ashamed of me.”

“Yes I remember that look on his face as if he turned up in his birthday suit for a funeral and was looking for anywhere to hide!”

“Under a table!”

“Behind a curtain!”

“Or in plain sight with a tray precariously placed to cover the essentials. A nude waiter – serving me a drink for a change”

“Oh how that would deflate his ego!”

Both of them laughed and it felt so good.

“So does Celia want the dress back?”

“I can’t really say, at least offering to might help things. I can give you her number if you like?”

“I wouldn’t dare ring her but my friend Clare, who altered the dress might. She’s better at fixing things than me.”

Melanie eased back into the slow lane as they approached their exit.

Alice recognised they were nearly home. “And we’d had such a nice day, even falling in the river. Or at least the pulling Sebastian in the river with me.”

“Yes, I’d have liked to have seen that. Maybe you should have held him under for a bit.”

They looked at each other “ARSE!” They shouted in unison.

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

the girl in the yellow dress - part 19

Sebastian prided himself on his ability to think on his feet. Advertising and marketing was always the career path he was most likely to follow.

“You could sell snow to Eskimos.” His mother would remark. “Gift of the gab, just like your father.” 

Why did she always spoil the much longed for compliment with the comparison to his dad?

Consequently he suffered from a chip on his shoulder, never quite measuring up and here he was once more confronted by a small mistake which had gone drastically wrong through no real fault of his own.

He didn’t care what Edgar thought of him. Melanie had known him for a while and she’d taken a chance on him, falling out of favour with her could easily lose him a cushy job that he honestly enjoyed.

But he was most concerned about how Alice would respond. Would she see this as a forgivable mistake?

He chose his words carefully and directed them at Alice.

“My girlfriend walked out and left some things in the flat which I assumed were for charity. Isn’t donating them the responsible thing to do?”

Alice folded her arms across her chest trying to process what she had just been told, meanwhile Melanie snorted, grabbing his attention, seeking her own apology.

“Mel, look, how was I supposed to know Alice would buy the dress? It’s just circumstance. But as a campaign it is a winner, we just have to find another dress, if Celia’s unhappy with us using this one. We can buy the dress back if Celia is sentimental. Problem solved!”

“But it’s now my dress.” Alice’s voice was fragile.

“It’s only from a charity shop, second hand. We make a go of this and you can buy yourself another one, brand new.”

“Clare spent hours on it making it fit me properly.”

“You just don’t get it do you?” said Melanie, “Celia holds you personally responsible for this fiasco. I don’t think buying the dress back is going to pacify her, especially as it’s been altered. It was a valuable antique. It’s like painting a stick man on a priceless Picasso. You are a fool for messing about with her property. She says she was going back to collect the rest of her things.” 

“How was I supposed to know that?”

“She left you a note.”

“I missed it. Anyway what’s done is done. Can we just move on?”

“Of course and moving forward once you have sorted out some financial recompense with Celia you can have your job back. I am not having you jeopardize the reputation of my fledgling business.”

“And how am I supposed to pay her back? Or make amends? She won’t listen to my side of the story, that’s why she told tales to you.”

“Oh you’ll figure out a way, your sort usually do. Alice I’m driving back to town, would you like a lift or do you want to wait here with Sebastian for the next train?”

“Actually a lift would be great thanks.” She said as she rose from her chair.

“Alice, no, don’t let this spoil our day.”

“I think the day is already ruined.” Turning her back on Sebastian she said,  “Edgar, thank you so much for your hospitality.” She reached over to him and gave him a peck on the cheek, thinking yet again what a gentleman he was.

Saturday, 20 May 2017

the girl in the yellow dress - part 18

Half an hour later they were sitting on a bench in front of the wisteria covered farmhouse drinking tea with Edgar. He’d found a packet of Hob Nobs in the cupboard too that he’d been keeping for a special occasion and having these youngsters here was a real treat.

Alice curled her fingers around the warm mug as they recounted their exploits and Edgar told them something of the history of his farm. It had been in the family for generations but sadly there was only his niece left after he'd gone and while Vicky was full of ideas she wasn’t prepared to put in the hard work it took to keep it going.

“You never married then? No family of your own?”

Edgar shrugged, a resigned look in his eyes. Alice desperately wanted to dig a bit further but they were interrupted by a car pulling up sharply in the driveway, gravel spraying in all directions.
Melanie jumped out and marched up to them.

“Nice surprise seeing you here too, shall I fetch another cup?” Edgar appeared oblivious to the fierce scowl on her face, eyes focused on Sebastian like lasers.

“Sorry?” She snapped turning her head sharply, she seemed surprised to see her genial host. “No I need to speak to Sebastian, urgently. Do you delight in not answering your phone; you understand that you are actually working today? This isn’t just a jolly tea party in the country.”

Sebastian pulled his phone from his pocket. It was wet. “Sorry, we fell in the river, well actually Alice fell in and I went to rescue her.”

“Oh yes my knight in shining armour grinning from ear to ear, I had to teach you a lesson!”

“So then Alice pulled me in and my phone obviously got wet in the process.”

Sebastian and Alice were looking at each other, lost in a shared moment of laughter and mayhem.

“Oh spare me your silly little tales. You had one simple task to do, to bring the picture boards for Edgar’s approval.”

“I’m really pleased with them.” Edgar managed to interject as she took a short breath.

“Well that’s wonderful, absolutely bloody marvellous!” Melanie was waving her arms in the air but her words and actions didn’t match.

“Mel, what’s wrong?” Sebastian had dealt with her hysteria before and it was not pretty.  He was suddenly most fearful of what she might say in front of Alice.

“We can’t use the campaign now. I’ve been speaking to Celia, remember her, your ex. Seems like she is pretty upset that you took a date to the ball wearing her Aunt Ada’s dress! And by upset I mean absolutely furious but not half as furious as I am. All the hours we have put into this, ruined!”

“Hang on a minute. Sebastian didn’t give me the dress. My friend Clare bought it from a charity shop.” Alice suddenly turned to Sebastian for an answer.

“Oh this just gets better and better.” Melanie’s voice had reached a high pitched squeal.

All eyes were now on Sebastian, even Edgar was intrigued. Nothing like this had happened here at the farm for, well forever!

Thursday, 18 May 2017

the girl in the yellow dress - part 17

Melanie said she wanted a splash but Sebastian didn’t quite envisage his date to take the turn it did.

Alice had naturally been delighted at the invite and thankfully managed to change her shifts at work to accompany Sebastian to the farm.

It was one of those beautiful warm spring days perfect for a walk in the country and after they had left the boards with Edgar to look at he pointed them in the direction of the far meadow and the stream beyond the vineyard. Alice didn’t know bluebells had such a beautiful scent and coupled with the birdsong all her senses were overwhelmed.

There were stepping stones over the river. Sebastian leaped like a gazelle over them. Typical show off, she thought as she attempted the crossing much more cautiously.

Egged on by Sebastian’s teasing she jumped to the fifth step and as she landed she wobbled.  Tottering and trying hard to regain her sense of balance she almost righted herself but suddenly slipped and landed with a splash.

The water wasn’t deep but it was freezing and it took her breath away. Sebastian gallantly took a step or two towards her and reached down a helping hand.

He looked like a perfect gent but then she caught a mischievous glint in his eye and she pulled him in with her. They ended up both giggling and splashing each other until he heard the sound of her teeth chattering.

“We’d better get out.”

This time she let him help her and they sat in the warm sunshine of the river bank.

“Thank you for bringing me.”

“Sorry it had to be work related.”

“If this is your idea of work, where can I get a job like this?” It beat standing on her feet all day, wrestling the coffee machine and dealing with very specific customer requests, all with a friendly smile!

“An unexpected perk.” 

There was a pause in the conversation as they both absorbed the heat of the sun and enjoyed relaxing in each other’s company.

“You know you are not at all like I thought you’d be.” Alice finally mused.

“Meaning what exactly?” He looked directly at her, interested in her answer although he pretty much knew what she would say.

“You’re not stuck up like you imagine rich people to be.” She bit her lip unsure if she’d overstepped the mark.

“Who says I’m rich?” There was a mocking lilt to his voice.

“You dress like you are, work in the city.”

He wanted to be honest with her, admit he was struggling to make ends meet. He wanted to confess that she was nothing like the girls with money he usually dated but she was so much smarter and funnier. It had been such a great day and because he really wanted to see her again, true to form he tried to impress her the only way he knew how.  “Next time we’ll come in the Porsche.”

She laughed at that, did she believe him? Or could she actually see right through him?

“Whatever. I’m having a wonderful day. Despite being dripping wet. Perhaps we should head back to the farmhouse and see if Edgar can make us a cuppa.”

“You can take the girl out of the coffee shop…”

“Or a glass of something sparkling if you prefer something more sophisticated for your palate but a nice cup of tea to warm me up would suit me fine.”

Monday, 15 May 2017

the girl in the yellow dress - part 16

Obviously we know how that first date worked out – if not where have you been? Return immediately to the beginning of the story, do not pass go and do not collect £200!

Anyway over the course of the next week, in between working all hours to get the promotion sorted and drum up a couple of new clients in the process, Sebastian met Alice a few times at the coffee shop.

He was aware as this was also her place of work it was not the most romantic of places for a “date” but his finances didn’t stretch very far.

When Celia was on the scene they’d hop into her Porsche and take a ride out into the country, he wished there was a way to give Alice the same treatment.

While pondering this in the office one day Melanie piped up from her desk.

“I need someone to take the final picture boards to Edgar for him to sign them off for the official media campaign. I wish the blasted man had a computer for me to email them to him but no a landline is advanced technology for him. I could use carrier pigeon I suppose.” Fake laughter trilled at her own joke while Sebastian meekly smiled. “No in all seriousness he can’t leave the farm to collect them and I have tickets for the opera tomorrow evening with a potential new client so I can’t go traipsing about on a farm for goodness sake. The smell of the place lingers. Sebastian be a doll and take them for me.”

“On expenses?” He raised an eyebrow.

“First class train ticket charged to the Summer Brooke account.” She watched Sebastian’s face subtly change. It was easy to imagine his brain ticking, did he think she was blind to what had been going on?

“Two standard tickets if you want to take Golden Girl. Might be to our advantage I suppose, he was quite taken with her at the ball. A few photos on Twitter to keep us trending. See if she has a yellow T shirt to wear. But just make sure you get Edgar’s approval on the full package we need to make a big splash.”

Saturday, 13 May 2017

The girl in the yellow dress - part 15

“Clare!” Alice yelled for her flatmate as soon as she opened the door. ”Clare!”

“Where’s the fire?”

“He asked me out. Can you believe it?”



“Sebastian?” Clare looked puzzled until finally the penny dropped. “Prince Charming? So he’s called Sebastian? Regal.”

“He’s taking me to a ball, can you believe it?”

“Cindrella at last your days of drudgery are over!” The two girls were dancing round and round in the tiny hallway, finally tripping over a pair of shoes (Clare’s bright red Doc Martens were the most likely culprit) they landed in a heap on the floor.

“But I have nothing to wear! Oh Clare you have to help me.”

“Of course. What are fairy Godmothers for if not to conjure up the all-important dress!” Clare waved an imaginary wand over her friend’s head as if sprinkling her with magic. They pulled themselves up and made their way to Clare’s room.

“Not the yellow one, please.” Begged Alice as Clare pulled it from her wardrobe. “It’s too bright!”

“It’s a really good designer label you know and I really think I can make something fabulous for you. Have I ever let you down?”

To be honest she totally valued Clare’s opinion when it came to clothes. She really did have a good eye.

“OK, but time is short you only have until Saturday, he’s picking me up at seven.”

“I’ll have it ready for half past six then. But obviously I will be so busy I won’t have time to clean the bathroom this week and it was my turn.” Clare would do anything to get out of her side of the cleaning rota.

“Cleaning the loo is the least I can do in return I suppose.”

“Thanks Cinders. Cup of tea would be nice too!” She called as Alice walked away.

Alice shook her head with a laugh, she had a date with Sebastian and nothing else mattered at all!

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

the girl in the yellow dress - part 14

The quaint bell above the door tinkled and Alice looked up expectantly as she always did this time of day.

It was him and for once he was smiling. Her heart beat quicker, even Brad Pitt walking through the door wouldn’t have got a more visceral reaction.

“The usual or something special, you look very happy today.”

His smile widened, “Just one of those beautiful days, but just the usual I think.”

Did he just wink at her? She covered her blushes as she turned to the hissing monstrosity of coffee machine.

She wanted to turn her head round and chat as she worked as she would with most customers but her fingers were shaking and she had to use all her powers of concentration to not scold herself.

Turning back to face him with the full cup she went to grab a lid, her attention wobbled and so did the cup, black liquid slopped over onto the counter.

She was flustered but he reached for the serviettes at the same time and their fingers collided, making first contact.

They mopped up the spillage together. He had lovely hands, she noticed.

“Not to worry.” He said. “At least you didn’t spill any on my suit. And none on you either?” He looked her up and down, lingering on her ample curves but she was used to that since the day they first sprung to life.

 “Can I tempt you with anything else? The chocolate muffins are delicious.” Alice tried to think of anything to entice him to stay and prolong this, their longest conversation ever.

Sebastian shook his head with a playful smile.

Then he picked up his cup and was on his way to the door, when he stopped spun round and in an afterthought worthy of Columbo said, “Actually just one more thing. What are you doing on Friday?”

Sunday, 7 May 2017

The inspiration behind the story...

The inspiration behind the story...

A postcard from the V&A

Horst P. Horst (1906-99) 

Dress by Henri Bendel 
Jewellery by Harry Winston
Colour print from original transparency 
Vogue 1948

Girl in the Yellow Dress Facebook page

the girl in the yellow dress - part 13

It was a few days after Sebastian took the box to the charity shop that he began to think he’d got things in order in his life again.

He’d found a cheaper room to rent in a shared house, it was not ideal but close enough to work that he could walk so he would put up with it until things improved with the business or he found a new rich meal ticket.

It honestly hadn’t started out like that, but Sebastian had developed expensive tastes at university when suddenly he was mixing with a very different set of friends. Friends with money. He begged and borrowed where necessary but drew the line at stealing. Although he was adept at lying and rarely got caught out until now.

Celia was a friend of a friend who lived a jet set lifestyle, her only work being spending daddy’s money. Sebastian charmed his way into her heart. He knew the right people and shamelessly dropped names into conversations to impress her, some of them he’d even met, however briefly.

As the months passed, he suggested they move in together. She was reticent at first but by a strange quirk of fate there was a massive fire at a block of executive flats nearby and as he had always been cagey about his address he told her his flat was one of the ones destroyed along with most of his possessions which explained a lack of stuff to move in. How could she refuse him now?

He wasn’t really using her, there were feelings there. Sunday lunches with her family were a particular highlight for him, drinking Arthur’s port and talking politics, complimenting Monica on her latest art acquisition and teasing little Penny while also tutoring her for free. “ It’s my pleasure Monica.” He would simper, knowing he was becoming an important much loved and needed part of the family.

He’d always craved more relations; his family was sparse consisting of just him and his mum.

Things were going so well and he was all ready to propose but then Celia found some of the skeletons he’d been carefully hiding and she brandished him a gold digger who had never truly cared for her. She never gave him chance to explain.

To give her credit she never divulged his secrets, there was no public shaming,  irreconcilable differences being her reason for the split and most of their crowd believed she was being her usual flighty self. There had been a string of boyfriends in her past so it was nothing new.

So now he was single but not homeless, he just about had a job providing they could make a success of Summer Brooke wine.

The only fly in the ointment he could see was that he had a ball to go to and no date to accompany him. He was pondering this fact and hatching a plan when he walked into the coffee shop…

Saturday, 6 May 2017

the girl in the yellow dress - part 12

“I only have twenty minutes,” Alice told Clare.

Whereas most friends agreed to meet in a coffee shop for a catch up, Alice was glad of the break from being a barista and enjoyed meeting Clare next door at the charity shop.

Clare was methodical looking through the racks not wanting to miss a thing, which always surprised Alice because in the flat she was the scatty one. Alice looked by size and colour, nothing too bright which stood out too much.

She picked up a black top and held it up for size. Clare caught her from the corner of her eye, swiped the hanger from her and put it back.

“Not another black top, how is Prince Charming going to notice you if you dress so drably?”

“Makes a change in him seeing me in my work outfit.”

“Which is also black.”

“But this top has sparkles.”

Clare gave her a stare. “How is Charming today?”

“Sad looking,” she sighed. “He’s never going to notice me even when I give him my best smile. I want to learn to do love hearts to put on the top of his coffee but he drinks it black so it won’t work.”

“Won’t work anyway if he has a takeaway cup with a lid on!” Clare moved over to the vintage rail.

The yellow dress caught her eye immediately but she still looked through everything in front of it first albeit a bit quicker than usual.

The dress was the colour of a bright daffodil on a sunny day with exquisite lace three quarter length sleeves and a lace neckline. The body of the dress was satin in the exact same shade. The skirt was full length and tiered, alternating lace and satin layers.

The fabric felt soft to touch and moved beautifully but there was a real quality feel to it. She surveyed the label, an exclusive French designer she’d only ever read about. The price tag said £20, which she knew was an absolute bargain.

“Does that come with sunglasses?” Said Alice.

“Isn’t it beautiful?” The expression on Clare’s face was lit up by a golden glow making her appear like a magical character from a fairytale.

“Are you seriously going to buy it?”

“The colour would look good on you actually.” She held the dress up to Alice.

“It would need some serious alteration, like three feet taking off the bottom and a creating a bigger bustline!” She pushed out her chest stretching the buttons at the front of her work blouse to their absolute limit.

“All perfectly doable.” Retorted Clare as she hung the dress over her arm and continued to browse the rails for any more bargains.

While Alice dreamt about meeting the perfect man, Clare’s daydreams were about dresses and working for a glossy fashion magazine.

Alice looked at her watch, “Well I’m going to have to get back to work. See you later.”

However Clare never replied; she was lost in her own little world.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

the girl in the yellow dress - part 11

Let’s go back a couple of weeks and fill in a few gaps, although you might have guessed some of what happened because we know for a fact that Celia is wrong, Sebastian never gave Alice the dress…

Celia had left the flat in a mess. She'd hastily grabbed most of her things including the expensive but rarely used, coffee maker, he noticed the space on the granite worktop immediately. Whatever would fit in her Porsche she’d taken.

He’d seen the car roar off down the road at speed as she left.

There was a scribbled note on the chalkboard in the kitchen, the one they used to write little love notes to each other on as well as reminders to buy bread or milk. This one had no kisses, just the words “will collect later.” An arrow pointed downwards to the floor where there sat a large cardboard box.

He peeked inside, some CDs on top and below that clothes. He dug deeper under the frothy yellow lace to see if there was anything worth having. No it felt just like shoes. All girls stuff.

It was an impulsive decision to take it to the charity shop but he couldn’t stand to see it there as a reminder.

Besides he’d have to move out soon too, he couldn’t afford the rent on his own. It would all have to go and who knew when she would return for her stuff.

It made some sense inside his head but he was still emotional and upset on the outside when he dropped the box off.

“I no longer need these.” He muttered.

Mrs Spratt at the hospice shop was a sensitive soul who was forever reading things wrong. She took in his dishevelled appearance, the droop of his shoulders and mistook it for grief. She believed as it was a hospice shop every donation was a gift from the departed.

As she started unpacking the box it was with a tear in her eye.

“Poor love, just lost his girlfriend.” She whispered to Mrs Gray. “Car crash.” She added out of nowhere, imagination running riot.

“Well let’s get it priced and get it out then.” Mrs Gray wasn’t heartless but neither was she known for being the sentimental type. Lifting out the yellow dress she surveyed it carefully, even giving the armpits a good sniff.  “Good quality label; it should sell.” She stuck a price tag on it and hung it in the vintage section.

Monday, 1 May 2017

the girl in the yellow dress - part 10

Celia was enjoying the warmth of the sun and the tranquillity of their island hideaway with only the gentle sound of small waves lapping on the shore. It was just what she needed after all the drama back home. Time and space to gather her thoughts and just relax.

She breathed in deeply and breathed out slowly – no worries, no cares, let it go, let peace be restored.

It was her new mantra, the latest in vogue de-stressing technique guaranteed to regain inner harmony. Or so proclaimed the new expensive app she had downloaded on her phone.

“Cee! Cee!”

Her peace was shattered as her little sister Penny came charging over the beach kicking sand up as she ran. Celia could feel it settle like a fine dust on her smooth oiled body.

“Look!” Penny thrust an iPad under her nose.

Although Celia flicked her sunglasses down from the top of her head the brightness of the sun still made it impossible to see.

“What am I supposed to be looking at?”

“Sebastian! He out on a date with another woman.” Penny was horrified. She’d adored him, bored him silly with her incessant chatter about dancing shows on TV.

“Well good luck to her is all I can say.” Celia tried to get comfortable on the sun-lounger again but the sand was itchy and Penny was casting a shadow.

“Celia, please come and look properly.”

With an audible sigh Celia got up, tied her sarong around her waist and slipped her slender feet into her flip flops.

They trudged over to a shady spot and Penny brought up the page again.

Celia’s mouth dropped as she saw the image properly. “The bastard! The utter bastard!”

“I know.” Said Penny, “He only dumped you a couple of weeks ago and he’s already moved on.”

She put a reassuring arm around her sister but Celia brushed it off.

“I’m not worried about that, he can see who he wants. But how dare he take a date out in my dress!”

“Perhaps she has the same one.” Penny never understood the importance of looking unique.

“But this is a vintage one off, Aunt Ada’s dress.” By now she had zoomed right in to the detail of the antique lace and it was unmistakable!

the girl in the yellow dress - part 20

The girls sat in silence for the first twenty minutes of the journey. Melanie concentrating on driving the unfamiliar narrow roads, Alice l...