By Aynsley Meshanic
The phone rang next to her. Wendy closed her eyes, the words of Anthony Burgess now blocked from her view. (Story: A Clockwork Orange. Times read: 2. Times read understanding the language: 1. …Maybe). She took three deep breaths, trying to stop any slight tug on her mind that would send it on its hamster wheel spin.
The name ‘Zara’ flashed above a picture of her best friend smiling goofily. No matter what, the image always brought a smile to Wendy’s face. Zara had stolen her phone the other weekend and took over thirty pictures of herself. Wendy kept every single one. Putting a stop to the standard beeping, Wendy answered the phone with a short, “hmm?”
“’Hmm’? That’s how you greet the most amazing person in your life?” Wendy rolled her eyes. Zara didn’t need to be in front of her for Wendy to know that her hand was on her hip and her eyebrow was raised into her bangs.
“What’s up?” Wendy asked, ignoring the question. She knew exactly why Zara was calling. The engagement party. Zara’s younger sister was getting married and during a moment of confidence, Wendy had accepted Zara’s invitation to tag along.
It wasn’t until the next morning that Wendy realized what that meant. People she didn’t know, a home she had never stepped foot in. Where was she going to park? Was she supposed to bring anything? What was she going to say to everyone? Zara’s sixth sense seemed to kick in and her voice whispered in Wendy’s ear.
“You told me not to let you back out of this, remember?”
“I – ” she sighed. “Yeah, I remember.”
“Good.” Zara’s voice was soft. Comforting. “It will be okay.”
The two hung up the phone after agreeing that Zara would meet Wendy at her apartment to leave together.
Wendy tossed her book to the side, moving to stand in front of her closet. The various black fabrics blended together. “Engagement party…” she muttered to herself. She had never been to one before. Never been to a wedding, either. What were the expectations? She had no idea what she was supposed to do or wear or look like.
Her fingers trailed over the dresses, some requiring too much work to slip on in the fifteen minutes Zara had given her. So, she settled on a simple, long sleeved dark green dress. While it didn’t have the lace and patterns of her normal outfits, it still gave her the comfort of the Victorian style.
It was the irony of Wendy. Her Victorian clothing, with various layers and lace that trailed behind her as she walked brought eyes to her form. The thing was, they weren’t staring at Wendy. They were staring at her clothes. It was her shield. The world’s distraction from herself. Her true self.
Slipping on the dress and piling up her red hair in as fancy of a way she could manage to make it, she sat on the bed with three minutes to spare. Wendy flopped back on her bed, groping the sheets until her fingers brushed the cover of yet another book. It was what Zara poked fun at the most. Her favorite phrase, “you sleep on a pile of books, not a bed.” She picked up the first one she touched, lifting the cover to her face. (Story: IT. Times read: 1. Nights of clown dreams: 26 – in a row). She flipped through the pages, ignoring all the pencil marks she had made giving the author suggestions and her opinions he would never read. She chuckled at her own humor in the notes (who else would?) letting the book fall to her chest as the doorbell rang.
She blended into the bed. Her body stretching to a size not possible for humans. Her already pale skin turned whiter, the blue stitching inching its way from the bed cover over her, extending the design onto her skin and now white clothing. Her body felt light, almost as if she would float away if she wasn’t attached to the blanket.
When the doorbell rang again, the thread snapped. Her body returned to normal. She moved her fingers first, getting the feeling back before moving her whole body. Wendy sat up slowly, taking a deep breath before heading to the front door.
No backing out now.
This was it.
The corner was her comfort place. After she was taken around the room to do first introductions, Zara disappeared to do whatever it was her sister needed, giving Wendy an apologetic look as she walked away.
People loved Zara. You could drop her into a crowded room and she would know everyone’s name and life story within five minutes of meeting them. Wendy wanted nothing more than to be like her. To feel comfortable in public settings. To know the right thing to say or do. Drop Wendy in that same room, and she will know the name of the person next to her four hours after being there.
Be Zara. Trying to quiet her mind from its spinning wheel of “what if’s”. Holding a cup that was long since empty, she looked around the room and remembered her promise to try. Spotting the table in the dining room, her eyes fell on the empty chair next to someone she believed was the soon-to-be-groom’s brother. She sucked in a breath and walked over. Sitting on the empty spot with fake confidence, she flashed a smile at the man next to her.
“Someone’s sitting there.” His voice was short, and she could feel her eyes widen.
Her smile fell. “I-I’m sorry.” She stood quickly and walked from the table. His response of ‘I was joking’ was drowned out by the talking and music. She saw someone slip out the backdoor to the grill and in the quick motion of the door opening she saw Zara standing with family. Zara locked eyes with her, the question clear on her face. Wendy smiled, and lifted her thumb in the air. Both of them knew it wasn’t real, but for now, it was okay to pretend.
Needing a second, Wendy silently moved out front. She sat on the front step, letting out a shaky sigh. She closed her eyes for just a few moments. The creak of the front door alerted Wendy that she was no longer alone. Footsteps approached her slowly before a body took up the remaining spot on the step. She turned, expecting to see Zara there. Instead, she was met with the smile of Zara’s cousin. She felt her face heat up under her smile, turning back to look at the street. God, she wished she remembered her name.
“I am looking for someone to share in an adventure.” (Story: The Hobbit. Times read: 6. Times wishing someone would say that to her: 15). The woman’s voice was playful, bringing her eyes back to her.
“The Hobbit? Your necklace… it’s the One Ring, right?”
“Oh, uh, yeah. It is.” Wendy’s hand when to the gold on her neck, a small smile growing.
“I love that book. Have you seen the movies? The first one is almost spot on. Then it kind of falls off, you know?”
“Stretching one book into three movies, there’s going to definitely be some more changes than needed.” Wendy was surprised at how easy she spoke.
“Well, you’re not wrong. I got introduced to too many people I’m so sorry to ask again. What’s your name?”
“I’m Wendy.” The smile on her face grew. “Good to know I’m not the only one bad with names. Your name is?”
Before she had the chance to answer, the front door opened with a bang that made her ears ring. “There you are!” Wendy didn’t even bother looking at who was speaking. The woman turned back; the same smile she gave Wendy clear on her face as the interrupter reached her hand out. She stood to address her friends better, turning her back on Wendy as she went back inside.
She blended into the porch. Her skin turned the color of the stained wood and started to grow. Her legs moved down the steps, bending at sharp angles. Her feet rested against the walkway, turning the same dark gray as the stones. She felt her body being pulled back flat against the wood, sucking her in. Her eyes locked onto the ceiling of the porch watching as the fan turned slowly and shakily. If it fell, it would land right on her cracked face. Her hands reached out to the sides, growing and growing until her fingertips brushed the railing. She snapped back to sitting upright when the door opened and closed again. The woman was gone.
Wendy stood, telling herself that she will not let it ruin her thoughts. She had a conversation. Without stuttering or saying anything she would overthink later. Progress and small wins. She fixed her dress slightly and walked inside.
It seemed to be much more packed than it was ten minutes ago. She weaved through the groups of people, saying unheard sorry’s as she moved by. She saw her cup from before sitting on the same table, but not trusting anyone, got herself a new one.
She lifted the cup to her lips, cringing at the taste. How could someone willingly drink that? She didn’t hide the disgust on her face, yet continued to drink the beer. She moved through the people again, ending up the living room once more. She found the couch empty this time, taking a seat instantly.
She held the cup between both of her hands, eyeing the people in front of her. She was the only one left by herself. The groups of friends and family paid her no attention, not that she minded. She searched, hoping that she could find the stranger from the porch, but saw no one she cared to find. Not even Zara.
Three friends flopped into the couch next to Wendy. The one closest, practically sat on her lap. Wendy stood at the glare of the other, apologizing. She stood against the wall, wanting nothing more than to find Zara and leave.
‘Shrinking in a corner, pressed into the wall; do they know I’m present, am I here at all?’ (Poem: Wallflower. Times read: 1. Times repeated in mind: 52).
She blended into the wall. Wendy tried to move, but it didn’t work. She watched helplessly in the mirror across the room as her legs grew, thinning out as they did. The folds of her dress turned up, coming to a point. The large thorns brushed her arms, but she couldn’t feel them. Her arms were numb as they flattened against the blue wallpaper. The sleeves of her dress blended with her arms, rounding out around her. She felt her hair move almost as if she was underwater. The strands swirled around her face, coming to rest piled on top of her head. Her only help was the large mirror across from her.
Her eyes locked onto the image of the flower. It was no different than the rest of the roses that lined the wallpaper. Until a man stepped in front of her. His back was to her, replacing the view of the flower with a view of his dirty brown hair. She watched on, frozen against the wall, listening to the surrounding lives. But it was one conversation that met her ears. “Did you see the girl in the green that came with Zara?”
“Of course, I did. But back off. She’s mine.” That voice. It was the woman from the porch.
“You think she will let me raid her closet? I’m obsessed with her dress.”
“It’s about time someone different and interesting came along. Do you see her? I want to get her opinion on how Eowyn was in the Rings movies.”
Wendy tore herself from the wallpaper. The sound was deafening as she ripped her arms and legs away. Her hair dropped from the petals, falling back around her shoulders. Her dress came together around her better than it had when she first entered the house. The man blocking the mirror moved out of the way. Wendy allowed herself to look at the image of the wallflower, instead, seeing the bright red of her hair as she turned towards the direction of the woman from the porch. The woman smiled at her, moving her friend out of the way.
“Hopefully we won’t be interrupted this time. But to answer your question, my name is Jane.”
‘I have to remind myself to breathe — almost to remind my heart to beat!‘ (Story: Wuthering Heights. Times read: 0. Times quoted to make her sound smart: 14. Times misquoted: 5).
Category: Featured, Fiction, Short Story, SNHU Student