LV | Red Dress

‘We can’t!
‘Mid-years start tomorrow.

‘I need to study.’

Rowan is sitting
under the rowan tree,

textbook in hand.

No Bible.

‘I went for your church picnic.
‘You promised.’

Her expressionless
looks panicky

for a moment.

The rowan tree
by the school’s back gate

is bald

even though it’s April.

I take her hand,
pull her up.

‘Go play soccer,’
she suggests helplessly.

I take her textbook from her.

‘We can study there
‘if you want to.’

Without hesitation,
‘Of course I want to!’

Good girls are so annoying.


We’re in Orchard Road
but Rowan’s embarrassing me

taking pictures
of everything she sees
like a tourist.

‘Have you
‘never been here before?’

Her coal-black eyes
are fixed
to her cellphone.

‘I’ve never had to come here.’

‘You’re missing out.’

I walk away
and don’t check to see
if she’s following me.

We’re wearing
school uniforms

so it’s even more

She runs

to catch up

to me.

She: Where are we going?
Me: Shopping.
She: What?!
Me: My rules today.

We’re stopped at a traffic light,
surrounded on all sides by people.

I lean close to her ear.

She flinches.

‘I heard you.
‘I’m just… making sure.’

I stick my hands
in my pockets.

‘Never had a boy go shopping
‘with you?’

Her expressionless eyes
meet mine.

‘I don’t have anything to buy here.’

We cross the road.

‘Me neither,’
I reply.

She tilts her head,
trying to figure me out.




I don’t really know
how to buy clothes for girls

(I’ve actually
never done it before).

My girlfriends generally
don’t dress like aunties
outside of school.

But since Rowan probably doesn’t know,

this should be fine.

I can show off.

Her coal-black eyes
burn into me.


I put it over her head,
steer her to the fitting room.

‘It’s too revealing!’
she protests.

‘It’s not. Just put it on.
‘Trust me.’

There’s a sigh
from the fitting room

I’ve stuffed her into.

I wander away

to find more interesting things
for her to try.

My private fashion show.
Not a bad compromise for me.

My phone rings.

A high-pitched,
panicky voice screams,

‘Where are you?!
‘It’s the wrong size!’

I throw a different size
over the door
along with the things
I’ve found.

‘Why do I have to do this?’

I’m glad
we’re separated
by a door.

‘You promised.’

A pause.

‘Let me see.’

Her voice is quiet.
‘Do normal girls
‘wear clothes with so many holes?’

‘There shouldn’t be that many.
‘Did you rip holes in them
‘because you’re embarrassed?’


Shuffling sounds.

‘This isn’t funny, Clyde.
‘I’m coming out.’

I pull the door shut
on my side.

‘At least try them on.
‘I just want to see how they look


She sighs.

‘I won’t come out
‘and show you.

‘I’ll just take pictures.’

I smile at the door.

That’s even better.

My breath misting
on the solid black veneer
of the door.

‘You don’t have to.
‘One look.’

I wait a long time,
in silence.

Rowan says nothing
after putting on each piece.

The door doesn’t open either.

I only hear her
taking it off again.


when I think
I’ll fall asleep,

the door clicks

‘This is the only decent one.’

She’s wearing one of the dresses.

A red one.

It stops
halfway up her thighs.

She keeps tugging it down.

The ruffled hem
hangs off her shoulders,

the whole dress
held up
by thin red straps.

The colour red
hugs her waist.

She’s untied
her ponytail

so her hair hides
the skin around her neck.

‘You’re a pervert, Clyde.’

‘You’re pretty.’

Her eyes don’t meet mine.

They look somewhere
behind me.

The tips of her ears
match her dress.

‘Can already?’

I grab her hand,
before she can change out.

Drag her from the room.

We’re at the cashier,
I’m paying for it.

Dump the rest at the shop attendant.

Rowan’s face
is the same colour

as her dress.

‘Wear this for today.’

She starts to complain.

‘It suits you.’

She’s speechless,

‘You look pretty.’

She takes her school bag
from me.

‘I want to study now.’

I don’t mean to,
but I’m smiling at her
like a goon.

‘You owe me photos of the rest.’




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