by Janelle Hardacre
‘I’ve just cut the first piece!’ says a cartoon version of you with a gigantic toothy mouth, a chipmunk voice and googly eyes.
From that first fabric scissor cut into five hundred pound lace I never doubted you could do it. But, okay, I couldn’t really believe that you, YOU were making it.
My baby sister
You would make the house vibrate with your tantrums and I couldn’t hold in my snorts when I caught you playing UNO with your teddies. You hung out with silly girls at school and sat on walls with the wrong people at night. Your grades were just okay. You weren’t a failure but you weren’t shining like the rest of us. You were the youngest, at the back of the praise queue.
You got your first A* in Textiles.
You told me one day I’d walk down the aisle in a dress you’d made. A beautiful, unlikely thought.
Every time I see you now you’re hunched over the sewing machine in Mum’s dining room. Pins in your mouth, pins on the floor, pins in your thoughts.
I try on a bodice made of old net curtains over a Primark strappy top. It’s wonky and the seams don’t line up. I see it in my mind’s eye for the first time.
I try on five more over the next few weeks. They don’t fit either.
“Pins in your mouth, pins on the floor, pins in your thoughts.”
The deadline we set comes and goes. So does the next one and the next one. Each beaded petal takes you an hour to hand stitch. The bodice still has bald patches. I know I shouldn’t ask you how long, but I do anyway. You call me ‘zilla’ for short. I just want to try it on like a real bride to be!
The night before. You make me stand on a plastic stool to cut the skirt to length. ‘I don’t know how to do this,’ you say. But we both know you’re too stubborn to let this last snag get you.
I look at my reflection. You’re on the floor. Pins in your mouth.
I am wearing it. A dress that came from you.
Maid of Honour
The first time I tried it on, finished, was the morning of the wedding.
‘Reckon you’ll cry?’ people asked.
‘Nah. We’re not criers.’
I didn’t cry when I saw the man I love in a blue velvet jacket at the other end of the room. But I did cry that day, when I told people about the dress. The hours you’d put into it, the cricks in your neck. I cried when I saw their reactions, their Instagram comments. Because you had done it. You had made a wild, childhood fantasy come true.
I thought our sisterhood was as strong as it could be, but you stitched us closer together with tulle and lace. And you have given me this story to tell, forever. To my daughter, to your daughter and their daughters too.
Photography by Mike Plunkett
Janelle Hardacre | @jhardacre1
Janelle Hardacre is a Yorkshire lass living and working in Manchester. When she’s not writing she works at an amazing women’s charity called MASH and sings. Her flash fiction has been published in Spelk, Open Pen and Ellipsis. She has been longlisted for the Reflex Flash Fiction competition, the TSS flash fiction competition and is a previous winner of the monthly Zeroflash competition. Janelle is currently writing her first novel (her practice novel) during NaNoWriMo in November.