I can still recall the house I lived in during my teenage years. It was a
grand Victorian style house, with circular glass windows, ornamental
balconies, and a wide porch that circled the entire front. In truth it was
actually two homes rather than one. The owner, Miss Parsons, converted the
large house into two separate units. While the right side was still occupied
by Miss Parsons, we lived on the left. Iíll never forget the day I first
walked in the main hall, the grand staircase looming in front, still elegant
after so many years. In my wildest of daydreams, I couldnít imagine a more
grand entrance than a young girl coming down in a ball gown to meet her
guests. My sixteenth birthday was just two months off, and I knew for
certain it would be extra special because I was going to have it here.
My father frowned, then shook his head at my idea of having a formal party
with long gowns and bow ties. He couldnít imagine any young man subjecting
himself to an evening full of female fluff. But as always, he did agree to
be an unwilling victim. Invitations were sent out, with the girls responding
immediately. The boys took more time, but did so after meaningful
suggestions and finally coercion by their parents to answer in the
affirmative. I knew I should be happy, having the kind of party girls always
dream of, but I couldnít help but be dismayed at my yet unformed female
figure. I may have been on the verge of womanhood, but my body still
reflected a childís form. Every dress I tried on still showed off my very
flat bossom. I started to dread the party and my not so grand entrance.
Her voice was so soft, so sweet, though I knew I should have been startled,
but I wasnít. At first I thought it was Miss Parsons, visiting from next
door. But Miss Parsons had never come over, even when we first moved in. She
kept entirely to herself. My mother said she was just a tired, old lady,
who was probably still a bit upset she now had to share her home with
strangers. I suppose she was right, but the girl was so pretty, beautiful
actually, with long, straight brown hair, and the kindest blue eyes you ever
She said her name was Amelia Parsons, so I just assumed she must be a
relative of some sort, like a niece of Miss Parsons, come to visit. There
was a quietness around her, a soft kind of glow that surrounded her. She
wore a long blue dress, a bit old fashion, I first thought, but it suited
her perfectly. She really had the sweetest smile and I never felt so
comfortable with anyone as I did with her.
I found myself talking about my little problem with the dresses and my lack
of body to show them off. She laughed sweetly at me and told me not to
worry. She motioned me to follow her next door into Miss Parsons home. I
hesitated at first, but nonetheless, continued into the dark room beyond.
Miss Parsonsí house was so dark and dim, with heavy curtains covering all
her windows. So very little sunlight came through and the room took on an
eerie feel. It also smelled musty as stale air filled the rooms. Amelia was
at the staircase motioning for me to follow her upstairs. I asked her where
Miss Parsons was and that maybe I should ask her for permission to enter
first. But Amelia just shook her head and smiled again, it was all right she
said, she lived here too.
When we reached the attic, Amelia took a key that was hidden off the door
ledge and opened the door. It was the way all attics looked, crammed with
hundreds of old, unused items, with cobwebs and dust covering every inch of
space. She walked across the room, seemingly unaffected by all the dust and
stopped in front of a pile of boxes. She asked me to help her remove the
boxes until we reached a trunk that had been hidden, buried underneath for
so many years. The trunk was locked, but Amelia pulled out from around her
neck, a small key on a chain and used it to open the trunk.
I had a difficult time seeing anything for the attic was also dark, and what
sunlight there was, came from a very dust filled window. I went to the
window and tried to remove as much of the dusty film as I could. When I
turned around, Amelia had pulled out an absolutely beautiful dress of ivory
and lace from the trunk. She held it out to me as I came forward. It was the
loveliest thing I ever saw.
It was my dress, Amelia had said. It was made for her sixteenth birthday so
many years ago, but something happened, and she never got a chance to wear
it. As you can see, Amelia had remarked, the dress is small in the front.
Like me she had been a late bloomer, but wearing this dress made her feel
beautiful. I want you to wear it for your party she told me. It does no one
any good lying up here gathering dust and growing old. I tried to protest,
but she wouldnít hear of it. Every woman deserves at least one moment in her
life when she feels beautiful, she said. I started to cry for her kind
gesture, but Amelia said there was no need for tears and gave me a whisper
of a kiss on the cheek. I thanked her again and hurried off to try it on.
Before leaving, I turned to her once more and said she must come to my party
so she could she me in the dress. She smiled her sweet smile and said she
would be there.
I cannot help but say I was the belle of the ball at my birthday party. All
the boys asked me to dance and my dad didnít even have to persuade them. The
girls were so envious asking me where I got such a beautiful dress, but all
I would say was a friend gave it to me. I suppose we were a bit loud with
our laughter and music, so I wasnít really surprised when Miss Parsons came
over from next door to complain about the noise. She was speaking with my
father when I walked into the kitchen and when she looked at me, all the
color from her face disappeared and she collasped on the floor.
The dress, she kept saying over and over again, my sisterís dress, my
sisterís dress. She looked at me with eyes so wild and sad, I couldnít stand
to watch her. She was sitting in a chair by the table looking at me, at the
dress, at Ameliaís dress. I felt very guilty at that moment, but then
thought, why should I. This was Ameliaís dress, shouldnít she have the final
say in what happens to it? I told Miss Parsons and my parents that Amelia,
her niece, gave me this dress a few days ago. She came over from next door,
led me to the attic and we removed it from a trunk hidden beneath some
No, thatís not possible, Miss Parsons said to us, that is not possible.
Amelia, Amelia, she repeated, Oh my sweet Amelia. My father said we had
better go next door and have a talk with this Amelia person and get this
matter straightened out. Miss Parson got up shakily and walked right to the
staircase. She never looked behind her but kept going until we reached the
attic. She then looked at me and asked me to open the door. I reached over
the same place Amelia had gotten the key and opened the lock. Miss Parson
had gasped when I knew exactly where to look but remained silent. We walked
into the dusty, dark room. Miss Parsons reached around a stack of books and
turned on a light switch. I thought, why hadnít Amelia turned on the lights
when she took me here. It would have been easier to see if she did. She then
walked over to where the boxes and trunk were. I looked down and this time
it was my gasp that sounded and my surprised look that was seen.
The boxes lay, as though untouched for years, dust and cobwebs covering them
completely. No where could you see where Amelia and I had held the boxes for
our handprints were gone. Nothing looked disturbed. Miss Parson asked my
father to remove the boxes and when the trunk was exposed she took out a key
that was hanging from a chain around her neck, just like Amelia. The lid was
opened and inside was an old dress box. Very slowly, Miss Parson opened the
box and looked inside, but it was empty, except for a small piece of paper,
written in very delicate hand. The paper was old, yellowed and torn in a few
places, but the writing was still legible.
My dearest Ann,
I want you to keep this dress as your birthday present.
It is the most beautiful thing I have and I know you
will feel beautiful whenever you wear it. I shall always
remember the way you looked as you came down the
stairs tonight. It made me happy knowing this dress
had brought laughter and smiles instead of tears.
Miss Parsons was looking at me, knowing as I did that Amelia, my friend and
her sister were one and the same. She walked over to a shelf of books and
pulled out an old album. Turning the pages she finally stopped at one where
a sweet smile was fixed on a beautiful young face. I didnít have to look to
know it was Ameliaís picture, but my parents just wouldnít believe.
Miss Parsons explained to us, that Amelia was her older sister and had this
dress especially made for her sixteenth birthday. But a few days before the
party she walked out in the rain, bringing this dress to the dressmakers, to
have the last alterations made. When she got back home, she caught a bad
cold which turned overnight to pneumonia. She died the morning of her party.
Her dress was packed away by their mother, who couldnít bear to look at what
her daughter had died for. No one has seen or touched it in over 65 years,
until now. I told Miss Parsons, I would give the dress back immediately, but
she stopped me. It was Ameliaís wish for me to have this dress and she was
right when she wrote I felt beautiful in it. I knew then I would never part
It has been seventeen years since that night. I sit here and watch my
children play games on the carpet in front of me, Jason is six and Victoria
is eight. My husband Tom watches football as always, occasionally yelling
out when his team scores. I cannot begin to explain what happened all those
years ago. I have not mentioned it to anyone. My parents have long ago
dismissed it as a childhood prank and Miss Parsons who died a few months
after the incident, never mentioned it again. So now, there is no one I can
talk to. But the dress is still with me, upstairs in my attic, carefully
placed in a box, wrapped in tissue paper, perhaps waiting for the day
Victoria turns sixteen, and it can come out again. I know my daughter will
feel as beautiful in it as I did, as Amelia did. And I also know, Amelia
will be there to watch when Victoria makes her grand entrance.