23 - The Sticking-Place

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As in "screw your courage to the sticking-place, and we'll not fail."

What a load of utter bullshit.

I harumphed unhappily as I tried on yet another dress for my audience. This one was a gaudy red which did not suit my skin tone at all, but I was still forced to turn like a chicken on a rotisserie and present myself.

"Oh, god," Rokim groaned, letting his head fall into his hands. "She looks like a zit. A walking, talking, nasty-ass pimple."

"No need to sugarcoat it for me," I muttered, feeling my cheeks flush red. Which probably didn't help with the whole pimple look.

"I know, you're totally right." Lisa shook her head in exasperation. "This is like the fiftieth dress we've had her try on, and—"

"And literally none of them work on her," Vanessa added snarkily. The three of them shared glances, having a silent conversation I was clearly not invited to. I sighed and let my shoulders sag in defeat. I mean, they weren't wrong.

Let me explain: I hated shopping. Absolutely hated it. It was the sport of animals. 

After my poorly thought-out proclamation in Prof's hospital room, I'd basically led myself to the slaughter. The Evaluators' Ball had a dress code that I couldn't get around, so the next thing I knew, I was stuck on the shopping spree from hell. 

Here's where the whole sticking-place thing comes in: I'd screwed up my courage and started trying on dresses. Realistically, it shouldn't have taken too long. I may have been short, but I got the goods where it counted. Finding a sexy little thing to throw on should have been no problem.

Except it was

For some reason, none of the dresses I'd been told to try on so far (courtesy of my three helpers, the most fashionable of which was clearly Vanessa) had done me right. So "screw your courage to the sticking place, and we'll not fail"? 

Bull. Shite. I was failing all over the place. 

"Guys," I grumbled, still wearing that god-forsaken mess of a dress. "Can I take this off now?"

Vanessa looked up at me, lip curled. "Please. My eyes can't take it."

I rolled my eyes. "Ness, you do remember that you're the one who told me to try this on in the first place, don't you?"

She sniffed disdainfully. "Well, I'm sorry if I had expectations." She eyed me with distaste. "Maybe you should consider laying off the taste-tests for a while."

I raised an eyebrow. Rokim and Lisa both turned to her in shock. I wasn't stung; I was pretty confident in my body. But ever since that day in my apartment—about four days ago, now—her attitude had been more acidic than ever.

"Is there something you want to say to me, Ness?" I asked simply. 

She paused, seeming to catch herself before launching another wave of criticism. "No," she said finally, an innocent simper weaving its way into her voice. "Why would you say that?"

I let her words hang in the air for a moment longer, feeling a guilty thread of satisfaction when she began to squirm. "Alright then," I said slowly. "To the next dress. Lisa, you pick this time."

"Finally," she groaned before getting up to go dress-hunting. "Ness was in charge forever."

Vanessa pouted and crossed her arms, slumping against her chair irritatedly. Physically, I kept an eye on her—because I really had no idea what her problem was—but mentally I drifted away.

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