“How’s this?” Tia turned, holding an electrifyingly neon green shirt up to her body. Dani studied her, giving short nods of approval. Tia tossed the shirt into our cart and walked off to go study a manikin.

Dani walked ahead of me, leaving me to push the cart. I stopped to feel the silky fabric of a shirt as she went on and on about her jealousy of the manikins.

“They never have to worry about weight,” she paused to flip a stray strand of hair over her shoulder, “or even pick out their own clothes. On top of that, no one even cares that they’re so pale.  Besides, half of them don’t even have hair! But no, no one judges them!” I rolled my eyes when she wasn’t looking. I was beginning to see just how odd she really was. Yet the knowledge of her thoughts, the knowledge of her oddities brought me a satirical sense of comfort.  

Even with the distraction of clothes, my burning curiosity for Aidan kept pushing its way into my thoughts. My curiosity then coaxed my uncontrollable desire for Jay out of the depths of my brain. It was like the thoughts attracted one another to a duel for control of my mind.  

As we passed each isle of exuberating colors, I kept stealing glances over to the men’s clothes across from us. I pictured each item on Jay’s broad shoulders or covering Aidan’s slim waist. My fingers clenched and unclenched at my sides as I thought about touching either one of them.

“Are you alright?” Dani turned to me, snapping her fingers at my face.

“Yeah,” I said, my inner excitement escaping in the squeal of my voice.

“Well?” She met my eyes expectantly. Did she ask me a question? I searched my short-term memory for any hint of what I was supposed to answer.

“What?” I finally asked. She sighed and turned back to the pile of clothes growing in her arms. “Sorry,” I muttered. My eyes flicked to a mother and daughter tucked into a hallway filled with dressing rooms. Dani marched down to an open door, completely oblivious to the crying child. I stood outside of her changing room, listening to the repeated sobs of the child followed by sharp, muted hisses from the mother.

My eyes stayed locked on the girl, but my mind drifted. Unlike most girls, who dream of having a little girl they can stuff in dresses and paint nails with, I much preferred a boy, although, I didn’t easily come to that conclusion. I’d have long, heated arguments with myself, taking both sides. The score I kept tallied in my notebook stayed close, for my personal arguments would always take place during a mind-numbing history class. It was my own little way of keeping myself from falling asleep. I was finally won over when I overheard a couple in a heated discussion over the same thing. The man made a good point.

He argued that if they had a girl, they’d have to worry about every boy they’d meet, whereas a boy, they’d only have to worry about him. I figured I’d already had more time spent worrying about boys than necessary.  

Dani came bursting out of the fitting room. “I almost forgot!” She grabbed my shoulders, almost giving me whiplash with the force she used to shake them.

“What?” I managed to jerk out of her grasp.

“We’re hitting the club!” I started rolling my shoulders back to stretch out the pain.

“There are clubs here?”

“Correction, one club called Ecstasy’s Pulse, and we’re going tonight.” She smiled at me, “So grab what you want to wear now.” She gestured to the infinite racks of clothes surrounding us.

“Is it fun?” I was skeptical. It was almost comical trying to picture a Melrose club out here. She eyed me.

“Is it fun? Would I, Dani Hweitt, club-goer and ecstasy fanatic, go to a club that’s not fun? I can’t believe you’d even accuse me of something like that. Besides, Tia’s dating the owner’s son, VIP’s right here.” She winked and sent her elbow into my arm. I covered my yelp of pain with a laugh. Maybe this won’t be so bad.

“Oh, this is cute.” She held up a beautiful dark blue dress. “What do you think?” She danced around with it up to her body leaving it shimmering well after she stopped.

“It’s really pretty.” Not being one to lie, I was almost jealous.

“Thanks, but I think it’d look better on you.” She moved toward me. When she spun it around to press it against my body, I saw it was laced all the way down the back. “That’s perfect. You have to try this on.” She threw it over my shoulder and pushed me into the dressing room that she’d just exited.

“Are you sure?” I called out to her as she shut the door.

“Absolutely, I liked the gold one over here better anyways. The only way you’re not wearing that is if the dress suddenly implodes before tonight or the world ends, okay?”

“Okay,” I laughed. I hesitated slipping my clothes off. Even though everyone tried to convince me otherwise, I was sure there were cameras in each room. It made me uncomfortable to think that someone could be watching me.

I pulled the dress on. Ironically, it was a perfect fit. I examined myself, tracing the curves that suddenly appeared on my body. I’d never seen anything like it. The unlaced back hung open, but I’d long given up on trying to tie things by myself.

I opened the door. Dani was sitting on a chair texting away on her phone. I stepped toward her and she looked up at me. A gasp escaped her mouth. She stood, slipping her phone in her back pocket, and walked over. Reading my mind, she walked behind me and pulled the strings tight, exposing even more curves than I knew I had.

“You’re buying that. I don’t care if you go freaking bankrupt, you’re buying it.” She stepped around to look at my newly exposed body from a different angle. I laughed, almost self-conscious at how normal I appeared in a dress.

“Are you going to try yours on? I’m going to go change, and then I’ll meet you at the register.”

“Check and check. My dress was tried on, love it, and Tia’s already there checking out her stuff.”

“Oh, well…gosh talk about speed-shopping,” I mumbled, stepping back into the fitting room. She laughed, asking if I needed her to untie me. I refused, reaching back to pull the knot out.

“Okay, well I’ll meet you at the register.”

“Alright,” I called. In a matter of moments, I’d slipped out of the room with a dress in my hand. Tia waved me over to the register where I emptied my cart full of clothes.

I knew tonight would be fun, but I was hesitant. Yeah, it’d be like Melrose again, but maybe that’s not really what I wanted. It’s not what the real me wanted. The real me didn’t care about Melrose. The real me was home in Rexford. 

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