THE LIGHT GREEN DRESS
The idea of moving house had been on the agenda for longer than Lois and Edward could remember. Neither of them had ever liked the house very much that they had lived in for so long. The reason for getting it in the first place was that it had been the only one they had been able to afford at the time. After looking at so many they were fed up with being asked to pay an exorbitant sum for somewhere to live. The pair of them had almost given up the possibility of ever owning a property. It seemed that everyone else in the country had no problems in finding a house that they really liked and were quite happy to do up and settle down in. As money was the biggest hurdle to get over, the next one was to get a place that they both liked. The estate agent was becoming overwrought by the pair, and was on the point of asking them to go to another agent that served the area. Then a house was offered to the agent to sell, and the owner wasn't bothered about the money so much as to get rid of it as soon as possible.
One Saturday morning Lois, Edward, and Jervis Price the estate agent, drove out to take a look at the property. There was certainly nothing wrong with the street, on either side there were fairly large houses with tall trees in the front and back gardens. The house was in the middle of the row on the odd number side. Lois opened the car door and got out, Edward followed suit.
The house was detached and painted white all over. There were two floors. There was no front garden, it had been paved over and giant tubs with ornamental trees were where there had once been a lawn with bushes and flowers.
Jervis opened the front door and led the other two inside behind him. He switched on the light. There was a staircase to the right of the front door; on the left there was a sitting room that looked onto the paved garden. The kitchen was at the side of the house with a large living cum dining room that ran across the width at the back. French windows opened out onto a lawn. The aspect was altogether pleasing. Jervis wondered why the owner wanted to get rid of it so quickly without making any kind of fuss about the price. Edward and Lois were taking it all in and staring about them.
"Well what do you think of it?" Jervis asked. "The owner wants a quick sale so that she can move on."
Edward and Lois had been whispering together, and even though they didn't look too happy had come to a unanimous decision, "Lois and I have decided to take it, as long as the owner will accept what we can pay for it," Edward said to Jervis.
Jervis felt that at last he was going to get rid of the difficult couple. "Why don't we go upstairs before you finally make up your minds?"
Edward and Lois followed Jervis up the stairs to the upper floor. There was a large old-fashioned bathroom and an airing cupboard, and four bedrooms. Two of the bedrooms looked out over the street and the other two were at the back of the house, the bathroom was in between the bedrooms opposite the staircase. There were no carpets on the floors and the walls needed a good coat of paint. The bathroom would have to be replaced and the bedroom windows, too. Edward was busy making notes of all the reconditioning the house would need before it would be habitable. "I think we should be able to afford it, although it will have to be done up before we can possibly move in."
"Don't worry, Sir, there won't be any problems of the financial kind, I can assure you."
And so one day, three months after acquiring the property, Edward and Lois moved in. They bought it because it was the only one they were able to afford, but they never liked it. Everything that could be renovated had been done: the walls were all freshly painted, the floors and doors sanded and varnished, new windows had been put in, and a new downstairs cloakroom and upstairs bathroom had been constructed. The day Edward and Lois had moved in, the house smelt of new paint and varnish. To them it smelt of age.
After a few years, two children Felix and Juliana had been added to the occupancy and they created noise and laughter. During the years the children were growing up, it had occurred many times to Lois and Edward to move house. The reason for not doing so was always the same - money.
After the mortgage had been paid off, Edward could see no real reason for moving house. His argument was that as they were free of debt, then it made more sense to stay put, for a while at least. The children had friends in that area.
Lois got more dissatisfied with every passing year, and in the end was not at all interested in decorating or doing anything to the house. She wanted out of it, and that was that.
When the children went away to study, was when Edward thought that Lois was right in wanting to get out.
"Is there anywhere special you'd like to move to?" Edward asked Lois one evening.
"Yes, I'd like to move to a warmer place. Now the children have more or less left home they don't need this house any more, and it's not good for them to use it as a bolt hole. They have to stand on their own two feet," Lois said.
"Unless we go abroad, there's nothing warm here unless we go to the south coast. I'll have a chat with the estate agent to see what's going, and the present day prices," Edward said.
"That sounds fine to me," Lois agreed.
Jervis happily took on the task of selling the white house once again. He was surprised that they had stayed in it for so long, but it had been to their advantage and now they wanted out of it. The day after Edward's visit, the house was put up for sale. Although there was no hurry to get the house sold, the estate agent managed to find a buyer in a short time.
Edward and Lois picked out the pieces of furniture they wanted to take with them, and those for selling were handed over to a shop that would take care of that.
At last, moving day had arrived. Felix and Juliana had already taken what they wanted and had gone back to their respective colleges. Lois was going around upstairs holding a bin-bag in which she was picking up odds and ends from the bedrooms and the bathroom. Everything that was moveable went into the bin-bag. The bedroom curtains had been thrown out a few days prior to the final onslaught of making sure that nothing would be left behind. Lois thought that the only thing left would be dust. She had no desire to leave anything of herself in a house that she and Edward had never really liked.
Edward shouted, "Lois, come here would you?"
Lois left the bin-bag collection and went to their bedroom where Edward was standing in front of a fitted cupboard, holding a light green dress in his hands. "Is this yours?"
The dress was crocheted. It was old, dirty, and very out of date. Lois remembered that such dresses had once been an in and out of fashion in no time. "No, it isn't mine, and I've never seen it before. Do you think it's been here all this time and we never knew? That cupboard has only ever held shoes, handbags, luggage, and umbrellas. Where was the dress exactly?" Lois asked Edward
"Here, at the very back of the cupboard. I was trying to make sure that nothing had been tucked away without our knowing, and this is what I found. Are you a hundred per cent sure that it isn't yours?"
"Of course I am. Have you ever seen me in anything remotely resembling that?" Lois spat out the words.
"Then whose is it?"
"Does it matter? If we've been living with it all the time that we've been here, then the original owner of the dress might even be dead by now," Lois declared, putting it in the bin-bag with the rest of the things.
"I don't think we should throw it away, there might be a story about this dress," Edward offered in an attempt to smooth over Lois's opinion.
"Do as you please, all I want to do is to get out of here and forget all the years we spent in this dump."
"I don't think it's such a dump. We did it up pretty well," Edward looked at Lois's face and tried to read the expression on it.
When Edward and Lois bought the house it had been empty for quite some time. Nobody knew why. The neighbours thought it was because the price was too high.
The previous owners of the house had been of Edward and Lois's parents' generation. Sam and Aster had bought the house on their marriage. When they had moved in, the front garden had been a small lawn with flower beds surrounding it. Aster had made a great fuss of the back and front gardens. She was out tending them in all weathers. Sam went to work in a bank and thought that he did more than enough to maintain them. Aster had a small job helping out in a school as a part time secretary.
For some years they had thought children would arrive, and then they realized that they never would. Sam was bored with their lifestyle, he wanted and demanded more. Aster was quite satisfied with her life. As there were no children to make a mess or destroy anything there wasn't a lot to do in the house. Sam was not one of those husbands who had to spend their weekends mending things or painting, even when there was no need. As he got to middle age, Sam wanted something a bit different to perk up his life. He started going out to the local pub for a while, and when that proved to be as predictable as staying at home, he decided to go to evening classes.
It was at one of those classes that he met Miranda, who was a travel agent. At the beginning, they spoke to each other about the antiques furniture, and decoration class.
"Have you got any or many antiques, Miranda?" Sam asked.
Miranda said, "No, not much. I've got some pieces from auctions and small shops when I've been on holiday. And you?"
"No, I haven't anything, to be honest. My wife likes practical things."
"Have you been married long?" Miranda asked him.
"Yes, I've been married to Aster for about fifteen years. We haven't any children and so there's only us two at home, and you?"
Miranda avoided looking at him straight in the eye and said, "I'm married, and have two children."
Communication between Sam and Miranda was slow to begin with, and when Sam understood that there were no impediments from her side of the relationship, they started to get on friendlier terms. Aster never doubted Sam in all their years of marriage, and so he was free to do exactly as he pleased. There were limits, of course, and his dates with Miranda were carried out with the utmost discretion.
Sam wanted to buy Miranda a dress, and as he was walking around in his lunch hour one sunny day, he saw what he thought was the perfect one for his amour. Aster had given Sam a light green tie and matching handkerchief, and the dress in the window was the exact same shade as them. Sam didn't think twice and entered the shop. He had a vague idea of both Miranda's and Aster's dress sizes, and had no problems in getting what he wanted. The dress was packed up in a large box, and Sam took it to work and hid it in his locker.
On their next date, Sam presented Miranda with the dress. The lovers had taken to meeting at a small hotel in a neighbouring town.
"Hello, Gorgeous. Close your eyes. I've got a present for you".
Miranda closed her eyes and held out her hands for the present. She opened her eyes, and saw the large box. "What is it?" Miranda asked.
"Open it up and you'll see," Sam said.
The box was duly opened and Miranda saw the light green crocheted dress. Sam took out from his suitcase a long slim box and showed Miranda the light green tie with the matching handkerchief.
"Now we'll look like a real couple, wearing matching light green."
"Where am I supposed to keep it? If my husband sees it I'll be in deep trouble. You'd better look after it, and I'll wear it when we're together."
"Fair enough," Sam replied, but at the same time feeling rather disappointed at Miranda's reaction. Sam kept it in his locker at work.
Miranda's husband, John, was suspicious of her comings and goings, and followed her to the evening classes. He saw her greet Sam and wondered whether or not she was having a romance with him. When he got home John went through all Miranda's cupboards and drawers systematically. He found nothing at all that would have satisfied his jealous mind. John decided there had to be something, but how could he prove it.
The next time Miranda told John she was going out for a drink with her friends, he said, "Meeting up with our boyfriend then?"
Miranda played it cool, "When do I have time for a boyfriend?"
"When you're not working, for example, or shopping," John answered, looking out of the corner of his eye.
Miranda said nothing else, in order not to precipitate an argument. Their two children, a boy Patrick and a girl Renata, were never present when these discussions took place. They were kept in ignorance of their parents' marital tiffs.
Sam insisted on Miranda wearing the light green dress and he wore the tie and handkerchief. On the days they were able to go further away from home, those were their normal outfits. Sam thought it might be a good idea to buy some new clothes, and also change the colour. He mentioned it to Miranda.
Miranda was sitting on the opposite side of a table at a popular restaurant not far from a stately home. They had preferred the restaurant for their date, rather than enter the house itself, just in case they had run into an acquaintance. "Sam, you'd better keep on looking after the dress. John suspects something, I'm sure. Your wife doesn't give you a hard time of it, so could you keep it in your house?"
Sam was troubled by Miranda's reaction, and said so. "Don't you like the dress? If not, I'll get you another one in a colour you like more."
"The colour isn't important, it's the fact I don't want to spoil our romance by John finding out. He'd make such a stink about it you'd wish we'd never met."
"Is there something you're trying to tell me, other than that your husband suspects something?"
"Like what for instance?" Miranda asked.
"Like we're splitting up," Sam said worriedly. After all, he really did love Miranda even though he was married to Aster.
"It's better for us not to get any more involved. It can only cause unhappiness in the end, also I have two children."
"If you have always felt like that, why did you start going out with me?"
"Life with John is always the same and he never wants to go out and do something different. To tell you the truth, I was getting bored with him."
"And that's your problem. You married him and he's the father of your children."
"Let's finish up the dinner once and for all, and then our pathetic relationship!"
Sam drove Miranda back home and waved goodbye to her. He was very upset and bewildered. What had he done wrong? It couldn't be that she's…?
He drove home and went upstairs to the double bedroom, and stuffed the light green dress in a hollow at the back of the built in cupboard.
Goodbye, Romance! Sam filled the cupboard up with his clothes and other personal possessions: cameras, binoculars, watches, torches, and pens.
Sam lived for the rest of his life in that house, and when he died Aster decided to sell it. With no one to help her clean the house, it soon became too much for Aster. She put it up for sale, and as it took much longer than it should have, Aster was also dead when Edward and Lois had bought it, and now they, too, were preparing to leave.
Edward took another bin-bag, and put the clothes that were to be taken to the thrift shop in it. The light green dress went in too.
A few mornings later, Edward walked to the centre of town, and went into the thrift shop. The assistant looked over everything he had taken in and gave him some money for the lot, and he left. The assistant hung the better garments on a rail that was right near the entrance.
At midday, a young girl walked by the thrift shop and saw the light green dress hanging on the rail. She took it down, held it up against herself, and bought it. After work she took it home and washed it. When it was dry and ironed, she put it on, and said to her mother, "Mum, take a look at the dress I got from the thrift shop," and she swung round letting the skirt twirl around her legs.
Her mother, Samantha, looked up and said, "I remember your grandmother had a dress exactly like that one." She went to the sideboard drawer and looked through the photos. She found one, and showed it to her daughter. "Here she is, wearing it, in this old photo. She was very fond of it."
"Do you think it could be the same dress, Mum?"
"I don't know, but it's strange you should have come across it or one very much like it, after so many years," Samantha said to her daughter.
The very next day, Samantha went to the thrift shop and asked who had brought the dress into the shop. The assistant looked in her computer, and told her about Edward, and his address.
Samantha went to the house and saw the removals van outside. The front door was open. "Is there anyone here?" she called out.
Edward appeared, coming from the kitchen. "Good morning, are you the new owner of the house?"
"No, I'm not. My name is Samantha, and my daughter bought the dress you took to the thrift shop."
"What's wrong with the dress? I found it at the back of a fitted cupboard when clearing it out."
"Nothing's wrong, but do you know who the previous owners were?"
"An elderly lady, whose husband had died some years earlier, had been the owner till just before we bought it."
"Do you happen to remember their names?"
"As far as I remember, they were called Sam and Aster."
"Thanks very much for your help. Goodbye, and have a happy move!"
"Yes, thank you." Edward went to the door with Samantha, as Lois was coming down the stairs after making a last minute inspection to see if they had left anything behind.
Samantha walked along the shady road thinking that at last she knew who her biological father was. She suddenly realized why she had been called Samantha. Sam must have been her father, and not John, who had always thought she was his own child.
She was determined to find out more about Sam, as her mother had never told her anything about him. Perhaps because she never knew.