Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal


Terry Collett

Frock. Fiona’s frock. She found it in her mother’s wardrobe while clearing out her mother’s clothes after her death in a car crash. Why had she saved it? Fiona mused, taking out the frock, holding it at arm’s length. Her Uncle Will had bought it for her for her tenth birthday. She remembered the day, him giving her a parcel wrapped in coloured paper with a ribbon attached. He stood with his large brown eyes on her as she opened it excitedly. Black with white lace. She had held it against her, felt the softness of the material against her cheek; smelt the cleanness, newness of it. Try it on, he had said, rubbing his hands together. She ran upstairs to her bedroom, took off her party dress of pink, put on the black frock. She stood in front of the large mirror and turned around. She smiled; it made her look grown up. She turned again. When her eyes looked in the mirror she saw her Uncle will standing by the door gazing at her. She turned and flushed. Do you like it? He had asked, his eyes studying her. She did like the frock, liked the way it felt against her skin, the way it looked on her, made her feel older. She smiled, said it was beautiful, turned around for him to see her. She brushed back hair from her face, felt her face flush with a mixture of excitement and embarrassment. He had come to her, kissed her cheek, told her she looked like a princess in the frock. She had laughed, turned again and when she stopped, he held her against him for a few moments, brushed a few strands of hair from her cheek. That was only the beginning, she reflected now, putting the black frock on her mother’s bed, standing back, gazing at the frock that had brought misery into her life. She sighed. Took a deep breath. She thought it had been thrown out years before. Why had her mother kept it? She looked quickly through the wardrobe, threw bundles of her mother’s clothes into black bags, carried them down to her car for the charity shops. The frock lay on the bed where she had put it. When she went back to the room, she tried to avoid looking at it. She carried out a search of the room for other items of clothing, took them all out until the room was empty of her mother’s belongings. She sat on the bed, picked up the frock. She smelt it. It smelt of mothballs and her old scent. She felt the material with her fingers. Rubbed it between finger and thumb. Don’t you like it? A voice said in her head. Yes, yes, I love it, her ten-year-old voice said. Very much? Yes, very much. She threw the frock back on the bed. Wiped her hands on her jeans, sighed deeply. For a few moments she felt she could feel his hands on her waist again, sense his breath on her neck. It was not this room, but her up along the passageway that was hers that he had entered and closed the door behind him. He stood there that day, the smile on his face, kindly looking, and gentle in voice. She had been just about to change back into her pink party dress when he entered. He stared at her in her underclothes. He asked why she wasn’t wearing the frock he had bought. She grabbed up the pink party dress, held it against her. She wanted to save it for another occasion. For him another time. He nodded. He said he’d take her out for a special meal to celebrate her birthday the following day. He’d asked her parents and they had thought it a great idea, as he was her godfather and had bought her the lovely frock. She felt a mixture of unease and happiness. He walked to her, took away the pink party dress, placed it on a chair by the window. She felt a chill, hugged herself with her arms. She got up quickly from the bed, went to the window with her back to the bed and the frock. It had happened that day. She felt sick. Wished her brain could be drained of the memory. The trees had got bigger since she was that child; the roses had spread along the garden reaching higher and wider than they had then. She told no one. Whom could she tell? Who would believe her? Uncle Will? No one would have thought it possible, not by him, not ever. She turned, stared at the frock on the bed. He had made her wear it, made her put it on again. He sat her on his lap, hugged her. His hands rubbed her thighs, pushing the frock upward. She ran to the bed, grabbed the frock and attempted to rip it apart, but nothing happened, it remained in one piece. She screwed it up, threw it across the room. It landed by the window. The sunlight shone on it. The black looked almost evil. As if it had a life of its own. She walked to the window, kicked the frock into a corner, and glared at it. If only it had been him she could have kicked; him she could try to rip apart. But it was too late. He had died with her mother in the car crash. That was why she wouldn’t visit her mother anymore; not while he lived there with her mother; doing things together; sleeping together. Him. And her. And her father gone off with some young girl some years back and was living in New York. Just this now. The house was hers she guessed. And all this. The frock lay there. Still. Unmoving. Black with white lace. No one knew what had happened that day, except her, him and the frock. Black with white lace. Just there. Huddled. Black and evil. The scent of dress lingered; the smell of him lingered in its folds, the innocence of her childhood soaked into the very fabric, drawn from her that day, filtered piece by piece from her on her bed in that room wearing that frock.


Terry Collett has been writing since 1971 and published on and off since 1972. He has written poems, plays, short stories and short novels. He is married with eight children and eight grandchildren. His work has been published in magazines and anthologies online and in print. His main ambition is to have a book of his stories and poems published.

© Terry Collett

Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal ISSN 1554-8449, Copyright © 2004-2012