I could not get comfortable with the fact I was in a wedding dress store. And not the second hand thrift store I had pointed out along the way, but a ritzy, high end, our-cheapest-dress-is-100,000 yen dress store.
Maybe it was all the money. No, it was definitely the money. And the fact that Luella had been the one to drag me here, insisting she had no problem in paying for the dress—or anything else, for that matter. I thought this somewhat unthoughtful of her, considering the fact that I had already expressed my opinion that I was not okay with handouts.
"Who said this was a handout?" she said, even as I was digging my heels into the sidewalk. "You're going to make me grandbabies!"
Even given that I was in love with the idea of having babies and always have been, Naru was lucky that I loved him and his mother so much. This was just getting weird. Would she creep into our future house to poke a needle through all the condoms?
As the assistant slipped on dress after dress, my nerves fed on themselves due to the sweat they created, for this just got me all riled up on how my cheap girl sweat was smearing on all these million yen dresses. Didn't they have, I don't know, armpit pads you could stick on to prevent this? Couldn't she smell me? I couldn't smell myself, granted, but any moment I would and then I would die of humiliation and money shock.
The assistant, a girl a few years older than me with bright cherry hair and too much make up, finished buttoning up the mermaid style dress. It had been almost nothing but buttons. "Alright, let's go check it out! You're so gorgeous I might just pee!"
The carpet was ivory. That might show.
Luella was waiting on her little chair in the show room, which was a hexagon shaped room with mirrors on every wall and a pedestal to stand on in the middle so you could get a full view of the gown.
I was mildly surprised I didn't have to mince walk in order to get to the pedestal. I didn't even have to struggle to get up on it. Mermaid dresses always gave me the impression they would do that to a person.
Luella squealed. "Oh, it's so elegant! It's almost like it's made out of pearls!"
I got my first look into one of the mirrors and did a double take. Had my butt always been that fat? Ugh, and my arms, I hated sleeveless dresses. They made my arms look like sacks of meat had been hung about the upper portion.
"You're arms are not big," said Luella crossly. "And neither is your butt. It's called curves—oh! You're just so sexy!"
Yeah, I could feel the blush coming on. This woman knew I was going to have sex with her son in the near future. That was just so weird on so many levels. Did she ever think about it? Did she ever…ugh, stopping while I'm ahead.
"Can you find me one with sleeves?" I asked. "Not big sleeves—I don't want anything confining. Something I can be comfortable in." I looked back into the mirrors at my suddenly Atlantis sized rear end. "And something that doesn't make my butt the main attraction. Maybe something old fashion. Flowy. Um, if you would—please, that is. I'm sorry, this is really weird for me." I gave the red-haired assistant my most apologetic look.
She gave one of those friendly laughs that are never made because you're actually amusing. "Don't worry about it, it's my job! Really, it's no trouble. If your mother is okay with helping you get out of the gown, I'll run in back and see what we have."
Luella jumped to her feet, looking far too happy by the chance to strip me. Lucky for me I had a sort of wedding dress shift underneath. At least these rich-dress-bastards were somewhat mindful of how many bodily juices I might smear on their priceless fabric.
In the large changing room, she set to work on the mile of buttons.
"Do you think you could tell me some of the cases your husband goes on?" I asked. "I know Madoka taught Naru about ghost hunting, but he must have gotten something from his father."
"Oh, he's the one who taught Madoka," she said. "So, indirectly, you could say he taught Naru. But, no, I don't think his cases are anything like Naru's. He's a lot more, how do I put it…subtle. Listen's around for rumors, stories, investigates under the pretense of doing something else. He's a rather shy man and isn't much for attention, though there was this one time…"
She started telling me about a case of an old manor owned by the last member of a duke's line. She finished the last button and helped me step out as she was giving me the nitty gritty details of how he debunked the theory of a death curse left by the duke it was named after. About then, the cherry haired girl returned, a mass of white fabric that was different from the others she had held. Rather than having the shiny look of satin or taffeta, it looked to be made of cotton.
"That man," she said, looking, for the first time, uncertain. "The one who deals with ghosts, does he exist?"
I looked at Luella to see what she thought, but Luella was frowning with her brow puckered in concern.
"Yes. I take it you have a problem?"
The girl looked to the floor. "Um, I know this is going to sound really stupid, and I don't believe it myself, but there's this…sort of ghost story at my college. I use to think it was really stupid, but lately my friends…and I…" She cleared her throat and suddenly gave a cheery, plastic sort of smile that made me wince. "Listen to me, sounding so dramatic! I found this little treasure near the very back in storage. It's a rather unique style, one of its only kind."
She hung up the hanger on the designated hook in the corner and unzipped the plastic. Rolls upon rolls of soft, cotton skirts came piling out. I found myself putting my hands to my mouth as the girl cleared the plastic away.
It looked like an old Victorian gown made of linen dyed in snow. It had an hourglass bodice that cut short just above the hips to let loose a bell-like skirt of several layers. It was hemmed with simple, hook-eyed lace, and the sleeves looked like they'd reach the elbows. The shoulders, however, were left open.
"It's perfect!" I squealed, though the 'moment' was somewhat ruined by the memory of the dress assistant's nervous voice. Before I could ask, however, Luella beat me to the punch, still looking kindly concerned.
"What of this ghost story from your campus? And what college do you go to? I can let my boys know and see if they're up for the case."
The girl bit her lip, once more uncertain. "I don't have any money to pay you or anything, and it isn't like the staff will either. I think the ones on top use the story as a selling point for the school."
"It won't hurt to tell them," Luella said with a smile and light wave of her hand. "If it's interesting enough, they'll go for it."
"Yeah," I added. "And if it's causing you and your friends trouble like you say, I'm willing to help. I have some friends who are exorcists, and, um, I guess you could sort of call me a medium."
Her face lit up with both hope and suspicion. "That's…very kind of you. I guess I can—if anything it will be an interesting story, right?"
"Right!" Luella and I chirped.
She gave us another somewhat plastic smile and begun.
"Well, they say it all started with some girl who found out her fiancé was cheating on her…"