A Bit of Lace

"Gabriel, tell me again why we're going to a dress shop?" Carl asked as he stumbled along behind the tall, broad-shouldered man whose confident strides carried him faster and farther than the monk's shuffling steps. "I don't claim to be much of a man, but still, it would be nice to keep my dignity."

Gabriel Van Helsing's tight mouth turned upward at the corners into a soft smile. He chuckled a little, shifting the crossbow that rested on his shoulder. "Dignity has nothing to do with this, my friend. And even if it did, the result will be far worth the loss of a little...manhood."

Carl huffed, his breath forming a white cloud in front of his face in the chilly mountain air. "Well, I for one don't have much manhood to lose. You can afford it."

Van Helsing laughed his thick laugh and continued forward. The two men cut their way through the center of the small Romanian town, passing the villagers as they clutched shawls and parkas closer to them to ward off the light snow falling from the grey sky. Carl and Van Helsing made their way to a small wooden shop over which hung a weatherbeaten sign that read "Marta's Fine Dresses." The taller man ducked into the shop, Carl at his heels.

"Is it really necessary to carry that thing around with you all the time?" Carl asked, gesturing to the crossbow before they entered. "For God's sake, we're going to a dress shop, not a vampire convention."

Van Helsing stopped in his tracks and turned around. "This thing is our one little bit of assurance that we won't get killed. So if you would like to leave out all sources of protection, then certainly I can leave it behind next time. I mean, it's not like we're traveling through an area heavily populated by vampires, werewolves and all other manner of supernatural creatures," he said with a cheery smile.

"Be that way," Carl replied with a slight pout as his companion turned again to step inside the shop.

The pair had just crossed the threshold when a withered old woman swept out from behind a row of rolls of cloth and material, her shawl swirling. "Ah, hello my fine young boys!" she rasped in excitement, her face breaking into a snaggle-toothed grin, "Here to buy yourselves fine dresses for the lord's ball later this month?"

Van Helsing gave an almost unnoticeable half smile. "We didn't have the pleasure of being invited. We're here for something else."

"Blue - no, green is your color, dearie," the woman said, disregarding his comment and standing on tiptoe to examine his eyes. She turned to Carl and wrinkled her nose. "Best stick to brown, ducky."

Van Helsing held up his hands to ward off another examination. "Ma'am, we're just here to buy a dress. For someone else!" he hastily added, realizing what he had said. "We need a dress for my wife."

The woman grinned even wider. "Ah, of course!" she said, holding up a knobby, knowing finger, "I should have known a strapping young boy like you had a sweet little fancy to go home to. Now what size is she?"

Whoops, Van Helsing thought. "I don't know...a small?"

"Measurements, boy! Measurements, measurements, measurements!" the old woman cawed, waving around a measuring tape. "How do you expect me to make your lass a dress what fits if I don't have her measurements?!"

Van Helsing thought, picturing his dear Anna. "She's about...this tall," he said, indicating the height with his right hand, "She's got a waist maybe...that big. Shoulders...around that size."

The woman scribbled down the approximates and then looked up at him. "Bust size?" she prompted.

"What?" Van Helsing asked, his voice catching a little.

"Bust size. I need to know how small or large to cut the bodice."

Van Helsing and Carl looked frantically at each other. "I-I don't know...Carl, you tell her."

"How do you expect ME to know?" Carl said, not wanting to get into it.

Unable to work around the situation, Van Helsing estimated, wrinkling his nose in slight embarrassment as he held his hands in front of him. "Maybe...to here...?"

The woman chuckled and wrote it down. "Any special requests?"

Van Helsing sighed. The worst was over. "Just one. I would like a bit of lace on the bodice. She deserves lace."

The woman smiled. "The dress will be ready by next week. Thank you boys, and come back to see me soon!"

Author's Note - written for a Van Helsing writing prompty contest we have going on in the Van Helsing RPG forum. This is what might have happened at some point if Anna hadn't died.