A/N: Dimitri's perspective when he bought Anya the blue dress.
Vlad handed me the list and I quickly read it over. But when my eyes came to the thirty-second word, I glared at him.
"I'm not buying Anya a dress," I said flatly, shoving the list back at him.
"Yes," Vlad corrected, "you are."
"Why don't you do it?"
"Because I am teaching Anya table manners today." He tilted his head so he was looking down at me through his glasses. "And we both know that manners are no object when it is you eating."
I glared at him again. "How the heck am I supposed to shop for her?" I said bitterly. "I don't know what she likes… I don't even know her sizes!"
Vlad held out another slip of paper, this one scrawled with numbers. "Now you do," he said, tucking it into my breast pocket. "And it does not matter what you get her. She will like it."
I turned my frown to my shoes as my face began to grow hot. "How do you know that?"
"There is that unspoken attraction…"
Oh no, we were not going to go into that again. "There is no attraction," I snarled, stuffing the list into my coat pocket. "I don't like her, she doesn't like me. We're business partners. End of discussion."
"If you say so." But I didn't believe a word I said either.
"Whatever. I'll be back later." I turned around and stomped away, ignoring the smug, knowing look I knew was on Vlad's face. He had no right to judge me… he couldn't… there wasn't…
I sighed. I conceded that Vlad had succeeded to his end; now I couldn't stop thinking about Anya.
I kicked a rock in the path. It went skidding across the dirt until it hit a tree. Metaphor for my life: go blazing along without thinking, and then I hit a tree. Figuratively speaking, of course.
Unless I literally walk into a tree due to my lack of attention. In which case, I am an idiot.
"Damn," I muttered, rubbing my tingling forehead. "Stupid Vlad," I continued, stubbing my toe on one of the tree's exposed roots.
It just wasn't my day, was it?
My shopping only took a couple hours. Mostly we needed supplies—a fan, a tea set, some books on etiquette and Russian history, a pair of high heels (size seven)—things to enrich Anya's "education." She learned how to use explosives at that godforsaken orphanage, and yet she had never worn a pair of pumps? The priorities of those places…
My last destination was the dress-shop. I stood in front of the window for twenty minutes, anxiously running my eyes over the multitudes of soft, colorful, feminine fabric. Finally—after another five minutes of mental preparation—I yanked open the door and hurried inside.
Immediately my nose was accosted by the potent combination of roses and cinnamon. It was both alarming and exhilarating, but mostly alarming.
Once I got my heart rate to slow down, I glanced around. The store was brightly lit with the light coming in from the enormous windows and the dozens of yellow light bulbs surrounding the floor-length mirrors tacked to the pink walls. Women's clothing in all shapes, styles, types, and colors filled fifteen or so racks, their hems wiggling simultaneously from the breeze I'd caused by opening the door. Then there were the bolts of fabric hanging on a wall—mimicking an elegant rainbow—each with its own patterns and textures.
It was a very unnerving place.
A thin little man in a gray suit darted over, staring at me with thinly veiled suspicion and disgust. "Sir," he said in thickly accented English, stiffly bowing before me. "Is there something you wish for help in finding?"
I awkwardly cleared my throat. "I need a dress."
The man raised an eyebrow. "Then you are in the right place."
He was right; that was a stupid reply. I felt my face getting hot. "Not for me, of course. For my friend. She's a girl."
Now both his eyebrows went up. "Really sir, I had no idea," he remarked sarcastically.
This guy was staring to tick me off. Why the heck was I so flustered anyway? Damn him. And Vlad. And A-… damn it all.
I narrowed my eyes as my anger built. "Can you help me or not?" I snapped.
I just couldn't intimidate this guy! He sniffed, tilted his chin up, and said, "Of course I can help you. I don't work in dress-shop for nothing. Do you have size of hers?"
I dug out the scrap of paper with Anya's sizes on it and handed it to him. As I did, a black smudge on the back caught my eye; I had to remember to ask for it back.
The man rubbed his chin thoughtfully, then thrust the paper back at me. "You follow," he said, turning and striding away.
Still clutching the paper in my hand, I followed him as he wove between the mountains of clothes.
"What does she look like?"
The question caught me off guard. "What?"
"Her hair. Her eyes. Her skin," he drawled condescendingly. "What colors are they?"
"Oh. Well…" I tried to picture Anya in my mind; sadly, the feat was too easily accomplished. "She has red hair, but not really red, more of a copper color actually, with these really pretty red undertones, but when she stands in the sun her hair has a golden tint to it, you know?"
I was on a roll. "And her skin isn't unnaturally pale like some girls. She actually is quite tan, with these cute little freckles on the bridge of her nose, and she doesn't have any blemishes or scars or anything."
Why were my arms suddenly so heavy? Was the guy staring at me? Did I care? How come I couldn't get my heart to slow down?
"And her eyes… Her eyes are the color of the winter sky over Paris, or the water that rushes over rocks and pebbles in a river. Or snow-covered hydrangeas. Have you ever seen a hydrangea? And she has flecks of silver in her eyes, like coins in a fountain, like the ones they have in Italy. Now that I've ever actually been to Italy but—"
Suddenly I was choking on velvet and the little man was shooting daggers at me. "Please, stop talking," he groaned. "Go be lovesick puppy somewhere else, not my dress-shop."
"Lovesick puppy!" I shouted, although, because of the wad of fabric in my mouth, it actually sounded like, "Wuvthick puffy!"
"Yes," he continued, tossing a dress at me. "They don't babble that much in film."
Spitting out the velvet, I was about to retort when he threw another dress at my face. Now I noticed that practically a whole rack of dresses had been unloaded into my arms, which explained why they were so heavy.
"Don't speak anymore," the man called over his shoulder as he walked toward the back of the store. "Look through those dresses. Find me when you are done."
Sticking my tongue out at his retreating backside, I flipped through the dresses quickly, nothing jumping out at me. In fact, I didn't particularly like any of them. Anya just wouldn't… she wouldn't look her best in any of them. If he was so great, why couldn't the guy find a dress that would fit Anya, body and soul?
Eventually I dumped all of the dresses on a counter, frustrated and ready to tell Anya it was okay for her to wear trousers. That was when I remembered the scrap of paper still stuck between my fingers.
Holding the paper an inch from my nose, I read Anya's neat, tiny script on the back of the slip:
I like blue.
I am so pathetic. I think my heart skipped a beat when I read her little message. She had even addressed me by name—initial, actually, but close enough.
Need I reiterate?
Blue. She liked blue. You'd never know it based on that tattered, mustard-colored potato sack she wore. But now I knew it. I glanced at the pile of dresses I'd dumped—not a single blue dress among them. Some dressmaker this guy was.
So I started looking around. Now that I'd been in there for a while, I was starting to get used to the atmosphere—not that that's a comforting thought. I dragged my fingertips along the racks, feeling every dress out of sheer curiosity. I plucked at the embroidery and measured the length of the hem with my arm, but mostly I was bored and tired, and not ready to face either Vlad or Anya.
Just as I was about to choke down my pride and ask the little rude man for help, a flutter of blue drew my eye. I turned and saw a triangle of blue peeking out between a pink mess and a grasshopper-green jumper-thing. Walking over, I slid the fabric between my fingers. It was so soft and smooth to the touch it was like I was holding water, and it was the same shade as Anya's eyes. Gingerly, I unhooked the hanger and held it up.
Blue, so blue, like the ocean in Dover, or polished sapphires in a Romanov's crown, or the sky on an absolutely clear day. The collar was a soft, rounded U-shape, rectangles of white, lacey cotton comprising the cuffs on the sleeves and shiny black buttons studding the bodice. When I held it up against my chest, the hem brushed a couple inches below my knees; which, knowing Anya was three inches shorter than I was, meant it would hit her in the middle of her calves. A perfect summer dress, I thought.
"If dress was to be for you, you should have said something. Your shoulders would tear that one to pieces."
I jumped six inches in the air, turned, instantly deflated and turned bright red when I saw the obnoxious dress-shop man.
He tapped his chin. "And it's not your color. Red, that is your color."
"I hate red. And it's not for me, it's for my friend." I looked down at my feet, shamefaced. "She… likes blue."
I nodded. Then, realizing that I was acting embarrassed in front of this crackpot, I bristled, straightened, and demanded the price.
The man raised his eyebrows. "For that? Em…" He reached out and touched the dress. "For this, seven hundred reichsmarks."
I nodded. "I'll take it."
The man's jaw literally dropped in what I assumed to be shock. "You will?" he squeaked.
"Of course," I replied. "It's blue. That's all I want. I'll take it."
I love being me. The man was so completely in shock he didn't say a single word as I handed over the money and he stuck the dress in a paper bag. Can't say that I wasn't a little proud of myself.
"Thank you sir," I said, giving the man a sweeping bow. He made no move to reply, but I didn't really want him to. With my packages under one arm and the dress bag in the other, I strode out the door with my chin held high.
I quickly returned to the little inn we were staying at and managed to avoid seeing Anya, which was definitely in my favor because if I had run into her, I might've died of embarrassment.
"How did it go?" Vlad asked me as I dumped everything onto the bed.
I shrugged and chucked the dress bag at him. "Eh, fine I guess."
A/N: I don't know how a German person would speak English (but that Dimitri probably didn't speak English because he was Russian), and I think the reichsmark was the currency in 1926, and I also don't know if 700 of them is reasonable or not. Eh, it's supposed to be funny. Hope you laughed!