Charity / Short Stories / The Red Dress

The Red Dress – Chapter 1 – Catherine

Chapter 1 – Catherine

Catherine loaded the sale page in her browser for the third time that day. No matter how many times she sorted the results by ‘Low to high’ she knew that the likelihood of the store having added new items to the listings within the last 45 minutes was slim. With the company birthday party merely weeks away, she knew that time was running out to find the perfect dress. She needed something show stopping and she knew her eye kept being drawn to the colour red. “Is it too much?” she thought to herself, “red is a bit eye catching for a newbie. Perhaps I should go for black instead”. She chastised herself for chickening out of something she hadn’t even started yet. She always did that; always on the periphery, never in the limelight. “Because playing the wall flower always gets the guy” she thought sarcastically, frustrated with herself for being seemingly unable to break this ingrained pattern of behaviour.

She scrolled the listing once again, knowing that even the lowest price dresses were way out of her price range, and the eye catching stuff started at an eye watering price, it would take her months to pay off her credit card and she had flights home to afford, let alone rent to pay. “That’s the problem with these media types” she mused with a silent shake of the head “you had to have the right label.”

Frustrated, she closed her laptop and lay back on the bed to consider her position. She reasoned that she had four weeks. That was three weeks worth of internet browsing, sale scouring and eBay searching with one week’s postage to allow for delays and a poor Royal Mail delivery service. She also reckoned she had two free Saturdays in the run up to the do. Grabbing her phone, she blocked them both out in her calendar with the dreaded words ‘high street shopping’ and shuddered. She prayed that Net-A-Porter would suddenly go out of business before next Friday and have a mass, online closing down sale with an early bird VIP login for people living in Islington whose name began with C.

She had started working at Naked Media only 5 months ago after applying for the job of ‘Junior PR Executive’ on a whim. Up until being offered the job, completely out of the blue, she had worked for a small family owned media and advertising agency in Leeds whose biggest contract was with the Halifax Courier. She liked her job, and loved the people she worked for, but found Leeds to be a stiflingly small town, given that most of the people she had liked to spend time with had left for university courses several years earlier and subsequently settled down in their respective university cities. It didn’t help that, being the account executive for the Courier, she saw pretty much all the news from her home town of Halifax thanks to her daily complimentary copy, and then had to ‘deliver the latest scoop’ to her parents every evening when she got in from work. She had tried to reason with them, repeatedly, that her role didn’t mean that she actually worked for the paper, or got to see the stories before they did, but their persistence  was dogged, and probably explained how she had ended up an only child after 9 years of trying and 2 rounds of IVF.

Late one evening, she had applied on Monster for a couple of jobs down in London without any real intention of attending interviews, if she was even called. She simply needed something to take the edge off the stagnation that descended every time she wearily closed the door to her childhood bedroom after enduring yet another episode of Coronation Street. To her amazement, she was called for an interview 2 weeks later and, not wanting to worry her parents, booked a 3 day weekend in London under the ruse of seeing Sarah, her oldest school friend, who had attended the London School of Economics and managed to gain a first in Social Anthropology whilst having an incredible time hobnobbing with city types. Catherine didn’t call Sarah. Instead, she booked in to a hotel in Harringay and fed her parents a bullshit itinerary of brunches, pub lunches and happy hour cocktails. After that lot she figured they wouldn’t question it too heavily if she was hazy on the actual details of her weekend with Sarah…

The problems started when she returned home. The interview was late on the Friday so she was able to get the 9:30 flight to Heathrow, flying back at 17:30 on the Sunday. The interview had gone well, too well in fact. A couple of days later, a letter arrived in the post confirming, to her delight and dismay, that she had got the job.

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