It seemed like she’d spent her entire childhood up here in this attic.
Sitting on this box labeled “costumes”, staring at the sole window in the attic, Katie couldn’t help but feel like this had been her bedroom, and not her actual bedroom. She swore she’d spent way more time in this attic than her own bedroom over the years, mostly playing dress up when she was younger, but then coming up here to read or just escape the world.
Now she still played dress up, but in the theater at her college, or in short, independent films she sometimes got cast in. Not for “fun” anymore, just for “work”. But why not? When did fun turn into work, and why couldn’t work be fun? Why couldn’t she sometimes throw on a princess costume or a pirate outfit and just play pretend again? Why not right now, in fact? So she tore open a box, ripped out some stuff and then, in the bottom of the box, found the dress. Not her mothers wedding dress, no, that was in her parents closet. No, this was the dress. The prom dress. The one she’d once heard her sister describe, saying it was what she’d wear to prom in high school when they got there.
As she pulled out the prom dress and got unclothed, she felt strange. Her sister hadn’t worn this, she had, and it still felt odd on her. Zipping up the back, she glanced back down into the box and discovered that beneath the prom dress was something else…something small and…stained. Oh god. It was the other dress. The one she’d been wearing when they’d crashed. They’d kept it all these years. Oh, how lonely the attic became once it was devoid of two little girls, and only had the one. Now instead of playing dress up together up here, Katie played alone, the sound of her sisters laugh never far off. Katie started spending her time solely up in the attic after the accident, after she died, making it essentially her bedroom. She described the prom dress to their grandmother when discussing what sort of dress she’d want for the occasion, and to nobody’s surprise, their grandmother sewed it for her.
Even now, even during prom, she was still playing dress up. Different dress, different room, but still playing pretend. Katie now wondered how much of her life had been mired in the swamps of playtime, of the bowels of imagination. How much time had been spent in this very attic, escaping a reality, escaping into another reality, as another person, perhaps even a person who still had her sister. It wasn’t enough to lose her sister, now her folks were selling the house and moving to Vermont, and she was going to lose the attic as well. Memories are not physical, they don’t do justice the places the memories are made. Suddenly, a clunking sound behind her, and she spun to find Charles coming in.
“Whoa, nice dress,” he said, “Uh…you about ready to start bringing some things down to the moving truck?”
“…I think so, yeah,” Katie replied, looking back at all the costumes on the floor, “Why did you get into film?”
“I like to tell stories,” Charles said, shrugging, shoving his hands into his coat pockets, “I mean, I like trying to tell stories anyway, heh, not that it ever works out that they get produced, but hey, that’s a screenwriters curse I suppose.”
“Did you ever want to be someone else?”
“Is that why you act?”
“Would you hate me if I said I hate myself? That I want to escape me and become someone new?”
“Who doesn’t want that,” Charles replied, “But no, of course I wouldn’t hate you. I understand, I know what you’ve been through. I love you.”
Katie smiled and picked up all the stuff from the floor, plopped it back into the box, folded the box tops shut and handed it to Charles.
“This stuff going to the storage or your folks?”
“That’s going to our place,” Katie said, placing her hand on her stomach, “It’ll be put to good use.”
As Charles and Katie turned to leave the attic, Katie looked back for one last time and swore, at least for a split second, that she could hear her sisters laugh. But her sister would be proud of her now, she knew that for a fact, and so now was a new time. A time to play dress up somewhere else. Because that’s all life is, isn’t it? Pretending to be someone else. All adults are just children playing pretend. And with that, she shut the door.
I’m Maggie. If you like this thing I made, you might like some other things I make, like my depressing webcomic “In Space, No One Can Hear You Cry”, my podcast network “The Feel Bad Network” or my writing over at Medium. You can also find some published work for sale over at my Payhip.
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