Hate Notes

By: Vi Keeland & Penelope Ward

CHAPTER 1

CHARLOTTE

I wouldn’t have been caught dead in here a year ago. Don’t take that the wrong way—I’m not a snob. Growing up, my mom and I spent hours combing the racks at the secondhand store. And that was back when secondhand was called Goodwill, and the stores were predominantly in blue-collar neighborhoods. These days, used is called vintage and sold on the Upper East Side for a small fortune.

I sported “gently worn” before the gentrification of Brooklyn.

Secondhand was not my issue. My problem with used wedding dresses was the stories I imagined they carried with them.

Why are they here?

I pulled a Vera Wang sweetheart ball gown with a crisscross bodice and cascading tulle skirt from the rack. Fairy-tale expectations. Divorced after six months, I decided. A delicate lace Monique Lhuillier mermaid dress—the groom died in a horrific car accident. The devastated bride-to-never-be donated it to the church for its annual tag sale. A savvy shopper picked it up for a steal and tripled the return on her investment by reselling it.

Every used dress had a story, and mine belonged on the He turned out to be a cheating son of a bitch rack. I sighed and returned to the two women bickering at the front desk in Russian.

“It’s from next year’s collection, yes?” the taller woman with bizarre, unevenly drawn eyebrows asked.

I tried not to stare at them, but failed. “Yes. It’s from the Marchesa spring collection.”

The women had been flipping through catalogs, even though I’d told them twenty minutes ago when I walked in that the dress was from an unpublished future collection. I assumed they wanted to get an idea of the designer’s original prices.

“I don’t think you’ll find it in there yet. My future mother-in-law—” I corrected myself. “My ex–future mother-in-law is related to one of the designers or something.”

The women stared at me for a moment and then resumed bickering.

Okay, then. “I guess you need more time,” I mumbled.

Toward the back of the store, I found a rack labeled CUSTUM MADE. I smiled. Todd’s mother would’ve had a heart attack if I’d taken her to a place where the signs were misspelled. She’d been appalled when I went to look at a dress in a shop that didn’t serve her champagne while I was in the fitting room. God, I’d really been drunk on the Roth Kool-Aid and had nearly turned into one of those snooty bitches.

Running my fingertips along the custom-made gowns, I sighed. These dresses probably had even more interesting stories behind them. Eclectic brides too free-spirited for their boring boyfriends or husbands. These were strong-minded women who went against the grain, women who marched at political rallies, women who knew what they wanted.

I stopped at an A-line white dress embellished with bloodred roses. The corset bodice had red piping running along the bones. Left her banker boyfriend for the French artist next door, and this was the dress she wore when she married Pierre.

No designer dress could have possibly worked for these women, because they knew exactly what they wanted and weren’t afraid to say it. They went after their hearts’ desires. I envied them. I used to be one of them.

Deep down, I was a custum girl—misspelling intended. When had I lost my way and become a conformist? I hadn’t had the balls to admit my feelings to Todd’s mother, which was how I ended up with the fancy, boring wedding dress to begin with.

When I got to the last dress on the CUSTUM rack, I had to stop for a moment.

Feathers!

They were the most beautiful feathers I’d ever seen. And this dress wasn’t white; it was blush. This dress was everything. It was exactly what I would have picked if I could have custum-designed a dress. This wasn’t just any dress. This was THE dress. The top was strapless with a slight curve. Smaller, wispy feathers peeked out of the neckline. Lace overlay covered the entire bodice, which led to a beautiful trumpet-style skirt. And the bottom was a crescendo of feathers. This dress sang. It was magical.

One of the women up front saw me eyeing it.

“Can I try this on?”

She nodded, leading me to a dressing room in the back.

I undressed and carefully slid the dress up. Unfortunately, my dream dress was a size too small. All the stress eating I’d been doing lately had caught up with me.