Glistening with sweat, Stephanie shook her mane of thick blonde hair back and forth in time with the music. As she parted overinflated glossy lips, a flawless veneered smile flashed at the man across from her. He moved in, sliding his hands around her slim waist, whispering loudly into her ear against the noise of the club. “Babe! You look so hot in red!” He tugged playfully on the matching tie she had hanging from her neck. She moved closer, gripping his muscular shoulders gently with well manicured hands, and playfully told him to stop, then suddenly leaned in and kissed him. She reached out to pull him close to her as he slid his strong hands down along her hips. She told him that she wanted to take him home, but she needed to use the ladies room first.
Heading down a long dark corridor towards the ladies room, waves of dizziness came over her. She smoothed the skintight mini dress down and felt how damp it had gotten. The belt she had used as a neck scarf felt tight. She tugged to loosen it, but with each pull it got tighter. Gasping for air, she leaned back against a wall momentarily. Once she caught her breath, she continued down the hallway, pushed the door open, rushed into a stall as the scarf tightened yet again, making it nearly impossible to breathe. With a violent tug, she was able to loosen it, letting out an audible sigh of relief as it came undone. She held the belt in her hand and noticed that the damp dress’s dye had stained her palms a reddish brown.
One month earlier.
The young girl sews relentlessly in a pool of stitchers. Repeatedly sliding the fabric through the machine, she methodically cuts threads with small scissors. Her hands appear to belong to a much older woman. The factory floor stretches for as far as the eye can see. People hunched over machines in uniform rows. Youth, elderly, male, female; its hard to tell at a glance, because all you can see are the heads covered with the blue hair net, leaning down over the rows of sewing machines. They work fast and furiously. There is continual motion of tossing aside pieces into a bin, which are intermittently picked up and put onto a conveyor belt. The noise of the machines is a loud and steady din, making conversation impossible. A young girl, not even 12, looks up as tears stream down her plump soft cheeks. The tears are falling onto the red fabric. The teardrops merge, creating a dark stain. She drops the dress into the basket and swiftly stitches a long stretch of matching red fabric into a belt. Shyly glancing up, she makes the signal to the foreman that she needs to use the restroom. He nods and points to the far left corner of the room. As she stands up, she discreetly slips the long belt into her uniform pocket and quietly heads to the ladies bathroom, head down. Once inside, she locks the door, and throws the fabric belt over the stall, quickly creating a noose and then she does it. She had been planning this for months. Ever since she was abducted and trapped into slavery along with her sister. The beatings, the sadness, the loneliness and missing her mother. She couldn’t take it anymore and saw no way out. This was her escape.
After a few minutes passed, the foreman went to check on her, and upon opening the bathroom door, saw the girl swinging silently, the red belt around her neck, bare feet dangling, plastic broken flip flops lying beneath her in a small heap. Raging with anger, he untied her, grabbed the red silk belt, and let her body fall. A few of the factory workers had gathered in the doorway, whispering and wondering. He turned to them, and shouted angrily for them to get back to work. They quickly turned and headed back to their stations in silence. He briskly walked the aisles, and as he passed the deceased girl’s station, he picked up the red dress she had just finished, added the belt she had hanged herself with and tossed them onto the outgoing order bin. He needed to show everyone that the work goes on no matter what- nobody is important here, he shouted. Some hung their heads in defeat, others softly cried. A few nervously laughed.
Los Angeles – one month later.
A package is tossed on the landing of an apartment door, somewhere in Hollywood. The door opens and a scantily clad young woman leans down, picks it up, walks back in and nonchalantly tosses it onto a messy table where there are a couple of half empty takeout containers, piles of bills and unopened mail, along with a gossip magazine. A text comes in on her phone, followed by a barrage of notifications. She grabs her phone and a smile lights up her face. She texts her best friend, another model/actress, and excitedly talk-texts into the phone that there’s a huge party on the weekend and they have to go. All of the top tier agents will be there, it’s at a club and they will get in gratis. She sends a red dress emoji, and writes, “dress hawt!, I’ll be the lady in red. It’s gonna be fire, girl. Let’s get it!”She grabs the package off of the table, and tears it open as she heads to her cluttered bedroom, and tosses it on the bed. Clothes are strewn everywhere, and the vanity is a mess of unopened and used makeup. A ring light leans over next to it, and her laptop lays on the floor below. Next to that is a carry-on suitcase, full of crumpled apparel, lying open on the floor. She takes off her clothes and picks up the red dress from the bed. It’s tiny, but it has a lot of stretch. She pulls it up over her long legs, and it hugs all of her body perfectly. It’s micro-mini, with long sleeves and she adjusts her implants to feature them above the deep neckline. Reaching under her bed, she pulls out a pair of red stilettos, and tries them on. Modeling in front of the mirror, she pouts and poses. Then she takes the outfit off, tossing it over a chair in the corner. She makes an appointment for her nails and hair, as she pulls on a pair of sweatpants and a t-shirt, before heading out the door, phone in hand, dark shades on.
Tumbling out of the Uber, hand in hand, they make out on the way into her apartment building. He yanks her dress up and pushes her down the hall, as she fumbles with her keys and opens her door. Locking it behind them, she leads him to her bedroom, where they fall into a pile of dirty laundry on the floor and lose themselves in each other. The dress remains all the way pushed up around her shoulders. They pass out, and the guy slinks out before dawn.
She wakes up in the pile of clothes and pulls the red dress off, tossing it aside. The neck scarf is still on, and she walks into the bathroom, her hair a mess and makeup smeared. Looking in the mirror, she sees her reflection and for a moment she sees an entirely different person. She panics, wondering if she was drugged. She squeezes her eyes tightly shut and looks again. It only happens for a fleeting moment. She sees the reflection of a young asian girl, with the red tie around her neck, tears streaming down her face. She splashes water on her face, and gets in the shower, assuming she just partied too hard.
Stephanie sits drinking coffee and scrolling through her phone. A text from her friend who she went to the party with. She wants to know where that sexy dress came from. Stephanie tells her she can have it. It was good luck, she took home an A-list agent, and it’s served its purpose well. Her friend stops by to pick up the dress that day – she needs it for an upcoming photo shoot and she tells Stephanie that she will take it as is, and wash it herself.
Her friend, Julie, is in the bathroom, running water and a bit of detergent in the sink. She slowly drops the red fabric and the long belt into the suds. Swishing it around gently, she sees that the dye is starting to run, even though she used cold water and gentle soap. She carefully squeezes the dress, and the water turns a deep blood red. She is alarmed and nervous that the dress is going to lose it’s powerful red color, so she quickly turns on the faucet and lets the water drain. To her surprise and relief, the dress is as red as before, in fact it looks like a deeper crimson. She gently hangs it in the shower to dry, along with the long matching tie belt. Hearing it dripping from the other room, she goes in to see blood red splatters below on the white porcelain tub. She quickly gets the comet and cleans it, shaking her head as it stains the surface. Inspecting the dress hanging there along with the tie belt, she sees that it looks just fine, and she goes about her day.
As she packs her bag for the photo shoot, Julie lays out her outfits on her sofa. One professional suit, one white glittery monokini, a long gown and the red mini dress with its tie belt. She goes to her closet and pulls out shoes to match. A pair of black patent pumps, white stiletto sandals, and a pair of red stiletto peeptoe booties to go with the dress. She tries on each outfit, making sure the looks are perfect. The final outfit she tries is the red dress. As she pulls it on, she notices a strange odor. The dress fits her perfectly and she wraps the tie belt to accentuate her tiny waist trained middle. She flexes and loves what she sees in the full length mirror. However, the smell is so strong. She removes the belt and sniffs it, gagging at the atrocious vile odor. She texts Stephanie, and tells her, “Girl, this dress, well, I washed it, but it has a really funky odor! I think it must be the dye, cause when I washed it, it ran a lot, and now OMG I cannot. I just cannot. Gonna wash it again and maybe Febreze it cause it’s soooooo sexy!!!”
She packs the outfits into a small case, and carefully places her shoes in bags. Another bag is filled with hair and makeup items and then she adds a few random pieces of lingerie. She picks up the red dress from the bed, takes a whiff of it, and it not longer smells bad. Strange. She mists some Fabric freshener over it, and adds it to the bag, before zipping it up and heads to the door. She grabs a floppy hat and slips on her flip flops, and heads out to her garage, where she unlocks her black Tesla and gets in, puts the navigation on and lets it take her to the photo studio on the other side of town. During the entire ride she posts on social media, pouting and writing quippy notes. Smiling at the “likes” and keeping her fan base happy and intrigued. Yes, on my way to another photo shoot. Just another day in the life of ME! Come along for the ride. It’s gonna be so lit. Lemme show you behind the scenes when we get to Jorge’s studio. He shoots the hottest models, and today is gonna be Everything!”
Twirling around and posing in various positions, Julie intermittently checked the images on Jorge’s laptop, and exclaimed, “OMG they are soooo good! Upload, upload, and this one, red dress, upload to all channels!” The red dress got the most likes, the one where she was draped over an oversized studio chair, looking like a virtual doll. The shoot was over quickly and she carelessly pulled the red dress over her head and tossed it, along with the belt onto the studio floor as she pulled on her sweats and chatted with the photography assistant, who was clearly interested. She quickly tossed her wardrobe and makeup into the case, and he helped her put it in the trunk of her car before they headed off for celebratory drinks. Meanwhile, the red dress and belt lay all alone on the pristine white studio floor, appearing like a pool of blood under the dimmed lights. The cleaning lady walked into the space to clean up the leftover coffee, and snacks, when a dark shadow caught her attention from the corner of her eye. She gasped in terror, seeing what looked like a pool of blood on the floor. She grabbed her phone to FaceTime her daughter. “Giselle! Something crazy is happening here. Honey look!!!” She turned the phone to show the stain…but the flash on the phone revealed it was a dress, and with a sigh of relief, she went to pick it up. Her daughter exclaimed, “Mama! I love it. Can’t you just take it? They won’t care. Remember I told you I have to get a red dress for my performance next weekend! It’s perfect! I really want to win the scholarship, and maybe that dress will bring me luck!” Her mother sighed, as she swiftly lifted the dress and it’s matching belt and rolled it into a small ball, nervously glanced around & stuffed it into her backpack.
Giselle had been practicing her routine for months. She was in 11th grade, and her passion for dance knew no boundaries. She wanted to attend a performance arts college, but the family couldn’t afford it. This weekend completion was for a full scholarship to a prestigious arts college in NYC, including room and board. It would be a dream come true for her and her family. Nobody had ever had the opportunity to go to college, in fact barely anyone had finished high school. She was gifted and intelligent.
Friday night, she gently washed the dress and the belt, and hung it up to dry. Then she went down to the school gym to practice one last time before the weekend. While she was out, her mother went into the bathroom and saw the red dress and belt slowly swinging back and forth from the shower rod. She reached out to touch it. As she did, she heard a girl crying softly. She felt a hug around her body. Tears came to her eyes as she felt a sense of sorrow come over her. She closed her eyes and saw a young girl’s face, with the red tie around her neck. Just then, her daughter came back in. “Mama, Mama, I’m ready! I’m so excited and nervous.” The dress stopped swinging and Giselle reached over to take it into her bedroom. Her mother was quiet as she didn’t know what to make of the strange incident.
The next morning her entire family was up. The cramped apartment was a flurry of activity. Her mother was getting her younger twin brothers ready, and they were all so excited to go see her performance.
The family sat in the audience. Giselles mother nervously clenching a tissue, while the twins, pinched each other and giggled. The lights went down and the program began. There were only 5 contestants who had gotten to the finals, and Giselle was the last one. They sat through all of the varied dances and finally the curtain opened on her daughter. She was in a red small ball on the center of the stage, which slowly emerged to standing, she spun around and leapt gracefully, the red tie trailing behind her. She was mesmerizing and ethereal. A fan was blowing so that the red tie continuously trailed her in all of her spiraling motion. She went around and around, faster and faster, along with the music crescendo, until she became the vision of a beautiful red bird. She leapt higher and higher, her arms and legs extends like wings. Suddenly, she was floating, and gently lifted higher by an invisible wire, which flew her up and up, until finally she disappeared behind the curtain. The thrilled audience broke out into a grand applause, shouting “bravo” as they gave her a standing ovation. Her choreography, physical skills and choice of music were rated the highest. She collapsed backstage with exhaustion, the red dress stained with sweat. She held the belt nervously and inhaled the scent. It smelled like fresh peonies, and she closed her eyes as she anxiously waited for the final scores. At that moment, she saw a young girls face smiling at her. She felt the girl hug her and just then it was announced. She was the winner of the scholarship! All of the other contestants, although disappointed, cheered for her and clamored around her as she headed out to the stage to accept the award. She took a bow and tossed the red tie belt up in the air with sheer joy. The red ribbon bobbed, drifted, and swirled upward, higher and higher, until it vanished into thin air. The lights dimmed, as the audience roared with applause as she took her final bow.