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Red Linen Suit

written by: Phyllis Souza

 

Amelia and her boys lived in the house. Virgie and her daughter, Patty, lived in the converted garage apartment in back.

The year was 1954.

Virgie said, "Patty if you want new clothes, you'll have to buy them yourself. Fifty-dollars a month for child support hardly pays the rent."

***

Fifteen-year-old Patty bounded along the walkway, a shopping bag swinging back and forth at her side. She'd just finished her shift as a clerk in Macy's store, and her home was about twenty minutes away. She was wearing a pair of black and white oxfords with bobby socks rolled down to her ankles that flashed white with each step.

A little out of breath and just about to open the front door of the apartment, she heard her Aunt Amelia call out, "What's in the bag?"

Amelia carried a laundry basket filled with clothes she’d just picked off the line.

"Oh, hi ... I got a new skirt and vest. Want to see?"

"Sure." Amelia set down the basket. "Show me what you bought."

Patty rummaged through layers of tissue paper, hauled out a red linen skirt and handed it to her aunt. "Hold on... Hold on... There's more. Wait till you see this." Giddy with excitement, she held up a matching button-down vest. “You think my mother will like it?"

"I'm sure she will.”

The sound of a nine-year-old Pontiac pulling into the driveway caused Amelia to pause. She glanced at the vehicle.

"Speaking of your mother, here she is."

Virgie parked and stepped from the car. She walked over to her sister and daughter. "What's going on?"

"Patty's showing me her new outfit."

Virgie grabbed the skirt. "What is this thing?" she asked, holding it up to view. "Linen! Linen is for summer, not fall. It's your father's favorite color. Red. Take it back."

"I can't take it back. I bought it on a clearance sale."

"Oh, for God's sake." Virgie tossed the skirt back.

Patty's stomach tied up in knots as she fumbled to stuff the garment in the bag.

Amelia looked at her niece, then at Virgie. "Don't be so hard on the girl. She's just a kid."

"Mind your own business. Patty needs to learn. Besides, what the hell do you know? You only have those snot-nosed boys."

Amelia glared at her sister. She picked up the basket, turned, and walked into the house, slamming the back door behind her.

Patty didn’t say a word. She hated arguments. Why does my mother have to be unkind?

Virgie opened the front door of their apartment, “Go. Get in."

Patty plodded into the converted garage. Drawing up courage, she took a deep breath and quietly asked, "Can I keep the suit? I like it."

"I like it," Virgie mocked. "Oh, keep the damn thing."

***

Three months passed. Snow lay on the ground, and Christmas lights shone in every window.

Amelia picked up ripped wrapping paper off the floor, while her boys played with their new toys.

Virgie sat at the table in the apartment slurping turkey soup.

***

In a restaurant decorated with garlands, Patty looked across the table at her father. He’s a good man. Why did my mother divorce him?

“I like your red suit.” He smiled. “Is it new?”

“Not really. I bought it a few months ago. But this is the first time I’ve worn it.”

“Red is your color. You look lovely.”

“Thank you, Dad." Patty studied the menu. This place is expensive. He must think I’m special. And… he likes my red linen suit.

Phyllis Souza

Phyllis Souza

Phyllis Souza, camera shy, lives in Northern California. She's retired from a 28-year real estate career, has two grown sons and three grandsons. She likes to write short stories and spends most of her time doing just that.
Phyllis Souza

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