Chapter 21 - New Clothes
After lunch, Mr M called me over to his computer. “New clothes,” he announced… and I was pretty excited as I rolled my work chair over and sat down next to him.
But my heart basically did this droopy type thing when I saw that he had another of those gingham dresses on the screen. I mean… they were better than running around starkers, I guess, but they basically made me feel as if I was about seven years old!
“Of course, the easiest thing would be to just get another one of these in a larger size…” he began but then he did one of his silence things and met my eye for a moment. There was a little bit of eyebrow work going on too and I sort of let myself hope that… just maybe… he might basically be sort of teasing me… or maybe kind of threatening me…
And at last his face broke into this bit of a grin… “But I thought we might be able to find something a bit more fun for you to wear!” he said.
And, with that not particularly subtle… like… threat hanging over me, he had no difficulty letting me know what he was going to let me get… the kind of stuff that a loved, cherished and basically content twelve year old girl would wear, I guess.
Of course my inner Ro liked to think she basically hated those sort of pretty, girly type clothes. She’d sort of managed to convince herself that she liked the borderline punk type stuff that I had to wear when I was that old. I mean… it wasn’t as if I had a whole lot of choice; there just wasn’t anything in the churn on my bedroom floor that wasn’t torn, stained or just plain smelly.
But I guess that… sort of deep down inside, I was kind of a bit… well… curious about the idea of wearing that sort of stuff… I mean… would it make me feel any different… maybe do something about my whole self confidence thing…
And anyway, I didn’t have a whole lot of choice here either… it was that or another one of those totally delightful gingham dresses!
So, a while later, we had put together this impressive sort of a shopping basket. There was a pair of jeans with cartoon flowers embroidered onto the back pockets and down one leg. Then we found a pack of three t-shirts in these gentle pastel colours with a couple of packs of socks that perfectly matched them. There was a pair of fun baggy shorts with pictures of colourful hummingbirds on them and a pair of shiny white trainers. I managed to persuade Mr M to buy a pack of three pairs of neon socks for me in yellow, green and pink - I’d sort of always wanted some but I could never afford any, of course.
But he did make me promise that I would never wear a matching pair!
I kind of steered him over to a pair of stripy leggings and then he steered me back towards a slightly smarter blouse. And then he found this totally wonderful sweatshirt with a cartoon picture of a wet and bedraggled looking cat on it which had us both laughing - he said that I looked just like that on the evening when we had first met!
And the prices… I sort of flinched every time he clicked another thing into our basket. I mean… I didn’t recognise the brand names… but, then again, I wouldn’t… but even I could sort of tell that this was quality stuff he was buying for me.
Then he clicked up this posh looking long, flowing, flowery sort of a dress. In a way, I sort of liked the look of it but it just didn’t feel right for me.
Of course he didn’t take long to notice my reaction. He never did. He’s sort of… like… totally annoying like that. “Tell me what you’re thinking please, Babygirl,” he said.
I had to have a bit of a think before I could answer but Mr M was never going to get stressed out by that. “I have this sort of feeling that it’s much too smart and stylish for a person like me,” I managed to explain at last.
“Thank you for telling me the truth, Babygirl,” he said, leaning across and giving me a kiss, “Even though we both know that I don’t like it when you degrogate yourself in that manner, I still appreciate the fact that you told me.”
Of course I gave him my familiar confused puppy look.
“I don’t like it when you put yourself down like that,” he explained with another gentle kiss. Then he met my eye and said, “You are just as entitled to look ‘smart and stylish’ as anyone else in the world.”
His words sent this little buzz of warmth through me. I mean… I knew he would never lie to me but, deep down inside, I still found it a bit tricky to really believe it…
But, somehow, every time he said that sort of lovely thing to me, I basically found the whole sort of idea a little bit easier to accept.
That’s the kind of man he is.
“So you’re telling me I have to wear it?” I asked.
“I would like to think the days are past when I’m going to tell you what you have to wear… although I do reserve the right to do so and I could easily imagine situations in which I might wish to give you some very clear guidelines…” He gave me a couple of seconds to get my head round the idea but then he went on, “However, I think it would look really good on you and I would love to see you wearing it.”
I thought about it for a few seconds and then gave him a smile and a nod. If that’s what he wanted, I guess I could give it a go. I mean… it was hardly a whole heap of trouble… and it would make him happy!
Of course, as he clicked it into our basket, he passed me his pad of sticky notes and a pen and I had to write the word ‘derogate’ on it… another one for my vocabulary book!
That’s the kind of man he is too!
Then I had to do a bit of a squirmy type thing as he clicked his way onto the underwear department.
He looked across to me to get my agreement before clicking a couple of packs of smart but sensible knickers into our bulging basket - and we both agreed that plain white was the way to go - and then, without even asking me, he added a couple of simple vests.
I was about to tell him that I never wore the things but I was kind of distracted by what I knew was coming next. “You’re not going to let me get embarrassed about this, are you?” I asked when he started clicking towards the teenage bra page.
“What do you think?”
“I think you’re mean and cwuel and nasty and howible,” I said, sort of channeling my inner five year old. I knew he’d let me get away with that sort of thing as long as I made him laugh. “Or at least I would if you hadn’t just spent about ten times more on clothes for me than… well more than has been spent in my whole life!”
“Where did you used to get your clothes from?” he asked in this tone that wasn’t quite as… like… laid back as it sounded. He kept doing that to me… sort of casually inviting me to open up to him about the stuff from my past that was still giving me grief.
And, of course, the whole clothes thing was one of the real biggies.
“Second hand shops; filtched from charity collection boxes; and the occasional hand-me-down from neighbours who thought they were being nice,” I answered, doing my best not to get too worked up about the whole thing. A long time ago, I had decided that I was never going to let the whole ‘dressing like a bag lady’ thing get to me.
But I still had to blink back the treacherous tears that were trying to form at the corners of my eyes.
“That must have made your school life… interesting,” he observed. “I mean, kids are so famously… understanding about that sort of thing.”
And that was just too much for me. I mean… Ro just didn’t have any choice… she basically had to… like… toughen herself up so no amount of scorn or ridicule could get under her skin… but his whole love, sympathy and… well… total understanding thing just basically broke me. I tried to look away but of course he was never going to let me get away with that. And, as I started to sob out… like… ten years of bottled up hurt, he hauled me onto his lap and snuggled me tight.
“I’m sorry,” I said as that first violent wave of tears started to relent. “It’s just…”
“Hush, Babygirl,” he whispered as he carried on… like… totally squidging me. “There is certainly no need to apologise… there’s not even any need to explain. I completely understand.”
A fresh wave of tears washed over me as scene after scene kind of flashed before my eyes: never having the right uniform or the right sports stuff… always knowing people were sort of laughing at me… never being able to go to the other kids birthday parties or that sort of thing… just… like… never fitting in.
And Mr M held me close, rubbing my back and kissing me on top of my head as I tried to basically bury myself in his shoulder.
I must have sort of fallen asleep or something for a bit and, when I looked up, he was busy clicking again…
And I was all kind of… like… Wow!
On the screen was basically the most beautiful dress that I had ever seen: all kind of long and black and elegant with these metallic blue kind of flashes which would sort of perfectly match the highlights in my hair. It was the sort of thing that the girls in my class… the ones who let themselves dream about that sort of stuff… would have dreamt of wearing.
“You can’t,” I gasped in shock when I saw the price. “It’s way too expensive.”
“Quote rule three, Babygirl!”
“The girl will comport herself at all times with graceful submission to the will of her master.”
“Correct. And your master wills this… so shut up and comport!” He gave me a bit of a smile to tell me he wasn’t being… like… properly grumpy!
“But I’ll never get a chance to wear it.”
“We shall take appropriate steps to make that chance,” he said, clicking it into our shopping basket. A couple of seconds later, a matching pair of court shoes with a little bit of a heel on them followed.
And that was that!