WOMAN'S WEEKLY|January 25, 2022
It was just a dress – but its effect on Anne would change everything
Ginny Swart

I am from Milan, discreet yet tasteful. A designer model. That evening, I intended to cause a stir. I knew people would look at us as we came in, Anne and me, and they'd compliment her and she'd blush and protest, because she's not had many compliments lately. And as she walked through the restaurant with her husband, Martin, she'd look into his eyes and see his admiration and love for her all over again.

That's what Anne and I both thought would happen. But things turned out rather differently...

She'd seen me in Harrods' window and, as she passed, I saw her hesitate and look intently at me. Then she gave a little nod as if agreeing with herself. And walked on.

I was disappointed. I would have suited her admirably.

I am well cut, exquisitely sewn, not too showy, but definitely a party sort of dress. Cut low, but not immodest, in a gleaming ivory silk with a beaded neckline to match almost any celebration- even a wedding, if you wanted to keep it elegant and not fluffy.

And then a surprising thing happened. The door at the back of the window opened and the assistant came in and carefully removed me.

She took me to Anne, who was waiting in a little cubicle, to try me on. Apparently, I was one of a kind, and they didn't have another like me on the rails. Designed in Milan and exclusive, that's me.

I fitted her perfectly. I knew I would. She looked at our reflection, smoothing my skirt and turning this way and that.

I'll take it,' she said.

I noticed she didn't look at my rather eye-watering price tag, which told me she was either a wealthy woman, had married well. Buona fortuna, or good luck, as we Italians like to say.

Anne wasn't stunningly beautiful, as would have truly complimented my own appearance, but I warmed to her pretty face, sweet smile and gentle manner.

'This is for a special occasion, she confided to the cashier as she handed over her card. 'Our 20th wedding anniversary on Friday. My husband's taking me to a restaurant run by some famous man. It has two Michelin stars.'

'That's nice,' said the cashier, unimpressed.

I expect most of Harrods' customers dine out at places like that all the time, but for Anne this was obviously going to be pretty special.

'We hardly ever go out these days. My husband works so hard, you know. He does something in international banking and his job is stressful.

The cashier didn't bother to respond and just handed Anne her bag with a practised smile.

Twenty years with the same man? But it was already becoming clear he didn't pay her much attention. Perhaps he never commented on her appearance because I could see she had lost some confidence in how she looked.

Her greyish-blonde hair was in need of a good stylist and her make-up stopped at a dash of lipstick, quite the wrong colour for her delicate pale skin. We Italians notice things like that.

I hoped she would do something about herself before the big event.

We went home in a taxi and she was cheerfully swinging the handsome green and gold bag as she opened the front door, when a loud voice shouted, 'Anne, you're late! Where the hell have you been?'

She dropped the packet with me in it and hurried through to this man who was so rude. How discourteous. I immediately wondered why she had stayed married for 20 years to someone who speaks to her like that?

I heard her apologising for forgetting his important business dinner date, and she scooped me up and hurried upstairs.

She talked to herself as she rushed around, stripping off her clothes and kicking off her shoes.

Oh dear, where are my heels? Which earrings? No time for a shower...'

She wriggled into something black and badly cut, yanked on some high heels, gave her hair a quick brush through and she was way downstairs. I was left in the packet on the bed.

I'm ready, Martin, darling!' she called. Her husband grunted something and they left through the front door. Well, I can just imagine how that evening went!

They were back early and Anne came slowly upstairs without saying a word. I could tell she was upset, but she just sat next to me on the bed in silence, and I heard Martin's heavy steps downstairs.

'Don't wait ' up, I've got U to go back to the office. Checking the Singapore stock exchange after that latest disaster,' he called. Then the front door slammed. And he disappeared into the night.

I heard her sniffing, and guessed she was crying.

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