Ruth Holloway

My name is Ruth Holloway from Northern Ireland. I have been writing short stories since I was a little girl, now I’m 37 and still writing them. I am also interested in art and have done several courses in Fine Art. I also have a passion for animals and am particularly fond of the pangolin; the world’s most trafficked animal. I also like fashion and anything creative. I have always wanted to be a writer and I am inspired by the paranormal, true crime, urban legends, horror movies, strange creatures to name a few. Keeping the reader on the edge of their seat is what I try and do with my stories and I hope I inspire other writers.

The Perfect Wedding Dress

The Laughing Cafe was packed as always but Cara and I always came here every Tuesday. It would be the last time I met her as a single woman. The waitresses were run of their feet and I could smell an aroma of freshly made coffee and stale sweat.

“I can’t afford to get married” I told my friend Cara

“Sure, you can” she assures me “if you need to get something second hand there’s no shame in that, something borrowed, something blue as they say”

Cara could always make a positive out of a negative that’s what I loved about her. Mike was perfect but I was between jobs and I simply couldn’t afford a new dress at the minute.

“Let’s go to that second-hand boutique in James street” she says.

So, after lunch at the café we headed towards it.

In the window was a wedding dress it had a sheer layer of embroidered crosses and a silk train at the bottom, it was cream coloured with a high neckline and short sleeves. I thought it was the most beautiful dress I’d ever seen.

“That’s the one” I tell Cara

“Steady on we haven’t even gotten inside yet”

But I knew it in my heart that this dress was the one I wanted to be wearing when I met Mike at the end of the aisle.

“Besides isn’t it a little old fashioned” she added.

I didn’t think a bride needed to show a lot of skin in her wedding gown, but I didn’t want to argue with my best friend.

We went inside and the lady at the counter had short white hair and rounded glasses. She could see the glow on my face as I kept looking back at the dress in the window.

“Would you like to try it on?” she asks.

“Hmm?”

“The dress you keep looking at, you could try it on”

My face was radiant as I nodded.

The lady lifted it out of the window and showed me to the changing room at the back. It had a pink curtain for privacy. She hung it up inside the changing room on the hook and I went inside. There was a long mirror on the inside wall.

Cara stood outside “if you need any help getting it on give me a shout”

I slipped of my shoes, then trousers and put the dress on over my legs, it glided on as if by magic, there was no struggle to get it over my hips. I slipped of my t-shirt and it went over my shoulders with ease. The zip at the back went up smoothly without a hitch. It was as if this dress knew it was meant for me. I looked in the mirror and gasped, I looked beautiful. The embroidered crosses looked like silver stars as the light above the changing room shone down on it. I was in love. Just as I was going to show Cara however, I noticed a little spider web at the bottom. I bent down to brush it off and as I got up again, I looked in the mirror and there was a black widow spider crawling up my shoulder and I screamed.

Cara pulled back the curtain immediately but a second later I looked in the mirror again and the spider was gone. I looked at my back then my front in the mirror and on the changing room floor, but I could see no sign of it.

“What’s the matter?” Cara asks her face pinched at her mouth.

“Nothing, I must have imagined it” I say, it was the only explanation as the spider was too big to just simply disappear.

Cara looks at me and smiles “well you are right; it is perfect for you”

I do a twirl and I see the old lady’s eyes light up as I step out of the changing room.

“Ooo” she holds her hand up to her mouth and I feel like she is my proud grandmother.

“I’ve never seen a more perfect match”

“I’ll take it” I say.

It was a hundred and fifty which was cheap compared to the thousands a new dress would cost, and this one was special, unique. It must have been up in an attic or in storage and that’s probably where the spider’s web came from, I shook of the hallucination I saw of the spider. But I was wrong to ignore this bad omen. It just seemed so perfect. Almost too perfect.

The day of the wedding arrived, and I had butterflies in my tummy. My mother had given me the gift of a gold bible and I laid my hand on top and swore to love Mike forever. I had never been surer of anything, like the dress Mike was perfect. Cara was by my side and I was in happy tears, she reached me a Kleenex hankie and I wiped around my eyes. My makeup wasn’t on yet and I had yet to put on my dress. I was still in my dressing gown and slippers. I knew that everything was going to be great from now on, but nerves were still making me shaky, so I let Cara zip me up in my dress after I had my make up and hair done.

I looked in the mirror. My blonde hair was in a bun with some strands falling around my face and the silver tiara matched the tiny, embroidered crosses on my dress. I beamed with joy as I twirled around it in and then I saw her in the mirror. It was my reflection, but it wasn’t me. She had long brown hair and rose red lips, her face was an angry scowl. I screamed then the mirage disappeared, and my shocked reflection stared back at me.

Cara was by my side “what on earth is wrong?”

I shake my head “nothing” I insist but I don’t convince her.

We get to the church on time and it’s a small country church with stained glass windows. The pews are divided down the middle and a long red carpet is along the aisle. As I look down at the red carpet, Cara putting the veil over my head, I see a pool of blood below my feet. This time I don’t scream, it’s just an hallucination I tell myself, the nerves inside are unhinging my mental state. I walk on towards Mike grabbing tighter onto my dad’s arm.  Mike looks so handsome in his black suit and tie. The chandelier above us shines down on me and I see a halo almost over Mike’s head. It gives me the willpower to keep walking. The carpet is back to simply being a carpet and I arrive at the end of the aisle with Mike. My dad kisses me on the cheek and then sits on the front pew. Cara steps to the side and sits down on the other side of the front pews.

We say our vows as wedding rings are exchanged and I see no further hallucinations, my heart rate slows down, and the nerves vanish as Mike kisses me. We are husband and wife.

The buffet is at the Portmouth Hotel. It has a beautiful garden with roses of every colour and a gazebo, we are going to have photographs taken there before the reception. We arrive early.

We wait in the lobby and it also has a red carpet and wallpaper with roses on it. We are offered a wine glass with some red wine as we wait for the photographer.

“Let’s wait in the gardens” I tell Mike anxious to have a romantic walk together. Cara wants to come too, and I feel a flare of anger inside because I want it to be just me and Mike. I didn’t say anything to her, and we went out to the gazebo. I could smell the sweet sickly smell of the roses as we walked around the garden, birds chirping like a romantic serenade. Cara stops by the pink roses and smells them, and I lead Mike towards the gazebo. It is made of wood with roses growing around inside the structure. I grab him for a kiss and get caught up in the magic of it all. Then Cara appears and takes a photo. I feel another flare of anger inside. Its not like me and I don’t where its coming from, but I don’t want Mike anywhere near her. She jokes with Mike as she takes a photo on her compact camera and I resent her for spoiling the moment.

The photographer soon arrives, he is tall with narrow glasses and very fast at taking pictures. Cara is in most of them and again this annoys me.

The other guests start arriving for the reception and we gather in the lobby.

Mike shakes hands with the men and hugs and kisses the cheek of the females in their splendorous hats and dresses. I feel envious every time I see him with a female. I want to scratch at them and push them away from him. I am not a jealous person and it worries me about these violent feelings I’m having, and I excuse myself to the bathroom.

We are to stay in this hotel for tonight and then we head of to Spain in the morning. I check myself into our room to change out of my dress and then decide I want to stay in my dress. I look in the big mirror on the dresser of our room and for a minute I see her again. The brown-haired woman with a scowl on her face. I hear her whisper in my ear

“Kill him”

I shake it of as my imagination and close my eyes, when I open them again her reflection is gone. I lay down on the soft bed with white sheets and sink my head into the pillow. I will just rest a minute, I think.

I hear bangs on the room door

“Lucie you in there? Everyone is waiting for you” its Cara’s voice and I feel irked by her interruption. I was drifting of into dreamland and in a deep slumber I was now awakened from.

I open the door with a frown on my face “can’t a bride have her own space” I yap at her.

She looks taken aback but I’m not finished “you were all over Mike in the gardens. Wouldn’t leave us alone. You want him don’t you?”

“Lucie what are you talking about? What’s gotten into you?”

I feel different, like I am a different person and I cannot explain that to her. I go down to the reception and the first thing I see is Mike whispering into a girl’s ear, I think it is one of the waiting staff and when he sees me his eyes light up. I am furious and fling myself at the girl, I rip of her white apron and tell her in no uncertain terms to ‘get away from my husband’

Mike stands back in shock at my outburst and everyone waiting at the tables stares at me.

I sit on the front table beside Mike on one side and Cara on the other.

“Are you feeling alright?” Cara asks me.

I nod. I don’t know what has come over me either.

“I thought you were changing out of your dress” Mike whispers to me.

This fills me with rage “what’s wrong with my dress, don’t you like it?”

“You look so beautiful”

“Then why are you flirting with anything in a skirt” I snap back

“What?”

We sit in silence then and people start heading towards the buffet. We are supposed to go first but we are sitting here awkwardly, and people anxiously head for the food.

“Come on” cara says “lets tuck in”

And she gets up to head to the buffet table but me and Mike stay seated.

“Tell me what’s wrong?” his hand is stroking my shoulder and I flinch and brush it off.

“Nothing, I just want your attention on me, not on everyone” I snap.

He puts his left hand over my right “my attention is all yours” his blue eyes are sincere, and I snap back to my normal self

“I’m sorry I don’t know what got into me” I tell him “I keep seeing things, I keep seeing her.”

He looks concerned “do you want me to call a doctor?”

I shake my head “I’m fine, I am just nervous”

He points to the full up wine glass in front of me “perhaps some wine can settle your nerves”

I lift it to my mouth and for a minute I see blood inside, I drop it and it smashes, pieces of glass shattering to the floor.

“Shit” Mike says and bends down and tries to pick up pieces of glass, but the waiting staff saw what happened and a girl appears with a pan and brush and cleans it up

“I’ll get you another glass” she says and scampers of again.

“I think I need to go lie down” I tell him.

Cara comes back from the buffet table and sees my face white as a sheet.

“Lucie’s not feeling well do you mind taking over for a bit, I need to take her upstairs”

“Sure”

He carries me then as he goes up the stairs and I see it not as it is but as it was, wooden creaky steps. Inside the room there is no light above, there are candles in golden candle sticks. The bed has a wooden post around it. He lays me down on the bed and I feel myself sinking of into a deep sleep again.

When I wake up Mike is gone, and Cara is sitting holding my hand.

“Lucie” she says gladness in her voice to see me awake.

I sit up and again I feel much different.

Mike appears from the bathroom with a towel, he must have had a shower and I see Cara in a revealing nightie and robe.

“What have you two been doing?” I yell.

Cara blinks and then stares at me; she is back in her pink bridesmaid dress. The hallucinations again. I get up and go the mirror, the room is as same as before and I see the light shade again. But its not me in the mirror, its her.

“Look under the pillow” she whispers to me.

I go back to the bed and lift the pillows; a loose feather falls to the carpet. The carpet is red here too. And I see a knife under the pillow.

“Kill him” I hear her tell me.

I clutch the knife in my hand.

Cara screams as I walk towards Mike with it.

He grabs my hand, forces me to drop the knife.

Then he holds me. And I know why this is happening now. It’s the dress. Ever since I put it on, I have become changed.

I go to the bathroom and I zip it off. Instantly I feel different, I feel like me again. I look in the mirror and I see my blonde hair. She’s gone.

Mike isn’t even angry, and he doesn’t even ask what it wrong. He has laid out my red cocktail dress on the bed and I put it on and he zips it up.

“Let’s forget this happened”

I take the knife into the bathroom and the dress on the floor and I hack at it till the material rips and the stitching comes loose. I continue until its just fabric scraps on the floor, viciously tearing it to pieces.

Then I start crying. I nearly killed my husband. Whoever owned that dress was now an angry entity and I had to find out who she was. I would investigate it once we came back from our honeymoon. But for now, our guests are waiting.

We never spoke of the incident again. I was thankful that Mike seemed to have forgotten all about it.  But as soon as we got back from Spain, I went to the library the next day. I wasn’t sure what I was looking for, but I felt almost like a sixth sense that I would find answers.

I was shown to the microfilm and I asked to see any newspaper articles that were about brides, I wasn’t sure what I was looking for, brides who murdered their husband’s I told the short stout librarian. She raised her eyebrows but then she put in a film and pointed to an article.

“It happened fifty years ago here. I knew her, she was my friend. She adored her husband. Something dark came over her, and I know now what it is” she says and left me to it.

“Tragic wedding night murder” the article read. It then went on to say a young bride Samantha Dennis had killed her husband by striking him on the head with a candlestick after seeing him flirt with the bridesmaid. It showed a picture of her face. The same face I saw in the mirror I would not mistake her scowl or the dress she was wearing, it was the same one I wore on my own wedding day. I had confirmation that I had not acted as myself on my wedding day but as the vengeful ghost of Samantha Dennis. When I looked back at the first time I tried on the dress, that black widow spider, it all made sense but I had chosen to ignore the warnings, the bad omens, hoping for the perfect day as any bride would. But I wouldn’t ignore those things in the future. I wouldn’t go against my gut. It was lucky I had ripped that wedding dress to shreds so no bride would face the same fate.

“Its simply the most beautiful dress I’ve seen” Dolly said to her mother. The dress had tiny silver crosses embroidered over a sheer layer, it had a long silk train and short sleeves, she didn’t mind the high neckline.

As she went inside the knowing shop lady with white hair and round glasses asked

“Would you like to try it on?”

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