PART OF THE From the Shadows ISSUE
‘However, before she had a chance to use either one, suddenly and inexplicably she found herself unable to breathe.’
Dress for Death
By Diarmid MacArthur
Published by Sparsile Books
‘When the suspicious head of theft is stopped…
William Shakespeare, Love’s Labour Lost.
It wasn’t her fault—it was never her fault!
Amanda Duff held the slinky, black jump-suit in her hands and swore; life was always so fucking unfair; but it wasn’t her fault…
As always, the bitter, painful memories flooded into her mind, a subconscious mechanism that allowed her to justify her actions. It hadn’t been her fault that she had had to move primary school at the start of Primary 7. That little bitch, Thea Crowner, had deserved exactly what she got; after all, you can’t go lording it over others just because your parents had a minor lottery win. It hadn’t been her fault that she got in with the wrong crowd at high school; if she hadn’t been moved, she would still have had her friends from primary school, right? And, when her “new” crowd did drugs up the back path, it wasn’t her fault that she had developed a liking for the illicit substances on offer. It had been tactfully suggested by the School Head that she leave school early and look for a suitable college course, but that wasn’t easy, as she had very few qualifications. Of course, that hadn’t been her fault; if she’d been allowed to stay on, she was quite sure she’d have done a lot better. The college course hadn’t worked out and she had ended up bumming about for a year or two, picking up casual work in a variety of retail outlets. These jobs usually lasted for only a few months, until something (although nothing that was ever her fault) went wrong.
She screwed up her eyes as if trying to block it all out, but to no avail; here she was, nearly twenty-three, with no job, no money, no boyfriend, and still living with her long-suffering, respectable parents in a nice, respectable house in Elderslie.
It was hell.
Her parents didn’t understand her. Colin, her father barely looked at her these days; mind you, he barely looked at her mother, Christine, either! He only had time for her eighteen-year-old brother, Bruce, who seemed to be excelling at every fucking thing; school subjects, the guitar, rugby—the smarmy little shit even had a pretty, snobby little “private-school” tart in tow these days. Amanda could feel the familiar anger and resentment start to rise and she stood up, still clutching the coveted jump-suit.
But it really wasn’t her fault, she knew that. On the various (and numerous) occasions that she had been in trouble, she had often overheard her father say to her mother that it was ‘in her genes’, although she wasn’t entirely sure what he meant. Colin’s own father was still alive, a retired physiotherapist and a pillar of his church. Her mother had been orphaned at an early age and had no living relatives that Amanda knew of. But, apparently, there was ‘something in her genes’ which meant…it wasn’t her fault!
Amanda had been invited to a twenty-first birthday party that night and she hadn’t anything decent to wear. The jump-suit was thirty-four pounds and she knew only too well that her purse contained one solitary twenty-pound note. It had contained more until that little shit, Deek Barrowman, had offered her an unmissable deal on a little bag of Charlie (in return for a quick hand-job) that had used up most of her reserve. She considered her options; unfortunately, they were limited.
She could wear something from the meagre contents of her wardrobe but she immediately ruled this out; there was a particularly hot boy going to the party that she wanted to impress and the jump-suit would do just that. Her wardrobe consisted mostly of jeans, t-shirts and a few ridiculous items of clothing that her mother had bought for her—as if she’d wear any of those to a twenty-first!
She could look for something within her budget, but there wasn’t much and, anyway, the jump-suit looked fantastic on her, emphasising her lithe body and highlighting her thick, dark hair; two of the more welcome assets that she had inherited from Christine.
She could try and ‘do a runner’. She was reasonably fast on her feet but the problem was the security tag; there was no way that she could get it off in the shop and she had the suspicion that it was of the type filled with dye that would ruin the garment as soon as she tried to prise it apart.
She sighed; it was hopeless, as always. Angrily, she pulled the changing room curtain aside but, as she stepped out, a slightly dishevelled woman, wearing an ill-fitting crimson dress, rushed past and smiled at her, causing Amanda to take a step back.
‘Oh, sorry, love, just looking for this in a fourteen. Don’t you just love it when you’ve dropped a size without realising?
The woman disappeared round the corner, leaving Amanda standing shaking her head, a cynical sneer on her lips. She had been a size ten for her entire, if short, adult life and didn’t intend on getting any bigger. No, her problem was affording the fucking stuff in the first place! Shoulders slumped, she turned to follow the woman out of the changing area then, on an impulse, she turned and looked back along to the recently-vacated cubicle; although the curtain was only half-open, Amanda could see that there was a handbag, slightly agape, sitting on the bench. She allowed herself a sly smile and looked about; the two adjacent cubicles had their curtains tight shut but there was no apparent movement inside them. The woman would be a minute or so—it would take Amanda about ten seconds, then her problem would be solved!
With great stealth, she moved along the short corridor, into the cubicle and, reaching into the half-open handbag, briefly rummaged about then deftly lifted out the purse that was buried amongst the other contents of the bag, gratified to feel that it was comfortably heavy. She experienced only the briefest pang of guilt but she shook it off easily; after all, it wasn’t her fault, it was the woman’s own stupid fucking fault for leaving her bag lying unattended.
She grinned wickedly as she pocketed the purse. She’d come back for the jump-suit later and, hopefully, have a wad of cash left over to ensure that she really enjoyed the party; before she could turn, however, she was aware of a movement behind her.
Excuses flashed rapidly through her mind. She had found the purse and was putting it back; she was checking store security; the ability both to lie and to think up instant explanations were two of Amanda’s life skills. However, before she had a chance to use either one, suddenly and inexplicably she found herself unable to breathe. In desperation she grasped at the ligature that had appeared around her neck but her struggles quickly became less frenzied as a wave of darkness engulfed her; Amanda Watt’s last conscious thought was that, for perhaps the first time in her life, it really wasn’t her fault…
Dress for Death by Diarmid MacArthur is published by Sparsile Books, price £9.99
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