When I first played dress up with Essie, we were both five. My mother had asked her father to take me back to their house for a playdate while she went out for another job interview. During that time, that seemed to be all she ever did. Neither of us minded that much in the moment, for Essie and I were too enthralled planning out our afternoon to care about what my mother was doing. The ride back to her home was fantastic, consisting of loud, gleeful voices and bouncing in our car seats. Eventually, she let me play with her long red hair, putting it into messy ‘braids’ and threading it back out again. This was just what we did. Not once did we think there was anything strange about it.

We went downstairs to her playroom, scanning the room suspiciously for spiders, moths or other creepy crawlers that could potentially kill us before entering. Toys from our last escapade still littered the floor, and our little feet had to dance around them. Beaming up at me those few extra inches, she dragged me over to her dress up clothes, bouncing on her feet. Looking at the array of beautiful dresses, my heart soared. I was definitely going to wear one.

She assisted me in slipping into the blue one, silver sparkles showering across the floor as it was tugged over my head, the multiple layers of the dress itching my skin. Giving it a twirl, we both squealed in excitement as a cloud of glitter spun off of it. The smile across my face was permanent, and it was wide enough that it almost hurt. This was too much fun. Dragging me over to the other side of the room, she pulled out her makeup kit and dabbled bits of face glitter by my eyes, smeared pink blush expertly across my dark cheeks, and dragged the tip of a purple gloss across my puckered lips. Turning to look in the mirror, I nearly danced in excitement.

The face looking back at me was beautiful. My young mind ignoring the crudity of the makeup application, all I could see was a diamond; a star. In my mind, I appeared almost like royalty. Looking back at Essie, I offered to do the same for her. Slipping her into an elegant purple dress, she let me put her hair up in a messy bun, flaming locks soft as they slipped between my fingers. Tracing her eyes with a marker to symbolize eyeliner, I sprinkled glitter all across her rosy cheeks and face. The two of us looked like royalty.

Bowing to each other with titles of ‘your majesty’ and ‘your highness,’ our elated giggles could be heard all the way upstairs. Alas, this rendered it impossible to flee when the chime of the door announced my mother’s arrival. Looking at us in our dresses, she laughed along, curtsying in our presence. That was one thing I always liked about her; she played along with our fantasies. As she was telling us to change back so she could leave, Essie’s father came down with a tired smile to greet my mother. Adults always seemed tired regardless of how often they slept, and he was no exception.

After one look at us, his eyes widened and his lips parted in shock, to which my mother made that face; the face which dared any and all adversaries to challenge her authority. I had been on the receiving end of that expression more than once, and it never ended well.

“Roberto,” she said thinly, the way she did when she really meant business. “Is there something wrong?”

Blinking a bit, he gestured toward me. Frowning, I looked down at my dress, pedantically scanning the fabric for any sign of mistreatment. Did I get a stain on it? It seemed perfectly clean, but adults were like stain finding machines.

“It’s a…”

“I know what it is,” she said, pursing her lips. “And it’s gorgeous. They look like fairies, or royals. Don’t you agree?” Her tone was dangerous, almost daring him to deny it.

Shaking his head, he coughed into his fist before forcing one of those smiles parents liked to use when they were trying to look proud but, in reality, were not. “Yes, yes. Forgive me, your highnesses. I am humbled to be in your presence,” he corrected with a curtsy. Satisfied with that, my mother rushed me out, promising to return the dress once they met up again.

I left with much more than a sparkling purple gown, though. I left with the root of a problem that would haunt me for years to come. Despite the common opinion, depression isn’t something that just happens. It’s like an animal, stalking you, getting closer and closer with every passing day before it finally pounces. By then, of course, it’s too late to run. Some people are followed by drug abuse. Others by a divorce or a death in the family. My predator?

Boys aren’t supposed to wear dresses.

 

Brianna Jenkins

Brianna Jenkins resides in Warrenton, Virginia with her parents and sister, Chrissy. She'd been an avid writer since birth and has been writing tales since she could hold a pencil. She writes personally and takes requests to practice her skills. In the future, she hopes to become a forensic pathologist.

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