The Perfect Dress Page 1

Author: Carolyn Brown

Genres: Romance , Fiction

Chapter One

Men! Can’t live with ’em, and if we shot ’em all, we’d be out of business,” Mitzi grumbled as she entered through the back door of the custom wedding-dress shop that she owned with her friends Jody and Paula.

“Ain’t it the truth.” Jody adjusted her beaded headband and filled three cups with herbal tea. She threw her long blonde braids over her shoulder. “Some days I could poison Lyle.”

“And yet if anyone else even mentioned that, you’d burn them at the stake.” Paula picked up a cup of tea and carried it to the table. She’d gotten her dark hair and dark eyes from her Texan mother, but all the superstition came straight from her Louisianan father. She waved a hand over the cup three times before she tasted it. At thirty-five, she’d never been married—but then technically, neither had any one of them. Jody had lived with Lyle since they’d graduated from high school, but they rejected the tradition of a marriage license.

Jody’s brown eyes flashed. “Oh, honey, I wouldn’t waste gasoline or wood to burn anyone. I grow my own food, remember? I’d poison the tomatoes, and it would look like whoever bad-mouthed my boyfriend had had a heart attack. And you don’t have to do that with your tea. I wouldn’t dream of poisoning you.”

At almost six feet tall and fitting into size-eighteen jeans, Mitzi had learned to be comfortable in her skin but not until she was an adult. Before that she’d endured lots of bullying about her size. Of course today it came rushing back, all over a wisecrack a man had made in the tiny little pastry shop on Main Street in Celeste, Texas.

“Dammit!” she swore. “I forgot to bring in the doughnuts. I’ll be right back.”

Someone must’ve forgotten to inform the people who made calendars that in East Texas, hot weather didn’t wait until the last days of June. The official first day of summer was still three weeks away, but this day—in May—the weatherman said it would reach three digits. Mitzi’s dad had joked that he’d already seen a few lizards carrying canteens.

Sweat beads had formed on Mitzi’s upper lip by the time she returned. She set the box on the table and grabbed a paper towel to dab at her face. But before she could get the job done, her maternal grandmother, Fanny Lou, slipped in through the back door. Mitzi’s dad had bought the house for them to put their business in, but Fanny Lou had given them the seed money for fabrics, new sewing machines, and the separate air-conditioning unit for the dressing room. She refused to be called a partner, but she loved to drop in at any old time. Not that Mitzi minded. After being away for so many years, she loved to have her grandmother around, no matter what time of day it was.

Fanny Lou wasn’t quite as tall as Mitzi, unless she was wearing her cowboy boots. Her bright-red hair sat on top of her head in a messy bun that looked somewhat like she’d stuck her finger in a light socket. Set in a bed of wrinkles, her bright-blue eyes always twinkled behind wire-rimmed glasses. On this day she was dressed in bib overalls, a faded red T-shirt, and her signature boots. She set a paper bag filled with tomatoes and cucumbers on the table.

“Hotter’n the devil’s pitchfork out there. I brought y’all some stuff from my neighbor’s garden. Lord knows I can’t eat all that and if I could, I wouldn’t. Old women like me don’t have to eat their vegetables. They can eat doughnuts when they want.” She sniffed the air. “I smell something wonderful.”

“Orange spice tea or coffee. We’ve got both made. Which one?” Mitzi asked.

“Thanks, darlin’. I’m not much for tea, but coffee sounds wonderful.” Fanny Lou picked up a doughnut and bit into it. “God, this is good. Now what’s put a frown on your face, Mitzi?”

“Yeah, somebody’s got her panties in a twist this morning.” Jody had always been a bit chubby and short, barely coming up to Mitzi’s shoulder, but after high school she’d lost weight. Now her faded jeans hung on her frame.

“It was some stupid guy who was in line at the pastry shop. He was talking to his buddy over in the next aisle about some woman he’d taken out over the weekend. He said there were advantages to dating a fat girl. They provided shade in the summer and warmth in the winter.” Mitzi carried two cups of tea to the table and went back to pour her grandmother’s coffee.

“What did you do?” Paula asked.

“I hope you snatched him baldheaded and then slapped the thunder out of him for not having any hair,” Fanny Lou said.

“I glared at them until they looked up at me. As cocky as they were, I’m pretty sure they were infected with short-man’s disease, because it didn’t take them long to get their order and get out of there. They didn’t look familiar,” Mitzi said, “but they’ll be telling tales tomorrow about the big red-haired Amazon who threatened to whip them with one arm tied around her back.”

“And with egos like they’ve got, they’ll say that they left you bleeding on the floor right beside the cinnamon bun display,” Paula laughed. “You should’ve at least put a curse on them. I’ve given you enough through all the years that you could’ve picked out one that was appropriate.”

Mitzi pushed her tea to one side and poured herself a cup of coffee. She dipped a doughnut into the mug, not caring that crumbs fell back into it. “Oh, come on, Paula. Last time I got mad at someone, you said to never put a bad gris-gris on anyone, because what goes around comes around.”

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