Her Favourite Dress
By Julia Bifulco
CW: sexual coercion, lack of consent.
You text your girlfriend while she’s on the bus, asking if she wants to go out for dinner at the end of her shift. There’s a pizza place near your house and you offer to drive your girlfriend home. You don’t want her to worry about bothering her parents to come and pick her up, since she doesn’t have her license yet.
yay! i’ll try to close super quickly tonight so we can spend more time together, she responds, followed by a red heart emoji. The last bit of her text makes you cringe; you wish she wasn’t so...much. All the time. You love spending time with her, and you know she knows that, so there’s no need for a big production. What was the problem with just replying, sure, see you tonight?
You send a thumbs-up emoji and switch your phone to vibrate, placing it next to you on the wooden desk. You’ve got a lot to get done, and it has to be done today. Tomorrow you start working at your brand-new job, but it’s not technically your official first day, since you’re only being trained. You don’t know why, though—your father has basically taught you everything there is to know about the banking industry. This company is lucky to have you, but they don’t know it yet. Your training shift tomorrow means you can’t work on what’s really important to you: your Dungeons & Dragons campaign.
You’ve found a new meaning to life ever since you embarked on your journey as a Dungeon Master. Writing stories and creating adventures for your friends to enjoy together has validated you beyond belief. You have control of the worlds they live in, and you can’t get enough of it. You tried to include your girlfriend in one of your parties (the less-enthusiastic group, though; you wouldn’t want to throw off the Boisterous Band of Bros’ perfect group dynamic) but she didn’t seem too into it. It’s her loss, though. You just don’t understand why she can’t put effort into doing the things you love, especially since you spend so much time indulging in her hobbies. You don’t know how many more episodes of cheesy nineties sitcoms you can stomach.
A few hours later, your phone buzzes, and it takes a moment or two for the noise to whisk you away from the campaign you were writing. You ignore it and keep going. It’s some of your best work: up until this point, you’ve written a story that allows the party to break into and take over an elven tavern, where the leader of the group must convince the barmaids into revealing the location of the path underneath the tavern. Once they find it, they’ll be well on their way to the great reward at the end of the campaign. You’re right on the precipice of figuring out what that would be when the barrage of text message notifications pulls you out of your mythical land of Elkland and back into reality.
7:08 pm: just left the coffee shop & walking to the station!
7:13 pm: on the metro, i ran down the stairs and caught it just in time!
7:19 pm: i’m so excited to see you! i hope you’re having a good day :)
7:31 pm: a few stops away, where do i meet you?
And the latest one, whose noise finally became so annoying that you had to pick your phone up to shut it off: 7:36 pm: i’m just gonna wait at the station until you let me know, i don’t wanna bug you lol
You hastily text back, meet u outside in 5 and rush to get dressed. You’ll have to finish writing the campaign when you get back home tonight, which means you’ll be going to bed much later than you had intended. Your girlfriend’s always on your back for not getting enough sleep, but how can you when there’s so much to be done and so little time to do it? You think it’s just because she likes to project her own worries onto you—if she doesn’t feel like she’s got control over her own life, she pretends she can control yours. It’s sweet of her, but you wish she would just focus on herself. You’re an adult; you can handle yourself! This one’s on her, though; if she had just waited quietly at the station like she did every time she came over, you would have been able to wrap things up nicely and go to dinner with a clear mind and a sense of accomplishment. Now you’re going to be distracted all night, and you’ll be tired when you finally get back around to writing, and it won’t be any good. You’ll just have to be a little late for ‘training’ tomorrow, which doesn’t even matter, since there’s no way they’ll fire you on the first day.
You meet your girlfriend on the sidewalk outside your house ten minutes later. She’s grinning like she hasn’t seen you in a month (even though the two of you went on a walk together just a few days ago) and holding her arms out to wrap them around you, which you accept. You take her in: her mess of curls are tightly pulled back in a ponytail, which whips you in the face as she turns around. She’s wearing a skintight purple dress that stops right above her knees and spreads open at the chest, where cleavage would be if she had any. She’s got great legs, though, and you’ve always thought that they almost entirely made up for her flat chest. You think she looks pretty, but like she’s trying too hard to look like an adult—as though she’s a child who’s gotten into her mother’s closet. She smells like flowers, the signature scent of the same perfume she’s kept in her bag for as long as you’ve known her. She only wears it when she thinks she’ll smell bad otherwise.
“Sorry if I smell like cleaning products,” she says softly.
You smile at her, lips pressed tightly together, and shake your head. “You smell great. Let’s go,” you say, starting forward.
When you arrive at the restaurant, you sit on the edge of the terrace, overlooking the street. The waiter arrives with three menus: two for food and one for drinks. You quickly grab the list of drinks and scan it until finally landing on an ideal option. Your girlfriend, background noise to your internal monologue, is rambling about a customer that came into the café she works at and fought her over the price of a croissant. Half-listening, all you can think of is how sad it is that that has been the most interesting part of her day so far. You guess it’s up to you to add some excitement, being her boyfriend and all. The waiter returns and you order your drink of choice: a Hemingway.
“I thought you were driving,” your girlfriend says, her big eyes full of concern.
“I am,” you say. “The drink’s for you. My treat.”
She shakes her head. “Thank you, but I don’t want it. I’m tired and I haven’t eaten in a few hours, it’ll hit me too hard.”
“You’ll eat now,” you remind her with slightly more force. “And I already ordered it. Come on, you’ll like it, it’s called the Hemingway! What kind of writer are you?” You’ve read her work, poetry mostly, and it’s nothing special, but you tell people she’s got the kind of mind that only appears once in a generation. She prides herself on her writing skills, and who are you to take that away from her?
“Okay, thank you,” she says with a small smile.
The waiter messes up your girlfriend’s order. He brings out two of what you ordered, so she can’t even switch meals with you if she likes your dish better. You know she’s a notoriously picky eater, and the fact that there are toppings on her pizza that aren’t cheese is probably going to send her into a spiral, but surprisingly, she’s okay about it. She even eats most of it, which is unusual—you typically have to dish out tons of cash for her to eat the same amount that a child would. You always joke that it would be easier for both of you if she just ordered from the kids’ menu. “You could easily pass for twelve and under,” you tell her. She laughs every time.
She isn’t a fan of the cocktail. You can see it on her face after she takes a sip and struggles to not grimace. You wish she would just make a face; there’s no point in her pretending she can hold her liquor. You know the way she is. It’s cute. After the remains of your meals have been taken away and the bill is paid, (by you) the martini glass is still half-full. She takes one final sip—a tiny one at that—and stands up, tugging her dress down after it rides up. “Are you ready to go?” she says.
You laugh. “No. We’re not leaving until you finish that.” You nod towards the cocktail, crossing your arms and leaning back into your chair.
“I don’t want anymore,” she says. “I told you I didn’t really want to drink tonight.” She’s still standing.
“Well, I’m not leaving before you finish the drink. So, if you want a ride home, you’ll have to sit here and drink the rest of the cocktail that I got you. It’s up to you,” you say.
Your girlfriend sits back down. “If I didn’t like you so much, I’d accuse you of manipulating me.”
“It’s a good thing you like me,” you say.
Your girlfriend giggles as you lead her down the sidewalk to where your father’s car is parked. She holds your arm tightly, climbing through the passenger door and placing her bag in between her legs on the seat. It’s ten o’clock. Your girlfriend has to be home for eleven, and it only takes half an hour to drive her home. You turn the car on and pull out of the parking spot, almost-but-not-quite speeding down the street.
At a red light about halfway between your two houses, she starts talking about how thankful she is to have met you. “It’s just that nobody’s ever reciprocated my feelings before. Like, I’ve never not been rejected. I don’t know how this happened,” she says, placing her bag beside her as she digs around in it, seemingly looking for something. “Thank you for being my boyfriend,” she says, sighing as she turns to look at you. You glance at her for long enough to see that there are tears welling in her eyes that are seconds away from streaming down her face. She’s found what she was looking for—a crumpled-up tissue, which she clutches tightly in her fists.
You turn back to face the light. “You’re a real lightweight, huh?” The light turns green as the tears begin to flow. A few stoplights and many tears later, you pull into a street on the edge of a park. It marks the halfway point between your girlfriend’s house and the bus stop she gets off at every night. You know the thirteen-minute walk from the bus stop to her house terrifies her, especially in the dark. When she has to stay at school really late, you let her stay on the phone with you as she walks home. You ask her senseless questions about her day to distract her from her fear. You’re pretty sure the potential horrors emerging from this park are figments of your girlfriend’s imagination—you’ve walked through it with her plenty of times, and if anything, it’s quite nice—but you don’t mind helping her out.
“You’re not bringing me home?” your girlfriend says as you pull the keys out of the ignition.
“I am. I just thought we could stay out here for a little bit,” you say, leaning in to kiss her.
Just before your lips touch hers, she says, “okay, not for too long.”
As you roughly push your mouth against hers, you tangle your left hand in her ponytail, tugging her towards you. Each time you pull her bottom lip into your mouth, she makes high-pitched, breathy little noises and crosses her legs tighter. You slide your other hand up into her hair too, then cup her face and trace it down her body, appreciating the curve of her hip. You land at the edge of her dress and snake your hand underneath, reaching for her underwear.
She takes your right hand and pulls it away from in between her legs, still kissing you. She moves back and says, “not tonight. I’m tired.”
You’re utterly frustrated with her. Both of you know how the night is going to end. This is the little game the two of you always play—your girlfriend pretends she doesn’t want it so she can preserve whatever illusion of purity she still has left of herself, (Catholic guilt is a bitch) and you have to chip away at her defences until she finally admits that she’s just as desperate for you as you expect her to be. Sometimes it’s fun for you to play the strong, domineering man, but at times like this, you’d just like to speed things up.
You take your hand back and sigh. “Fine. Let’s move to the backseat. I can’t reach you like this.”
Your girlfriend shakes her head. “I’m too tall for the backseat. What’s the difference if we just sit here?”
You decide, in this moment, that you hate your girlfriend. The feeling passes for a split second and then fades away before you can even really feel guilty about it, but you acknowledge it. You don’t understand why she’s always so difficult. Your friends don’t even have this hard a time getting random girls from clubs to hook up with them. You’ve been dating this one for almost a year and she still won’t let you fuck her. ‘Too tall.’ What bullshit. She’s shorter than you by a longshot, and she doesn’t hear you complaining about it.
Giving her space and moving towards the steering wheel, you say, “okay. Stay there. But I’m not turning this car back on unless you get in the back.”
“We’re, like, ten minutes from my house. I’ll just walk,” your girlfriend says smugly, as if she’s just won the argument to end all arguments. She thinks she’s so fucking smart.
“Sure,” you say. “Good luck getting home alone in the dark. And in that dress, with your ass out?” You’ve heard countless stories about men ogling your girlfriend, calling out to her as she walks down the street, taking pictures of her sitting on the metro, the list goes on. And these all take place in very populated, public places. Tonight, it’s just you, your girlfriend, and the dark masses of trees that seem to swallow the glow of the single streetlight on this corner. Most of all, you know that you’ve crossed a line, but you find it hard to care.
A few seconds pass until she says, “okay. You go first.”
Once you’ve both clumsily made your way to the open space, you grab your girlfriend by the waist and pull her towards you again. She lets you hover over her as she sits with her back against the seat, seemingly trying to conceal herself in it. You continue kissing her, falling back into your routine of starting out softly, then gradually becoming more forceful until she’s making her little wails against your mouth again. You then bring your right hand to where it briefly rested before, and your girlfriend lets you for a moment, until you press down against her underwear and she makes a muffled grunting sound, moving her head to the right and away from yours.
“I don’t want to do anything in the backseat of your parents’ car. Your little sister sits right here!” she says.
“What, are you afraid of making a mess?” you say mockingly.
“Seriously, I told you I didn’t want to, Alec,” she says with more force than anything else she’s said tonight.
Your hand is still underneath her dress. You make small circles against her with a finger and she squirms. You laugh and say, “are you sure about that? Because you seem pretty wet to me.”
Your girlfriend doesn’t say anything as she lets you lean her back against the seat, her head resting at an angle against the edge of the window. She doesn’t say anything as you climb back over her and moan, slipping two fingers inside her underwear. She doesn’t say anything as you tell her how good she feels. “It’s been so long,” you say, pushing your hips against hers. “I lo—.” You catch yourself. “I like you so much. Oh, my god.” She doesn’t say anything when you duck down suddenly and roughly push her head down with you, careful not to be seen by the people walking past the car on the sidewalk. She doesn’t say anything the whole time, not even when you pull away and see her face for the first time since you got in the car, thanks to the moonlight coming in through the window. Her eyes are squeezed shut and you notice that her mascara has run slightly, in thin, wispy lines of black down her cheeks, probably from the happy tears she shed while you were driving.
You climb back into the driver’s seat and she follows silently, buckling her seatbelt and placing her bag over her lap, staring out the window. “That was fun,” you say. All you can see at this angle is the left corner of her mouth curve up slightly, but you can tell that your girlfriend is smiling. It’s only when you pull up to her house that she looks at you and says, “goodnight,” kissing you on the cheek. You watch as she takes her keys out of her bag, opens the car door, and walks up the stairs to her front door, tugging her purple dress down over her legs all the way there.