Teresa’s New Clothes

Such an awesome dress..

“This is a much better map.” Kate shakes and unfolds the latest tourist map above me, even though it is half-past eleven and we are trying to sleep. She has school early tomorrow and I have breakfast, but the noise from the community house next door is keeping us awake. First riotous laughter, the women hooting like whoopee cushions, and the men wheezing like whistles without peas. Then someone shrieking like they’ve wet themself, as well as dampening whoever was sitting next to them as well. We can close the windows, but then the room becomes stuffy and hot. Either way, we’re finding it impossible to sleep. As an alternative – or perhaps a remedy – Kate has decided to memorise all the villages along the north coast.

“A’opo, Letui, Maura,”she says, trying to get the pronunciations right.

“You don’t want to just get something to eat out of the fridge?” Usually when she can’t sleep, she binges on chocolate or cheese or shortbread.

But tonight we don’t have any. Only an apple, a black banana, and three bottles of Vailima Pure beer.

“What do you suggest?” She crumples a corner of the map to stare at me. “A Robert Louis Stevenson fruit cocktail? An apple-banana lagerama? I notice we’ve run out of yummy things, but not beer.”

“Those were Ted’s.” I’d rescued them from his fridge – to stop him drinking more. “I’ll go to Frankie’s supermarket first thing in the morning and get some -.”

Ted goes to Frankie’s – two minutes away – in a taxi.

The shrieking starts again. Only louder. More frantic. And in the corridor.

“Don’t say they’ve come up here,” I say.

Then someone bangs on our door. Rat-ta-tap, like there’s a tsunami coming.

“Are you going to get it?” Kate rattles her map. “I’ve got my hands full.”

I get up. Pull on some clothes. Pad over to the door. Open it.

I know who it is before I see her face. Only Teresa shrieks like that, like there’s a Samoan Blue Parakeet stuck in her throat.

“Guess what Ted’s done?” She waltzs straight in, a smile as wide as the Apolima Strait on her face, her tinted eyelashes skimming the ceiling. “Guess what that lovely man has gone and bought me?”

“A plane ticket home?” Kate is in no mood to laminate her words.

“Two plane tickets home?” Neither am I.

“No. Look! Look!” She holds her hands above her head and twirls madly, her dress billowing like a skinned aubergine. “Look what he’s bought me!”

“Dancing lessons?” Kate is determined to act obtuse.

“You’ve joined a fia-fia?” Me too.

“No!” Teresa still grins like a maniac, either too excited or naive to realise we’re taking the piss. “The dress!” She twirls again, holding the frilly lace hem in her hands. “It’s new. Ted got it for me. A surprise. To say sorry for getting drunk.”

I want to ask if he was still drunk when he bought the dress. It’s purple on purple, as if the seamstress has sewn the waistline of one dress straight onto the hem of a second identical item. Lily Savage and Dame Edna might look good in it, one on the shoulders of the other, but they’re both men.

“It’s very nice.” Kate is good at diplomacy when she tries. “Where did he get it from?”

“You’re going to laugh at this!” Teresa prances. “But it came from Frankie’s!”

“The supermarket?” I try not to laugh.

Fabrics at ¬†Frankie’s!

“Yes! They do clothes too. There are heaps of fabrics at the back. You can choose what you like and they’ll make it to measure.”

“Is that what Ted did, then?” Kate smirks behind her map. “As a surprise, got it made to measure?”

I bite my lip, trying not to laugh, and wishing I had a map to hide behind too. No wonder the dress looks big on her.

“He bought it off the rack.” Teresa stops prancing, perhaps starting to realise. “And he’s promised to take me back so we can chose a real fabric together.”

Kate lifts the map higher, barely managing to control her face. “I’ve always thought he’d look good in purple. Or pink.”

“Lots of men wear pink!” Teresa’s face drops, as does her dress, crumpling like a borsch belly flop. “Even the President of America.”

“Well that’s alright then.” At last Kate puts down the map, attempting to keep a straight face. “And there was me thinking the world was going mad.”

“Anyway, I’d better go.” Teresa attempts a last ditch twirl, but the Cadburys’ magic is gone. Both she and the dress are melting in the furnace of our room. With a slight bow, she opens the door and rustles out.

“Don’t go getting me anything from Frankie’s.” Kate stares sternly over the folded up north Samoan coast, the names of the villages no longer important. “Not unless it’s Scorched Almonds, Snickers bars, or blue cheese.”


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