As with the clothes that Brooke and Serena purchased, they requested that their items be delivered to their dorm, since they were heading to the beach.
With Raven securing her dress, and Katya admitting she already bought hers as well, all that's left was for December to find her magical moment.
They checked in on the rest of the stores, but none of it had the vision December imagined her dress to be. In addition, all of the pretty ones didn't appeal to her either.
"I knew the possibility of it could happen, but I didn't think it would sting this much." December sighed as she slumped against a wall.
Her friends were patient with the search, including Katya who surprised her for the umpteenth time when the girl stayed through it all.
She had thought Katya would leave them to attend to other things, but the girl only said, "I must admit, this is quite fun. Besides, I didn't have anything else to do for the rest of the day, so why not?"
They must have passed the same store a few times in that district, but it wasn't until Serena piped up and pointed at a place slightly hidden in a corner, that December realized they hadn't gone in.
The store name read, Ephemera and December thought it suited the quirky concept of the place.
"Are you sure you want to go in there? It doesn't look like it has what you're looking for." Serena said, concern clouding her features.
She didn't blame her because it doesn't look like the usual stores they went in. But December was already intrigued by it.
"I'll never know until I try. Besides, we've been to dozens of them. Who knows? It might have something that could be to my liking."
It was hidden between two stores, albeit a little further inside than the usual store fronts. The sun barely touched it, except for its shingled roof. A dark painted wall for bricks, there was a huge three-way window with mannequins dressed in a vintage outfit, one of those timeless fashion but from different time period from the early 20th century.
One was a two-piece outfit with a vest and a long skirt that she imagined would accentuate the curves, the other had a baggy beige shirt tucked in a trousers and pinned with a suspenders belt, and the last one had December thinking of the word 'eccentric' yet she knew it didn't do justice for the look.
The whole thing was eye-catching and intriguing that there was just something she couldn't quite place when she looked at them.
Like changing seasons, she thought in wonder. Or travelling to some place I didn't know existed.
It didn't look tacky despite its appearance. If anything, the way the items pooled in a disorganized way almost seemed purposeful.
The ornaments hung inside had paper cuts and even cushioned pillows of the moon, sun, stars, and even leaves thrown carelessly by the windows, in a way that looked neat. There were fairy lights everywhere in many shapes and sizes, and glitters and sparkling items such as a disco ball and a glowing earth globe. She wondered how something so outstanding and obvious didn't catch her attention earlier.
It was a beautiful store despite its somber appearance. The only thing that dampened it was the fact that the store could be easily overlook, unless people really look.
"How the hell did we not know this place existed?" Brooke muttered as she eyed the building almost in distrust. Yet, there was also wonder in her voice. "Oh, that's a very cute plushie." She tapped against the mirror on one of the displayed items.
"It feels like I've stepped into another world." Serena breathed in awe.
December turned to look at her gleeful fascination. "That's exactly what I thought."
"Why are we whispering, though?" Raven whispered.
They entered the whimsical shop, the bell pealing lightly – twice – with Katya following suit, appraising the place before her in quiet fascination.
The inside was as dreary as the front store; painted with a darker shade of purple, the only thing illuminating the place were the fairy lights hung in threads through the walls. But there were also more interesting items in there; lava lamps in various colour, one even in hologram, a unique-shaped of small wooden boxes, tiny chandeliers that mirrored a still jellyfish hanging from the embedded light bulbs.
There were also a quiet corner of a cozy recliner and a round table, lined by a wall of bookshelves. December had gasped when she saw a pair of old books suspending midair, pinned by an invisible wire to set a few pairs of light bulbs into it.
She thought that was a very creative way to go about it.
They had to weave their way through a rack of clothes hung in the middle of the space; sweaters, jeans and trousers, as well as pleated skirts that whispered it had seen through years of generation.
This place was a mess, but it felt like an adorable mess to December. A quiet charm that couldn't be ignored.
"Not your average bundle…and I don't know…not-so bundle store? I don't even think I should call it that." Brooke mused to herself, awkward but also impressed.
December's eyes landed on a bookshelf, where she saw a few round-wooden dolls in various sizes lined neatly on a shelf.
"Ah, I see you eyeing my Matryoshka dolls. Do you like it?"
A woman's voice, slightly raspy. It wasn't an entirely unpleasant sound, sounding homely, a bit maternally even. They turned to find a woman whose age couldn't be discern very well – she could either be in her sixties or thirties at once – hunched over a trinket of miscellaneous items. But her eyes stayed on them like a hawk over the rim of her glasses.
She nodded. "They're pretty."
"How much do they cost?" Raven inquired, out of politeness and mild interest.
The woman let out a low but hearty chuckle. "They're not for sale, honey." She put her machinery and tools aside to greet her customers. "Welcome to Ephemera. I'm Effie. What can I do for you young gals?"
December blinked. "Oh! I…I was actually thinking if you might have some dresses? For prom." She cast a smile. The ageless woman appraised her, a finger under her chin. December felt like she was assessing whether or not she was worthy of Effie's dresses, but cast that deprecating thought aside.
If she had to put a time period to it, it looked like the shop had various items of clothing and knick knacks – that are wearable – from the 20th century. That was more than a hundred years ago. But if she were also specific, it looked like something that survived from the 1940s and the 60s.
There was not much option for a prom dress for December in the store, and she didn't know why she harboured a hope, but she saw a polka dotted vintage dress, and if there was something like that, there could be something more too.
Her friends had gotten their 'special' moment today, and though she knew there could also be disappointment, she fervently hoped there must be something for her as well. Her 'something special.' Brooke had said that anything could happen, and she particularly felt the pull that day.
Finally, Effie said, "You're looking for something different, aren't you? That outstanding moment or however you young'uns say it." When December blinked in confound, and so did her friends, Effie continued, "You're not the first girl who came here. What do you have in mind?"
December glanced at her friends before looking back at Effie. "Something floral, a long skirt with –"
"I'm going to stop you right there, honey." Katya and Brooke both had their eyebrows raised, but before either of them could speak their mind, Effie continued, shaking her head. "That doesn't sound like something that would fit you. I believe what you need is…ethereal."
She grabbed a set of keys and beckoned them towards a small door hidden in a corner. Setting the keys in, she turned the knob and they entered…into a whole new world.
It was a complete dream.
At least it felt like it. Surreal, even.
Whereas the space they were standing in was dim and smelt like old but comforting things, this was like stepping into a magazine.
The first thing that assaulted her senses was the delicate fragrance permeating the air. Flowers or a type of fruit, she couldn't decide.
They were bathed in a light glow of white and yellow; gold and beige. There were mirrors everywhere too, December noted. She could see that most of her friends' jaw were still unhinged at what they're seeing. The long, rectangular shaped walls to the ceilings adorned with a huge crystal chandelier, and the embedded ceiling lights shaped like diamonds – it gives specific attention to the rack of gowns and dresses lined at every space there was.
In the middle of it, sat a woman deeply hunched over something. Effie had a light green tint to her hair but the one before them had a hair dyed bright-orange.
She didn't look up when she spoke, her voice soft and musical. "Here to shove more unsuspecting teenagers at me, are you, Effie?"
Effie chuckled and said, "They're here for a dress," before amending after a glance at December. "Well, only one of them, it seems. She's looking for the perfect one, and who better at it than you?"
For a moment, neither of them spoke. And then the woman sighed – long – which clued December that these women had done this many times before.
The orange-haired woman muttered something under her breath.
Effie only grinned at them before saying, "That's Ethereal. Or Ethel as she prefers to be called."
"Ethereal?" December said, stupefied. "So when you said I needed ethereal…you meant…?"
Effie nodded, her smile knowing. "My sister." She then added, "Of course, you need that too. Oh, I always love saying this." Effie's laugh bubbled out of her.
"So, you are Ephemera and she's Ethereal." December tested the name on her tongue, loving how it rolled off it. "Those are really lovely names." She beamed at them.
Ethel snorted. "Tell us that again when you know what it's like to have an unnatural name."
December shared a gleeful look with her friends, and even caught Katya's amused expression. She looked at them. "My name's December and I still think you have lovely names."
Effie and Ethel were dumbfounded at first, glancing at the girls – and when they nod knowingly – they turned back to December.
"Well, would you look at that. We've caught us one of our own. Would be the first too to come in here with a name like that." Ethel smiled, a tinkling sound in her wake. "That's not as uncommon as ours, but let's get to business now, shall we?"
"And that's my cue to leave." Effie laughed before adding, "I'm not cut out to be around fragile things for too long. If you want a dress, Ethel's your person." With that, she left the room with a click.
Katya was watching everything with interest, but when the woman left, she narrowed her eyes at it. She was skeptical at the way the two odd women – especially Effie – carried themselves. They were too nice…something she felt wary of. No one could be too nice and to see December and her friends walking in here as though they trusted everything…she just couldn't believe them.
Despite that, Katya had to admit that even she wasn't immune to the magic the place had.
And she had followed them in too, didn't she? Katya bit her inner cheek in irritation.
With the absence of Effie, Ethel got into her work mode. While December's friends busied themselves with the displays of clothes on more mannequins, and admiring some jewels in the case, she was being appraised by Ethel.
Ethel took one look at December and gestured her to follow towards the racks. She perused them with a flick of her fingers, stopping by when she thought it was something she needed, but otherwise moved along the rest.
As she did, a thought played in December's mind. Ephemera. She jogged her mind for what it means, but having come up short, she decided to do a quick search.
Ephemera; things that exist or are enjoyed for only a short time.
She burrowed deeper into her analysis – the front store's name had Ephemera's on it, but this seemed like two siblings' business. The idea of the items and slightly dreary environment then, saved for some interesting things, made her mull the deeper meaning behind it. There were old things mostly, books and clothes from a time long gone but still preserved, and she wondered if the old women's parents were psychic. If they knew their daughters would open up a store with a pretty name, but now that she thought of it, held a sad note to it.
As if she was meant to be discarded. That thought didn't bode well with her.
She also suddenly wondered if these names were true, because it just seemed like a cruel trick to put upon them – one with so much promises, while the other lessened.
She chastised herself for thinking that – what did she know of it?
"I know that look." When December looked up, startled, Ethel continued, "It's not what it usually means. Although it lasts for only a short amount of time, that's what makes it precious. Ironically enough, it really means we're the protector of things that are forgotten, more or less, and those that needed more work to shine. Twice the work, but I'd like to think we're badass at it."
December found herself astounded by that explanation. She hadn't thought of it that way – that instead of being lumped away with things that are not favourable or forgotten, they are doing what most wouldn't by preserving it, by making sure it still stays in people's memory. It's what makes it even more valuable. She was taken aback by it with sheer wonderment.
Badass? She couldn't have agreed more.
"I…didn't say anything." December said sheepishly, because she felt she had to say something.
"You didn't have to, it shows on yours and everyone's face. Well, those who wonders, anyway." She quipped quite jovially.
"But that's a really amazing way to look at it." She couldn't help but gush.
Ethel's lips parted in a smile. "Again, I can see that."
"One thing, if Effie's name is on the front, and you have yours here, then…" December trailed off, suddenly being reminded that she was crossing the polite boundary into well, ill-mannered.
Ethel registered the stricken look on the girl's face, and if she were touched by the girl's belated thoughtfulness or even funny, she didn't show it. She knew what was being asked, and so she only said:
"Now, who's to say that this part of the store isn't the front one either?"
December's lips parted in stupor, before a smile pulled at her lips. She shook her head to herself, wondering if these two pair of women always surprise people with the wonderfully mysterious way they carry themselves.
After that, they worked in tandem to find December's perfect dress. Gold, black, navy blue, and many more colours and shades in various cuts and designs. Each time December tried it on, she ended up finding something that didn't sit well with her, and each time, she felt her hope diminishing. These clothes were mesmerizing and if she could just ignore the dissatisfying feeling within her, she would have gone with it.
But she didn't want to rush it – it felt like she was coming closer to finding it…
Katya had busied herself with her phone, until they showed December's first choice. She didn't particularly care for her new friends – or so her ego tells her – but she knew she was softening towards them. It really didn't take long for her to see that December and her friends were genuinely trying to befriend her.
Brooke had been showing her the dresses and saying how it complements her icy blue eyes and death glares. It was a joke that, admittedly, chipped a piece of fortress within her. Her eyes crinkled with mirth.
Serena commented on the jewels and even listened in interest when she told her about a similar jewel with small baubles at the store back home.
Raven, although she seemed to mind her distance, also looked curious, but otherwise tried to manage a conversation as best as she could.
To an outsider's eyes, they were the most important people at school.
But in reality, they looked just as pleasant where they are ordinary, without any filter, instead of the impenetrable group they seemed to portray, and one she had seen and been in many times.
It was…refreshing, and left her feeling unbalanced at the beginning.
Katya gave her a dark magenta dress, but after seeing December putting it on, she decided it looked awful on her.
She looked at the girl whom had piqued her cousin's interest, unknowing as she seemed. Katya admitted that the main reason she agreed to hang out with December, was because she wanted to learn more about her. To see what it was that made Pierre a bumbling fool, whenever he thinks of her. Seeing such a reaction was funny and endearing, but it wasn't long until she became curious.
And so far, she was confused. There didn't seem to be anything special about her, saved for her name. Sometimes she thought she could see why, bits of it – she was expressive and even-tempered – but could that be sufficient? She didn't think so. There were not enough reasons for her to fully see and understand it.
They had been going on for about an hour or so now, and December suddenly felt the urge to burst into tears in her worry and frustration.
She took a deep, shaky breath and told herself to hold it together. "Don't give up, December. You're going to find it soon. But if you really can't find it today, there's always next time." She gave herself a pep talk.
Ethel knocked on the door and upon seeing the miserable look on her face, she smiled in understanding. "Save your tears for later," She then added proudly, "I have a feeling this one will make a difference."
December's eyes shined with hope, and she thanked Ethel. There were no mirrors in the fitting room – a feeling of anticipation that dragged out – until the moment she could see herself in the huge three-way mirrors outside.
"Close your eyes and come on out." Ethel spoke almost endearingly.
She took a breath, closed her eyes tight, and stepped outside, noting the small intake of gasp and murmurs in the room. It made her heart beat in eager anticipation because didn't that mean something good?
The only way she knew where to step was through Brooke's guidance and Ethel's voice.
When she stood in front of the mirror and saw herself, her breath hitched.
The material had felt light and airy on her, but so did a few of them before. Now seeing it for herself, in a dress that was part gossamer and part fabric, she had to blink to make sure she wasn't dreaming.
This…is definitely made by faeries, right? So soft and fine, it feels like something from a dream…
Words that are just that began to form in her mind; to describe and justify the vision she was seeing, to put a name – something – on this feeling swirling within her.
She waited for the moment of realization to dawn on her – that feeling of floating in the air and feeling bewitched by the image of her in it. That feeling of belongingness, perfection.
The truth was, all of that happened in a blink of an eye that the only way she knew this was hers, was the sudden and fierce need that made her feel a strong attachment to it. As though she had found a piece of her in the form of a garment.
The urgent need that whispered: This belongs to you, December.
Effie's earlier statement echoed in her mind, I believe what you need is…ethereal.
Indeed, that…was the only thing that came as close as she could to describe this.
She blinked and looked at her friends – whose eyes she saw were misted with unshed tears, and whose expression were as enthralled as she was.
They knew it the moment she did.
And then she turned towards the woman who helped make that dream come true, who found her something special.
Still speechless and overwhelmed by her relief that she had finally found it, that the search was finally over, and, like Brooke, she highly doubt there was something better than this, she did something she had been holding herself back from.
She burst into tears, before running straight into Ethereal's arms, sobbing, "Oh, thank you so much."
After thanking Ethel profusely and again hugging both Ethel and Effie this time – the latter looked on knowingly, proud even – December and her friends made their way towards the beach.
"I knew you'd find the dress, and look! You did." Brooke exclaimed. She was still gushing to December about it.
"Absolutely. I thought it looked straight out of fairytale. I love the shimmers on it!" There was wonder in Serena's eyes, as though she was seeing the dress again in her mind.
Raven nodded, joining in on the enthusiasm. "I know what you mean, Serena. It's whimsical and I don't think I have seen something like it before."
December felt heart filled with love, happiness and anything that keeps taking her higher, and higher – and any more than that, she would definitely float or fly – when she heard them complimenting her dress. She nodded at them, because it was what she felt too.
The feelings were filled to the brim, and any moment now, she could spill.
Her eyes glittered with unshed tears, and her lips trembled slightly. She turned to Serena and engulfed her in a tight hug. "I would have never gotten this dress if you hadn't directed us to this shop. Thank you, Serena!"
Katya watched in amusement at these girls' state of excitement. She had to admit that final dress December showed them was the pinnacle of it all – it was enchanting – which suited December.
She also wouldn't be surprised if the girl stole everyone's words when they see her. Katya smirked inwardly at the thought of someone being speechless.
Katya would love to see the reaction on Pierre's face. He didn't tell her who he fancies, but she didn't need telling.
Once, she saw him looking forlornly at something far away – and when she followed his gaze – December was there, at the courtyard with her friends.
On the second time, he looked charmed. He was by the arched pillars, but his eyes strayed. And again, there was only December standing by the library. She shook her head just thinking about it.
So preoccupied, he didn't even notice her observing him. She may not know much about him after all these years, and while she still didn't know what it was about the snow-haired girl, she was glad that Pierre seemed to come out from the gloomy cloud he always brought with him.
He was as transparent as the fabric on December's dress.
Still, she would keep an eye on her.
"Yes, you looked like a feya. A weeping fairy if you start crying." Katya deadpanned.
December blinked, feeling her eyes moistened, before wiping them dry. She smiled widely at Katya, feeling foolish but still giddy, a bubbling laugh from her throat. "You're right. I'm just…so happy and excited." December let out a small shriek of joy, and did a little dancing jig to a beat; the running man moves, and shaking her thighs while she displayed two fingers in 'V' over her eyes, leaving her friends to laugh out loud at her antics. "This is how I'm going to dance at prom!" She exclaimed.
The few people who passed by and noticed December's antics gave her a funny look, but she didn't mind them at all.
Brooke doubled over and had to hold on to Serena, who had also lost her composure, tears in her eyes. Raven was trying to stop December because her stomach was already in stitches.
Katya let out a titter, shaking her head at the girl's outlandish act.
"Okay. Phew," December exhaled after a moment. "I'm done expressing myself. Let's go to the beach!"
"And meet hot guys. Catch me a lifeguard or something." Brooke laughed gaily before adding, "They'll be so unprepared by my presence."
Amused, December said, "I'll bet. But whatever you do, please don't drown."
"Oh, that's an idea."
"Will you relax? Of course I won't. What would you guys do there without my glorious presence?" Brooke cast a sunny smile at them, laughing airily which suddenly reminded December of one of the anime shows Brooke showed with a voice over dubbing. December couldn't help the titter from her mouth.
"I'm liking your humour." said a smooth, amused voice.
"Thank you, Katya. But I wasn't joking about the last one."
Matryoshka - nesting doll, which symbolizes family, fertility, and the matriarchal figure in a family
Feya - fairyns 220.127.116.11da2