Illustration by Graham Franciose
by Allegra Frazier
The store opened on October 15th, 2010. We snuck into the private opening party and had the fabrics between our fingers before we’d even opened the cans of beer we’d smuggled in our purses. “This is quality stuff,” Rachel said to me, pressing into her chest a dress that was made of silver lamé and that was not her size. “They’re made here in the city. Someone in Tucson made this dress. You know? That’s why they cost so much.”
It cost one hundred and twenty-three dollars.
Issue #19 soundtrack: Yellow Ostrich "Fog"
Above the rack from which it had been taken I noticed one of Rachel’s photographs. It was blown up to almost two feet by two feet and was framed and cost five hundred and seventy-five dollars.
“What’s going on here?” I said, pointing up at it.
“Oh, that’s from the stocking series. You remember those.” She put the dress back and picked up another one. It was also not her size. It was the correct size for almost every other girl in the room, though.
“I didn’t know you had photography in here.”
“Oh, yeah, I met Emily a while ago at an after party at Congress. She needed something on her walls at the opening, and I offered some prints on consignment.” She looked up at her photograph, and then turned to admire another one from the same series hanging on the opposite wall. “I think they look great in here.”
“Who’s Emily?” I asked, opening a beer.
“The owner, of course.”
“You know the owner?”
“Well, I’m doing some business with her.” She laughed. “How else do you think we got invited to this?”
“You told me we were sneaking in,” I said.
She put the second dress back on the rack and said, “I never said that. What would I say that for?”
The avenue the store is on is a commercial accident, occurring in the middle of a residential area. The boutique itself, like almost every other business on the street, is in an old house re-zoned for business. It has hardwood floors and arched doorways and an average Arizonan residential yard: wide and flat, containing one citrus tree heavy with oblong lemons no one is interested in eating and bordered with a tall, dark picket fence so old that in certain parts the planks become mulch if you lean against them. Most of the reception was occurring out there: a dusty and glowing group of friends and local designers, standing near each other and talking over beers as the light from above them slipped away and the light from the candles on the tables below them grew up in the darkness.
Emily was leaning over a cooler, fishing for something to give to the person she was talking to. I figured she was Emily because she was wearing clothes that seemed to be taken from the racks inside (a long blue velvet robe dress with an enormous peach colored owl embroidered on the back) and she was saying Thank you, thank you so much, I know, right? I’m really excited much louder than anyone was saying anything else.
Because I had brought my own beer, I wandered away from the cooler line, where I assumed Emily stood serving because she felt that she would talk to all of her guests at least once if she had to serve their drinks to them. The shop next door served coffee and vegan seed cookies, and a girl was standing near the fence shared between the two yards, staring up into the light of the coffee shop windows. I went to her and asked her if she had ever been there.
She turned to me and laughed. “Yeah, I’ve been there. Small town, you know?”
“How small?” I asked. “I don’t know you.”
“Well,” she said. “I didn’t come with Emily, if you know her. I came with the street.”
“I came with the coffee shop.”
“I own the coffee shop,” she said. She held up her cup, a paper coffee cup. “I’ve got to be getting back in a minute. Just stopped by.”
“To say congratulations or to look at your shop from the other side of the fence?”
She leaned against the planks and the fence bowed dangerously under her, so she stood back up. It was dark, now, and the light from her shop window pushed our shadows almost all the way back to the rest of the party. “You know what they say about the view over fences,” she said.
“I don’t know Emily,” I said. “I just live around here.”
“I know you do,” she said. “You came with the coffee shop.” She brushed the clinging flakes of ancient wood from her jeans. “Nice talking to you. I’ll see you around the shop sometime.” And, after shaking Emily’s hand at the cooler, she left. Standing alone by the fence, I watched her walk out and imagined in a moment her walking into the coffee shop and into the room behind the window on the other side of the fence.
After finishing all of my beers, I found Rachel inside, standing with several wirey people beneath a large photograph of her own face pushed into a flesh-colored stocking. I had to admit, the pictures did look good in there. I told her so, and then I coaxed her into going to the cooler with me. I couldn’t do it alone. Rachel escorted me to Emily and to Emily's cooler full of Coors Light. Not knowing exactly the best way to get a beer without it seeming my ultimate goal, I told her congratulations.
As though it was a magic word, Emily bent down and fetched a beer out of the ice. Her right hand was bright red from digging through there all night, and she put the can in her left hand to shake the ice off of her fingers, leaving pocks in the dust on the ground.
“Hey, thanks,” she said. Her eyes were large and the whites were so white. She must not have had anything to drink, for her eyes to be so clear. She handed me the beer and shook my other hand and pushed her hair back over her shoulder with her left palm. She glanced past my head for a moment, as though to check for eavesdroppers, and then leaned down into my face. She said, “Do you like what you see in there? I’m so excited.”
“Hey, I really do. Congratulations, again.”
“Thanks.” She took my hand again. I wondered if she thought she knew who I was, if she was mistaking me for someone else she had met before. Her hands were bigger than mine. I could feel her fingernails against my wrist. “Thanks. Do you live around here? Please stop in anytime.”
“I will,” I lied. The dresses hadn’t really been my size, either.
By eleven, I was more than ready to leave, but I couldn’t seem to find Rachel. To kill the time until she reappeared, I asked people if they’d been to the coffee shop before. Most of them said yes. One girl said she had seen me there. “You’re always reading something,” she said. This seemed to impress her.
“And always drinking coffee,” I said. I finished off my beer. I felt a little drunk. I thought again about the owner of the coffee shop. She hadn’t told me her name, but I had not asked for it and I had not I offered mine. “Don’t forget about the coffee.” I tossed the empty can into a near by bin and turned to leave on my own. Rachel, I knew, would be fine without me.
Allegra Frazier is a writer, editor, and visual artist living in New York. She founded the Brooklyn-based literary magazine Soon Quarterly, and her work can be seen in 491 Magazine, in The Short Fiction Collective, or on her blog The Urban Obsessionist.
Graham Franciose an artist/illustrator living in Austin, TX. His work has been published in various art publications and children's educational literature, as well as in album illustrations and designs for local musicians. Graham has exhibited in a number of galleries from D.C. to California. Visit his online portfolio at grahamfranciose.com.
Yellow Ostrich is a duo. It consists of Alex Schaaf (vocals, guitar, keyboard, synth, sound manipulation) and Michael Tapper (drums). Originally a solo project in Wisconsin, the pair is now located in New York City. Visit them online at yellowostrich.bandcamp.com.