In a Red Dress and Alone
She stood there, listening to the conversations around her. Alexis sipped her cocktail slowly, feeling more and more awkward by the moment.
This was a new town, a new environment altogether. A far cry from her hometown. She had been given a huge opportunity with her first job after college, and didn't think twice about leaving behind everyone and everything she had ever known.
She was excited at first when a coworker at her new job, Sophie, had invited her to her birthday party. She had hoped Sophie would introduce her to some people at the party to help her get acquainted. But once Alexis had arrived, Sophie was in her own little world, surrounded by her adoring fans.
Being the life of the party seemed to be more of a priority for Sophie than making her guests feel at home, and Alexis couldn't be mad at her for that, could she? After all, it was her birthday. Alexis occupied her own little corner of the room while Sophie chatted and laughed with her circle of friends.
Sophie seemed so perfect, with her full, pouty lips, her perky, firm breasts, and her hair that never lost its bounce. She was one of those effortlessly amazing girls who never had to worry about getting zits on her perfect skin, or about knowing what to do in any social situation. If there was a manual somewhere on how to handle social encounters of every kind, she had probably written all the current revisions.
Everyone was so drawn to her, and not just at this party. At work, she was always being praised for her accomplishments. Upper management would flock to her desk, falling over themselves to compliment her latest project. Alexis, who sat just a few cubicles over, would listen in as they waxed eloquent about how amazing Sophia was.
And while Alexis always considered herself to be above petty jealousy, it was impossible not to feel just a twinge of it as Little Miss Perfect was being lauded as the Most Awesome Person of the Year by practically everyone around.
And her birthday party was no different. Alexis felt like she wasn't even good enough to be in this woman's shadow. The moment she walked in the door of Sophie's apartment, which looked like it was decorated by Martha Stewart, herself, she felt inadequate. Smiling faces emanated with forced politeness, but Alexis could tell everyone was wondering who she was. Hell, these days, she wondered that very same thing, herself.
And why did she decide to wear this red dress? She had very little opportunity to wear it in other facets of her life, being neither appropriate attire for work, nor for grocery shopping. It had a vintage style to it, with a square neckline that minimized her proportionate bust line, and a skirt that flared out and stopped right above her knees. It looked so cute on the hanger, and nothing else in her closet seemed like the kind of thing to wear to this party. And her shoes -- black patent heels that pinched her toes together and made her back hurt -- just looked all wrong.
This was the first party Alexis had been invited to since she had graduated college. It was probably safe to assume that there would not be jello shots or beer pong here.
After seeing what all the other partygoers were wearing, the dress made her feel like a little girl. Everyone else wore either black or blue, or conservative neutrals. Most of the other girls had jeans on, and the ones who did wear a skirt or a dress wore something much more sophisticated and elegant than what Alexis had selected. And the birthday girl, herself, wore a dress that made her look like a mythical water nymph -- with delicate fabric in a muted cornflower blue, softly flowing down her graceful silhouette and ending mid calf in an asymmetrical handkerchief hem. Her short, graceful curls framed her beautiful, perpetually smiling face. The more Alexis looked at her, the more inadequate she felt.
The awkwardness was excruciating. She concentrated very hard on her drink. It wasn't exactly fascinating, but it was infinitely better than looking around the room and risking eye contact with strangers. Alexis hated situations like this. There were about a million things she would rather be doing. In fact, if she weren't at this party, she would have been at home, cuddling with her yorkie, and reading. It was a mistake coming here.
She decided she would wait about five minutes more, speak briefly to Sophie, and get back home to her comfortable pajamas and a glass of wine. Wading through the sea of strangers, she finally made her way to the birthday girl.
"Hey, Sophie, I just wanted to tell you happy birthday. I'm about to head out."
"OK, I'll see you at work on Monday."
Sophie barely acknowledged her, before going back to her circle of admirers. They all whispered and giggled together as Alexis stepped out.
She breathed a sigh of relief as she sat in the driver's seat of her car and closed her door. She was going back to her fortress of solitude, to bask in the glow of a new book.
Back at the party, a very shy and very awkward young man sighed as he stared into his beer. He could barely contain his disappointment. He didn't know anyone there, and he was just about to muster the courage to speak to the pretty girl in the red dress. But before he even got the chance, she quickly made her exit.