A wardrobe shared is a wardrobe halved

Posted: July 8, 2010 in #fridayflash, Short stories

Jo danced around in the pink silky dress with the silver trail of shimmery fabric spinning a mere second behind the twirling body movements.  It was like watching a 5-year-old girl dress-up in her very favourite and cherished Disney princess costume, living in a fantasy and feeling like a real life luminary.  The sequins and glitter hit the light and happy rays bounced off of the full length mirror as Jo pirouetted like a ballerina in a jewellery box, before fox trotting back into the bedroom, to try on the next attire of frills and sparkles. 

The next creation was one Jo had made up from various accessories from mum’s jewellery box, wardrobe and shoe collection.  A big shiny pearl necklace, with matching clip-on earrings, and chunky bangles seemed a wise choice.  The tradition that accompanied pearls, was that of class and conventional garments, which didn’t really complement the vibrant and almost firework pink mini skirt and halter-neck top, but Joe continued dancing as if he had no cares in the world, this was his moment to shine in the mirror.

“JO!” his dad shouted, having walked in unexpectedly, his son dancing in his mothers clothes.  “What the hell are you doing?”

Jo froze, like a statue.  Not even his eyes blinked.  The burning from the air and atmosphere in the room, where his dad was now standing, was smouldering his gaze.

“I’ll ask you again Jo,” his dad bellowed “What the hell are you doing?”

Jo opened his mouth to speak, the free-flowing expressionist dress dance, now a complete memory.  No words were capable of leaving his now very dry and startled mouth.

His dad grabbed his arm and squeezed his wrist so tight Jo’s fingers felt they might explode, like cooked sausages, the skin piercing and the meat protruding out.

“Is this what you do when the house is empty?” another question his dad bellowed that Jo couldn’t answer.  Not for want of trying the words just wouldn’t come out.

“You better not be one of them fairies.  I wont have it, do you hear me, not my lad!”  His dad’s face was bright crimson, with small beads of sweat forming on his forehead.  Jo wasn’t sure if this was embarrassment or being scared of the unknown. 

“Dad,” he managed to squeak,  “Dad please your hurting my wrist,” as he begged, the pain from the grip of his dads hand, made his legs collapse and he was on his knees.

“”DO YOU LIKE THIS?” his dad hollered, letting go of Jo’s wrist and pulling at the skirt.

“Yes.” Jo had scorching tears streaming down his cold clammy face.

“YES?” his dad repeated as if hearing it from his own mouth might make it better.  He grabbed Jo by his wrist again, this time dragging the defenceless boy across the carpet into his own room.  He crashed into the base of his bed and his leg scrapped sideways against the desk leg.  His dad slammed the door.  Jo could hear him charging down the stairs, telling Jo’s mum to stay in the lounge.  Within minutes his dad was outside his bedroom door again and all Jo could hear was the sound of a drill.  The drilling noises coming from the other side of the door was no match for the drilling reverberation in his head.

All had been silent for over an hour.  Jo was still sitting in the same space he’d been thrown, but now had his weary arms wrapped around his legs, and his head resting on his kneecaps, alert but yet fatigued.  His breathing had slowed down to a normal deflated sigh, from the child’s inconsolable sob.

He lifted himself up slowly so as not to make a sound and turned the bedroom handle.  The door was stuck.  He tried again this time pulling and pushing.  Then again with extra force, making the door and its surrounding frame shake and clatter. 

“You’re locked in!” his dad shouted through the crack in the door.  “You can stay in there until these weird thoughts of yours have completely disappeared! And that those clothes are not only off your body but they repulse you!”

There was silence. 



“I can take the dress off for ever and pretend this has never happened if that’s what will make you happy.  But I will always be wearing the dress on the inside.  I can’t change that.  And neither can you”

The stillness was so powerful the house roof could have propelled off at any minute. 

He heard a sniffle from outside the door.


“Its my fault son!” and his dad’s footsteps could be heard going down the landing before slamming his own bedroom door.

A gentle knock woke Jo from his semi-daze by the door he was being held prisoner by.

“Jo.  Jo sweetheart.”

His mum’s voice brought tears to his eyes.  Like a scared child being left outside the school gates for the first time, or being poorly in bed, the only voice you need is your mums.

He heard the bolts being unlocked and the door opened just a crack.  He could see a portion of his mums face peering through. 

“Jo, come here.”

She opened the door and the light shone through like hope had its very own ray of light.  He took hold of her hand and got to his feet.  “Locking you up isn’t the answer” her voice, gentle and a contrast to his father’s reactions hours before.  “Your dad knows that, he was just scared.  We all need to sit and talk”.

She led him to her bedroom door and opened it whilst still looking into his eyes.

As the door opened, he saw his dad with his head in his hands sitting on the edge of their bed bed.  The only thing visible from his dad’s face was the side burns running half way down his cheeks and the tattoo of Jo’s mothers name on the side of his neck.  He looked up at Jo and got to his feet.  He had a purple silk dress, which hung almost down to the floor but the silver patent heels gave him more height and allowed the dress to hang naturally. 

Jo mumbled in amongst embarrassment and being scared of the unknown. “Dad?”

  1. Mari Juniper says:

    I wonder how old Jo is… Loved how you used a name to make me think he was a girl, which he actually is, heh.

  2. Marisa Birns says:

    The reveal certainly surprised me!

    It was quite moving when the son told his father that he would be wearing a dress on the inside even if he took off the dress.

    Really lovely story.

  3. Good story. You captured the pain of the moment quite well from both the father and the son.

  4. Anneke says:

    Good story and topic. It’s, no matter how they feel about it in general, always confusing for the parents. Well done!

  5. yearzerowriters says:

    Coming in the week in which I wore a dress in public to do a reading this really was timely!

    I loved the fact that all that could be seen of the grieving father was his “Mum” tattoo, an avowal of the ‘normal’ order where boys love and honour their Mothers in ink on their skin, yet a dress …

    Marvellous stuff

    marc nash

  6. the twist and the boy’s reaction were very funny!

  7. Diane Nelson says:

    Emotionally layered, loved the line “I can take the dress off…” How true for so many of our hidden foibles. Loved it

  8. tlbrink says:

    Sobering and humorous at the same time. Well done.

  9. Sam says:

    Brilliant! You hooked me in with your first paragraph and still had me wondering about the outcome as you so deftly described the reveal. Your last line had me laughing out loud, not so much for what it said, but for having Jo cope with the same fear as his father had earlier.

  10. John Wiswell says:

    I loved the first couple of paragraphs. There’s a real sparkle to it, before it explodes into dialogue.

    “jewellery” – that’s a continental spelling difference I’ve run into before. Legitimately fascinating.

  11. Wow, I was slammed every which way with this. You started me off one way and then jarred me another then back and forth and … Wow! What an emotional ride, what a fantastic and poignant piece. Well done!

  12. Excellent story and very well written. I was riveting from the moment the father came in; scared that he was going to do something awful. Also, first sentence last paragraph, you repeat “bed” twice.

  13. alisonwells says:

    Yes my fav line too ‘I will always be wearing the dress inside’. Really enjoyed this story, lovely descriptions, the first two paragraphs in particular were very evocative. Don’t know whether I quite believed at that point that the father would wear a dress but it certainly explained his anger.

  14. As others noted, quite an emotional ride and really well-written. Just my point of view, but I think it would also have worked really well ending at the boy walking into the bedroom with his mother to find his father waiting, sad, but not in a dreass. A compelling read.

  15. dannigrrl says:

    Excellent story. Strong and emotional and I love the twist at the end. The kids reaction is perfect!

  16. Gracie says:

    Really great story that captures that moment very well. The twist was excellent, didn’t see it coming at all.

    Well done!

  17. Pamila Payne says:

    Very nice lead in, made the confrontation that much more shocking. I’m sure the boy’s reaction is how a lot of kids would want to respond, but wouldn’t have the nerve. As the father illustrates, closet cases don’t transform, they just hide.

  18. 2mara says:

    This is a great story… truly heart breaking.

    I immediately thought Jo a girl because of the spelling – boys are typically spelled with the added “e”. With spelling and names these days, I am not surprised to see it spelled either way. You do have a slip in the second paragraph where it spelled with an “e”.

    Great post!

  19. donaldconrad says:

    I’m not sure if dad was a cross dresser or if he was just trying on the feel of it. At any rate, you stir the emotional pot with this one.

  20. So very rich in it’s texture, Brian… And quite poignant in parts.

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