Ruffles, Red Wine, and Rage

by Ginny C


Ruffles, Red Wine, and Rage
Ginny C.
A Suffocating Spritz of Dior
The flurry of snowflakes and wash of ivory across the New York City sidewalks filled with bustling herds of people blurred by as Tori gazed out her taxi’s window. Once her driver slammed to a stop, Tori glanced at the price displayed on the dashboard. It read 30 dollars, but after Tori gathered her luggage and walked up to the taxi window, the crass driver demanded a whopping 45 dollars. Grimacing, she reached into the now-threadbare wallet her parents had gifted her for her 20th birthday and fished out a 50. Tori had not seen them since the get-together due to their estrangement following her leaving college. Her driver scanned the bill before speeding off, leaving her in frozen shock while frost turned her fingers into cherry tomatoes and gasoline burned her nose.

With a sigh, Tori trudged through the snow towards the Ritz Carlton’s gilded exterior, warm and glowing crystal chandeliers attracting her like a moth to a lamp. She marveled at the towering pine trees and Michael Bublé crooning in the background but winced at the tsunami of Dior perfume that washed over her. Finally, she remembered why she stood in the Ritz’s lobby for the first time and entered the line for the cream and gold check-in desk. Tori admired the desk’s opulent design until someone tapped her shoulder.
A nasal voice asked if she was participating in Vogue’s 2022 Annual Design Competition, which the industry’s most elite family, the Colburns, would host at the Ritz. After Tori’s nod, the source of the voice, a young woman of small stature and cutting insults, introduced herself as Clarissa Colburn. The tiny lady implored, “What’s your name? I don’t think I’ve seen you at the shows. Oh, and what university did you attend? I don’t like UC Santa Cruz kids coming here.” Appalled by Clarissa’s interrogating, Tori muttered that she had dropped out of college to pursue fashion before quickly stepping up to the receptionist to avoid Clarissa’s disgusted gaze. A scathing gasp still reached Tori’s ears.
Salty Spray
Baggage piled in her arms, Tori failed to notice her approaching competitor until her suitcases toppled onto the velvety carpeted floor. A whine of pain drew her eyes to a pouting Clarissa whose pursed lips nursed a wine glass filled with crimson. Her groans quickly melted into snickers at the sight of a leather notebook lying open on the hallway ground. Clarissa stomped her stiletto’s heel into Tori’s sketchbook, remarking that she would win because of her power and wealth, regardless of Tori’s work quality.
She crowed, “Once I beat all you measly no-namers, my parents will have to acknowledge I am better than Clara!” As Tori’s tears finally leaked onto her face, Clarissa paused her trampling and spat at her, “One last thing: your cheap-ass cinnamon perfume stinks of Bath & Body Works, and we all know only bums shop there.” After Clarissa’s departure, Tori curiously looked up her competitor on Google, wondering who could beat the Colburn. The first article described the scandal of Clarissa’s younger sister, Clara, whose hair and eyes matched Tori’s chocolate locks and hazel irises, pushing her older sister out of the modeling industry. Astounded, Tori gazed down the hallway where she still sat, sketchbook in tatters around her.
Weary Witness
Later in the week, the competition finally began, and fashion designers from across the country gathered to fight for the most prestigious award in the industry: Vogue’s Designer of the Year. Well into the first round, Tori stepped away from her workroom for a bathroom break. Walking back, she turned the corner to find Clarissa striding away from her room. Heart skydiving with a broken parachute, Tori’s breath caught in her throat. Walking away from the room, Clarissa clutched Tori’s painstakingly-crafted design in her manicured hand, a smirk etched on her face as she made eye contact with Tori.
Then, cackling like a banshee, Clarissa strutted away with a flick of her brown hair over her shoulder. “You can’t do that!” yelled Tori, but her protests fell on deaf ears. Frustrated beyond belief, Tori ran down the hall to a manager’s office, panting as she pushed the door open after a rapid knock. Despite the apparent sabotage, the manager simply shook his head and muttered he could not accuse a Colburn of such an act. Fighting to keep the dismay off her face, Tori barely registered the half-hearted apology and his request that she find concrete evidence if she wished to condemn Clarissa.
Crimson Tears
The time left in the competition’s last round dwindled as Tori analyzed her design, a rosy pink dress with complex ruffles, and prophesied a winner’s check in her future. Gathering the layers of satin in her arms, Tori strode down the hall toward the submission room. She had just rounded a corner when – BLAM – Tori groaned in pain, peeling an eye open to spot who trampled her like a rabid bison. Instead of spotting an apologetic face, she found Clarissa sneering with a dripping wine glass carelessly clutched in her hand. Eyes moving from her competitor to herself, Tori repressed a scream of bloody murder. A blooming scarlet stain invaded the
bottom third of her dress, darkening the blush color to a thick umber. Looking up again, a crew member replaced Clarissa, offering a sympathetic smile and some paper towels, murmuring, “You still have 18 minutes. Maybe you can fix it?” Viciously brushing away her salty tears with angry swipes, Tori snatched the towels and dashed into a nearby restroom without another word. Wetting the stain did not remove it. Instead, her rapid rubbing spread the wine and lightened the color. Surprised at the effect, Tori spent the next 15 minutes wiping the dress before leaving the bathroom with her new ombre design. She smiled at Clarissa as she turned in her submission and teased, “See you at the announcement ceremony!”
A Family of Lies
Nervously sipping water backstage, Tori lingered behind the other competitors as they chittered in the connected ballroom. Walking across the dim space to a trash can, Tori halted. Clarissa flipped through her pearly clutch not ten feet away from Tori before whipping out a fountain pen, the engraved Colburn emblem flashing in the light. Tori quietly slid her phone out of her dress’s pocket, clicking on her camera with disbelief heavy on her tongue. Even with her legs aching from the uncomfortable position and