Bell’s whole day was destined to be ruined by a dress. With her sharp cheekbones and pale hair, the prim white lace gave her a decidedly skeletal cast. It was neither flattering, nor in theme, and no one involved was happy about it. However, the school would never suggest the daughter of such a prestigious family stand out in something else, or heaven forbid, be uninvited from her own graduation.
Unfortunately her parents were also unwilling to challenge tradition. Bell’s mother had managed to wear the dress and matching sun hat with grace, Bell should be able to do the same. It was Bell’s fault that the sweeping hat shadowed her eyes into sightless hollows. “Perhaps if you smiled?” Her mother suggested over a martini. “No, don’t do that. It makes it worse.”
The matter was exhausted and then dropped. Bell would wear the dress and try to look less like the ghost of Christmas future. This graduation was good press, her mother’s publicist explained to Bell, not bad press like what she’d been caught doing in Toulouse last spring. But something instead to herald her entry into the corporate elite where she would attend better parties with better dresses. Dresses her parent’s stylists could pick out.
She left her parents table at that point in the sell, leaving her father with a scowl and her mother calling for another drink. Bell didn’t say anything to her classmates as she joined their lines. She hooked arms with the girls who wore their white dresses better than she did, and allowed herself to be escorted by young men in red striped ties and blue jackets.
They called her name. She cradled the bouquet of white flowers they handed her, and climbed the stairs to be given a framed piece of paper she’d never look at again. Bell sat back down and waited for the Dean to make his way through the rest of the alphabet.
It ended and the Dean declared them adults. The young men next to her tossed their caps, the girls hugged each other. No one tried to hug Bell, for which she was grateful. She would not miss these people. They were also the corporate elite now, she would see them at the parties wearing the clothes their parent’s stylists picked out for them.
Bell watched the others filter towards their parents tables. She could hear the pop of cameras starting to go off. Everyone’s business newsletter would include the CEO’s family standing next to a white dress or blue jacket this month. Bell was gone by the time her mother’s publicist came looking.