Once upon a time, there was a shirt named Fred. She lived on the large girls’ shirts rack at a clothing store surrounded by a great many Dull Gray Shirts. The Dull Gray Shirts did not approve of Fred because she (her full name was Frederiqua) was a Loud Pink Shirt with a picture of an Ugly Green Fairy on the front. Even the store clerks rolled their eyes at her as they passed by, if they bothered to look at her at all. And the customers? The teenaged girls who passed through the store, every single one of them, looked at her, lingered on her, and laughed in her face, before carefully selecting one of the all-but-identical Dull Gray Shirts that surrounded her.
But then one day, a curly-haired blonde girl named Shirley walked into the store. She was there with a friend and the friend was just like all the other Dull Gray Girls, but Shirley seemed different. She didn’t seem as impressed by most of the selection, but when she laid her eyes on Fred’s Loud Pink shoulder, she lit up like a beacon.
“Seriously?” said the friend when she caught Shirley looking, and soon launched into an invective against Bright Pink Anythings all over the world and how none of them could bring about social success.
Shirley bowed her head and left the store empty-handed, but a few days later, she came back alone. “I’ll show them,” she told Fred while waiting in line at the register. “I bet none of them even bothered to try you on. I’m gonna rock your look, I just know it!” Then she realized she was talking out loud to a shirt and smiled at the store clerk.
There were a few Dull Gray Shirts in Shirley’s closet, but only a very few, and those, according to gossip, had been foced on Shirley by her parents. That night, Fred was carefully folded atop a faded pair of jeans that only casually mentioned the record collection without talking Fred’s ear off about it. And the next day, Shirley slid the shirt on—she fit perfectly—and strode into school like it was armor.
“Seriously?” said Heather, the fried who had disapproved at the store, and with that one word, Shirley’s confidence shattered. She crossed her arms in front of the Ugly Green Fairy all through first period and then rushed to the restroom to change into her Emergency Back-Up Dull Gray Shirt. And when she got home, Shirley took Fred out of her backpack and stuffed her into a box under her bed with a collection of ripped, torn, scorched and poorly tye-dyed failures of Shirley’s childhood.
Over the next few days, as Fred languished, Shirley started to realize that there were a lot of things that Heather said that she didn’t agree with, but went along with because Heather seemed to assume that they went without question. And yet here she was, her and her Dull Gray Shirts, trying to fit everyone else into a Dull Gray Shirt when they could talking out loud to fairies on their chests. Or on their butts—wait a minute!
It was sixth period and Shirley didn’t realize it unitl they had all stood up, but the girl in front of her, Judy Chung, was wearing a pair of jeans that featured the Exact Same Fairy floating up the calf to the left butt-cheek.
“Seriously?!” Shirley exclaimed, which caused Judy Chung to turn around and give her a quizzical look. “Sorry,” said Shirley, “I was just admiring the fairy on your… um…” She was going to say “jeans”, but Judy Chung offered, “Ass?”
“Why, yes,” Shirley accepted. “I was admiring the fairy on your ass.”
With that awkwardness out of the way, Shirley dashed home after school and released Fred from her under-bed prison—which hadn’t been that bad, really: the hole-ridden flanel was actually a pretty decent guy, once you got to know him—and she clutched Fred to her chest and promised never to let her go again. Until she needed to be washed, of course. Which would be pretty soon, probably, because Shirley was very excited to wear her again.
And the next day at school, when Shirley saw Heather and saw the expression on her face at Shirley’s unabashed display of aesthetic defiance, Shirley cut her off with a decisive “Seriously!” and kept on walking, looking for Judy Chung. ‘Cause even if she wasn’t wearing those pants today, she was pretty confident that the two fo them would still match.
But Judy Chung was wearing the jeans. The jeans were named George, which was short for Georgiana, and the minute Fred saw George, they knew from the bottom of their hearts that the four of them would have no trouble living happily ever after.
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