Every woman in Evanston over the age of twelve owned a red dress.
No one talked about it.
No one talked about the red dye on their mother’s hands either, bought in bricks or beaten out of Bloodroot. The stains clung to fingers and arms for weeks at a time as they dyed and redyed and redyed again.
No one talked about their aunts sneaking off into the woods to hang great sheets of precious cloth off the branches to dry, or their sisters hauling it in again, bright crimson, and whipped to gentleness in the constant island wind.
Each girl made her dress herself, cut and draped and stitched after dark. Each bodice was layered in folds. Each skirt was a cascade of ruffles and corners and tails, unable to lay still. Their sleeves stretched almost to the ground, split at least, and sometimes turned to ribbons. They made matching cloaks to swing around their shoulders and gave them tails, too.
They worked in as much cloth as they could afford, as much red as they could sink into the fabric. And then a little more.
The dresses were too big to hide in the back of their wardrobes, too bright. They locked them in boxes in the cellar, or behind the shed, or under the floor. They only drew them out after dark.
They only wore them at midnight. Only when the wind howled between the houses and dragged frenzied fingers through the ocean. Only when the Fates, in their haste to roar in the world and rattle in the stars, turned them into wilder things than themselves.
The women climbed the hills above silent Evanston, and didn’t speak either. They merely stood, brazen where the entire sky could see them. They knew the Fates feared the smell of crimson, and they drove it into the air with every snap of the fabric.
Steady bone and beating cloth, they reminded the Fates what lived in Evanston.