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I wonder what kind of paper they print lottery tickets on. It can't be very expensive. Funny how it holds a crease, though, especially when I've held it in my slightly sweaty hand all the way from the newsstand to the train station instead of tucking it into my purse. No reason. Just didn't want to let go of it. Didn't want to let go of the rumpled, damp, creased piece of paper the beautiful, dark-skinned woman at the counter knew I wanted as soon as I walked in the door.

Why do I keep doing it? It's two dollars a week, which isn't bad considering how much some people spend on them. One on Tuesday, one on Friday. One is enough, if it's meant to be, which is a strange theory for someone who believes in neither God nor fate. But, if it's meant to be, one's enough. One's enough to hope on, one's enough to get my name in the pot, one's enough to get damp in my sweaty hand on the way to the train station. One's enough to hold onto all the way home as the train rolls over the jammed interstate, through the Buckhead business district, along the softly tree-lined streets of Brookhaven, past Chamblee's strip malls, and into the industrial barrenness of Doraville and the GM plant stretching its corrugated metal into eternity and beyond.

One's enough to get me out. Enough to pay off all the bills, the credit card, the student loans, the car note. Then what? What would I do when those strings are cut, when those chains are broken? Would I leave here? Would I leave him? I said I wouldn't, that I would stay with him forever, even after I didn't need him to prop up my dreams any more. But if one were
enough. . . .

There's a town in Spain, a lovely whitewashed village perched on the edge of the Mediterranean-I see it every morning when I get to my desk and turn on my computer. Everyday I look at the houses and shops and winding narrow streets with window boxes full of red, red flowers. I see my house. It's near the top of the crooked mountain of glowing buildings, with so many windows it's a wonder there are any walls left to hold it up. I know what it looks like inside: cool, smooth floors in swirls of pink and gray marble, bare white walls, high ceilings, and billows of sheer white fabric on the windows to catch every clean, salted breeze. There is nothing else inside; it's empty, waiting for me.

When those chains are broken, when those strings are cut, I will go live there. I will pick out furniture that is absolutely perfect, and until I find the perfect pieces, I will simply do without. I will sleep on the floor in a mound of cotton sheets until I find the perfect bed. I don't need a dresser, only a wardrobe, for I will wear sundresses - maybe even the same one everyday. No, I should have at least three, in three different colors, to suit whatever mood I wake up in. And I shall not own a stitch of underwear.

But I'll need a ball gown, because one is enough and you never know when you might need something formal. It might take some time to get invited to a ball, so I'll put it on sometimes just to see how ravishing I look. Then I'll take it off again. And my three sundresses and one ball gown will hang in the perfect wardrobe while I sleep in the mound of cool, cotton sheets. In the morning I will pick out either the yellow, or the red, or the sky blue sundress, and I will walk down a winding, flowered street to the friendly cafe on the corner. I will drink strong coffee and chew brioche and if a newspaper catches my eye I will look away.

I will chat with the waiter, who knows me and all three of my sundresses, and he will comment that my hair is growing longer. Then I will wander the village and its narrow, flowered streets until I reach the beach. Or the hills. Or the olive grove to the east. Or the fallow fields to the west. Or perhaps I will go back to my sunlit house and write stories of places that never were, filled with people whose names I make up from letters on shop signs in the whitewashed village.

Some days I shall speak to no one at all between breakfast and afternoon tea. (I will have afternoon tea, because one is enough.) Some days I shall speak to everyone I see, even to the point of having a long conversation about love and loss with the cheese shop owner, who still wears her wedding band fifteen years later. When the sun has set and the whitewashed village twinkles pink-and-purple warm, I will make my way back from wherever my travels have taken me that day. I will go to my other favorite restaurant and eat rich food and drink quiet wine. That waiter also knows my three sundresses, he knows that I do not own a stitch of underwear, and he knows my cool, salted sheets.

But himů If he comes with me, I'll end up putting a broken, veneered dresser in my lovely house, because he wears shorts and dirty t-shirts that don't hang in wardrobes. He'll want more for breakfast than coffee and brioche, and he certainly won't want to wander narrow, winding streets for hours on end, no matter how many red, red flowers there are. He'll want his X-Box and his computer and cable television and microwave popcorn. He doesn't even like olives. Or wine. He'll fart in my clean cotton sheets and he'll look at my sundresses every day and never, ever know them.

I look at the village again, just in case I missed him. There's a cheese shop and an olive grove and the blue, blue sea and the shining sky, a cafe at breakfast and a restaurant at supper and flowers and streets, houses with open windows whose sheer curtains brush across cool marble floors and red, red silence and coffee and places that never were-but no, he's not there.

So one is enough.

Bio: Erin MacKay was born in Alabama and raised in Georgia. She attended a women's college that didn't teach her as much about being a woman as a divorce and four years of waiting tables did. She now works as a legal secretary in Atlanta, Georgia, a job she loves for its balance of challenge and freedom. Currently at work on her first novel, she draws strength from the unflagging support of her husband, who read "Three Sundresses and a Ballgown" and stuck around anyway. Erin can be reached at erin_mackay@yahoo.com

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