Rows of sequins sparkle like an endless desert of Beyonce’s essence.

Nora was worried this little number would look cheap, but now that it’s on. Dang. 

Her heart’s torn, though. She just read a NYT article about how fast fashion is evil, but this dress could be last season YSL’s twin. And for, like, one one-hundredth of the price. Which means Nora can actually afford it. And she needs it. 

Nora’s eyes transfix on herself in the mirror. Why is life so hard? Fine. The decision’s made up. She will sell her soul to the retail devil.

For him.

When he witnesses her in this… Yes. Things will get better. Long gone will be the days of a 10PM Tuesday Postmate’s Chipotle delivery servicing as a date night. Instead, they'll be wining and dining every weekend from Memorial Day to Labor Day. It'll be so romantic! Hampton’s summer share, here they come.

But first he has to secure his spot in the house. Like every other guy ever, Chadwick's been reluctant to commit, but once he sees her in this dress, he will be so overcome with love and admiration he will man up and pay the deposit needed to ensure their relationship survives the summer. It will be magical. (But also, he really has to pay the deposit, like, yesterday.)

“What was the turning in your life?” people will ask. “That time I bought a sequin dress that gave me the booty of an angel. Just like that everything exploded!“

Nora pauses as she gets out her phone to Snap commemorate this milestone moment, pausing first, to add the perfect soundtrack.

SHINE BRIGHT LIKE A DIAMOND!”  

Rihanna’s reflective demands ring through the dressing room as Nora gets her Pretty Filter on. 

“You okay in there? Do you need a bigger size?” the sales assistant asks as she flutters the curtain cocooning Nora and her many angles.

“I’m fine,” Nora chirps back. 

Except the truth is, along the way, Nora’s amateur professional Instagram photography capabilities have picked up on what good fashion shoot directors have known for a century: Do whatever it takes to make the outfit work. 

This is to say, Nora hasn't been able to zip up the dress. Sure her pictures look great, but a half-zipped sheath on Insta does not a proper girlfriend make. For Nora to get Chadwick to commit - and for this dress to be the relationship catalyst she’s convinced it to be - this delicate web of glitter must swallow Nora's body whole. (And of course it’s the largest size they have; the weight of first-world-problems could crush her at any minute.) 

But in this dress, for the first time in a long time, Nora has the confidence to stick the landing. Sure, she's been burned before by guys just like Chadwick, but that was when she was struggling. When the Quarter Life Crisis was kicking her in the shins of life on a daily basis. Now she's okay. Sure, her job's slowly rotting her insides like a leaky underground toxic waste storage system in a Scooby Doo cartoon, but isn't that the status quo promise of Corporate America? 

It's fine. It's all fine. Nora knows that her life could be a lot worse. Yes, all her Junior League friends - similar Southern women who also took Sex and the City Pilgrimages to Manhattan over the past decade - have managed to find love in Never Land, but she just hasn't met the right guy yet? And the law of averages? How many times can you actually be the runner-up before you get to be The One? (Is there anything more ego-bruising than being the second-to-last girl a guy dates before he settles down? To know he was just a Peter Pan man child with you, but when he met her he was finally willing to grow up? UGH. #Natasha)

Okay, enough wallowing. Nora shoves her phone in her boob pocket, and her fingers get down to business in the back. It’s an epic battle of digit dexterity versus fabric circumference. Squeeze - Zip - Squeeze - Zip. Like an inspired inch worm working its way up a tree. 

What if she looks so good in this dress Chadwick, like, really commits? He could be The One, right? Fine, it doesn’t sound great they met on Tinder on Halloween, but whatever, he’s fun and seems to love his mom, dogs, and kids. The Happily Ever After Trifecta Dream!

Nora pauses processing Chadwick's stats. Her fingers have hit a zipper traffic jam. Nothing seems to be moving in either direction. She’s so close. No time to give up. Ugh if only her claw-like iPhone grip hadn’t killed her carpel capacity over the past decade. Nora whispers a prayer to The Universe, “Please give me the strength to squeeze into this dress. I promise to start making good decisions!”

The heavens part, the overhead fluorescent lights soften, and Nora’s inner-strength propels itself out of her finger tips like that one superhero from that one box-office reboot. Fourth and inches -- final YANK -- Touchdown! 

SNAP.

CRACKLE. 

POP. 

The dress rains sequins. Falls to pieces. Nora stares at herself in the mirror.

“Forever 21, my ass.”

Next Up: Chapter 2