She put the dress on for the first time on the morning of May 27, in her room. She had bought a special brassiere to go with it, which gave her breasts the proper uplift (not that they actually needed it) but left their top halves uncovered. Wearing it gave her a weird, dreamy feeling that was half shame and half defiant excitement.
The dress itself was nearly floor length. The skirt was loose, but the waist was snug, the material rich and unfamiliar against her skin, which was used to only cotton and wool.
The hang of it seemed to be right—or would be, with the new shoes. She slipped them on, adjusted the neckline, and went to the window. She could see only a maddening ghost image of herself, but everything seemed to be right. Maybe later she could—
The door swung open behind her with only a soft snick of the latch, and Carrie turned to look at her mother.
She was dressed for work, wearing her white sweater and holding her black pocketbook in one hand. In the other she was holding Daddy Ralph’s Bible.
They looked at each other.
Hardly conscious of it, Carrie felt her back straighten until she stood straight in the patch of early spring sunshine that fell through the window.
“Red,” Momma murmured. “I might have known it would be red.”
Carrie said nothing.
“I can see your dirtypillows. Everyone will. They’ll be looking at your body. The Book says—”
“Those are my breasts, Momma. Every woman has them.”
“Take off that dress,” Momma said.
“Take it off, Carrie. We’ll go down and burn it in the incinerator together, and then pray for forgiveness. We’ll do penance.” Her eyes began to sparkle with the strange, disconnected zeal that came over her at events which she considered to be tests of faith. “I’ll stay home from work and you’ll stay home from school. We’ll pray. We’ll ask for a Sign. We’ll get us down on our knees and ask for the Pentecostal Fire.”
Her mother reached up and pinched her own face. It left a red mark. She looked to Carrie for reaction, saw none, hooked her right hand into claws and ripped it across her own cheek, bringing thin blood. She whined and rocked back “Washed in the Blood of the Lamb,” she whispered. “Many times. Many times he and I—”
“Go away, Momma.”
She looked up at Carrie, her eyes glowing. There was a terrifying expression of righteous anger graven on her face.
“The Lord is not mocked,” she whispered. “Be sure your sin will find you out. Burn it, Carrie! Cast that devil’s red from you and burn it! Burn it! Burn it! Burn it!”
The door slammed open by itself.
“Go away, Momma.”
Momma smiled. Her bloody mouth made the smile grotesque, twisted. “As Jezebel fell from the tower, let it be with you,” she said. “And the dogs came and licked up the blood. It’s in the Bible! It’s—”
Her feet began to slip along the floor and she looked down at them, bewildered. The wood might have turned to ice.
“Stop that!” she screamed.
She was in the hall now. She caught the doorjamb and held on for a moment; then her fingers were torn loose, seemingly by nothing.
“I love you, Momma,” Carrie said steadily. “I’m sorry.”
She envisioned the door swinging shut, and the door did just that, as if moved by a light breeze. Carefully, so as not to hurt her, she disengaged the mental hands she had pushed her mother with.
A moment later, Margaret was pounding on the door. Carrie held it shut, her lips trembling.
“There’s going to be a judgment!” Margaret White raved. “I wash my hands of it! I tried!”
“Pilate said that,” Carrie said.
Her mother went away. A minute later Carrie saw her go down the walk and cross the street on her way to work.
“Momma,” she said softly, and put her forehead on the glass.
Carrie was published in 1974 by Doubleday, New York.
Images by Gregory Crewdson from his series ‘Beneath the Roses’, 2005.