A girl, Rita, lives with her two aunts Marge (Margo) and Nellie. Marge works with machines and Nellie makes clothes. They aren't very rich.
Uncle Jack is coming and Rita is asked to go to the party of Valerie Mander. They don't think it's wise idea to go to the party, but Valerie told Rita to tell Uncle Jack she's a big girl now. Rita could go to the party and Nellie would make her a dress.
When Jack arrives Rita and Marge have gone to get her hair set for the party.
Marge husband was a soldier, but he dies a while ago. When Rita and Marge are at the party, Rita meets a boy called Ira. He's an American.
When they're back home again she doesn't feel like telling anything and she goes to bed. A few days later Rita meets Ira secretly. They go to a place Rita remembers when she was little, by bus. Rita is in love with Ira but she's afraid of it. When they're there they just go and walk. She tells him that Marge's husband died from gas in France. They walk to the sea. After a while they kiss, that's what Rita had been waiting for. It's all new to her. She began to fantasize of marrying and have a house of their own etc. After a while they go back again by train.
Jack bought petrol from the black-market for the car, and Nellie doesn't like that. They all go for a ride in the car. Rita wants to go to the Cathedral. She wears perfume and they smell it and say something about it, but she doesn't say anything back. She's been silent all week (in love maybe?). Rita says she's going out. They don't ask any further bout it.
When they arrive Rita goes to the graveyard of the Cathedral and they wait in the car. They talk about her and where she's going. Nellie knows she says, to the movies with Cissie Baines. The Marge and Nellie argue and fight about little things (they irritate each other) and suddenly Nellie isn't feeling well. It's her heart. Marge cries and gets Rita into the car. When they get home they put her in bed. She's doing too much work. Jack and Marge are very worried about her. When Rita says she's off they don't really notice it and Jack gives her money and tells her to be a good girl. Marge wishes she hadn't argued with Nellie.
Rita puts some make-up on. She has a meeting with Ira again. (She's at a train-station.) At first she's worried because she can't find Ira anywhere. But after a while he arrives (the train was running late). He seems a bit different (slow, unaware). It was a short meeting and all they did was walk in the rain. At night Rita has a nightmare. She dreams that she finds the people she loves in a house. When she wakes up she screams. Marge comforts her.
Nellie recovers and Rita goes out at nights regularly. When she goes away she says she goes with Cissie Baines, but no one, not Nellie, not Marge, not Jack, ever saw this girl.
Nellie and Rita went to the market to buy some things for Nellie to make a new wardrobe of clothes, dresses etc.
Marge talks to Mrs. Manders (Valerie might get engaged with Chuck so Nellie has to make a dress for her). Then Mrs. Manders says Valerie saw Rita and a guy together and Marge is surprised and she finds out it's the guy from the party.
She talks with Jack now, but not about Rita. She thinks Rita is just like Nellie, always keeping things to herself, always listening to what other say. Nellie always used to listen to what mamma said and now mom's dead she still does. Jack is angry at Marge for talking like that and goes away.
When Rita comes home she talks to Marge about it and Marge gives her advise. Rita writes him a letter that she's sorry she annoyed him and if they could meet again next Saturday. She went to Valerie and asked her to give the letter to Chuck (then he could give it to Ira). Rita meets Ira again (dressing up and wearing make-up), he got the letter from Chuck. They go to the movies. She feels very uncertain.
When Rita is at work Jack picks her up at lunchtime to have a little chat (but Ira might call, so she's very uncertain). He tells her about why he couldn't take care of her and why she lived with her aunts.
Ira comes to visit Rita's house. She asked him and he didn't found it a problem. Marge was being very strange to him and Rita didn't like that. When Ira leaves he promises he'd call her. He couldn't meet her on Saturday because then he was training. One day Marge is alone at home and someone knocks on the door. It's Ira and he wants to talk to Marge. He says he doesn't want to be with Rita anymore and he wants Marge to tell her that. He thinks Rita is too young.
Rita is very upset when she hears it from Marge and decides to write a letter to tell him she wants him back. When Rita goes to Valerie to give her the letter, she finds out Ira can't read or write. Now Rita thinks that's why he won't stay with her and won't write her letters and she's relieved. But after a while she's not relieved anymore, Ira doesn't call her.
When Nellie's home alone she works on the dress of Valerie and hears some noises upstairs. When she's going there to take a look she sees it's Ira, looking to and touch the furniture that belonged to Nellie and Marge's mom (those are very precious to Nellie) and she kills Ira with a scissor and he falls from the stairs. She gets Marge and Jack to help her with the body. They think it's probably the best that way and that he was giving only trouble and hurts Rita. Jack takes the body with him to take it down to Bootle and thy get rid of the body.
Don't do anything you absolutely don't want to do. Rita didn't let Ira do stuff to her, because she just wasn't ready. But when she was afraid to lose him she would let him (but it didn't get that far).
Be careful with what you say. When Nellie and Marge had a fight Nellie got a heart attack and it ended well for her, but it might as well turned out bad.
The story is set in England near a place called Ince Blundell. It's around the time of the war.
Rita:A 17-years old girl, living with her two aunts. She's very inexperienced with boyfriends and love. She doesn't know much about it and that way she gets hurt.
Nellie:She's one of the aunts and she's a dressmaker. After her heart attack she seems a bit different. She's a sweet woman and hates to lose a discussion.
Marge: She's a bit of a party woman. She doesn't act like her age (she's 50), she acts younger.
Jack:He Rita's dad and had a slaughter shop. He couldn't take care of Rita when he lost his wife, so he 'gave' her to the aunts.
Valerie Mander: She's the neighbour girl from Rita and the aunts and is quite mature. She's engaged to an American.
I don't think the title can be explained very clear, but I'll try. The dressmaker is Nellie. She is Rita's aunt and makes clothes for whoever needs them. She's very good at her job. Eventually it is her that kills Ira.