Part 5 of a longer short story about a teenager still learning how to navigate tricky situations, the price of loyalty to the unworthy, and the demands of any relationship. (Go to the beginning: Part 1 )
As always constructive criticism, feedback or even a note to say hi in the comments is welcomed!
“You’re quiet today.” Jo said, as I carefully pinned the paper patterns to her school uniform.
Silence settled over us again. Best to just keep quiet, both to avoid becoming more involved further in the saga between my two clients, as well as to better hear the footsteps of either Mum or Sara arriving unexpectedly. Pins were pushed into the soft wood of the table legs, after my jumpiness made keeping them in my mouth more dangerous than even style would allow.
“How’s everything going with Certifiable?”
“Sara. Sorry, I know you guys are friends and all, but she is pretty crazy.”
It’s hard to deny, but… “She’s having a pretty rough time at home, you know. I think that’s enough to make anyone become a bit… over-dramatic. Turn around.”
“Yeah, except, the way she acts, you’d think no-one’d ever gone through a divorce before.”
I stabbed a pin into the table, wishing we weren’t having this conversation. “It’s always hard when reality sets in. She’ll learn to focus on other things.” Like I focus on this dress, and not my fight with Mum, or my own broken home. Healthy? “How’s that feel? I think it’s fitting really nicely.”
“Her Dad is a jerk anyway.”
“Um, OK. I didn’t realise you’d met him. Aaaah, be careful! Don’t rip it!” She had twisted around to stare at me.
“OK, OK, hold up a sec. What has she told you?”
“Whatever, it’s not my business. Let’s just get the patterns off, or you’ll end up asymmetrical.”
“She didn’t mention anything about her Dad and my Mum at all then?”
Oh… I looked up at her wordlessly. It all makes a lot more sense now.
“Uh, She only really talked about some exam trouble at Grammar.”
Jo’s arms quivered. Trapped in the paper, they punctuated her words in stiff, though still alarmingly violent, motions. “That! That’s when I realised she really hated me. Me! For what? Her stupid Dad dating my Mum? Trying to be all friendly and hey! I have a daughter your age. You know he brought me over some of her stuff? Like her books and shit? I never asked for a father, especially not her father, but she can’t hate him, so I get all her angst. The exam was just the last straw. No wonder they expelled her.”
She stopped, her eyes meeting mine, searching for some missed reaction. “You don’t know anything about this? She hasn’t told you anything, has she? And you’re her best friend? “ She began drawing out the pins around her in order to sit down. As I hastily took over before anything got ripped, she murmured, “And that’s why we call her Certifiable.”
A heavy silence returned, full of my regrets, not only about having tried to defend Sara leading to this outburst, or the decision to take two arch-enemies as clients, but shading into remorse of having made contact with anyone, ever.
But it made sense. If I couldn’t trust Dad to stick around, or Mum to support my dreams, or even Mark to use his brain, how could I trust someone I’d only known a few years to tell me the truth about her painful past?
Focus on the dress.
Rolling out the rich, red material seemed to make both of us perk up. Jo touched an edge of the satiny fabric. “Wow, it’s going to look great.”
“I’d like to have it done by end of next week, so I’ll give you a call for when to come around again for another fitting. If you could bring the cash next time too…?”
Jo’s hand pulled away, but she nodded. “I just got a job at Nick’s Nosh, starting tonight, so that’ll help. Actually, this is a bit awkward, but I just realised I didn’t bring the deposit for their uniform. So… could you spot me and add it to my bill?”
“Sure, I guess. Though, it’s going out of my fabric fund, so I hope I don’t need anything more for your dress this week.”
“Thanks babe! “ She took the money and began collecting her gear, “Man, I wonder what will happen if Sara ever comes to Noshies?”
I will get a call to come hold your arms back… “Look, you know Sara is still really angry, and not going to chill out any time soon. It’s not my business, but I think you should talk it out, instead of always worrying she might be the next customer through the door.”
Jo’s cheerful expression fell away to one that was reminiscent of a two-year old’s stubborn scowl. “Unless you can talk her Dad out of moving in, I doubt it. Let’s just drop it, OK? I’ll see you about the dress next week.”
Closing the door on her, I felt I was closing something inside me. Maybe Mum was right in believing there was nothing she could have done to stop Mark. There’s no medicine for stupidity, there’s no advice that can stop a bad decision if it’s wanted to be made. Instead, I savoured the emptiness of the house.
Both dresses were at the stage of transforming from paper into product. Sara wanted a little black dress and I could see them becoming a frequent request if I lasted past this tumultuous beginning of my trade. I wanted something less funeral for her, I wanted a summery halter neck in yellow cotton, with a tight waist and ripply, bell shaped skirts falling just below the knee.
But she wanted a little black dress: strapless, shiny, ankle length matched with new stilettos.
And there’s nothing I can say to change that.
The phone rang. I moved slowly to answer it.
“Wha- Dad?” I hunched over a little, at the sharp pain in my gut.
“Hey girl, how you doing? Hey, I’ve got something to show you, if you’ll come past tomorrow arvy. Just you, ok? Don’t bring your Mum. Yet.”