Part 3 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. (Part 1 and Part 2)
As always constructive criticism, feedback or even a note to say hi is welcomed!
I would have to do it alone.
My funds consisted of change from unspent school lunches and a windfall from when hand-made hair accessories were trendy a few months earlier. While it wasn’t enough for a new machine, I could take out a newspaper ad and buy material to fit three dresses. I lay awake scripting polite refusals I would need for all those unlucky to come after the third caller.
A week passed. A week of waiting, of silent pleas and threats aimed at phone. When it acquiesced and rang, I got to experience the awful feeling of my heart’s stumbling beat, followed by a cratering sensation that started in my gut but began to swallow me whole as yet another ’16 is not too young to need it‘ life insurance seller began their pitch.
A week of avoiding my Mum, and having Sara avoid me. Distracted the failure, before it even really began, of my business dream, I didn’t mend bridges with either of of them, and so passed a week of chill and desolation.
Then: “Hi, this is Joanne Mitchell. Is Rachel Walker there?“
“Hey! I saw your ad. I’m looking for a formal dress. How much do you charge? “
Oh. My. God. I scoured the kitchen bench for: pen, paper, poise, professionalism.
“I base my costs on a, um, case to case basis.“
“Oh, right…? “
“What I mean is, depending on the cost of the material and how complex a style you want. My hourly rate is very reasonable.“ Shit, how much is reasonable? “Why don’t you come over for… a free measuring? We can discuss style and materials, costs and… y’know, stuff.“ Arrgh, stuff?
“Really? Great! When is a good time? “
Forcing myself to write down her details in my best block handwriting, I confirmed my first appointment, then went to my room and collapsed.
The next day I had time to clean up the front areas of the house, close doors to the less organised areas, fiddle with the arrangement of my kit on the table, then stand for half an hour before our agreed time peeking through the curtains at the street outside.
My first customer was, however, punctual, as well as proof that Mum was right. I am cursed.
Joanne, long for Jo. Formerly a customer of Andy’s Legipops and name writ large on Sara’s “People To Take Out” list.
“Hey, you look familiar. “
“You take the bus? “ I was impressed with my mouth’s ability to act independently of my brain.
“Oh. Yeah, sometimes when Mum can’t be bothered picking me up. “ She dumped her gear on the table, forcing an overspill of measuring tapes and pin cushions to the floor.
“Gosh! Sorry ’bout that. “ As I stooped to collect my things, she upended a bag full of magazines, sending more gear sliding from above.
“I have a few different styles in mind… “ Through the glare of the glossy paper, I could tell they were all going to be very modern, very black and very short.
“That’s great. It’s just… that I’d like to take your measurements first… To see what will suit you best. ”
She crossed her arms, “ No worries. I’m sure you have a lot of ideas. “
Was that an invitation? Or a challenge? My fingers twitched, unrolling the measure.
“Well, actually… “ Soon I had the tape out around her waist, shoulders, hips while she fingered the samples.
“You’re a lot younger than I thought.“ She was flipping through my style guides. I had moved the magazines to their own, distant, edge of the table. “And these styles are a bit… older than I expected too.“
“Some things never go out of style.“ I ran my fingers along the dusty paper, “There was a time that people had less, and they made things to go further, last longer. The details were important. The cut of the cloth, the fit of the lines, extras like buttons, trimming… Clothing these days is so disposable, I mean, do you ever really notice what other people are wearing? “
“Not really, hey. “
The phone began ringing, but I was lost in a fog of cuts and colour considerations and ignored it. The fact that this was the girl Sara had a rough history with also receded as I critically took in her light hair and complexion, short stature and generous frame. Taking my art pad, I sketched out the long, soft lines of an A-line dress in a bright red that would accentuate her pale hair and eyes. The phone’s second attempt finally broke through the reverie.
“Rachel! I’m sorry I’ve been in the shits recently. “
Why now? “That’s OK. No worries.“
“Are you busy or something? I want to talk to you.“
“I’m busy at the moment…“
“Well, on Tuesday I’ll come past your place, OK? Your Mum won’t be home, right? Cool? OK, gotta go. See ya. “
“All good?“ Jo asked.
Mum was right. We are the victim of our own stupid choices.
For her, it was trusting in the man she loved. Loaning him money, when his credit was so bad no bank would take the risk.
Meanwhile, I had managed to get between my best friend with her inability to forgive a grudge, and my client who was the target of it.
I could, however, change that.
“You know Sara Francis, right?“
“Was that her? She’s not coming here, right? “
“Not now. Look, I know that something happened between you guys. It’s not my business, but I’ll understand if you want a different dress-maker. “
She stood silently by the table. I noticed that my my sketch was in her hands.
“Do you like it? “
She nodded. “It’s pretty good. If you can sew as well you draw… and as long as she never comes over while I’m here, it’ll be OK.“
So much for being out of the middle. On the other hand, I had not only my first client, but one who, despite the Sara threat, was sticking around. For today at least perhaps the curse was off.