Hello! Here is the next part of my story about haunted wedding dresses.
In Part 1 & Part 2 & Part 3 & Part 4 , our heroine Leila works as a seamstress in a wedding dress design shop, but the wedding dresses are haunted. They say nasty things to each other that only Leila seems to hear. Leila’s friend and co-worker Shareen scolds the dresses after hearing her friend’s story, and that helps, temporarily; at Shareen’s suggestion, Leila consults a therapist she recommends. Much to her surprise, the therapist takes her at her word, and gives Leila advice on handling them. Leila is about to go into the workroom to implement her strategy – with Shareen there for support.
They walked down the hallway together. At the door to her workroom, Leila took a deep breath and turned the doorknob.
In the workroom Leila took a seat at her workbench. Shareen sat down nearby, waiting. It was quiet. Blessedly, peacefully quiet. Leila knew as soon as she touched a dress it would start, as it always did.
Yet she held in her mind the vision of her mother’s workroom. The lilt of her mother’s and aunt’s voices, the gentle laughter when one of them said something loving or comical to the other, or to Leila. The feel of a pebbly-beaded lace bodice or the swished smoothness of a full-tulle skirt. She carefully called up the vision of her mother’s workroom in her mind’s eye, complete with long teak workbenches overhung with soft-bright lights, the trio of gleaming chrome sewing machines along the wall, and always, always soothing classical music playing on the radio in the background.
Her eyes closed, she thought about the kind caring atmosphere of her mother’s workroom. How the silk and taffeta were lovingly selected and handled. How the laces were caressed and gently pleated or spanned across the underskirt or bodice. How long trains were extended carefully so as not to crumple or compress them.
She began then. She painted a picture with her words, a picture of the delicacy of the fabric, stitches, and fasteners that go into the making of a gown. Of the very special occasion for which the gown is prepared, the loving dedication of two people’s lives and two people’s hearts to one another. Of the moment, the single moment at which the bride and her soon-to-be spouse are transformed into each others’ beloved beings, the moment that transcends all the small irks and petty disappointments that two people encounter in their married lives together. How that moment is infused with hope, and with the desire to become more for each other than each could become on their own.
When she was finished there was still silence in the room.
Soon after, a low rhythmic humming seemed to begin.
“Huh,” Leila said to Shareen in a near-whisper. “I think it might have worked.”
“Oh, yeah,” Shareen responded.
“How do you know? You can’t hear them.”
“They’re purring,” Shareen said, a confident look on her face.
“Purring? How can you tell?” Leila asked.
“It stands to reason. Anyone who heard the story you just told would be purring,” she said.
For the rest of that first day, the dresses behaved well. Leila half-expected them to revert back to their ways after the first hour or two, but as she worked – replicating her mother’s workroom environment as best she could, the low humming continued, not unpleasantly. At the end of the day she was pleased to see how much progress she’d made. And her mind was breathtakingly clear, for a change.
On the way home Leila thought about what had happened. After her aunt’s death and her mother’s illness, she couldn’t think about the workroom. Every time it popped into her head, she would feel a stab of sadness at how much had been lost. Her aunt’s kind cheerfulness, her mother’s loving resilience. All had been swept away in that one moment, in the deep loss that both she and her mother had sustained when her aunt died. It felt that she would never again have that kind of happiness in her life. Never feel that she was part of a beloved circle of family, part of an effort to make other women’s lives as happy as hers had been. On their wedding day, at least.
She hadn’t wanted to think about it for a long time. As she was making dinner, she let herself think again about her mother’s workroom, especially the atmosphere in it. Now that she had had a small success, that the dresses had been calm the whole day, she wondered how to extend that success. How to replicate what she had known as a child in her mother’s workroom.
The next morning, when Leila arrived at the shop, Shareen offered to come with her again. “I’ll be okay,” she told Shareen.
She nodded. “See you later.”
Leila stood in front of the door to her workroom – to her workroom – and she summoned again that peaceful image of her mother’s workroom. It was time to remake her own working life into the one she knew with her mother and aunt.
This day again went well.
Leila was still skeptical that it would last. But each morning she would gather herself, close her eyes, and start her monologue. She gradually reduced the time she spent on her opening talk, and the dresses still hummed, still behaved themselves.
The fatigue she had felt for so long at the end of a day evaporated. She became more lively, more laughing, more optimistic.
But she knew she couldn’t do it alone. For one thing, business tripled after the dresses started behaving themselves. With permission of the shop’s owners, Leila hired two assistants, who were as caring and as good at their work as she was at hers. She was no longer alone, in so many ways.
One day a few months later Leila was talking to her mother about the years in her shop. She had gotten in the habit of coming to visit her mother to ask about the way it had been, to pick up a few more stories to tell the dresses in her workroom in her morning talk. As her mother described the relationship again between her and her sister, Leila’s aunt, how they had grown up together and had been together all their lives, how much they had loved and cared for each other, Leila understood more what it had been like for her mother when her aunt died. She made the decision to ask her mother to come visit her in the workroom. She knew her mother would feel the warmth and compassion that she and her fellow workers extended to each other, and hoped it might help her mother feel better.
Later she was surprised to learn that her mother could also hear the dresses speak. Fortunately, the gowns were well-behaved now, as they had been for some time. The only words they spoke were kind ones.
I still have a surprise in mind – stay tuned until next Friday!
p.s. A big THANK YOU to readers who have let me know in particular that they’re excited about this story. Your encouragement has meant more to me than you know! As promised, here is a pingback to some of the readers who have let me know they’re looking forward to it: Tanglewood Knots|I think, I say, I do|Ronel the Mythmaker|Showers of Blessing|A Note to Hugette|Look Around!|My Silver Streaks|A Writer’s Life|Mabel Kwong|lyncrain
Let me know what you think!