Word Count 499
Stitch to Mend a Soul
She considered the woman, pursed her lips, nodded. Yes. The sandy-textured aqua chiffon. The Mender slid the piece from the shelf and draped it around her customer. While she pinned and tucked, she talked. By the time she finished designing and fitting the gown, she had convinced the mother of the groom that her son was not lost to her, she would survive this separation—indeed would be better for it—and possibly gain a friend in this girl who had charmed her way into the beloved boy’s heart.
Known as The Mender, she was as much a seamstress of souls as a sewer of clothes. Man, woman or child, no one walked into her shop who did not walk out with a new lease on life. A stitch here, a word there, she fastened together life’s fragments as her thread mended a garment.
Friends were customers; Customers: friends. A visit with The Mender often involved a cup of tea—soothing Darjeeling, bracing English Breakfast, pungent peppermint or chamomile; Iced in sweltering summer, served hot to ward off winter’s chill, tea comforted, loosened the tongue, opened the mind, settled the stomach. Its aroma lingered long after the pot was emptied.
They came for all reasons—new duds, shortened hemlines—or for no reason. Buttons provided an excuse. Rattling through her button box, like sifting for seashells, she could find an irregular button carved from antler for the huntsman with battered heart. Heavy-duty thread and kind words secured it. Pink daisy-shaped ones went to the child who lost her dog, with reassurances that he would be found—or that another would find her. An ample supply of mother-of-pearl was kept for the lonely neighbor who lost a button weekly.
A sterling silver thimble she wore like a crown, her scissors—a scepter. She reigned supreme from the humble throne in the sewing room of her modest home. The shelves beamed like a rainbow caught in the sun’s unexpected brilliance—ROY-G-BIV held court beside her, robed in shimmery satins, calicos printed with posies and stripes, darkest denim, and ethereal silks.
She threaded her needles with all the right words; embellished with beads to celebrate joy; zippered shut chasms of grief; the flywheel’s steady clack echoed life’s hum. Seemed like she had seen it all—few unravelings had passed her by. Practice made her adept at stitching patches on rents made by death or abandonment; repairing disappointments that gaped like split seams; or ironing out the rumples accumulated by living. Adroitly, she fashioned garments of bright madras for the melancholy, luxurious burgundy velvet for the bereaved, adorned linen with lace for the lonely.
The Mender stitched pearls of wisdom onto every garment she could. After all, she spoke from experience.
But sometimes, the needle slipped and pricked her so she bled. Then, alone in the darkness, The Mender searched futilely for the right color thread, the words, to mend herself, appreciating the irony of a seamstress who wore a tattered, store-bought soul.