Fantasy Novel: Chapter 25
Joanne stood on the dew wet grass, opened her arms wide and gave in to the nervous energy that buzzed through her body. She twirled on the spot like an exuberant child. After a couple of wobbly turns, Joanne looked around if anybody saw, laughed and shook her head in disbelief at what she just did.
For somebody that hardly slept a wink, she looked rested and happy. On the outside, it seemed as if the Wolfville Joanne was back, with her hair tied in a ponytail, dressed in the ever present well worn and faded jeans and the shabby colorful button up shirt, but if you looked closely, you would see a marked difference. Gone was the bewildered look on her face, or the more recent look of bone weary sadness. It was as if something has lifted from her shoulders.
A picture of the fine-looking guy that danced with her at the bar popped in her head, and a smile slipped across her face. “I am a woman, and a man found me attractive. Who would have thought?” was Joanne’s bewildered question to herself. In Wolfville, she felt invisible and unattractive, but just maybe she was not as ugly as Charles, and his friends said.
Joanne took another deep breath and strode to the back door of Susan’s house. To the side of the door stood the heavy bag with the charity shop evening dresses Glenda gave her. Sandy hauled it there for her this morning when he dropped her off. She knocked briefly and pushed the door open with her shoulder. The bright yellow kitchen always a welcome on an early gray morning.
“Hi, Susan, you up?” called Joanne, as she dragged the bag over the threshold.
Susan popped her head around the door leading to the dining room and mocked glared at her friend and asked, “What time did you get in young lady?”
Joanne threw back her head, the laughter floated from her stomach upwards, “Late, very late or should I say, a few hours ago.”
"Spill the goods, what happened. I want to live vicariously through you. Did you at least meet a new guy or two?"
"Mmmm, a few. I even talked and danced with them. It was great fun, but nothing happened that shouldn’t have. You see, Sandy was my chaperone and had his eye on me all the time. So he kept," and she chuckled her eyes alight with laughter, "The wolves away."
Susan groaned, "That’s an awful joke."
The women complained and moaned as they dragged the heavy carrier into the dining room. With a firm grip on opposite corners of the bottom of the bag, they heaved and upended the contents of the bag onto the floor. A kaleidoscope of colours and textures spilled out. Soft velvets, shades of blue chiffon, reds in satin and all the other colors of the rainbow were scattered around the floor, like a painter’s palette. A stubborn smell of mothballs hung in the air.
“Wow, you were not wrong, these fabrics are amazing. Let’s make some coffee before we start, I am dying to find out what happened yesterday to make you so late,” said Susan as she walked to fill the kettle with water.
“I had a make-over,” explained Joanne cradling the hot cup of coffee between her hands.
“And, so? That does not explain why you sneaked in here just before sunrise,” sniggered Susan good naturedly.
“Glenda decided that I could not go to see Jakes off looking like “an underfed, scruffy, street urchin,” her words. So she and the girls in the Clothes Store decided to use me as a guinea-pig. I ended up having my haircut and blowed, and someone found a dress among the piles of second-hand clothes that fit me, I even had on a pair of strappy red shoes. By the end of the day, I was unrecognizable,” she said as she smiled reminiscently.
“You and your love for shoes,” teased Susan. “How do your feet feel this morning?”
“They’re fine,” she said dismissively. “The shoes were surprisingly comfortable and were the best dance shoes, ever,” said Joanne, in her mind’s eye she was dancing again.
“How come you ended up in a bar. I did not think it was your scene,” asked Susan.
“Sandy and I stopped at a bar halfway home. You know what Sandy’s like. He is always hungry,” explained Joanne. “It was one of those roadside saloons on the R555. Sandy was salivating for one of their enormous plates of food.” Joanne grinned and said, “I could not say no, after all, he dropped Jakes off and agreed to bring me back to Wolfville. When we walked in, the wooden structure was full of people, some hanging onto the bar, but there were a lot of couples sitting at tables eating fry-ups. The place had that mixed smell of beer yeast and the sweet, spicy smell of barbequed ribs.
A country band was playing at the back and couples were dancing, like we did at school, remember.” Joanne chuckled recalling last night. “For the first time in my life, I danced the night away.”
“With him, yes, but also other men. To tell you the truth that was a strange experience. Men usually avoid me, or they see me as a nonentity, but these guys, they actually wanted to dance and be with me,” mused Joanne, thinking back to the fun she had.
“Why, are you surprised? You are a good looking woman.”
“While I was married to Charles men either ignored or insulted me. But when I moved away all kinds of strange things started to happen,” shrugged Joanne. She thought and said with a frown on her face, “Even that new guy, Xavier, bared his teeth. That never happened before. What could that be about?”
“Maybe he wants to claim you,” said Susan, “That does happen you know.”
“Ump,” snorted Joanne in derision.
“Speaking of new guys, did you hear that the Council was going to use the shifter land, bordering the State Forest for some kind of training?”
“No, really, how did you hear about it?” asked Joanne, surprised that the rumor mill has started already.
Susan shrugged and said, “One of the mechanics that worked on my car helped a Special Enforcer with one of their vehicles, and this guy mentioned that they will be setting up camp.”
“More shifter men, excellent,” was Joanne’s sarcastic reply, but she speculated if Winslow knew that his plans were openly discussed. “Not my problem, thank you very much,” she said to herself.
“How did you get the heavy bag to the Forestry Offices, surely not by train?” said Susan as she folded the heavy duty plastic bag into a smaller square.
“Gideon gave me a lift to the Forestry Offices. He also acted strangely, as if he did not want to leave me there. I am so used to come and go, nobody asking what or where I was going, and all of a sudden Gideon wanted to stay with me while I waited for Jakes and Sandy. Wonder what that was about?” She heaved a sigh and said, “The boys were late as usual, and I had to convince him I was safe. I am a big girl, I can look after myself.”
“Jakes must have been so excited to start his apprenticeship,” said Susan keen to change the subject from the man at the Centre that Joanne talked about so much.
“Yes, if he could jump up and down he would have, but you know it isn’t cool to be seen to be excited,” drawled Joanne, mimicking Jakes when he greeted his mother. “The parents got a pep talk from the Dean of the Forestry School, and then Jakes and his fellow students were led away. I received a bag with all kinds of information on what was going to happen to him during the year. I must say, Susan, it is such a relief that Jakes is away from this place before he did something stupid.”
Susan bobbed her head in agreement, remembering many recent evenings when Jakes was so worked up by Charles and Paul, that he hid in his mother’s rooms. “What did he say about you in a dress?” she asked curiously.
Joanne waved her hand indifferently in reply, “You know teenage boys, as I predicted, I could have worn rags, and he would not notice the difference.”
The back door’s hinge squeaked its familiar nerve grating noise, and Julia shuffled in. Dressed in black leggings and a black knitted top that was so stretched out of shape that it reached her knees. Her sulky face was surly and pale, the perfect picture of an emo teenager.
“Morning, darling. I did not expect to see you so soon. Do you also want a cup?” asked Joanne lifting her cup in question, with a smile.
“Whatever,” came the teenager’s reluctant and rude reply.
“What’s this,” asked Julia kicking the pile of dresses on the floor, as she sauntered past her mother.
“These are used evening dresses that Susan and I want to turn into little girl’s fairy dresses.”
“Why fairy dresses?” asked Julia scornfully.
“Look at this dress,” and Joanne lifted a powder blue dress that lay on top of the heap. The dress had layer upon layer of sheer fabric each a slightly lighter shade than the one below.
“What does this look like for you?” asked Joanne as she draped the dress over a chair, “A water fairy or a sky fairy?”
“And this one?” asked Julia, with feigned indifference.
“I do not know what do you think? Maybe a fire fairy?”
“How are you going to make them?”
“You mean the dresses?” asked Joanne and said, “That’s where Susan comes in. She has such a talent for design. I will try and make what she has designed.”
“Weelll,” Joanne drew the word out as she stared at the dress still in Julia’s arms.
“Sell them at a flea market, my friends are there today selling some of the clothes we altered during the week.”
“But this is butt fugly!” said Julia in disgust.
Joanne looked at her daughter, and they both started laughing.
“That’s the challenge. How to change that into a dress little girls would love.”
Julia put the red satin dress down and sank onto a chair. Looking around with interest, the bored, unhappy look was gone.
“Let's sort them into immediate possibilities, maybe’s and fugly’s,” teased Joanne, relieved that Julia was interested in this new project. She needed to do something positive with her daughter that has nothing to do with Wolfville or her father and the life she has with him.
Julia smiled shyly at her mother and helped to sort the dresses. As the day progressed, Susan drew a few ideas and Julia also decided to try her hand at design. Joanne laid out the basic pattern designs on packaging paper for them to use as templates. The blue chiffon dress was carefully unpicked, and they cut out the bodice, puffy sleeves, and many-layered skirts. After lunch, Joanne stitched together the basic dress, and they all oohed and aahed at the colors of light blue that moved as the little dress was shaken.
“It needs something else,” said Joanne and Julia dove under the table for a scrap of sequenced fabric. “Put this on the bodice and wings, and we have a fairy dress,” she said waving the glittering piece of fabric about.
“Wow, Julia you have a good eye,” said Susan admiringly.
Peter poked his head through the door and asked petulantly, “Any food in this house?”
Julia grabbed him by the arm and frogmarched him into the kitchen.
The women looked at each other in speculation, wondering what the girl was about.
“You still have that, you know wired art. You know man that thing you made in art class.”
“Yeah, what of it?” mumbled Peter through a dagwood type sandwich, dripping with cheese, tomato sauce, and cold meats.
“Can I have it?”
“What for, so that you can terrorize me?”
“No, man, I want you to help me I have an idea,” she danced into the room a different girl to the depressed teenager of the morning and grabbed some of the stretchy white cloth that was leftover and the sequence ropes Joanne dumped on a pile.
“Come on,” groaned Julia as she bullied the good natured Peter in finding her some more wire and a glue gun. Joanne and Susan smiled at each other as they listened to the two fighting and teasing as they worked together.
By six o’ clock that evening they had one fairy dress made, complete with white and blue wings.
“Are you going to stay with me tonight or are you going home?” asked Joanne as the two of them walked towards her rooms at the back of Susan’s garden. Susan said would start working on some of the other dresses during the week. Now that they also know how to fashion the wings, Joanne could take them to the craft market soon.
Julia kicked at an imaginary stone and replied gloomily, “I told Dad I am staying with Susan. There was some important meeting at the Pack House.”
“My darling I will always make time for you. Come, let’s see what we can throw together. What about Fried Cheese sandwiches. I learned how to make Cuban cheese sandwiches this week and wanted to try it.”
For the first time in nearly a year, Joanne and Julia spent a peaceful evening in each other’s company. They talked about the fairy dresses and laughed when they discussed the burgundy dress.
“It looks like something from Aladdin’s cave,” giggled Julia.
Later that evening mother and daughter was tucked snugly in their beds. The moonlight shone softly through the window. Joanne cherished this moment with her daughter and sighed with contentment.
She nearly swallowed her tongue in surprise when Julia whispered hesitantly, “When is the right age for a girl to fall pregnant?”