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Art of the Needle

by Catrina Bradley  
6/19/2007 / Short Stories

Sunlight glinted off the needle as her nimble fingers flew. Her hand moved swiftly in the dance of her art. That's how she thought of her creations as art. No female in the county could match her skill at stitching; that's why they came to her. The affluent, pompous ladies of Clarke County proudly strutted through her hand-carved oak double doors, eager to flaunt their wealth by purchasing the finest garments gold could buy. It made quite a statement to be seen strolling downtown or dining at Chester's wearing an Annabeth original.

Not all of her customers entered through the front door. The sly, crafty wives who scrimped and saved snuck down the alley and through the back door. In the boutique's storeroom, Annabeth whispered with women who would prefer their husbands didn't know they couldn't sew. These proud ladies exchanged their precious coins for darned socks and mended shirts they could slip into their husbands bureaus, never claiming credit, but not denying it either.

Annabeth made a knot and neatly bit off the thread. She poked the needle into her pincushion, and stretched. The December sun was now shining full-on through the window, warming the already cozy room. Annabeth shook the wrinkles out of the burgundy damask and admired the tiny stitches. The bodice was ready to be attached to the skirt now, just in time for the fitting appointment with her client this evening. This dress was for a first-time customer. The job was another a first for Annabeth she would not be charging a fee for her services.

The lady who would be wearing her latest creation was the new reverend's wife; the dress would be Annabeth's welcome present to her. Annabeth had a bit of a guilt complex when it came to church. It's not that she didn't believe in God, but going to church was such a bother. She could get so much work done on Sunday when the boutique was closed. Still, something had been nagging at her heart. That's precisely why she began her "alley-door business." By keeping their secret and doing a bit of mending at a reduced rate, she felt like she was helping women in need. If a smidgen of deception was involved, well, what some people don't know certainly won't hurt them.

Promptly at 5:00, the bell over the front doors rang. Annabeth came downstairs from her living quarters and found a smiling Mrs. Patterson in the foyer.

"Let's get right to work, if you're ready, Mrs. Patterson. I'm sure the good reverend is expecting his supper at 6:00. This won't take but a few minutes." Annabeth led the way to the fitting room.

As she pinned and measured, Annabeth had a mind to tell Mrs. Patterson about her alley-door business. The reverend's wife could surely use a hand in that department as busy as she must be. However, the more she tried to explain, the more concerned Mrs. Patterson appeared.

"Soyou seeI canI help people with my talentand they get.." She faltered as she saw Mrs. Patterson's growing unease.

"Dear, don't you see? You may think you are helping the wives, but you are actually harming their marriage." Mrs. Patterson's correction was given gently.

"How so? The men's worn pants are patched; the wives' secrets are secure; I make a few extra coins to buy a pretty bauble or two. Everyone is happy."

"Where do you suppose the women reduce their expenses to pay you? Maybe she selects a smaller, tougher cut of meat for dinner? Or less expensive, lower quality produce? You are taking food out of her family's mouth.

Annabeth's eyes grew wide and her hand covered her open mouth. "Oh, I never thought about"

"But more importantly, you are hindering the marriage by aiding a wife's deception of her husband." Mrs. Patterson's voice remained kind. "Trust, honesty, and acknowledgment and acceptance of faults are building blocks of a healthy, and Godly, marriage. I'm sorry, dear, but you are a stumbling block."

"I was only trying to help, but I see it differently now. What can I do? I don't feel that I can just abandon the women who depend on me." Annabeth was in a muddle now.

Mrs. Patterson's eyes twinkled and a smile grew on her previously worried face. "I do have a suggestion, if you are open to it."

The next Saturday, Annabeth stood proudly, if a bit apprehensively, Mrs. Patterson at her side, as Reverend Patterson straightened the new sign above her back door.

"Annabeth's Academy of Fine Needle Arts"


Catrina Bradley grew up in Iowa, but now calls Georgia home. She is happily married to her much better half, has a wonderful 23 year-old daughter, and a precious, long-haired dachshund named Lady.

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