Did I sleep last night? I tossed and turned, writing sentences and paragraphs in my head until I fell into a close-eyed state resembling sleep. How was I going to end the story of the bridal boutique? Was it time to end it? How many stories did I have left in the tank?
There was the one about Sally, the seamstress…
After Veronica quit, I worked alone for a few weeks. Carleen disappeared again and Bay made Veronica the boutique’s persona non grata, guilty of such heinous crimes as stealing petty cash, pencils, and toilet paper. Bay even intimated that Veronica and her attitudes may have driven away business and customers; an economic indicator of doom. I couldn’t believe any of this, but I held my tongue. One thing I knew for sure was that Veronica had not stolen any toilet paper because I had been in charge of stocking this item (with my own money) and I was keeping a close accounting, practically down to the square.
Bay interviewed for Veronica’s replacement and eventually introduced me to a congenial and bright nineteen year old named Kelsey Ruffles, an apt name if there ever was one for a bridal boutique employee. Little Miss Ruffles, I sometimes called her. She learned everything about the salon quickly and in a matter of weeks, she was selling the BLEEP out of the Maggie Sottero line. It was April and things were looking up at The White Sarcophagus.
Customers were coming in regularly, ordering dresses, and June brides started coming in for their alterations. One Thursday, I looked at the clock and wondered where Sally the seamstress was. Little Miss Ruffles laughed and said “she’s probably lost.” I asked her what she meant and she said “she’s always baked when she gets here, haven’t you noticed?”
I hadn’t noticed.
I’d never known many marijuana people and I wasn’t an herb user myself, so I was naïve to the ways of the weed. Sally did seem a little disheveled and forgetful, but it never crossed my mind that she might have been stoned out of her mind. On the day in question, she arrived late and with Kelsey’s comment in mind, she did seem more mind-altered. She puffed up the stairs carrying an armload of finished dresses and her portable sewing machine, and then set up shop in the fitting room area.
The next day, Little Miss Ruffles showed me one of the dresses Sally had returned; she had taken in the waist, but she had forgotten to take up the hem. The bride’s wedding was less than two weeks away and she had paid for the alterations in advance. I called Sally on the phone and outlined the problem and the urgency; she was repentant and apologetic. She agreed to pick up the dress that day on her way home from her sewing gig at a competing bridal salon. She promised to finish it in twenty-four hours and I would pick it up at her studio the next day.
During the twenty-four hours after Sally picked up the dress, I had various conversations in my mind, rehearsing stern lectures of disappointment and that Bay wouldn’t be able to pay her for the mistake she’d made. I contemplated an intervention of sorts or a “come to Jesus” meeting about the seriousness of straight seams and perfect hems.
As I drove thirty miles north to the rural town Sally lived in, I had every intention of being “all business.” I parked my car and could see Sally through the screen-door of her little camper in the woods. Quaint and adorable, it was hardly the hookah pit I had imagined. Sally invited me in and made me a cup of coffee. While she finished the dress I sat on a comfortable overstuffed chair and looked around the room and right next to the refrigerator was one of those “Jesus knocking at the door” pictures, shellacked onto a log slice. Maybe it had belonged to a dear Aunt Bessie or was a yard sale castaway, but it cut me to the quick and I crumbled in my resolve to read Sally the riot act. She finished the dress, we had a visit, and I zoomed off to drop the dress at the bride’s office.
The handwriting was on the wall; time was running out for me at The White Sarcophagus.