Authors: Arlene Sachitano
Harriet and Carla were putting their tools back in their bags when Patience returned.
"What are you doing?” she demanded, looking around the room. Everyone was in the process of gathering their things. “Class will continue,” she said, her chin held high in defiance. “I'm sure Selestina would want class to continue.” But her chin quivered, and her face was unnaturally white.
"Maybe we could take a little break,” Harriet suggested, hoping they weren't about to see a repeat performance of the one that had just played out. She went around her table and gently grasped Patience's arm. “Why don't you sit for a minute, gather yourself? Isn't it about time for the scheduled coffee break? Carla here could get you something to drink.
"Okay, folks, let's go on ahead to coffee,” she added to the students, who were standing or sitting at their work tables. “Class will resume when we get back."
Carla stood up and nodded. “What can I bring you?” she asked. “Tea? Coffee?"
"A bit of tea would be nice,” Patience said, and sat in the chair Harriet had eased her toward.
Carla returned a few minutes later with a steaming cup of peppermint tea and a chocolate cake donut clasped in a paper napkin.
"Good job,” Harriet said quietly. The corner of Carla's mouth twitched up slightly in what might have been a smile.
Patience sipped the tea, and the color started to return to her cheeks. She took a big bite of the donut. When she had finished chewing, she wiped her mouth and set the pastry on the table.
"Thank you,” she said. “I think we can proceed. I know Selestina will expect me to continue with class until she returns.” She said it as if her boss had stepped out to the ladies room and would be coming right back. Harriet was pretty sure Selestina wasn't returning for the foreseeable future; but they were all here, and not having class wasn't going to do anything for anyone.
"I just heard what happened.” Mavis came up the aisle to the front table. She looked at Patience. “Can I do anything to help?"
Patience stood up. “No, thank you. I'll just put Selestina's tools away and get my sewing bag.” She put Selestina's thimble and scissors back on the tray, picked it up and disappeared behind the curtain.
"Are you okay?” Mavis asked Harriet. “And you?” She grasped Carla's hand.
"We're fine,” Harriet assured her. “I'm not sure the same can be said for Selestina."
"I heard a woman in the restroom say Selestina had collapsed and was taken away in an ambulance,” Mavis said.
"That's pretty much what happened,” Harriet told her. “Everything seemed fine when she started her lecture then all of a sudden, down she went."
"She got real pale,” Carla added.
"Well, you never know. Maybe she has a bad heart. When Lucille Graham had her attack last summer, she was at church. We stood up to sing a hymn and down she went like a sack of potatoes."
Mavis glanced at her watch. “Looks like things are under control here, so I guess I'll get back to dyeing. I'm not sure when we'll finish. We've only got a little more to go on today's samples.
"We'll meet you back at the Tree House,” Harriet said. “It won't surprise me if we run over, given today's disruption."
Mavis left, and Patience reappeared with a quilting bag that looked like it had been hand-made, using a lavender pre-quilted fabric and with wooden dowels for handles. She pulled out a large wooden hoop that already held a muslin fabric sandwich.
"Success in hand quilting is all about your wrist motion,” she began.
She proceeded to demonstrate how to insert a threaded needle into the hooped fabric and, with a gentle rocking motion and correct thimble placement, create a small, neat quilt stitch. She soon had the class practicing their own stitching, and proved to be a competent teacher.
The room was silent except for her words of encouragement as the students strained to master their new skill. Harriet looked over at Carla, who was biting her lower lip as she concentrated on her work. She had completed half of the first feather they had drawn on their fabric. Her stitches were small and very even, and her needle moved up and down in the rhythmic motion Patience had demonstrated.
Harriet looked at her own work. Her stitches were uneven, and she'd only completed the first two curves of her feather. She readjusted her hand position, trying to imitate Carla's movement. Her needle jumped out of the fabric, and as she grabbed for it, her thimble fell off onto the floor. As she reached for it, a hand touched her shoulder.
"Here,” Patience said, and dropped the escaped thimble into her palm. “All right everyone. The last technique we need to learn is the quilter's knot. Gather around the front table please."
The class assembled, and she showed them how to make the invisible knot used to start a new thread when hand quilting. She created a small knot by threading a needle, holding the tail end of thread parallel to the needle and coiling the body thread three times around it. Then she pinched the coils of thread against the needle with one hand and pulled the needle through the coils with the other hand. The result was a small neat knot at the very end of the thread.
To start stitching, she dipped the needle into and then out of the quilt top then gently tugged the quilter's knot through the top layer of fabric.
"Remember to stop while there is still enough thread on your needle, so you can pull the remainder between the two layers of fabric and bring the thread to the surface again away from your last stitch.” She demonstrated as she spoke. “Then, you simply clip off the excess thread and you'll have buried the thread below the surface. Pull the thread a little before you cut it, and it will retract back through the surface."
She pulled on her fabric, and to everyone's amazement, they could no longer see the thread.
"A well-executed knot will be strong, yet no one will know it's there—a sufficiently buried end thread will not return to the surface. Return to your stations, stop wherever you are and make a quilter's knot. Take a few stitches then bury your thread."
Carla sat down and, on her first try, buried her knot without a trace. Harriet's knot disappeared, but when she ran her finger over the spot where it had been she could feel a lump. She sat back with a sigh. As the owner of Quilt As Desired, she was paid for her skill as a machine quilter, and fortunately, that was a technique she did very well. Besides, if she really needed something hand quilted, she apparently could call on Carla.
"Oh, my goodness,” Patience said. “Where has the time gone? Thank you all for bearing with us today. I'm sure Selestina will be back teaching before we know it.” She turned to go then stopped and turned back. “Don't forget there will be a pottery exhibition in Building A starting at six-thirty."
Harriet put her hooped piece on the table and started clearing her space. Carla made a few more tiny stitches then buried her thread. She held her work in front of her and looked at her perfect feather.
"Look at that,” Harriet said, leaning closer to look at the even stitching. “You may have found your true calling here. Good work."
Carla's face turned so red, Harriet was afraid she was going to have to call the paramedics. “Thank you,” she mumbled.
"Let's go see what the others have been up to,” Harriet suggested.
"Your young man has been looking for you,” Mavis said as Harriet and Carla came into the kitchenette. Harriet looked around to see who she was talking to.
"Don't look at me,” Sarah said, and put her hands up as if to block an attack. “Besides, he's older than me so he would never be my young man."
Harriet rounded on her, but before she could speak, Mavis thrust a piece of paper into her hand. “Here, he left you a note and his number. You'll have to use the house phone. I tried my cell phone when I got back to see if Beth has turned up any information about the quilt Lauren copied, and there was no reception."
"Has Beth found out anything?” Harriet asked.
"I haven't called yet. I didn't want to make a toll call on the Art Center phone without asking. I'll go up to the office after dinner. Now, I'm going to go put my feet up. You call Aiden."
Harriet looked at the message. “If you want to join me for the pottery exhibition and then dinner afterward,” it said, “leave me a message and say what time and where you want to meet. I'll be in surgery until 6."
"Does he want us to make charity quilts for the pets?” Sarah asked. “We used to make them for the clinic all the time before Dr. Earp retired.” Her tone indicated it was unthinkable Aiden would be calling Harriet for any other reason.
The internal debate Harriet had been having with herself ended.
"He wants me to meet him for dinner,” she said, and felt like a schoolgirl answering a rival's taunts.
"Whatever,” Sarah said, and stormed out.
Harriet picked up the house phone and dialed the number Aiden had written in the note. She was surprised when a woman answered, but left her message anyway—six-thirty, in front of Pavilion A.
She looked at the ceramic wall clock that hung on the wall above the small sink. She had almost an hour and a half before she had to meet Aiden. That should allow for a quick nap and a shower.
A thirty-minute power nap was all the rest she allowed herself. She laid out her clothing options on DeAnn's vacant bed and wished once again she hadn't put off clothes shopping. Truthfully, she didn't regret not going shopping—she regretted the fact that clothing hadn't magically appeared in her closet.
She finally decided that nothing with a hood was appropriate, which left a moss-green sweatshirt that zipped up the front she could wear with black jeans and a white T-shirt. She stopped by Robin's room for approval, having long since realized the older members of the Loose Threads were likely to tell her anything looked good on her, while Sarah and Lauren would assure her that nothing really worked with her figure and hair.
Robin told her she looked fine and spritzed her with an aromatherapy spray allegedly guaranteed to give her confidence. Harriet was pretty sure the only thing it was guaranteed to do was attract mosquitoes, but she thanked her and left for Pavilion A.
She ended up standing on the steps to Pavilion A a full ten minutes early. She was still standing there forty minutes later when she spotted the Loose Threads coming through the woods. She scrambled up the steps and into the entrance of the ceramics building.
The hallway to the right was lined with display pedestals, each holding a large pottery bowl of some kind. Niches had been cut into the wall every three or four feet, creating a series of lighted display shelves for smaller pieces—in this case, assorted vases. She pretended to study the exhibits until her friends stepped into the hall then dived through the nearest open doorway.
She shut the door quietly and turned around. Tom Bainbridge sat at a table with a man in a charcoal-gray suit, white shirt and a yellow club tie. The guy had that muscle-bound look that said he spent more time in the gym than around a conference table, but who was she to judge?
When Tom saw Harriet he scooped the papers they had been looking at into a pile and handed them to the other man as he got to his feet. “Can you give me a ball park figure by Friday?"
"Sure. I can probably give you an estimate before Friday.” The other man slid the papers into his black leather briefcase, stood up and shook Tom's hand and left.
"I'm so sorry,” Harriet said with an involuntary glance around her feet, searching for a hole to crawl into. “I was trying to find the main part of the exhibition."
"Oh. You just continue on around the hallway, and you can't miss it. It's in the first big room with windows.” He swung his arm in an arc, in the general direction she'd just come from. “I suspect you already knew that, however, since all our buildings are round and you pretty much can't miss if you follow the hall."
"I'm sorry,” she stammered. “I thought I could cut through a classroom and get there more directly.” Her face was flaming hot.
"Let's try this again. Who are you hiding from?” Tom sat on the edge of his table.
"Is it that obvious?"
"It's been my experience that people don't usually close a door with that much care unless they are trying to avoid detection. So, tell me, do you have an angry stalker? Or maybe a quilting rival?"
Harriet pulled out the nearest chair and sat down.
"I'm afraid it's nothing that exciting. It is embarrassing, though, which is why I'm hiding from my friends."
Tom dragged over a chair and sat down opposite her, taking her hand.
"It can't be that bad,” he said “You can tell Uncle Tommy. Come on, you'll feel better."
"I'm not sure how publicly confessing my social ineptness is going to make me feel better."
"Try it and see,” he urged with a wolfish grin.
"You're right, this evening can't get any worse.” She proceeded to tell him about being stood up, and how her rational mind knew Aiden had probably gotten stuck in surgery, but that her irrational mind didn't want to be seen by Sarah or Lauren, both of whom knew she was supposed to be meeting Aiden and both of whom would not be able to resist making a comment.
"See? Don't you feel better?"
"No, I feel foolish, and I feel awful for dumping my silly problems on you when your mother is in the hospital. How is she doing, by the way?"
"I think the jury is still out on that. Her cardiologist isn't sure what's going on with her heart. Apart, that is, from her being seventy-five years old and still working at a demanding business. She was awake and insisted I come take care of business. Her doctor is hoping to know more tomorrow when they get some of her test results back."
"I'm sorry,” Harriet said.
"I've tried to get her to slow down a little, maybe hire another assistant, but she insists she and Patience can handle things."
"Maybe she'll listen to you now."
"I doubt it, but one can hope. Now, back to your problem. Why don't you let me show you the exhibit? I'm sure your friends won't say anything in front of me. And then maybe you could join me for a late dinner."