Chapter 28 – Crewelwork

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After many months with only an impressive collection of desert artifacts to show for, Rosemary and her team were called back by the Council, despite clamorous protests and, on occasion, veiled threats. Every time she had to go to a meeting, Rosemary got into the habit of carrying around an object or other from the collection, which she liked to parade around the room as a symbol of her righteous outrage.

“There is no hope for the Village anymore. You just destroyed our last chance to uproot evil from our midst once and for all!” she raised her voice in Council, an outrageous and completely unheard of behavior that made even Mrs. Eberhart frown with disapproval. “I warn you! This will not end well, and I’m not going to sit here, idle, while the likes of Mary and her evil mirror mongers destroy our traditions and endanger our children! If you don’t do anything about this, I have no choice but to take matters into my own hands!”

“I don’t believe the Council will see things your way, Rosemary!” Mrs. Eberhart admonished, with an unusual hint of harshness in her normally soft voice. “Things have been decided by the group as a whole.”

“Don’t say I didn’t warn you!” Rosemary hissed as she stormed out of the Council Hall, determined to have her way no matter what.

At the end of the meeting, after the customary tea and cookies, Giselle approached Lucille under the guise of helping her dry and put away the teacups, and since her friend’s natural clumsiness was amplified by the stress of the situation, Lucille made sure to maneuver as many of the imperiled recipients as she could before the former doomed them to a bitter fate.

“Say, Lucille, you wouldn’t happen to have a tapestry needle you can spare?” Giselle brought up the first pretext she could think of that would justify paying Lucille a visit without the benefit of Rosemary’s presence.

“Of course, dear,” Lucille encouraged, pleasantly surprised, curious about the things Giselle had to share. In time she had learned that they tended to be a lot more interesting than one expected. “I’m sure I have a couple that I don’t need right now. Why don’t you stop by my house when we leave and I’ll let you chose.”

“Oh, thank you, Lucille,” Giselle breathed a sigh so big it felt exaggerated with regards to the task, but upon a closer look Lucille deemed her friend’s relief genuine. “You’re a life saver!”

Giselle paused to ponder whether she should continue her thought, then looked around and decided to risk it. “I brought the crewelwork with me, maybe you can help me pick the right needle for it,” she pointed to a neatly folded piece of cloth in her basket; the little bundle looked suspiciously stiff and squarish for a silk weave.

Lucille cast a quick glance in the direction of the basket and smiled casually.

“Well, I’m sure you don’t need my help, but I’m more than happy to offer it, if you’d like,” she hinted at Giselle’s unchallenged mastery in the art of embroidery, and crewelwork in particular. “I just hope I have what you need.”

“It’s just that I…” Giselle mumbled, embarrassed by the unexpected compliment, “aahm…would appreciate your advice on this…pattern that I’m working on. I’m… just not sure how to refine it,” she stared at Lucille intently. “It feels a little…disjointed right now.”

“Nothing that can’t be sorted out, I’m sure,” Lucille opened up the conversation, hoping that Giselle’s answer will assuage her curiosity with a little more detail before she got to see the actual thing.

“No, not really,” the latter jumped through the opening in the conversation. “It’s just that I can’t seem to get the gradient and the shadows right, the whole pattern seems to fade into the background. Of course, silly me, I chose to work with white on white, who does that, right?” she looked at Lucille for approval. “Besides, I don’t think I interpreted the sample correctly, I was working from a color pattern.”

To say that Lucille’s curiosity had been piqued would be an understatement, but she kept her composure, finished putting away the china and walked home leisurely in Giselle’s company, stopping several times on the way to greet acquaintances and nod at the inevitable comments about the young generation’s abysmal choice of attire and the eerie reasons for the presence of blue poppies.

Once at home, Lucille and Giselle went to the kitchen where, as expected, the latter unwrapped a tablet with a blank screen.

“Sorry to put you on the spot, Lucille,” Giselle started abruptly, “but I’m such a klutz that I turned the fonts white and can’t figure out how to turn them back to the original color. I’ve been agonizing over this for days, could you please find out if one of the teachers can help? I asked a couple of the girls, but they couldn’t figure it out either, I must have erased a critical line or something, I want to kick myself sometimes!”

Lucille was flabbergasted.

“How in creation did you find out about this?” she managed to ask eventually.

“Oh, dear,” Giselle continued cheerfully, completely missing the stunned expression on Lucille’s face, “you know the girls, they’re given to gossip, it’s their young age, I suppose. Besides people don’t seem to notice me much when I’m around, I just happened to be in the workshop once or twice when Mrs. Gentry was away.” She turned to Lucille apologetically, trying to soothe her worry. “The girls ask me for help on occasion. You remember my old friend from back in the day, don’t you?”

“Who else knows about this?” Lucille asked, with a calm that felt almost surreal under the circumstances.

“A small group of ladies in the Council,” Giselle started enumerating. “Of course Mrs. Gentry, it was kind of hard keeping this stuff from her after she found the mechanical loom.” Lucille sighed, wretched but somewhat relieved, since the source of the sudden progress in the Village had to come to light sooner or later. “And Mrs. Eberhart, naturally.”

“Mrs. Eberhart?” Lucille continued, with the same weird calm.

“Well, how else would we keep Rosemary out of your hair, dear?” Giselle smiled. “Do you know how much planning it took to produce all of those artifacts she found? The desert is really not that prolific.”

She paused for a few minutes, to give Lucille some time to adjust to the news, and then continued.

“Anyway, those of us who are familiar with the subject wanted to put our heads together and figure out how to square this circle, so to speak. We can’t live in the dark ages indefinitely, you know. Not with what’s out there.”

“So,” Lucille brought up the obvious point. “If the Council already knows, why not bring the devices back into the Village, I’m getting a little tired of all those trips through the desert and the girls could really use some sleep.”

“We need to ease into it, dear,” Giselle argued, excited. “We can’t just blurt it out, some of the ladies are very sensitive about the subject, we don’t want to stir up a conniption. Why, just yesterday Mrs. Bentree expressed her dread about the demonic seed that sprouted the blue poppies. By the way, the girls are getting incredibly good at what they’re doing, how did they manage to grow Himalayan poppies in this climate? Don’t they need cold mountain air?”

“Not these particular hybrids, they were bred for one of Blanche’s projects in Genetics,” Lucille answered, still in disbelief that she was discussing this subject with Giselle.

“Anyway, that’s what I wanted to talk to you about, maybe if you come up with some ideas we can all talk about them some time,” Giselle got up to leave, and in the process unsettled the bowl of beans Lucille had left out on the table to cook for dinner. The bowl fell to the floor with a lot of noise, spreading its contents all over the room. “Oh, I’m so sorry! I have two left hands, I can’t do anything right!” Giselle blushed to her hair roots, deeply embarrassed by the tiny disaster, which Lucille dismissed with a quick wave of her hand.

“What about the white fonts?” the latter remembered to ask. “How soon do you need those fixed?”

“There is no rush or anything, just whenever you can, I kind of miss using my tablet,” Giselle said as she went to the door. “And also,” she blushed again, hesitating, “can I bother you about that tapestry needle? Mine broke right in the middle of a pattern.”

“Yeah, sure, of course,” Lucille replied, surprised by the rather unsophisticated request, and turned on her feet to retrieve one from the sewing basket.