Chapter 8 : Morningbird
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“What time is this?”
Lorraine sights, absently twirling a blond curl around and around her fingertip. Eileen watches her untangle a particularly nasty knot and turns back to her sewing. They are designing and creating a wedding dress for a Laurasia Sykes, a famous witch. It is to have a sweeping train and lace flowers stitched carefully to the silk of the bodice. There are tiny blue moonstones stitched in three great swirls across the silver fabric. Lorraine is solely in charge of the bridesmaid’s dresses which are to be a pale, spring yellow - perfect for an April celebration.
“How dreamy,” Lorraine says, “Eight dates in three months. I tell you, Eileen, he’s in love.”
“You’re barking - we’re just courting. And you said it yourself, it’s only been three months.
Lorraine giggles and Eileen rolls her eyes.
The number of dates does not include the evening visits where they sit in silence and Tobias stares at her, sometimes bringing a scone or flower as a surprise. What Eileen does not realize and Lorraine does, is that Tobias is wooing her, little by little. But what Eileen knows and will never say to Lorraine is that he hasn’t kissed her. It has been eight dates and many visits, but there is been nothing more than chaste hand-holding. Eileen stares intently at the pores on the backs of her hands, wondering when it is going to happen.
“Oh, pish-posh! Now here, take a look. What do you think?” Lorraine asks, holding up a dress.
Eileen puts down the fabric in her hands to examine the dress. It bubbles at the bottom and is cinched above the waist. Light, tight sleeves of silk end in clean, straight seams. Just as she is about to congratulate her friend on yet another successful design and sew work, she glimpses a flaw. At the top of the neckline, the hem has bunched and curled.
“It is gorgeous and Laurasia is sure to love it, but mend this here.”
“Huh, wonder how I managed that? Well, give it here then.”
The women resume their work. Lorraine hums a nonsensical melody to herself. The shop is drafty as the early spring snowstorm commandeers the cracks underneath doors and around window frames. Weak sunlight shines through the window as the sun begins to prepare the world for night adventures beneath the watchful eye of the moon. Eileen yawns and reinforces a particularly testy moonstone.
“How have you kept the fact that you’re a witch secret? What with customers popping in and out and Tobias here during wizarding hours, I don’t see how you’re managing it,” She pauses for a breath, “How do you think he’ll take it? When are you planning on telling him? You got to tell hi-”
Eileen doesn’t answer right away. She let her eyes drift down to the fabric in her hands. It is beautiful. Laurasia will arrive in two hours for her first fitting. Eileen should be nervous; if the witch doesn’t like it, she could ruin Eileen’s reputation and therefore, her business and livelihood, but Eileen is confident in her capabilities in this department. However, the thought of revealing to Tobias that she is a witch sends sharp pains down her spine.
The carefully and quietly constructed foundation of their relationship could disappear as if it had never existed. Eileen’s heart begins to race at the notion. She will not admit it to Lorraine, and barely to herself, but losing Tobias. Tension begin to percolate in the muscles of Eileen’s neck and shoulders. She twists her neck quickly, listening to the pop it makes. She continues to fidget nervously, but no movement can render her thoughts ineffectual.
“I haven’t told him and don’t plan on telling him-”
“What? Oh no, that’s a terrible idea! Don’t you realize…”
“You didn’t let me finish. I don’t plan on telling him for a couple of months more, that’s all.”
Suddenly, an owl taps on the window pane; its brown feathers complement the dingy snow outside. Eileen retrieves the official-looking letter and sends the owl back into the gale.
Dear Ms. Eileen Prince,
You are cordially invited to attend the reunion of your Hogwarts graduating class upon the tenth anniversary of the momentous occasion. It will be held on the second day of the seventh month nineteen hundred fifty-seven at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry, the Great Hall, beginning upon the evening hour of seven o’clock. Please feel free to bring a guest. Respond by owl no later than the twenty-ninth day of the sixth month.
Sincerely, and with great hopes of seeing you,
Viola Pearson nee Black.
“Something else Viola has cooked up, I see,” Eileen sighs. “This just won’t do...I simply won’t go. That solves it.”
“Eileen, you’re mumbling to yourself.”
“I know, love. It’s a side-effect of being completely mad to date a Muggle.”
“Love will do that to you,” Lorraine winks.
Eileen waves her hand at the idea, as if to shoo it away. Tossing the invitation on a pile of scrap lace, she resumes her work once again, hoping for no more worrisome interruptions.
An hour passes in near silence with only the ticking of the clock and Lorraine’s humming to permeate the air. With the utmost care, Eileen finishes the moonstone whorls. She stands, holding up the dress to admire her handiwork. There is a ripping sound as a great portion of the bottom section pulls apart. The two pieces are barely held together with ragged seams stretched thin.
Eileen and Lorraine stare at the dress in horror.
“Just...just get out your wand and mend it,” Lorraine says.
There is silence.
“Fix it, Eileen. She’ll be here in the next half-hour!”
“You can’t? Do you not own a wand? For the love of GOD, do it!” Lorraine tries to hide her rising panic.
The dress hangs limply in Eileen’s fingers.
“You don’t understand! I can’t simply mend it and go about on my sweet, merry way! Didn’t they teach you at Hogwarts? When you repair something with magic, it never truly retains its original form. There will be cracks or rips, what have you, that can never be fixed. They’re small; you can’t see them, but it’s shit now, complete shit. How do I sell this to such an esteemed client - to anyone?” Eileen cries hoarsely, hysteria needling the edges of her voice.
It takes Eileen several minutes to compose herself. There are tears at the corners of her eyes: frustration encased in miniscule droplets of water, the salty sting its conduit.
“Yes, but she will never know. Come now, Eileen, this is important.”
Angrily, Eileen wipes at the corners of her eyes, leaving red splotches where her skin has protested the harsh treatment. She cannot believe her luck. So many little things have gone wrong lately and now, this. From breaking her favorite teacup, to setting her favorite book on fire, Eileen’s patience has waned.
“If it isn’t a book catching on fire, it’s a ruined dress. Next thing you know, I’ll have grown four ears, lost my business, and end up working at a Muggle rubbish tip. What a life.”
“Now look here, Eileen Prince and you listen to me. Life isn’t supposed to be easy. Things happen - every day, every hour,” Lorraine takes Eileen’s chin in her hand, glaring rather ferociously. “If books didn’t catch on fire, then there would be no light in the darkness that is life-that is hell. I won’t have you acting like a nutter and creating more problems and heartache for yourself.”
Standing over her, Lorraine glares at Eileen; the unrelenting stare is tempered with warmth and concern. In this moment, Eileen wraps her arms around Lorraine’s waist and lays her head upon her stomach. Gently, Lorraine pulls Eileen to her feet. She picks up the wedding dress where it has been thrown on the floor and places it into Eileen’s hesitant fingers.
It is done. The tension in Eileen’s shoulders dispels as the wand movement spins the dress in the air. Despite the fact that there are tiny imperfections, the dress is once again an object of admiration and awe, the delicate silver silk breathtaking.
Eileen raises her wand again. She says, “Aureloa Flamma.”
A tremendous burst of gold light erupts from the tip of Eileen’s wand. It expands and engulfs the dress in golden flames. Lorraine gasps, reaching half-heartedly to stop the spell. After a few seconds, the flames disappear. The dress, however, has been transformed. It radiates sparkles of light from every strand. Literally, the dress whispers a bewitching song that delicately, imperceptibly, showers Eileen and Lorraine with peace.
Lorraine manages to choke out a single word. “What?”
“It’s an old family spell. I found it several years ago in a diary of my great-grandmother’s. Women in our family are notorious for keeping secrets and diaries.”
Reaching out, Eileen rubs the dress tenderly and it glows even brighter.
“I wanted to show you because I hope you’re part of my family for a very long time. But keep it a secret.”
“That’s a first.”
The two women embrace. They remain like that, their arms around each other securely, comfortably.
The grandfather clock chimes the hour. Eileen releases Lorraine and bends down to give her a kiss on the cheek. Hurriedly now, Eileen takes the wedding dress to the front, suspending it in midair. It hangs gracefully. Everything seems to pale in comparison.
“Good morning, Eileen.”
Tobias gently pushes Eileen to one side as he steps through the doorway.
“It’s six o’clock! What are you doing here? Is something wrong?”
Eileen stares at Tobias incredulously. Her hair isn’t simply tousled from sleep: it is tangled and ratted, laying limp only about her ears. Nervously, she bunches her arms around her chest; the thick flannel nightgown is hideous. There are several gaping, mangey holes in its red and brown fabric; Eileen’s mother’s nightgown is warm and comforting, but not in the least fashionable or, dare she think it, sexy. Tobias’s insistent knocking had given her no time to attempt to change.
Eileen does not wait for a response, “I’m not dressed. I’m…”
Tobias smiles slightly and holds up a wrinkled brown paper bag. He walks into the kitchen and begins to rummage through the cabinets, looking for plates and cups. Eileen thinks that Tobias will always continue to surprise her.
“I’ll be out in a minute, Tobias. I need to change.”
“No, don’t,” He does not turn around as he lays the tiny rickety table nudged into the place between the refrigerator and the doorway, “Work starts in half an hour. Sit.”
Reluctantly, Eileen sits in one of the chairs. Tobias places a crumpet and cup of tea in front of her, slumping into his own seat.
“You’re cheeky.” She yawns, “How a-a-are you so awake?”
For a moment, Tobias watches Eileen as her eyes scrunch up in anticipation of another yawn. It is difficult for Eileen to sit in apparent normalcy when she should be curled underneath warm blankets. She’s not quite angry, but simply disgruntled. If there is one luxury she affords herself, it is the bliss of sleep. As the waves of exhaustion and contentment rock her each evening, she welcomes the tranquility found in undiscovered corners of the resting mind.
“You woke me.”
“Breakfast,” Tobias points to the tea and crumpet on the table. He leans back in the chair, his long legs extending almost to the cupboards on the other side of the doorway.
As is now the routine, Eileen is first to break the silence. “Want to hear about my day yesterday? Absolutely dreadful. I was finished with this stunning wedding dress for a client...err, who lives out of the country...and it ripped. Ripped, Tobias! Worst five minutes of my career. I managed to mend it, but...oh, it was a travesty of fabric and thread.”
Eileen realizes her mistake - five minutes! - but luckily, Tobias does not notice. He is too immersed in the way her lips move in such animation as she talks; her hair, it seems, responds with equal vigor, becoming more frizzy before his very eyes. He swallows a chuckle.
“It’s a good thing you’re talented.”
“Oh, stop it, you. Getting cheeky.” There is a pause, but Eileen continues swiftly, without thought. “I still can’t believe you’re here this early. I thought I saw you all the time, but you seeing me like this, with my hair a mess, and oh goodness...We see each other so much you should just move in.”
There is another pause. The silence is pulled taut with the words that forge a rickety bridge between one happy, carefree point and one anxious, abashed moment.
“I’m sorry...oh Tobias, I’m sorry! We haven’t even...you haven’t even ki-. The point is that I should be grateful you want to see me all of the time.”
Tobias stands up and Eileen is worried. There is no expression on his face. It is blank and the black eyes are motionless, without flicker or depth. Before Tobias can speak, she jumps up out of her chair.
“That was so rude. I should...I’ll just...I’ll just go.” Eileen rushes through the living room and into her bedroom. The springs squeak as Eileen collapses onto the mattress, sliding herself beneath the covers. She berates herself for being nervous and chatty, loose with her words. Running to hide in her bedroom would give Tobias time to leave without having to see her.
There had been many feelings, many seconds in which she second-guessed this mad affair. The dates, the scones, the silences, those eyes were gone. It had all dissolved under the weight of a few words over breakfast.
She pulls the red and green quilt over her face and prays for salvation from her hell.
She hears the door open and shudders. Eileen does not want to hear what Tobias will say, which is no doubt that she’s a complete raving lunatic, and he won’t be back.
There is a tugging on the quilt and Eileen holds tighter to the shield over her. Tobias pulls harder and she relents, choosing instead to close her eyes.
Tobias hovers over her - his breath fans her neck, tickling.
He whispers in her ear, “When the time is right, morningbird.”
For a split second, Eileen thinks that is all to be had and opens her eyes. She sees only black. It is not the color of a darkened room, but the black of Tobias’s eyes.
Tobias kisses Eileen.
It is a slow falling, then a mad tumbling. Eileen is in mid-air, so pumped with adrenaline that she does not recognize that she is, indeed, falling upwards toward happiness.
Hello my lovelies! Thank you so much for reading chapter eight! I know that it has been a bit of a wait, but now that you've got the chapter, I'm anxious to see what you all think. I'd like to say a very grateful THANK YOU to nott theodore (Sian) for her help beta'ing this chapter while Jami is away.
What did you think about the kiss? Was it what you expected? How did you like the new layer of Lorraine in this chapter? And what is up with all of these weird instances in which books seemed to have been burned?
Thank you for your continued support. I am so appreciative of you all and am humbled by your responses to my writing and my story.
Please don't forget to leave a review!
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