It works into me, the thread I’m using, fine as the hair from a baby’s head. I never notice as I stitch, concerned with the promise I’ve made. I advertise in the corner shop and the post office: ‘All reasonable repairs undertaken.’
I’d a woman bring me a camisole once. It can’t have been much when it was new. A frothy thing, I could fit the whole of it in one hand. The silk was coming away from the lace. That’s where things give, at the stitches and along seams. I said as much to the woman who brought it. She was snooty except for the way the skin was going under her eyes in ruches. That made me sorry for her.
“I don’t promise miracles,” I said. It was like a handful of cobweb.
“It was a present from my husband. He’s only seen me wear it once or twice. Can you fix it?”
“I don’t promise miracles but the mend will be invisible if at all possible.”
That’s what I tell Mr Dane when he brings me his trousers. Cavalry twill, lovely strong stuff. A faint ring of boot polish if you look really hard, just below each knee. Proper button fly, flat-fronted, neat line at the back.
“What d’you think, Miss Cready?” he says.
I find the damage by touch. My eyes aren’t as sharp as they used to be but my fingers never miss a trick. It’s the usual culprit, the stitches in the seam have weakened the twill and it’s fraying right through at the thigh.
“I can make this as good as new,” I promise.
I don’t ask why his wife couldn’t fix it. I don’t ask questions of that kind. Anyway I can tell from looking at him that Mr Dane doesn’t have a wife. He’s very spruce but you can tell, can’t you?
To make an invisible mend you’ve to steal a little cloth from a hem, say, and work it into the spot where the damage is, but you’ve to do it so it looks like nothing was added or taken away.
One of the buttons is coming loose at the fly so I fix that first. I sew under the lamp, bringing the trousers into my lap.
I snip a good length from the hem of an inside leg so I’ve plenty to play with. I use a fine needle, separating the fibres to thread it. I spend an hour on it. Fairy stitches.
“There,” I say when I’m done.
You can’t see the mend. I run my fingers over the seam. You can’t feel it.
I’ll press the trousers for a nice finish.
Only when I stand and shake out the legs I find the trousers stay in my lap.
I’ve sewn through the seam and into my skirt, my stockings too. I’ve stitched the hairs on my thighs into the mix of twill and tweed and twenty-denier nylon.
This has never happened to me before. I am mortified.
“Mr Dane!” I wail, as if it’s somehow that poor man’s fault. “Oh, Mr Dane!”
Sarah Hilary is an award-winning writer whose fiction appears in Smokelong Quarterly, The Fish Anthology 2008, WigleaF, LITnIMAGE, Word Riot, The Best of Every Day Fiction 2008, and in the Crime Writers’ Association anthology, MO: Crimes of Practice. A column about the wartime experiences of her mother, who was a child internee of the Japanese, was published in the Spring 09 edition of Foto8 Magazine.