Friday, July 4, 2008
Fiction Friday - Candlewicking
Due to the holiday I was late posting today. I trust you had a blessed day with friends and family.
Beginning this week, I will be participating in the Fiction Friday meme hosted by Patty at Patterings. Be sure to visit Patty's site and check out more great fiction on her site as well as the sites of the other participants!
by Bonnie Winters
“Moving is so hard for me.” Helena boxed up the remaining items she wanted to take with her into the senior apartment complex.
“I know. With my Dan in the military, I’ve moved a lot too. I always manage to leave something behind.” Carrie laughed as she taped up the box of mementos for her elderly friend. “Hey! You forgot to pack this neat tablecloth.”
“No, I didn’t forget. I’ve decided to send it to the Salvation Army with the rest of those things over there.”
The younger woman spread out the pristine white cloth across the bed. She examined the intricate rose pattern created with white thread in a series of small knots. A smaller rose in the same style adorned each corner. “Wow, this is handmade! It looks like someone put a lot of work into this piece. Whose initials are these? C. H. S.?”
“Please, just put it in the box.” The older woman’s British accent thickened and her tone had a bitter edge to it.
Carrie frowned as she refolded the cloth and placed it in the designated box. She knew better than to pursue her curious line of questioning. When Helena got upset, she closed up tighter than a clamshell.
“I’m sorry, Dearie. I didn’t mean to snap. I guess this move just has me worn out.”
She felt her friend’s hand on her arm and turned, putting on a bright smile. “It’s okay, Helena. I’m just glad you didn’t have to do all this by yourself. Here, I’ll go ahead and put this box in the trunk of my car. I can stop at the Salvation Army on my way home.”
When she returned, her friend had a cup of tea and a plate of cookies set out. “I really do appreciate your help. At least I’ll be ready when those nice young men come tomorrow. How can I ever thank you for arranging for their help?”
“They’re from my church, Helena – a part of our Eldercare ministry group. They do all sorts of things from mowing grass to replacing light bulbs for our seniors. I’m sure they are happy to help.”
The older woman grimaced. “Well, maybe I can give an offering to the church.”
“That’s not necessary. I know things are tough for you. But maybe you could come to church with me sometime?”
Once again, Carrie realized she struck a nerve as her friend’s face clouded. She smiled and changed the subject as she sat down to enjoy the refreshments. When the last crumb disappeared, she said, “Well, I have to go. My babysitter has an evening class at college. I’ll see you tomorrow when the guys get here.” She kissed her friend on the cheek and raced out the door.
Later that evening, Carrie realized she had forgotten to drop the Salvation Army box off on her way home. She walked out to the trunk and lifted the lid. Pawing through the box, she removed the tablecloth and took it inside, mentally reminding herself to tuck a cash donation inside the box.
“What’s that?” Dan asked as she spread it out on their dining room table.
“Oh, I was over at Helena’s house today. Remember, I told you she’s moving into Rosewood – that new Senior citizen complex?”
Her husband nodded.
“Well, she was going to donate this to the Salvation Army. Can you believe it? Look how great it is on our table. And I think it’s handmade.” She pointed at the knotted initials.
He studied the letters. “Well the ‘H’ could stand for Helena. What’s her last name?”
“Smith.” Carrie became thoughtful. “But I think she changed it when she came to live in the States. I don’t know what it was before. Do you really think she’s C.H.S?”
“Quite possibly.” Dan grinned. “I’m sure you’ll find out all about it. I know how you love a mystery.”
She tossed her blonde braid over her shoulder and sniffed in mock exasperation. “Humph!” But not wanting to soil the lovely piece, she folded it up and stuck it in her buffet drawer.
Something about the tablecloth piqued her interest. She booted up her computer to do some research after the boys were in bed that evening. “Look, Dan! I found out what type of stitching this is on the tablecloth. It’s called ‘candlewicking’ because they used the same type of cotton thread used to make candlewicks. It says here it was popular in England and some families had their own unique patterns that they handed down for generations.” She shook her head in disbelief. “How sad! If this was a family heirloom belonging to Helena, why was she willing to give it away?”
Carrie planned to ask her friend about it the next morning when she helped her move, but her four-year-old developed a fever during the night and she decided to stay home She called Helena to apologize.
“Don’t worry so much. The young men are here already and you have helped me label everything. I won’t have any trouble putting things away in my new apartment.” With a cheery goodbye, the older woman hung up.
Between taking care of a sick child and getting things ready for the church booth at the upcoming community festival, she forgot about the tablecloth. By Saturday, Justin was feeling better. Carrie’s fresh-baked apple pies sat on the counter in the kitchen, cooling.
Good I’m right on schedule. Oops! I forgot a cover for the table. Our goodies always sell better when the table looks nice. She grabbed a ceramic pitcher and ran outside to cut some fresh flowers. Hmmm. I know! I can put a piece of plastic over Helena’s tablecloth. It will make the perfect background for all our confections.
Pleased with her idea, Carrie hurried to park the car and unpack everything. Soon the table was laden with brownies, cookies, cakes and pies of every description. The tablecloth wasn’t really showing… but it was a nice idea.
About one in the afternoon, a white-haired gentleman strolled past the table. She thought he was checking out the goodies, but he didn’t stop to buy anything. About an hour later, he strolled by again, running his fingers lightly over the plastic cover on top of the tablecloth. He paused at the corner of the table and bent down to admire the rose pattern. As he walked away, she noticed he stepped behind a table at a nearby antique booth. She caught him glancing at the tablecloth several more times as though searching for something.
When she finally got a break at 2:30, Carrie strolled over to his antique booth. With her curiosity brimming over, she confronted the elderly gentleman. “I notice you keep staring at our church’s table. Is there something I can bring over for you?”
“No. No, thank you.”
She noticed his heavy Austrian accent.
“Well, then, may I ask what you keep looking at?”
His face reddened. “The tablecloth. Does it belong to someone from your church?”
“Yes. It’s mine. Why do you ask?”
“I am interested in hand-stitched linens. I occasionally purchase fine pieces like yours to resell with my antiques. Would you consider selling it to me?”
“Oh, I couldn’t.”
“Not even for… say… $100?”
“I’m sorry. Not for any price.” Carrie’s voice rose as an angry flush climbed up her neck. “I wouldn’t dream of selling my tablecloth. It belonged to a friend of mine.”
The man’s voice softened. “If your friend was willing to give it away, perhaps she didn’t realize its value.”
“Is that all you care about? Some things are worth more than money!” She turned to go, biting her lip so she wouldn’t cry at the man’s callousness. But she stopped when she felt his hand on her arm.
“I’m sorry I have upset you. Please sit here. Let me tell you a story. Then you will know why I wanted to purchase your cloth.”
A tear puddled in the corner of his eye. “I knew someone once who created beautiful candlewicking needlework like that. I thought of her when I saw your tablecloth.” He reached up quickly to swipe away the tear. “For years I have purchased fine needlework, hoping someday I would find one she created, and perhaps find her as well.”
“Who is she and why are you looking for her?” Carrie didn’t bother to hide her tears. Her heart broke at the sadness she saw in the old man’s eyes.
“My wife.” He choked on the emotions behind his softly spoken words. “It was during the war. Things were becoming more unsettled, so I sent my wife to live with her sister. In the night, my Jewish neighbors came to my home as they fled from the Germans. But they were followed. The Germans shot them right in front of me and arrested me for helping them. I was sent to prison. After the war, I couldn’t find my Christine. I searched and prayed all these years but God has not answered my prayers. I do not believe I will ever find her now. It has been too long.”
Putting her arms around the old man, she held him while he sobbed. At last he pulled away, drawing a threadbare white linen handkerchief from his pocket. As he blew his nose loudly, Carrie noticed the initials “K. S.” embroidered in white thread, the kind used in making candlewicks.
“May I ask what your name is, sir?”
He breathed heavily, turned his lips upward in a wobbly smile under his white goatee. “Forgive me for not introducing myself properly. I am Klaus Schmidt. And you?”
“My name is Carrie Dougan. Please, Mr. Schmidt. I would like to show you something.” She reached for the man’s hand and led him to the back of the church table, ignoring the stares of her co-workers.
“There are some initials here – ‘C. H. S.’ Does that mean anything to you?”
The man’s face paled, his voice a mere whisper. “Christine Helena Schmidt. My Christine…”
“I know her as Helena Smith – she said she changed her name when she moved here to the States. Is your Christine…British?”
Tears welled up in the man’s eyes once again, a look of wonder crossing his face. “My Christine…”
A nervous Klaus loosened the knot of his tie as he stood at the polished wooden door of the Rosewood Senior Complex apartment. He raised his hand to knock. In his other hand, he clutched a bouquet of red roses.
Carrie watched silently, praying and praising God as He trimmed the damaged wick of sorrow from two hearts and lit it with His joy.
© 2006 by Bonnie Winters