Thriller Fiction

This story contains themes or mentions of physical violence, gore, or abuse.

The shop was small and quaint with red brick walls. Some visible pipes and exposed duct work gave it that industrial look. Steve bought it two years ago, after he decided he was done working for “the man”. He wanted to work for himself.

He loved that he was surrounded by every color of fabric you could imagine, and that his patchouli oil diffusers didn’t piss anyone off. Damn those office bitches.

He also enjoyed that he could set his own hours and have the freedom to be open or closed even while working if he didn’t want to deal with customers that day.

Every day when he walked the three blocks to get his coffee, he would grin ear to ear and chuckle when he saw his sign – “You’re Sew Good Lookin!” It was in one of those old pub sign styles, but it was bright pink with green lettering. His Seinfeld fanatic sister had it made for him right after he closed on the place.

The floor was black and white checkered tile that was chipped here and there, but he liked it that way. It gave it more character, and to be honest he felt chipped here and there too at times. He fell in love with the front windows and the door as soon as he saw the place.

The etching around the glass edges were intricate designs of ivy and sunflowers. There was also a very large storage room in the back, and a cute little apartment above with everything he would ever need.

People loved Steve. His flamboyant personality and his sweet and caring demeanor caught him a lot of friends. He was always cheerful and very dedicated to doing a good job for his customers, and a lot of them had been with him since before he opened his shop.

He began working out of a friend’s basement to make ends meet. He did a lot of alterations and rentals for local dances. He also absolutely loved doing work for weddings. Hearing people’s stories about their upcoming nuptials made him light up inside, as he knew one day, he would find that perfect person to share a story with too.

He also did a lot of charity work in the area for the local CPS Office. He always felt devastated for those children in such awful situations. He knew his beautiful quilts would maybe bring at least a little smile to their faces, and if not, they would at least keep them warm. He was always front and center for the local coat drive for the area when the days and nights turned cold, as well.

It was a cold one out today for sure, and he was getting ready to lock up to get some extra work done. Before he reached the door, Joan came in with three pairs of slacks she needed to have hemmed. “I was hoping I could get these hemmed up when you get a chance, Steve?”

“Oh, sure just lay them over there on that counter, honey. I don’t have time to fool with them at the moment, but I will sure get to them as soon as I can.” Steve closed the box of quilt batting and quilt square scraps he was searching through.

“I’ll give you a call when they are ready. I have all these quilts that I am finishing up for the kiddos down at social services. You know girl, I don’t know how I find any time to do anything anymore.”

Joan smiled at him, “Oh, Steve you know it’s no hurry at all. I just enjoy chatting with you and catching up on what you have your hand in every week. You sure stay busy, that’s for sure. Don’t you ever sleep?”

He eyed her over his little red rimmed reading glasses, “Girl, you know there’s time for sleepin when we is dead and gone. I have too many obligations to fulfill to even think about sleep right now, but I appreciate your concern, honey. I really do. I truly love my job. It gives me the opportunity to see people at some of their most joyous moments in their lives. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.”

“Well, I sure do appreciate you and all you do, especially all the extra work you do for the community. I know sometimes doing that stuff probably feels like a thankless endeavor. I just hope you know how special you are to so many people. You take care now, and I’ll see you soon.” Joan looked at him with care in her eyes as she headed towards the door.

“Oh, well thank you darlin! That’s one of the nicest things anyone has ever said to me and it means a lot, truly. You know what they say about idle hands. They is the Devil’s Playthings. That’s why I like to keep mine busy,” he giggled. “You take care now girl, and I’ll give you a call.”

Steve walked towards the door to turn the sign and lock up. It was close to 7:00 pm, and he still had other things to do in the shop. He hated to have to go back into storage again this evening, but somebody had to, and who else was he going to ask. He pulled the big blinds down on the windows and the door after locking up and went to grab his other sewing box.

This sewing box was much larger than the one he kept on hand up front for small repairs. He kept this one in the storage room on a bookshelf in the very back. He pulled out his set of keys from his pocket and unlocked the storage room door, and then he grabbed his big coat and a face mask from the hook outside the door. He put in on and zipped it up as he made his way to the back. The two air conditioners he had running seemed to be helping.

He reached up on the top shelf and grabbed the big red toolbox with the chrome handle. He has had this thing for years, at least since he bought the shop. The storage room was a hodge podge of a lot of random things. Things that wouldn’t fit in his apartment upstairs, found their home in here.

He also had a lot of sewing and quilting supplies lined up on counters and in drawers around the room. He was very meticulous with his organization. Everything in its place and labeled nice and neat. No one set foot in this room but him, ever.

He made his way around a corner in the back of the room, putting his mask up over his nose and mouth. The bed that he had set up was still in really good condition, and he always made sure to do a wash once a week, so the bedding stayed nice. He kept several bottles of essential oils and several diffusers going around this area.

He started his routine of filling each diffuser with water and five drops each of lavender and orange oil. He put the little lids back on and turned them on, one by one. A quilt with shades of pink and white draped over the edges of the bed and a multitude of pillows lined the mahogany headboard.

He tried to keep everything here beautiful and clean. He remembered his sister telling him years ago that lavender and orange were her favorite smells, and they helped her to relax more than anything else ever could. Once the fragrance filled the air, he took off the face mask.

He sat the red toolbox down on the floor next to the bed and opened it. He slipped on a pair of black latex glove and pulled his reading glasses from his front pocket. Placing them on the end of his nose he reached down and pulled out some nail polish remover and cotton balls out of the toolbox.

He sat down ever so lightly on the edge of the bed and grabbed the cold hand lying next to his leg.

He teared up a bit as he started to speak, “You look absolutely lovely today, Helen. Let’s take off that red polish and put on some of this pretty pink bubblegum color. Oooo girl, it is really going to bring out your complexion!” He slowly started to wipe the damp cotton ball on the fingernails of the hand he was holding. Helen looked off in a daze as Steve pampered her. She stayed still the whole time. She always stayed still for him. 

“There are a few alterations I have to make tonight, honey and all will be well with the world. You know, I didn’t really think I would get to keep you around this long, but I am over the moon that things are working out. You seem to be enjoying your stay, and I am so very happy you’re here. You have no idea girl! I hope you’re able to stay for longer. I just can’t imagine you not being here.” He stopped and looked at her and sighed.

“I believe Mom and Dad are watching over us right now, sis. They would have been devastated if they had to watch the sickness take you over. I’m at least glad they didn’t have to witness some of the horrors I have. We’ve gotten through it together pretty well though, wouldn’t you say?”

Helen still had a blank look on her face as he slowly started to paint each nail with slow deliberate strokes. He blew gently on each nail once he was done and lay her hands back down at her sides to finish air drying.

“Your hair is looking nice. I am so glad you let me put that chestnut color in for you. Oh, Mother would die if she knew we covered up those blond locks of yours. Putting all that extra hair spray in must have helped too huh? Regardless of the amount of ozone we damaged in the process.” He chuckled and fluffed the sides of her hair, smoothing out the stray hairs with his hand. He stared at her with a loving look on his face. They had been inseparable since birth. That’s the thing with twins, right?

A tear fell from his eye, and he quickly wiped it away. Helen sat there silently staring at Steve with a crooked little grin on her face. He smiled back and patted her hand. “I’m going to take care of that make-up today too, girl. Oh Lord, it looks like someone slapped you with a painting palette with too many colors on it. The humidity in this room gets atrocious sometimes, even with the air running. We gonna fix that though, honey. I promise. And I may buy one more air conditioner to place closer to your bed. I know what the heat does to you.”

He looked down, not able to look her in the eyes. “I’m going to take care of that too. I have plenty of supplies in my big sewing box down here, and I have just the thing to fix you right up good as new. First though, we need to pull down your quilt and see what else we are working with. Please forgive me, Helen. I truly wish this wasn’t the way it had to be. The more I take care of you, the longer you can be here with me.”

Everything looked good to him, so he slowly pulled the quilt back up and lay her arms back at her sides. He reached over to the little table next to the bed and grabbed a cloth headband and placed it around Helen’s head to make sure her hair would be out of her face. He then, gently touched her cheek. He draped a little scarf around her neck and onto her shirt so as not to stain it.

He squatted down next to the toolbox and pulled out a medium size needle and beige colored thread. He slowly started to stitch up the side of her jaw with care. He then

pulled out some water and the small bag of plaster of paris. He pulled a large bowl out from under the bed and poured both ingredients in the bowl and started to mix them together.

Once the consistency was as good as make-up foundation, he added a bit of pink and brown paint to the mixture and continued to stir. When he was satisfied with the color he grabbed his little paintbrush out of his toolbox and sat back on the bed.

He looked in Helen’s glassy eyes and smiled. She never blinked. He slowly started to brush in light strokes onto her forehead and over the rest of her face and neck. The little flap of loose skin that was hanging free from her jaw was now in place and back to a blended color with the rest of her face. The stitching looked non-existent now.

He sat back a bit and admired his work. He continued to apply make-up to the rest of her face, leaving the eyes to do last thing. He looked at her apologetically. “I’m so sorry, honey, but I have to take them out to clean them and then we’ll make those eyes pop like they always have, okay?”

He reached back down into the toolbox and pulled out a small melon baller. “It will only take a second,” he said as he held her head gently and plucked each glass eye out of the socket. He washed them in alcohol and dried them really well before placing them back in the sockets with a hollow little pop sound. He then pulled out the eye make-up and the false lashes and continued.

When he was finished with her make-up, he adjusted the wire that was inside her lip to an upturned smile and re-glued her lips shut. He then applied a mauve lip stain to complete the look. “My Lord, girl! You look gorgeous.” He smiled at her, proud of his work.

He took her ice-cold hand and started painting small strokes of plaster of paris on it. He stopped and looked into her glassy eyes.

“I have to tell you Helen, I was heartbroken when you got sick right after I bought this shop. This was supposed to be “our” shop. I am so grateful for the opportunity to have you here with me. I will keep you here darlin so you don’t have to be alone. And you have my word, I will take care of you and keep you together. You shouldn’t have been taken away from me so quickly after we found out you were sick. You don’t have to go anywhere now, honey. You’re safe and sound with me. Always.”

June 22, 2023 21:24

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