She slid inside the little craft shop, one town over from where she lived, flinching at the tinkling sound of the bell. The store was overwhelmingly vibrant; fabrics every colour of the rainbow lining the shelves, a thousand different balls of wool, and enough needles to make a haystack. It felt wrong of her to be here, all mousy and plain and beige, as if she was sucking the life out of the store around her. Yet, despite her reservations, she was here with a purpose. Apprehensively she made her way around the shop, gazing at the vast array of materials all around her. They loomed over her head as if the very shop was casting judgement on her. She pushed the thought aside and glanced towards the list she’d brought, filling a basket with cotton and needles, scissors and chalk.
As she looked to choose a fabric she let her eyes wander towards the brighter colours the store boasted. She felt a tug of desire in her heart, but she was too muted to wear such extravagant textiles. Anyone would laugh if a simple hen tried to dress like a peacock.
It took her too long to find a sewing machine, she could feel the eyes of the girl at the counter on her after refusing her help three times, but the job was done. She placed the heavy box on the counter, wincing at the dull thud that echoed around the shop.
“That’ll be thirty nine, ninety nine please.”
She scrambled for her purse and eventually managed to hand over the right amount,
“Thank you,” she croaked, not daring to make eye contact as she hurried out of the store, clutching her purchases to her chest with both arms.
She returned three months later in a dusky pink, A-line skirt. She felt the back of her neck prickle, knowing that the stitching was crooked and that the hem didn’t lie flat, but the girl at the counter gave her a smile, greeting her like an old friend. They talked, briefly, about the skirt and although she stuttered and stumbled over her words, the girl at the counter was patient and gave her a wave as she walked out the door despite the fact that she hadn’t bought a thing.
She waited another month before coming back, her attention captivated by the rows upon rows of vibrant wools she’d remembered from the last time she was there. She waded through the sea of colours for almost an hour, caught between cashmere and merino, qiviut and mohair, before the girl at the counter took pity on her and helped her to choose a deep red yarn and a pair of thick, wooden needles. She left the store with a bulging bag and buzzing with anticipation.
Knitting, she found, was a lot trickier than sewing. The needles were cumbersome and she found the stitches slipping off them more often than not, but she persevered. She spent evenings hunched over the gradually lengthening piece, resolutely stitching as the nights grew longer and the days grew colder. She had told the girl at the counter that she wanted to make a cardigan and refused to go back into the craft store until it had been completed.
As the year drew to a close her workload began to pile up and she was forced to forget about the shop that filled her with colour as she lost herself to stacks of reports and emails and monotony. She didn’t give up on her creation though, adding a little bit more to it every evening, watching in delight as it grew. It took five months for the cardigan to be finished and another two before her workload subsided. Entering the shop again, she felt a rush of nervousness, craning her neck around the aisles to look for the girl at the counter. The feeling melted away as the girl lit up, gushing over the scarlet cardigan that was littered with holes and didn’t hang right on her frame.
When she got home she started immediately on a new project - knitting a flamingo pink beanie hat. It took her three hours to stitch it all up and three months to work up the courage to take it to the store. The bell chimed as she entered, almost as nervous as she had been the first time she had come, clutching the knitted item in her hands as she slowly made her way towards the girl at the counter. At the crucial moment her voice failed her and she thrust the hat towards the girl without explanation. The girl gave a happy laugh, jamming the hat excitedly over her head. She felt her face burn with heat at the girl’s enthusiasm, leaving the store with a fluttering feeling in her stomach.
After that she found herself returning again and again, filling her world with more and more colours and patterns; electric blues, dazzling greens, and on one occasion a neon orange. Skirts and dresses and scarves and hats that burst with life until she matched the passion of the store, finally free of the grip of a beige life that had tried to cling to her. She cut her limp, dull hair that she’d always hated, braiding it haphazardly and dying it every colour of the rainbow. She painted every room in her house, stripes and spirals and polka dots and when she ran out of walls, she painted galaxies across her ceilings so that every night she could watch the stars before she fell asleep.
Of course, this was all several years ago now. The little craft shop is still running well, drawing in twice as much money now that it offers weekend classes to learn new skills. For the past few months the shop as been closing earlier than usual as the two girls that run the counter have been busy stitching a pair of dresses. Peacocks are an unusual theme for a wedding but they both loved to stand out.
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