I cast a glance toward Margaret, who was busy with a customer as I prepared for the class. This morning, first thing, I’d given my sister an opportunity to open up to me about Matt’s work situation, but she remained closemouthed. I found it difficult to disguise my disappointment, but I didn’t feel I could let on what I knew. Nor did I want to pressure my sister into confiding in me. My heart ached for her—and for me, too. I had a dozen questions I was dying to ask; among my other concerns, I wanted to know how my nieces, Julia and Hailey, were handling this. I’ve always been close to them, and I believed they would have mentioned it to me unless Margaret had forbidden it. In some ways, I could understand my sister’s reluctance, but that didn’t make me feel any better.
The bell above the door chimed and Elise Beaumont walked into the shop. She wasn’t what I’d call a warm, friendly person, but she’d been cordial enough on our first meeting. This morning, however, she radiated displeasure. She also looked as if she hadn’t been sleeping well. Had I known her longer I might have asked, but since she was a new customer, I decided against it. Oh dear, this class was not getting off to a good start.
“Good morning.” I hoped my greeting would draw her out, but she frowned at me.
“I need to know how long this class will take.”
I reached for the flyer Margaret had made on the computer and handed it to her as a reminder. “Two hours.”
“I suppose that’ll be all right.” With a glum expression, Elise pulled out a chair and sat down at the table, placing her knitting bag in her lap.
I remembered that she’d already chosen what she’d need for the class—a self-patterning yarn in light blue with specks of gray and black. Presumably she’d be knitting her socks for a man.
No sooner was Elise at the table than Bethanne entered, dressed rather formally, in my opinion, followed almost immediately by Courtney, who couldn’t have looked less formal in her jeans and oversize T-shirt. Without a word they each walked to the back of the store and took a seat at the table, as far apart as possible.
I stepped up to one end and smiled. “I see we’re all here. I hope you’ll enjoy learning the craft of knitting socks with circular needles. We’re in for a bit of a knitting adventure, but I know you won’t be disappointed. I think it’d be best if we began with introductions. Why don’t you all tell us something about yourselves.”
My students stared up at me; they seemed to be waiting for someone else to start. “Okay, I’ll go first,” I said. “I’m Lydia Hoffman, and I opened A Good Yarn just over a year ago. I love knitting, and this gives me a chance to do something I really care about. I also love the opportunity to convert others.” I grinned as I said this and gestured to Courtney to go next.
The teenager straightened and glanced at the other two women. “Hi,” she said and gave a short wave. “My name is Courtney Pulanski. I’m seventeen, and I recently moved in with my grandmother for my senior year of high school. My mother died a few years ago and Dad’s working in Brazil as an engineer.” She hesitated, then added, “That about sums it up.”
“You’re living with your grandmother your senior year?” Elise repeated sympathetically. “That must be difficult.”
Courtney swallowed hard. “Dad agonized over the decision and so did I, but it seemed to make the most sense. I’m close to my sister and brother and we talk practically every day. Dad sends me e-mails, too, when he can, but he’s been busy and, well—I know he’s thinking about all of us.”
Elise nodded. “That helps, I’m sure.”
“It does,” the girl whispered and looked down, obviously fighting back tears.
Wanting to remove the focus from Courtney, I smiled at Bethanne. “How about you?”
“Oh, hi,” Bethanne said, leaning forward. “My name is Bethanne Hamlin. I’m a wife and mother of two.” She stopped a moment and her distress went straight to my heart. “Actually, I’m not a wife but an ex-wife. My husband and I were recently divorced.” She turned to Elise, as though anticipating a comment, and warded it off by adding, “I didn’t want to get divorced. But now that I’m no longer married, my daughter insisted I needed to do something for myself.” She ended on a soft, forced laugh. “So here I am.”
“You’ve knitted before, though, right?” I asked, certain that I remembered Bethanne telling me she’d once been an avid knitter.
“I completed several projects—fairly simple ones—when the kids were young. I have the yarn and the pattern for this class, and everything’s lovely, but I’m afraid I might be in over my head. Socks sound too complicated for me.”
Bethanne seemed ready to give up before she’d even begun. “With only the three of you in this class, I’ll be able to give you individual attention,” I assured her, “so don’t worry about that yet.”
“But I was wondering, you know,” Bethanne said hesitantly, “if I find I can’t do this, what’s the refund policy?”
“There are no refunds, sorry.” I just couldn’t afford it, and I didn’t want to encourage a defeatist attitude. “Elise?” I said.
“I’m Elise Beaumont and some of you might recognize me from Harry S. Truman Elementary School, where I served as librarian for thirty-eight years. I retired a little while ago and was looking for a project that would hold my interest. I thought I’d try my hand at knitting socks.” She sat back when she’d finished speaking.
I gave the three a few seconds to digest the information they’d shared, then said, “I’m glad you’re all here. While this class might be small in number, I generally find that to be an advantage. Once you get into knitting socks,” I continued, “you’ll wonder what took you so long. They’re fun, and with the circular needle method they could almost be considered easy.”
My students listened as I showed them a variety of yarns available for socks, from fingering weight all the way to the Double Knit weight. I wanted to start them with a basic sock, but I explained that the designs would be as varied and as different as the yarn itself. I chose a Nancy Bush pattern. Nancy’s were among my favorites and I knew my students would like them as much as I did.
“The lesson today involves the Norwegian sock cast-on,” I said. “It’s a bit different than what you might be accustomed to, but I have a good reason for recommending it.”
“It sounds complicated,” Bethanne said, watching me closely as I twisted the yarn around the needle. “I’m not sure I’ll be able to do it.”
“Oh, for the love of heaven, you haven’t even seen how it’s done yet,” Elise muttered, suddenly short-tempered. “Let Lydia show us first and then you can complain.”
Bethanne seemed to go deep inside herself and didn’t utter another word.
“Let me demonstrate, Bethanne. It’s not nearly as complicated as it looks,” I said, wanting to cover the awkwardness of the moment. Whatever had upset Elise, she clearly was taking it out on poor Bethanne. From the second she’d walked in the door, I could tell she was aggrieved about something.
“My grandmother suggested I do the Knit Two-Purl Two rather than the Knit One-Purl One for a crew sock,” Courtney said.
I loved Vera, the girl’s grandmother, who was an accomplished knitter and one of my regular customers. I wondered why she hadn’t decided to teach Courtney herself, because she was more than qualified to do so.
“What do you think?” the girl asked.
“Your grandmother’s right. The Knit Two-Purl Two method gives the sock more elasticity, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves here.”
I talked for a few minutes about knitting a sock that would fit the foot properly. I also passed around a gauge to help the class figure out the proper number of stitches to cast on according to the weight of the yarn. The light, fingering style yarn required more stitches, the heavier yarns fewer.
“Is everyone still with me?” I asked.
All three nodded. I spent the remainder of the class teaching the Norwegian method of casting on and how to work with the two circular needles. Courtney picked up on everything right away. She finished first and looked up proudly while both Elise and Bethanne struggled with the needles and the yarn.
Most of my time was spent helping Bethanne. I’m sure she wasn’t lying when she said she’d knit years earlier, but she could barely hold on to the yarn and needles now. I’d never met a less confident woman and I have to admit Bethanne tried my patience.
My reaction to Elise’s difficulty wasn’t much better. She didn’t mutter an unnecessary word following her chastisement of Bethanne and I sensed she regretted the outburst. I also had the distinct feeling that she found me lacking as a teacher. It wasn’t a comfortable sensation.
After they’d finished, gathered up their supplies and left, I felt as if I’d put in a full day. I was exhausted.
“How’d the class go?” Margaret asked, joining me in the back office as I made myself some tea.
I shook my head, not wanting to talk about it. It suddenly occurred to me that this might very well explain how my sister felt about discussing the troubles in her own life.
“I can see this isn’t going to be a good class,” I muttered.
Margaret was unaccustomed to a pessimistic outlook from me. “What makes you say that?”
“Just a feeling…”
“And that feeling is?”
I sighed. “Elise is cranky. Bethanne is panicky and convinced she can’t remember how to knit. And Courtney is resentful.”
I wondered if I was going to regret offering this class.
After her knitting class, Bethanne waited at the white wrought-iron table outside the French bakery. Grant had reluctantly agreed to meet her, but it didn’t escape her notice that he’d chosen a public place, as if he anticipated her making a scene. She had no intention of doing any such thing; all she wanted was some help and advice. She hoped they could discuss the situation in a civil manner. Surprisingly perhaps, she didn’t hate Grant, and for the sake of their children, they needed to work together. Surely he recognized that, too.
Sipping an espresso, Bethanne hoped the strong hot coffee would bolster her courage. This would be an unpleasant conversation, especially when she brought up the subject of money.
Grant rounded the corner on foot and Bethanne wondered where he’d parked. She saw him before he saw her. He was a striking man, and even though he’d betrayed her in the most fundamental way, she couldn’t stop loving him. It angered her that she still had feelings for him, but her love was mingled with anger and horror and disbelief. This man walking toward her now was a virtual stranger.
When Grant caught sight of her, he didn’t smile; instead, he acknowledged Bethanne with a quick nod. She’d worn a black tailored blazer over a light-green silk blouse and expensive black trousers, and her hair was neatly drawn back with a large silver clip. He didn’t react to her appearance at all, even though he used to admire how she looked in this outfit. He pulled out the wrought-iron chair and sat down without a smile or any indication of pleasure at seeing her.