“Leta thinks once you’re settled in school, you should join the swim team,” Courtney’s grandmother said in an encouraging voice. “We all agree you’re like greased lightning in the water.”
Courtney hid a smile. She’d become a more skilled swimmer through the summer, but it wasn’t any wonder Grams thought she was fast, considering her competition was a group of eighty-year-olds.
“Think about it,” Grams urged.
“I will,” Courtney promised.
“You can do it. It’s only one stitch at a time.”
I was looking forward to my next sock class—although it was technically my last. Elise, Bethanne and Courtney had each completed one pair of socks using two circular needles and had already started on a second. Once again I was enthralled with the way three women, from dissimilar backgrounds, could be brought together by the simple enjoyment of knitting. I’d been a silent witness to it all, and marveled anew at how their lives had become entwined.
Elise was the one who’d suggested Bethanne start her own party business, and Courtney had become a special friend to Bethanne’s daughter, Annie. Best of all, they’d become friends to each other. And to me…
Margaret had been in good spirits ever since the worry of losing their home had been removed. I didn’t know what she’d told Matt about the money, but it didn’t matter. Not once had she brought up the subject of the ten thousand dollars, and frankly, I was relieved. I’d gladly make those loan payments and never say a word. My family had sacrificed so much for me through the years that it felt good to be giving something back. To Mom, who needed my time and attention more than ever, and to my sister.
Elise arrived for class first, and I noticed the white Lincoln Continental parked in front of the shop with the distinguished older man sitting behind the wheel. I found her ex-husband’s devotion rather touching, and there was a certain reassurance in knowing that love can be renewed—not that I expected any such thing in my own life.
I love Brad and Cody; time wouldn’t change that. Cody and I talked once or twice a week. He told me his dad said he could phone me anytime he wanted. He rarely mentioned his mother, as if he knew talking about Janice and his dad was painful to me. The only concrete information I’d learned was that his mom still had her own place. I figured that probably wouldn’t be for long.
“Good morning, everyone,” Elise said. She positively glowed—there was no other word for it.
I had to stop what I was doing and look again. “You’re in a good mood,” I commented.
“My daughter said the same thing.”
“I see Maverick’s here,” Margaret announced, looking out the display window.
Elise blushed with pleasure. “I told him it’s utter nonsense to sit outside and wait, but he says he doesn’t have anything better to do. He reads the newspaper.” She sat down at the table and brought out her knitting. “I ended up giving him the socks I knit, so once I finish these for Aurora, I’ll make a pair for David.”
“Was Maverick surprised?” It wasn’t any of my business, but I was curious. The first socks I’d knit with the circular-needle method were for Brad. He’d nearly worn them out, so I’d knit several more pairs. I wonder if he still wore them. If Janice knew who’d made those socks, she might ask him to throw them in the garbage. Or do it herself, I thought darkly.
Elise was explaining that Maverick loved the socks and yes, he’d been completely surprised, when the door opened and Bethanne breezed into the shop.
“I’m not late, am I?” she asked. “I get so involved with what I’m doing that I lose track of where I need to be.” She hurried to the back of the shop, where Elise sat by herself.
Bethanne had changed so much since that first class in June. She was confident, optimistic, happy. There was a mystery man in her life, too. She’d mentioned his name in passing, Pete or Paul, but I’d forgotten.
Courtney was almost directly behind Bethanne. I was concerned about her; for the past two weeks she’d been quieter than usual. I knew she was feeling stressed about starting a new school and I hoped the transition would be smooth. I wouldn’t broach the subject, but if she wanted to bring it up, I’d be ready and willing to listen.
“This is officially our last class,” I said and to my delight the announcement was greeted with boos and jeers. “Would you like to continue?” All three instantly agreed, which was exactly what had happened with my original class. “Then I propose that we turn this into a knitting support group.” I’d been thinking about beginning a new one, and this was the perfect opportunity. “I’ll let the other classes know, so we might have a few other knitters joining us now and then.” I explained that they’d continue meeting each week—same time, same place. They were welcome to bring in whatever they wanted to knit and I’d be available to help anyone who had a question or a problem. I no longer charged for this, because I’d seen the benefits of having people come to the shop on a regular basis.
“That sounds ideal,” Elise said, speaking for the group. “I’ve enjoyed this class more than I can say.”
I suspected she was so in love with her ex-husband that the whole world seemed shiny and bright. I didn’t know whether there was any kind of arrangement between them. Maybe they were just living in the present, not worrying about the future.
“I’ll come every week I can,” Bethanne assured the others. “The only reason I couldn’t is if I have a function, but I can’t imagine there’ll be too many birthday parties on week-day afternoons.”
“Me neither,” I agreed. “You’ve finished your socks, right?”
“You gave them to your son?”
Color crept up her neck and invaded her cheeks. “Actually, no. I gave them to a…friend.”
Margaret walked over to the table, carrying a stack of pattern books. “Paul?”
Bethanne nodded. “Don’t look at me like that. We’re just friends. He’s the ex-husband of the woman my husband left me for.” There were a few gasps. “His ex-wife and my ex-husband are married now,” she said matter-of-factly, “and we get together once in a while to talk things over. How we feel about it and all that.”
“When did they get married?” Courtney asked and seemed surprised.
“Just recently. It wasn’t unexpected, but it helps to have someone to discuss this with. Paul’s great.” She took a deep breath. “He’s a few years younger and well, he’d like us to have a more…romantic relationship. I promised to consider it, but in the end I decided we’d be more valuable to each other as friends. I told him the only way I’d go out with him was if his mother came along to chaperone.”
Elise and Courtney laughed.
“I’m encouraging him to see someone closer to his own age.”
“What about you?” Margaret asked. “Are you ready to date?”
Bethanne shook her head. “Not yet. Dating means I’d have to shave my legs and wear panty hose. That’s more bother than it’s worth at this point.”
“You don’t shave your legs?” Courtney asked with an appalled look. “I do practically every day.”
“Annie, too.” Then Bethanne shrugged. “I got out of the habit in my thirties.”
“What about you, Court?” I asked, feeling comfortable enough with the teenager to shorten her name. “Will you be able to join the support group?”
“I’ll come until school starts,” she said, “and I might even be able to come after that, but I’d need to discuss it with my advisor. I think my Tuesday schedule should be okay.”
“Hey,” Elise said, “who says we have to meet at the same time? We could make it after school, instead, and then Courtney could join us for sure. Does that work for everyone?”
An immediate chorus of agreement followed. “Three o’clock it is,” I announced.
The bell chimed and one of my all-time favorite knitters came into the shop. “Jacqueline!” I cried, cheered to see her. It’d been a couple of weeks since we’d talked. She was a regular at the Friday charity sessions, but she’d been on a trip with her husband.
“I’m back from New York City and here for a yarn fix,” she informed me. Everyone at the table knew Jacqueline, so introductions weren’t necessary.
She had that look in her eye, a look I recognized. Those of us who are addicted to yarn seem to share it. Jacqueline was among my best customers; she could afford to buy as much yarn as she wanted and she did, without restraint. She’d told me recently that Reece had set aside a room in their house for her yarn stash. I envied her all that space. Jacqueline had every intention of knitting each skein—once she found the project best suited to it. I, too, had a million projects waiting. We both had more yarn tucked away than we could possibly knit in an entire lifetime, or even two.
Jacqueline sat down next to Elise and admired her work. She tended to dominate the conversation, but no one really minded. Her enthusiasm for yarn and knitting was contagious.
The phone rang and my ever-efficient sister answered it. I wasn’t paying much attention but when she replaced the receiver and walked over to the table, where I sat with the class, I noticed the color had drained from her face.
Margaret placed her hand on my shoulder. “It’s Mom,” she managed to say. “We need to get to Swedish Hospital right away.”
“What happened?” My heart was instantly in my throat.
“She collapsed—the neighbor found her on the patio. No one knows how long she was there.”
I leaped up from the chair, ready to rush out, when I realized I had a store full of customers. Several women were browsing among the yarn displays and one was flipping through patterns. Not to mention my class…
“Go,” Jacqueline insisted. “I’ll mind the business until you get back. Just go.”
“Can I do anything to help?” Elise asked.
“Me?” That was Bethanne.
“I can stay, too,” Courtney said.
I was overwhelmed by gratitude for their kindness and compassion. “Thank you. Thank you all so much.” These women were more than my customers and my students. They were my friends.
Margaret had her purse by the time I went to collect mine. When I came out of the office, Brad had just arrived with a delivery. He stood near the door.
“We have to leave,” Margaret was telling him as she signed for the yarn. “It’s Mom. She’s been rushed to the hospital.”
He looked at me, frowning with concern. “Is she going to be all right?”
“I don’t know,” I told him. “I don’t know anything yet.” I couldn’t control my reaction, my need for comfort, for him. I reached out to Brad. I needed his arms around me one last time, for courage and strength. He seemed to understand that intuitively, and when I moved toward him, he drew me into his embrace.