Read an Excerpt
The whir of a sewing machine traveled across the ether. As intended, the sound blended with those of a lawn mower in Cleveland, a blender in Dallas, an electric razor in Seattle. Some people, those specially attuned to properties outside the normal realm of humans, heard buzzing that could have been a sewing machine, but it was faint and truly indistinguishable for what it was. More like a mosquito at the ear. They heard it but couldn't decipher exactly where to swat, so they did their best ignore it.
Of course, the sound was not supposed to be heard, and therefore not investigated. The very few who did hear it clearly, who also heard Nigel and his granddaughter clearly, well, they generally resided in a hospital setting where three squares a day were provided and tranquility came in the form of little green pills. At the least, they saw a shrink three times a week. Their knowledge wasn't taken seriously.
This worried Nigel, but what could he do? It wasn't his fault humans had devolved to the point where they no longer believed in enchantment. He shook his head and tsked as he sewed. When he was a boy, learning the business from his grandfather as his granddaughter now learned from him, no one would have believed the universe could get to this point, where people believed in the "magic" of technology but not the magic that could be found in their own hearts.
Of course, challenges were exciting, and skeptical humans certainly kept him on his toes.
Absently, he hummed as he completed the final seam on the full, purple satin skirt. He pulled it from the machine, snipped the threads and shook the material out beforepinning it on the dress form.
"Edwina! I have the skirt finished. Come here, my dear." Standing back to cast a critical eye over how the skirt hung, he held up an artist's rendition of what the final product should be. He looked from drawing to garment, made a few small adjustments to the pleating around the waist and nodded in satisfaction.
"Hey, Gramps," his granddaughter said, bounding into the room.
For the millionth time, he mentally cringed at the lack of style his granddaughter showed. After all, their kind had the ability to appear any way they wished. Glancing in the mirror, he saw a debonair David Niven reflected back. The sleeves of his snowy white shirt were rolled to his elbows, but the Windsor knot in his tie was perfect, as was the knife-sharp crease in his trousers and the shine on his shoes. When he rolled down his sleeves and put on his jacket, he looked every inch the gentleman. Quirking his brows in approval at his image, he unconsciously ran a fingertip lightly over his moustache. Instead of selecting what he would consider an appropriate shell, Edwina--a name which screamed propriety--chose to look like a bag lady gone wild.
Like today, for instance. Long blond hair, streaked with pink and purple, pulled up into a ponytail to hang down the side of her head. Black lipstick and eye shadow. Two earrings in one ear and four in the other. A bright orange tank top and faded jeans--separated scandalously by a good three inches of bare stomach--looked as though they'd been worn (and torn) for centuries. And her feet--her lovely, dainty feet!--were shod in horrid, ugly brown things that not even the most desperate soldier in Caesar's army would have donned.
When he had questioned her once, about her appearance, she'd said with delight that she was starting her own trend. A Lauper-Madonna-Pink look. It was not something he'd understood. Today, after a quick perusal, he leaned closer.
"What is that?" He swiped his thumb across her cheek, and then examined what was on the pad.
"Body glitter. Isn't it cool?" She grinned at him.
Her enthusiasm, as well as her utter lack of self-consciousness, brought the slightest of smiles to his eyes, even as his mouth formed a moue of reproach.
"Yes, well." He wiped his thumb on a handkerchief pulled from the pocket of his jacket, hanging on the wall behind Edwina. "'Cool' is what ice cubes provide. I don't know what body glitter is good for."
Giggles flowed from her, reminding him of when she was a small girl instead of the young adult she was now. Where had the centuries gone? Despite the shudders her wardrobe caused, he loved Edwina enormously and strove to give her the very best education in what they did, which was make dreams come true.
To his amazement, she stood on tiptoe and kissed his cheek. "I love you, Gramps!"
Blushing with pleasure, he patted her shoulder. "As I do you, my dear. Now, however..." briskly he turned back to the skirt falling in soft folds to brush the floor "--we must perform our first infusion of magic." He glanced to see if Edwina was listening with the proper attention and she rewarded him with a serious expression. "The first layer of magic is performed now, as the garment is being made. The next layer is cast..."
"When the pieces are put together," she finished.
He beamed. "Very good. The final layer is added with adornments, like the lace, pearls and beads you'll sew on the bodice of this dress. Do you know the chant?"
"Excellent. Remember, the chant must be said for each bauble sewn, so that the spell isn't lessened if a bead is lost."
"I'll remember." She reached to touch the dress. "You don't usually work from a picture. Why this time?"
Nigel laid the drawing on the cutting table. "Because our Ms. Meadows will need to see it in order to be convinced."
"It's beautiful, and when we're finished it will be a gorgeous gown. The woman who buys this one will be very lucky."
"Oh, this dress isn't for sale. This is for the mannequin in the window."
"We're going to all this work for a dress that won't even be worn?" She turned a wide-eyed gaze on him.
"I didn't say it won't be worn." He dusted non-existent lint from his hands, rolled his sleeves down and slid his arms into his jacket. "Now. We don't have much more time before we arrive in San Francisco, so take my hand and let's say our incantation."
With one hand each on the material and the others joined, they recited the words used to fuse magic into the seams of the skirt. For a brief moment the space of air around the skirt glowed blue. Then it looked as though nothing had happened. They dropped hands and stepped back.
"Very nice, Edwina. You've learned the spells well. I'm quite proud of you."
She smiled, pleasure obvious in the sparkle of her eyes.
Giving her shoulder a squeeze he added, "As I said, there's much left to do before we appear on Post Street. We'd better get to work."
Picking up a packet of pins, she followed him to the cutting table and they started.