Hold Fast To Your Dreams – Episode 44

The main characters from the story Illustration: Sailesh Thakrar

Emily stood in the middle of the room, the walls glowing softly in the hazy morning light.  

For the past week, the heavy cream curtain pulled across the wide window had shrouded the room from passers-by as she, Becky and Miriam had toiled away, stitching and pinning, attaching trimming to dresses and braiding to coats, making displays and putting the final touches on all that would be unveiled on opening morning.   

The window decoration, last to take shape, now stood behind the curtain as the clock ticked, the hands making their way ever closer to half past nine. 

Her head ached, for they had worked through the night to be ready for the grand opening.  

Finally, with the sewing machine and work tables shut away in the utility room, and the room swept clean, Emily had sent the two of them upstairs for an hour of sleep.  

Knowing she would be unable to drift off even for a few minutes, she had freshened up, changed her clothes and come downstairs again. 

Now she gazed at the graceful dresses, blouses and smart skirts which hung on rails and hooks round the room.  

She had designed them all, but now forgot which ones she’d stitched together and which had been delegated to Becky and Miriam.   

Her eyes drifted to the pedestal desk in the corner on which a leather order book sat, its empty pages ready and waiting.  

She took a deep breath, mustering every shred of confidence that she could.  

The voices of the two brothers, one a barber and one a pharmacist, who had reluctantly let the rooms to her, echoed threateningly in her head. 

“A dress shop?” They’d looked appalled. 

James had stood silently by Emily’s side, but she had held her ground. 

“Presumably some of the men you attend to have wives who need to shop. And I believe both men and women bring their custom to your pharmacy?” 

“There are plenty of other places that sell clothes.” 

“The garments in my shop will be exclusive designs,” she said, feeling her blood rising. “They won’t be copies of garments I made for my past customers.  

“After all, the Countess of Witney and Lady Florence Farrington would not be pleased to hear that the dresses they wore for dining with the King of England had been replicated. Would you require references?” 

“Uh, references?” 

“Letters of recommendation.” 

“Um, no, we want things up and running right away. Open your shop in two weeks, and if things are looking good after two more you can stay.” 

“The rooms need painting,” Emily argued. “I will open in three weeks.” 

“There’d better be plenty of business, or you’re out.” 

How long had she dreamed of this – worked for it – but dared not to believe it could ever happen?  

In a matter of minutes, she would pull aside the curtain, unlock the door, and Emily’s dream would be a reality. 

She saw in her mind’s eye all the people who were so precious to her, and who in different ways had helped her on her journey to this moment. Her eyes filled with tears, remembering her mother’s voice. 

“Promise me, dear Emily, that you will look after your brother and sisters the best you can. Never forget you have something special, my darling girl, something that glows inside you.  

“I hope, one day, you are given a chance.” 

Emily had tried her best at home for all those years, yet she’d felt the tug of wanting to create something for herself. Was it possible to throw herself into one without giving up the other?  

Sarah, out of her generosity and wisdom, and Dad, through his love and wish for her happiness, had both understood. 

What about Jenny? With an aching heart she thought of her sister, always so beautiful and so tempestuous when she was growing up.   

Being younger, she’d been deprived of their mother from much earlier.   

But Jenny had been the one to find love and marry. One day she would have children of her own, and would pour her talents and creativity into raising them.  

Emily felt a stab of envy and longing. At odds with one another from time to time, yet they had found such closeness when they’d worked together at Farrington House.  

When had their letters become fewer and farther between?  

Tears ran down Emily’s cheeks. She missed her. If only Jenny could have been part of this; if only she were here right now. 

To be continued…

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