Kind Gestures by S. Webster

Chapter 8

Veronica – 10:30 am

Veronica thinks Terry is good with the clientele and would be happy to have her working more hours than just twenty-four per week. At least that is twenty-four hours that Veronica does not need to be on the floor or even in the boutique. Those who work in a dress shop need to look their best, look well put together. Veronica doesn’t like having to dress her large frame up in clinging jerseys that fall from shoulders to ankles and then drape herself with scarves and long necklaces just to give vertical “thinning” lines to her torso. Luckily she has a weakness for designer reading glasses and hair ornaments which have the effect of keeping her customers from looking anywhere below her scarf-draped neck. That and she keeps herself pretty much behind the counter looking too busy to step out and hand pick suitable garments for the customers now coming into her shop.

Besides she misses her older customers, the ones who have outgrown the shop. After having bought clothes there for years, they only come in now to buy a scarf or gift for their daughters and granddaughters. If it weren’t for a chronically ill husband and Terry helping out, Veronica would have closed the doors a few years ago.

But then what would she do? Sit home and wait for Henry to tell her what ache or pain he was having now? It wasn’t that she didn’t love Henry. They had several years together and no one knew her better than Henry did. No one cared for her as much as he did. He was her best friend and in reality probably her only friend.

They never tired of talking or reading to each other. Henry read Veronica the paper when she came home and after dinner she would read him books. Novels and poetry was what they liked best, other people’s thoughts and stories that they would comment on as she read. She is thinking of the poem she read to him last evening over their evening glass of port.

‘Does that make sense to you, dear? The way he talks about the butterfly being like his little sister? And how it comes and goes through the roses? And the way he waits for her to come back to him each summer when his roses bloom?’

She felt a pang of sadness when he responded, ‘I think it is lovely how he misses his sister. We just have butterflies.’

Neither Henry nor Veronica had siblings, each born to older parents who were gone now.  They grew up here in Oliver, went to school together, attended the same church and never knew the other was even there. Back then they were each introverted, quiet and lonely. Both convinced that what they were missing was internal and, if patient, someday they would grow into a feeling of fulfillment all by themselves. In school they studied hard and both were awarded scholarships to out of state colleges. They left Oliver and went in different directions into different careers. Twenty-five years later and still single Veronica came home to tend her ailing mother. Two years after that Henry returned to do the same for his. They met in the waiting room of the hospital and finally noticed each other for the first time. Over coffee and commiserations Henry and Veronica began a love affair that surprised them both.

When they laid their mothers to rest, they married and moved into the house Veronica grew up in near the center of town.  They repainted the walls, wallpapered the bathrooms, redid the gardens, placed Henry’s furniture in just the right places, and they talked. They talked like they were still on their first date. There was so much to tell one another and so much they each wanted to hear. Henry and Veronica were like gifts to each other, still being unwrapped with care after fifteen years of marriage.

It was Henry that suggested Veronica open a dress shop shortly after they had settled into the house. He said it would be good for her to have something to do while he spent so much time secluded with his writing. Once the house and garden were finished to their liking, Henry knew Veronica could use another outlet for her talents and surprised her one day with a lease to a small business property in town.  It was a lovely narrow shop that had stood vacant for two years when the appliance repair business moved into a larger building outside of town. The upstairs was good for additional storage, mostly Henry’s furniture that they couldn’t quite part with. The high ceiling of the street level shop gave the impression of spaciousness and with some careful redecorating, it could become Oliver’s much needed and only dress shop. A clothing and accessory store for those, like Veronica, with discriminating tastes.

It did not take long for her to throw herself into the new project of Veronica’s Boutique. With the responsibilities of subcontracting labor, ordering materials and selecting her inventory, Veronica found herself involved in the community she completely ignored growing up. Oliver was now truly her home and she could not think of any reason she would ever have to leave it.

That was then.

Now fifteen years later Veronica looked forward more to being home with Henry than going into the shop. Funny how that short walk from the house to the shop had become less joyful than the walk from the shop back home. It could be Henry’s health she thought and a need to be with him more. Ever since they were told of the likelihood his cancer would return, she wanted to be closer than a six block walk down the street. What if she couldn’t get there in time?

But Veronica also knew she was tired. She was overweight and tired.  She wanted to get up in the morning, have breakfast with Henry and not walk into town. She wanted to stay home, in an easy chair or pottering in her flower beds with Henry. Even though she has hired Terry to give her time at home, she wanted to have more. As his age and illness take their toll on him, she wouldn’t trade a moment of her time with Henry and knows it will be a terrible loss when he is taken from her. She thinks it is probably a good thing she did not sell the shop in 2008 because it might be just what she’ll need to get her through the hard times ahead.

“Henry and I picked these sunflowers this morning, Terry,” she says. “Can you find the big vase for them?”

“Of course, Veronica, should we put them in the window?”

“That’s a lovely idea. We need to talk about changing our look in the window, something more appropriate for the fall,” Veronica says looking at the display and thinking there is probably too much pink to go with the addition of yellow sunflowers. More green and brown would be nice.

“We can talk about it over lunch, Veronica. Why don’t you go get settled in the office and I’ll take care of these? They are so hardy-looking. You both must have such green thumbs to get them looking like this.”

Veronica says, “They are nice, aren’t they? Better than the ones at the florist shop next door. The flowers there have a way of looking more like artificial ones, don’t you think? And no matter how Barbara arranges them, they always look to be on their way to a funeral or wedding. I don’t think she has the concept of “casual-looking” down yet.”