Tales of the Phoenix City – Chapter 4

Nina looked at the veil before her, and felt an incredible surge of pride.

 

Put quite simply, she wanted to jump and scream and dance. It was beautiful. No, it was more than that. It was breathtaking. She couldn’t find the superlatives to describe the exquisite feeling of elegance and opulence one could feel when looking at the garment.  The silk organza fell perfectly on the mannequin shoulders, light as a feather; the Calais lace would softly frame the bride’s face. The handiwork was precise, the whole attire elegantly understated, yet a single glance to the whole dress and veil would bear her signature, her couture signature. It had taken weeks to make, but she relished every second of it and was now insanely happy with the result.

 

She loved creating, she loved feeling the threads beneath her fingers, she loved playing Goddess with her fabric, the feeling of control and serenity it gave her. If only she could share some of that calmness and wholeness to some of her clients, the positive, creative, warm energy of her studio would not be disrupted.

 

She looked at the beloved vintage clock she had unearthed from a pile of junk and antique while perusing the Plainpalais flea market in Geneva last summer, and sighed.

 

Only five minutes left until Princess Yasmin, as she called her, came in for her fitting.

 

Arranging on the Palestinian ceramic tray the delicious ginger biscuits and Lawziyyeh she regularly bought from the women’s cooperatives where some of her petites mains or their families worked, she could almost sense the negative energy of her next customer drawing nearer and nearer. Beware of the disturbance in the force! She smiled, remembering her brother Ziad’s passion for Star Wars.

 

Two sharp raps on the wooden door. There we go Nina, plaster a fake Ultra-Brite smile on your face, do it for the pleasure of creating with luxury, high quality fabric, do it for the satisfaction of paying properly your workers and guaranteeing them social benefits. Do it so you can avoid being pinned to an office desk in a nine to five job, coming home way too tired to muster the energy to sew and design and play with colours, do it to keep your life the way you want it to be.

 

– Marhaba Yasmin, how are you?

 

Yasmin, as usual, seemed exhausted, tense and stressed. Nina had seen nervous brides before, but this was different. It was not a happy, rosy flushed cheeks kind of nervousness at the prospect of starting a new life and the usual wedding planning stress. This was hollow eyes, hollow cheeks, frantically chain smoking stress, and it did not bode well.

– How do you think I am? With less than two weeks to the wedding, I’m suicidal that’s how I am!

 

Nina smiled tensely. Accepting some degree of snapping was part of her job, although most of her clients usually apologized the minute the words crossed their mouths. Yasmin’s snapping had a condescending tone to it Nina could not bear, but she didn’t say anything. If she hadn’t found it hard to believe, she’d have sworn Yasmin was, well, miserable.  

 

For all, there was no other word for it, bitchiness, Yasmin stopped dead when she saw the dress.
– It looks like it’s out of a fairy tale, she uttered in a whisper.


– I’m glad you like it, beamed Nina, always happy to watch her customers’ reactions to her work.


– Would you like to eat something and have some tea before the fitting?


Yasmin looked like she had lost weight again, although Nina had instructed her not to if she wanted the dress to fit “you’ll be too thin and it’ll look all wrong. Besides, once the draping is done, I won’t be able to make any more alterations” she had warned her.
Apparently to no avail. Nina, in a weird way, felt somehow protective of everything and everyone, and despite Yasmin being spoilt and rude, she couldn’t help feeling a twinge of pity for her pitiful frame.

 

– No thanks, it’s ok, I’d like to try it on now. Besides, those biscuits are too sugary, how

can you serve such fattening food in a wedding showroom? Everyone knows brides keep

dieting before their weddings and are too stressed to eat!


– No, not all brides, if you can believe it, some of them are so happy to unite their life with the person they love in front of friends and family, they actually enjoy life and, one of the best aspects of life, delicious food, replied Nina equally, meticulously taking the dress off the mannequin.


Yasmin, not sure of the sarcastic tone, blanched and glared at Nina and kept silent, while Nina’s patience and understanding seemed to melt away slowly. In a parallel universe, Nina was snapping at Yasmin that she preferred a million times dressing shapely figures, work the fabric around curves and flesh, rather than dressing a bony fledgling like her who seemed to only feed on smoke.
Thank God for parallel universes happening in her head, they kept her from hurling things at walls.
And so she kept on working, arranging that dress on a silent bride, one of the most awkward and depressing fitting she had ever done. Usually the laughter and banter of friends and family filled the room, confidences and secrets were exchanged among the women, an atmosphere Nina cherished, whereas everything seemed as hard as nails around Yasmin. Just like her.


The dress was put on, and so was the veil. Yasmin looked up, and saw nothing but the pure nothingness that she felt, the abyss that was her life.
Nina looked up and saw a sad girl in a magical dress, with no glow of happiness, no aura of confidence, no spark and no radiance.
Yasmin’s eyes met Nina’s, and the designer braced herself for abuse and critics for the dress not being able to magically annihilate bitterness.
Yasmin’s eyes met Nina’s, and something really weird happened.

Yasmin burst out crying.

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