Seams and Dreams
Updated: Apr 14
Gerald's straight-laced life in the family business comes undone when his supervisor has an unexpected windfall.
“Bye boss! If we’re not back on Monday, you’ll know where we are!”
Gerald smiled, disguising the pang he felt every time Sandi left for the weekend.
Sandi, the sewing room supervisor, always clocked off on Friday afternoon with the same words, tapping the staff noticeboard for luck as she passed. The faded sign, “ESCAPE CODES” and the list of the lottery syndicate’s regular numbers told a tragic tale of how many years they’d hoped, and failed, to win.
Gerald had never joined the lottery syndicate. He was part of an old-school dynasty of tailors; his father had always said, “Never fraternise with the staff, my boy.”
Oh, to be sure, Gerald had been tempted, and his dad knew it, minding the sewing room like a Victorian chaperone. The ‘70’s had been a boom time for the business. His father employed a team of attractively youthful women, all drawn by the lure of earning a wage from sewing skills they’d learned at their mothers’ apron strings. Gerald and Sandi had started on the same day - he a naive apprentice, she a spirited seamstress. Her khaki work pinafore had not hidden her shapely figure or dulled the sparkle in her blue eyes as he’d watched her take her place at her machine. Gerald enjoyed the banter in the sewing room, but his father’s stern presence quelled his urge to flirt.
By the time he became the boss, Gerald had learned to stay aloof. His only concession was slipping a bit of cash into the many collection envelopes that passed over his desk.
His father had disapproved, of course, “It’s a slippery slope, son. If you put money in one envelope and they’ll bother you for all of them. We pay them a decent wage, no need to waste money.”
Gerald kept putting money in the envelopes, ignoring his father’s advice. There were cards and collections for birthdays, weddings, christenings and, of course, Sandi’s flamboyant divorce celebration – all punctuation marks in a long working life. There were funerals too, his father, twenty years ago, and his own precious wife and new-born son a few years later.
The ladies of the sewing room became his family. He had grown up with them, and, when they celebrated his 65th birthday that summer, he realised that they’d grown old together too. His benign management and Sandi’s keen supervision had stitched their lives together like a patchwork quilt, comforting and companionable. They were a good team.
Gerald liked to work late. He found the silence of the sewing machines on the shop floor more soothing than the solitude of his empty house. He sighed, brooding about what he would do if the lottery syndicate won. He listened to the Lotto draw every week on the office radio; he’d long since memorised the syndicate’s numbers. The prize fund was ridiculous that night. His heart skipped as each number matched up. A few minutes later, he realised that the lottery syndicate had won the jackpot!
On Monday morning, Gerald stood by the factory door, waiting. Sandi drifted in just after 9am, her face prosecco pale. By 10am it was obvious that no-one else was coming.
“Well that’s that then.” said Gerald “I’ve always wondered what would happen if you won. Somehow I imagined that you’d all come back in, for old times’ sake, work a week’s notice maybe...”
Gerald turned his back on her and stared across the lifeless sewing room, his shoulders shaking.
Sandi felt crushed; it was awful to see Gerald so crestfallen. She’d tried to persuade him to join the syndicate, but time and time again, he’d said that it wasn’t proper.
He was still trembling when she reached out to grasp his shoulder. As he turned to face her, she saw that he was shuddering with suppressed laughter.
“What?” said Sandi.
Gerald’s eyes twinkled…
“It wasn’t right for me to join the syndicate, but I did take out Lottery insurance. I’ll get a nice pay-out 9now that everyone’s scarpered. I only kept the business on because it wasn’t proper to leave you all in the lurch when you’d been here so many years. Thanks to your syndicate, I’m a free man.”
Gerald looked hopefully at Sandi.
“What are your plans now?” he asked, “New house, new car?”
Sandi caught Gerald’s hand and pulled him into a tight hug. She looked into his eyes and smiled saucily.
“I was thinking of a new man…”
# # #
By Alex Grehy
Alex Grehy is living her dream of writing fiction that engages the reader’s emotions. Her work has been published worldwide and she is a regular contributor to Siren's Call and Red Penguin Collections. Her sweet life is filled with narrowboating, rescue greyhounds, singing and chocolate. Yet her vivid prose, thought-provoking poetry and original view of the world has led to her best friend to say 'For someone so lovely, you're very twisted!'