Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Bloom Sisters

Just north of Nichol's Corner Market and west of the Village Post Office in Camden Corners sits a quaint little shop called Bloom Quilts. The proud owners of the shop are twin sisters, Hyacinth and Dahlia Bloom. The sisters not only operate a quilt shop, their lives have revolved around quilts ever since they were toddlers sitting at their mother's knee watching her work her magic with a needle and thread.
Mother was a talented seamstress who was often hired as a dressmaker for the wealthy ladies of Fairville where the little family lived. Mrs. Genevieve Van Buren was one of those ladies and generously allowed Mother to take leftover fabric home where the scraps were combined and made into beautiful works of art.
The family moved to Camden Corners when the twins were just beginning their teen years. They were so busy making quilts in every shape and size, they didn't have time for any kind of social life and before they knew it, they were growing older and only had quilts to keep them warm on a cold winter's night.
The sisters purchased a lovely log cabin and with the help of some of the handymen of Camden Corners turned it into a quilt shop with a two bedroom apartment on the second floor. The walls of the shop and their home upstairs were covered with quilts. There were curtains made in a quilt pattern at the windows. They wore quilt skirts and jackets and even their flower beds resembled a quilt in the summertime. The ladies were happiest when they were teaching the young girls of Camden Corners how to quilt.
They may each have had thoughts of having their own family but they worked and lived as a pair and couldn't imagine life being any different than it had always been. It was difficult for anyone to tell the twin sisters apart. Both walked the same, talked the same and looked exactly alike. The twins didn't mind. They enjoyed the attention they received when strangers would enter their shop and think they were seeing double.
The sisters were not unattractive but rather plain. They wore their hair tied in a bun at the back of their necks. They didn't think it was proper for ladies to paint their faces and therefore never used any kind of powder or rouge to soften their complexion.
One autumn morning as the sisters were relaxing with a cup of tea on porch of their shop, along came Mr. Hennessy's covered wagon. Mr. Hennessy was a traveling salesman and the sisters bought most of their thread and quilting fabric from him. Instead of Mr. Hennessy, a younger man was sitting on the wagon. He was tall and very handsome.
“Good Morning ladies,” the stranger called out “Harold Hightower at your service. Mr. Hennessy has taken a much deserved vacation and I am filling in for him for the next few weeks”.
Hyacinth greeted the salesman cordially and walked to the wagon to see what treasures Mr. Hightower had with him today.
Dahlia couldn't catch her breath. Never had she seen a man as beautiful as the one that was standing near her porch on this lovely, glorious autumn morning. Her whole body seemed to float as she walked toward the wagon.
Hyacinth noticed Dahlia was acting rather strangely but didn't comment. Dahlia couldn't keep her eyes off of the salesman. She seemed to be in a trance. Hyacinth didn't know what to make of her sister's odd behavior.
Dahlia offered Mr. Hightower a cup of tea or a glass of cool lemonade. He was rather thirsty and gratefully accepted the spinster's offer.
“Please ladies, call me Harold. Mr. Hightower is so formal don't you think?”
Dahlia thought Harold was the most wonderful name she had ever heard. Harold was full of chatter and Dahlia hung on every word. Hyacinth thought Harold was a little too smooth and didn't trust him. It never occurred to her that her beloved sister had fallen head over heels in love with Mr. Harold Hightower.
The week progressed and Dahlia was still floating through the air. She and Hyacinth had never had a cross word between them even when Dahlia had mistakenly planted tulip bulbs in the daffodil planter on the front porch of the shop or when Hyacinth used some beautiful silk fabric on her quilted jacket that Dahlia was saving for a skirt. Hyacinth noticed that Dahlia was looking in the mirror much more often than she ever had before. She didn't know what had come over her sister but she didn't like it one bit. That kind of vanity was a sin and besides, Dahlia wasn't as pretty as Hyacinth. Everyone knew that!
The following day the ladies walked to Warm Hearth Bakery. Diana Taylor was at the shop with her new baby, Joey. The sisters oohed and aahed over the beautiful baby boy and inquired about little Iris who was happily attending school.
Hyacinth was looking over the array of cookies when Dahlia took Diana off to a corner of the store. Diana was so pretty and Dahlia was asking her advice about maybe changing her hairstyle and using just a touch of makeup. Diana thought Dahlia would look beautiful with her hair flowing and a bit of rouge on her lips and cheeks.
They excused themselves and went to the back room where Diana undid Dahlia's bun. Her hair flowed as though it was happy to be able to breathe. Diana took her scissors and trimmed just a little off the sides and gave Dahlia some wispy bangs. Then she brushed her cheeks with powder and a bit of red coloring. The final touch was pale pink lipstick. Diana handed Dahlia a small mirror. When she looked at herself, she couldn't believe it was her. She loved her new look but she dreaded facing Hyacinth.
Slowly she walked out of the back room and over to Hyacinth who was looking longingly at an apple pie. Hyacinth turned around and nodded to the young woman standing behind her. Dahlia spoke and Hyacinth nearly fainted when she realized the young woman was her sister.
“What have you done?” Hyacinth was grasping her chest. She thought her heart was going to burst it was beating so fast.
Diana tried to calm Hyacinth down but to no avail. Hyacinth marched out of the store forgetting all about the apple pie. Dahlia was fighting back tears. She loved her sister but she was tired of being known as one of the plain Bloom sisters. She was tired of always dressing in quilts. She wanted to be fashionable. She confided in Diana that she had taken a shine to Mr. Harold Hightower and wanted to look appealing when he came to town next week. Diana didn't want to burst Dahlia's bubble, but she didn't think a traveling salesman would be the type who would settle down in a small town like Camden Corners .
Dahlia settled in her room above the quilt shop, found some pretty fabrics and lace and proceeded to sew herself some new stylish dresses. Hyacinth was in the quilt shop rearranging all the quilts and materials. She couldn't believe her sister was acting like such a fool. The more she thought about the spectacle Dahlia was making of herself, the madder she got.
Several hours later Dahlia came down the stairs wearing one of her new dresses. Hyacinth couldn't believe how beautiful her sister looked. She felt like an old frump and was not too happy about that.
Dahlia tried to explain to her sister that she wanted to look pretty, wanted to have a life outside of the quilt shop. She was tired of having people look right through her and if a little make up and pretty clothes made her a bit more visible, she didn't see anything wrong with that.
Dahlia wasn't getting anywhere with Hyacinth so she decided to take a walk through town. Herman Smith was unloading a delivery truck in front of Nichol's General Store and almost dropped a 50 pound sack of flour when he looked up and saw Dahlia walk by. She greeted him and he realized it was Dahlia. He couldn't take his eyes off of her. He always liked the Bloom sisters but never thought of them as knockouts. Hyacinth was watching her sister from behind the window and noticed that all the men were tipping their hats and stopping to say hello to her. Hyacinth vowed she would never forgive Dahlia for her wretched behavior. The days passed by and the sisters barely spoke to one another.
Finally, the day approached when Mr. Harold Hightower would be riding by in Mr. Hennessy's covered wagon. Dahlia couldn't sleep the night before she was so excited about seeing him again. She had plans to buy several yards of the prettiest fabric in his wagon and she had no intention of using it to make quilts. She had made blueberry muffins that morning along with roasted coffee. Hyacinth would never approve of serving coffee but Dahlia didn't care. She knew most men preferred strong coffee to weak tea.
Harold pulled up in front of the shop and Dahlia greeted him with a big smile and her new look. Harold didn't recognize her as the shy twin sister he had met last week. He felt his heart skip a beat just looking at this pretty young girl. He told her he was there to see the Bloom sisters. Dahlia blushed and told him she was Dahlia Bloom. Harold sat on the porch drinking coffee and eating the best blueberry muffins he had ever tasted.
Hyacinth stepped out of the shop, quickly chose some fabric and thread and retreated back into the shop immediately. Harold explained to Dahlia that he was not cut out to be a traveling salesman. He would be happy when Mr. Hennessy returned from his vacation. He wanted to see Camden Corners and was thinking of buying a shop down the street. Mr. Hennessy had told him that the owner, Mr. Cromwell was planning to retire and was selling his store.
Harold asked if Dahlia would like to have supper with him that evening when his route was finished. Dahlia was beside herself with joy. She said yes right away but was concerned about Hyacinth. They had never had a meal apart.
Harold told her he understood about twins because he and his brother Howard are twins.
“Maybe, if Hyacinth would agree” said Harold “the four of us could have dinner at Marino's Trattoria.”
Dahlia promised to try to convince Hyacinth to join them.
Hyacinth, who had been eavesdropping took a look at herself in the mirror. She had to admit, Dahlia did look very pretty. Not only that, she acted pretty. Maybe it wasn't such an awful thing to try to look your best. Besides, she had felt the same way about wanting a family of her own. She always thought it would be a betrayal of Dahlia but that seemed awfully foolish now.
Dahlia walked over to Hyacinth and said “We need to talk.”
Hyacinth wrapped her arms around Dahlia and told her how sorry she was for the way she had been behaving. With that she pulled the pins out of her hair and begged Dahlia to make her look pretty too. The girls worked diligently sewing new dresses to wear that evening. Dahlia was excited about her date with Harold and Hyacinth was nervous about being seen in public as her new self.
The Hightower brothers called on the twins. Harold and Howard often fell for the same female and for once they each had one of their own. They proudly escorted the ladies to the Trattoria. Along the way, the two sets of twins attracted a lot of attention. Diana Taylor saw the foursome from the bakery window and was so happy to see both sisters looking identical again. They had always been pretty but now they were striking looking especially walking beside two very handsome gentlemen.
They were married in a double ceremony three weeks later. The sisters wore white organza gowns without any sign of quilting. The fellows had dark gray suits with matching quilt vests. They wore their wives' handiwork with pride.

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