The Dressmaker

by: TabulaRasa | Complete Story | Last updated Mar 24, 2009

Chapter 3
Chapter 2 (One Year Earlier)

Having accepted that his life in San Jose was, for all relevant purposes, over, Daniel Claybourn had accepted a job as a computer technician for a small company in a tiny town he’d never heard of. There had been precisely one available place to live in his price range; the description had made it sound like a real, albeit small, apartment, but when he arrived, it turned out to be a single unused room in the back of a widow’s house.

The first few days were busy and tiring. His coworkers were boring, seemed to have no interest in getting to know him, but almost malevolently piled him with work. Whoever had handled their computer systems before had left a terrible mess, and he was so busy putting out day by day problems that he could barely find time to work on the big ones. He’d get home late, and ended up subsisting on the cheapest tv dinners he could find.

After a few days of this, the widow noticed, and suggested that she just make him dinner. His reluctance to impose warred with his desire both for a reasonable meal and for a little companionship, and he accepted.

She was an excellent cook, and a pleasant person to talk to as well. Daniel learned that she lived on a settlement related to her husband’s death, and without a job or many friends, she had taken him in at such a cheap rent more for the company than the money. As far as he could tell, besides her dog, an excitable terrier named Max, and the endless dolls and stuffed animals that decorated her house, she had pretty much no contact with anyone besides him.

At first the dog seemed not to think Daniel belonged; whenever he entered a room, the dog would growl, or whimper, or just flee. Finally, after almost a week of joining the widow for dinner, the dog seemed to have spontaneously come to accept Daniel’s presence, and was abruptly pleasantly, excitably friendly, yapping around him in circles and wagging it’s tail happily when Daniel scratched him under the chin or behind the ear. With that change, Daniel realized that he was finally beginning to feel at home in the widow’s house.

Over the next few weeks, she offered to take on a few more tasks in Daniel’s life. Since he was so busy, and she had so much time, she started helping him out a bit more. Daniel returned home one day to find that she’d done all his laundry, neatly folding it into the drawers in his room.

When he insisted that, at least, he had to do something in return, she reluctantly assigned him what were, she insisted, her least favorite chores: taking out the trash and walking the dog. Daniel suspected she’d just chosen two things that were quick and easy, but he didn’t push the matter further. It wasn’t like he minded the extra time to unwind after his hectic work schedule, and walking Max was more a fun game than it was a chore.

Finally, after a month of cleaning up his employer’s poorly maintained computers, day in day out, including every weekend, he finally had a day off and realized he had no idea what to do with it.

The widow---Mrs. Schneider, as he’d come to call her---suggested he go to the zoo. When Daniel was skeptical, she assured him that it was well worth seeing, and offered to show him around. Without any better ideas, Daniel agreed.

At first Daniel wasn’t impressed, but as the day went on, and Mrs. Schneider pointed many interesting features of the animals, he got more interested. Half way through the day, when Mrs. Schneider simply took charge and ordered lunch for both of them without even asking what he wanted---and nonetheless ordered a hot dog with just the right toppings for him---it finally dawned on him that Mrs. Schneider, without another family member left in the world, was treating him like her kid.

Both out of sympathy for her, and because it was nice to relax and let someone else take charge, he let it pass, and even played along a bit. When, at the end of the day, she offered to buy him a toy, he even went along with that. (And, admittedly, the fact that an elaborate puzzle had caught his eye the moment he walked in the store didn’t make it hard.)



End Chapter 3

The Dressmaker

by: TabulaRasa | Complete Story | Last updated Mar 24, 2009


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