by Lily Carlyle
Joanne’s heart hiccuped a beat when the tall gentleman entered her yarn shop. She took a slow, steadying breath, chiding herself for her nerves. But she couldn’t help it; he was so handsome, his silver hair reminiscent of the platinum wedding band she’d worn for nearly twenty-five years.
And, of course, not many men visited the yarn shop she’d opened with the proceeds of her divorce settlement.
“What can I help you find, Mr.—I mean, William?” On his last visit to the shop, a few months ago, he’d insisted Joanne call him by his first name. He’d been coming in every few months for the past two years, always buying several skeins of her best-quality, finest—and most expensive—yarns, but never asking questions or for advice. Joanne assumed he bought the yarn for his wife. An invalid, maybe? At first, he’d worn a wedding ring, but lately his finger had been bare. Although he did seem to be getting thinner, so perhaps it simply no longer fit?
“I’m looking for yarn for an afghan for my daughter-in-law’s den. She’s trying to have a green home,” he said, with an uncertain emphasis on green.
“I have just the thing. I got a new shipment of bamboo yarn only this morning.”
“Bamboo yarn? How do you make yarn from wood?”
“Well, it’s grass, really.” Explaining the virtues of bamboo yarn to William, Joanne found herself leaning closer to him, breathing in his male scent—Irish Spring soap with just the faintest essence of a subtle cologne, and when he leaned across her to pick up a skein, his hard chest brushed against her arm. She gasped.
“I’m sorry, did I bump you?”
“No, I, uh, hit my elbow on the shelf,” Joanne replied, a hot flush creeping up her face.
William looked at the shelf, a good three feet away, and back at Joanne’s blush, but didn’t say anything, fingering a thread of the yarn.
“Is this easy to work with? Sometimes I have trouble with the gauge…”
Now it was William’s turn to blush, and Joanne watched the red creep from his neck all the way up to the tips of his ears, wondering what to say to alleviate his embarrassment. She had a feeling that gushing, Wow, that’s great! or Lots of men knit, as true as it was, wouldn’t do the trick.
She was saved by William sighing and explaining, “See, I’m a retired airline pilot. It didn’t take long, after I got married and had kids, to get tired of the whole bar scene when I was on trips. Television seemed too mindless and I missed my family so much that I couldn’t always concentrate on books. Jokingly, my wife suggested I start knitting, and I actually found I liked it. There was something soothing about it.”
He took a deep breath before continuing. “After I retired, I gave it up for a while, spending time on other hobbies, but then after my wife was diagnosed with cancer, and I spent long hours by her bedside, I started knitting again.”
Without even thinking, compassion obliterating her self-consciousness, Joanne took his warm hand in hers and squeezed. “I’m so sorry about your wife.”
“She died two years ago.”
Just about the time you started coming into the shop regularly, Joanne thought.
He smiled, a tight, rueful smile, but a smile nonetheless. “Like I said, there’s something very soothing about knitting. Which is why you see so much of me.”
“It’s always a pleasure to have you visit.” Joanne smiled. He must be lonely, she thought.
“You know, we have several knitting groups that meet after hours…” But even as she said it, Joanne wondered if she really wanted to share William with all the women in her knitting groups. From those still in their twenties all the way up to the grandmas, they would all be attracted to his good looks and kind manner.
His face lit up for the briefest moment, before it fell again. “I’m not sure I’m ready to come out of my knitting closet.”
Joanne chuckled, and to her surprise, William joined in, relieving his tension with a good belly-laugh.
Realizing she still held his hand, Joanne dropped it, a little of her self-consciousness returning as she took a deep breath. “My assistant will be coming in a few minutes to mind the shop for the afternoon. Can I buy you lunch?”
William shook his head. “No, you can’t buy me lunch. Knitting notwithstanding, I’m an old-fashioned guy. But I’d love to buy you lunch.”
And with that, he picked up her hand, giving it a warm squeeze.
© 2012 Lily Carlyle
All Rights Reserved
Lily Carlyle decided she wanted to be a writer when she was seven years old, but convinced of the impossibility of earning a living that way, she studied history instead (a decision she still can’t explain). After working as an archivist for many years, she returned to her first career choice. Her short story, “Santa Bebe,” will be included in Still Moments Publishing’s Christmas anthology For the Love of Christmas (December 2012).