Pirates of Pamlico Sound: Chapter 8

🏴 Present day * Nags Head.

The sun had risen fully and shone through her bedroom window by the time Bernice managed to get up. As she descended the stairs into the kitchen, Collin remarked, “You look absolutely beat, hon.”

“I am, Collin,” she said. “I am… You know, I was up nearly all last night reading about the history of textiles, of the town of Bath, of witchcraft — you name it. I feel like I read the entire Internet. My eyes are just … permanently out of focus. But, my nose still works. I smell coffee, yes?”

“Yes,” Collin answered. “French roast.”

Collin went to his office for the day. Bernice stuck around a bit — finishing off two good sized cups before heading out for the day with the dress and pirate’s jacket stuffed into a large paper shopping bag. She’d decided to fix up the clothes, though she knew relatively little about sewing. As a child, she’d learned the basics from her mother — the cross stitch, the running stitch, the hemming stitch, the buttonhole — and she’d done a few simple projects over the years. Still, she felt confident in her ability to make the necessary repairs and alterations to these items.

She gave considerable thought to the issue of whether she should be doing anything at all with the clothes other than donating them directly to some kind of historical museum. They were in spectacular shape, after all, for period textiles. She was sure they’d be worth a fortune on the open collectibles market, and also that many historians and preservationists would view her plans to mend, alter, and restore these original pieces as some sort of blasphemy.

In thinking of this, she was reminded of the Antiques Roadshow, a favorite show of hers and Collin’s (though for different reasons). She’d found it common to watch an appraiser give someone the lowdown on a piece of eighteenth century furniture. “Well, Mr. Jones, what can I say? This is an absolutely spectacular piece,” they’d begin. “However, you’ve restored it. And, you’ve done an admirable job, to be sure. But, I have some potentially bad news for you. You see, had you not restored it, it would be worth at least fifty thousand dollars. However, since you did restore it, it’s worth about five hundred dollars — maybe up to a thousand on a good day at auction.”

Clearly, the lesson was to never alter or restore such treasures. But, these weren’t simply historical relics to Bernice, meant to appreciate over time as a financial investment — and she certainly didn’t care about the current or future monetary value. These clothes spoke to her on a personal level. In fact, she felt they were somehow meant for her care and even for her personal use. When did it have to be, exactly, that a piece of vintage clothing must stop being worn as clothing and instead become part of some period display cordoned off by velvet ropes? There was no law outlining what one could or couldn’t do with extremely rare textiles.

She’d stopped thinking about these issues long before reaching the Kill Devil Fabric Bazaar, another of her long-time ad clients. KDFB, as she called the store, ran classes for tourists and residents who could build their own kites, parafoils, and sails — selling them the materials and instruction for a reasonable fee. It was an interesting sideline business for them that started at Bernice’s suggestion. They’d been hesitant to run an ad in a tourist booklet. “We’re a fabric store,” they’d objected. “Why would the tourists want to come here?”

“I can think of many reasons,” she told them. “You just have to link your business to the tourism industry and you’ll see results. For example, people like to relax in their rentals at night and knit or crochet. So, sell them the yarn. They like to fly kites on the beach, so sell them the ripstop nylon — and, hey, why not hold a class where people can come in and make their own kites? People are always looking for interesting things to do out here.” She’d offered them a few free ads to test the waters with her idea and, sure enough, the tourists came in. They’d advertised with her ever since.

Inside, she waved the manager over and asked what she might have on hand that would either match or complement the materials in the dress and the jacket. The pair located a hunter green satin weave to match the accents on the dress, some fine pale sea green linen to match the main cloth of the dress, a bit of brown material to approximate the jacket, and a bit of ebony leather to match the jacket’s trim. She also purchased many spools of colored threads to match the materials she’d selected.

Within two hours, she was back at home (after a quick run to Starbucks), her materials and supplies spread out all over the living room carpet. She’d tied her hair back, popped in her favorite all-female vocalist smash hits CD (which she’d painstakingly assembled and mixed herself using internet peer-to-peer file sharing services), cranked the volume, and bellowed along with the powerful divas. She sewed and sang out Pat Benetar’s “Love Is a Battlefield,” Irene Cara’s “What a Feeling,” and of course Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” (“I don’t know what to do and I’m always in the dark…We’re living in a powder keg and givin’ off sparks.”) There was plenty of Cher and Cyndi Lauper and even a few ABBA tunes. Collin would have been glad to have been at work.

When the work was finished, she stepped back to admire her restored treasures. Instead of customizing and updating the dress, she’d opted to approach it as a restoration project. She’d done a remarkable job; she’d resurfaced the quilted V shapes, she’d patched a few isolated areas of dry rot, she’d reinforced all of the loose stitch work, and she’d even touched up some of the embroidery. It looked more like a museum piece now, in her opinion, than it did when she’d found it.

After a bit more consideration, it almost looked too nice to wear in the quasi-casual way she’d envisioned. This was a dress for a special occasion, she decided. She then rooted through her bedroom closet a bit and found a thin plastic protective cover that she’d had hanging on another dress that had come back from the dry cleaners. She put her new dress into that, admiring how it shined through the clear plastic, and hung it in her closet.

As for the pirate jacket, this turned out more spectacular than she’d imagined. Just looking at it made her want to break out the silk chemise she’d purchased recently. In fact, perhaps there was still time to do just that before Collin returned home for the evening.

She cleaned up her sewing materials, left a familiar two-word note (in black ink with a large heart drawn around the words) on the stair banister, and headed upstairs with the pirate jacket in hand. Upstairs, she lowered the roman shades in the bedroom, lit votive candles on the dresser and nightstands, and cued up a soft music CD (programmed for auto-repeat).

Collin returned home slightly early, which meant he likely wasn’t tired. She heard him enter and lock the door behind him. She also heard him snap her taped note from the banister. That’s a good sign, she thought. He definitely got the message this time. There would be no CNN, no newspaper, no casual Budweiser at the kitchen counter. She heard him drop his briefcase on the kitchen table and walk into the kitchen. She heard the distinctive sound of two wine glasses clanking on a bottle. That’s a good sign, too, she thought. She heard him coming up the stairs.

When he entered the room, Bernice was kneeling on the bed. She was holding the pirate jacket she’d spent the day tailoring. “Put the wine down and come here,” she said, seductively. “I’d like you to wear this jacket tonight.”

For a moment, he felt an instinct to question this. But, for once, he stifled his initial reaction and went along with Bernice’s request. Sure, I can wear a jacket, he thought. That’s not asking a lot and, if she’s so into it, then why not? He removed his oxford work shirt and hung it in his closet. “You just want me to put this on?” he asked, taking it from her.

“Lose the undershirt as well,” she said. “You can keep the Dockers on, for now.”

Collin removed his t-shirt and hesitated for a moment before donning the jacket. He felt a bit strange at first, as this was outside the realm of their normal behavior with one another. But, the jacket did feel nice. It wasn’t some old crusty piece of rotting cloth, as he’d expected. Instead, it felt soft to the touch, and quite roomy.

After he put it on, she pulled him a bit closer and began tying the brown sash around his waist. Most of the gold trim had worn away or disappeared. There was nothing she could have done about that short of purchasing an entirely new sash. But, the old one suited him well. It gave him a more authentic flair.

“Say something piratey, Collin,” she said.

“Something piratey, eh?” He thought for a moment, and then turned to the wine he’d brought up. Fortunately, he’d uncorked the bottle back in the kitchen. He mustered the roughest voice he could and said, “Fancy a little grog, lass?”

That’s all it took for Bernice, as a warm electric tingle pulsed through her body at his first syllable. Her chemise had seemed to be on fire as she grabbed him by the sash and pulled him onto her.

Outside their bedroom, an American brown pelican quietly landed on the wooden deck railing. Only moments before, the massive water bird had been fishing in the ocean, spectacularly plunge diving for its dinner. He was a tired bird, and rested on their ledge for perhaps an hour, an unseen eavesdropper to the peculiar noises that humans make. There is no telling whether the bird could have known or even imagined the scene just beyond the roman shades. He could not have known the meaning of phrases such as “plumb the briny deep” and “fire the six pounders.” However, after an hour’s rest, the strange calls continued from within the walls. Before taking off, the giant bird heard yet another six loud and enthusiastic words that he didn’t understand: “You, Collin, are a wild man!”

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☠️ Jim Dee maintains his personal blog, “Hawthorne Crow,” and a web design blog called “Web Designer | Web Developer Magazine.” He’s also contributes to various Medium.com publications. You can reach him at: Jim [at] ArrayWebDevelopment.com. “Chapter number” background photo atop piece is adapted from “Light Reading” by Martin (Flickr, Creative Commons).