Chapter 1 - Meet Rickie
If you really want to hear about it, all my problems began in November. To understand the circumstances though, you need to know about my situation a little bit before that. It wasn't a very pretty one to say the least. I had been living on my own for about six months, going to college in a small University in California. I was working for a degree in Fashion Design.
Since I was about 12, I knew that was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I designed clothes, accessories, jewelry, and created them and even sold them to kids at school. In tenth grade, I had a few friends model some dresses at the talent show. The next year, I held my very own fashion show and charged a dollar entry. It was mostly my friends/models' friends and family and my own friends and family, but still it felt really good to know people were interested.
Anyway, I was just one semester away from getting my degree and working as a seamstress at a little boutique down the road from my apartment. The owner, Mr. Delgado, is a short, hairy, Italian man. He had hired me the moment he met me, and it seemed like he was always in a hurry to get somewhere. That day, he nearly plowed me over when I went through the door.
"What the hell are you doing coming in five minutes late, Ms. Connor?" He shouted at me. He was always shouting, you just get used to it. Most of the time he didn't even mean what he was saying, he just thought people expected him to shout, and so he did. I wasn't even late.
"Sorry Mr. Delgado." I just decided to give in. He wouldn't have believed me anyway. Although the clock clearly said 4:00. He started yelling orders at me, and I only half listened. I had worked there for a year and a half; I already knew what to do.
The neat thing about Mr. Delgado was that he really didn't care what you did. He pretended like he did, just to keep you somewhat in line, but when you really fouled things up, he just didn't ever feel like dealing with it. Not that I ever really fouled up too bad, I just noticed that the little things I screwed up.
Like the time I tripped over an extension cord and brought down a couple vases. He pretended to be mad and yelled a bit at me to clean it up, but it wasn't real bad. I felt horrible, sure, I always felt bad when I messed up, but it wasn't as bad as it could've been.
And Mr. Delgado always let me have the time off I asked for. Once, he even worked Christmas so I could go home and spend it with my family. Under all that shouting and poofy body hair, he really was a nice man.
I opened up the store and hung up some dresses I brought down.
"What in the hell are those?" He shouted.
"Some dresses I designed. You like them?" I held one up for him to see.
He just grunted and went on with his business. I knew he liked them. He always liked the things I design. The store had about seven cocktail dresses and a few dozen shirts and skirts I'd designed over the past year and a half, but that wasn't anything compared to how many I'd sold. It felt good, when I sold something I'd made. But I'd never tell the customer I made it, I'd just give them a knowing smile and ring it up for them. Mr. Delgado gave me half the money for everything I sold, plus my regular pay. He was lucky to have me.
I really did bring in a lot of business. The good thing about the things I design are that they're one of a kind. I never make the same thing twice. If I got a real design job and made my own line, of course I'd hire a lot of seamstresses and have them make thousands of the same thing in different sizes and all, but I didn't have any of that yet. I kept a book of everything I designed, though, so WHEN I get all that stuff, I can make them over again.
When I said I worked as a seamstress, there's a lot more to it than that. I help the customers, work the till, clean and close the store, and mend and adjust pieces for the customers. It sounds like a lot, but I like the job. I get to work with people, which is good because I need experience. Although I don't really like people. I get to work with clothes, which is my favorite.
Sometimes I even think Mr. Delgado is a gangster or something, because he knows a heck of a lot of people. He always promises that he'll hook me up with a big time designer, and men with goatees, black leather coats and high fashion shirts with the first couple buttons undone showing their chest hair meet and whisper with him in the back room. Men in Black, I call them. I never ask what they whisper about, I think I don't want to know. But once he saw me watching and yelled at me pretty bad. It was even worse than the regular yelling. I knew it was something serious.
The bell above the door rang and I saw a woman with a tight blouse and miniskirt click her stilettos into the store.
"Can I help you?" I asked pleasantly, as I do every other day, but she just shook her head and smiled. I went behind the counter and began to rearrange the pens and pencils in the mason jar next to the till. Every now and then I'd glance up at the woman. She was just browsing through the racks of clothes.
She looked nice. Homey, like. I thought maybe she'd come from a small town, just like me. Despite her outrageous clothing, she had a good face, and looked like she was a very grounded person, with a lot of common sense. I imagined her moving to California with dreams of being an actress, but winding up as a waitress in a dumpy café serving coffee to perverted old men who'd stare at her ass as she walked away in her skimpy uniform.
I saw her pull out the gold dress I brought in that day and I smiled to myself. I was glad she liked it, but I knew it wouldn't look good on her. It had a low neckline, and she just did not have the endowments in that area to pull it off.
But, she took it to the dressing rooms, anyway. Along with a few other things Mr. Delgado had on the racks.
"Miss?" I heard her call and saw her stick her head out of the dressing room door. "Could you help me a moment, please?" She asked. So, I went and stood in front of the dressing rooms and she held the curtain back to show me that she was wearing the dress I'd designed.
"Could you sew this right here?" She asked, pulling together the deep V neckline. I smiled, thinking I was a genius to have predicted it looking terrible on her. But, the customer is always right. I didn't really want to sell it to her, since it was such a beautiful dress, but I couldn't exactly tell her no. So, I grabbed a needle and some thread and stitched it up a bit. When I finished, she looked in the mirror and smoothed the fabric over her breasts. A weird little smile appeared on her face and she sighed.
"It's gorgeous!" She exclaimed.
"Yeah." I agreed.
"Who is it?" She asked, turning to me. I don't know why people ask that. Like it really matters, if it looks good, that's all you should care about.
"Me." I stated. She looked as if I'd told her I was Madonna or something.
"You designed this?" She asked, completely baffled. Was it that unbelievable that I could design something like that?
"And produced." I smiled. She lightly socked my shoulder.
"You're amazing! Why don't you have your own line?" She stood with her hands on her hips, looking at me.
"You know, I ask myself the same thing!" I laughed softly, but she bust out into full on hysterical fits of doubled-over, knee slapping hoots. Then I laughed some more, mostly at how stupid she looked, howling like a monkey at such a dumb joke.
"You're a gem, doll." She said when she'd caught her breath. "Now scat so I can change!" She shooed me out of the dressing room, and I shook my head as I resumed my post at the counter. I kind of liked that crazy woman. She looked about 30-something, and it seemed like she was the kind of woman who always saw the bright side of things, you know?
The woman bought the dress, but put back everything else she took into the room with her. I don't think she even tried them on. She smiled at me before she walked out the door and waved a French manicured hand. I waved back, and the smile wouldn't leave my lips for another ten minutes after I watched her leave.
Mr. Delgado asked me what the hell was so amusing, but I just shook my head and pretended that I had work to do.