The grey eyed Cinderella – Chapter 4
Posted by: Maria Atalanti
Published on: 18/05/2023Back to Blog
Kalliroe the youngest entered like a tornado, holding a packet of sweets in her hand.
-Hello Aunt Kallie, sorry I’m late. You see jobs! I brought sweets to accompany our coffee. I’m going to get it ready. Instead, would you like some tea?
Kalliroe laughed at this girl’s fury.
-It doesn’t matter! She replied This is how youth should be. All life and energy. I have always said that only young people can change the world. I’ll have coffee with you, thanks. I ‘ve just got my tea.
Kalliroe, the youngest, did not take long to bring the coffee and the sweets. They both sat on the veranda facing the view towards the sea. The girl stared for a while at the old woman sitting next to her. She looked so classy; one would think she was born into wealth. No one could have imagined that she was the most despised and poor child of this village, many, many years ago.
-Tell me Aunt Kalli about your life in London, Kalliroe the younger pleaded. I really like these stories. You tell them so well that I think I’ve lived in that era too.
-I don’t know how you handle me and I’m telling you all this! I’ve never talked to anyone but you.
Kalliroe the youngest gave her a sly wink and looked at her sweetly. So, Aunt Kalli succumbed to her charm and began to speak:
-Before you came I was reflecting on my life. I will pick up where I left off with my thoughts. I have told you about my friend Elpida, who at some stage got married and left. Then I was really alone in the vastness of London. At first I was terribly scared and insecure, until I got that job that changed my life.
-From the first day Mrs. Jones, the head of my new job, took me by her side and we began together to study the wedding dress we were going to sew. She showed me the patterns and the fabric. I had never seen anything more beautiful in my life. A simple yet beautiful design, with a collar that rose high at the back of the neck and ended in a V shape near the neck. It accentuated the waist and ended in a long tail. The sleeves again ended in a V shape and covered the upper part of the hand ending in a nipple that passed over the middle finger. The base of the wedding dress was made of satin fabric and was completely covered with lace.
-From what you tell me, it looks like the wedding dress you sewed for my mother for her wedding, commented Kalliroe the youngest.
-Yes, I will tell you about it later. What impressed me the most was the lace. It was very delicate, and between the threads, passed a very fine gold thread, which was actually only visible when the light fell on it and gave the wedding dress a glow that seemed to emanate from the body of the woman who wore it. It wasn’t anything intense or flashy. So many years in fashion and I’ve never seen anything like it.
-Mrs Jones explained to me that this family, who had been lords for many years, somehow had lace as their emblem and so all the brides wore wedding dresses made of lace. It was some family tradition, so to speak.
-At first we cut the wedding dress in cheaper fabric. Only the final result would be cut from the very expensive materials that would make it up. When it was time to visit the bride-to-be to try on the bridal gown, Mrs. Jones looked me from top to bottom and left the room for a while. When she returned she brought me a dress from the ones they sewed in their own factory, in light blue.
– Wear this tomorrow, she told me.
-I can’t buy it, I answered her. It is too expensive for me.
-You won’t buy it, she told me. I will give it to you. And something else. From tomorrow I will introduce you as Kalli Michelle, the last name with a French accent, she pointed out.
-From that moment I was called Kalli Michelle and with that name I lived the rest of my life. A more elegant name, according to Mrs. Jones, that suggested a mysterious origin. The evening when I tried the dress on in my room, I noticed that its light blue color reflected in my eyes and made them look brighter and less gray. At that time, I was very closed, and my gaze was frozen, trying to hide my feelings and the insecurity I felt. The blue dress took all my anti-social defenses away and brought out the young girl I was back then.
-From the first time I had encountered the fabrics, then with Mrs. Penelope, I had felt a special connection with them. But that day I realized that they have a magical power to project or hide people’s feelings and if you know how to handle them correctly you can transform the ugly duckling into a swan.
-The next day a car came from the family house, if I remember correctly their name was Raffiel or something like that and picked up Mrs. Jones and me. I was wearing the blue dress and I was holding a big box with the wedding dress sample, and everything related. We traveled for about an hour and arrived at a very large house, just outside of London. The first time in my life I had seen such a big house. It was a three-story mansion of the kind you see in the English countryside, probably Victorian. All around it had gardens with lovely flowers and even further outside it was surrounded by a private forest. It was like entering the world of fairy tales. We were greeted by the housekeeper and led to a room that seems to have been used exclusively for sewing. Until we got there, however, I was looking around with my mouth open. For the first time in my life, I had seen so much luxury. I didn’t even know such a thing could exist in the world. Everywhere plush furniture, Persian carpets, paintings, chandeliers, and everything shining with cleanliness and order.
-As soon as we entered the sewing room, Mrs. Jones told me to open the box and take out the makeshift wedding dress. Soon the bride-to-be came with her mother. They greeted Mrs. Jones, and she introduced me as her assistant, Kalli Michelle, emphasizing the French pronunciation of my last name.
-The girl’s name was Alison, and she wasn’t particularly pretty. You could probably call her colorless. I couldn’t think of how the gorgeous wedding dress would look on her. Mrs. Jones suggested that she undress behind the screen, which was there, and gave her, to put on the makeshift wedding dress.
-When Mrs. Jones started fitting the dress, I was helping her and watching carefully. Her hands moved over the fabric, finding the weak spots on Alison’s body, and she skillfully created cuts and pleats, accentuating the waist, and counteracting the somewhat bloated tummy. She paid special attention to the raised collar, so that the girl’s neck was projected and appeared thin and long. Everything she did was aimed not only at fitting the dress as best as possible, but mostly at flattering Alison.
-I had never seen such dexterity, the way her hands moved with such mastery and speed, you thought they were magical. I can’t tell you how much I learned from Mrs. Jones, may God rest her soul where she is!
-Aunt Kalli, with your descriptions you make sewing seem like a very wonderful art.
-It’s my child! A well-tailored garment that fits you can change your life, as strange as it may seem. Unfortunately, this industrialization, where all clothes are sewn the same for everyone, has nullified this ability.
-It’s not exactly like that! Now clothes are cheaper, and you can choose what suits you!
-Maybe, but the magic is gone.
-And what happened next?
-By the time the wedding dress was over, I had fallen in love with it. If I ever get married I thought, I would like to wear such a wedding dress. And then I decided to copy the drawing and keep it. It wasn’t that difficult. Everything was in my hands. I knew of course that I could never buy such an expensive fabric, but that wouldn’t be a problem. With the association I had with fabrics, I would find something similar, cheaper and the result would be if not the same, just as good.
-Well, our obligation was not only to sew the wedding dress, but also to prepare clothes for the wedding, for all the women in the family. So, visiting the house lasted several weeks. All the clothes we sewed, however, in one way or another had something of lace in them, so that the family tradition was followed. And this was done with great skill and grace. In one of the women the blouse, under the suit, was made of lace, in the other it was on the bodice of the dress or even a collar. In the meantime, I had gained such experience in dress rehearsals that I often went by myself, without Mrs. Jones.
-That’s when I met Lady Raffiel, the oldest lady in the family. She was Alison’s grandmother and would have been the age I am today. She was also a very beautiful lady, with white hair held in a bun high on her head and always wearing something made of lace. Her manners were very classy and at the same time she was incredibly accommodating and friendly. She knew how to stay aloof, as befits her position, but at the same time she would open channels to welcome you into her world if she deemed you worthy as a human being. She measured a person by ones quality, not by ones origin.
-Meanwhile on the day of the wedding, Mrs. Jones and I would go over to the Raffiels’ house in case the bride or any other lady needed a last-minute touch-up on her dress. So, for the first time I saw the house decorated for a wedding. Flower arrangements everywhere, even the staircase from which the bride would descend was decorated with flowers. They had prepared a large hall where the couple would receive their guests and next to it was the dining room where dinner would be served. Flowers everywhere, porcelain, silver cutlery, and crystal glasses. The luxury was fabulous for me. The wedding ceremony would take place in a chapel located within the confines of the mansion.
-Of course, we were not among the guests, but that did not prevent us from enjoying the luxury and beauty that prevailed. The wedding cake was three-tiered, decorated with sculptural pink roses, made of fondant, and topped with a sugar effigy of the couple. Much to my surprise the sugar wedding dress looked like the real thing!
-We ended up in the room where the bride would get dressed and helped her. There was also the hairdresser who combed her hair into a high bun to highlight her neck and the make-up artist who took care of her make-up. This piece really impressed me. I saw how masterfully she used the various cosmetics to correct any imperfections and add color to her pale skin, without exaggeration, but with discretion so that the result looked completely natural, while Alison was already transformed into an incredibly beautiful bride. When her father came to escort her, she looked like a fairytale princess.
-The question, Aunt Kalli, is whether they also lived a fairytale life. Not only would one day of their lives be a fairytale!
-I do not know that. What stayed with me was a beautiful day, in a lovely house, perfectly decorated. This of course was the impression I got, what I learned was the mastery with which one can make up to project the beauty hidden inside. And believe me, I used this knowledge later in my life.
-What I may not have explained to you was that the factory I worked for at the time had two departments. One sewed clothes for expensive London shops and the other bespoke clothes for wealthy families. I was working in the second department. So, my daily work brought me into contact with these rich and aristocratic English people.
-Most of them were indifferent for me, but I kept watching them and learning from their habits and ways. You shouldn’t believe that because they were aristocrats, they were also superior people. Far from it. Many of them were arrogant, gossipy, petty, and stingy. But there were people cultured, refined, radiated nobility and superiority. One such lady was Lady Raffiel, about whom I spoke to you earlier. My relationship with her did not end with the consummation of Alison’s marriage. I still went to their house and prepared dresses for them.
-One day I was told to wait for the Lady in the library. Unconsciously, while waiting, I began to read the titles of the books that were on the shelves next to me. I hadn’t read many books before, nor did I have any inclination for reading. Besides, life itself had not left me much room for such activities.
-When the Lady came in and saw me looking at the books, she asked me if I liked reading. I was really embarrassed when I told her that I have hardly read any books in my life. The Lady then took a book off the shelf and gave it to me. It was Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë.
-If you like it, she told me, I’ll give you more books to read. Books can help you in two ways. Learn about the world around you, from when it was created until today, and learn about the world hidden in your own heart.
-I doubtfully took the book in my hands and thanked the Lady. When I read it later, I identified so much with the heroine, I was moved and cried so much, even though I couldn’t tell whether I was crying for her suffering or for my own life.
At that moment, the mobile phone of Kalliroe the younger rang and she walked away for a while to answer it. Aunt Kalli waited patiently and when she returned she said apologetically.
-I’m sorry auntie but I must go. But I will come back soon. I want to know the continuation of this story! I find your path through life very interesting.
And she got into her car and way away. Kalliroe gathered the cups and sweets and went inside. She washed them and tidied them up. She sat on the couch for a while and listened to the silence of her home. She had traveled a lot in the past today.
-Enough, she thought. Let me turn on the TV and travel for a while in other people’s lives. It’s redemptive at times.