More Sylvie

Clare was totally stunned when Sylvie came home at spring break her senior year sporting a ring and announcing that she and Jack planned to get married at the end of June.

“Really? June?” Clare said, and Sylvie asked if there was anything wrong with that.

Clare had suppressed her real answer (that soon? are you sure? oh, Sylvie) and hurried into her reply. “No, I’d just imagined you as—well, say a November bride.”

Sylvie was just as fast with her response. “Decorations with squash and crepe paper turkey wattles?”

Clare had laughed. “It’s just that you’ve always had your own style.”

Which Sylvie did. Eye-catching is the word. In high school, she’d always preferred doing the theater costumes to being in plays. Clare has been told—and by people who know—that Sylvie has an exceptional eye for cutting fabric. She doesn’t need to be told how good Sylvie is at assembling the oddest things into a particular kind of perfection. Clare knows that her prom dress is legendary. Coming home with bags full of remnants—organza and lace, spandex and sequined knits (the common denominator some shade of champagne or pale peach)—Sylvie had set to work cutting and basting. She threaded twisted lace through half the bodice and quilted the other half. For the skirt, she cut layers of ruffles at odd angles, their edges left raw. Then she swirled a bangle of beads across the bodice and around the skirt, and crowned herself with an upside down, V-shaped ice cream cone. Clare might have been amused if the whole effect had not been so gorgeous. Well she did laugh, but with real appreciation. And she was quick with her denial when the other mothers wondered if she’d helped.

“I can barely thread a needle,” she told them, which wasn’t so different from her answer when the mothers asked if she wasn’t going crazy helping Sylvie write her college essays. “Hardly,” she said, and then she showed them one of the padded books Sylvie had sewn for an application, its text her cross-stitched haiku. Clare still  remembers the most haunting one: Make swings from green vines. / Let children fly in the trees / When death is certain. It was Sylvie’s answer to this: You have been sent alone to an African village in a region where massacres are occurring daily. What will you do?


Permanent link to this article: