The shop is small, with the amount of clutter that makes it look homey but you still know where everything is. Wardrobes line the wall to the west, thick with brightly colored silks and belts and bangles weigh the doors down until they creak when you walk by them. There is only room for a couple tables, one dark wood and one a tacky bright purple, laden with jewelry ranging from tarnished silver rings to bright gold necklaces. The small glass display case in front of your work station has more valuable items, like the necklaces inlaid with jewels or the mahogany jewelry box that still smells like the trees when you open it.
Your chair isn't comfortable, and the station you watch the store from is less than ideal. There isn't much room for your fabric or other materials, and the sewing machine is in the back room, so all the work you do during the day has to be by hand. But there's something almost intimate about the slow, steady stitches and the gentle bunching of the fabric as you slide across it. It can be mindless and meditative, depending on your mood or the flow of traffic in and out of the store, and sometimes you can hear the music playing in the coffee shop next door, the whispered rise and fall of the notes the background to your work.
None of your designs are displayed in the shop yet. The odd fusion of middle eastern garb that populates the store is very traditional despite the division. Sari and hijab hang next to each other, and when your grandmother's friend sweeps in to the shop in a flurry of bright fabrics and incense, you can almost forget the differences in your cultures. Almost.
Most of the people who come to the shop are friends of your grandmother's or her co-owners. Sometimes you're outfitting girls your own age, recommending light-weight fabrics for the summer that are still thick enough to remain modest. Sometimes you're teaching young women, marrying in to the faith, how to properly tuck and fold the fabric around their hair. Sometimes you don't even speak to the customers, the tourists and the loud girls who leaf through the saris and smack their gum and leave fingerprints all over your display case.
But of all the visitors and colors and cultures that pass through your doorway, there is one that you look forward to the most. She comes alone, always alone, always once a week (on Thursday), and always at precisely three o'clock. The length of time she spends in the store varies on if there's been any new stock added or any rearranging done; sometimes she leaves after just a few minutes, sometimes she's leaving just before you flip the sign so you can join your grandmother upstairs for prayers.
You haven't spoken to her yet, something you're loathe to admit; despite how much time she spends in your store, you still don't even know her name. She's petite, shorter than you, and pale as the moon compared to your own dusky skin. You think her hair and skin only look so pale because she always wears such dark clothing, and you long to lay your hand over hers, just to see if the contrast would be as striking as you believe it to be.
She's nothing if not a creature of habit, so it surprises you when she steps through the door, bells jingling lightly, with an effervescent dark haired girl on her arm. The other girl, who you've never seen before, walks about the small space as if in awe, fingertips barely brushing the fabrics as if she were afraid to stain them. They chatter, aimlessly, and you keep your eyes on the skirt you're hemming, blood rushing in your ears. It was a silly fantasy, wanting to keep her all to yourself.
"Could you show us how to put this on?"
You nearly stab yourself through the forefinger at the sudden raised voice, and the dark haired girl has the good nature to look a bit bashful when you meet her eyes. She's holding a deep purple hijab in her hands, looking meaningfully at the blond at her elbow.
"Rose has been coming here for ages but I think she's too shy and worried about offending you and your culture by asking any questions, even though I'm sure she's been dying to," the girl says, and your fair skinned beauty (Rose your mind breaths like a caress) turns a color befitting her name.
"Jade, please don't bother her," she says, and her voice is soft. It reminds you of your mother, gentle and almost cloyingly sweet, but a storm lingers underneath, just waiting to be provoked. "I'd look silly in it anyways. It looks much better on her."
Your skin is much more forgiving in hiding your blush than hers is, and you set aside your work, waving them over, only speaking when the dark haired girl moves to bring the purple hijab with her. "Leave that one there," you instruct, opening one of the drawers and withdrawing a neatly folded square of cloth from within.
Orange was never a color that looked good on you, but you've never been one to turn down a gift from your father, and his intentions were always good. The burnt orange is patterned with bright yellow suns, their rays stretching out and entwining with each other, bleeding out in to the golden fringe that decorates the edge. It's much fancier than the muted greens you prefer, and most would say that the purple that had initially been selected was much more Rose's color.
But the black she always wears, accented very rarely with splashes of color, makes her seem small, vulnerable. But somehow, you don't think that suits her at all. She needs warmth, strength, brightness, something to bring out the life in her eyes behind the dark eyeliner and lipstick.
You leave her headband on as you carefully wind the fabric around her head, her short hair making the process easy, almost second nature. Her eyes are beautiful, and she doesn't flinch away from your (quite embarrassing) stare, her dark lips barely parted to reveal ever so slightly crooked teeth, as if she'd had braces in her childhood but never wore her retainer. It's such a small flaw, a small chip on a marvelous marble statue, and you fight to quell the urge to see how your own lips would look with that oil slick stain.
She catches your hand before it can fall away, her skin butter soft but calloused at the fingertips, and her lips tilt up just barely, making your heart go a mile a minute and goodness, you can't believe how utterly smitten you are.
"This one is yours, isn't it?" Rose asks softly, and you can feel the blood rushing to your cheeks and it's all you can do to nod your head. "I couldn't possibly-"
"I look like a troll in orange."
Her eyebrows shoot up, but her smile widens, and her fingers tighten around yours as she pulls your hand to her lips, slightly greasy but just as delicate as they appear. "You'll have to allow me to return the favor if I can find something of mine that's suitable to your coloring."
Barely, just barely, the outline of her lips lingers on the back of your hand, and no amount of scolding makes you wash it off.