Once Maggie found out Lillian knitted, she gave her no rest.
“What are you making?”
“I am making it for myself.”
“It’s sooo beautiful,” Maggie said lingeringly.
Lillian knew a hint when she heard one, but she wasn’t giving this scarf to Maggie.
Presents, personal presents, weren’t appropriate between patients or their families and home health care staff, she told herself. There was probably something about it in the agency handbook, not that she’d read that in a dog’s age. And why should she give Maggie anything? It was annoying, the way she expected everything she wanted, or even merely liked, to be handed to her.
Lillian rarely knitted for herself, she usually made things for her sisters’ children or for friends, but she had put some thought into planning this elegant, shadowy combination of neutrals in similar shades and different textures, a wide scarf to put around her shoulders in the fall, and she was going to keep it.
Maggie always knew when to change her ground of attack.
“Teach me how to knit? Please?”
It was lucky for Maggie that she added that “please;” without it she would have had no chance at all. As it was, Lillian determined not to go one inch out of her way for this girl, to give nothing extra, to risk nothing. Maggie took up too much time, too much space, too much air. She crept into chinks in your walls that you didn’t even know you had. She was as insidious as ivy.
Sometimes, Lillian found herself thinking about Maggie when she didn’t mean to, smiling to herself over some saying or little mannerism. She disapproved. Maggie was too aware of her charm. She expected too much; she presumed. Still, she had said please. But that didn’t mean Lillian had to give in easily.
“I could teach you,” Lillian said slowly, “but you will need to get some wool and a pair of straight needles.”
“Okay. I’ll get them today. There’s a knitting store right in Palmer Square.”
Any project that came with an excuse to shop would be especially appealing to Maggie. The store on Palmer Square was the most expensive place Lillian knew of to buy wool, and while she rarely allowed herself more than a single ball of wool from the clearance basket, enough for a narrow scarf, she often went in to let the colors and textures slide though her hands. Maggie had no reason to care that even needles would cost three times as much there as they did anywhere else, and there would be no difference of quality, as there was with the yarn, to justify the expense. It was not Maggie’s fault that Lillian’s life was so different from her own; it was not even Maggie’s fault that her resources were, in this case, wasted on her.
“Get a ball of smooth wool, for starters,” Lillian said reluctantly. “Not mohair or eyelash, nothing fuzzy. Something of an even thickness. You need to be able to see the stitches.”
When Lillian said wool, she meant wool, and when she said a ball of wool she meant a single skein, but Maggie came bounding into the kitchen in the late afternoon with a bagful of cotton yarn, two sizes of knitting needles, and an outrageously expensive Scandinavian knitting magazine which had a pattern for a cotton tank top with a stripe across the bust. The colors of the cotton were luscious, tangerine and a deep fuchsia for the stripe. Maggie had created the combination herself, in preference to the navy and white of the pattern, but Lillian refused to admire it.
“That cotton will be hard to learn on. Cotton’s tricky. It doesn’t have much give, so it shows every deviation in tension. If you’re not careful your needle will go between the threads and split the loop, instead of slipping inside it.”
“Oh.” Maggie reflected. “Well, I’ll be careful. Can we get started now?”
“No.” Lillian kept methodically tearing lettuce leaves. “I’m making dinner. Maybe tomorrow.”
Without looking up, Lillian could feel the girl deflating. Sometimes it surprised her, how much pleasure she got from thwarting Maggie.
From The Caregiver, Copyright Maria Theresa Casale 2014
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