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February 2018
February 2018

RUNNER-UP STORY REVEALED

After launching our annual competition back in issue 92, LGC HQ was flooded with fantastic and imaginative crafty stories. The team loved reading through each and every one – we’ve shared many laughs and were also touched by plenty of emotive reads. It was certainly a tough one to judge, but we want to congratulate Vivienne Millward on her runner-up story!

RUNNER-UP STORY REVEALED

She slowly turned the ball of bright red yarn over in her hands, imagining all the wonderful things she could make, but before she could pop it into her basket, she felt a tapping on her shoulder.

“Hello Kathy!” said Esme, her nail technician of some four years. “We haven’t seen you for a while. What’s happened, your nails stopped growing?” I smiled at her. She was a lovely Vietnamese girl who I had been visiting every three weeks to have my long, elegant false nails fitted, filled and painted. It was a complete indulgence but I felt so feminine with the long scarlet talons she gave me, and my darling husband loved them too. Even while I smiled, my stomach began the now familiar churning that I had when I found myself having to explain. Like a bucket of slippery eels, my insides gurgled and writhed. I had to do this so often in the last few weeks. Why, oh why couldn’t it get easier? Esme looked puzzled. “Kathy, what is wrong?” In a few terse words, I told her I had been diagnosed with cancer.

My nails would turn black and fall off with the chemo and would not support the false ones. There was no point in having my beautiful red manicure at the moment. My eyes welled up. In many ways, I had become accepting of my circumstances. A lot of my time was spent helping others cope with it, funny that. The prognosis was positive. I had many supportive friends and a marvellous family. I was lucky really. But my nails, my lovely nails, somehow this was the straw that broke the camel’s back. “Oh Kathy, I am so sorry”, said Esme. “But they will grow back, and in the meantime, you are carrying and keeping your luck with you, I see.” “What do you mean?” “Well, look at your hand. In it you carry a ball of good luck. In my culture, red is the colour of happiness, love, luck, and celebration. Your ball of wool and whatever you make out of it will see you through the difficult times. It will remind you of your lovely nails and of the future when all this is in the past.” I turned away. I know she was being kind, but it was too raw, too new to be able to understand what she was saying.

The weeks went by, trekking up to the hospital every three weeks, feeling sick and ill. I’d slowly get better, then as I began to feel human again, I’d end up back at the hospital. Up and down, up and down, my life was a rollercoaster of hope and despair. My hair fell out which strangely didn’t bother me much. I had always liked short hair, and in my younger, wilder days I’d even considered going really short like Sinead O’Connor. As soon as the clumps fell on the floor, I had my head shaved. I bought a wig, but rarely wore it. “Wow, how amazing you are, Kathy!” everyone said. But my nails… despite oils, creams and gloves, I could not stop the deterioration. They had never been strong (hence the false talons!) and suffered terribly as a result of the invasive chemicals. I wept with sadness at their disappearance into a void of ugliness. It seemed to epitomise everything bad about my world.

From time to time I got out my knitting bag, thinking that I would keep myself occupied by making the little animals that I enjoyed creating so much. I liked making shawls and baby blankets too, but the cheeky faces of animals and the joy on childrens’ faces when they played with them made animals my favourite projects. I would pick up the wool, start casting on, but once I would see my fingers the wool and needles would drop to the floor, tumbling down in a sad pile. When I went into town, I turned my head away from the Nail Salon as I passed. In most respects, I felt positive and upbeat. “This will pass”, I said to myself, and I believed it one hundred percent. In the dark of the night though, my thoughts sometimes curled in on themselves, putting their spidery fingers of doubt into the tiny hidden away places of my mind.

One day I was chatting to a friend, “have you seen the Nail Salon recently?” she asked. “No, of course not, how can you ask such a thing?” I said. “Well, next time you pass, look into the window”, she said cryptically. To be honest I put it off. I found myself there about four months into my treatment. I looked, wondering what had been so interesting, and thinking that whatever it was would probably be gone anyway. I stood and stared. There, in the window, lined up along the sill, were rows upon rows of little dolls, all dressed in red jumpers, trousers, hats and dresses – all knitted and sewn in exquisite detail. I counted them, and there appeared to be the same number as the number of weeks I had been on treatment. In the corner, there was a little handwritten notice that said ‘for Kathy’. My heart swelled.

I looked up to see Esme standing at the window. She waved and beckoned me inside. “Come in, Kathy! Have a cup of tea.” So in I went, after so long. We sat chatting and she told me that she had really enjoyed making the little clothes. “Did I still have the red wool? Would I like to make something to join the dolls?” She looked so keen, so happy, so caring. I did a collection of little cats, all in the bright red wool that I had picked up so long ago. Esme continued to add a little doll to the collection each week until the treatment finished and they now sit on my windowsill reminding me of happiness, love, luck, celebration, and most importantly friendship.

Read the winning story here.

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