One day, she looked around and realized that Prudence’ once bountiful wardrobe was now a thinning supply room. Like a magpie in the graveyard, Temperance had plucked and picked every bauble and frill, taken panels of fabric from without and within to adorn her one of a kind creations. Looking upon the threadbare threads only served to mirror the reality of her sister’s lingering absence. And the sadness was almost too much for Temperance to bear. The only styptic for such a wound was creativity. But what does one create with dwindling supplies?
They say necessity is the mother of invention. And Temperance now knew this to be true. For as she was looking around a shop still rife with men’s finery, she realized that she had only scratched the surface of her resources. Prudence was not the only one who had flounced across oceans. Henry was even more to blame for her sister’s extended absence. And so Henry would be the one to offer Temperance his support.
Temperance lived the holiday months shrouded in sadness. Letters from her sister had been far and few between and the great Mr. Travis Quellwood, supposed love of her life, had skipped town with his troupe like a thief in the night. Apparently he decided he had had enough of their quaint little town. “My dear,” he waxed one night, “I am a traveler….” Those words echoed in her ears in the months after he left. It occurred to her that no matter how thin she was, she would never fit in a bindle.
While the ticking clock did taunt her in those darkened winter months, the gaiety of her favorite time of year eluding her just as love had, it was the calendar which offered respite. Make no mistake, though the servants were convinced she was a hair’s breath away from a walking corpse, her milky skin seeming almost blue and luminescent in the darkened hallways of the house, by the time the year turned over to begin anew Temperance…was over it.
Unlike the many ghosts of her checkered past, Mr. Quellwood would be relegated directly to the rubbish bin. The more she thought back on his grand demeanor and flowery words, the more it occurred to her that while perhaps she loved, she could never have loved him; for he was but a wraith from the moment he entered her life. A wraith that could only ever suck the breath from those he touched, his grandeur, a facade from behind which he could cower while he fed only on those with the most unique vision. And if Temperance had anything, it was unique vision.
Upon waking on that icy January morning, the sun brightly glinting on the snow, Temperance inhaled deep and strong. And it was in that single breath that she returned to life. Where once her wrath had burned within her, strong enough to sear through gaze alone, she found serenity. Where once she had drifted through the hallways, her curls wild and untamed like a nest of snakes, she now walked with purpose, making lists of the things that would need tending to after her months of brutal retreat. Where once she could not be spoken to, she now could not cease to speak. Temperance was, once again, a force to be reckoned with.
One day, while walking through town, she was stunned by a striking display. The dread of Christmas had barely been put to bed and already the dress makers were flooding their windows with pinks and whites and lace and…hearts. Ever so many hearts. Upon seeing this Temperance expected she would glower. She expected her spinster bitterness to rear its ugly head. But much to her surprise, her reaction was quite different. Instead of scoffing and snorting at the ridiculously feminine finery, she found herself quite intrigued…inspired even.
While Mr. Quellwood had decided that she was not worth trading his bindle for a chest of drawers, somewhere along the way she had decided she very much was. And though this was the first time it had occurred to her in such a conscious manner, the idea had taken root firmly somewhere along the way. Temperance’s spine straightened. Her chest puffed out. Had anyone been looking, they might even have noticed that, in that moment, hair which had only ever been frazzled twists of angry frizz, released a sigh of relief. What once was a wrangled, frantic, mess, was now somehow, just this side of tame.
In that moment, Temperance gathered herself up and took her new found inspiration back to the shop. She had not felt joy for her work in those long, dark, months, but now she knew she could begin again; refreshed, renewed! And she would not be the typical girl who grumbled and wept into her tea as St. Valentine (who Temperance already had her misgivings about) wove his garish heart-shaped web of white lace frills and gay pink furbelows. No. ~Temperance~ would step out on the 14th of February embracing it all. For in embracing the holiday focused so singularly on a couple’s love, Temperance was displaying the love she had found for herself.
There was a surplus of miner’s headlamps in the neighboring town of Persecution come Christmas due to an unfortunate but not entirely unexpected mine collapse and M.H. Penniworth, purveyor of fine and overpriced goods, was determined to eliminate them. Convinced that a little rebranding was key, he placed a full page ad in the monthly circular.
Upon viewing the ad Temperance was disgusted. “Oh for heaven’s sake! Using God to sell that hat! That is sacrilege, plain and simple! God wouldn’t wear a hat ugly as that! ‘Stylish,’ indeed!”
Though the execution was poor, the idea seemed sound and Temperance felt a woman could certainly do it better. So, do it better she did.