Chapter 6: We're Not Dating

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Gladys held up the triangle-shaped fabric, stretching the elastic that ran along one end. "I think this is your best work yet."

Emma beamed. "That's high praise coming from you." She reached for the head scarf she'd made for Gladys Pickleton, the grumpiest senior at the center's cancer support group. "Let me help you."

She stood behind Gladys and pulled the elastic around the crown of her head, in her third attempt to provide Gladys with a scarf. For some reason, Emma couldn't make a scarf that stayed on Gladys's head. They kept sliding into her eyes. She'd made it her personal challenge to make Gladys a scarf she'd approve of—not a simple task since Gladys hardly approved of anything—and asked sewing experts, searched through patterns, and finally came up with the elastic idea.

Gladys had been fighting cancer for four years, in and out of remission. Emma didn't know the details, she never asked, and when Emma offered to make a scarf, Gladys initially fought back. "I don't need a scarf," Gladys had said, a Texas twang purring from her red-painted lips.

But last week, Gladys looked tired, and her hair was thinning from the chemo. She motioned for Emma to follow her to a corner. "Miss Emma, I think it's time for my scarf."

Emma's lips turned down into a frown. "Well, I'm not so sure about that," she'd said. "But I'd be happy to make you one."

Most of the group loved the scarves that Emma sewed. She wasn't sure if it was because of her actual sewing talent, or because they were simply ecstatic that someone cared. Emma would spend hours at the group with them, listening to their stories, and then searching for fabrics that related to their lives. In Gladys's case, Emma knew that her husband used to sing "The Yellow Rose of Texas" to her, back in the "good old days" when they lived outside of Houston.

At first, Emma was afraid that her scarves made people sad, or were some sort of symbol of them accepting their mortality. Instead, she found that they'd sort of became a status symbol around the center. A conversation starter. Something to brag about.

"Miss Emma made you one with glitter? Oh, I'm going to ask for glitter for mine!"

"See this kitten here on my scarf? It looks exactly like my first cat, Buttons. Oh, I loved Buttons!"

"I served in the Navy. Do you see this scarf on my head? It's the Navy's emblem. I was a SEAL in nineteen-eight-two!"

After Emma fitted Gladys's scarf, she wasn't sure about the way it bunched around the elastic. But as soon as Gladys lifted the hand mirror and looked at the headpiece, she gasped. "It fits! I love the roses." Then she put down the mirror and held out a shaky hand to touch Emma's arm. "Thank you."

"You're welcome." Emma straightened her shoulders. "Now are you going to quit complaining all the time?"

Gladys pressed her lips into a tight smile, before saying, "Well, maybe not all the time."

The cancer group came together every week to support each other and share their stories. Emma was proud of her scarves, but more of the people who wore them, who fought every day just to have another night, so they could wake up to another experience, another conversation with their kids and grandkids, another birthday celebration.

Of course, nobody at the center knew about the first scarf that Emma had made, ten years earlier. Emma still had it at home. It was a dark blue material designed with stars. Her mother had always loved the sky.

"Your iPad thing is dinging."

Gladys's voice pulled her out of her memories. "Excuse me?"

Gladys pointed to the pocket of Emma's long, button down sweater. "Your thing. It's glowing too."

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