Love Under Construction – Chapter Four

CHARLEE CLAPPED HER HANDS to get the class’s attention. A handful of women stopped chattering and turned to face her.

“Hello, everyone! I’m excited about tonight’s class. As promised, we’re going to make some child-sized benches for around the women’s shelter. All the supplies were donated by local stores and are set out on the table along the side wall. Please take a supply list from the far end, then make your way through, picking up the items for your stations.”

The chattering returned as the group formed a line to collect their supplies. A tap on her shoulder had Charlee turning around to find the head of the women’s shelter, Anita, behind her. Next to her was a thin woman with long, dark brown hair falling across her face as she kept her gaze down, avoiding eye contact.

“Charlee, I’d like you to meet Naomi. I thought she’d enjoy your class.”

Charlee nodded. She knew the code. Naomi was new and Anita brought her to class hoping to get Naomi out of her shell. The classes Charlee taught weren’t just about do-it-yourself skills. The biggest benefit was giving the women the chance to rebuild their self-confidence by completing projects. “Welcome, Naomi. Have you used power tools before?”

“A little,” she said softly, still avoiding eye contact.

“That’s just fine. Tonight’s project doesn’t require any big tools. Just a drill, staple gun and glue gun. It’s a great project to start with. If you need anything though, just ask me or Anita. We’ll both be nearby.”

Naomi nodded, then followed Anita to get her station set up.

Once everyone was settled, Charlee started the class. “Okay, ladies. The only prep work I did for you was spray painting the bench legs. I thought Anita would appreciate not getting light-headed from the fumes.” Anita nodded and laughed along with the women. “Let’s start with the big board. This is going to be the bench seat. We need to drill a hole to insert the threading nuts. The nuts will let us screw in the legs later.”

More snickers came from the stations to Charlee’s right. She smiled and shook her head. It never failed that whenever she talked about nuts and screws, Lucy and Carla thought it was funny. Lucy was barely nineteen years old and pregnant. She wanted a better life for her child than the one she had with her gang-member boyfriend. Charlee could understand a rebellious teen going for the raunchy, but Carla’s teen years were a thing of the long past. The sixty-something woman had lived an entire lifetime filled with abuse. First with a domineering father, which she thought she could escape by marrying young, only to find out her husband wasn’t any better. Somehow the woman found her inner-pluck in her early fifties and left to start a new, happier life. Now Carla was an active leader in the shelter’s support group. Lucy and Carla were like two peas in a pod.

“Lucy and Carla, you need to get your minds out of the gutter.” Charlee turned to the other side of the class. “Gail, what’s something we should remember when using the drill?”

Gail’s smile was contagious. “Know when to stop. It’s not a good idea to drill all the way through to the work table.”

“Exactly. You only need to drill a small hole to install the nut into the board. Like this.” Charlee picked up the power tool, gave the throttle a couple short squeezes for effect, then demonstrated the next few steps. From there, the women got to work. The evening went smoothly as Charlee guided the class through hot gluing the padding to the bench, securing the decorative fabric with the staple gun, and finishing the project by screwing in the table legs. All in all, this was one of the shorter classes she’d done over the years, but she found it was good to mix easy projects with more in-depth ones so the women didn’t get burned out or feel inadequate.

“Good job, ladies. Now you know how easy it is to make a padded bench. You can also use these methods to recover a used chair to fit your style. Let’s stack the benches against the wall near the door, and then we can enjoy the snacks Anita brought. If anyone has suggestions for upcoming classes, come chat with me.”

Gail was the first to find Charlee. “I have these super ugly dark dressers and I keep seeing these Pinterest posts about how to make them cute. Everything from spray paint to chalk paint, chevron stripes and fancy knobs, but I’m worried I’ll just make the dresser look worse. Could you do a class on that?”

Charlee pulled out her cell phone and opened a text document to take notes. “That would be a great class. We could talk about prepping the wood and what type of paints adhere the best. There’s nothing worse than painting furniture and having the paint run or bead up because of the wood finish.”

“Which is exactly what would happen to me,” Lucy said, joining them with Carla at her side, their plates loaded up with brownies and chocolate chip cookies. Anita and Naomi joined the circle too. “I’m kind of wanting something similar, except my question is how to tell if a table that looks like wood is actually the kind that can be stained.”

“I need some bedside tables that don’t cost $80 each. Can you teach us how to make some?” Carla asked.

Charlee’s thumbs moved fast as she made notes of their requests and ideas of things to research. “These are great ideas. I’ll do some research and send Anita a schedule.”

The ladies mingled and eventually gravitated back out to the shelter’s living room while Charlee and Anita cleaned up.

“I heard there are some changes coming up in your life,” Anita said when it was just the two of them.

Charlee shook her head. “Nothing stays a secret for long in Crystal Creek.”

“Especially not when it involves juicy gossip about George Elliott.”

Charlee ignored the bait to dish on what happened and just dived into her upcoming plans for Indulgence Row. “I’m also hoping to get some smaller side contracts I can work on solo to keep some cash in the company rather than most of it going out to payroll. Before any of that really goes into play, I need to finish my business paperwork and figure out a name.”

“What have you come up with so far?” Anita asked, putting the staples and staple guns into a bin.

“I thought about Creation House, but I think it sounds too new construction or architecturish. Then I considered Renew to go along with the idea of old and new. For a while, I was excited about Metamorphosis, but then thought too many people would spell it wrong or think it’s a beauty makeover or something. I’m still brainstorming.” Charlee put away the bins into the class cupboards.

“How about Transformations?” Anita suggested. “It plays off the old and new concept and describes the house after it’s done. Going from old and worn to new and loved. Transformed.”

Charlee tilted her head, thinking over the name, weighing it against what she wanted the company name to represent. “I really like it! Are you going to charge me a finder’s fee if I use it?” She nudged Anita with her elbow.

“Just keep teaching these classes. You know, they’re another transformation you provide, helping the women who attend your classes and their families. Thank you again for Patty’s hutch. Your talents and friendship are what make the women enjoy the classes. Promise me you won’t get too busy to do it.”

Charlee took Anita’s hand in hers. “I promise. You know I love being here.”

Anita patted Charlee’s hand, then let go. “And maybe after you get the kinks worked out of starting a new business, you can do a class on what you learned.”

“I’d love to.” Charlee followed Anita out of the room and said good night before leaving the shelter.

Transformations. She more than just liked the name. She loved it.

She got into her truck, excited about researching projects for the shelter classes and moving forward with her new business.


Check back soon to read Chapter Five!