Decidedly with Wishes - Stina Lindenblatt



To-do List #543

Take flower girl dress to children’s hospital for Sarina to try on.

Order more pink organza and gold thread.

Flirt with new mailroom guy so he’ll deliver the daily mail to me first.

Few greater joys exist in life than when you see a child smile.

“You look like a princess, sweet cheeks,” I told Sarina, my best friend’s six-year-old daughter. She gave me a wide, toothy smile that had my heart floating in my chest like the balloons in the movie Up.

The sleeveless dress I’d designed for her was ice blue, with appliquéd gold floral patterns on the bodice and skirt. Impressed?

Sure, it took forever to sew, but it was worth it.

The tulle underskirt gave the dress the fullness of Cinderella’s gown, only instead of brushing the floor, the hem swung midcalf. I’d even hand-stitched gold thread and beads onto the Velcro straps on Sarina’s ankle-foot braces. Cinderella’s fairy godmother and those mice couldn’t have done much better.

Sarina had been born with spina bifida and needed her crutches and braces for walking. But that didn’t mean she deserved anything less than the finest of princess dresses.

I glanced at Amelia, who was leaning against the counter in the occupational therapy clinic at the children’s hospital, to see what she thought. Around us was an array of equipment in primary colors: seats, soft steps constructed from the same material as gym mats, scooters and swings that the children lie on, stomach down.

Amelia and I had been best friends since high school. We’d gone through so much together over the years, both highs and lows. There was nothing I wouldn’t do for her and her daughter. Which was why I was there, at the clinic where Amelia worked full time.

She beamed lovingly at her daughter. “Auntie Nala’s right. You do look like a princess.”

“Like Cinderella?” Sarina’s hopeful smile lit up the room.

“Exactly like Cinderella,” I said.

The little girl loved her Disney princesses, but Cinderella was her favorite. Both were blonde.

But if Sarina was Cinderella, her redheaded mother was Ariel from The Little Mermaid—something Sarina had pointed out numerous times.

“What do you say to Auntie Nala?” Amelia asked.

Sarina crutched the short distance to me and hugged my leg. “Thank you, Auntie Nala.”

I crouched to her level and returned the hug. “You’re welcome, sweetheart.” I pushed myself to my feet. “I should get back to work before my grandmother misses me.”

My grandmother was the CEO of Ayanna, a high-end fashion house that had been dressing some of the most famous women for more than five decades.

She’d been in her twenties when she created the company, which had started as nothing more than her kitchen table. Despite the odds stacked against her, she’d been determined to make it a huge success. Back then, it was challenging enough for a woman to break into the fashion industry and make a name for herself—even more so when you were a Black woman.

Bibi hadn’t given “two shakes of a goat’s ballocks” about either of those limitations.

“You aren’t going to watch me play wheelchair hockey?” Sarina inquired.

I exaggerated a gasp, hand pressed to my chest. “You’re playing hockey in the dress?”

Sarina giggled. “No, silly. I’m gonna change first.”

“Well, that’s a relief. There’s not enough magic in the dress to help you win the game.” I stroked the top of her head. “Not that you need any help in that department. You’re the best wheelchair hockey player I know.”

She grinned; then her expression became as serious as a chocolate-coated Bundt cake. “Don’t you want to meet the San Francisco Rock players?”

“While I would love to meet them,” I said, not caring one way or another if I did, “I really do have to get back to work.”

As executive assistant to the company’s CEO (and future CEO), it was my job to make sure the ship sailed smoothly. Which meant I was lucky to escape for as long as I had.

“Have you shown your grandmother Sarina’s dress?” Amelia asked me.

“Not yet.”

“But you’re still planning to show it to her and tell her about the fashion line you want to create?” Disbelief and a heavy dose of eye-rolling laced her tone.

For good reason.

“I plan to talk to her about it this afternoon,” I told Amelia and crouched to Sarina’s level again. “How about I walk you and your mom to the gym? I can’t stay and watch, though.”

She grinned and nodded, and I helped her out of her dress and into her shorts and hockey jersey.

When we entered the gym a few minutes later, kids