Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Lady Fugitive

Back Cover Blurb:
How does a respected elocutionist become a face on a wanted poster?

Jenny Louise Parks escapes from the coal bin, and her abusive uncle offers a handsome reward for her return. Because he is a judge, he will find her.

Determination to remain free grips Jenny, especially after she meets William and there’s a hint of romance. But while peddling household goods and showing a Passion of the Christ moving picture, his father is brutally murdered.

Will Jenny avoid the bounty hunters? Can she forgive the person who turns her in? Will she find peace, joy and love?

Read an Excerpt:

The barn door creaked. The judge’s massive body loomed in the opening, his scowling face crimson. He slid a razor strap back and forth in his manicured hands. “Jenny!”

Her heart thumping like a dasher churning butter, seventeen-year-old Jennifer Louise Parks dropped the curry brush and moved past the buckskin’s large rump toward the side door.

The huge man limped closer. “Didn’t I tell you to quit flirting with those young men at the opera house?” His deep voice boomed among the stalls. “I want it stopped.”

Jenny inched backward. She swallowed. Icy tingles crawled up her back, her neck, and over her scalp.

“But…but…I was just being polite. I was honored they came to hear an elocutionist. They complimented me on my recitations.”

Judge Danforth Schuster, her uncle, stepped closer, looking her up and down in the dim light. When she backed away, he grabbed her wrist and tightened his sausage fingers. He lifted the strap with his other hand.

“It’s about time you had a good lickin’.” Tobacco and liquor breath sprayed her cheeks as he tried to turn her around.

This nightmare was not happening. Jenny wiggled, twisted, and scratched like a cat caught by a naughty child. The man clenched her tighter. Gritting her teeth, she braced her legs and shoved. She might as well have tried to move the boulder out by the windmill.

Buy her book here:

About Ada:
Ada Brownell, a devoted Bible student, has written for Christian publications since age 15 and spent much of her life as a reporter for The Pueblo Chieftain in Colo. She also is a veteran youth Christian education teacher.

After moving to Missouri in her retirement, she continues to write books, free lance for Sunday school papers, Christian magazines, write op-ed pieces for newspapers. and blogs with stick-to-your-soul encouragement. She and her husband, Lester, have five children, one in heaven. She is critique group leader of Ozarks Chapter of American Christian Writers and a member of American Christian Fiction Writers.

Among her books: The Lady Fugitive, released July 18, 2014, Imagine the Future You, a youth Bible study (November 2013). Joe the Dreamer: The Castle and the Catapult, (Jan. 15, 2013); Swallowed by Life: Mysteries of Death, Resurrection and the Eternal, (Dec. 6, 2011); and Confessions of a Pentecostal, published by the Assembly of God in 1978, out of print but released in 2012 for Kindle; All the books are available in paper or for Kindle.

Connect with Ada here:
Amazon Author Page
Blog: Ink from an Earthern Vessel

ADA is giving away a copy of The.Lady Fugitive The giveaway is only available to U.S. addresses. To be entered in the book giveaway, leave a comment along with your email address. You can enter the book giveaway twice--once on each spotlight post.

Happy Reading!
Caroline Brown

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Book Winners

Once again, we offer you a warm welcome to the Bookshelf of the Barn Door Book Loft.

I know you want to know ... WHO WON?

But before we announce our five winners we’d like to offer a special thanks to:

Lorena McCourtney, who offered her Cozy Mystery: Death Takes a Ride.
Kelly Irvin, who offered her Amish Romance: A Plain Love Song.
Jill Nelson, who offered her Romantic Suspense:  Shake Down.
Marsha Hubler, who offered her Amish-Mennonite Novel: Love Song for LouEllen.
And Susan Correll Foy, who offered her Women’s Fiction: Finding Father.
And now: We're pleased to announce this week’s winners:
Apple Blossom has won Lorena McCourtney’s Cozy Mystery: Death Takes a Ride.
Patty has won Kelly Irvin’s Amish Romance: A Plain Love Song.
Carol Q has won Jill Nelson’s Romantic Suspense:  Shake Down.
Patucker has won Marsha Hubler,s Amish-Mennonite Novel: Love Song for LouEllen.
And Elizabeth Nead has won Susan Correll Foy’s Women’s Fiction: Finding Father.  

Congratulations Winners! Remember, it's your responsibility to contact me  sharonalavy {at} gmail {dot} com) with your address so the author can send you a book. 

Be sure to check past winners posts. Subscribing by email will ensure you don't miss seeing the winners list.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Idaho Author Angela Strong

Hi Angela! I'm excited to know if there is a story behind The Water Fight Professional

I wrote this years ago when my son was a preschooler. We were at a church picnic and he wanted to get involved in the water fight the older kids were having, but he didn’t know how. I gave him a cup of water and told him to dump it on someone. That person saw him coming and offered him a dollar to dump the same cup on me. I got wet, and he got paid. Then he fell asleep that night holding onto his dollar. I thought, “Look what I created. He’s going to become a water fight professional.” Now that he’s in high school, he wants me to write a book titled The REAL Water Fight Professional and make it a biography about him.

Somehow I knew it would be a good story! Which character in your new release most interested you while you wrote? 

Oh, this is a tough question. So many fun characters in this book, but I’ve gotten the most positive feedback on the main character’s parents. Dad is all about economic lessons and saving money while Mom lives in her own theatrical world and is always dancing around the house and cooking healthy meals that gross out her family. But they are there for Joey when it counts.

What started you on your writing journey?

I grew up with a writer mama, so I had my picture and stories about me printed in magazines like Women’s World as a kid. When I wrote my own story in high school, I thought, “I’m supposed to send it into a magazine now.” So I did, got published, and made my first $100. I went on to study journalism in college and never had any doubt about what I wanted to do with my life.
What distracts you from writing the easiest? 

Life. But I figure that it’s better to have life interrupt my writing than to have writing interrupt my life.

What kind of books do you enjoy reading? 

I really love children’s literature, but I also love women’s fiction with a little bit of suspense and quirky characters. Deeanne Gist is one of my faves even though I don’t normally read historical novels. And then there’s Tracey Bateman and Rachel Hauck and Denise Hunter. Either I have trouble finishing a book or I can’t put a book down. With these authors, I can’t put their books down.

Let's have some fun! What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done? 

I’ve ridden on the shoulders of a unicyclist and once won a giant hamster ball race. Is that quirky enough?

I'm smiling! What is your favorite season of the year? 

I’m a summer girl. I hate being cold. I hate having to wear a coat. When the sun is not out, I just want to curl up under blankets in front of the fire with a warm drink. The sun energizes me. And you’ll probably see that in my writing. Especially in this book.

What do you like most about the area where you live and/or grew up? 

I set The Water Fight Professional here in Boise, Idaho, so I got to put all the things I love about this area in my book. First of all, it’s very family friendly. Secondly, there are so many outdoor things to do. Joey goes to the water park, white water rafting, and even paddle boating in the lagoon downtown. I keep finding more things I would have loved to put in the book—like the annual Wet and Wild Parade we attended earlier this month where the people on the floats shot water guns at the crowd and the crowd shot right back.

What is a favorite memory from your childhood? 

I grew up in Kansas, so one of the things I miss the most is the fire flies on warm summer nights. My kids have never seen fire flies. I’ve got to take them for a visit one of these days.

Are there things you put off doing because you dread them? 

Anything not creative. And anything involving conflict. So basically, I’m really bad at business.

Where is your favorite place to travel/vacation in? 

My husband grew up in Maui, so he took me there for our honeymoon. I got the behind the scenes tours. You know, where he showed me the stuff he did as a kid that is now illegal—like jumping off the bridge into the Seven Sacred Pools and driving around the back of the island. It was gorgeous, and I just felt good there. Did I mention that I love sunshine? I could so retire there.

Me too! Has some place you have traveled inspired something in your writing?

I will be setting The Snowball Fight Professional in McCall, Idaho. We have a family cabin on the lake in McCall, and we like to go up there for the Winter Carnival.

Are there spiritual themes you like to write about? 

I find that all my books have the theme of letting go of dreams for something bigger and better. This means my characters rarely get what they want. But it’s been a huge lesson for me in my life, and so I am passionate about pursuing The Dream Giver over the dream, and that’s what I want to share with my characters. 

Where do you escape for some quiet time to reflect, pray, read, etc? 

A bubble bath. If it’s cold out, and I’m not in front of the fire, I’m in the tub.

Could you share a verse or Scripture passage with us that is special to you?
1 Peter 5:10 “May the God of all grace, after you have suffered for a little while, restore you and make you strong.” 
This was the verse we used in our wedding. It was the second marriage for both of us, and we’d suffered greatly when our exes abandoned us, but the God of mercy didn’t abandon us. He restored us and made us strong. Literally made me Mrs. Strong. And I am so grateful. This would be where my whole passion for The Dream Giver comes in. I had to let go of the dream of the life I’d wanted for myself, and God gave me something bigger and better in return.
When is your next book due out and can you tell us about it? 
The Snowball Fight Professional releases in November. It will be a Christmas story, and a great book for curling up in front of the fireplace with.
Thanks, Angela! I hope you'll come back and share with us again!
Connect with Angela Strong at:

Angela Strong is giving away a copy of The Water Fight Professional. To be entered in the giveaway, leave a comment along with your email address. You can enter the book giveaway twice—once on each Spotlight post for the author. Please note: The giveaway is for U.S. addresses only.

A Warm Welcome to Susan Rush

It's a pleasure to welcome Susan here today! Tell us, is there a story behind your book Just Over the Horizon?
While working as a hospice social worker, I’ve had the rare honor of being with many people as their journey here on earth came to a close.  A wise patient once told me he wasn’t afraid to die because he was looking so forward to seeing what lies over the horizon. I loved his point of view, and it gave me the idea for my title. I wanted to write a story that portrays how God’s comfort and grace can guide us through all life’s hardships and crises, including death. For believers, there really is no death, just a journey over the horizon to our eternal home.

Lovely! Which character in your new release most interested you while you wrote? Why? 
I loved creating Mama Mae. Even though she suffered loss, her humor and passion for life didn’t waver. She was a spunky, spit-fire so it was fun writing her dialogue. Coach is a close second with his constant proclamation of God’s goodness is spite of his diagnosis.

What makes you smile and/or laugh out loud?
Like most moms, hearing my children laugh- especially a loud, snorting, belly-laugh- makes me smile. Nothing erases the stressors of my day like watching my children play with unbridled joy.

So true! What is your favorite season of the year?  
I absolutely love summer. My two college kids are home and this momma is always happier when her nest is full.

My feelings too! Love my family. What is a favorite memory from your childhood?  
I loved snuggling next to my daddy in his worn recliner as we watched John Wayne movies. He always made me feel so adored and safe. I never wanted to grow up.

If you could invite four people to dinner, who would it be and why?
I would invite my daddy just so I could see him again. Ruth Bell Graham so I could hear her pray (after all she prayed for Billy for all those years), Mother Teresa for inspiration and Brian Reegan to make us all laugh.  (If you don’t know Brain Reegan, look him up on youtube. He is a clean comedian who is hysterical.)

Nice choices. Do you have a favorite quote? 
Yes, I have many! Anything by C.S. Lewis or Corrie ten Boom. My most, most favorite is simple. “Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.” If Corrie ten Boom, a holocaust survivor, can say that, then I should have a deep enough faith to believe it, too.

Amen. When is your next book due out and can you tell us about it? 
I’m busy writing the sequel to Just Over Horizon. The working title is Sunlit Shadows. No release date yet, but I’ll keep you updated.

Thanks for joining us.

Buy her book here:

About Susan:
Susan grew up in Charlotte, NC and has a psychology degree from Furman University and masters in social work from the University of South Carolina. She jokes that God didn't lead her to a career in hospice; He took her kicking and screaming the whole way. Now passionate about end-of-life care, she loves providing care and counseling for those who are writing the final chapters of their life story. Her debut novel, Just Over the Horizon, chronicles the faith journey of a hospice nurse and is a heart-warming story of grace and redemption that teaches us how to embrace life fully while never losing sight of our eternal home. She presently serves as a hospice director in Columbia, SC where she lives with her adorable hubby and three phenomenal children.

Connect with her here:

Susan is giving away a copy of Just Over the Horizon. The giveaway is only available to U.S. addresses. To be entered in the book giveaway, leave a comment along with your email address. You can enter the book giveaway twice--once on each spotlight post.

Happy Reading!
Caroline Brown

Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Water Fight Professional by Angela Strong

I, Joey Michaels, am the Water Fight Professional. Basically this means that customers pay me to soak other people. But my super-competitive best friend is sucking all the fun out of summer. All because I made a secret bet with him. Winning the bet wouldn't be so hard if I didn't have the following three problems: 1) My dramatic mother who feels the need to schedule every moment of summer 2) A surfer-dude mailman who can't keep deliveries straight 3) The annoying neighbor girl who all my friends have a crush on If I lose ... ugh, I can't even tell you what I'd have to do. I'd rather lick a slug!


Chapter One:
Splish, Splash, Water Fight and a Bath

Crouching behind a scratchy bush, I balanced a squishy water balloon in each hand.

Austin Clairmont’s family slowly walked down the brick path of the nature trail. Very slowly. Was his mom really reading all the little signs that describe each plant? People only read those on field trips.

My right foot tingled like it was starting to fall asleep.

The family turned left to go over the footbridge. I awaited my victim on the wrong path. This wasn’t part of the business plan.

The Clairmonts strolled out of my line of vision—even Austin’s super tall dad who hired me to soak Austin in the first place. He’d paid me to use two water balloons and my Mega Drench 200, the water gun tucked in my belt behind my back. It was my only sale on that cloudy, early summer day.

Lucky for me, unlike my own dad, Mr. Clairmont liked to spend money. He’d come right up to my booth in the park and arranged for my services. Of course, since Austin was a whole year older than me and going into 8th grade at Cole Valley Christian School, I would have to be sneaky in my attack or he would certainly get me back.

Half crawling, half running, I started after the family. My sneakers kept my bridge crossing silent. I slowed down as I came to the bend and peeked around the corner.

Perfect. Austin had gone down the hill next to the fish-viewing windows.
I crept backwards two steps to the railroad tie stairs. They led up to an overlook of the pond, waterfall, and windows. I couldn’t have planned it better.

Mr. Clairmont caught my eye through the tree branches and winked.

My pulse picked up.

I angled my body so there was a clear shot through the tree branches. Lifting the red balloon in my right hand, I focused on my target and counted down in my head. 3…2…1…FIRE!

Splat. Direct hit.

“What?” Austin leaped off the bench he was standing on and examined his royal blue T-shirt, now a navy color where the water had hit him.

Austin’s two brothers laughed and looked around, but they didn’t spot my second balloon before it arrived. Yikes. I hit Austin’s little brother. That meant trouble, but I had to finish the job.

I pulled the Mega Drench out from under my belt and charged down the steps with a war cry. My position had been perfect for launching water balloons, but if I stayed there the brothers would find me for sure, and I would have no escape. “Wah!” I yelled, gun pointed in front of me as I turned the corner.

One run-by soaking, coming up.

Austin saw me. “It’s Joey,” he yelled.

“Who’s Joey?” asked the little brother.

I aimed the nozzle slightly to the left of Austin—The Mega Drench never shot straight—and pulled the trigger.

“He’s the professional water fighter.”  Austin jumped behind his big brother Grant to avoid my attack.

I doused the fifteen-year-old. Crud.

“Hey,” yelled Grant. “You’re gonna regret this.”

I was already starting to, but that was the hazard of my chosen career. Mr. Clairmont high-fived me as I kept moving down the path, heart pounding in my ears.

He was the only one still laughing.

I glanced over my shoulder.

Austin had his mom’s water bottle in hand and was in hot pursuit.

I faced forward and ran faster.

Heavier footsteps scuffed past Austin’s. Grant was gaining on me.

Extending my gun behind my back, I shot as I ran, glancing back.

Water dripped from Grant’s chin, but that didn’t stop him.

How was I going to escape?

“Get him,” shouted Austin. His voice faded behind me. I must have worn him out.

Sliding on gravel, I leaped toward a second bridge, but Grant grabbed my shirt and my collar held me back like a dog on a leash. I twisted side to side, whipping him back and forth, and jerking him off balance.

Grant tumbled to the ground but wrapped an arm around my ankle on the way down.

I lost my footing and joined him on the hard wooden planks.

Austin reappeared. I hadn’t worn him out. He’d just ducked down to the creek to fill up the water bottle with slimy green stuff. Sick. That was so much worse than the drinking fountain water I used in my balloons.

I kicked at Grant and clawed at the bridge. No use.

Austin stepped forward with a huge grin on his face.

I shielded my head with my arms as algae and duck poop greased my body. My water gun bumped against my shoulder.

Oh, yeah. I was still armed.

Rolling onto my back, I aimed the weapon to the side of my assailants and fired. Woohoo!

“No way.” Austin reached down for my right arm and Grant grabbed my left.

I tried to pull the brothers together so they would hit heads, but that must only work in kung fu movies.

Austin hauled me toward the side of the bridge. He wouldn’t—

“Let me go,” I hollered.

“I’d rather lick a slug.” Austin didn’t even break stride.

Grant paused, but didn’t relax his grip on my arm. “Didn’t you lick a slug on our camping trip last year?” he asked Austin.

“Oh, yeah.”

“Ready?” asked Grant.

“Set,” answered Austin.

“Go,” they yelled together and tossed me over the railing.

I flailed through the air, barely catching my breath before splashing into the icy, murky pond.

A fish slipped past my neck.

I emerged to the sounds of laughter.

Baby Clairmont had caught up with his brothers and they all smirked down at me from the bridge and Mr. Clairmont’s tall frame doubled over in laughter in the distance. He was the reason I was floating in the muck. Was it worth it?

I thought of the soggy dollar bills stuffed into my jeans pocket. Oh, yeah. It was worth it. I would do it again every day that summer if I got the chance. 

About The Author

Angela Ruth Strong didn’t run businesses as a kid, but in 7th grade she did start her own neighborhood newspaper. This childhood interest led to studying journalism at the University of Oregon and having one of her stories reach over half a million readers. To help other aspiring authors, Angela founded IDAhope Writers in Boise, Idaho, where she currently lives with her husband and three children (who always love a good water fight). Find out more at

Purchase The Water Fight Professional at:

Angela Strong is giving away a copy of The Water Fight Professional. To be entered in the giveaway, leave a comment along with your email address. You can enter the book giveaway twice—once on each Spotlight post for the author. Please note: The giveaway is for U.S. addresses only.

Just Over the Horizon by Susan Rush

Back Cover Blurb:
Can one small box mend a grieving heart?
While grieving the death of her eccentric nana, Sarah discovers an unexpected gift. She soon grows dependent on the heirloom, a little box, for comfort and guidance. Feeling restless and needing a change, Sarah accepts a job as a traveling hospice nurse and ends up in the quaint, historical town of Camden, South Carolina. Although she loves caring for her patients, loneliness creeps in and threatens to take root. Eventually she opens herself to new friendships, and two remarkable yet vastly differing men compete for her attention. Nate is a true Southerner with a sarcastic wit and genuine warmth, while Dr. Joseph Thornton is a caring oncologist who is known as the best catch in the state.

Facing heart-wrenching trials, the faith of her childhood is all but shattered. In spite of this, Sarah seeks comfort from her box and is determined to cling to Nana’s godly legacy. But when a mysterious stranger appears with devastating news, can her cherished box continue to provide answers or will Sarah realize her life has been based on nothing but lies?

Read an Excerpt:

Sarah gripped the steering wheel as she leaned forward, straining to see out the windshield. Steady, rhythmic rain pelted down, making it impossible to concentrate. She hated being late more than she hated her allergy to cats. She’d have to slow down if she was going to make sense of the scribbled directions. Why did people live in places unknown to GPSs? She shook her head as her patience wore thin. How many soybean fields can South Carolina possibly have? She looked at her watch and grew more agitated. She was scheduled to admit a patient in Rembert at four-thirty. It was already four-thirty-five.

It had been a long time since she’d driven through the country. On a clear day she would have enjoyed the rural setting with vast farmlands occasionally interrupted by a rolling pasture sprinkled with dairy cattle. But not today; her supervisor hadn’t even given her time to unpack before rushing her out to see a new patient. Sarah sighed in relief when she spotted the narrow road hidden between a pair of weeping willows. Their gloomy branches spilled over the drive like long, arthritic fingers. Sarah turned her fuel-efficient coupe in and came to a rolling stop. Why had she not invested in a four-wheel drive?

Staring down the deserted road, she imagined that on a sunny day it would be picturesque with the stately oak trees and towering pines framing the passage. But as clouds hovered lower and the skies grew more ominous, Sarah shivered and willed her heart to slow down. Determined to reach her destination, she forged ahead only to discover the country road quickly became a gravel drive. Within a few hundred yards the gravel disappeared, and before she realized it, it was merely a clay pathway. Sarah hesitated, wondering if she should push forward or give up and turn around.

As she prayed about what to do, the skies opened and released sheets of rain. The windshield became a gray wall. She didn’t have a choice; she had to stop and wait out the storm. A chill ran up her spine as lightning bolts flashed across the sky. A traveling hospice nurse? What was I thinking? Out in the boonies… no cell phone coverage, nobody to ask directions. I was an idiot to take this job. What was I thinking? Sarah’s self-reprimand was interrupted by a loud boom of thunder that shook the car.

She looked in her rearview mirror and was horrified to see a muddy creek running down the middle of the dirt drive. Her car began inching sideways. She locked her brakes but the car continued to slide. This is not good, so not good. Just as she started to panic, it eased into the bank and found a solid resting place. I am not going to have a meltdown. Her knuckles turned white as she squeezed the steering wheel and emphatically declared, “I refuse to have a meltdown.”

As Sarah consciously slowed her breathing, she leaned her head back on the headrest and let her mind drift to Nana, her amazingly eccentric grandmother who always knew just how to comfort her, how to quiet her nerves. Sarah turned and climbed into the backseat. She ripped the tape off of a moving box, reached in, pulled out several items and tossed them aside.

Sarah was searching for one special treasure. When she finally found it, she smiled in relief and placed it on her lap. Simply having it near comforted her. Wiping condensation from the window, Sarah looked out at the angry storm. Gusts of wind ravaged the trees, thrusting twigs and leaves onto the car. She caressed the top of the box as her eyes filled with tears. Lovingly, she traced the little painted strawberries on the box with her finger. Calm gradually settled, and a sense of nostalgia consumed her as she peeked under the lid.

Just as she reached in to retrieve the sacred contents, the rain eased off and became a light drizzle. Looking at her watch, she realized she was already thirty minutes late for the hospice admission. Sarah inhaled deeply, exhaled slowly, and then closed the top of her heirloom.

Buy her book here:

About Susan:
Susan grew up in Charlotte, NC and has a psychology degree from Furman University and masters in social work from the University of South Carolina. She jokes that God didn't lead her to a career in hospice; He took her kicking and screaming the whole way. Now passionate about end-of-life care, she loves providing care and counseling for those who are writing the final chapters of their life story. Her debut novel, Just Over the Horizon, chronicles the faith journey of a hospice nurse and is a heart-warming story of grace and redemption that teaches us how to embrace life fully while never losing sight of our eternal home. She presently serves as a hospice director in Columbia, SC where she lives with her adorable hubby and three phenomenal children.

Connect with her here:

Susan is giving away a copy of Just Over the Horizon. The giveaway is only available to U.S. addresses. To be entered in the book giveaway, leave a comment along with your email address. You can enter the book giveaway twice--once on each spotlight post.

Happy Reading!
Caroline Brown

Friday, July 25, 2014

She Does Good Hair by Terri Gillespie

She Does Good Hair
Shira Goldstein's life takes a drastic turn when she goes from styling the wealthy and famous at a premiere salon in Manhattan, to humiliated and unemployed in one day. Just when she thinks things couldn’t get worse, her Aunt Edna passes away.
Her aunt leaves Shira her run-down salon, The Hair Mavens, but an unwelcome surprise accompanies the inheritance. According to her aunt’s dreamy lawyer, Jesse Fox, the salon comes with three beauticians—the mavens—Harriet Foster, Beulah Montgomery and Kathy Smith.
Harriet isn’t interested in any newfangled changes and wants to make sure she comes out on top—whatever it takes.
Beulah was Aunt Edna’s prayer partner and wants to support Shira, but knows the three mavens are about to be fired. Besides what would a star in the salon field want with a behind-the-times beautician?
Kathy, afraid of her own shadow, bears a secret Edna took with her to the grave.

Only God could bring four such unlikely women together to make a difference in each of their lives—if they don’t kill each other first.

Book Excerpt

Chapter One
Wrapped in the warmth of affection and admiration, Shira Goldstein exited her Beverly Hills salon into the perfectly beautiful sunny day. She turned and blew kisses toward her clients who had pressed their faces against the salon window like children in a candy store and she their Willy Wonka of beauty.
With practiced grace, she slid her sunglasses on as she looked down Rodeo Drive. There. Her transportation waited for her at the curb.
From the black stretch limousine, a handsome driver exited, wearing a black tux and crisp white shirt, which matched his perfectly whitened teeth and olive complexion. Like a performer from Dancing with the Stars he salsa-ed her to the back limo door and opened it.
“Thank you,” Shira purred.
The driver winked and said in a squeaky feminine voice, “Shira, I’m dripping.”
Shira blinked. The handsome driver dissolved into the back of Mrs. Phillips’s soppy wet head.
The warmth of embarrassment wrapped itself around Shira’s face. She had just broken Élégance Salon and Spa’s number one rule: Keep the client happy and dry.
“Shira, I said I’m dripping.” Mrs. Phillips’ nasal, East Coast accent confirmed that Shira’s fantasy didn’t match reality and her client was not happy. Were her forehead not recently Botoxed it would be creased with irritation.
Shira gulped. “I’m so sorry.” Stop the daydreaming already. You’re not in Beverly Hills. Yet.
Shira repositioned the thick black towel at the nape of her wealthiest client’s neck and gently massaged. A little trick she’d learned to help patrons return to their blissful place when interruptions like this occurred.
A quick glance at the mirror confirmed that Mrs. Phillips was in the zone. Her eyes were closed and her head lolled freely with each knead of Shira’s experienced hands. She let out a moan of pleasure. Everything was good again.
Shira chewed her bottom lip. She’d waited five years for this moment. More than a month ago, over lattes and oatmeal maple scones, her boss Veronica Harrington had shared the news of finalizing her plans to open another salon in Beverly Hills. The rest of the Manhattan staff had only learned about it a week before.
Back then Veronica had all but promised that Shira would be the manager of the newest Élégance Salon and Spa. Still, she had invited any of the staff to apply for the position. No one else had dared to apply for the position except—
As if reading her mind, Nigel flounced past her. His ability for annoyance was only matched by his sneakiness—like some well-dressed mosquito taking dives at her, sucking every drop of her confidence. He walked toward the shampoo area and pointed a bejeweled finger at the shampoo girls. A chorus of them harmonized, “Oh, Nigel!”
Everyone loved Nigel. Maybe Shira would have liked him more if they weren’t competing for the same job and she didn’t have to constantly clean up after his mistakes. Although he was a genius at the “Mac-Daddy” blow-dry.
No offense to Nigel, but she’d given the past five years of her life to Élégance, and he had only arrived nine months ago. Veronica couldn’t possibly give the job to him.
Nigel knocked on Veronica’s office door then went back to schmoozing with the girls. Veronica’s door opened. Like a high-fashioned jack-in-the-box, her upper torso appeared, followed by a willowy hand that motioned to him. Nigel rolled his neck, straightened his tie then strutted into Veronica’s inner sanctum.
Once the door shut, Shira returned her focus to the nearly comatose Mrs. Phillips in her chair. She fingered the strands on top of her client’s head. Yes, her triple foil job was flawless. The perfect balance of butterscotch-blonde and Monroe-platinum highlights with chocolate-brown lowlights had created follicle drama. Better than natural.
Shira grabbed her Ecru serum and pumped a small amount onto her palm. Rubbing her hands together until a deliciously soft layer of silk proteins covered them, she smiled. Mrs. Phillips’ cuticles would practically radiate healthiness once she finished. She worked it into the hair, especially on the blond streaks, then combed it through.
Next, she pulled a small key ring from the front pocket of her cream bolero jacket. She unlocked her station’s drawer and returned the key. Inside the gold felt-lined drawer were her Kamisori shears—lined up by size—like a surgeon’s tray. She chose the correct instrument for this cut, inserted her fingers into the brightly colored handle, and became one with the scissors. The pleasant-sounding snips of her favorite tool effortlessly shaped and trimmed a chic masterpiece.
The time flew as quickly as her fingers. It wasn’t until she had walked Mrs. Phillips—expertly coiffed with color-dimension the envy of every stylist—out the door and locked it for the night, that Shira realized Nigel was still in Veronica’s office.
She patted her gurgling stomach then checked herself once more in the mirror. Despite another ten-hour shift, her Crisis104 suit didn’t seem the worse for wear. She buttoned the jacket and smoothed a palm over the matching skinny pants. Very Audrey Hepburn. Classically feminine, yet professional—Veronica’s mantra.
It was nearly eight o’clock, and New York’s premium salon still buzzed with activity. Everyone from the cleaning staff to stylists had hung around for the official word. Who would earn the coveted promotion to the Beverly Hills salon? Who would get to rub bony shoulders with stars?
Shira sipped a mocha-mint latte, which had long gone cold. Still, it gave her shaking hands something to do. She probably should have eaten today, but her stomach had knotted like a chignon since before the sun peeked through the tall buildings around her apartment.
“Quit pretending you’re nervous.” Fawna, one of the shampoo girls—and her best friend—punched her arm and walked away.
“Ow.” Shira rubbed the throbbing “love-pat” and studied Fawna’s long blonde hair with mega-shimmering highlights swishing from side to side—another testimony of Shira’s color-genius. Fawna looked over her shoulder. “You know you got the job, Goldstein!”
Although others had whispered this to her throughout the day, Shira still wondered why Veronica would even consider Nigel. Not only could he not manage his way out of a Gucci bag, but he’d only graduated from the London Hair Academy nine months ago. Nigel still left all the paperwork for Shira to do. Yesterday she’d actually seen him scribble some guy’s phone number on the color inventory sheet then tuck it into his suit pocket, where she’d later rescued it. Imagine running out of Chestnut Brown or Edge of Night Black? There’d be chaos on the streets of Manhattan.
A giggle bubbled to the surface and turned into a snort. Several people glanced her way. She covered her mouth and faked a cough. She turned toward her station and—oh, great—spotted another silver strand taunting her. Yes, like her father, she was prematurely going gray. Sam Goldstein hadn’t given her anything in years. Except his curse that kept giving.
What is taking Veronica so long?
She plopped onto her leather styling chair. If there were any chance God would listen to her, she’d actually pray right now. Thoughts of Aunt Edna back in Pennsylvania praying for her produced a wisp of gratitude that swirled around her heart, warming it. God would surely listen to her aunt. She was a saint—if Jews had saints.
Nice to know she had a few people who cared. Veronica, Fawna, Aunt Edna, and, of course, Alec. She wiggled her naked ring finger. Surely this promotion would finally motivate Alec to say the magic words.
Stop it, Shira. You just pumped up the nervous volume.
Shira jumped out of the chair and tried to walk out the panicky energy. Aunt Edna would say she had a bad case of schpilkis. Her heels clicked on the marble floor as she paced toward the front of the salon. The floor-to-ceiling windows framed the city lights and the busy foot and street traffic like a travel poster for the powerful and influential. She would miss the rhythm and excitement that was New York, but it was time to move on.
Shira rubbed the smooth paper coffee cup against her cheek.
Muffled laughter erupted from Veronica’s office. Like a red-hot curling iron it seared Shira’s already twisted insides. The door opened to Veronica’s melodic scales and Nigel’s loud theatrical staccato. The schpilkis hit a new level.
Something cold and wet ran down her pant leg. In her tightened fist was the crushed paper cup. She glanced down. The sticky contents had produced an ugly brown stain—like a caffeinated oil spill—down her cream slacks. Her eyes traveled up to see Veronica and Nigel in front of her.
“Shira, love, have an accident?” Nigel brought his fingertips to his mouth and shook his bulbous head, barely stifling a giggle.
She ran back to her station to grab some tissues. With quick frantic strokes she tried cleaning her pants. Instead she left a trail of tissue dandruff. Veronica came up behind her and handed her a towel.
“New suit?”
Their eyes met. Shira hoped to read sympathy in the smoky gray, but something more like amusement sparkled.
“Yes.” Try as she might, Shira couldn’t stop her lips from quivering. Her Crisis104 pantsuit—the Dad-Forgot-My-Birthday-Again outfit—looked the way she felt. Ruined.
Nigel snickered. His response revived her annoyance. She mustered up an angry glare then shot it in his direction.
“Don’t get your knickers in a twist, girlfriend.” He tugged on a cuff and adjusted the lapel of his Ralph Lauren suit. “Veronica, love, meet you at Savoy?”
Shira turned toward the woman she had trusted with her future. Veronica glanced down at her gold alligator-skin flats. Her friend’s pale cheeks colored.
Oh, the betrayal. Shira had helped Veronica pick out those shoes.
“Yes, Nigel,” Veronica nodded toward him. “Run along.”
He pranced through the salon lifting his arms and pointing to his head. “I got Beverly Hills,” he bellowed.
Someone let out a moan. Shira realized it had come from her. Her heart pounded against her chest, wanting out of her body. To run somewhere safe.
A crowd formed around Nigel. The shampoo staff took turns hugging him. Squeals and laughter fell like verbal balloons and confetti. Shira watched as her best friend Fawna looped her arm through his and planted a kiss . . . on his lips?
Shira blinked. The scene before her turned soft and fuzzy. Everyone seemed to move in slow motion.
Was this a dream?
Was someone calling her?
Veronica’s face moved into Shira’s view. “Dear?” Veronica wrapped her arms around Shira and tried to guide her away from the celebration.
Except Shira’s legs had turned to rubber and all she could hear was a strange ringing in her ears. She glanced back toward the swarm of well-wishers.
As if on cue, they stopped talking and stared at Shira. Everything went dark—
“You fainted?” Alec’s booming voice pulsed through Shira’s head.
“Yes, Alec. Could you please reduce the decibels? You know what happens when my blood sugar gets too low.” She massaged her temple preparing for the next blast. “Then I quit.”
“Are you crazy?”
“Thanks for your support, Alec.” Shira stomped across the living room’s hardwood floor toward the shopping bag containing Crisis112’s booby prize. Like a junkie needing a fix, she reached into the Saks bag and pulled the Chanel sweater from the tissue wrapping. She rubbed the pink cashmere against her cheek. Soft as a Phyto hair conditioning.
Feeling better now.
In the words of Coco Chanel: “A girl should be two things: classy and fabulous.” What could be more fab than this sweater?
“What did you buy for this disaster?”
She shoved the sweater behind her back. “What makes you think I bought anything?” Her face heated. What was she doing? Alec couldn’t see her.
He cleared his throat.
She brought the sweater back around and held it up. “It’s beautiful, Alec. The yummiest pink pullover with—”
A familiar tuneless hum came from his end. Alec was bored with her, had tuned her out, and was at this moment—most likely—admiring himself in a mirror.
Alec Hudson knew he was gorgeous. How many times had women thrown themselves at him, when Shira stood right next to him?
“So Nigel got the job,” he said.
The modicum of peace from her purchase evaporated. Was it only a few hours ago she had admired herself in the mirror at Saks? The lusciousness of the sweater had helped her overlook the stains on her pants—and her life.
A burning in her nasal passages meant tears wouldn’t be far behind. She pinched the blemished area of her pants. All she could imagine now was how spoiled her life was. Nigel got the job.
“Yes.” She hugged the sweater, trying to soak in its perfection as she walked toward the window, the floors creaking with each step like a mournful “no, no.” Surely this crisis had altered the space-time continuum. She peeked through the blinds at the busy street.
No. Life went on, despite hers ending.
Her sigh frosted the glass. The city scene blurred as pools formed in her eyes.
“Did Veronica give you a reason?”
Shira moved to the couch, the cloud of pink safe again on the coffee table. “She said his ‘profile’ was a more suitable demographic for Beverly Hills.” She lay down and rested an arm over her eyes. The tears finally released and streamed into her ears.
“What the heck is that supposed to mean?”
“He’s British, a London Hair Academy graduate, and gay.” She sniffed. “I’m domestic and dull. He’s imported and intriguing.”
“And he’s a college graduate, right?”
Shira winced. “Yes.” Nigel had completed his business degree. Now she had her father’s voice buzzing in her head. You’ll never amount to anything without a degree . . .
“So you really quit.” Alec puffed out a breath. “Think that was a wise thing to do?”
Another stream rolled into her ear. No, but I was humiliated in front of the whole salon. Doesn’t anyone care about that? She wiped the tracks of disappointment with the back of her hand.
“You know what, babe? It’s gonna be okay,” Alec said. “Because Veronica is gonna beg you to come back.”
“Think so?” Shira sniffed and chewed on her fingernail.
“Of course I do!” He snorted. “She can’t run that salon without you. You know as much about the business as she does.”
Veronica did say that too. That she depended on Shira. Right now she was needed in New York.
“She’ll probably give you a bonus to come back. You’ll see.”
“She was pretty angry when I left.” Shira pushed herself up to a sitting position. This felt good, Alec coming to her defense.
“Come on. Your clients will stampede her office. All those designer shoes at her door and she’ll do anything you want.”
A giggle dribbled from her.
“That’s my girl.”
How did he do it? She could take on the world now. Except that there were no tissues around. She rubbed her nose on her silk blouse sleeve.
Good thing Alec wasn’t there. And good thing the sweater was out of harm’s way.
“Babe, we’ll just put our plans for California on hold for a while.”
Their plans. Shira stared at her ring-less ring finger.
“The audition for the play went good. I probably got the part,” he said.
“That’s great, Alec!”
She stood and stretched. Alec’s recent birthday gift drew her toward the fireplace like fresh-baked brownies. She leaned on the mantle and ogled the expensively framed photo of him. A small spotlight was positioned above. She clicked the light and instant marquee.
“When will you know something?” Shira traced the outline of his lips and gazed at his ice-blue eyes before stepping away.
“Arnie says the director loves me, so any day, I’m sure.”
“It’s about time your agent worked up a little sweat on your behalf.” A gurgle came from Shira’s stomach. She walked toward the kitchen.
“So what about heading to the Savoy for a late dinner?” he said.
Shira skidded to a stop. “No!” The last people she wanted to see were Veronica and Nigel—not yet, anyway. “Um, let’s try a new place.”
“Sure, babe. You wanna call Fawna to see if she’ll meet us?”
“No. I prefer to have you all to myself this time, Alec.”
He paused.
Apprehension landed on her shoulders like an old smelly blanket. She cringed. Don’t ask. Don’t ask. Don’t
“Babe, the underwear commercial shoots tomorrow, so can you, uh, you know, spot me for tonight?”
“Yeah. Sure. Whatever.” So he was a little short right now. With the commercials and the play, he’d be discovered soon. And, who knows, he might soon support her as Hollywood’s newest heartthrob.
“You’re the greatest. Pick you up in an hour?”
“I’ll be ready.” She ended the call, retrieved the sweater, and sprinted back to her bedroom. Possible outfits rolled in her head like a slot machine in Atlantic City.
By the time Alec was due to arrive, Shira’s bed and floor resembled the aftermath of a Loehmann’s sale. But she didn’t care. The perfect outfit had risen from the heaps. She examined her reflection in the full-length mirror. She hadn’t starved herself enough to get into a size two, but a four was no elephant. The pink sweater and the new blonde highlights she had added last week brightened her chocolate-brown eyes. She dabbed a layer of gloss on her full lips and blew herself a kiss. She was ready to par-tay.
Call Aunt Edna.
Shira turned around, expecting to see someone. Where did that come from?
Aunt Edna? That was the last thing she needed. Drawn back into the clutches of small-town America? She didn’t think so.
Still, a cup of Aunt Edna’s hot cocoa sounded pretty good. With mini-marshmallows. Some sympathy? A hug?
But it wouldn’t only be a cup of cocoa or hugs. It would come with strings, like sermons, God-agendas, and good old-fashioned Jewish guilt.
She could imagine her aunt’s perpetual effervescent voice saying, “Shira, come work in my salon.”
Doing granny hair? She wasn’t that desperate.
The buzzer rang. She jogged to the security system by the front door and pressed the intercom button. “Yes?”
“Hey, babe. I’m here.”
Her Prince Charming had arrived.
“I’ll be right down.” She grabbed her leather jacket off the hook, then her new Chloe bag and keys.
The phone rang.
Shira’s heart did a flip-flop. Maybe it was Veronica. She rummaged through her bag and grabbed her cell.
Aunt Edna’s smiling face appeared on the screen.
The theme from the Twilight Zone played in her head as she sent the call directly to voicemail. A barb of anxiety pricked her conscience. She stopped, her hand on the cold metal knob. Was Alec right? Would Veronica eventually call?
Shira shrugged, then chuckled as she opened the door. Of course she would call. As Alec said, Veronica needed her.
If he were wrong, Shira would have to do granny hair.
Once again the room spun around Shira like a vortex. Only this time the sensation was self-inflicted. She stumbled toward her living room and hit her shin on the end table.
Why hadn’t she stuck with her usual glass of sweet wine? Why? Because Alec called her a peasant and made her drink some concoction one of his bartender friends had dreamed up.
Alec. The schlub had abandoned her for some of his actor friends. Catch you later, babe. Humph. She bought him dinner, picked up his bar tab and what did she get?
A belch sent shock waves around the living room. Shira’s hands flew to her mouth.
She kicked off her heels and shook out of her jacket as she swayed toward the bathroom. Her phone clunked to the floor. The message light flashed. Veronica.
The music was so loud at the bar she must have missed her call. A new intoxication, one of excitement now energized her.
“She’s not angry with me after all. Thank you. Thank you.” She tapped the screen to get to the list of last calls. “Alec, you handsome man, you were right.” The list of recent calls names appeared. “I forgive you for being a jerk and—”
Only Aunt Edna’s name. Some older calls. No Veronica. No job. No—
Shira grasped her stomach and bent forward.
Not only was the room spinning but now she felt like she was riding in the backseat of a rollercoaster. Her hands covered her mouth.
Minutes later, Shira sat on the cold tile floor, her head resting on the toilet seat. The song of regret played in her head. She heard its pounding tune too often these days. It wasn’t just tonight’s episode; it seemed her whole life was out of control. The more she tried to manage her life, the more it seemed to tangle.
Why did this keep happening to her? She pulled herself up and rinsed her mouth at the sink, avoiding her reflection in the mirror. How was she going to get out of this mess?
Entering her bedroom, she walked over the piles of clothes she’d left earlier and stood before the mirrored closet doors. The image before her didn’t look like a fabulous and classy career woman. She looked pathetic.
She needed a hug.
A hug. Shira slid open the closet and dropped to her knees. Somewhere, buried in the back was a large white box Aunt Edna had mailed her last year for Hanukkah. Her aunt had called it a long-distance hug.
There it was. She felt a surge of urgency as she lifted the lid. Fingers pawed through the crisp blue tissue paper. A fuzzy white robe with matching fuzzy slippers. Probably from Walmart, but she didn’t care.
Shedding her designer clothes, she slipped the soft cotton onto her body and cinched it loosely around her waist, then thrust her feet into pillowy softness. All she needed was a box of chocolates, a couple hours of soaps, and she’d be fine.
A contented sigh pushed through her once tensed body. She scuffed her way into the kitchen and tugged open the refrigerator door, the condiments rattling, “Will you ever cook again?” and looked inside. She passed the take-out graveyard to grab an Evian. She twisted the cap as she shut the fridge door with her fluffy backside.
Maybe she should listen to her aunt’s message? No. It was probably her annual Rosh Hashanah guilt call anyway. I’ll make brisket and pineapple kugel. As if.
But her stomach called out, yes, feed me brisket and kugel.
She pointed to her abdomen. “Traitor.”
No, she wasn’t up for the family shame game this year. Especially now that she was officially a failure and everything that her father had predicted. Who knew where she would be in a few weeks? One thing for sure, it wasn’t back in Philly.
She didn’t care how beautiful fall was in the little town of Gladstone. She wasn’t coming back. Not for brisket, not for kugel, not for a heaping serving of guilt with a side of regret.
She sipped and turned off lights as she shuffled to her bedroom. On her dresser was the worn leather journal. It was time to log in today’s crisis. The discolored pages almost moved by themselves to the last crisis. Crisis111—car splashed mud on new shoes and purse. Shira turned her ankle to better inspect the gold ankle bracelet from Macy’s. Fitting payback.
After logging Crisis112 and the booby-prize—the sweater—she paged through the old book. Even the journal was in response to a crisis.
Crisis One.
The familiar gate to Shira’s heart clanged shut. She slammed the book closed and threw it on the dresser. It slid to the floor, landing upside down, its pages crumpled like her heart. She snatched up the book, something floated to the carpet.
A photo. Shira dropped to her knees.
Mom. The picture was taken before her mother’s last round of chemo, almost fourteen years ago when she was twelve. Dad snapped it when Shira and her mother had shared a happy moment—back when they were a family. She lovingly held the photo and traced her mother’s face with her finger.
Their hair blew together into one happy twist of brown—foreheads touching, laughing—a cherished moment caught on a flimsy slip of photo paper.
Shira cinched her hug a little tighter. She’d call Aunt Edna in the morning.

Chapter Two
Harriet Foster took the last drag of her cigarette, then glanced once more down the sidewalk toward The Hair Mavens Beauty Shop.
Where was Edna? Thirty years of Ms. Always-on-Time, and the last month she’d been late three times.
May as well get this show on the road. Harriet exhaled the menthol smoke as she bent toward the public ashcan in front of Delicious Bakery.
“Good morning, Harriet!”
She turned to see Bob Henry, Edna’s insurance guy.
“How are you this fine crisp autumn morning?” he said. He clasped his hands behind his back and took a little bow.
Harriet straightened her shoulders. She couldn’t help feeling like Queen Elizabeth whenever Bob flowed with poetic genuflection.
She worked to hide a smile, then dropped the ciggy into the ashcan. “Good, Bob. How about yourself?”
He gazed up at the sky—or maybe his modest “Bob Henry Insurance” sign above the bakery. She couldn’t tell. “Can’t complain. Can’t complain.” He shifted his gaze toward Hair Mavens. “Edna late?”
“It would appear so.” She readjusted the strap of her shoulder bag then grabbed the bakery’s metal door handle.
I’m burnin’ daylight here, Bob.
“Well, I won’t keep you. Have a wonderful day.” He unlocked the door leading to his second floor office, then twisted back toward Harriet. “That blue blazer looks mighty pretty on you, Harriet.”
She admired her jacket for a second, a thank you ready for release, when—poof. He was gone. His faint footsteps on the stairs the only evidence he hadn’t simply vanished into thin air.
Warmth radiated from her stomach all the way up to her cheeks. She smoothed her hand down the cotton navy blue blazer from Target. Nearly forty bucks it cost her, but undoubtedly worth it.
She patted the back of her stiff beehive to be sure there were no errant hairs, then opened the heavy glass door. The familiar scents of cinnamon and gooey, sweet concoctions welcomed her as she entered Delicious Bakery. Nonni wore her usual white uniform. Her long salt-and-pepper hair was pulled into a braid that reached nearly to her behind—the last remnant of her hippie days. Harriet would love to get her hands on those thick, coarse tresses. For sure she’d start with coloring it.
“How’s it going, Harriet?” Nonni rested her sturdy forearms on top of the glass display case, her chin barely coming to the top. “The Wednesday usual?”
Nonni snatched a waxed paper sheet with one hand and shook a small white bag open with her other. Then with practiced grace she delicately pulled one cherry cheese Danish from the tray and placed it in the bag. She repeated the process with another Danish then set the bags together.
She filled two large Styrofoam cups from the coffee urn. “So where’s Edna?”
“I’m not sure. Late start again, I suppose.” The coffee’s rich toasted aroma made Harriet’s mouth water.
Nonni nodded as she pressed the plastic lids firmly in place. She opened another white bag and packed the coffees, a couple of the little containers of real cream, sugar, and stirrers. There was something comforting about watching her movements. Like a ballet or something.
As Harriet paid with exact change, Frank walked in with a tray of pecan sticky buns. Their deliciousness was almost good enough to change from her and Edna’s regular choice, but if it ain’t broke . . .
“Hey, Harriet.” Frank looked around. “Where’s Edna?”
“Hey, Frank.” Harriet pulled out her I LOVE NEW YORK key ring, then readjusted her purse. “She must be running late.” Again.
Frank winked as he slipped the tray into another case. “See ya tomorrow.”
Balancing her bags and purse, she walked three doors down to The Hair Mavens. Her keys jangled merrily as she unlocked the shop door. Before entering, Harriet took an affirming glimpse around at downtown Gladstone—all one block of it. This was her town. She couldn’t help the mushy feeling of sentiment and familiarity. Just a few steps from anything she needed. Grocery store, dry cleaners, bakery, Chinese restaurant, pizza shop, florist, bank, and even a fancy-schmancy antique shop she’d never been in. And Edna’s place, the heart of this borough.
Harriet reached in to turn on the lights, relocked the front door, and dropped the keys into the pocket of her black work pants. Hair Mavens wouldn’t be opened for another hour and a half.
Today was Wednesday, the day she cut and styled and touched-up the gray roots of Edna’s thick chestnut brown hair. But if Edna didn’t get her rear end out of bed, that wasn’t going to happen.
“I’m here!” Harriet craned her neck toward the back of the building.
No answer.
She placed the Danish bag with one of the coffees at the first station, Edna’s place. Always neat, combs in the blue disinfectant jar, product arranged by order of use and brushes in her drawer. Her scissors and razors lay out by height on top of her roll-away cart like a surgeon’s tools. A few photos of Edna with her niece and brother—the brat Shira, and the freeloader, Sam—were neatly framed and mounted next to the mirror. A Boston fern with a small Israeli flag planted in the soil finished her décor.
A few steps to Harriet’s station, second chair. Everything was pretty much the same as Edna’s except Harriet’s pictures were postcards from her clients. Exotic places she’d never see.
No plants. The fragile little things hated her—seemed they’d rather die than allow her to take care of them. Like a lot of people in her life.
Next to Harriet, Beulah’s cluttered counter was pure chaos with photos, news clippings, and stickers plastered all over her mirror. It was a wonder Beulah could see to work.
The last station belonged to Kathy-the-Mouse. If Harriet were a cop or something, she’d call it nondescript. No personality—like the Mouse. She wasn’t interesting enough to be a mystery.
Harriet’s scrutiny traveled back to the picture of Shira, Sam, and Edna together at a park. Smiling faces hid selfish hearts. Her jaw tightened, her molars grinding. She had ripped down her photos of Shira years ago.
Shake it off, old girl. This was what happened when there was too much quiet, too many thoughts and memories.
She marched back to the break room, shrugging off her blazer as she went. Harriet stroked the crisp cotton before hanging it up. Her cheeks warmed again as a half-smile exercised her facial muscles. That blue blazer looks mighty pretty on you, Harriet. How long had it been since a man gave her a compliment?
A quick examination of her black smock hanging next to the blazer revealed more droopy threads and bleach marks. Rats. Better drop it off at Wang’s Cleaners tonight. After two years, the Wangs were used to repairing the evidence of a real workingwoman. Women. Edna knew what it meant to give everything to the job and to her staff—like the smock with her name in hot pink.
Edna. Where was she?
Harriet opened the door leading up to Edna’s apartment on the second floor. “Edna, come on girl. Get the lead out!” She puffed out a frustrated sigh.
Even though it wasn’t her turn to make coffee for the clients, Harriet grabbed the glass carafe and filled it at the sink. While it brewed, she ambled back to her station for her special beverage. After pulling off the lid, she doctored it with cream and sugar, then poured it into her Beauticians  ‘do It Better mug. She didn’t mind the chips in the porcelain or the broken handle she had glued back on who knows how many times. This thing was a collector’s item.
She plopped into her chair. It moaned as she swiveled around to the mirror. Leaning closer, she checked her makeup and beehive. A pout formed on her face. She remembered when it was eight inches high. With the bleaching and years of teasing, the mound had shrunk three inches in the last thirty years. A real shame.
The nicotine craving niggled. She yanked open her station’s drawer to pull out a pack of ciggies. A quick jiggle torpedoed the next cigarette, which she adeptly lipped and removed from the pack. She slid the lighter out of the pack’s cellophane cover and flicked once, twice. The flame hit the tip with a faint crackle.
There we go. A nice long drag. The calming smoke flowed down to her lungs and then up through her mouth and nose. Her reflection soon clouded as she exhaled.
The steam from the bakery coffee merged with the smoke, a perfect complement to her morning routine. After a careful sip, she reviewed the day’s appointments in her mind. Mrs. Garaciola—wash and set. Mrs. Maynard—cut, wash, and set. Mrs. Brown—blue rinse, wash, and set. Harriet shrugged. Every day was pretty much the same. Just the way she liked it.
Anything—or anyone—out of that order made her hair frizz. And at the top of Harriet’s I-hate-it-whens were late people. Like Edna was today and yesterday and Friday. The irritation drove her out of the chair. She bowed toward the shelf and grabbed one more sip then a deep drag on her ciggy. Edna didn’t like Harriet smoking in the apartment so she left it smoldering in the ashtray.
Retracing her steps through the break room, she entered the stairwell. By the time she had reached the top of the stairs her lungs cried for mercy. Her legs throbbed.
That’s what she needed this morning. Another reminder of the twenty pounds she’d gained over the past couple of years.
Take a deep breath, Harriet. She’s your best friend. Don’t bite her head off.
Harriet knocked.
No answer.
She knocked again then placed her ear on the dark-stained wood. “Edna, it’s Harriet.” Her heart did a flip flop. No sounds came from the apartment.
Her heartbeat picked up. With a shaky hand, she fished into her pants pocket for the keys.
Calm down, old girl. One more knock, just in case she’s in the shower or something.
The door made no sound as she let herself in.
The place was dark, the curtains still shut.
“Edna, are you here?”
Something felt wrong. Yet nothing was disturbed in the kitchen or dining room. As usual, neat and orderly. The old clock on the sideboard ticked like a dripping faucet.
Harriet’s feet lurched as though her legs had turned to stumps. She made her way through her friend’s living room toward the bedroom. The hallway was dark, but she could see the bedroom door, partially open. A few steps to the opening, she hesitated.
The shakiness had shifted from her hands to her knees. She reached for the glass knob. It was cold to her touch.
“Edna?” Her heart hammered so hard it felt like it would jump out of her chest. She wanted to go back downstairs.
Streams of sunlight filtered through the blinds like sparkling jewels. The pale blue walls of the bedroom spoke of Edna’s calm presence. There she was in bed, eyes closed, with a slight smile on her lips.
Oh, she’s still sleeping. Harriet exhaled loudly. Relief loosened her tense muscles. She turned on the overhead light.
No movement. Her muscles tensed again.
“Edna?” her voice croaked. “Honey, it’s time to get up.”
Harriet stood gazing at Edna’s beautiful, peaceful face, and even as her mind comprehended, her heart refused to believe it.
She reached toward her, drawn to the kindness and compassion that always seemed to emanate from Edna. Harriet longed to touch, but instead took hold of the cordless phone from Edna’s nightstand and dialed.
One ring. Two rings.
“911. What’s your emergency?”
“Please hurry. My friend—” How strange. Her smock was wet. Harriet reached up to her face to find rivers of tears. She gazed at Edna again. Her chestnut brown hair curled on top of her pastel green pillowcase like delicate vines. Those long, graceful fingers rested on top of her open Bible. She looked so beautiful, so content.
“Ma’am? Are you there?” The disembodied voice jarred the peace in this room.
“M-my friend, Edna Goldstein. I think she’s dead.”

About Terri

Terri Gillespie is a wife, mother, grandmother, and critically acclaimed author and speaker. Her writing credits include: creator and head writer for the Messianic Jewish Alliance of America’s (MJAA) Restoration of Israel Minute, heard on 25 stations in 11 states and Canada; has contributed to several books, magazines, and newspapers. Her first book was, Making Eye Contact with God—A Women’s Devotional, She Does Good Hair, Book One of The Hair Mavens Series is her first novel.
Terri managed domestic operations and development for the MJAA for 13 years before resigning to focus more of her time on writing. This past year she was also privileged to work on the newest Bible translation, the Tree of Life Version as a copy editor.

Terri lives outside Philadelphia with her husband of 40 years. They have one adult daughter, who lives in Chicago with her husband and son.

To purchase her book:

Terri Gillespie is giving away a copy of She Does Good Hair.  The giveaway is only available to U.S. addresses. To be entered in the book giveaway, leave a comment along with your email address. You may enter the book giveaway twice -- once on each spotlight post. (It's not too late to go back and leave a comment on yesterday's post.)

Off to read another great book!
Sandra M. Hart

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