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.
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.
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
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
,” he bellowed. Beverly Hills
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
.” She lay down and rested an
arm over her eyes. The tears finally released and streamed into her ears. Beverly Hills
“What the heck is that supposed to mean?”
“He’s British, a
gay.” She sniffed. “I’m domestic and dull. He’s imported and intriguing.” London Hair
“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
on hold for a while.” California
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
for a late dinner?” he said. Savoy
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.”
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
’s newest heartthrob. Hollywood
“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
? She didn’t
think so. America
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
She wasn’t coming back. Not for brisket, not for kugel, not for a heaping
serving of guilt with a side of regret. Gladstone
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.
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.
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
key ring, then readjusted her purse. “She must be running late.” Again. NEW YORK
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
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. Gladstone
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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Off to read another great book!
Sandra M. Hart