Authors: Janet Wellington
Tags: #romance novel
“Well, we talk about...everything...when she does my hair, but it’s like attorney/client privilege, ya know?”
Gloria stared back at him like she was trying to figure him out.
“Okay,” she continued, “I’ll tell you more only because I like you and trust you. I know she's getting over a bad time—her fiancé ran out on her because he got his secretary pregnant. He took his kid and left town. Pretty much broke her heart. By the way, even from the start we all thought the guy was a rat, but she couldn’t see it.”
And she's found another rat.
“She's a great gal, Jared. She's young, talented, has a successful career, and finally ready to have a little fun, I hope. I was glad to see her here tonight. She’s pretty much a workaholic, I think, but at least it looks like Kandy got her out for once.”
Figures. Another successful career woman. Exactly what I don't need.
He'd certainly had more than enough of that type of woman. Never again.
“Thanks, Gloria.” Jared turned and stepped up on the stage. It was time to get back to work, and he was determined to just do his job, and keep his eyes off Hank and definitely off Lacey. At least Gloria had given him exactly what he needed so he could do just that.
Taking advantage of the extra noise of the water spraying as she rinsed the conditioner from her elderly client's hair, Lacey whispered to Kandy, “Did you ask him?”
Kandy had answered her cell phone a few minutes ago, taking a break out in the mall. Now she was back, folding and stacking clean towels on the shelf above the three pink shampoo bowls at the back of the salon.
Her eyes sparkled as she whispered dramatically, “He said yes, of course. As long as I have the winning bid.”
One cowboy down, one to go.
Lacey had left the Rockin’ Ranch without asking Hank if he would be the other cowboy in the bachelor auction, but telling him she’d be back on Saturday and had a question for him. There just hadn’t been a good time all night and when she’d switched to club soda and the alcohol had worn off, she’d lost her nerve. They’d danced a few more dances, but he’d had to man the entrance most of the evening. Then when one of Kandy’s friends had had too much to drink, Lacey had volunteered to drive her home. Now she would definitely have to either go back to the club and ask Hank, or hope a cowboy walked by in the mall…and the odds were definitely against that.
“What's Luke doing about missing a Saturday night at the club?” Lacey asked. Maybe Southern Comfort had a back-up singer just in case, like how Jared had stepped in to play bass. Though she’d mentally crossed her sweet dancing cowboy off her list of prospects, she couldn’t quite get him out of her mind, which had surprised her every time her thoughts had drifted to that first dance with him out on the deck.
“Some of the other guys in the band want to come watch so—after
Saturday—they switched with the Wednesday night band for the next
Saturdays. Cool, huh?”
“Details later,” Kandy whispered, “my three o'clock is here.”
Lacey smiled back at her and nodded. She turned off the water, then wrapped a fluffy mauve towel around Mrs. Allen's head, helping her sit up. She had a soft spot in her heart for her longtime shampoo-and-set customer, Mrs. Allen, who had followed her from beauty school to become one of her longtime, regular clients at the upscale mall salon.
“Lacey, your fingers are magic. I'd come in just for the shampoo and conditioner even if I didn't need my hair done.” Mrs. Allen sighed and rocked her towel-wrapped head back and forth, stretching her neck muscles.
“My pleasure, my dear.” She removed the shampoo cape and tossed it into the nearby hamper, then helped the septuagenarian to her feet. “Now come with me and let's make you gorgeous for that fiftieth wedding anniversary dinner tonight.”
Lacey loved her job, even more so now. She had such a good crew. Over time she had successfully weeded out all the egotistical and temperamental stylists from the staff, leaving a team of hard-working, pleasant co-workers. Becoming the manager had been the first step of her dream. Sure it meant longer hours, but she relished the feeling of accomplishment as the customer base increased enough to put her into a profit-sharing category for the salon chain. With continued success, she was sure she would be considered for regional management, which was her next goal.
If nothing else seemed right on track, her career certainly was.
After finishing Mrs. Allen, she sent her on her way with a complimentary travel-sized hairspray she could tuck into her purse in case she needed it on her dinner cruise that night. With all the chairs in the salon filled but her own, Lacey decided to hide out in the backroom and do a little reorganizing of supplies. No scheduled customers for the rest of the day meant she had the luxury of uninterrupted time to re-stock shelves and even help with the laundry. It was amazing how many towels they went through in a day.
After a few minutes of glorious quiet, the hum of the dryer masking any sounds coming from the salon, the door opened. Kandy poked her head inside the backroom, saying, “Lacey, you better come out and take care of this one.”
Lacey groaned as she watched Kandy disappear. Crossing her fingers, she hoped it wasn't yet another case of chlorine-green blond hair. She'd already had her share of time consuming color corrections—five this week alone—and the summer was only half over.
As she walked through the salon she saw an attractive middle-aged woman standing in the lobby, a young girl almost hidden behind her. Tiny hands reached around to the sides of the woman’s flowered skirt as she seemed to hug her legs for dear life.
As Lacey approached them both, she heard the unmistakable sound of the youngster's muffled sobs. She watched as the woman gently took the tiny hands, then crouched to the floor and drew the little one into her arms, comforting her with soft, soothing sounds.
“It's going to be fine, Jamaica. Trust your Auntie Jo. It's not so bad, really.”
“Hi, I'm Lacey.” Dropping to her knees to put herself at the child's level, she hoped to get a better look at her day's-end challenge.
“This is my niece, Jamaica. She's feeling a little shy and we had a bit of an adventure today. We decided our hair was too long to start kindergarten next month.” The woman made a scissors motion with her fingers, out of the view of the little girl.
Lacey nodded. “Let's have a look, okay?”
The little girl's honey-blond hair lay in long curls that reached to the middle of her back. When she straightened her head, she lifted it just enough for Lacey to see that she had created a dramatic asymmetrical look—her right side was at least six inches shorter than the left, and her bangs looked as though they'd been cut with pinking shears.
“I used to cut my own hair all the time. It was kind of fun, wasn't it?” Lacey asked.
The little girl pulled away from her aunt, then wiped her cheeks and as she bravely met her gaze, her blue eyes shining with fresh tears. “But it looks awful.”
“Naw, it's just not done yet. But, you know what? I can finish it. I know how.” Lacey held her hand out to the girl, who cautiously put her tiny hand in hers.
What a little angel.
Already she could envision how she would cut the little girl's hair. A shorter style would make her look older, she thought, but with the natural curl that was there, she knew she would be able to maintain the cherubic appeal.
“Kandy, will you find my magic scissors, please, and we'll meet you over at my chair.”
The little girl's eyes widened and she looked at her aunt, waiting for permission.
“Go on, Jamaica, this nice lady will take care of you. I'll be right here.” Breathing a loud sigh, the woman rose to her feet and then sank into one of the plush chairs in the lobby, visibly relieved that someone else was in control of the disaster.
Lacey loved cutting children's hair. The feel was so different and the silky, immature hair had to be cut carefully,
the curl, if there was any. On the way to her station she grabbed a booster seat.
With Lacey’s help, the little girl climbed into the hydraulic chair and onto the booster seat, allowing the styling cape to be fastened around her neck.
“It's pretty in here. Pink's my favorite color,” Jamaica said as her head swiveled back and forth as she looked around the salon.
“I'm glad you like it. I like pink too.” Lacey had chosen a glittery hot pink cape in hopes of distracting the little girl and so far, it seemed to be working. “Now, where are those magic scissors?” She pretended to look around the salon and then nodded to Kandy, who ceremoniously brought a midnight blue velvet pouch and placed it on the nearby counter.
Lacey misted the little girl's hair with water and gently combed out the tangles. Then, with her expensive, tiny, gold European shears in hand, Lacey began to shorten and layer the hair, retaining a little length in the back and cutting the front and sides so the blond curls framed her face. She kept the chair facing the mirror so the little girl could watch, and talked soothingly to her throughout the process. Every few minutes she glanced at the woman waiting in the lobby, who smiled and nodded her blessing.
Lacey asked innocuous questions, weaving through conversations about Hello Kitty, Barbies, Wind Dancers horses, and favorite animated movies. As she put one hand on the little girl’s shoulder from time to time, she could feel the little girl relax as she worked, and soon her blue eyes brightened and her smiles came more frequently. When she was finished, she handed the little girl a mirror to hold, spinning her in the chair to show her how to look at the back of her head.
Her hair had dried while Lacey worked and she fluffed the now-layered curls into place. The hair was soft as silk in her fingers, luminous with golden highlights that shimmered under the salon lights.
As a last touch, Lacey opened the cupboard at her station to retrieve a final surprise—she always kept a few toys and things for her youngest clients. “And here is your fairy princess halo.” She watched the little girl's expression in the mirror as she placed a circle of glittery metallic pink garland on her head, complete with iridescent streamers of star garland that fell to the spot where the blond curls had once been.
“Oh, I look...
.” The little girl whispered the words, awestruck at the final results.
“Yes, you do, Princess Jamaica. Let's go show your auntie,” she said, helping her down from the chair.
All smiles now, the little girl walked gingerly to the lobby, careful not to upset the sparkling wreath she wore.
The woman's face glowed with relief and delight as she watched her niece walk slowly toward her. “Lacey, you are a magician. Look at my little princess. Your daddy is going to love it, honey.”
Lacey shared the woman's relief. Another crisis solved. If only they were all this easy.
“Daddy, I'm a princess! She said so!”
The sun glared painfully in Jared's eyes as he looked up from brushing off his earth-covered boots. All he could make out was a bouncing shape running toward him from his sister's car.
“Look, Daddy, look!”
Jared watched as his daughter twirled and danced for his benefit, a private recital just for him of utterly innocent joy. He also watched as his sister Jo approached, giving him her best “don't you dare say a word” glare.
“Jamaica,” she pleaded, “stop spinning and show your daddy your new hairstyle.”
Jared rubbed his stubbled chin. Gone were his baby's long golden locks, replaced by bouncy curls and topped by something pink and glittery. After checking for clues from his sister's expression, he took the easy way out. “Well, let me see, Jamie. Tell me all about it.”
Visibly relieved at his neutral response, Jo sighed. “Thanks for letting me have her today, Jared. We had...fun.” She winked and waved a quick goodbye. “See ya.”
“Daddy, she was a magician, kind of. Well at least she made my hair so pretty and she gave me my fairy princess hat and everything.”
Jared's heart skipped a beat as he listened to the happy tumble of words come out of his daughter's little mouth. “Stand still for a minute and let me have a look. My, you look old enough for first grade, let alone kindergarten.”
Jamie beamed at her father's approval.
“Now come here and give me a hello hug, you rascal.”
“Oooh, Daddy. You need a shower.” Jamie held her nose, then giggled and they began a favorite game of tag.
“Okay, okay. You win.” Jared fell ceremoniously to the ground, flat on his back, and his daughter took the opportunity to triumphantly plop squarely on his stomach.
“You really like it, right?” Jamie asked in a small voice, still looking for reassurance.
“It's perfect. You look beautiful.”
“Thanks, Daddy. That's what the lacy-lady said too. She said it was because of the magic scissors and Auntie Jo said I was Princess Jamaica.”
Jared's attention froze on his daughter's words. “Where did you have your hair done, Jamie?”