Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Chapter 11

When the last shirt was ironed, Jessie took off her head phones and was almost sorry that she was done for tonight.  She pulled out the plug of the hot iron, set it in the kitchen to cool and folded the ironing board.  Why do I only sing when I do the ironing, she wondered.  She never sang when she dusted her apartment, she never sang when she did the vacuuming nor did she sing with any other housework task.  In a way she knew the answer to the question.  Dusting, vacuuming, and mopping the floors were physically demanding.  She frequently found herself out of breath.  But ironing she found wasn’t demanding at all.  In fact, if it wasn’t that she could sing while she ironed, it would be quite boring.
Having put the ironed laundry away, she went to the kitchen and switched on the kettle for a cup of coffee.  She was looking forward to sitting in her favourite chair, putting her feet up on the futon and spending the remainder of the evening reading.  While waiting for the water to boil, Jessie went on the balcony and watched the traffic on Kennedy Avenue ten floors below her.  Where are all these people going, she wondered.  There was always traffic on the avenue, whether it was twelve o’clock in the afternoon or twelve o’clock at night, there were always cars speeding by. 
Jessie loved watching traffic and she sometimes fantasized about the motorists.  Who were these people who seemed in such in a hurry?  Were they doctors and nurses on their way to the hospital nearby?  Were they lovers on their way to some secret rendezvous?  Or were they just people coming home from a family visit?
Across the street a young couple was walking hand in hand, taking advantage of the warm night air.  Some distance behind them an old lady was walking her dog. 
The fast food restaurant across the street seemed busy.  Despite it being almost eleven o’clock the parking lot was packed with cars.  One of the cars was a Ferrari, Jessie noticed to her surprise.  It wasn’t every day she saw a Ferrari at a fast food place.  She figured that whoever drove such an expensive car would prefer to eat at a classy restaurant.  Then again, the rich didn’t lose their taste for the American favorite. A nice greasy burger, she enjoyed indulging in them herself from time to time. 
When the kettle boiled she went to the kitchen to make her coffee and returned to the balcony with the steaming mug.  She was just in time to see a man opening the door to the Ferrari and folding himself into the driver’s seat.  He didn’t drive off right away, but instead sat for awhile, with the driver’s door open.  Jessie tried to imagine why he sat there. Was he waiting for his girlfriend who was still in the burger place?  Was he lost?  Was he perhaps feeling ill?  She saw him looking at her building scanning each floor. .  Then he closed the door, started the engine and drove off. 
Jessie went inside, closed the balcony door and reached for her book.  She would read for an hour or so and then go to bed.
The next day Jessie made the decision to visit the Premier College and enroll for the secretarial course.  She took the subway downtown, and walked the short distance to the college.  She loved being downtown.  She loved the hustle and bustle of people around her, and the variety of stores.  It was such a difference to the suburbs where she used to work.  Muller’s Dry Cleaning & Laundry Services was located in the middle of nowhere, so to speak, and except for a small convenience store and a coffee shop there had been no shops whatsoever.  She’d used to go for a walk during her lunch hour and sometimes never passed another person on the street.  Here in downtown New York City there were plenty of souls and Jessie appreciated their company. 
At the McKenzie Tower she took one of eight elevators to the twenty sixth floor where the Premier Secretarial College was located.  The receptionist handed her an application form and she was surprised how easy it was to enrol.  She just filled in the form, paid the registration fee and was told the course started on the third of September.  There were no questions regarding her education or if she had finished high school.  She would have appreciated more information about the course.  She wanted to ask how many other students were in the course, what their average age was and what they would be learning, but the receptionist was too busy answering the phone. 
Back on the street she took a deep breath and couldn’t stop smiling.  She had done it, she had made a start.  To celebrate, Jessie decided to buy herself a cup of coffee and as it was almost lunch time a sandwich too.  Sandwiches always tasted so much better when you didn’t make them yourself.
Since it was such a beautiful warm day, she found herself a spot in the park and took a sip of the hot coffee.  She wished Betty was with her.  They could have gone window shopping, or just walk around and take in the sights. 
When a pigeon landed in front of her feet and eyed her sandwich, Jessie threw him a piece of the crust.  The bird hastily pecked at it and waited for more.  Jessie threw another piece.  To her surprise and delight more pigeons landed near her bench, all seemingly hungry.  Seeing them fight over a few crumbs, Jessie broke what was left of her sandwich in small pieces and threw the pieces and crumbs at the birds. 
Soon the park became crowded and Jessie decided it was time to leave.  In her cotton flowery dress she felt out of place between all the office girls who, even in this heat were all dressed in business suits.  She wondered if and when she finished her course would she would feel like she belonged?
Secretarial college was nothing like Jessie had expected.  She wasn’t sure what she had expected, but it wasn’t this.  Day after day she and nineteen other students assembled in a room and typed.  Well, if you could call it typing. What she and the others students did was more like groping in the dark, literally.  As soon as the lesson started, the overhead lights were switched off, plunging the room in total darkness.  Then a giant television screen was switched on.  The screen showed a computer keyboard.  Besides showing letters, figures and characters, the keys were color coded.  The instructor explained that you used your index finger for the red keys, the middle finger for the green keys and the ring finger for the blue keys.  Yellow indicated the pinkie fingers chore.   The spacebar was to be pushed with the thumb.  They had to look up at the giant screen and when a letter was lit up they were to type that letter on their own computer keyboard.  On their monitor they could see if they had hit the correct key or not.  After a few seconds another letter would light up and they were to type that letter.  Jessie concentrated on the screen and her fingers, but it was still a case of reaching, hitting and hoping for the best.  She wondered how her companion students were doing. 
On her left was Alain, a lanky twenty-one year old who was extremely funny. He had the entire class laughing the first day of the course.  The instructor had asked them all to give their names for the attendance register.  Alain had risen and introduced himself as Alain Thenhere.  When the instructor asked for the spelling of his surname Alain had replied with “Thenhere, t-h-e-n-h-e-r-e.  As in then here, then there, you know.”
The whole class had burst out laughing and the instructor had barely kept a straight face himself.  It was as if he already knew that Alain was going to be the class clown, apparently every class had one.
On Jessie’s right was Reeva Hastings.  Reeva was a gorgeous redhead of Irish descent, approximately Jessie’s age with a similar background.  She had been a machine operator in a plastics company until she was laid off.  In search of a better job she had applied for the secretarial course.  She was delighted to be accepted.
“No offense, but quite frankly I think they accept anybody,” Reeva had speculated.  “They don’t check your background or your intelligence.  As long as you pay the entrance fee, you’re in.”
Jessie wasn’t offended.  In fact she was beginning to feel the same way.  Almost everyone in the class was looking to improve their lives. Among her fellow students were waitresses, girls who up until now had worked in the manufacturing industry and bored housewives.  A small minority were young girls who had just finished high school. They had enrolled in the course to put the finishing touch to their education.  They weren’t popular with most of the class because they considered themselves better than the rest of the class.
“How’re you doing?” Reeva asked with an encouraging nod.
“Not too good,” Jessie shrugged, “I keep missing the keys.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Reeva swiped at an invisible fly, “everybody does.”
When the letter ‘N’ was lit up, Jessie reached for the key with her index finger.
“Wanna do something after class?” Reeva asked.
Jessie was about to enthusiastically accept when she remembered her appointment with Betty.  “I’d love to but I can’t Reeva,” she said with a headshake.  “I’m meeting a friend this afternoon.  We’re having our picture taken.”
Reeva nodded her understanding.  “Passport pictures or something?”
Jessie shook her head.  “No, we were at the hairdressers the other day and Francois, one of the stylists, offered us a deal.  If we agreed to have our picture taken, the visit would be free.”
Reeva’s eyebrows shot up.  “Cool.”
“It’s just a picture to hang in the salon,” Jessie explained.  “You know, to show customers different kind of hairstyles.  It doesn’t mean anything.”
“Are you kidding me!” Reeva gasped.  “Of course it means something.  You’re gonna be on a wall for all to see.  Women are gonna look at your picture and say ‘I wanna look like her’.  I might even copy your hairstyle, it looks great.”
Jessie subconsciously touched her hair and flicked it off her shoulders.  The style did suit her.  It wasn’t as nice and polished as when Francois had styled it, but she was happy with the look.  “Shall we get together tomorrow?”
Reeva nodded with a smile.  “Sure, I’d like that.”

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Chapter 10

Damn, Jack thought when he drove home that night, that’s the second girl who has slipped through my fingers.  First a dynamite singer, now a stunning beauty; he could have kicked himself for not walking up to her and introducing himself right there and then in the salon.  He could have given her Bill’s number.  Bill would have been overjoyed with a face like hers.  Not to mention hair like hers.  Any cosmetics company would love to have her promote their product. She was worth a small fortune.  If only he had just walked up to her and asked for her name and number.   Damn, damn, damn.  He still owned Bill a favour for finding Amanda.  Amanda had a great voice and she had a great future as a solo singer but he couldn't stop thinking about the mystery woman, the hypnotic voice he had heard on the street.  Jack smiled to himself, he now thought of this woman as the angel with the beautiful voice.
He had almost reached the onramp to the highway that would take him downtown when he changed his mind and drove east.  Before he knew it he reached the Kennedy and Becker intersection.  He parked his car at the fast food restaurant, got out and walked up Kennedy Avenue.  There it was again, that voice, that heavenly voice.  It stopped him cold.  He looked up and closed his eyes, trying to determine where the voice was coming from.  It was impossible to tell.  He had to find her.  If he had to go to each and every building and go from floor to floor, he had to find this singer.
On an impulse Jack pushed open the door to one of the apartment buildings and went inside.  Almost immediately he realized how difficult if not impossible his mission was.  Now that he was inside he couldn’t hear her anymore.  He had no idea if she was a resident in this building or in one of the other buildings.  Thinking he had to start somewhere, he took the elevator to the top floor and decided to work his way down.  Judging by the buttons in the elevator, the building had thirty floors.  When he stepped out of the elevator he found himself in a red carpeted corridor that stretched on either side of the three elevators.  He listened, the area was completely quiet. 
He walked the entire length of the corridor on his right, turned back and walked the entire length of the corridor to the left.  He heard nothing, not a sound from any of the suites.
Jack went one floor down and continued his search.  This time, along the right hand corridor he could hear a television behind one door and a child crying behind another, but no singing.  In the left hand corridor he was subjected to the very vocal and heated argument between the occupants.
He continued searching each floor but to no avail. An hour later, Jack was back on the ground floor.  He had been on every floor of the building and walked every corridor.  He had learned nothing.
This isn’t working, he thought as he crossed the street.  If he was going to find this girl, he needed a plan.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Chapter 9

 Candice sat across from her date at the restaurant table. She was fuming.  If anyone had told her earlier today that she would hate Jack Garrett before the night was over she would have declared them crazy, but it was true.  She couldn’t wait for dinner to be over and to bid Jack Garrett goodbye. 
Staring into the flame of the candle in the middle of the table, Candice remembered how only a few hours ago she had looked forward to tonight.  She had a date with the Jack Garrett, maker of major recording stars.  She was so excited she had called her friends to tell them about it.  They had laughed at her, told her she was pulling their leg.  In the end she had invited her two best friends to her apartment – she needed their advice on what to wear anyway – and she allowed them to hang around so they could actually meet the handsome Jack when he picked her up at eight o’clock.  She and her friends had been so excited about this date.  They had swooned over Jack’s good looks when he punctually arrived at eight; declared he looked even better in person than in photographs; and absolutely drooled over his shiny red Ferrari.  They had envied her and she had to promise them, three times, that she would share every detail of the evening with them.  Now a twisted smile sat on Candice’s lips.  She wasn’t sure if she wanted to tell her friends about tonight, it would be rather humiliating.  Then again, they were her friends and she was sure they would sympathize with her.  Be just as outraged as she was now.
At first being with Jack had been wonderful.  The ride to the restaurant in his car; the way the valet had jumped to serve them; and they were immediately shown to the best table in the room.  But then, within minutes the whole date had turned sour.  With the sweetest smile Jack had turned to her and said, “I’m sure you’re wondering why I asked you out tonight.”
She had assumed she had been asked on this date because Jack Garrett liked her.  He must have been attracted to her and he wanted to spend some time with her to get to know her.  But that wasn’t the case.  She quickly learned that Jack Garrett had alternative motives for asking her out.  He was using her, using her to learn the name and telephone number of a customer.  The customer in question, the lovely Jessie Green.  He didn’t know her name of course, he described her only as the woman with dark hair, in her early twenties, who’d left the salon with her blond friend around two o’clock and who had been a client of Francois.
“Why didn’t you just ask me when you were at the salon?” Candice demanded.
“I didn’t want to get you into trouble,” Jack explained.  “Thought it better if I asked you where Francois and the others couldn’t hear you.”
“So you do know that what you’re asking is against the rules.”
“Look at it this way,” Jack smiled charmingly.  “If you give me the customer’s name and number and she becomes a star, then you would be instrumental in her success.”
“I don’t remember her number,” Candice said truthfully.
“I hardly thought you would,” said Jack, “so I’ll give you my card.  When you get to the salon tomorrow, you can phone me, or copy the number down on a piece of paper and call me from your home.  Whatever you prefer.”
“As long as you get it,” Candice concluded sarcastically.
“As you know I’m in the business of discovering new talent,” Jack turned serious.  “Sometimes one finds talent in unusual places.”
Candice shook her head.  “I’m sorry Jack but I can’t help you.  Jessie was a walk in.  She didn’t leave a number.  What’s your interest in her anyway?  As far as I know you’re running a talent agency for singers not models.  I didn’t hear her belch out a tune.”
“I have a friend who’s always looking for new faces,” Jack said.  “He sometimes refers people to me; I refer people to him; that’s how it works.  I’m sure he would have been thrilled to meet … Jessie you said her name is?”
“Sorry,” Candice said with a shrug.  “I can’t help.”

Monday, December 19, 2011

Chapter 8

Francois was one of five hairdressers who worked for Streaks, a midsize hair salon that catered to both men and women.  It was a luxurious salon; with gold gild framed mirrors, shiny black marble floors, black granite counter tops, plush red chairs, and photos of gorgeous men and women showing off stylish haircuts.  Soft music played in the background and beverages were served in either porcelain cups or tall crystal glasses.

While Betty enjoyed a cappuccino, Jessie was shown the way to the washbasin. Jessie loved having her hair washed by a professional.  She loved the way strong fingers vigorously scrubbed her scalp, and  gently massaged in the conditioner leaving her head tingling with freshness when a soft warm towel completed the cleanse. .

“What can I do for you today?” Francois asked, standing behind Jessie’s chair, running a comb through her hair.

“To tell you the truth I don’t know,” Jessie said with a shrug of her shoulders.  “I feel like a change, nothing too drastic, but something that will give me a new look.”

“Why don’t we try something simple yet sophisticated like this one?”  Francois pointed to one of the photos on the wall.

“Bangs?” Jessie said with a voice full of doubt.  “I haven’t worn bangs since high school.”

“Not full bangs,” Francois pointed out.  “Wispy bangs, it would suit you.”

Jessie wasn’t sure, but trusted Francois’ judgment.  She’d been to see him twice in the past year and he had never ill advised her.

“Okay,” she said, “let’s try it.”

“Let's add a few layers?” Francois suggested.  “See how the model’s hair is long but full of body?”

Jessie took another look at the picture.  The model looked gorgeous with her layered hair and bangs, but would it work for her?  Still, she wanted a change and so she had to take a chance. 

“Let’s do it,” she nodded.

Francois got to work.  He combed and snipped, combed and snipped, and Jessie could see the transformation taking place.  With a look of appreciation she turned her head from side to side and a smile slowly formed on her lips.

“You like it now, but wait until its blow dried,” Francois said, noticing her smile.

“Yeah, when you blow dry it, it probably will look amazing,” Jessie agreed, “but will I be able to maintain the style?”

“If you want I’ll show you how,” Francois volunteered, then proceeded to show Jessie where to place the brush and how to use it. 

“Wow,” Jessie sighed when he was done.  “I look…”

“Gorgeous,” Francois finished the statement.

Pleased that she had followed Francois’ advice Jessie got out of the chair and walked to the lounge area where Betty was paging through a fashion magazine.

“Ta-da,” she sang.

“Wow!” Betty gasped. . 

“Do you like it?” Jessie asked, flicking her hair off her shoulders.

“Like it?  I love it!” Betty breathed in admiration.  “You look like a bloody beauty queen.”

Jessie blushed with embarrassment and attempted to shush her friend. People were looking at her.  One of them was, an extremely handsome man.  He smiled and openly stared at her.  She recognized the man as Jack Garrett.  She knew who he was as she often saw his name and picture in the entertainment section of the newspaper. 

The nerve of some people, Jessie thought, but was pleased with the attention all the same.

 “Okay now it’s your turn,” she turned to Betty

“Oh no, I can’t afford his prices,” Betty argued.

“It’s my gift to you,” Jessie insisted.

Half an hour later her friend reappeared.  Her hair washed, fluffy and freshly trimmed. 

While Jessie was paying, Francois suddenly appeared at the counter.  “Would you be interested in having your picture taken?  Your visit would be free of charge.”

Jessie’s pen hovered in midair over her cheque book.  “Excuse me?”

“I said” repeated Francois, “would you be interested in having your picture taken?” Then with a sweep of his arm, “It would go on the wall with the others.  It’s my way of marketing my work.”

Jessie was momentarily speechless.  She had assumed that all the pictures on the walls were of professional models.  Now if she was to believe Francois, they were of ordinary people.  They were beautiful men and women, gorgeous in fact, and he wanted her to be one of them!

“So what’d you think?” Francois said.  “A few pictures at no charge to you and your visit today would be free.”

The money wasn’t important.   She was simply overwhelmed to be asked to be up there with those beauties.  Then again, money was money and she needed every cent.  “Can my friend join me?” Jessie asked, knowing how important it would be to Betty to be included. 

Francois inclined his head.  “I don’t see why not.”

Francois handed her a card.  “Go to this photographer and tell him I sent you.  He’ll know what to do.”

“Do we go now?”

“Whenever suits you.”

“But if we don’t go today our hair won’t look as good anymore as when you styled it,” Jessie reasoned.

Francois disagreed.  “Your hair will always look good.  I gave it a good cut, easy to maintain.  As long as the hair is clean the pictures will look beautiful.”

“You sure you don’t want us to come around for a quick styling?” Jessie asked.

Francois nodded.  “You can if you want, but there’s really no need.  You will do a great job yourself.”

After Jessie and Betty had left, Francois turned to the receptionist of the salon.  “Who’s my next appointment?”

“Jack Garrett,” Candice said.

“Jack Garrett?” Francois breathed with surprise, “The Jack Garrett?  The talent agent?”

Candice nodded.  “Isn’t he just to die for?”

“Keep it quiet,” Francois instructed.  “No need to announce that Jack Garrett is here.  The last thing we want is for people to spontaneously burst into song to impress Mr. Garrett, and that includes you.”

“No need to worry about me,” Candice said under her breath, “I already have a date with him tonight.”

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Chapter 7

Behind an immaculate smoked glass counter perched a perfectly groomed young woman on a high stainless steel stool.  She was on the phone making notes in a large book.

“May I help you?” she asked, after replacing the phone.

“I would like an appointment,” Jessie said.

“What for?” the girl asked in a bored tone of voice.

Jessie was momentarily speechless.  What did the girl mean what for?  This was a beauty salon; she was here to learn about make-up.

“What do you wanna have done?” the girl rephrased her question slightly impatient.  “Haircut, facial, manicure, pedicure, waxing?”

“Um, facial,” Jessie said.

The girl looked down on her appointment book.  “When would you like to come?”

Jessie shrugged.  “Next week, tomorrow, now.”

“Now?”  The girl perked up.  “You’re in luck.  I have a cancellation.  You can see Monique in ten minutes.”

Jessie looked at Betty.

“She’ll take it,” Betty quickly grabbed the opportunity.

“What is your name?”

“Jessie Green.”

“Okay Jessie,” the girl waved a perfectly manicured hand towards a set of cream leather chairs, “Have a seat over there and I’ll let Monique know you’re here.”

“Charming little thing, isn’t she?” Betty said with obvious sarcasm.

Jessie rolled her eyes in a gesture that indicated she too thought the girl was an absolute snob.

A short time later a woman in her thirties came into the salon, walked straight up to the glass counter and addressed the receptionist.  Dressed in an expensive looking cream suit and silk blouse the woman was perfectly coifed and made-up.  She had rings sparkling on her fingers and she oozed confidence.  The snobby receptionist seemed to shrink in her chair and when the phone started to ring, she ignored it giving her full attention to this customer.  She listened intently to what the woman had to say, flipped through her appointment book and made some notes.  “Yes Mrs. Gallagher, no Mrs. Gallagher, of course Mrs. Gallagher,” the girl was saying.

“See that! That is the kind of respect I want,” Jessie turned towards Betty.  “I’d like to have that kind of confidence and elegance.  I’d like to walk into a store, any store, and have people treat me with respect.”

Betty nodded.  She understood exactly what Jessie was talking about.   Everyone wanted to be treated respectfully, but all too often this courtesy was reserved for the rich.

“Um, you there,” the receptionist called.

“See what I mean,” Jessie said before turning to the receptionist.  “Yes?”

“You can take a seat at that station over there.  Monique will be with you in a minute.”

Jessie looked at the chair the girl indicated and she froze.  It was in plain view of everybody who walked past, almost in the mall corridor.  Her heart leaped in her throat, surely the makeover wouldn’t take place there!  Jessie would have preferred a private area, something with walls and a door.

“Do you mind if I go for a walk?” Betty said, standing up.  “I’ll be back in a bit.”

Jessie nodded.  She would have like her friend to stay with her, but waiting around would be boring for Betty.


Jessie looked up into the smiling face of a slightly overweight, middle aged woman with steel gray hair rolled in a bun at the nape of her neck.  She was wearing a crisp white coat and flat white shoes. 

“I’m Monique.”

“Nice to meet you,” Jessie smiled politely.  Actually she was disappointed.  She had expected someone young and beautiful.  Someone with perfect make-up and perfect hair.  Monique looked like someone’s perfect grandmother.

“Let me have a look at you,” the woman said, gently taking hold of Jessie’s chin and turning her head from side to side.

“Does it have to be here?” Jessie whispered, throwing a nod at the nearby make-up chair.

“It’s where all the make-up is kept,” Monique explained.  “We could go somewhere more private but then I would have to run back and forth for colors and pencils, etc.”

Jessie told her not to worry.  She reluctantly took a seat on the stool and felt like all eyes were on her.  Everyone who passed the beauty salon could see her.  Everyone in the salon could see her.  She felt like she was on display.

Monique on the other hand wasn’t the slightest bit bothered.  She opened a cabinet holding a variety of bottles, pots and tubes and got to work.  She cleansed, she toned and moisturized.  Where it came to selecting a foundation she narrowed her eyes and peered at Jessie’s face intently. 

“Let me have a good look at you,” she said.  “You have flawless skin.  I don’t want to use something too dark because that’s going to look unnatural, but I don’t want to use something too light because that might make you look like a ghost.”

After some deliberation, Monique selected a color called Porcelain.  Using foam she dabbed some on Jessie’s forehead, cheeks, nose and chin. She smoothed the foundation with a damp sponge.  She then stood back, inspected her work and nodded her approval.  Where it came to eye shadow, Monique had no trouble at all deciding on a color.  She chose a smoky brown for the eyelid, to match Jessie’s eyes, and a lighter color towards the eyebrow.  Next she drew a fine line on the lower eyelid and smoothed mascara on the upper and lower lashes. 

If Jessie had any doubts as to how the make-up looked on her, the look on Monique’s face wiped them all away.  The woman was biting her bottom lip and seemed extraordinarily pleased with herself.

Jessie was about to look in the mirror, but Monique stopped her. She reached for a thick, soft cheek brush. She dabbed some peach colored blusher on Jessie’s cheeks and finished her work with a peach colored lipstick.

“There,” she triumphantly stated, “now you can have a look.”

When Jessie looked in the mirror, her eyes grew larger and her lips parted in utter amazement.  She had big warm eyes, high cheekbones, luscious lips and a glowing complexion.  For a moment she thought the mirror was playing a trick on her, but no, it was really her, only better.  Much better. 

“Breath my dear,” Monique patted her on the back.

Only then did Jessie realize that she’d been holding her breath. 

“I look so different,” she whispered. 

“Not used to wearing make-up?”

Silently Jessie shook her head.  “Lipstick and mascara yes, but never anything more.”

“I have a feeling that’s about to change,” Monique commented.

“Would you mind putting a cosmetics kit together for me to take home?” Jessie asked.

Monique was delighted to help, advising Jessie on what colors worked well together and what the difference was between day and evening make-up. 

Jessie nodded her understanding, thanked Monique for her time and slipped off the stool.

While Jessie was paying at the counter, Betty walked in and went straight to the waiting lounge.

“Ready?” Jessie asked.

Betty simply stared in awe. “You look like a different person.” She stuttered.

As they walked through the mall, Betty kept glancing at Jessie.

“You look so different,” she kept saying.

“Good different or bad different?” Jessie queried.

“Good different,” Betty nodded with conviction, “very good different.  If I were a guy, I’d ask you out on a date.”

Jessie was still laughing when she noticed Betty giving her a critical look.  “What?”

“If you really want to change your look, you should go all the way and go for a new hairdo.”

“I’m planning to,” Jessie said, “but for that I’m going to Francois.”


“I’ve seen him once or twice,” Jessie explained “and he’s wonderful with his hands.”

“Your new boyfriend?”

“No, my hairdresser.”

“Why not go to one of the hairdressers here?”

“Oh no,” Jessie shivered, “I’ve had some horrible experiences with hairdressers.  They all seem to do what they want.  Francois does what I want.  For instance, when I ask him to take an inch off the back, he takes an inch off the back.  Not two inches, not one inch and a half, just what you ask him to do.  He sometimes advises me on a style, but then he leaves the decision up to me, he doesn’t get pushy.”

“That’s good,” Betty nodded in understanding.  “Hairdressers can get a little pushy sometimes.  Maybe I should pay Francois a visit.”

“You won’t regret it,” Jessie smiled, “and girl, he … is … gorgeous!  He’s from Mauritius.  He’s got great hair, a sexy voice, and what a body … oh, he’s just to die for.”

“Sounds like you’ve got the hots for the guy,” Betty commented.

“I do not,” Jessie said with indignation, “I happen to know Francois is married.  So I just look, but nothing more.”

“Except for drooling,” Betty observed.

When Jessie suddenly stopped walking and turned to her friend, Betty knew something was up.  “What?”

“Why don’t you come with me?”


“Yes you.  You can do with a trim too.  If you’re going to wear my new clothes and my new shoes and probably my new make-up, you might want a new hairdo to match.  The treat’s on me.

Betty gave herself a critical look in one of the store windows.  Her hair looked fine, but she wasn’t about to turn down an opportunity to improve.

“Okay,” she said, “I’ll come with you.”

Friday, December 2, 2011

Chapter 6

“I don’t know about you but I’m bushed,” Betty sighed as they left the shoe store.

“Oh me too,” groaned Jessie.  “I feel absolutely drained.”

Betty’s laughed.  “I’m sure your bank account feels the same way.  What’d you say we go for a cup of coffee? I’ll buy.”

Dividing the packages between them they made their way to the Villa Capri, where they sometimes had breakfast before a shopping expedition or lunch after a shopping spree. Sometimes they just went for a quick cup of coffee and were usually enticed by the desert menu.

But the way to the restaurant was obstructed with all sorts of temptations.  Clothing boutiques, a jewelery store, a card and stationery store, a store of fine porcelain and crystal, and Jessie couldn’t resist looking at everything.  There was no way Jessie could afford the clothes in the boutiques, the jewelery or the porcelain and crystal, but she still liked to stop and look.  It drove Betty crazy.

“Jessie, it’s coffee time,” Betty groaned, “I thought you said you were bushed.”

“No, you said you were bushed,” Jessie turned away from admiring a diamond ring.  “I said I was drained.”

“Well, then show a little compassion and let’s go to the restaurant so we can sit down and have some coffee,” Betty pleaded.

“Alright, alright,” Jessie nodded. 

But her good intentions only lasted until the next boutique, where she just had to admire a jacket.  She didn’t go inside, Jessie limited herself to just window shopping, but it still made Betty impatient.

“Jessie, coffee!” she demanded again.  “I want … correction, I need a cup of coffee and I need it now!”

“Okay,” Jessie agreed, and without any more interruptions they made their way to restaurant.

At Villa Capri a waitress handed them two menus, but Jessie waved them away.  “Two coffee’s please,” she ordered, “and two pieces of cheesecake.  And oh,” she added, “could you hurry please, my friend is having withdrawal symptoms”

The waitress, who recognized Jessie and Betty as regular customers, nodded her understanding with a smile.  People could easily go for hours without bread, fruit or sugar, but let nobody take away their caffeine.

Awaiting their order, Jessie and Betty surveyed the restaurant.  It was shortly after one o’clock and the place was packed.  The mall had three restaurants, but this was by far the most popular.  Jessie guessed it had something to do with the Mediterranean atmosphere.  The dusty blue painted brick walls decorated with bright colored clay plates complimented with elaborate flower arrangements that spilled from huge planters, and the rustic tables and chairs.  The fast, friendly service and excellent food probably had something to do with the popularity too.  Soft music and a buzz of friendly conversation and laughter filled the air.

When the waitress returned with their order, Jessie and Betty wasted no time.  They simultaneously added two packets of sugar to their coffee along with one tub of cream and then took that all important first sip.

“Aaah,” Betty sighed with satisfaction, “there’s just nothing like a good cup of coffee.”

Jessie nodded her agreement.  “The cheesecake isn’t bad either.”

For a few seconds they sat in silence, enjoying their coffee and cake. 

“So are you finished shopping?” Betty asked.

When Jessie shook her head, Betty rolled her eyes.  “Where are you going to drag me now?”

“The drugstore,” Jessie said.  “I would like to look at some make-up.”

“But you never wear make-up,” Betty protested.  “Not even when we go to a club.”

“I know.  But this is the reinvented me,” Jessie pointed out, “and now that I have cute outfits, I’d like to fix my face.”

“But you look nice,” said Betty.  “You don’t need all that stuff.”

“Betty,” Jessie said slightly sharper than she had intended.  “I’m twenty-two years old, and my make-up consists of a pink lipstick and brown mascara.  I think I’m ready for a bit more.”

Betty nodded.  She didn’t agree with her friend, but she could understand her.  “Alright then,” she said, “If you want to do this, you should do it the proper way.”

“And the proper way is?”

“Certainly not a drugstore,” Betty said.  “Go to a beauty salon, let one of the consultants take a look at you, and advise you on the right products and colors.  Or even better … ask for a makeover.”

“A makeover.” 

Jessie liked that idea.  She’d seen people in magazines who had the before and after treatment, and they always came out looking beautiful.  She would be able to see what colors worked for her and how to apply them.  “Let’s go,” she said, already sliding out the booth.

Betty made a grab for her arm.  “Don’t you think we should ask for the bill and pay first?”

“Of course, of course,” Jessie reached for her wallet and put twenty dollars on the table.

“Twenty dollars for two cups of coffee and two pieces of cake?” Betty questioned.

“Not enough?”

“Far too much if you ask me.”

“Oh what the hell, I’m in a generous mood,” Jessie dismissed the issue.

She was so excited about the makeover, but when she arrived at the salon she suddenly got a severe case of cold feet.  She took one look at the brightly lit room, with its mirrors and bottles, and perfectly groomed ladies in white coats, and knew she didn’t belong there.

“Go on then,” Betty gave her a gentle push.  “Go in and make an appointment.”

But Jessie stood rooted to the spot.  “I can’t,” she whispered.

Betty didn’t understand.  First her friend had been all excited about the beauty salon and now that they were here she wouldn’t go through the door?  “What’s the matter?”

“I can’t do this,” Jessie said.

“Why not?”

“Because … because…”

“Because what?”

“Because … they’re going to take one look at me and laugh behind my back.  Let’s just go.”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Betty admonished.  “Why would they laugh at you?”

“Because I’m ugly.”

“No you’re not.”

“I am,” Jessie persisted. 

“No you’re not.”

“Okay, maybe not downright ugly, but I’m certainly not pretty.  Look at me, my hair is out of control and my clothes are shabby and my shoes…”

“Okay, okay, I get the picture,” Betty nodded.  “So you’re not exactly looking your best today, but your clothes and shoes don’t matter, they’re gonna take care of your face and hair.  And you are beautiful.  When you came out of that change room wearing the new outfits you were a knock-out.”


“Would I lie to you?  Now come on, go make the appointment.”

Jessie looked at her friend in desperation.  She dearly wished she had Betty’s classic good looks.  Betty had a perfect heart shaped face, big blue eyes, a dainty nose and rosebud mouth.  She looked every bit like a Scandinavian beauty queen.  Not to mention her straight, smooth silver blond hair that fell like a silken sheet to the small of her back.

“Move it,” Betty urged.

“Alright, alright,” Jessie sighed.  “But you have to come with me.”

Like a lamb being led to the slaughter, Jessie approached the beauty salon.

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