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.”

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