Fiction Saturday – And Pull The Hole In After You – Continued
Fiction Saturday – And Pull The Hole In After You – Continued
Laura knew that she had to conquer her fears, both rational and irrational, or she wouldn’t make it. She would end up taking her revolver to bed. She knew that it was just too dangerous to start resuming any kind of a normal life. But she also knew that she had to try. It was a risk, but life is a risk.
Baby steps. I need to take baby steps first, she repeated to herself.
The next morning, her internal alarm clock woke her at 6:45 and wouldn’t let her roll over and catch even a few more minutes of sleep. She had tossed and turned most of the night–her brain trying to plot a course that would allow her to survive.
Looking in the bathroom mirror she bemoaned the sorry state of her hair. She was used to weekly trips into Manhattan to her favorite salon and to the red door at Elizabeth Arden for pampering and advice on how to stay looking twenty-five, in spite of a rapidly approaching thirty-five. She ran her fingers through her hair, cringing at the butchered ends and the unevenness of it all.
Laura sat on the end of her bed and watched the “Today Show” without really watching. The local news and weather break came on at twenty-five minutes after the hour. The perky local weather girl reported that it was going to be, “a great day in the Bay Area, a high of 78 and sunny. So, get out there and live a little,” she urged, showing off several thousand dollars worth of corrective dental work.
To Laura it seemed like the young weather girl was speaking directly to her.
“You’re right, kid. That’s what I need to do. Get out and live a little,” answered Laura, speaking to the screen.
She got herself dressed and pushed aside the bedroom drapes. The fog had already receded and bright sunlight poured in. Perched on a branch not twenty feet across the parking lot she saw one of San Francisco’s famous wild parrots, a riot of red, blue, green and yellow.
The flocks of wild parrots that flourish today throughout San Francisco started as escapees from the gilded cages of the wealthy nabobs and robber barons of the 19th century. Now, the parrots were flying free and adding a colorful vibrancy to life in the city.
“That’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen,” she said out loud.
The parrot spread its wings, looked in Laura’s direction and flew away, climbing into the bright morning sky.
With the large “Jackie O” sunglasses covering her eyes, the blue baseball cap pulled low, and wearing her black flats, Laura ventured out into the morning. There was still a chill in the air, but it held the promise of a warmer day. She was glad that she’d brought along the denim jacket purchased in Indiana.
She walked down Chestnut Street, the sidewalks still fairly empty, with mostly the neighborhood locals out for a stroll or the day’s first espresso. Along her route was a small shop that specialized in cigarettes, cigars and out-of-town newspapers. She resisted the temptation to buy a copy of the New York Times and picked up her pace.
At the next corner was a cafe with a half dozen glass tables set out on their patio – a single yellow rose in a clear vase on each one. Four of the tables were occupied by people sipping coffee, reading their newspapers. Another was taken by a young couple having breakfast. The sight of the huge omelets and the stemmed mimosa glasses made Laura stop and stare.
Without thinking further she walked into the cafe and took a seat inside the main part of the restaurant, avoiding the patio tables. From her wicker chair she could see up and down the street, but sat, protected, in the soft shadows. She took off the sunglasses and smiled. It had been a while.
Laura sat in the cafe, relishing a western omelet, eating every last bit and savoring the rich, dark, locally roasted coffee. The breakfast crowd had thinned and the young waiter didn’t try to rush her. She relaxed and enjoyed the passing view on the street.
Some of the stores were beginning to open for business and a few early morning tourists were strolling about, looking in every window. When a light flashed on in a second floor window across the street it caught Laura’s eye. In the brightly lit window she could see someone pulling up a bamboo blind. It was a young Asian-looking woman with magenta streaks in her hair. As the woman moved away and out of sight, Laura could make out the large white lettering on the glass.
“Paris of the East Salon,” she read. In slightly smaller letters underneath she saw, “Walk-ins Welcome.”
With her hand unconsciously lifting to touch her hair, Laura said to herself, Oh, God, is that ever what I need! Pulling her hand back down she added, But don’t push your luck, girl.
It was 9 a.m. and Chestnut Street was coming to life. Laura knew that too much life could bring her death. It was time to climb back down into her hole.
She left cash, plus a nice tip, on her table and started out of the cafe. Still in the shade, she looked up at the salon again and decided that it wouldn’t hurt to check it out. Her do-it-yourself cut and color actually made her stand out in the well-styled Marina, she feared.
Instead of turning right and heading back to her hideaway, Laura went left and walked the short distance to the next intersection. When the light turned green, she crossed the street and headed back down Chestnut toward the salon.
As she walked, she debated, not only whether or not this was a good idea, but if it was even a sane one. So far, this morning had been the best day she’d had since leaving New York. Things actually seemed a bit hopeful. She understood how that parrot outside her window must feel. She wanted– no, needed–to feel that her life was under her control again, even if just for a few hours. There was danger in staying exposed, but there was also danger in giving in to the fear and crawling back into her hole.
Within a couple of minutes she was standing across the street from the cafe and was staring at the door and the stairway beyond leading up to the Paris of the East. Below the name on the glass door, in an elegant script, Laura saw again, “Walk-ins Welcome,” with an added line in a plain font, “This means you, girl.” She turned the knob and climbed the stairs.
At the top of the stairs she saw that the salon was one large open space, well-lit and decorated with huge vases and floral arrangements accented with what looked like ancient carvings lifted from the temples at Angkor Wat. There were six stations–all empty at this early hour.
The young woman Laura had seen from the cafe, complete with magenta hair, was behind the front counter and greeted her.
“Good morning. Welcome to Paris of the East. What can we do for you today?” Laura took off her baseball cap. “Oh,” said the young woman, “question asked and answered.”
Laura nodded and said, “I know. I did it to myself and I just can’t live with it any more. Can you help me?”
“Well, let’s take a closer look at that and see what we’re up against. Come on back and have a seat.”
The young Asian girl escorted her to an empty chair hidden behind a large vase filled with Birds of Paradise. Laura sat and looked at herself in the mirror.
“It seemed like a good idea at the time,” she said and closed her eyes.
The stylist pursed her lips as she inspected the hair.
“We’ve all been there, Sugar. I once shaved my head to spite a man. I should have shaved his instead.” She stroked Laura’s scraggly hair and took a long look at the roots. “Well–I’ve got good news and I’ve got bad news,” she proclaimed. Laura opened her eyes, looked at the girl in the mirror, and sighed.
“Let’s hear it all, the good and the bad.”
The stylist shook her more-than-shoulder length, jet-black hair, generously accented with magenta, and brushed the bangs away from her almond eyes. Laura noticed that her eye shadow was also magenta. A bit of glitter glistened off her runway model cheekbones.
“Okay. The good news is that whatever that crap was that you used to color your hair is just semi-permanent, so we can get rid of that color without having to strip it. It’s been mistreated enough.” She studied Laura’s hair with a disgusted look on her face.
“And the bad news?” Laura inquired with a clenched jaw.
The stylist stepped back, spun the chair around and pushed her face just inches away from Laura’s.
“The bad news is–Girl, if you ever do this to your hair again I, personally, will kick your ass.”
She wagged her finger in Laura’s face, scolding her like a child. Before Laura could respond the stylist turned the chair so that it was facing the mirror again. Laura looked up at her reflection to see that the young stylist was smiling. “Now, let’s get to work. What’s your natural color, Babe, or can you even remember?”
As the morning went on the shop got busier with a mix of hipsters and matrons coming in, all looking for their own version of perfect. The other chairs filled and a crew of twenty-something Asian girls and cliché gay men cut, colored and curled.
Three hours later, Laura left the salon having been dyed, styled, manicured and pedicured. She saw her reflection in the glass door as she descended the stairs and she was smiling. She loved the new short, light ash blonde cut. It was lighter than she had ever colored before, but it suited her complexion and it would be easy to maintain.
As Laura stepped onto Chestnut Street she started to put on the baseball cap, took one more look in the glass and stuffed the cap into her back pocket. She felt alive.