Sharon’s high pitched voice and constant chatter did nothing for Shelly’s hangover, neither did the stripy pink shirt she wore — which was giving Shelly double vision.
“I just can’t believe it — two bloody years we were together then she decides she needs space — time out. I mean, for Pete’s sake, she’s not a teenager. We’re talking about a thirty year old woman,” Sharon said, her blue eyes pierced into Shelly’s before she looked away.
Shelly fought hard to concentrate as she put strokes of varnish on her friends nails. Nausea hit her in waves. Why on earth did I drink so much? she chided herself, as she recounted knocking back tequilas and beers non-stop at the bar the previous night, not giving a thought to how she would feel the next day.
The two women sat opposite each other on one of the many work stations scattered in no particular order in the beauty salon. After a busy day, the rest of the salon was now empty with the rest of the staff, except for Melissa and herself, finished for the day.
“Well I told ‘er, I’ll give you a week to sort your ‘ead out, after that it’s over — finito,” she said, sliding her free hand across her throat in one quick motion. “I’m right, aren’t I Shell? I did say the right thing?” Sharon asked, a scowl frozen on her chubby features, her voice sounding a little uncertain now.
“Yes you said the right thing,” Shelly mumbled as she wished, not for the first time that day, that she was still wrapped up in the warmth of her girlfriend’s arms, buried beneath their feathered quilt, blocking the world out. She looked up for a split second and caught the attention of Melissa, who gave her a sympathetic smile, then carried on wiping down the work stations. Shelly glanced at the large silver clock – four thirty.
She felt some relief at the fact they would be shutting up for the day in less than an hour.
“Well that’s what I thought, I won’t be taken advantage of, no matter how much I love ‘er,” Sharon continued, not stopping to take a breath. She ran her free hand through her shoulder length, wheat-coloured hair, then began clicking her freshly painted nails against the table, the sound grating Shelly’s nerves. “I thought I left all this nonsense behind me when I left school,” she finished, letting out a deep measured breath.
Melissa scrunched the cloth she was using into a ball and walked over to the table where Shelly and Sharon sat. Sensing her nearness, Shelly smiled. Just looking at her, with her light green eyes and short blonde hair still made her go tingly inside, even though they had been dating for eleven years and worked side by side every day. Shelly stopped what she was doing and looked up at Melissa’s distracted features. “What’s up?” she asked her.
“I don’t know,” Melissa said, frowning as she looked out of the window. “There’s an old man across the street, who’s been staring at this place for the last half an hour.”
Shelly turned to look over her shoulder and followed Melissa’s gaze. “Oh yeah,” she said as the man in question quickly looked away as he became aware of the women’s attention.
“D’ya think he’s gonna rob ya?” Sharon said, half standing to get a look for herself, before flopping back down on the chair in a thud.
“I don’t think he’d get very far. He’s not exactly a spring chicken,” Shelly said, turning her attention back to Sharon’s nails, which were nearly finished.
“He might be wearing a disguise,” Sharon widened her eyes. “You hear about that sort of thing all the time, men disguising themselves as helpless victims — then bam when ya least expect it they get ya. Just think of Ted Bundy.”
“You’ve got an over active imagination Sharon. The poor guy might just be waiting for someone.”
“Yeah well, I think I’ll make a mental note of what he looks like just in case,” she said.
“Okay you do that,” Shelly replied, humoring her. Sharon lived on a daily diet of crime TV, she suspected everyone was a potential Jack the ripper.
“I’m sure it’s nothing,” Melissa said squeezing Shelly’s shoulder as she walked past and resumed her chores.
“I can do this,” Joe told himself as he subconsciously twisted the thick, gold wedding band on his finger. He glanced across the road for the tenth time that sunny afternoon, in through the large window of Reflections — a beauty salon where most of the local women went for their weekly pamper. A bead of sweat ran down his forehead, which had nothing to do with the scorching heat and more to do with the tension that was rising within his large frame. At seventy, he had tried to keep himself fit and healthy but in the last few years it had been quite a feat, what with… He couldn’t bear to finish the thought. He just didn’t want to think about it. The sound of the shop bell brought temporary relief as a woman, who had been in there for what seemed an age, exited, her shrills of laughter filling the air.
He pressed his lips together, It’s now or never, he thought as he purposefully strode across the street, stopping just seconds before putting his large hand against the glass pane. “Well here goes,” he said, taking a deep breath before pushing open the door.
The shop was empty except for two attractive beauticians who were sat in front of a large mirror, deep in conversation — one with long, thick auburn hair, twisted into a plait which reached below her waist. The other with short, blonde hair, cut stylishly close to her pretty face. On hearing the door open both women swung round at the same time, startled to see the old man, his bulk filling the door frame.
The blonde spoke first. “Can I help you?” she asked, eyeing him suspiciously.
He knew he looked out of place in these chic, modern surroundings with his receding hairline and drawn face, dark circles under his eyes a permanent fixture.
“I… I,” the words stumbled out his mouth, this was harder than he thought it was going to be. He felt his face turning crimson as he tugged at the collar on his white shirt.
The blonde woman looked towards her colleague. “Haven’t you got to do a stock check Shell?” she asked, sensing the unease from the elderly man. He obviously felt embarrassed about something.
“I do?” she asked looking confused.
Melissa rolled her eyes, before nudging her head towards the door.
“Oh yeah the stock check,” Shelly repeated. “Are you gonna be alright Mel?” She asked looking from the stranger, who stood with both hands in his black trouser pockets, to her girlfriend.
“Yes I’ll be fine.”
“Okay, if you’re sure,” she said standing swiftly from the swivel chair she was sat on. “I’ll be seconds away.” She looked straight at the man as she passed him, indirectly warning him not to try anything funny.
With Shelly busily banging about in the store cupboard just feet away, Melissa stood up and faced Joe directly. “Now what can I do for you?” she asked, her tone soft and soothing. It was the voice she often used on Shelly when she wanted to coax information from her.
Joe’s eyes darted around the room — large photographs of beautiful models were plastered on nearly every wall. A mixture of different perfumes wafted through the air.
“I don’t quite know how to say this,” he said biting his lip.
“Well you’d better say it quickly, we close in an half an hour,” she said, not unkindly.
He gazed into her eyes like a cat weighing up a stranger, could he trust her with his request or would she think he was a freak and call the police. Noticing the way she looked at him, all he saw in her eyes were compassion.
“I… I want you to teach me how to put make-up on,” he said the words in such quick succession that Mel thought she had misunderstood him at first.
“You want me to teach you?”
“Yes,” he nodded. “I want you show me how to do it, I will pay whatever you ask,” he said his voice beginning to shake.
“Hey, it’s okay,” Melissa said, visibly relieved. She put her small hand on his forearm. “I won’t charge you anymore than I would any other customer.”
“You mean you’ll do it!” he asked, his eyes widening.
“Of course I will,” she said letting out a little laugh. “And you’re in luck because I’m the best make-up artist this town has to offer, even if I do say so myself,” she joked, trying to put him at ease.
“I am lucky then,” he said smiling back at her.
“Come on, take a seat and we’ll get you looking pretty in no time at all.”
Joe sat his heavy frame onto the seat, the soft leather sagging under his weight. He looked head on into the mirror. When did I become so old? he thought, as the harsh lights highlighted every nook and cranny on his face.
“Do you mind if I takes some notes? So I know what you’re doing,” he asked her as she sat on a stool beside him.
“No, of course not.”
He turned to face her. “I really can’t thank you enough Mel, can I call you Mel?”
“Yep, that’s what all my friends call me” she said smiling. “And what do I call you?”
“Please excuse my manners, I’m Joe.”
“Okay Joe, let’s see what we can do then,” she said as she began preparing his face for a full make over by using cleanser on a swab of cotton wool. “This is what you use to get rid of dirt, although you may think your face is clean,” she said giving the skin a thorough wipe, “you’d be surprised how much dirt still remains,” she finished, showing him the dirt on the white cotton.
“Oh my,” Joe said.
“So you always start off with the concealer,” she said as she opened a small tube and squirted out some of its contents, rubbing it quickly over parts of his face, concentrating on his afternoon shadow for a few seconds longer. “This is what hides all the things we women don’t want people to see,” she said winking at him.
He let out a small laugh as he committed her comment to the memory of his pad.
“Now we apply the foundation, to even out the colour of your skin.”
She swirled his chair round to face her. “Keep your eyes closed for a few seconds, I don’t want to poke you in the eye.”
She expertly applied the eye shadow, before pulling down each eyelid to roll the thin edge of the eye liner across it, finishing off with mascara.
“Hmmm let’s see,” she said tapping the blusher brush against her lips. “I think we’ll use this colour,” she said dabbing the bushy brush into the dark pink powder. “Okay now I need you to pout like this,” she said sucking in her lips.
Joe opened his eyes. “Can I just write down the last few steps, I don’t want to forget anything.”
“Sure,” she said watching him as he meticulously wrote down what she had done so far. She wondered if he was a closet transvestite — each to their own, she thought as she conjured up an image of her friend Stephen, who she had often done his make-up for. Although, she had to admit, his make-up was hardcore compared to how she was applying Joe’s.
“Okay, all ready,” he said resting his head back against the seat. After several attempts to suck in his podgy cheeks and failing, Melissa felt for his cheekbone with the tip of her finger and applied a quick brush of the pink powder on either side.
“What colour would you like on your lips?”
“Red,” he said thoughtfully. “A deep red.”
“Red it is,” she said pulling the cap of the lipstick and applying it to his razor thin lips.
Turning his chair back towards the mirror she asked, “What’d do you think, not bad aye?”
“You’ve done a beautiful job,” he half sobbed. “I think she will love it.”
“She?” Melissa asked, looking confused.
“Yes my wife Elsie, she recently lost her sight and she can’t put on her own make-up anymore. We’ve been married for fifty years and she is the most beautiful woman in the world to me,” he said as his eyes misted over with nostalgia. “But she has lost confidence in herself. I can’t do anything for her eyes, but I want her to feel special and loved like before. I’m learning this so that I can put make-up on her face so she can feel beautiful on the outside again, as much as she is on the inside.”
Copyright 2013 by Jade Winters.
All rights reserved. This short story or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the author. All characters in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.