Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Hum (06/06/13)
TITLE: The Beauty Appointment
By Sara Harricharan
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I noticed it sometime around my sixty-ninth trip to the beauty salon. I picked days based on what gossip I could tolerate.
Mondays were for Mrs. Jameson, who knew everything about everyone in Colebury, kept me well informed, whether I wanted to be or not. Her rants, lectures and commentary provided stimulating food for thought.
On Tuesdays, Miss Berkley attended and always for the same amount of time, for the exact same hairstyle, the exact same manicure, pedicure and eyebrow wax, topped off by the exact same conversation. She refused to have anyone other than Mira handle her treatments and their efficiency was something to be admired. I made appointments on Tuesdays when I felt lazy. Just watching them was enough to guilt me into keeping things straight for the remainder of the week.
Wednesdays featured twin stylists, Amy and Audra. An amazing duo, for sure, though I remain utterly terrified at the thought of trusting myself to their talents. They also look like bookends.
Gorgeous, gothic bookends. I shall say no more.
Thursdays were reserved for the Bingo Book club. They played according to chapter numbers with prizes that had to do with footing the bill. From them, I learned about bargaining, geography, romance, politics, perfect murders and which church would have the best potluck that week.
Fridays were movie days. The beauty salon’s owner, a cute young thing in her mid-twenties, kept a running subscription to a cloud movie service. She would make a list of popular movies for the week and take a running vote from the customers with colored beads in clear jars along the reception desk.
If you were lucky enough to land a time-slot on a Friday afternoon, you would be treated to a movie with snacks—complete with paper popcorn cones so you couldn’t possibly smudge your nails. I’ve managed it twice, before my husband wanted to know why I was spending so much money on a simple French manicure.
The stylists, hairdressers, nail artists, whatever you call them, were friendly and cheerful women of varying ages and skill. The same way I knew the weekly regulars, the same way I came to know them.
Except for Dyshona.
She was the quiet girl with quiet customers and I never recalled her ever saying anything that wasn’t strictly work-related—such as whether to tilt your head, hold steady, or to confirm if you’d like the usual.
Today was Wednesday. I broke two nails and Carter stuck gum in my hair again. I need today’s appointment for the sake of my frayed sanity. I grabbed a seat beside Dyshona’s station.
She worked on Mrs. Steiner—who, according to Mrs. Jameson—is in the middle of a rather nasty divorce. She looks terrible today. Poor Mrs. Steiner. She holds her head up in church, wears designer scarves to the grocery store and couldn’t boil water.
The faintest strains of music touched my ears.
I leaned forward, head cocked to the side. My Iphone was on vibrate and the salon never had music playing, but sounded familiar.
The song was so soft and wistful, I was halfway out of my seat, before it stopped in mid-track and switched to another tune, this one a little cheerier and a little louder. I sat back with a heavy thump.
Dyshona was humming.
I couldn’t recognize the song. She didn’t seem to be humming anything in particular, though I recognized the chorus of a hymn or two. Mrs. Steiner seemed to gradually calm as Dyshona’s expert hands worked their magic. By the time Dyshona had set the timer for the second stage, a faint smile had come to Mrs. Steiner’s face.
“You have a good memory,” she murmured.
Dyshona merely smiled and switched tunes. She repeated this style-and-hum routine for three more customers. Each left smiling and decidedly more at ease than when they’d arrived. I heard songs I hadn’t heard in years that made me think of things I hadn’t thought of in years.
I watched her work, waving away offers from the twins and other stylists. Like the others, she had a strict reservation list, but that her afternoons were free for walk-ins at her own discretion. By the time Mrs. Steiner was finished, I found myself willing to forgo my dessert budget for the sake of being in her shoes.
I wanted to know what she would hum for me.
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