I arrive early and buy a ‘power latte’ –a 20 oz keep-me-from-falling-on-my-ass
hot beverage–from Mocha Madness and then walk down a hallway of salons, slowing
down at The Nail Nook. Just yesterday my nails were done: ‘Passionate Purple’-the
perfect shade. I glance down at my purple cowl-neck sweater and smile.
Absentmindedly, I lift the coffee cup to my lips and suddenly my manicurist pops her
head out from her salon’s doorway and startles me. My sip turns into a gulp, scorching
my tongue. I spew out the frothy liquid onto the floor and moan.
“Are you all right?” she asks.
I stare at the slick spot near my feet and then look up at her worried face “Damn
dwink, too hot… but I’m ok. Sowwy for the mess.” My stinging tongue makes my words
come out strange.
“Don’t worry, I’ll wipe it up. Bet you’re excited. The big day has finally arrived-it’s
Wedding Hair Time!”
“Yeah.” I plaster a smile across my face.
She leans close to me and speaks in a low voice. “What’s up with Marco? He’s
been in the salon so early these last few days. So unlike him. I might be wrong, but I
think he’s sleeping in your backroom?”
My face reddens at the realization that my manicurist knows more about the
goings-on in my salon than I do.
“Hey, that’s Marco. It’s better not knowing.” I give her a sheepish grin and shrug
my shoulders. She laughs in her usual good-hearted way.
I think about the last few days and feel the fool for not connecting the dots.
Diagonally across from her salon is my business- Brush & Blush, a hair and
makeup salon. The lights are on and salsa dance music reverberates from the audio
system. I storm in searching for Marco, who is the makeup artist and co-owner of our
salon. I rush toward the backroom and notice the designer pillows arranged differently
on the foldaway sleeper sofa. A whiff of aftershave lotion drifts out from the adjoining
bathroom. A sudden tap on my shoulder almost makes me lose my grip on my damn
coffee cup. I turn around-it’s Marco. His tired, troubled eyes surprisingly only provoke
“You know how important today is. I’m not even going to ask you why you’re
sleeping in the backroom. I don’t have time for this!” A throbbing headache now
replaces the pain in my mouth.
“Don’t worry about me, Melanie. How are you doing?”
I cup my hand around his neck in a faux chokehold.
“That good, huh?” Marco chuckles and I watch his eyes brighten. He takes my
hand from his neck and gently swings me around, his hips swaying to the beat. I let the
bold rhythms flood my mind until the song is over and I have to ‘face the music.’
“Things will be ok, won’t they?” I ask after we stop dancing.
“I don’t know. How’s your wrist?”
I frown and look up at him. “You mean my carpal tunnel pain? It doesn’t help
when I have to back-brush thick, coarse hair. But I’m feeling better today, so I’m going
to put that hair trial fiasco behind me.”
We pull out supplies and start to set up our workstations.
“I hope things will go more smoothly with your sister.”
“Smoothly-you had to say that word.” I stare daggers at him.
Two weeks ago, at her hair trial, my sister said to me, “I’ve been told you’re the
hair magician. So do your magic on me. If anyone can make my hair smooth, you can!
Make my ‘Bozo clown hair’ disappear. Poof!” I recalled cringing at her silliness.
‘Bozo clown hair’ was her own self-deprecating term and she used it often when
we were young. Back then, the words were cute and she was adorable- a full head of
red curly hair, her plump dimpled face sprinkled with freckles, and her outlandish mix-
“I know it was not all your fault,” Marco says trying to come near me. I shove him
“What do you mean-all? My sister wanted her hair smoother. I told her I could
only do so much. It’s like ‘putting lipstick on a pig. It will still be a pig.’ If anyone gets it,
“Yeah, I get it. You’re serving up burnt pork and Rosalie’s crazy enough to come
back for seconds. Ah, sisterly love.”
“My sister squirmed in the chair. It was the ultimate bad hair day.”
“You burned her with your flat iron. Melanie, Melanie, what are we going to do
My eyes suddenly feel damp and I swipe at them. He tries to console me.
“I didn’t do anything wrong.” I wriggle out of his hold.
“I’m here for you, you know.” His voice floats after me as I escape to the
I throw myself on the sofa where he slept, burying my head into the plush pillows.
I’m not going to make it through today. Haven’t been sleeping well. So much on
my mind. So tired. Should be so happy. It’s my niece Lily’s wedding day. And I’m a
wreck. And it’s all because of Rosalie.
This past week, she left a voicemail, saying how sorry she was that her hair trial
gave me such difficulty. Only my oh-so-sweet sister would relieve me of any blame.
That’s just how she is-too nice for her own good.
I ignored that call, having learned my lesson from an earlier call that I answered
by mistake. I can still hear her bubbly, melodic voice.
“Hey, I actually reached you, for a change. I’ve been sooo busy with wedding
stuff, but you know me, I love my choral group and we’re putting on a performance. It’s
a concert of love songs, a week from today. Isn’t that perfect? You’re off on Mondays.
We’ll all go out for dinner afterwards. l can get you a ticket.”
I answered her quickly. “Don’t think that’ll work for me. Can’t talk now. Need to
buy supplies for my salon.” The last thing I wanted to do was sit through a concert of
love songs with my sister’s husband, their daughter, and her husband-to-be. I was free
that Monday evening, but I chose to stay home. Alone!
I rub my eyes, trying to keep them open. I hear in my head, Marco’s voice
repeating, “Ah, sisterly love. Ah, sisterly love…” My eyes flutter.
I put a tape in the boom box, press play, and climb on a makeshift stage-an old
mattress that lies on the basement floor-to join Rosalie. We hold mics-two purple
hairbrushes-close to our mouths and belt out “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” while
jumping and rocking to the beat. In the middle of the song, we go into our hairbrush-
juggling act that we’ve been practicing for days-underhand, behind our backs, twirling
and tossing our brushes like batons. We continue to sing along with Cyndi Lauper. At
the end, we take deep bows and blow kisses to our audience of stuffed animals and
Barbie dolls. Finally exhausted, we fall down in a heap of purple frilly taffeta. I take one
of the brushes and gently pull it through Rosalie’s thick curly hair while Rosalie sings
one of her made-up songs. Her sweet youthful voice floats through the air… Then loud
voices, adult voices rush in and drown out her singing.
I twist back and forth on the sofa as someone shakes me. My eyes flutter open
and Marco’s face comes into my hazy vision as my dream evaporates.
“Stop it,” I groan. “I’m up!”
“Good, ’cause our staff’s here. Your sister, your niece, and her bridesmaids
should arrive any moment.”
I slowly rise from the sofa, lift my head high, slide my fingers down my skin-tight
black leather pants, adjust my sweater, and look down to admire my brand-new Jimmy
I hear her lilting voice-“Aunt Melanie, I’m here”-before I see her. Lily rushes
toward me, her garment bag flings across my back as she pulls me into a hug. She
hangs up her long fur coat in the backroom closet along with her wedding gown. Also
hanging up in the closet is a little, black, sexy number I bought for the wedding.
Lily and I leave the backroom together. Her warm hand squeezes mine. I don’t
want to let go of her. I glance at Lily’s distressed skinny jeans and Dolce Vita studded
boots and smile.
Out of the corner of my eye, I see Rosalie at the doorway with Ron. My old
boyfriend has changed since our college days. He’s balding and has put on some
weight. He hands his wife her garment bag and says, “See you later at the church,
Rosie, have fun!”
I watch her come into my salon, looking the place over as if she hasn’t been here
before. I take a deep breath and approach my sister who thankfully starts talking.
“Hi, Mel, nice sweater. Purple-that’s always been your color. Remember when
we were in school and borrowed each other’s clothes. Actually, I borrowed more of
yours. You always have been stylish!”
A younger, handsomer Ron pops in my mind. Clothes were not the only thing you
borrowed back then, Rosalie.
“I don’t think I can borrow your clothes anymore.” She giggles and awkwardly
pats her hips.
My sister wears baggy jeans and a sweatshirt covered with kittens and flowers.
“Nice sweatshirt.” I give her a weak grin. I can be pleasant, too. “You don’t need to
worry about me borrowing it.”
“Yeah, it’s too cutesy for you, but at least it’s comfortable.” Rosalie scrutinizes my
clothes and then asks, “Mel, where should I hang up my dress?”
My sister is the only one that has ever called me Mel instead of Melanie. At one
time, I liked that nickname. She now looks at me with that oh-so-sweet smile of hers
which drives me crazy.
“Mom, I’ll take it from you.” Lily runs to her mother and takes the garment bag
from her hand. She turns to me and says, “Aunt Melanie, show Mom the hairdo I finally
decided on.” Then she disappears into the backroom leaving the two of us alone.
I place the heavy ‘Wedding Hair’ book on the glass coffee table that’s in the
waiting area. A crystal chandelier sparkles over the table. Rosalie sinks into a plush
loveseat, slides the book closer to her, and opens it to a page with a bookmark labeled,
‘Lily.’ I sit next to her and swallow down the rest of my latte that is now cold. The
awkward silence between us rattles me and I’m relieved when Lily returns.
“I thought you wanted a fancy up-do. Your bridesmaids are doing that style,”
Rosalie says to her daughter.
“At my hair trial, we decided on something different,” Lily says.
“No one told me.” Rosalie shakes her head.
Lily stands near me, her hand gently on my shoulder. With my fingers, I comb
through her long wavy blond strands.
Rosalie’s eyes are on the two of us.
I smile as I take Lily’s hand into my own and look at my sister.
“Beautiful waves and braiding-it’s the latest style for brides. I’m sure you will
“Aunt Melanie does the best braiding. It’s an art form, Mom.”
I squeeze my niece’s hand and say, “Oh, sweetie, I’m so glad you decided on it.”
I then turn to my sister. “The love-knot braid is complex and lovely and it’s worth all of
the work involved. I think she should look different, stand out from everyone else.”
Lily looks my way. Her face shines with admiration.
“Whatever you think is best, you’re her stylist,” Rosalie says in a vindictive tone
and roughly pushes the book to the center of the table. The book stops short of
knocking over a delicate vase of flowers. My sister squirms in the loveseat and suddenly
looks down at her lap.
Lily looks at her mother with concern. “Mom, why are you upset with Aunt
Melanie? What did she do wrong?”
A grin sneaks across my face.
Rosalie slowly raises her head, looks at her daughter and then to me. Her bottom
lip trembles as if she wants to say something. She shakes it away, smiles, and takes
her daughter’s hand and says, “It’s nothing, Lily, everything’s fine.”
Then Lily’s bridesmaids come in chit chatting, giggling, and giving everyone
I tell everyone, “I know it’s early to drink, but those who want champagne-it’s in
the fridge in the backroom. Hey, it’s a salon party!”
I slip away to set up champagne glasses on a small table in the backroom. Then
I make a stop in the bathroom.
Through the bathroom door, I hear Marco and Lily’s voices as they enter the
backroom. They’re unaware that anyone is in the bathroom.
“Mom’s been acting strange, lately. Maybe it was a bad idea having it here. This
is just not her kind of thing.”
“I heard she does her hair at home. And goes to Great Clips for haircuts,” Marco
“Yeah, she likes things simple. I was hoping this would be fun for her. Then two
weeks ago, she was burned at her hair trial. It was an accident, but it still upset her. On
top of that, Aunt Melanie couldn’t go to Mom’s concert and that upset her too. And just
now, she became frazzled over my hairstyle choice. Mom never acts like that. She’s the
calm one in our family. Something’s wrong.”
“Don’t worry Lily. I’m sure it’s nothing. It’s time to party! I’m getting some
“Yeah, I have to stop worrying. I know it’s just wedding day jitters…for both of us.
A drink is what I need! Let’s get this party started, Marco. I’m getting married today!”
My heart races while I eavesdrop. Finally, they leave and I take deep breaths to
calm down before sneaking back into the salon. I look at my watch keeping track of the
time we have left before the limo arrives. I turn the wall unit TV to mute and switch the
audio system to my playlist.
Suddenly the room hushes as Rosalie’s voice floats through the air blending with
Adele singing “Hello.” My sister sounds just like my favorite singer. The beautiful, soulful
song spreads over me like a gentle caress.
Finally, I pay attention, truly listen to the lyrics.
“Hello from the other side. I must have called a thousand times. To tell you I’m
I wonder: Is Rosalie trying to tell me she’s sorry for everything she has done… or
should I be? I look towards her and it seems like she’s miles away even though she’s in
the same room. All of the sudden, I feel like crying, but can’t.
Then Lily and her bridesmaids join in the chorus, singing into their cellphones
with their exaggerated Adele impersonations. I’m transported back in time. I catch my
sister smiling at me and we’re young again. For a moment, I forget the reason she’s
here until she speaks and I’m brought back to the present.
“Mel, so what are we going to do with this hair of mine?” She reaches up, fluffs
her hair with her fingers, and laughs.
“You turned down a haircut during your trial. But you could use one, Rosalie. It
will make it easier for me to blow dry and flat iron your hair if it’s shorter. But it’s up to
“I don’t know. I do have a lot of hair. Always wanted my hair to be like yours,
“Can’t always get what you want, Rosalie. So what will it be?”
“I’m a little worried about trying something different, something new so last
minute. I’m sorry, Mel, but I think you should do it the same way you did during my hair
trial. It didn’t come out bad. And, what’s the odds of me getting burned again?” She
bites her lip and looks up at me for confirmation.
“Alright, Rosalie, we’ll try it again.” I look down at my weakened wrist. Oh Lord,
give me strength!
I walk her to the shampoo area and decide to shampoo her myself while Lily sits
in the next chair waiting for one of the shampoo girls.
“Do you believe it, Mom, I’m getting married!” Lily gushes and reaches over to
hold her mother’s hand.
It’s the perfect image-mother and daughter holding hands. I stare at their hands
and then down at my empty ones.
“Are you ready, Rosalie? It’s time to make you beautiful.” The words spill out of
my mouth like the scorching hot coffee from this morning. My sister gives me a strange
look and releases her daughter’s hand. I smile.
I wrap the cape snug around Rosalie’s neck and she squirms. I pump out a squirt
of shampoo into my palm and spread it through her hair. My nails dig in as my fingers
massage Rosalie’s lathery scalp, my sister squirms again in the seat. I rinse her out and
again she squirms.
“How’s the water, Rosalie?” I ask and move the spray nozzle through her hair.
She rubs at her eyes with her left hand that she pulled out from under the cape. I see
her ring-not a bad looking rock that Ron gave her.
“I guess it’s alright, Mel,” she says, sucking in her breath.
We walk back to my workstation and I plug in the flat iron to heat it up. I comb out
her hair, pulling through the stubborn tangles. I look around to see how everyone is
doing. Lily has her wet hair wrapped up in a towel turban and Marco is working on her
“I’ll be right back, Rosalie, and then blow dry, flat iron, and you’re done,” I
swallow down the words and run over to see Lily’s makeup.
“You’re an artist, Marco. Just lovely,” I tell him.
“Easy when I have a beautiful canvas to work on,” he says to Lily who giggles.
“Lily, after I’m done with your mom, you’re next.”
“Aunt Melanie, this place is awesome and you’re awesome. You’re the reason I
got a business degree and now work in the fashion business. Being just a wife and a
mother would never be enough for me. That’s Mom’s life. I don’t want it to be mine. I
I watch Lily finish a second glass of champagne. I turn around hoping my sister
heard her words. Our eyes meet. When Rosalie and I were young, we felt we could
read each other’s thoughts-sadness now fills my mind and I turn from her painful gaze.
Lily slides off the swivel seat and gives me a hug. Then she runs through the
salon to see how everyone is doing, her champagne splashing over the rim of her glass.
A shampoo girl runs after her wiping the drips with a towel.
“Lily, easy on that,” Rosalie warns her as she runs by.
“Lighten up Mom. It’s my wedding day!” She goes back to the fridge and fills her
“Lily, get back here. I’m not done with you, yet,” Marco firmly reprimands her.
I look at my watch. We have an hour and a half left. I hurry back to Rosalie and
start blow-drying her hair. Pulling and rolling back section after section after section of
hair through a large roller brush with my right hand and a blow dryer in my left. Over and
over and over, I tug through her uncooperative hair until it behaves. Thankfully, my right
wrist feels strong.
“I’m sorry-I changed my mind, maybe you should’ve cut my hair,” Rosalie says
all of the sudden, her voice shaky.
“You’ve got to be kidding. You had your chance and you blew it. Now don’t you
dare move an inch. Don’t even breathe.” As soon as the words emerge from my mouth,
I wish I never said them. But there’s no turning back. I have a job to do.
My heavy-duty ceramic flat iron’s flashing light lets me know that it’s hot. I slowly
pull it out of its holder while my sister watches with fearful eyes. Her body stiffens as I
come closer. I spray a section with a protective sealer that helps shine and smooth the
hair follicles. I then clamp the iron on the moist strands, the iron sizzles, and a steamy
mist floats upward. I’m amazed at how easy the iron slides through her hair. I clip back
sections I’m not working on and systematically straighten and smooth the strands. Into
my palm, I spray some finishing mousse and finger it through her hair. As I walk around
and admire my work, I do a final brushing.
Her hair is unbelievably beautiful! I’ve always loved the color – auburn with
coppery red highlights. Now it is smooth and shiny.
Our childhood words pop into my head-‘Bozo hair, disappear!’ I am a hair
magician. I laugh with victory and delight.
I expect my sister to join in the laughter, but there’s only silence. All she does is
look down at her lap. Curiously, she never looks at the mirror or at me.
Then Rosalie slowly lifts her face that’s streaming with tears. “Why would you
laugh at me?”
I try to explain but she scrambles out of her chair and runs past me to the
Lily stumbles over and takes the empty seat. “What’s with Mom, how come she’s
not having her makeup done?” Lily slurs her words.
I watch Marco run after Rosalie. “I don’t know, Lily, but I should go and see
what’s wrong. One of my stylists will finish your hair.”
“But I want you, Aunt Melanie. I can’t believe this. My mom’s going to ruin
“Lily, your mom could never do that.” Miserably, I think, I’m the one who ruins
things. I turn to one of my hair stylists. “Please, get Lily some strong black coffee, now,
and then blow dry her out. We decided on a love knot braid amongst loose waves.”
I look at my watch as I run. Forty-five minutes left. I enter the backroom and
Marco is comforting my sister. He sees me at the door and approaches me, his face
“You got a big problem here and you better take care of it.”
“I know. I’ll find out what’s wrong.”
“By the way, Rosalie’s hair came out lovely. She’s beautiful, you know, even
without makeup. So kiss and make-up and then get her over to me.”
I walk over to Rosalie who is sitting on the sofa. I take a seat next to her.
“Why do you hate me so?” she asks, her voice barely audible, her eyes
“I don’t hate you.” I take a deep breath and continue, “I hate myself, I hate that
I’m jealous of you. And this wedding has brought it out full force. It’s been brewing inside
me for a while and I don’t know how to get rid of it.”
“You’re jealous of me?” She suddenly looks toward me.
“Yeah, you have a husband…don’t look at me like that. I know you never stole
him from me. I never had Ron in the first place. He was just one of many boyfriends.
Easy come, easy go. And marriage-was never my forte. Two divorces to prove it. But
you are successful at marriage and being a homemaker-things I was never good at.” I
sniffle back bitter tears. “I don’t know if I would’ve been a good mother. But I’m jealous
that you have Lily.”
Rosalie squirms in her seat and looks at me. She takes a deep breath in.
“I never thought I would admit this to you…but I’m just a mother, not even sure if
I’m a good one. Lily sees me as nagging, overprotective, and uncool. For quite some
time, she hasn’t listened to my advice. She is very independent and doesn’t need me,
“She will always need you. You know she loves you.” I tell her.
“Of course she loves me. But I want to be her role model, too. But she wants to
be like you-a successful business woman. That pleases and worries me. I want her to
have it all. But I know that’s hard. I hated what she said about my life, because it was
true. Sometimes, I regret that I didn’t try for it all. Instead, settling for just being
someone’s wife, someone’s mother. Maybe I’m afraid to find who I really am without
them. I think this wedding has brought all of these feeling out in me, too. Because I’m
jealous of you, too.”
“Yeah, you’re so successful and talented and stylish and beautiful-things that I
“You’ve always been those things. You’re a wonderful wife. I see how Ron looks
at you. I never had that kind of relationship. Both of you raised a wonderful daughter.
That makes you a successful parent, Rosalie. You have talent-your lovely voice. You
sing as if you were meant to perform. I should have been at that concert to show my
support for you. Well, about being stylish? I’ll give you that.”
Rosalie nods her head and laughs and I continue.
“But beautiful? You have always been beautiful-inside and out. If I weren’t so
full of myself, I would have told you that. And beauty is my business. I failed miserably
for causing you to fear an experience that gives most of my clients-pleasure.
And playing a tug-of-war game with you-with the prize being Lily’s love-was
ridiculous, since she loves both of us. Just like the mean games, I used to play with old
boyfriends and ex-husbands. Today, I saw in your eyes, the pain that I was causing
you. I’m so sorry, Ro.” I swipe at wet eyes.
“You called me Ro? It’s been a long time since you called me that. I miss those
days.” Rosalie reaches for my hand.
“Do you think we can ever get those days back? Be true sisters again?” I feel my
“I don’t know. I hope so. It’s worth trying.” She hugs me.
I walk to the closet, take out Rosalie’s forest green velvet gown from the garment
bag, and hand it to her. She slips the dress on and I zip up the back. She slides into her
shoes. I take her hand and lead her to a full-length mirror. She stares at herself for a
long time. Then she strikes a few poses like a model. Then we both get silly in front of
the mirror and laugh like children.
“Ro, I better get you to Marco for your makeup, before he wrings my neck.”
“He’s a good friend, Mel.”
Marco pokes his head into the doorway. “Good, you kissed and made-up, ’bout
time. Now get out of here because Lily and her bridesmaids need the room.”
He puts a cape over Rosalie and does her makeup. I watch her reflection smiling
back at me.
“The limo is here!” One of the hair stylist shouts.
The bridesmaids parade out of the backroom. Then Lily is framed in the
doorway-a picture filled with love and hope for the future.
“Don’t cry, you’re going to mess up your makeup,” Marco tells Rosalie.
Rosalie turns to me, kisses my cheek, and says, “See you at the church, Mel.”
She takes her daughter’s hand and they follow the bridesmaids to the limo.
The salon is now empty other than for Marco and me. I sit in the swivel chair and
he takes a cotton ball, pours on toner, and applies it on my skin. It stings slightly.
“Marco, you’re my best friend, and I treated you terribly, this morning. I don’t
“Nope, you don’t. At least you entertain me. The soap opera -As the Salon Turns
-is a favorite of mine. Always love a good cry.”
I punch him in the shoulder, playfully. He applies foundation to my face.
“Seriously, how are things with Leon? He used to stop in our salon all the time. I
knew something was wrong. I should have been there for you like you’ve been for me,” I
He gently brushes on a rose tone blush on my cheeks.
“We’ve been fighting a lot lately, turning into people we don’t know. But we don’t
want to give up on our relationship, so tomorrow, we’re seeing a counselor.”
“I hope it helps, Marco. I’m also going to work on improving my relationship with
Marco outlines my eyes, brushes mascara on my lashes, and then applies
lipstick. I blot my lips on a tissue-a red kiss.
He gives me a hug and then shoos me into the backroom to get dressed.
copyright© 2018 Elaine Fisher