I can’t say no when Lisel asks me if she can come down to the salon for a tour the next morning. Honestly, I hope she changes her mind about a haircut because she desperately needs an update. I won’t push, however. Men don’t understand how traumatic it can be for a woman to cut her hair. It sounds silly, but a lot of identity is wrapped up in a haircut.
We take the train back into the city and stop at the coffee shop where Eric and I first met. At my insistence, I get her a salted caramel latte that I’m sure will change her life, along with one of their chocolate croissants. We find a table and take a seat to wait for our order to be ready. I like Eric’s mom. She’s got a good sense of humor on her, but then she’d have to in order to deal with Eric. When he’s grumpy he’s a real bear.
“So how long are you in town?” I ask her.
“We’re going to stay till the third. I want to spend the New Year with my kids,” she tells me.
“Oh, is Pam coming into town? Eric didn’t mention if she was or not.”
“She’ll be here late Christmas Eve. We bought her the plane ticket so she couldn’t say no,” Lisel smiles.
“That was generous of you,” I smile at her. “I haven’t met Pam yet, but I hear she’s a character.”
“That’s an understatement,” she laughs. “Grandma Northman used to babysit when they were in elementary school so both kids are way too much like her.”
“She sounds like quite a woman,” I chuckle. My name is called so I excuse myself to get our coffees and pastries. I bring the drinks and the bag to the table and ask, “Do you want to eat here or take them to the salon?”
“We can go to the salon,” she says as she takes her latte.
“We got lucky. It’s not too bad outside today. Last week was awful.” I open the cafe door for her to go ahead of me.
“It’s been a little snowy at home. You kids are really going to like it there. Maybe you guys will want to open a salon and a bakery in Astoria,” she smiles.
“Miss having the kids around, huh?” I sidestep that question since it would take a lot of talking and a pretty big commitment for Eric and me to even contemplate doing something like that.
“Hmm, and maybe some grandbabies one day,” she says wistfully.
“Well, Eric and I haven’t really talked about any of that yet,” I tell her. I realize that we’ve known each other for nine months but we’ve only really been a couple for about three of them. Huh. It’s one of those strange moments when it feels like it’s been longer, yet I can’t believe nine months have already flown by since we met.
We stop at the corner and a strong gust of wind comes up, slapping me in the face and blowing my hood back. I fix it and curse the cold winter air. This isn’t even the worst of it but being downtown is like being in a goddamn wind tunnel.
“You’ll get there,” she tells me confidently. “You’re making my baby boy happy. Not that he was unhappy before you. I think you were what was missing in his life.”
“He’s been good for me too,” I tell her. He’s definitely not the same as Trey, that’s for damn sure.
We cross the street and walk down a block to the salon. It’s already busy as sin inside and there are ladies waiting in the reception area to be called back by a stylist. Trying to walk-in at this time of year is damn near impossible. The floor manager for the day always picks the music and since today is Lafayette’s day, there’s ‘90s R&B playing. Oh good… R. Kelly. I’m sure Lisel’s a fan.
“Come on, I’ll give you a tour. You can put your coat in my office,” I tell her as I take off my mittens and stuff them in my coat pockets.
Lisel takes off her coat and beanie. “So… I think I want to surprise the boys,” she tells me nervously as we walk back toward my office.
“Oh yeah? What were you thinking to do?”
“Allowing you to work some of that Vogue magic Eric said you can do… with my hair…”
“Oh,” I smile and do a happy dance inside. “Sure, of course. What did you have in mind?”
“You’re the professional. I thought I would leave that up to you.” I can see the internal struggle. She wants to run, but she also wants to surprise Bryan and Eric.
“Don’t be nervous.” I rest a hand on her shoulder reassuringly before opening my office door for her. We step inside and I continue, “Do you want something low maintenance, or do you want to have to style it every day?”
“Low maintenance. If I have to do too much I’ll regret it.”
“Do you want to keep it longer or do you want to do something more radical and short?” I want her to be comfortable with it when I’m done. If she cries, I want happy tears and not ‘oh my God you ruined me’ tears.
“Maybe middle of the road. It’s been this way for so long. I’m scared to lose too much. Plus, if I do want to grow it back it won’t take too long,” she says, running her fingers through her thick hair.
I nod and several options come to mind, most of them include layers and losing close to eight inches of her hair. It’ll still be long enough for her to pull back if she likes wearing it up, but it won’t be so… heavy.
“Do you want color?” I ask her. I don’t see a lot of gray, but there’s some mixed in there. “You have beautiful hair, by the way. I have clients that would kill for this kind of thickness.”
“Thank you. Maybe knock out some of the gray I have,” she says, turning her head from side to side. “Your boyfriend caused me some stress,” she giggles.
“I can relate,” I laugh. “Come on, I’ll get you set up at a shampoo station. You can bring your latte with you if you want. Your coat and purse will be safe in here if you want to leave them.”
“I may need to add a shot to this,” Lisel laughs.
“Awww, don’t worry. I promise you won’t walk out of here disappointed. I won’t let you look silly.”
“I trust you after what you did to Eric. He’s so handsome with that hair.”
“I got tired of seeing it flopping in his eyes all the time when he didn’t have a hat on,” I confess. “But he’s lucky he inherited your hair.”
I lead her to a shampoo station and call one of the girls over to wash her. While that’s happening I head to my station to get setup and resist the urge to text Eric and tell him what’s going on. My phone is in my pocket and I’m sure he’ll check in at some point, but I don’t want to blow the surprise for Lisel.
She comes over a few minutes later with a towel around her head and I can see her shaking a bit thanks to her nerves getting the better of her. Poor thing. I get it, though. I see this all the time. It’s a big deal for some women.
I take the towel away and start to comb through her hair, working out the little snarls caused by the washing. I can feel her watching me in the mirror as I work.
“So, Lisel, I was thinking I’d cut you to about here.” I touch her back where the ends of her hair will fall. “I’m thinking we’ll put some layers in there and maybe a few lowlights to offset the blonde. They’ll cover the gray and give your hair some dimension and depth.”
She takes a deep breath as she nods. “Just do it.”
“I promise I’ll take good care of you,” I assure her and give her shoulders a squeeze.
She nods again and I have to leave her sitting there in her chair while I go mix her color and get the foils ready. The whole process is going to take a few hours but I’m certain she’ll be happy with it when I’m finished.
I’ve kept her facing away from the mirror for the last forty-five minutes, which is easier said than done. Her hair looks fan-fucking-tastic, if I do say so myself. Eric and Bryan are going to shit themselves when they see her. She’s a beautiful woman, no doubt about it, but this haircut is like a facelift for her. It’s taken years off of her. She was afraid of looking old, but it was the haircut that dated her.
I grab my can of hairspray and shield her eyes while giving her hair one more healthy spray. I love this particular brand because it doesn’t leave hair sticky or feeling crunchy. Her hair still has movement, which is something it was lacking before. When she first felt how short it was, she gasped. I won’t be surprised if I see her flipping her hair just for fun after this.
“Alright… all done,” I grin. “Are you ready?”
“No,” she giggles. “My head feels like it’s going to float off my neck.”
“Well you’re going to want to snatch it right back,” I say and then turn her to face the mirror at my station.
Lisel gasps and covers her face. Her eyes are on her hair, getting a little glassy.
“Sookie,” she breathes my name. “You made me look so… young.”
“You like it?” I think it looks phenomenal, but it’s her opinion that matters.
“I love it. Bryan is going to shit himself.”
“I think that’s a safe bet,” I chuckle. “This will be an easy cut to maintain but you can definitely dress it up if you want to.”
I get an idea and pull my cell from my pocket to text Lafayette.
Me: Get your ass over here pronto. I have a 9-1-1.
“You might have to teach me to use a curling iron. Much to Pam’s dismay, I’ve always been anti-hair product.”
“All you’ll need is a round brush, a hair dryer and maybe a little mousse,” I tell her. I go over what I did to get her hair looking like it does. There are some gentle waves to it and it frames her face perfectly. If she lets it dry naturally, I’m sure it’ll look just fine.
Lafayette comes sashaying over with all kinds of attitude.
“What’chu want, bitch? I’z busy,” he says.
“Lafayette, this is Lisel, Eric’s mother,” I tell him. “Lisel, this is Lafayette Reynolds, one of the other owners here. He’s also a fantastic makeup artist.”
“Hello, Lafayette,” she nods. “I guess today is makeover day.”
“Absolutely, gorgeous,” he replies, turning on the charm. He offers Lisel a hand and adds, “You come with mama. I’mma fix you up so nice yo’ son gon’ think you his sister.”
Lisel widens her eyes as she gets up. I think the excitement is hitting her finally.
“Can we meet Eric for lunch after this?” she asks on her way out.
“Of course,” I chuckle and give her a little wave. She’ll be in good hands with Lafayette.
I pick up my phone and shoot Eric a text.
Me: Want to meet your Mom and me for lunch in about an hour?
Eric: Yeah. I’ll finish this up and leave for the day. Where at?
Me: How about that Mexican place you love by my place?
Eric: Sign me up. Can you order me a Tacate if you get there first?
Me: Of course. Is your dad with you or did he stay home?
Eric: I can tell him to meet us. He went to do some last minute Christmas shopping.
Me: Gotcha. Yeah, might as well.
Fuck, it’s so hard not to tell him the reason why his dad should come or to give him a little warning about what to expect because I know they’re not going to be expecting Lisel to look the way she will. She’ll be red carpet ready when Lafayette is finished with her. Hell, I won’t be surprised if I find a manicurist working on her while he’s doing her makeup.
Eric: See you there. Love you :-*
Me: Love you too.
It feels good to say that to him, even if it’s just in a text message. I slip my phone in my pocket and go check on Lisel. Sure enough, Lafayette is giving her the full star treatment. All she needs is a glass of champagne. There’s someone working on her nails as well. I just stand back and watch him work until finally, he’s done. Her eyes are sparkling; her lips look a little fuller and she just looks… stunning. If Bryan doesn’t shit himself, I’ll be shocked.