Today it is my pleasure to welcome author Kim Boykin to HJ!
The Wisdom Of Hair by Kim Boykin
“The problem with cutting your own hair is that once you start, you just keep cutting, trying to fix it, and the truth is, some things can never be fixed. The day of my daddy’s funeral, I cut my bangs until they were the length of those little paintbrushes that come with dime-store watercolor sets. I was nine years old. People asked me why I did it, but I was too young then to know I was changing my hair because I wanted to change my life.”
In 1983, on her nineteenth birthday, Zora Adams finally says goodbye to her alcoholic mother and their tiny town in the mountains of South Carolina. Living with a woman who dresses like Judy Garland and brings home a different man each night is not a pretty existence, and Zora is ready for life to be beautiful.
With the help of a beloved teacher, she moves to a coastal town and enrolls in the Davenport School of Beauty. Under the tutelage of Mrs. Cathcart, she learns the art of fixing hair, and becomes fast friends with the lively Sara Jane Farquhar, a natural hair stylist. She also falls hard for handsome young widower Winston Sawyer, who is drowning his grief in bourbon. She couldn’t save Mama, but maybe she can save him.
As Zora practices finger waves, updos, and spit curls, she also comes to learn that few things are permanent in this life–except real love, lasting friendship, and, ultimately… forgiveness.
Asking to pick my top 5 scenes is like asking me to pick between my children, so here goes in chronological order. Oh, but before we get to that, I have a question for you first. In The Wisdom of Hair, Zora struggles with being open and sharing herself and her history, while her BFF Sara Jane Farquhar tells Zora everything. How are you with your BFF, do you tell all or do you hold some things back for yourself?
Now, on to my 5 favorite scenes in The Wisdom of Hair!
1. I love the opening scene because we get a good look at Mama who is the catalyst for the “last straw” moment that gets Zora’s story moving.
The problem with cutting your own hair is that once you start, you just keep cutting, trying to fix it, and the truth is, some things can never be fixed. The day of my daddy’s funeral, I cut my bangs until they were the length of those little paintbrushes that come with dime-store watercolor sets. I was nine-years old. People asked me why I did it, but I was too young then to know I was changing my hair because I wanted to change my life.
Ten years later, I stared into my mother’s dressing table mirror, ready to shave my head. It was my birthday, and Mama was going out to celebrate. She stood in front of me for her ta-dah moment, decked out like Judy Garland; her pretty blonde hair covered up with cheap chestnut color, and put up under a black fedora. The oversized men’s tuxedo jacket she wore had been taken in at all the right places and didn’t come close to mid-thigh. Unlike her alter ego, she’d skipped the dress shirt altogether. Regulation black pumps clicked across our bare floor like tap shoes, long legs moving in short steps to mimic Judy’s four-foot-ten-inch stride. Mama wasn’t going to a costume party. She always dressed like her favorite star, who died on a toilet seat the year Mama was born. Right down to the fake eyelashes.
“I’ll be home directly, and we’ll cut the cake,” she said.
I knew that was a lie because she was already slurring her words and there was no cake.
“Sure, Mama. Just be safe.”
She cocked her head to the side and looked around me to see herself again in the full-length mirror duct taped to the front of the bathroom door. Her long slender fingers ran over the black satin lapels and then reached inside her jacket and pulled her breasts up as high as they would go. She arranged her wares until she’d achieved the maximum cleavage for a B cup and sighed.
“You don’t have this problem.” She raised her eyebrows at me like I’d been playing dress-up with her breasts and she wanted them back. “How do I look?”
“Beautiful,” I said, because she was beautiful.
“I do look good.” She turned sideways, eyed her long legs and smoothed her hand over her round bottom. “You’d look good too if you fixed up now and then.”
Mama’s definition of my fixing up was making me play Liza Minnelli to her Judy Garland. Up until I was eleven, I let her cut my hair short once a year and spray it jet black with Halloween color she bought every November on clearance. I was so excited when she dressed me up like a child star and pulled the kitchen chairs in front of the TV so we could watch “The Wizard of Oz” together. I watched her mouth every line Dorothy Gale spoke with great expression. By the time Dorothy declared there was no place like home, Mama was almost two pints into the story and sobbing because she’d been robbed of her Oscar for “A Star Is Born.”
As crazy as that sounds, she wasn’t always like that, not when my daddy was living. But she was never the kind of mom who wore the macaroni necklaces you made her or showed up at your elementary school play sober. She got worse after Daddy passed, so bad my Uncle Heath took her to the state mental hospital in Columbia to see what was wrong with her. Other than drying her out, there was nothing the doctors could do for her. They sent her back home with a diagnosis my uncle wrote down because he couldn’t remember the word narcissistic, much less pronounce it.
“Bet you’d like to go out with me. We could do your birthday up right.” She opened the closet, pulled out two hangers, and dangled them in front of me–black satin hot pants and a halter top with a cowl neckline that plunged close to navel level.
“I made this to wear on Oscar night the year “Cabaret” came out. Bet you anything it’ll fit you. What do you say?”
The last time I saw Mama in that outfit, she didn’t come home for two days and when she did, two things were obvious. She’d danced the feet out of her thick black fishnet stockings and someone had roughed her up. I was only eleven years old, but that was old enough to know, no matter what it cost me, I didn’t want to be a part of her charade anymore.
“Just be safe.”
2. The second scene comes as Zora and her new (and very first) BFF Sara Jane are watching Winston, the object of Zora’s affection and Sara Jane tells Zora about her perfect first date with Jimmy.
“Look.” Sara Jane nudged me, and I shushed her because her voice does carry so.
Winston was in his drinking room. Judging from the way he looked, he was pretty far-gone. He accidentally knocked a picture off the little table beside his chair and then picked it up two or three times because it didn’t seem to want to stay on the table. He went to a cabinet with the liquor canisters on it and poured his drink with one hand while he held the wall up with the other.
“Oh, honey, you don’t need any more of that medicine,” Sara Jane whispered.
“We ought not to be watching this, Sara Jane.”
The way he teetered about the room was suspenseful, like watching a high wire act at the circus. Neither of us could budge from our seats even if we had wanted to. I was embarrassed for him, but mostly I was embarrassed for myself.
“He’s just got to get over her. I’m telling you, if he doesn’t, he’s gonna drink himself to death. Look at him. He’s pitiful.”
“He is not.” I knew she was right. “He’s… he’s…well, he’s gorgeous, for one thing.”
“He may be gorgeous, but I can guaran-damn-tee you he couldn’t get it up if his life depended on it. I bet he’s got permanent whiskey dick.”
“He does not.”
“Oh, just look at him, Zora. You know he gets that way every night. You could do a whole lot better than him.”
The tiny sliver of moon in the sky made just enough light for her to see me all red-faced with tears running down my cheeks. She knew I wanted Winston and wanted him more than she wanted those men in her books to come and sweep her off her feet.
She laughed. “Oh, what the hell do I know? I’m dating the yardman.”
After pouring me another glass of wine, she told me about their first date. Jimmy had taken her to the home of some rich guy he did yard work for. It was right on the ocean. They actually rode horses on the beach in the moonlight. Everything sounded so perfect, at first I wondered if she’d made the whole thing up. I also wondered how Jimmy knew just the right things to do to win Sara Jane’s heart, but the truth was that he had won it the very first time they laid eyes on each other.
“I pretended we were Dominique Devereau and Beaumont Belliard in Castaways of Love. I even told him so. He smiled and told me I could imagine whatever I wanted to as long as he was a part of it. Zora, I think I’m in love.”
It was obvious she was love-struck by the way her voice quivered when she said Jimmy’s name, the way every tiny thing he did was so amazing to her. I tried not to sound jealous, but I couldn’t’ believe her luck. “Sara Jane. You don’t even know him.”
“You don’t have to know somebody to be in love with them. You just are.”
We both turned back to the scene in the drinking room. Winston was at the liquor cabinet again, teetering from side to side. I guess he was trying to keep the room from spinning long enough to pour himself another drink.
He teetered too far to the right and fell. I was sure he was dead by the way his head snapped back when it hit the coffee table. We sat there on the edge of our seats, waiting for him to get up. I pounded my fist on the railing like he was a fallen prizefighter.
“Get up. Get up.” As he lay on the floor, I prayed like crazy that he was only cold cocked by the whiskey.
“Oh, my gosh. You don’t think he’s…”
“No. He’ll get up.” Sara Jane voice was steady. We sat there for half an hour, but he didn’t move. “He’s just dead drunk.”
Dead drunk. It was the term I had used most of my life to describe Mama and the men she lived with. The way the sheriff described my daddy.
“We ought to do something, even if it’s just put him to bed.”
“It’s his rule, Sara Jane. We can’t go in there. He hasn’t let anybody in the house since Emma died. Look, I know this all seems wildly romantic to you, but if I lose my apartment, I’ll have to move back home.”
“Well, what if he’s hurt or dying?”
I didn’t have an answer for that.
“What if I go? Then you won’t get in trouble.”
I didn’t answer her right off. I sat there watching and waiting for some small movement that would let me know he had just passed out and wasn’t in a coma or worse. I begged for another five or ten minutes, which seemed like hours, but he didn’t stir an inch.
“Okay. Just go in, see if he’s okay, and come right back out. Promise?”
“And, whatever you do, don’t try to wake him up.” She was halfway down the steps before I finished my sentence.
She knocked at the back door and looked up at me. I shook my head at her because he hadn’t moved. She opened the door and disappeared inside the house. An eternity passed before I finally saw her tiptoeing into the drinking room. She inspected him closely, and I nearly jumped out of my skin when she picked up his wrist to check his pulse. She gave me the okay sign as she waved at me with his limp hand, before she tucked it in close to his chest
I knew for sure there’d be trouble when Sara Jane picked up the picture of Emma that Winston held all the time and gave me a funny look. I was up out of my chair, waving like mad for her to get out of there, but she would just pick something else up, look at it and laugh or just point to it, like I could see through her eyes.
I thought I would die when she started up the stairs. Pretty as you please, she went into his bedroom, turned the light on in the closet, and stayed in there for at least a hundred years, stepping out from time to time to flash one of Emma’s frocks up so I could see it. I was sure this was God’s way of getting back at me for plundering a dead woman’s things.
Finally, she went back downstairs. Before she left, she threw a little white crocheted blanket over Winston and came back to the porch.
“He’s fine. He’s just drunk,” she said, real nonchalant.
“I’m gonna kill you, Sara Jane Farquhar. I can’t believe you went in there and took the man’s pulse.”
“Oh, Zora, he’s so drunk I could have sat on him and pretended to ride him down the beach, and he never would have known it. Boy, he’s tall.”
“You almost gave me a heart attack going through his things. You know I told you what would happen if you got caught.”
“First of all, the man couldn’t wake up even if he wanted to. Second of all, we needed to make sure he wasn’t dead or anything because you promised your teacher you’d look out for him, and I think she would call this looking out for him. And third of all…don’t you want to know what I found?”
I was so keyed up over the whole life and death thing and the possibility of getting caught that the thought had not even occurred to me. But as soon as she said those words, I had to know what was in that house.
“Let’s see,” she said, knowing she had my full attention, “where should we start? Well, the kitchen looks like nobody lives there except for the unwashed glasses in the sink, good crystal glasses. Waterford. I turned them upside down and looked. There’s hardly anything on the counters and the only thing in the refrigerator was an old box of baking soda his wife probably left there.”
She laughed when she saw my eyes roll over her detailed inventory of the kitchen.
“There’s lots of pictures in the hallway of the two of them in different places. Some of them were taken in Europe, I think, and then there were a lot taken at the beach, but not the beaches here, rocky beaches.
“The drinking room smells like a bar, but it’s furnished real nice. I don’t think he had much to do with that. Looks mostly like stuff that a woman would pick out. But, my God, Zora, that man is gorgeous, even in a stupor.”
My heart felt like it was going to jump out of my chest. “I don’t think I can take much more of this, Sara Jane.”
“He still has her things in the closet, and, honey, that woman had some beautiful clothes, I’m telling you. He didn’t have much in there, everything was on hangers from the cleaners, a couple pairs of jeans, a dozen or so shirts, and a dark blue suit that looks like it hasn’t been worn in forever. It had dust on the shoulders, lots of it. Next time—”
“No.” I said. “There can’t be a next time with you going in there like some kind of detective. It just adds fuel to the fire I already have for the man. Look, I need this place. I can’t afford to go and do something stupid. Tell me you’ll never go in there again. Promise me, Sara Jane.”
“Well, you didn’t even let me tell you the juiciest part,” she said and then she was purposely quiet until I begged her to tell. “Emma . . . looks a little . . . like you.”
3. This scene is hilarious and is the moment Zora knows for sure that she was “called” to be a hairstylist.
I absolutely hated first haircuts because those babies — and they were just babies — never sat still. Everybody including me was so afraid we were going to cut one of them, and one day I did. Well, this one wasn’t exactly a baby; he was four years old with a head full of curly blond baby hair that had never been cut. When I wet it and combed it out, it was all the way down his back.
Mrs. Cathcart was good about teaching from our textbook, but she was also good about telling us practical things. Like if you’re cutting a little boy’s curls off for the first time, be sure and remind his mother that the moment you cut his hair it will most likely be straight as a board. Forever.
I ran the comb down his thin blond hair that almost touched the elastic waistband of his shorts and looked at his mama.
“This is a really drastic change. Are you sure you want to do this?”
“No, I don’t, but his daddy does.”
“His hair’s going to be straight like it is now.”
“I know. Go ahead, but give him the bowl cut. I’m not shaving it off like his daddy said.” She signed like she hated to see those pretty blond ringlets go. “His daddy’s took to calling him Johnny Sue.” She took a handful of his wet hair in her hand and held it close to her face. “Those curls were just so pretty, I couldn’t never cut ’em myself.”
I thought it was sweet the way she carried on over her little boy’s hair, like somehow those blond curls would keep her baby from growing up. But it was too late. He was strong and a terror for his mama, who had to fight him just to get him in the chair. My job was to get the cape on him, which wasn’t easy because he kept unsnapping it and laughing when it fell into his lap. When he wasn’t doing that, he was pulling the cape over his head or flapping his “wings,” as he called them. I wanted to use those pretty long curls to tie him to the chair. Judging from the look on his mama’s face, she wanted to do the same until he grew out of whatever phase he was going through.
I gathered his hair in my hand like a ponytail, held my breath and cut the length of it off. Mrs. Cathcart kept a supply of pink and blue grosgrain ribbon on hand, and if he’d been the kind of child to sit still, I would have tied a blue ribbon around the fat lock and given it to his mama for a keepsake.
I held the little boy down by his shoulder with one hand and gave it to her with the other. “Oh,” her voice quivered. She looked up at me like the veil had been lifted. “He’s not a baby anymore.”
As big as that child was, he hadn’t been a baby for a long time. “Stop squirming now, Johnny.” I said it nice. “I can’t finish your haircut if you won’t be still.”
Without his baby hair to protect him, the little boy’s mama was getting really mad. “John Thomas Baldwin, if you don’t sit still, this woman’s gonna cut your ear off.”
And then it happened. I don’t know how, I didn’t even see it, but he made one wrong move and, part of that little brat’s ear went sailing across the room.
Now, you would think after all of the threatening that woman had done to her son that she wouldn’t have gotten so mad at me. But her baby was screaming and crying. He bled like I’d snipped a major artery, and she started shrieking at me, calling me every name in the book. Mrs. Cathcart was mortified by the whole exchange and immediately picked the sliver of ear up in a sanitized towel. The woman nearly fainted when Mrs. Cathcart handed it to her.
“Now you get hold of yourself,” Mrs. Cathcart said sternly. “Zora, bring the first-aid kit, and tell Mr. Cathcart to bring some ice.”
I brought the kit to her along with a large box of Band-Aids that was sitting on top of it. I expected her to bandage the boy up, but instead she took the smelling salts out of the little foil packet and waved it under the nose of the hysterical woman, who sat down on the floor but finally seemed to have come to her senses. Even the little boy had quit crying and was trying to look at himself in the mirror. Mr. Cathcart hurried out with an ice tray and cocked the handle so that the cubes spilled out on top of the piece of ear and onto the open towel on the woman’s lap.
The woman looked at the towel like someone had put a bloody stump in her lap. She pointed to me. “You need to fire her.”
“You ought to have raised your boy better. Even you told him to be still or she was going to cut his ear off,” I snapped.
“I don’t care. I want you fired.”
“Shut up all of you,” Mrs. Cathcart screamed. “Nobody’s getting fired and nobody can cut hair like it’s a moving target. Now, you get this… this… get it on down to the emergency room right quick.” Mrs. Cathcart bound up the towel with a big red rubber band. “They’ll sew it back on good as new, but you’ve got to get over there in a hurry or it won’t take.”
The woman nodded her head like this all made perfect sense to her. “But we don’t have no car.”
Mr. Cathcart drove the two of them to the emergency room. The doctor said if it was a finger they could sew it back on; it wouldn’t take because the ear is just made out of cartilage. I could have told them that.
When Mr. Cathcart came back he complained all day long about the woman being indigent, that she wouldn’t be able to pay the bill. He was afraid that the hospital would make the beauty school pay for it, or that the woman might hire one of those ambulance-chasing lawyers. But none of that happened. As a matter of fact, the little boy still came to the school even after that. Everybody snickered when they saw him sitting so still in the chair, afraid to breathe, especially when the scissors glided around his ears. If I’d been his mother, I would have let him wear the bowl cut to cover up his disfigurement, but his mama always insisted the boy’s ears were cut out, standing there with her arms crossed and her feet spread apart, daring him to move.
Mrs. Cathcart always gave the other children who came in two animal crackers after their haircut. “One for each hand,” she would say, but she always handed that little boy the whole box and let him take as many as he wanted. I think it was her way for thanking him and his mama for not suing the school.
Even after all that craziness I still loved to cut hair. I never cared much for doing perms because they smell awful, and I’m not great at color; that’s Sara Jane’s forte. But it was about this time I began to feel, just like Mrs. Cathcart said, that I had been called to fix hair for the rest of my life.
Giveaway: TWO signed copies of THE WISDOM OF HAIR.
To enter Giveaway: Please complete the Rafflecopter form and post a comment to this Q: In The Wisdom of Hair, Zora struggles with being open and sharing herself and her history, while her BFF Sara Jane Farquhar tells Zora everything. How are you with your BFF, do you tell all or do you hold some things back for yourself?
4. This scene is a good hard look at Zora’s infatuation with Winston.
Every night I tried to tell Winston I loved him the only way I knew how. Since I never had any real contact with the man, I had to make sure that the message was clear, right there on his plate. Sometimes I baked a cobbler using blackberries that grew in the woods behind the garage. I scored tiny new potatoes into red hearts, making v-shaped knife marks on the tops before whittling the bottoms into a point. I learned a lot about fancy food from Sunday dinners at the Farquhar’s house and even tied green beans into little bundles with spaghetti-squash bows. Those never made it out of my kitchen because they reminded me of the rattle Emma had left behind.
I was alone again on Saturday night. Sara Jane and Jimmy had gone to the beach for the day. With nothing to do, I spent all day in the kitchen making dinner absolutely perfect. I’d just taken scratch biscuits out of the oven and set them by the window to cool when I noticed Winston in the hammock with one leg on the ground and one slung over the other side. I seriously doubted he could’ve eaten anything that night. I could tell he was already numb.
Then the thought crossed my mind: What if he never ate any of the meals I made? What if he was too busy drinking to live that he never even noticed the love right there in front of him on his dinner plate?
I shook off the thought and put roast pork and green beans on the plate alongside heartfelt mashed potatoes. I spooned the cobbler into a little coffee cup and covered everything with tinfoil and dashed into the bathroom. I checked my look in the tiny medicine chest mirror while I brushed my teeth. My hair was skillfully mussed; my glossy lips looked wet and inviting like Cover Girl swore they would.
I put on a pair of short shorts and a white eyelet peasant blouse Mrs. Farquhar had bought me to go with a church skirt. Looking in the mirror, I cocked my head to the side, unhooked my bra and pulled it out of the front of my shirt. There. I twisted up my hair in a sexy little knot, and forgave myself for being braless and desperate.
Winston didn’t stir when the screen door slammed shut behind me. The stairs creaked, and my flip-flops slapped the bottoms of my feet, but he didn’t stir. I set the plate on the table then and sat down on the picnic bench, watching him sleep. I’d only been close to him once before, the day we shook hands; even then, he kept a distance between himself and the rest of the world that couldn’t be measured in feet or inches. I was close enough to reach out and touch him, but content to just watch him sleep.
The wind blew from behind me and I could smell the heavy scent of a moonflower vine Jimmy had planted beside the garage. It was sweet and sexual and made me want to breathe it in deep, holding it in like a drug. The wind shifted around some more, mingling the smell of Scotch whiskey on his breath with that flower’s fragrance.
His breathing was quiet and peaceful. His face looked pained but solemn. I wanted to stroke his hair the way Nana stroked mine when the world was against me. I thought if I could do it just right, his heartache might take to the breeze, mingle with the sweetness of that warm summer evening, and free him from his terrible sadness forever. But I didn’t dare.
I watched his chest rise and fall. I lay my hand on my own chest and matched my breathing to each deep, slow breath. Sara Jane had taken his pulse once; I wanted to feel it too so my heart could beat in time with his. His skin was pale, slightly olive. His cheeks a little flushed from the whiskey. Twice I reached out and nearly touched him. Twice I pulled away. Finally, I touched a few strands of hair that dangled through the holes in the hammock. They were soft and so precious that I nearly cried.
It was getting dark. I was afraid to stay any longer. I touched his cheek with the back of my hand so slightly; it couldn’t have felt like anything more than a whisper. Then I turned to go.
“Thank you,” he said.
“For the dinner. Dinners.”
I stood right by the picnic table and turned to face him in the twilight. I could tell by the look on his face that he didn’t know I’d spent the better part of my nights watching him.
“You’re welcome.” My own voice was so soft I barely heard it myself. I wanted to say something, something meaningful that would cut though the whiskey and stay with him forever.
“Don’t stay out too late. It’s supposed to rain tonight.” I sounded like a stupid weather girl.
“Oh, God.” He tried to sit up but smiled this sweet drunken smile, then fell back in the hammock. “I can’t get up,” he laughed and moaned, like a thirteen-year-old who had just been asked to roll out of bed early on a Saturday morning.
“Can you help me?”
My heart stopped beating. My breath caught in the pit of my stomach where hope and fantasy pretended I was more to him than a girl from the mountains cooking for my keep. I didn’t answer him. I went to him, leaned over and put his arm around my neck. As I pulled him up out of the hammock, his hand brushed against my breast, but I don’t think he knew that.
“Just help me get to the door, Zora.”
He said my name. The first fat raindrops splattered on us, a preview of the coming storm. I guided him toward the kitchen door. His head drooped so close to my shoulder, I felt his breath on my neck. His scent made me dizzy. When we reached the door, he leaned against the wall with his eyes closed and smiled. My heart stopped again when his hands touched my cheeks and then disappeared into my hair. He fumbled with the clip until it came undone and leaned forward to smell my hair like it was a pretty flower. Smiling, he picked up a handful, held it up to his face, and breathed deeply. Then he disappeared through the door. I could hear him ricocheting off the walls as he walked down the hall and up the stairs to his bedroom.
I wanted to follow him and make him smile again. As I turned to leave, I noticed the Styrofoam plate of food I’d set on the picnic table had a puddle of rain on top of the tinfoil. I didn’t think twice about the rules. I didn’t care. I picked it up, poured the water off the foil, and went into the kitchen. When I opened the refrigerator door, my heart broke. There were six or seven meals I had prepared. Some had taken hours to fix, and he had just shoved them into the refrigerator and never eaten them. I wanted to die.
I ran out of the kitchen and stopped just shy of the stairs to my apartment. I thought about Daddy Heyward, my second daddy, and how he passed out on our couch every single night he lived with us. I hated Mama for fussing over him like a new puppy whenever he pissed himself or worse, and hated her even more for not knowing how to love somebody who wasn’t a drunk.
A gust of wind blew the thick damp smell of summer rain hard across my face. And there was the scent of the moonflowers whose very purpose for existing was to bathe the night air with its own love potion. The combination of the two made the last few minutes I’d spent watching Winston snake around in my mind. I saw glimpses of his hand brushing against my breast and his smile when he touched my hair. I closed my eyes and remembered his earthy scent. He was more than Scotch and a pretty face; I would have bet my life on it. The rain came down hard enough to chase anyone with good sense inside. But I stood there as the downpour washed over me and convinced myself I could have him.
5. In this scene, Zora finally gets Winston Sawyer, the man who did her wrong, in her chair. IF this book is ever made into to a movie, this is the point when every woman in the theater stands up and cheers.
It was such a slow day, before Fontaine left to run errands, he said I should just go home and put my feet up. But I stayed and restocked all the stations while Ronnie read gossip magazines out loud and made fun of what the stars wore in public. He swore he could dress every single one of them better than they could dress themselves. I agreed with him and headed for the break room to put my feet up.
I was drinking a Coke and folding towels when he poked his head in the door.
“Another haircut for you.”
Fontaine always quietly announced there was a walk-in waiting for me in the reception area. But Ronnie always made a big deal about it like they’d come in off the street begging for me.
“Thanks. This baby has been tap dancing on my bladder all day. I’ll be right out. ”
The weird thing about being pregnant and gaining weight is my weight didn’t change for a long time. In the back of my mind I thought I was getting a pass on the weight gaining thing and then one day, about my sixth month, the weight fairy came in the middle of the night, and I woke up the next morning ten pounds heavier. Not long after that, fifteen more pounds just suddenly appeared.
Ronnie always obsessed over his weight, turning sideways in the mirror a hundred times a day, sucking in his poochy belly and asking, “Do I look fat?” I knew better than to give him an honest answer, and after the weight fairy visited me, he stopped asking.
I walked down the long hallway toward the salon and stopped short. He was sitting in my chair. His face was still achingly beautiful. He was thinner, paler, almost sallow. He looked tired, older than I remembered. His hair was longer. It was funny how just seeing little tresses of it hanging through the hammock a few months ago had moved me to tears. Now I felt nothing. He ran his hand through his hair and looked at his watch. He wasn’t there for me; he was just there for a haircut.
“He’s gorgeous, and he’s all yours,” Ronnie’s whisper was high pitched, like he was giggling the words. “And just look at that hair.”
“Why don’t you take him?”
“No ma’am. He’s delicious and he’s all yours.”
If Ronnie knew who the pretty man in my chair was, he would have shaved Winston’s head or worse. The baby kicked hard. My fingers made little circles around my belly. Sometimes I worried about seeing Winston again and having just enough of Mama left in me to be weak and foolish. But it felt good to look at him, to see how beautiful he was and know that the spell was irreparably broken.
He looked startled to see me and didn’t turn around to look at me, just stared into the mirror.
“You need a haircut?”
He ran his hand through his beautiful hair. “I wanted to see you again but not like this.”
I wrapped a towel around his neck like he was anybody else and set it with one of those long pointy metal clips that looks like it could be used as a weapon. When I snapped a new cape open, he flinched like a gun had gone off. As it floated down across his broad shoulders and onto his lap, he took one of his long slender fingers that used to make me crazy and ran it under the neck of the cape.
“Too tight?” I said giving it a little yank.
“No,” he mumbled. “No, it’s fine.”
“Sit forward a little bit and then lean back for me.” I let the chair back so that his long neck rested in the cradle of the shampoo bowl. “Water okay?” He tried to nod but couldn’t and looked away when I leaned over to wash his pretty head. My huge boobs were right in his face. If I could have pinched it off right then and there, I would have and then danced around with it like it was a prize.
But out of the seven deadly sins for a cosmetologist a lack of professionalism is by far the worst. I had come a long way. I’d graduated at the top of my class, headed the lifelong call to fix hair. I’d gotten a job at the best salon in town, made countless women beautiful on a daily basis, and here sat Winston Sawyer in my chair almost daring me to ruin myself again.
“How are you feeling?” He sounded like a stranger in the grocery line, trying to make conversation with the pregnant lady behind him.
I slipped my scissors out of the leather sheath. How should I go about hacking up his long pretty locks? I could forget the scissors and rip out a great big handful to give him a snatched bald headed asymmetrical look. Or stick with the scissors and cut off his ear. At the very least, I should give him bangs. Paint brush bangs.
I picked up a handful of hair and let it fall to see how it would lay. The texture was the same, the color was the same. But I was different.
I trimmed about three inches until his hair was the same length it was when I first met him. I brushed the hair off of his cape and bent down close to his ear because Ronnie was watching and what I had to say was private. For a moment my body remembered everything about Winston Sawyer, and then the baby kicked hard, knocking the sense back into me. I pressed my lips close to his hear so that I felt my own breath.
“I am over you.”
About the Author
Kim Boykin is a women’s fiction author with a sassy Southern streak. Her debut novel, THE WISDOM OF HAIR, explores the camaraderie in beauty school & the holy connection that exists between stylists and their clients. The book also is based on the truth that women believe if they can change their hair, they can change their lives.
While her heart is always in South Carolina, she lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, with her husband, 3 dogs, and 126 rose bushes and is working on her third novel, POSTCARDS FROM DARBY ROSE, out summer of 2014 from Penguin and Berkley Books.