“Good-bye, sweetheart.” I try not to show my little boy the heartache I feel. “Thank you again, Edna. I don’t know what I’d do without you.” I give my next door neighbor a tight hug. She’s been watching Thomas for me since I moved in a few months ago. I’ve got nobody, and her husband of forty-five years passed last year. She won’t take any money from me, so every Saturday morning I trim and style her hair before heading to work.
She looks in the mirror, pleased with what I’ve done. “Oh, it’s nothing, sweetie. Thomas and I have a big day planned.” He looks up from her television set and smiles. He loves Edna’s just for the fact she’s got a television.
I give Thomas a kiss on top of his head and quickly leave. “I can’t be late again,” I scold myself as I run the three blocks to the downtown beauty shop. I open the door out of breath, but happy when I see I have one minute to spare.
“Julie! I’m glad you’re finally here. I need you to get in the back and clean the items piling up. You know Saturday is our busiest day. Hurry!” Sandy yells at me.
I do as my boss says, and quickly get to the back to start. I cannot lose this job, and the more experience I have, the more likely somebody will give me a chance to work on a client. Well, at least that’s my hope.
Three hours have passed and I haven’t slowed down. Everything’s cleaned, so I head to the front to restock the stations. It hits me hard when I see her. She’s sitting at the driers with Mrs. Timmons. They’re gossiping. They’re always gossiping. It takes me back to my youth when I was required to sit prim and proper at tea and listen to all the women gossip about their so called friends.
She glances my way, acting as if she doesn’t know me. It’s a knife through my heart every time. I continue doing my job when the door chimes. I look up to see Michael walking in with a young pregnant woman. He walks over to Mrs. Timmons, bends down, and kisses his mother’s cheek. She’s giddy and stands to hug the woman. I’d heard he’d gotten married last year. There’s no denying they’re a beautiful couple; perfect for high society. I never wanted that life. Michael acted like he didn’t either when we played together every day as kids. He glances my way as he walks out, but he quickly looks away.
I squeeze the broom I’m using. That one second look at the eyes Thomas inherited cuts me up inside. I was disowned, and he’s gone on with his life as if nothing’s changed. I guess for him it hasn’t, since I never told him or my family the baby was his.
Mrs. Timmons and my mother continue their gossip. I drop the broom and run out the back door, no longer able to stop the tears.
Illustration credit: Image found on Pinterest saved from The Hair Hall of Fame. Artist unknown. If you know the artist, please let me know so that I can include a proper citation.