Someone to love, p.7

Someone to Love, page 7


Someone to Love

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  The thought of Cruise Elton as my own personal boyfriend stuns me.

  I didn’t see it coming either.

  The girl in the red coat cuts me a hard look and dashes out the door.

  After Starbucks, I decide to fill my afternoon with exploration.

  The Happy Hair and Nail salon sits nestled in the same strip mall as Starbucks, so I head over and decide to cash in on my hair and nail jackpot sponsored by none other than Cruise’s own mother.

  I watch as the artisan carefully paints my nails a candy apple red while another prods, pokes, and tickles mercilessly at my feet. Secretly, I hate getting a pedi. I hate having my toes scrubbed and molested, and every time they pull out the clippers, it feels as if I’m having my nails chewed off by a rabid school of fish. There’s nothing appealing about someone playing with your feet, unless of course, it was Cruise at the helm of the foot fondling, then I wouldn’t mind so much. Speaking of which, I should have asked Lauren and Ally if there was something special I should be doing to ready myself for my impending conjugal union—like give myself a bikini wax in delicate places, or soak in rose petals for thirty days straight. Not that I plan on waiting thirty days before getting down and dirty with the boy toy in question.

  Am I really trying to trick him into boyfriend-hood? I’m not am I? Tricking someone into a relationship is the earmark of a despicable person. I’m simply attracted to Cruise and, it just so happens, not to anybody else. A part of me does want to be a player—the girl with a heart of steel who could care less about who I’m “playing” with at the moment, but it just so happens he’s the only one I’m interested in sharing myself sexually with. Anyway, school starts in a week, and I’ll probably forget all about my hormones like I have in the past. I’m studious that way, and professors and books rarely hold much sex appeal.

  After an hour of listening to foreign banter that sounded like the aggressive plucking of guitar strings, I schlep myself over to a bona fide workstation near the front of the establishment.

  A frail woman with burnt frizzy hair plucks at my locks while inspecting them with great interest. She wears a purple frilly smock that bears the name “Boppy” emblazoned across the front, complete with sparkly jewels bedazzled throughout. Her blue fingernail polish is badly chipped, revealing a gardener’s manicure just beneath the nail beds, and she’s sweating profusely even though it’s a balmy two degrees in here.

  “Virgin!” She whoops it out like a fire alarm.

  My God, can she really tell by looking at my freaking hair? I sink in my seat as a half dozen women flock over and pull my mane as if I’ve suddenly morphed into a one-woman petting zoo.

  “Give her a shag,” one cries.

  “A perm, but go spiral. She’s got the length,” another croaks.

  I’m quick to scoff at the idea. I can attest to the fact there shall be no follicular felonies of the permanent variety committed on my person this afternoon. The women admiring my virginal tresses have obviously developed a contact high off the ammonia congesting the air. Unless this quasi-dental chair they’ve hiked me up in has some magical time machine properties, and we’ve all been transported back to 1983, there’s no way in hell I’m letting a spiral perm fly.

  Boppy leans in. “I’m doing highlights.” The over-processed princess seizes me as if to ward off the angry villagers. “This hair is crying for some contrast, and would you look at those eyes? They’re bedroom eyes for God’s sake. She needs bangs.” She shoos the other women away like unwanted pigeons. “Don’t you worry, hon. I’ll have every man from here to Canada trying to drag you off to bed.” She snaps her gum to annunciate the point. “Let’s get you under the faucet.”

  “Oh, um, I washed my hair this morning. I think all I really need is a little trim off the bottom.” The thought of her digging her less than hygienic fingernails into my scalp sends a rise of vomit to the back of my throat. I lean in and whisper, “It’s my first time getting my hair done.” A cloud of shame settles around me for no good reason.

  “Oh. My. God.” She backs up clutching at her chest as if I’ve deliberately set out to break some indelible girl code. “You, my friend, are in need of the works. You don’t worry about a thing.” She slaps a pink plastic coat over my sweater and speeds me off to the sink. “This is gonna feel better than s-e-x.” She belts out a laugh as the hose spits out a firm spray of heavenly warm water over my scalp, and I moan into the experience.

  Oh God, it does feel good. Like triple-your-pleasure good. Not that I would know what that feels like, but still.

  Boppy masticates at rocket speed while filling me in on the finer details of her boyfriend’s professional cage fighting career until something wet and hard flies into my eye.

  “Oh my God!” She plucks it off and pops it back into her mouth. “Please don’t tell! I swear you can come in anytime you want for like a year, but if my boss finds out I dropped gum on another client, my ass is grass and so is my rent. Believe me, I’ll make sure you don’t leave here until you are satisfied.”

  Gah! Her gum? As in the rubber cement she’s been trying to wrestle into submission with her less than hygienic sublingual juices? That gum? That’s the wet glob of goo that just fell in my freaking eyeball? I’m sure there are an entire litany of diseases I’m now eligible to entertain, like mono for starters, and the mainstay of the dead and dying the world over, hepatitis. I knew I shouldn’t have come to the “Happy Herpes and Molest Your Nails Salon.” And now she’s going to try and satisfy me, whatever the hell that means. I will so throw her and her refried tresses down if she even attempts to initiate a “happy ending.”

  “I’m fine.” I assure for the thousandth time as she escorts me back to mission control. She pumps up the chair until my stomach bottoms out from the g-forces she’s emitting.

  “Don’t you worry.” She combs my hair down the front of my face and cuts straight across in one clean hack attack. “Walla.”

  Holy shit!

  Did she just hack off my hair and follow it up with a walla? Why does it suddenly feel like I’m back in fifth grade at Becky Zuckerman’s house and she’s giving my hair a “little body”—code for a fucking mullet.

  She fiddles with a rubber band, that honest to God she just plucked from the filth pit that is her mouth, and flexes it over my head. She backs up revealing my new unicorn-inspired ponytail sitting on top of my head as I struggle to catch my breath. Clearly Boppy here is freaking insane. Clearly, her not-so-cute moniker comes straight from the fact someone took her to task with a baseball bat and now my hair is reaping the grave benefits of a fractured skull trauma.

  She begins mixing bottles and solutions as if they were potions while I plot my escape from this dungeon of disaster.

  “We don’t want to get any of this crap anywhere it’s not supposed to be,” she sings, ignoring the fact I now have a miniature erect penis sprouting from my forehead.

  “Where it’s not supposed to be? Like my hair?” I’m only half-joking.

  “Just some chestnut highlights. Nothing more, I promise.”

  She spends the next leg of a decade basting my hair with what looks like glue then proceeds to wrap it in tinsel. Any moment now I’m expecting her to tune me like a radio and dial into the mother planet. Personally, all of this wasteful use of tinfoil is making me hungry for a Ding Dong.

  She spins me into the mirror, so I can appreciate the full effect of her not-so-handy work.

  “Oh my God!” It flies from my lips without meaning to. My hair has ballooned out two feet in every direction and it looks as though I’ve donned an aluminum afro.

  “Here.” She opens a jar marked “avocado” and slathers a green paste liberally over my face as her final descent toward insanity plays out right here on my person. “You’ll be spit shined and ready to go. New Year’s Eve, here you come baby!” She lets a couple of hearty whoops rip for added affect. “Now all you have to do is sit under these lights for a solid thirty minutes.” She pulls a set of octopu
s tentacles off the ceiling and surrounds me with a spray of blue and red bulbs. Suddenly, it all feels a little too electric chair for my liking.

  I look at myself with my muddied face, the tiny follicular penis sitting erect on the top of my head and my hair splayed out like a tinsel factory exploded. I’m betting the electric chair is a tad less humiliating.

  “I’m gonna take a quick lunch break.” Boppy snaps up her purse. “I’ll see you in a jiff!”

  She spins the chair around, presumably so I won’t be moved to inflict self-harm should I gaze too long in the mirror, and I’m met with a stunningly handsome, drop dead gorgeous, very much aware of the fact I look like an ass, Cruise Elton.

  Just fuck.


  Oh Shit.

  I should probably busy myself pretending to look at paperwork, or answer the phone for the hell of it, or just run out the fucking door because my mother’s incompetent salon has just turned one of the most beautiful women on the planet into a prime example of why other females should never set foot in the establishment.

  A smile twitches on my lips as her mouth opens in horror. Great. Now she thinks I’m laughing at her. I’d better go over and say something.

  “Kenny?” I ask in the off chance it’s another coed who’s mortified to see me.

  She closes her eyes, and a tiny whimper escapes her throat.

  “Have I mentioned I’ve never been to a salon before?” She squeaks.

  I can see why, but don’t say a word.

  “So”— she looks around as her eyes glitter up—“tell me about school.” She presses her lips together, presumably fighting off tears.

  A nervous laugh beats down my chest, and it takes everything in me to suppress the crap out of it. The truth is, I’m taken by her even in the Halloween garb she’s currently imprisoned in.

  “I’m a graduate student,” I say, pulling up a chair. “I’ve got my sights set on a fellowship, next year, with hopes to teach at Garrison some day.”

  “Really?” Her eyes glow a beautiful iridescent and my body feels as though it’s just fell through a trap door, landed in a place where it’s just Kenny and me on the other side.

  “Really,” I say. “Either that or I’ll run the bed and breakfast.”

  She licks her lips, inspecting me. “You don’t happen to know any computer languages, do you?”

  Computer languages? “I know some Java Script, C plus plus, and C, but mostly that was for programming when my solitary goal in life was to become the world’s most wanted hacker. That, and trying to rob my father blind of his millions, but in my defense, I was thirteen and he said no when I asked for a new bike.”

  She belts out a lusty laugh, and soon, I don’t see the circus around her beautiful features. All I see is Kenny and the light that shines like a beacon from inside her heart.

  “So you know three.” She relaxes for the first time. “I actually don’t know any, so your father’s millions are safe from me.”

  “How about you? What are you studying?” An animalistic wave overcomes me, and I have the urge to do her right here in the salon under the red-hot spot lights brewing from above, tinfoil and all.

  “Well, I’m on the five year plan, plus I took a year off. Outside of striking a name for myself as campus bimbo, I’ll be taking up airspace in the liberal arts department. In fact, I was supposed to have received my schedule this week, but I keep forgetting to check my emails. I’m hoping I got all the classes I wanted. Art, English 102, Finite math, and a class on gender relations.”

  “Study of men and women in society?” I perk to attention.

  “That’s the one.” She darts a freshly polished fingernail in the air, and I imagine diving the digit deep in my mouth, grazing over it with my teeth.

  “Bradshaw teaches it,” I say, trying to drag myself out my sexual stupor before I find myself in a hard situation. “He’s a good guy. He’s been sick, so they’ve got a T.A. covering it.” I don’t tell her that I’m the T.A. That I’ll be structuring a syllabus for the class later this afternoon because Bradshaw had a lobe of his lung removed last month.

  “I just took it because it sounded like an easy A.” Her eyes flicker like mirrors in the sun. “But with a T.A. holding down the fort, I’m sure I won’t even have to show up.”

  Not show up? Sounds like she might be on the fifteen-year plan.

  “Oh, I’m sure he’ll make you work for your grade.” I blink a quick smile. “In fact, I hear he gets inventive. He really likes to personalize the syllabus for each student’s individual needs.” Not really but the idea came to me, so I run with it. I think I’ll get started on her syllabus right away. I might even throw in a liability waiver—a hold harmless agreement for the more acrobatic requirements she’ll need to participate in if she intends on achieving that “easy A.”

  A half hour later the buzzer goes off, and about twenty minutes after that, Boppy drags her tail in from her break.

  “Holy shit!” She snipes while scratching to remove the tin from Kenny’s hair like she were stomping out a kitchen fire. She throws her under the sink with half the foil still glued to her scalp and starts sending up a string of prayers to the patron saint of fucked-up hairstyles.

  After a good span of eternity, Kenny finally makes her way to the counter, or at least I think its Kenny. Her face is scrubbed raw, with her eyes pink and watery like someone poured in vinegar, but it’s the hair where the real trauma lies.

  “Oh shit,” I whisper.

  “Oh shit is right.”

  She’s good and pissed, and well, incredibly irresistible even if she does look as if she’s magically aged about fifty years. I’m pretty sure she wasn’t in the market for grey streaks when she came in.

  “I look like a skunk.”

  I make my way around the counter.

  “Kenny, the city kitty.” I pull her in by the fingers. “Lucky for you, I’m into older women.”

  Her lips quiver like she might lose it, so I do the only thing I can think of to make the two of us feel better. I cover her mouth with mine and splurge on a kiss that drives me deeper into the insanity Kenny has me wrapped in.

  On New Year’s Eve, Ackerman House gyrates to raucous, loud hip-hop music that manages to pulsate through every cavity in my body. Swear to God, I’m about to find the volume control and turn it down about six notches, which probably highlights the fact that at the tender age of twenty-four, I’m too old for this shit.

  Mercifully, the music dies down, and the next song belts out something a little smoother that my eardrums might approve of once they stop bleeding.

  “So which one?” Kenny steps in front of me while eyeing a group of football players. Two of them are engaged in a mock fistfight that has them socking one another, hard as possible.

  Tonight’s lesson involves approaching potential hookups. Not that Kenny will be hooking up with the goofs running around this place. My lesson is specifically designed to keep her integrity intact.

  Kenny went all out in the looks department tonight with her sky-high heels and a black miniskirt that shows off her luscious limbs. I don’t think I can take much more of her walking around the house half-dressed, her wet hair, her braless mornings. If she doesn’t give in soon, I’ll fall on my knees and beg her to have her way with me. She’s got me shaking just walking past her in the hall. We’ve done the movie and the dinner thing, twice. I think it’s time to up the ante, lie down and see if she bites. God, I hope she bites.

  “Okay, see those two guys?” I point just past the jocks.

  “The cute one with the football, and the buffed-out guy in a wife beater?” She licks her well-glossed lips.

  “Nope.” I redirect her to the lanky pair with their pants riding high on their waists. “We’re going to start with those two. I want you to get at least six different numbers tonight. That should help you break out of your shell.” And keep her woman parts safe from assholes that have an unnatural obsession with pigskin and wife beaters.
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  She struts around to my other side, and her hourglass figure weakens my defenses. Her hair still holds the strong scent of solution from Mom trying to correct the blunder her former employee proliferated. Gone is the grey. Kenny’s hair sort of morphed to a dark chestnut with highlights. Mom is damn lucky Kenny doesn’t sue for emotional damages. She wore a hoodie three days straight.

  “Those two?” She balks. “Are you sure?”

  “I’m positive,” I whisper. “Now, get a move on, young grasshopper. I’ll watch from the sidelines.” I nod over to the super geeks in the corner until she ventures off in that direction.

  A tangle of bodies filter between us, and I can’t help but notice Kenny is turning heads. Before I know it, an entire herd of vulture-like, horny-as-hell, jocks surround her. Great.

  “How’s the virgin?” Cal shoulders up to me and hands me a beer.

  “She’s in the room ass-wipe,” I reprimand, cracking it open and taking a sip. “And things are progressing slowly. I haven’t scared her off yet, if that’s what you mean.”

  “That’s not what has me worried. It’s the fact she hasn’t scared you off yet. What’s going on? It’s New Year’s fucking Eve, and you’re overseeing a vestal of innocence while other guys hit on her? I’m beginning to think you’ve lost your touch. Take her to task in the bedroom or boot her out the door. If you don’t do her, I might just have to intervene and do her for you.”

  “Right. I’m leaving you now.” I head toward Kenny to help her navigate the sheer number of drooling idiots who have amassed around her like zombies in some B-rated horror flick.

  “Hey!” A pair of familiar arms wraps themselves around me. I glance down to find a brunette with her eyes half-closed, already wasted into tomorrow.

  “Donna.” I think.

  “Amber.” She flashes a toothy grin.

  Or that. “Look, I’m…” I glance over at Kenny and her band of aspiring bedmates, as she waves from across the room. She glances at the pale limb secured around my waist, and a hurt look flashes across her face. Kenny flips her hair and pretends not to notice as she turns her attention back to the “cute” jock.

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