Saturday at the salon made Friday look like a cake walk. If the shampoo bowl had one head in it, it had a hundred. Even Leslie had to work to help keep up with the flow of customers and had no time to complain about it. Andrea sat across from Judy in the back room and stretched her arms over her head inhaling deep the savory scent of the food Judy bought for everyone.
“Whew! Today’s been an absolute whirlwind.” Judy smiled, handing Andrea a container of orange chicken. “Eat up. Round two starts in a little while.”
“No kidding,” Andrea said holding up her pruned fingers. “And I thought last night was busy. Thanks for buying lunch.”
“I love taking care of my girls. And who doesn’t like Panda Express?”
The spread of paper box containers filled the square card table in the back room because Judy’s generosity extended to all her “girls.” The stylists fixed their plates but went to sit out on the benches in the thoroughfare where there was more room. Andrea and Leslie stayed in the back room with Judy.
“Orange chicken is my favorite.” Andrea spooned some chicken on her plate and passed the container to Leslie.
“Uh, no thanks.” She grabbed the unopened box of teriyaki chicken instead. “Orange chicken is disgusting.”
“Whatever. More for me.” Andrea narrowed her eyes and spooned more orange chicken onto her plate. Right, don’t want to get my cooties.
“I almost forgot to tell you.” As they ate, Judy pulled out a bright yellow slip of paper. She turned it so they could read the front. “My alma mater is having a contest!”
Andrea chewed her food and tried to read the flyer for the beauty contest, but Judy flipped it back around, nearly bouncing in her seat as she explained it to them.
“First prize is a full scholarship to attend the Tony Mancinni Cosmetology Academy.”
“What?” Leslie’s eyes opened wide and she grabbed the paper from Judy’s hands. “No way! How do I enter?”
Judy smiled and took the paper back. She flipped it over and pointed at the bottom. “Here’s the phone number. Give them a call and tell them you want to enter. They will send you a packet of information on the rules and dates.” She looked at Andrea. “You’re going to enter, too, right?”
“Maybe. You know I want to go to college.” Andrea ignored Leslie’s snort.
“Well, think about it.” Judy handed her a fortune cookie and smiled. “I think you’d be a brilliant stylist.”
“Thanks.” Andrea turned the cookie over and over in her hand, remembering the one she missed last night. She pictured her dad eating the chocolate chip and clenched her teeth. College. She had to get away from this life. She had to get someplace better.
They finished eating and cleaned up the mess, putting the leftovers in the small refrigerator Judy kept in the back. Andrea followed Judy toward the front desk where the customers lined the chairs waiting.
Glancing at their faces, Andrea caught her breath. Jenny sat in one of the chairs, watching her. Andrea pressed her lips together and waited for Judy to give them their clients. Jenny gets cold water if I wash her.
“Leslie can you please wash… Jenny?” Judy smiled and looked toward the seated customers. “Jenny we’re ready for you.”
Sighing, Andrea leaned against the counter, waiting. Jenny waked toward her and smiled.
“Hey.” What? No insults?
“You know each other? You can wash her if you want.” Leslie raised her eyebrows and smiled at something behind Andrea. “I’ll take him.”
Turning, Andrea came face-to-face with Gio and his dimples. Instead of his usual jeans and black t-shirt uniform for the Sub Shop, he wore faded jeans and a white t-shirt under a red button-down long sleeved shirt, open to expose the way his muscled chest stretched the fabric.
“Hi.” Andrea cleared her throat. “Sorry, I can’t talk. We’re really busy.”
“I know.” Gio nodded to Judy. “That’s why I made an appointment.”
Andrea looked at his perfect hair. “You… don’t need a haircut.”
“Nope. That’s not why I’m here.”
“Leslie, take Jenny please,” Judy said. “Gio has an appointment with Andrea.”
Pouting with a curled lip, Leslie jerked her head and walked toward the shampoo bowls. Jenny met Andrea’s gaze with a raised eyebrow glance at Gio then followed Leslie.
“What are you doing?” Andrea crossed her arms over her stomach to settle the butterflies.
“I’m getting my hair washed. That happens here, right?” His wide eyes with their thick lashes twinkled.
Andrea checked Judy’s face to see if she was joking.
“Go on,” Judy said with a grin. “Chop chop. Heads to wash, people to please.”
“C’mon.” Andrea led Gio to the sinks, choosing one at the opposite end of the wall from Leslie and Jenny. She directed Gio onto the seat and wrapped him in a black cape, then eased his head back into the bowl.
“Do you like the water cool, warm, or hot?” Standard questions. If she stuck to them, he could be just another head. Not a beautiful head attached to the hot body that made her stomach quiver.
“Oh. Muy caliente.” He grinned up at her. “What’s life without a little heat?”
“Okay.” Leaning over the bowl, she pulled the hose and turned on the water. Adjusting it to hot, she sprayed it onto her hand to make sure she wouldn’t burn his head. She turned her gaze back to him and caught him smiling at her. “What?”
“Nothing. You’ve seen me work and now I get to see what you do.”
“Yeah. The thrilling life of a shampoo girl.” Andrea sprayed his hair with the hot water, rubbing her fingers through his spikes to disperse it. Her stomach flipped as she touched him. His hair is softer than his hands.
“Have you done this for long?”
“About a year now.” She rubbed the buzzed hair on the sides of his head and bit her lip.
It’s just hair. It’s just a head.
Gio grinned. “You have a gentle touch. Very nice.”
“I try.” Turning off the water, Andrea reached for the shampoo pump on the far side of the shelf behind the sink. Leaning over his face, her face heated. Her boobs were right on top of him. She tried the pump, but nothing came out. She tried again and got the same airy squelch.
“Give it a harder tap,” Gio said then laughed. “At least this is supposed to land in my hair, unlike the mayo.”
The reminder of their first meeting actually made her smile, which made his smile grow even more until both dimples made an appearance.
“Sorry, it’s empty. I’ll be right back.”
“I won’t go anywhere.”
Andrea grabbed the empty container and headed for the storage room. Judy was in there already, opening a box of paper tape for the cash register. She smiled at Andrea.
“How’s it going?”
Andrea frowned and unscrewed the pump from the bottle of shampoo. She grabbed a full one and worked on replacing the cap with the pump.
“You know I’m just going to send him on his way, right?”
After her mom’s reappearance last night and her dad’s crazy reaction, Andrea didn’t have time to worry about a relationship. She would not end up like her mom, knocked up at eighteen and stuck in a trailer park.
“Well, I kind of figured you would say that.” Judy sighed. “So did he. That’s why he made an appointment for every one of your shifts next week.”
“He what?” Andrea glared at Judy. “Why would you let him do that?”
“Hey, it’s his money. If he wants to spend it on shampoos from the girl he likes, that’s his business.” She pointed a finger at Andrea’s face. “I’ll pimp you out for as long as it takes.”
“This is ridiculous.” Andrea rubbed her eyes.
“Yes,” Judy said. “It’s ridiculous that you won’t give this sweetheart a chance. You like him. He likes you. Just go on a date with him and see what happens. You deserve something good, Andrea.”
“But what’s the point? If I’m just going to leave anyway?” Andrea hugged the shampoo to her chest and bit the inside of her cheek. “I gotta get out of here. I don’t want to end up like my parents.”
“You are not your parents.” Judy set the paper tape on the shelf and gave Andrea a hug. “And dating a nice guy doesn’t mean you’ll end up stuck here, okay? It just means you have a chance at being happy.”
Wrapping her arms around Judy’s little waist, Andrea hugged her back. “But what if—”
“Stop right there.” Judy stepped back and held Andrea’s face between her cool hands. “What ifs don’t matter. You can’t live your life being afraid of what ifs.”
Andrea nodded and closed her eyes. “You’re right.”
“I know I am. Now get back out there and take a chance.”
Clutching the shampoo to her chest, Andrea returned to the sink where Gio waited.
“Ah, I thought you’d gotten lost.” He looked down the row of sinks toward Leslie. “Or maybe you were going to let her torture me with more suggestive flirting while she washed my hair.”
“No.” Laughing, Andrea put the bottle on the shelf and squirted the product into her palm. “I wouldn’t subject you to that.”
She massaged the shampoo into his hair, and he smiled.
“Yep, you have the magic touch. I could lay here all day.”
“Your neck would get pretty sore and my fingers would be even more pruned.” She turned the water back on and rinsed his hair, sending the clean smelling bubbles down the drain. Putting a bit of conditioner in his hair, she massaged his scalp while she let the product work. She did this for every client, but she got lost in the pleasure of touching him again and Gio got an extra-long session.
She jumped at his husky voice. “What?” She turned the water on again to give him his final rinse.
“Will you hang out with me tonight?”
She stalled for a moment, grabbing a towel and using it to soak up the water from his hair. He sat and gently grabbed her wrist.
The heat from his hand on her skin raced up her arm and to her cheeks. She met his gaze and bit her bottom lip between her teeth. “Okay. I get off at six.”
His full lips split into the widest smile yet and she had to copy him.
“Perfect. I’ll be back then.” He slipped her hand into his and raised it to his lips, placing a warm kiss on her knuckles as he stared into her eyes.
Now the heat wasn’t just in her face. She cleared her throat. “Uh, where do you want to go?”
“We can decide then.” He stood and laid the cape on his chair giving her another view of that chest. “Maybe we can eat?”
“S-sure. Yeah. That sounds good.”
He nodded to the row of customers waiting their turn for services. “I should go so you can do your work.” Taking a step forward he bent his head a little closer to her. “Though it makes me a little jealous that they get to feel your fingers in their hair, too.”
Andrea raised her eyebrows but with her heart in her throat, couldn’t think of a come-back.
What am I getting myself into?
Smiling, he tapped a finger under her chin and walked away, leaving her face muy caliente.
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