The House At Sailor's Bay

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Prelude

Libby stared with open-mouthed horror at the orange apparition staring back at her. She must be dreaming, she told herself, caught in some kind of hideous, subterranean nightmare. She was about to slap her own face, intent on shunting herself back into a life where a bad haircut and an even worse hair color weren’t about to destroy her world when Josie-Bethany’s pale, appalled face appeared in the mirror beside her.

Libby swiveled her head around, her movements hobbled by the rustling black plastic cape that Josie-Bethany had tied around her neck with all the enthusiasm of an executioner arranging a hangman’s noose, and she let out a bellow that brought the owner galloping out of the back room and to a screeching halt in front of her chair. “Libby? What’s wrong?”

“What’s wrong?” Libby lifted an outraged, shaking hand and pointed to the abomination that crouched upon her scalp like an unhappy orangutan. “Look at my hair.”

“It’s… stylish. Pastel colors are all the rage. Take a peek at Instagram if you don’t believe me.” Kirsten, the black t-shirted yoga enthusiast who owned Le Style hair salon, fluffed up Libby’s hair with nervous fingers. “I think it quite suits you.”

“It’s not pastel. It’s awful. Utterly awful. It accentuates my big nose and makes my skin look blotchy. I hate it.” Libby felt like throwing a full-blown toddler tantrum, waving her fists and collapsing into a red-faced screaming fit. After the way in which her week (her life?) had gone, she should never have risked a new hairstyle. A wash, trim, and blow dry would’ve been the sensible option but no, she had to go and walk where angels feared to tread.

Jodie-Bethany burst into watery, noisy tears and ran from the salon, banging the door back on its hinges and leaving a trail of dropped scissors, chopped locks of curling orange hair, and hurt feelings in her wake. Libby, instantly contrite, pushed herself out of the chair to follow the girl and apologize for her careless comments.

“Wait.” Kirsten pushed her back down into the black swivel chair with an arm made powerful by lifting warehouse-size boxes of conditioner and strong-arming her accountant into submission. “Leave her be. She’ll come back. She always does.”

She always does? Are you saying this happens often?” Libby turned back to gaze with despair at her reflection, dismayed that her image had not improved in the interim. She couldn’t walk out the door looking like this. She couldn’t go anywhere looking like this. “Can you fix it?” she asked in a small voice. “I don’t mean the cut…” She glanced down at the shag pile rug of human hair beneath her chair and swallowed hard. “I know it’s too late for the cut, but can you do anything about the color? I have an important appointment tomorrow.”

Kirsten pulled a face that made her look as if she’d smelled something bad. “It’s not good for the condition of your hair if you dye it too often.”

Libby bit down painfully on her bottom lip and forced herself not to scream, to not leap up and start throwing bottles and tubes of lotion, dye, and setting agent around the salon like a mad woman. She clutched the armrests of the chair hard enough to feel her fingernails bending back against the faux leather and took a deep, calming breath. “It’s not good for my state of mind to walk out the door looking like the red-and-white-striped clown mascot of a burger restaurant. I’ll scare little children if I try to go out in public like this. I’m already scaring myself. Fix it. Please.”

Kirsten reached across her to pick up the scissors and a color chart, filling Libby’s nostrils with the confusing but not unpleasant scent of ammonia, hair oil, and Guilty by Gucci. “We’ll have to go darker,” she warned. “Orange isn’t a color that’s easy to fix and there’s no guarantee the new color will take.”

“Do whatever you can.” Libby slumped down low in her chair, wondering morosely why every life shot she ever attempted landed in the bad luck basket.



Cherie Mitchell

Edited: 12.12.2018

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