by Kristin Rivers
The burn mark on her right arm would always remind Lana of what she had lost. Sitting inside her favorite salon, she tries to intently focus on a Vogue magazine, even though her mind wanders elsewhere. She moves her bag to the side to try and make the burn less noticeable.
It was finally fading, but the pinkish tone was still intact.
“Lana?” a middle-aged woman with black curls asks.
Looking up, she gives a small smile and says hello to Bessie, a new stylist at the salon. Setting the magazine down, Lana follows her to the vanity.
“You can set your bag down there sweetheart.”
“Thank you.” Lana pauses seeing her reflection in the mirror. Auburn hair in small curls down her back, a small nose, a small mole on the side of her cheek shaped like a pea and big brown eyes greet her.
Looking down at her lilac top, she smooths away wrinkles not really there. Her burn mark appears in the reflection making her hang her head to hide the clouds swirling in her eyes.
She tenses. “Sorry. I…”
“Why don’t we get you settled and you can tell me all about it. I mean, if you want.” Bessie smiles warmly.
Bessie wraps the towel around Lana’s shoulders, instructing her to lean her head back. While soaking her hair, she comments, “Such beautiful hair. Such a shame you wish to cut this all off. How much do you want taken off, anyway?”
“All the way to my shoulders.”
“Hmm,” Bessie wonders rubbing in the shampoo and conditioner. “Pardon my intrusion, but I feel you don’t cut your hair that often.”
“You would be right,” Lana responds. “Everyone needs a change sometimes.”
“So true my dear. So true.”
Bessie wraps Lana’s hair in the towel as they walk back to her station. Lana glances at her tote bag again. Without thinking, she pulls out a book—
The charred cover makes Bessie stop in her tracks. “Good God what happened?”
Lana carefully held the unrecognizable cover, opening to the front page that showed the title and author. The page was burnt halfway, a message in cursive left intact:
We love you. Please cherish this copy of Safe Haven. See you at our next get-together!!
“I was part of a book club a few months ago,” Lana sits down as Bessie takes the towel off. “Sigh. Everything going so wrong…so fast…”
A chorus of laughter erupted in the living room of Sophie Nelson. Her husband, Bob, was out with their two kids which gave her some breathing room to enjoy her book club. A former book club member, Lucille Jones, recommended Sophie’s group to Lana, because of the hilarious discussions and wonderful fundraisers they put together for the libraries in the city. She was the romance enthusiast of the group, and fit right in.
“We finally finished Emma. Was I the only one who despised the main character?” a woman in her 20s with deep blue eyes named Opal gagged.
“Oh come on Opal, she was redeemable by the end!” Bethany Simmons, a blonde obsessed with the classics, argued.
As Opal and Bethany kept disputing about Emma Woodhouse, a brunette with a headband sighed. “You can never put those two in the same room together when reading a classic novel. Makes the book club more interesting though!” Natalie Brooke murmured which made Lana laugh. “Why I stick with my popular fiction!”
“Some horror or fantasy would be a nice change of pace. We should read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies soon,” Rachel Johnson, a woman who always came in wearing Ghostbusters goggles and a graphic tee of a horror movie character.
“I’ll consider it down the road, Rachel,” Sophie mutters.
“While we’re on the subject,” Carmen Morris piped in, wearing a white business suit and grey top, “We should vote on our next book selection!”
“Good idea Carmen,” fellow redhead Zenia Andrews added. “I suggest another Toni Morrison book…maybe…Sula?”
A few echoes of agreement flooded the room. Lana shook her head. “I enjoyed our discussion of Beloved but I think it’s too soon.”
Zenia glared. “You’re kidding right? We need to read the most important books in all of literature!! That one is another!”
“Well Zenia, that’s your opinion. There’s a difference between your job critiquing serious novels and enjoying some fluff once in a while…”
“It was so ironic of Zenia to say that because she gave me a romance novel. She’s a big Nicholas Sparks fan like me.”
“So what did everyone decide on?” Bessie asks cutting some hair.
“Continue the romantic fluff. Zenia wasn’t thrilled about being overruled. No one dared tried to outdo her ideas or opinions, even if it was far-fetched and just wrong! She also personally brought and chose the books for the fundraisers.”
“But you were different. You challenged her.”
“Yeah…and I paid for it.” Lana looks down at her arm.
Zenia rolled her eyes as Lana spoke about the romance between John and Samantha in Dear John. It was near the end of winter and Sophie just threw some wood in the fireplace. “…to me, it’s a sweet romance you don’t see very much.”
The other women applauded while drinking their hot cocoa. “Someone pass the marshmallows!” Bethany asked.
“I could definitely read this book again, don’t you agree girls?” Carmen suggested. The others shared the same sentiment until they head a “pft!” from Zenia. Everyone looked at her
Zenia rolled her eyes. “Really Lana? Relationships like that don’t work in real life! John didn’t fight hard enough for Samantha.”
Everyone gasped. Lana tried to explain. “But Zenia, it shows putting the other person before yourself so they can be happy. Plus, Samantha was already married—”
“It was terrible,” Zenia waved off. “Love sells I get it. But the happy ending wasn’t there. John and Samantha both lost out!! The sacrifices were sweet but didn’t pan out in the end!”
“That is a good point—” Sophie interjected.
“However,” Lana interrupted, “what’s more important Zenia? Let the other be happy and be thankful for the time you had with them, or ruin more lives because of selfishness?”
“Amen sister,” Carmen applauded. Zenia gave the older woman the stink eye.
Sophie was about to interject again, but Lana held up her hand. “You know what Zenia? I have dealt with your comments and hypocrisy long enough. You have every right to disagree with my opinion but you could have the audacity to respect it along with everyone else’s.”
The room went silent. Natalie was about to clap but Opal gave her a look. Bethany chuckled to herself, grabbing some popcorn.
“You don’t get it sweetheart,” Zenia cackled. “I know everything there is to know about romance and why serious works do well!”
“Sounds like someone has a—” Carmen started until Opal glared again.
“That doesn’t make you better than anyone else. Hey, I’m sorry you don’t like my strong opinions, but this is a club and every person has a right to share their views.”
Sophie groaned. “Ladies, can we move on to the plans for our fundraiser for the end of the school year? The sooner the better!”
“Oh I can’t watch,” Natalie murmured.
Lana sighs. “I don’t know why you have such animosity towards me, Zenia.”
“Because you’re no expert even if you read the material. That title belongs to me.” Zenia spotted Safe Haven in Lana’s bag and snatched it.
“Hey that’s mine! What do you think you’re doing?!” Lana screamed.
“I’m taking the book back!” Zenia screamed while backing towards the fireplace. “Plus, this book was and still is my favorite. I don’t why I even gave it to you.”
She dropped it in the fireplace as smoke filled the living room. The women screamed in horror. Lana tried to retrieve the book and shove Zenia to the side…
“So Zenia burned the book she gave you?” Bessie asks in shock.
“She did,” Lana sighs looking down at the charred cover. “I don’t know why I kept it. It reminds me of that final meeting.”
“Final?” Bessie finished brushing out the layers. “What happened after that?”
“The book club ended.” Lana didn’t elaborate further. As the hair session wrapped up, she continued to stare at the burn mark. She had gotten the book when Zenia pushed her to the floor and sparks were flying out.
Bessie holds up a mirror as Lana softly smiles at her shorter, auburn hair. “It was a pleasure meeting you today Miss Lana. I pray your pain will fade with time. But I don’t think cutting off your beautiful, long hair is the answer.”
Lana nods to herself as she leaves a tip for Bessie. When she steps outside, she sees a fire pit burning nearby. Without a second thought, she throws the charred remains in the pit, never turning around.
Yet, the wounds by fire would always be there.