This story is by FS Pollard and was part of our 2018 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
My hands were shaking. Not a good look on a manicurist, so I hastily excused myself from my new customer and walked to the back of the salon. I headed into the little bathroom, trying to catch my breath as I swung the door shut. Safely inside, I stood at the basin and turned on the sink. The running water swirling down the drain symbolized my life and somehow smoothed the rapid thoughts ping ponging in my head. I glanced at my reflection in the mirror and saw a girl who was both shocked and relieved. Then I opened my fist and stared down at the 3 bright red fingernails in my hand.
It all started innocently enough, I had looked up at the commotion at the entrance of the salon, two girls were laughing hysterically as they jockeyed around trying to shove through the front door at the same time. “Don’t mind us; we’ve been doing that since we were little girls.”
The tall willowy blonde, who managed to get through the door first, was still laughing when she looked straight at me and in her best wanna be Lara Dern voice, said, “Like she cares how long we’ve been friends. Now, I don’t have an appointment, but I desperately need my nails done. Can you fit me in?”
Not amused by their antics and suddenly feeling like a mousy brown-haired pip-squeak, I said, a little too loudly, “Sure, why not. I just had a cancelation.” Girls like her always got what they wanted, today would be no different.
She let me know her name was Tara, which sounded weirdly familiar but I could not quite place it. Smiling I kept my old grandmother name of Gwendolyn to myself for the time being.
I did my best to sound sincere when I asked Tara, “Do people ever tell you that you look like Laura Dern?”
“Yes” Tara responded, “I get that a lot. I think we are both 5”11’.” She added that the resemblance guaranteed her and friends instant entrance into any night club they wanted. Trying not to roll my eyes, I said that must make you quite popular with your friends.
“Absolutely,” she replied enthusiastically.
Hair salons somehow induce total conversational comfort for women; they just let loose with whatever is going on in their lives, with the go to subject of most girls being their boyfriends and Tara was no different. By the sounds of it, Tara was quite enamored with hers, explaining that he is 6’3” which she loves because she can feel comfortable wearing heels when they go out. I politely asked a few of the standard questions, “How long have you two been together? How did you meet?” They had been together about four months. She had met him through her father; they were drinking buddies at the same bar around the corner from her father’s jewelry store. Feeling encouraged and continuing, Tara added that she was sure he was “the one.”
Tara went on to describe how she recently designed a beautiful gift for him that her father made. Apparently he loved it. She called it their four month anniversary gift. After a few moments of silence, Tara, with a far off look in her eye, shared with me her concern over a trip her boyfriend recently made to Las Vegas as he loves to gamble. I was getting a strange feeling not unlike a déjà vu. I couldn’t help asking, “When did he go?”
“Last weekend,” she replied. SNAP! I sat there in disbelief staring at her red nail that I now held in my hand. “I’ve never had that happen before, I’m sorry I’ll fix it” Tara jerked her hand back “you better.” What a coincidence because my boyfriend had also been in Las Vegas last weekend. Apparently, though, Tara’s boyfriend had made his trip to Vegas with a friend; a girl named Michelle. She lamented that he was adamant about the fact that this Michelle girl was “just a friend.”
It turned out Tara had more misgivings which had to do with the fact “the one” rented a Corvette and stayed in a suite at the Mirage. He explained to her that the suite had separate bedrooms. I wondered if she was actually comforted by that information. Tara was not quite sure how he got the money for such luxuries. He never seemed to spend that kind of money on her.
I was getting the feeling that Tara really wanted to believe this guy. Plus, she said, because he was so generous with the details, how could he be lying?
Trying to work in a new subject, I asked, “How do you like the new moisturizer I am using? It’s all natural and has Jojoba oil?”
Tara raised her exquisite hand and said, “It smells wonderful. I am so happy to finally be getting a manicure. It has been to long since I have had my nails done.”
Lovely Tara, turning uglier, was getting very worked up about the whole trip to Vegas thing with Michelle and was now deciding whether to confront him about it.
“Good luck with that,” I thought while I shaped her long lovely nails. My boyfriend Steve and I had been together three years and have a beautiful baby girl. I had my suspicions about him and had been trying to catch him in a lie but everything he had always told me would check out, despite the fact I could never seem to shake the feeling that he was lying. Just the other day, he was getting ready to move from his apartment, and I was there helping him pack. On the kitchen counter was a beautiful gold money clip with tiger’s-eye quartz in it. I had never seen it and asked him where it came from. He said it was from an old girlfriend from years ago. “How come it looks brand new?” I demanded.
His response, “I just found it in the bottom of a box. I haven’t seen it for years, relax.” This explanation seemed plausible at the time. I frustratingly found myself just wanting to catch him once and for all.
By habit, I had tuned Tara’s ranting out, and I was reflecting on my own relationship until she said something that caught my full attention, this boyfriend of hers, she said, “Also has a baby with this other girl, but it’s totally nothing.” SNAP went another one of Tara’s lovely fingernails. “HEY! What the hell are you doing?” She yanked her hand from within my grasp and held it up in front of her, turning it back and forth.
“I’m really sorry about that,” I said, trying to sound sincere. I reached for her hand again. “Now tell me your boyfriends name again?
With a very red face, Tara cried, “I never told it to you in the first place! Jesus Christ what is your problem?”
Gripping her hand and about to snap nail number 3, I looked Tara dead in the face and hissed, “What is your boyfriend’s name?”
“Steve Lewis! My boyfriend’s name is Steve Lewis, why?” Snap, went nail number 3.
My heart instantly sank into the emotional gut punch. My brain shooting off hot fireworks, of course, the money clip, I thought. “Love, Tara,” the engraving had said on the back of the clip. Tara, “The old girlfriend from years ago.”
I looked down at the sharp implement in my hand and thought, “Who would blame me?”
Hadn’t I been searching for proof that Steve was a liar? Well now, I thought I have literally just held it in my hand. Maybe I should thank her?
No doubt that however I handle it, things will get ugly. Do I tell her I am the girl that Steve had a baby with who was nothing to him? Do I keep my mouth shut, finishing up her manicure repairing the 3 snapped nails free of charge, and let her go on her way, still thinking Steve; the miscreant was still “The One.”?
Walking back from the bathroom, I could see that Tara’s back was still to the entrance and she was unaware that my Dad had just come through the door carrying my 2-year-old daughter, Amy. “Hi, Gwenie, he called out a little embarrassed. “Sorry, honey when we talked last, I thought you said you had a cancellation? We were in the neighborhood and I thought you might like a quick daughter visit.” I was a little taken off guard but so happy for exactly what I needed right then a sweet baby love hug. Tara turned in her chair to see who was causing so much happiness just as I reached out for my daughter; suddenly, Amy, with her heart shaped cherub face, cried out, “Tawa!” and reached for my new client instead. Tara’s face went white with undeniable shock; she was staring at me horrified when I said “Still think he’s The One?”