“Sure you won’t come out with us, Lorna?” The other stylists of Dreams Beauty Shop clustered by the door all eyes on me.
“No, I’ve got to clean up before I head home.” Alone. “You guys go ahead and have fun.” Somebody should.
As they left one of them whispered, “She really needs to get a life.”
Yeah, right. Running the beauty shop had proven to be a never ending battle. How had Grammy managed for so long? It had only been five months, and I was barely keeping my head above water.
As I swept up the last bit of hair and trash from the day’s clients, the bells over the door rang out. I tried to stifle a groan. What had they forgotten now?
I turned and gasped. A man, carrying a colorful bundle of blankets, filled the doorway.
My eyes darted to the right. Peeking out from my purse was my cell phone. No way I could grab it and call for help before he crossed the distance between us. Why didn’t I lock the door when the others had left? Idiot.
“I didn’t mean to scare you, but I need help.” His deep rich voice didn’t sound like it belonged to a serial killer.
But a woman couldn’t be too careful. I inched toward my phone. “The mi…mission is down a few doors. I’m sure they could offer you more help than—”
“No, not help like that. Like this.” He lifted a corner of the blanket.
Huge brown eyes dominated a sweet, chocolate brown face. The little girl had her thumb stuck in her mouth and tufts of hair sticking out at odd, almost impossible angles.
Fear forgotten, I moved forward and reached out for the mop of knots. “What happened to her hair?”
“Thee Dadd-ee, I thold thoo.” The little girl spoke around her thumb.
The man lifted the little girl higher to embrace her and his large hands tenderly patted her back. “It’s okay, sweetie. I’m Jason, and this is my daughter, Lea” He shook his head, eyes wide. “The box said… the tenderizer was supposed to make her hair easier to comb.”
“Texturizer, a tenderizer is for meat.” I gently lifted clumps of hair to assess the damage. Poor baby. “Hey, little mama, you want to come with Miss Lorna?”
Lea looked first to her father then to me and extended her arms.
I scooped her up and headed back to the sinks. “Grab a seat,” I called over my shoulder.
He slumped down into the closest couch. Poor daddy.
It didn’t take a minute to realize the delightful four-year-old didn’t have a shy bone in her body. She chirped away while I washed, conditioned, and cut her hair. After tucking Lea under a hair dryer, I clicked on a cartoon video for her to watch.
Heading back to the front of the shop, I paused. Jason’s bald head rested on his palms. He looked as dejected as I felt some days. No longer afraid and the hair crisis safely behind us, I studied him.
His short sleeved t-shirt revealed thick, corded muscles in his deep brown arms. Yet when he’d held Lea his hands had been gentle.
“Is she going to be all right?”
Uh-oh. Caught gathering wool, as Granny would have said. I walked forward. “Yeah, she’ll have a cute little afro for a while.”
He politely stood as I approached. He wasn’t much taller than my five seven, but heavily built and solid. Strong, a protector. And in his faded sweat pants, he could have walked off any football field. Concern creased his brow but didn’t detract from his full lips and high cheek bones. Running a hand over his head, he groaned.
“Don’t worry. Kids are resilient.”
“Thankfully.” He motioned for me to sit down on the sofa then sat beside me. His distinctive masculine scent smelled wonderful after a day of heavy perfumes and hair care products.
“It’s crazy. I didn’t even know about my daughter until the day her mother dumped her at my door. Said she was tired of being a mom. But having Lea is the best thing that has happened to me.”
Spending thirty minutes with his little girl, I could see how easy loving her would be.
“I just didn’t think it would all be so hard.”
“Tell me about it.” Without thinking, I rested my hand on his.
Our gazes locked. “The funny thing is I feel like I could.” Slowly his warm fingers curled around mine.
When the buzzer from Lea’s dryer sounded, I hated to pull away.
“What you need is a man.”
Mrs. Mott sat in my chair the next day freely giving advice about my non-existent love life. Well, at least it was a change from her usual ‘my-daughter-is-so-perfect’ speech.
I didn’t bother to look up when the bells over the door rang. The shop was always busy on Fridays. Date night.
I turned and grinned.
Lea skipped toward my station carrying a lovely bouquet of carnations. She wrapped her arms, flowers and all, around my legs.
“What are you doing here, little mama?”
“Hello, Lorna.” No longer dressed in a t-shirt and sweats, but in a crisp gray suit, Jason sauntered behind her.
My heart skipped. If possible he looked even better this morning.
“I own a small accounting practice on the next block. That’s how I knew you were here last night when I needed you.” His lips curved up into a smile and a dimple appeared. “Just wanted to come and say thank you and –”
“See if you would date us?” Lea chirped.
I raised my eyebrows at Jason.
“Dinner. We would love it… I would love it if you would have dinner with us tonight.”
“If you don’t say yes, then I will,” Mrs. Mott said.
Encouragement was not what I needed, only enough time to remember how to form the words. “I’d love that, too.”
About the Author: Michelle Hicks lives in Virginia with her husband, kids, and faithful dog. She is an aspiring writer who loves telling stories about people falling in love.