She stood at the edge of the pavement with a pained expression on her face. Her little hairdressing salon had seen better days. It could certainly do with a lick of paint, something to cover the grime that had built up over the years. In fact the whole place needed renovating and bringing into the 21st century. She had been promising to do it for years, but she had never managed to save enough money. However, something had occurred over the weekend. Something wonderful and exciting. Something that would mean that she could afford to move away from these dingy surroundings; maybe even this town. She could leave her miserable, lazy husband, branch out on her own and escape the bondage of a loveless marriage to a man that did nothing but whine and spend all her, hard-earned, money on beer and fags.
She walked out of the sunshine and into the cool shade of her salon. A smile lit up her tired face as she thought of her good fortune. Her mind wandered back to Saturday evening. Jim had gone out to the pub and she had tuned in to the Lottery results on TV. She had, rather half-heartedly, checked the numbers, as she did every week. It was pointless really, because, in all the years that she had been buying a ticket, she had never won a pound. In fact, she only continued out of sheer habit. Her husband was a pessimistic doubter and didn't approve of her wasting money on such nonsense. Especially when he considered that every spare penny belonged to him.
Five numbers !! She had only gone and got FIVE bloody numbers !!
Trudy was stunned. She had waited until Monday, the day that the salon was always closed, before enquiring about the amount of her windfall. It had been a double-rollover week and she had won £5,500 ! And, even better, Jim knew nothing about it. She was longing to tell someone, but she knew she must keep this quiet for a while. She had to consider her options.
She was startled out of her reverie by the arrival of her staff, or, at least, two of them in the form of Pauline and Trudy's nephew, Jason.
"Hiya, Trude ! We have the bridal party in a few minutes, don't we ? " asked Pauline, who avoided Trudy's eyes and donned her nylon overall.
" Yeah, the bride and two bridesmaids," replied Trudy. " I hope they remember to bring their head-dresses. We haven't got time for hanging about. We have three perms and a ........ Christ, Pauline, what's up with your face ?"
Pauline turned round and it was immediately evident that she had a "shiner". The left side of her face was swollen and beginning to turn a funny colour.
" Jeez, Pauline !" exclaimed Jason, as he peered at the unfortunate woman's face, " If that gets any mauver, it will match old Mrs. Wilson's hair !"
" Hold the fort, Jason, " murmured Trudy, as three, very excited young women entered the salon. Then she took Pauline's arm and led her into the little back room which led onto the tiny kitchen.
" You have really got to leave that bastard, " she said, as she began smearing makeup over the bruise. " He is too handy with his fists, always has been. He put you in hospital last time, remember. He will kill you if you don't get out "
" Oh, Trude " wailed Pauline, " Where would I go ? I haven't got anywhere else to live, renting a place costs so much ..... I have no choice "
Trudy sighed, but said nothing. She was itching to tell Pauline about her win, but now was not the time.
Laughter came drifting through from the salon. 'Good old Jason' she thought. He was camping it up for the clients. When she got her new premises, he would be such an asset. At the moment he worked part-time, fitting in his salon work with his course in "Hairdressing and Manicure" at the local College. She knew he was hoping to find employment at one of the more fashionable salons in the city. But, surely he could be persuaded to stay if she had a more up-market place ? He would bring in a much trendier clientele.
Pauline had recovered her composure and the bruising was nicely disguised and so the two women began work, washing and drying the hair of the two 'bridesmaids' as Jason moussed and styled the bleached locks of the 'bride-to-be'.
" Where the hell is Leanne ?" He whispered, as he arranged curls around a rather over-embellished tiara.
Leanne was the young 'trainee', which meant she washed hair, swept up and made tea. She was, possibly, the slowest trainee Trudy had ever had, but she was willing, polite and very eager to learn and, when allowed to help with hair styling, she appeared to have a natural flair. Trudy liked her, but, just recently, she had taken to coming in late. Jason, who knew all the gossip, said it was because Leanne had a new boyfriend. Apparently he was foreign and only had a smatter of English. Pauline had wondered how they communicated and Jason had looked at her, with those wickedly suggestive eyes, arched his perfectly plucked eyebrows and said,
" Oh, darling ! How do you think ..... ?"
" But she's only 16 " Pauline had gasped and Trudy had just shaken her head and smiled.
" Talk of the devil," muttered Pauline and in ran a pale Leanne, who mumbled her apologies and rushed up the ricketty back stairs to the bathroom. Then sounds of retching drifted down to the room below.
" Hangover !" grinned Jason, as he turned on a drier. Trudy nodded, but she frowned and, as she took the coat of the next client, Mrs Patterson, she was deep in thought again. Leanne appeared, breathless and pasty-faced and began to shampoo Mrs Patterson's hair.
" Go and make yourself a hot drink " said Trudy and, as Leanne gratefully complied, Trudy took over the shampooing in her stead. Pauline and Trudy exchanged glances over the heads of their clients and, although she had quite a few thoughts, Trudy said nothing.
Leanne returned after a few minutes and jousted, good-naturedly, with Jason, but her eyes were red, despite the heavy kohl eyeliner and her face was pale beneath the rouge. The morning progressed in a bustle of clients. A frenzy of perming, rollering, shampooing, blow-drying, lacquer spraying activity. Trudy was in the back room, mixing up a blue rinse for one of the long succession of pensioners that frequented the salon. Her prices were cheap and she offered a concession for the over 60s. Her mind wandered to her lottery win. It would be so good to have somewhere new. So good to be styling the fashionable women and cutting the latest styles. She longed to get away from the tackier side of town, to cater for the 'yummy mummies' instead of the old ladies and the girls from the nearby, run-down Council estate. She had served this community for 25 years, surely it was time to move on.
The delivery guy strolled into the back room with the weekly supply of 20% volume Peroxide bleach and boxes of 'Easy Meche'.
" Hi there, sexy !" he grinned, as he plonked his lanky frame onto a paint-splattered, wooden stool. " When are we running off together ? Its about time you left that ungrateful sod of a husband," he laughed and touched her hand, gently, as he handed her the invoice.
" Oh, get away," she replied, " I'm old enough to be your Mother " but she let her gaze linger on his muscular arms. She knew he wasn't joking and her cheeks burned as she remembered last Christmas and their passionate encounter in the back of his van. She liked him a lot and knew the feeling was mutual.
" Just say the word, Trudy, you know I'm serious about you. I've decided that I'm going abroad to work, soon, this country has had it. Come with me ! Please think about it." then he kissed her cheek and was gone.
That could be a possibility. Dare she take the plunge ? Five and a half thousand pounds would take them far enough away to start a new life somewhere. She certainly had a lot to think about. She was just about to return to her client when Leanne entered and went through to the kitchen to put the kettle on.
" Everyone wants tea " she said, " Do we have plenty of biscuits ?"
Trudy gestured towards the Custard Creams and Chocolate Hobnobs and then asked,
" What's up, Leanne. You don't look happy "
The girl sighed and a tear slid down her pale cheek.
" Its Pavel ! He's gone back to Poland, he's going to be a soldier. I will never see him again" She brushed away the tear and then swallowed hard and ran up the stairs. Once again the sounds of retching floated down.
Trudy made the tea and carried it through to the others. Then she began to apply the colour to Mrs Howard's sparse, grey hair, carefully lifting the tresses with the spinier end of her plastic tail-comb. The salon was being entertained by old Mrs Graham, as she told the story of her first ... and last... visit to a tanning salon.
" I had to stand there in skimpy paper pants and lift up me boobs ! Can you imagine ?" she croaked, " Me daughter thought it would be a treat for me, before me 'olidays. I'm only going to Bognor, not the bleedin' Maldives." she cackled. " I were mortified, me lovies, mortified !! And the girl what sprayed me had the longest fingernails. Every bloomin' talon was painted a different colour !"
Everyone laughed and Pauline grimaced a little. The makeup was wearing off and Trudy could see that her face was badly swollen.
" Oh, Trudy, I love coming here ! We all do " giggled Mrs Patterson, " It's a home from home. I don't know what we would do without you "
" You know, Aunty. Mrs Patterson is right. We have a lovely friendly place here, It's not like work. I could stay on a bit longer, if you like. Do my exams and stay here for a year or so. A rolling stone gathers no moss " Then he hugged her and continued to attend to Mrs Moffat's perm.
Trudy began to put foils into Mrs Howard's hair. Her mind was made up. Her windfall could do so much here. The two rooms upstairs, that, at the moment just lay empty, gathering dust, could be turned into a flat for Pauline. She would be safe there, away from her abusive husband. Trudy could paint and decorate the salon and make a glamourous little area for Jason to do manicures. And the back room would be a safe and secure nursery for Leanne's baby, when the time comes.
This is my entry for the Countdown Word Game, as invented by Matt Mascarenhas. You can find details on his blog page at http://miblodelcarpio.blog.co.uk . This week, because Matt had been busy with Theatre business and was unable to post his usual weekly Scorecard, we have double the amount of words and here they are;
PAINED, MOUSSED, TACKIER,GRIME, SHINER, TALON, SLOWEST, MAUVER, WHINE, STEAD, PAINT, GATHERS, SMEARING, TUNED, SPINIER, BONDAGE, JOUSTED, SOLDIER, SMATTER, DOUBTER.