After the aborted mission to The Bratty Bride, Little Miss Ruffles expressed an interest in becoming an aesthetician. She was at that tender age when all things seemed possible and Bay outlined an apprentice program that consisted of such odd jobs as sanding callouses, placing hot compresses on blackhead-rich noses, and doing spa laundry. She’d work a few hours at The Sarcophagus, a few hours at the spa, and sometimes Little Miss Ruffles would also work as a nanny to Bay’s two young sons. Bay’s “to do” list was never-ending.
On weeks when The Sarcophagus checks bounced (which happened with regularity), Little Miss Ruffles’ squelched her anger in a sulking darkness. If there were no customers to wait on, she’d huddle in the back room with her cell phone pressed against her ear, whispering conspiratorially. She started smoking cigarettes and she would occasionally speak out angrily against Bay.
“She wants me to babysit on Saturday night. She’s got a date with that old man who comes in to have his brows waxed.”
(Fair readers, let me stop briefly here to say I am not opposed to men’s grooming. Who knows the scores of hairy eyebrows that are carefully trimmed back from the edges of Einsteinian madness by the quiet comb and clippers of Faye the Barber? The week before Uncle Bob’s induction into the Maine Baseball Hall of Fame I shyly said to Faye “make sure you trim his eyebrows.” She gave a look that told me the idea had already crossed her mind and I had nothing to worry about. There’s no excessive grooming at The Barber Shop, no wax-dipped hands and feet in plastic bags, but there’s enough to keep a man looking handsome and orderly.)
Bay Bracken, a somewhat private person, had apparently been married at one time because her wedding pictures were part of the salon’s marketing materials. A framed photo of Bay, stunningly gorgeous in a Reem Acra dress silhouetted against a tuxedoed and faceless husband, greeted customers as they climbed The Sarcophagus stairs. From what I could piece together, she’d been separated for several months. I knew nothing of her husband; I’d never seen him at the spa or The Sarcophagus. No male customers visited the spa, just “Uncle Norman.”
Uncle Norman, the last Thursday customer, would pull his ancient Mercedes sedan into a spa parking spot as the sun starting sinking into the horizon. I noticed his car for the first time one evening as I was closing up the bridal salon. He was tall, greying, and well-dressed, always sporting a collared shirts and sometimes a jacket. I passed him on the sidewalk outside the spa once and he yielded the space gallantly, like a gentleman, and bowed his head while saying “good afternoon.”
On one particularly moody day, Little Miss Ruffles confessed to me that Uncle Norman was no one’s uncle. From that moment on, I saw him and his car everywhere and I couldn’t help but think of Bay’s wedding picture on The Sarcophagus wall. Still, it was none of my business and the more I saw Uncle Norman arriving for his grooming appointments, the less I saw of Bay at The Bridal Sarcophagus.
After a month or so of his visits, our paychecks stopped bouncing and UPS was making regular deliveries. We were in the money again, but for how long?
I started giving the whole situation “the big hairy eyebrow” and I started polishing up my resumé.