Disclaimer : Characters and situations are all from my imagination.
Warnings : Sex and love between women
Feedback : Constructive criticism and feedback, both welcomed at email@example.com
Thanks to : Steph, for allowing me to be a part of this invitational! It really is an honor, and I'll strive to continue earning my place here.
A Sunday in February
Copyright © 2010 Geonn Cannon
Georgia Durbin liked to make up stories. It was a trick to occupy her mind during the long periods of boredom that came with her job.
She sat in the leather customer chair, her shoes hooked around the metal footrest, and looked up from her book now and again to examine the street behind her in the mirror. Her barber shop was tucked into the corner of a dog-leg shaped side street between a used bookstore and a jewelers shop. The tourists from the ferry usually chose to cross on the main street, so she only saw the occasional window-shopper pass by. She kept her mind occupied by making up stories for the interesting ones.
The woman glaring down at her cell phone as she rounded the corner, for instance. She was on vacation, furious that the office couldn't make it one damn week without her, and how dare they interrupt her personal time? Not that she was actually enjoying herself much. No, her husband and kids were raising holy hell to the point that she just had to get out of the hotel and go somewhere, anywhere, to hear herself think. She walked past the barber shop window without glancing in.
Georgia went back to her book, flipping it open so that the back cover rested on the arm of the chair. She didn't believe in stacks of out-dated magazines that no one really wanted to read. For the same amount of cash, she could buy big books of photographs from the store next door, and people could thumb through those instead. They seemed to enjoy it a lot more than finding out who some pop star may or may not have been dating two months ago.
Today, the reflections were surrounded by cardboard hearts and cartoon-character greeting cards. It was a pink and red and white border that spilled over onto the counter. She always got a lot of Valentine's Day cards from little kids. Her little slice of the street also had a bank, the dry-cleaners, and a shoe store. Parents liked to drop the kids off for their haircut on a Saturday and do the rest of their errands down the street. She didn't mind; she loved kids, and having a room full of them every weekend was one of her biggest joys.
At the far left of the counter, there was a small vase of peonies. A gift from an ex-girlfriend. They were purple, pink, red, and white, and had come that morning with a small note that said simply 'Plan B?' If she didn't have a date by seven that night, she would at least be spared the humiliation of having dinner by herself. She didn't mind eating at home, but the thought was sweet. She would consider taking her ex up on the invitation.
A man and woman in matching jackets walked past, arm in arm, and Georgia smiled. She wondered how long the matching outfits would last beyond the end of the day. Georgia imagined the man standing in front of his mirror in the morning, staring at the outfit, hoping and praying that his capitulation would pay off in the bedroom that night. And, damn, looking at the girl with him, who could blame him?
She unhooked her feet, tossed the book onto the stack of Valentine's on the counter, and pushed herself out of the chair. She put both hands in the small of her back and stretched. When she first started out, she thought she would love days like this. Nothing to do but read and people watch. Little did she know how much free time she would have, and how few people there would be for watching. Rent and food didn't come cheap. She walked to the front window and looked out at the people.
Across the street, a woman was sitting under a tree on a public bench. She was staring toward the harbor, worrying her bottom lip with her teeth. Her red hair was swept back from her face, the edges caught in the gentle breeze created by the narrow street. She wore a red jacket with wide lapels and she was nervously rubbing her right thumb against the pads of her fingers.
Georgia tried to think of a story for this woman, but she didn't want to; she wanted to know the real story.
The woman must have noticed her moving to the window, and turned her head slightly. Their eyes met, and Georgia smiled and lifted a hand in a friendly greeting. The woman seemed flummoxed by that, and looked down at her own hands without returning the wave. Georgia dropped her hand, hooked her thumb in the pocket of her pants, and stepped away from the window.
Georgia looked at herself in the mirror and teased her own blonde hair. She was attractive; curly blonde hair and bright blue eyes. Sure, her nose might be a little too big for some people. But it fit her face. She wore a white smock to work, with a row of black buttons along the right side of her chest. Maybe it made people think of visiting the dentist. No one liked--
The bell over the door chimed as it was pushed open, and she turned to see the woman in the red jacket tentatively entering the shop. She was looking at her reflection in the mirror, as if she thought she was stepping into a museum and was surprised to find a portrait of herself hanging on the wall.
"Hi," Georgia said. "Need a trim?"
"I... don't... I don't know. I didn't think you were open until I saw you in the window."
"I take off Mondays," Georgia said. "Most people are at work then, anyway. So what do you say?" The woman hesitated, so Georgia added, "No rush. It's not like you're holding up the line."
The woman stepped inside and began undoing the buttons of her jacket. "You know what? Yes. I would like a haircut, please."
Georgia stepped up to the chair and patted the seat. "Well, hop up here. You can take your time. It's a big decision."
The woman scoffed as she settled into the chair. "Yeah. Big decisions are getting made all the time around here," she muttered.
"A haircut can change the way you feel," Georgia said, meeting the woman's eyes in the mirror. "The way people see you. It can change your entire perspective of the world."
"Oh. Oh, no, I'm sorry," the woman said. "I wasn't belittling you. It's just... I don't know. You'd think people would take the time to consider things. To think them through. But if they've been thinking for a long time, you should have seen signs or something." She looked at Georgia's reflection. "Right?"
Georgia swept the cape around the woman and secured it behind her neck. "I see," she said. "Who was he? Husband or boyfriend?"
The woman tugged on the cape so that it settled more smoothly on her lap.
"He dumped you on Valentine's Day?" Georgia said, changing the subject.
"A week before, actually," the woman said. "I think it showed up on the calendar and a switch went off. Like it's some kind of deadline. 'If I dump her now, I can save the cash I would have spent on a present.'"
Georgia shook her head as she arranged her tools on the side table. "Harsh. I dread the two or three weeks before my birthday, and Christmas. Then if nothing happens, I dread the two or three weeks after , just in case she was waiting for the big day to pass before dropping the bomb."
"She?" the woman said.
Georgia hesitated. She hadn't meant to say that, but there was no use denying it. "Yep."
The woman seemed to relax. "Her name was Kimberly. I mean, what kind of name is that, anyway? Kimberly. Makes her sound like some frat party bimbo." She sighed and shifted in the seat. "My name is Laura."
"Good name," Georgia said. She held out her hand. "Georgia Durbin. Nice to meet you."
Laura raised her hand, stymied briefly by the cape. She freed her arm and shook Georgia's hand.
Georgia stepped behind the chair and rested her hands on the back of it. "So, what are we doing today? A trim? Something a little more drastic?"
Laura shook her head. "I don't know. This whole trip was supposed to be a reawakening. Kimberly left me, so I thought I needed to get out of the old environment and maybe change my point of view."
"How's it working so far?"
Laura chuckled sadly. "Not very well. I heard about this island on an internet forum. It's supposed to be some kind of lesbian mecca." She waved her hand at the window. "I've seen a few couples out, holding hands and kissing in public. But it just made me sad. All those happy couples..."
"Tell me about it. But this is the place you read about. Squire's Isle, where out is all right. A couple I know... they met two or three years back at a laundromat right down the street. They're still together. Married, in fact."
"Maybe I should have brought some dirty laundry."
Georgia chuckled. "Okay, how about first I give you a wash? We'll decide where to go from there."
"Excellent," Laura said, obviously happy that she no longer had to make a decision on her own.
She slid out of the chair, the cape covering her like a shroud as Georgia led her through the shop to a small alcove at the back. There was a reclined chair butted up against the basin of the sink, which had a padded dip where the patron's neck would rest. Laura sat down, and Georgia put a hand on her shoulder to ease her back into the proper position.
"What are your friends' names?"
"Patricia and Jill Hood-Colby. Patricia is the deputy mayor, and Jill teaches the fifth grade." She turned on the water, tested the temperature against her hand, and then began to wet down Laura's hair. "So how long were you and Kimberly together?"
Laura had her eyes closed as Georgia wet down her hair. "Four years, damn it." She sighed. "She said we had just 'grown apart.' And to be honest, I guess we had; I can't really argue that point without lying. But why can't there be two weeks notice with a relationship? You know? Just to ease our way out of it. Take time to reconsider and get used to the new order of things. It would be a damn sight more humane."
Georgia laughed. "Now you're talking. Two weeks notice, and a severance package. Of course, instead of cash, they would give you enough sex to last until you found a new partner."
"How much sex would that be?" Laura asked.
Georgia thought about it. "Hm. Good question. I bet it would be a fun negotiation, though."
Laura chuckled, and Georgia smiled. She was determined to get a full-fledged laugh out of her before the haircut was done. If she could brighten Laura's day, even a little, then it was worth coming to work.
"So," Laura said as Georgia shampooed her hair. "I guess you're single, too? I mean, otherwise why would you be here at work on today of all days."
"Yeah," Georgia said. "Been single for about a year now. I'm just getting used to having meals for one, not having anyone waiting for me when I come home... it can be a good thing, you know. No responsibilities, no one to call and tell you're going to be late. And that pint of ice cream you put in the freezer last week will definitely still be there when you decide you want it at three in the morning."
Laura said, "Pint? Lightweight."
"I worked my way down from the tub." She stepped back and wrapped the towel around Laura's hair. "All right, you're all done up. Let's get back to the chair and decide what we're doing." She escorted Laura back to the seat and used the blow dryer to get her hair back to normal. As she teased it with two fingers, she looked at Laura's reflection in the mirror. "Any thoughts?"
"Kimberly liked my hair long. Said she liked having something to run her fingers through." She pressed her lips together and said, "Cut it all off."
Georgia raised an eyebrow. "Do you mean like cut it all off like Hilary Clinton as Secretary of State, or like Natalie Portman in V for Vendetta ?"
Laura chewed her lip, obviously debating how far she wanted to go. Finally, she said, "Better keep it modest. I do have to face my friends and coworkers when I get back home."
"Okay," Georgia said. "Nothing drastic, then. Just a little landscaping. I think I can come up with something you'll be happy with."
Laura gave her a thumb's up and said, "Let's do it."
"Good attitude," Georgia said. She teased the hair with a comb, picked up her scissors, and went to work.
For a while, the only sound in the shop was the quiet whisper of the scissors cutting through Laura's hair, and the loose strands of red falling to the floor around her feet. Georgia noticed that Laura's eyes were closed, and she said, "Don't worry. I won't let you leave here looking like Mr. T. I have some wigs in the back if it's too dreadful."
"It's okay. I trust you."
"Well, of course. You just met me, and I have no customers. What's not to trust?"
Laura smiled. "I'm just relieved I was able to talk to you. It's been... rough. I'm not out at home, so I couldn't exactly tell people who think I'm single that my girlfriend dumped me."
"Ouch. The only thing worse than going through a break-up is going through it alone. As long as you're on Squire's Isle, I'm just a phone call away if you need to vent."
"I can't impose like that."
"Worried about interrupting my crowded social life? 'Cause I hate to tell ya, it's not much different from what you see here."
"Well, someone cares about you," Laura said, gesturing at the peonies.
Georgia grinned. "That's what is called a safety date. Two exes make a deal to have dinner together on Valentine's Day so they don't look pathetic eating alone. It's like camouflage."
"That's genius," Laura said. "And there's no pressure, no need to worry about whether or not you'll have sex at the end of the night."
"Oh, we usually end up having sex."
Laura cleared her throat.
"Sorry. Cross a line?"
"No, no. I brought it up."
"Don't shake your head."
"Oh, shit. Crap. Sorry."
Georgia said, "It's all right. I can just stick the ear back on when I'm done."
Laura chuckled. Georgia tried to gauge whether it was stronger or weaker than the chuckle from earlier, but it was too close to tell.
"How do you feel about style?"
"Whatever you think looks best."
Georgia arched an eyebrow. "A lot of faith to put in a stranger."
"Well, I'm not having a lot of faith in my own decisions at the moment. So do your worst."
"I'll have you know that my worst is still pretty damn good."
Laura laughed, and Georgia smiled. Success. She went back to the haircut, but said, "There, that's better. Now, was that so hard?"
"No," Laura said, still smiling. "Nowhere near as impossible as it was this morning."
Georgia said, "Good. I'll add it to the charge of the haircut."
She continued cutting, the hair falling onto the front of Laura's cape. She noticed that Laura's eyes were now open, watching as her hair was reshaped. Georgia measured by pinching sheets of hair between two fingers, forming layers as she slowly moved from one side of Laura's head to the other.
"You mentioned that couple you knew. The ones who ended up getting married."
"Mm-hmm," Georgia said.
Laura worked the edge of the armrest with her thumb and forefinger. "You happen to know anyone who is single?"
Georgia laughed. "Sorry. If I did, I wouldn't have been here today."
"Well," Laura sighed. "Worth a try."
Georgia looked at Laura's reflection. "I don't think you have too much to worry about. You're beautiful. You just need a little confidence. A good haircut can give you that, too."
"A lot riding on this haircut."
"It's all part of my plan. If you end up going to bed alone tonight, you can just blame it on the crappy job I did."
Laura laughed again. "I really want to thank you for this. I mean, the pep talk probably doesn't come with the price of the haircut. I appreciate it."
"I couldn't turn away a customer without at least trying to make you smile. It is Valentine's Day, after all." She smoothed her hands over Laura's hair and said, "How does that look?"
Laura focused on her reflection. "Wow. I don't think my hair has ever been this short before."
"If you don't like it, I can reattach some of the strands. I have a hot glue gun around here somewhere."
"No, it's good." She reached up and touched her hair, turning her head to see how it moved. She smiled and gave a definitive nod. "Yeah. Wow. That may have been the shortest haircut I've ever gotten. But the best result." She smiled at Georgia's reflection. "I thought this day was going to be a complete disaster."
"I do what I can," Georgia said. She took the cape off, twisting it so that the trimmings didn't fall on Laura when she pulled it away. Confetti of red hair tumbled to the floor around the base of the seat.
Laura pulled her wallet from her pocket. "What do I owe you?" Georgia considered making it on the house, telling her to consider it a Valentine's Day gift, but Laura spoke again before she could say anything. "Come on, now. I'd pay for a haircut from anyone else. And I would pay a shrink for the same peace of mind you gave me."
"Call it fifteen," Georgia said.
"A bargain," Laura said. She handed over the money and her fingers brushed Georgia's. She wrapped her hand around Georgia's and said, "Thank you. For listening."
"Anytime. Just remember, don't beat yourself up just because of a date on a calendar. If you're out there trying to find the woman you're going to spend the rest of your life with, you're going to fail. You're a beautiful woman on an island that's like paradise. Enjoy yourself and enjoy the scenery. You might be surprised what you stumble over when you stop looking." She winked. "Have a good Valentine's Day."
"You, too, Georgia. Thanks."
Georgia sketched off a salute and picked up the broom to brush away the hair that now covered her floor. She heard the bell as Laura left, and she was a little dismayed by the sound. The whole morning had been boring, and it was nice to have someone to talk to. Truth be told, it was nice to be spending Valentine's Day with a beautiful woman, even if she was a paying customer. Georgia sighed and continued sweeping. It was fine. She'd dealt with V-day on her own before. No big deal.
She glanced at the clock. It was a little past noon; there was a chance that people getting out of church would decide to get a haircut before starting their work week. Plus there were always the people waiting for the last minute before they got their hair cut for a big Valentine's Day date. She also decided to take her own advice. Tonight would just be another date, one of more than 360 others during the year. No reason to feel like a failure as a person. She smiled and finished sweeping up, glancing toward the door as the bell rang again.
A woman with two teenage kids in tow stepped inside, and Georgia said, "Hey, folks. I'll be right with you."
Business during the afternoon and early evening was steady, if not exactly busy. She finally locked the door at seven, finished cleaning up, and took down the Valentine's from her mirror. She put them in a drawer; she could never bring herself to throw away anything kids gave to her. The peonies went onto her private desk at the back of the shop. She smelled them, looked at the card, and decided she would give the camouflage date a pass. There was nothing wrong with eating alone on a restaurant, no matter what day of the month it was.
She changed out of her smock, putting on a loose black blouse. She checked herself in the mirror, smoothing down her hair as she grabbed her jacket off the hook.
The sun was already down, and the sky was dark red turning to black. She buttoned her jacket as she stepped outside and pulled the door shut behind her. She tugged on it to make sure it was locked, looked toward the harbor, and tried to decide which restaurant to try her solo-dining experiment at.
She turned and saw Laura sitting on the same bench where Georgia had first seen her. There was a streetlight a few feet in front of her, casting a soft blue light over the bench. Laura was actually smiling, and it lit up her entire face.
"Hey," Georgia said. She changed direction and walked up to her. "You look great. And I'm not just talking about the haircut."
Laura said, "The haircut was a big part of it." She stood up and said, "I just... wanted to say thank you. I was really a mess this morning, and you were a big part of snapping me out of it. You didn't have to do that."
"And miss out on that smile? Come on."
Laura raised an eyebrow and turned back to the bench. She reached into the bag that had been sitting next to her and withdrew a handful of purple and white peonies gathered in a small terracotta pot. "I saw the way you looked at the ones you had inside, so I thought they'd... be a good choice."
Georgia said, "Oh, you shouldn't have. Wow, these are fantastic. Thank you, so much." She took the flowers and noticed a card sticking out from the middle.
"Every woman should get flowers on Valentine's Day," Laura said.
Georgia took the card out and used her thumb to open it. She saw Laura shifting uncomfortably as she read the scrawled message. "Do you want to go out to dinner with me?"
Her smile widened, and she looked up at Laura.
"I've always been terrible at asking."
Georgia closed the card. "This is definitely a good way to do it. I was just on my way to dinner. I would love to join you."
Laura smiled. "That's great."
Georgia took one of the peonies from her bouquet and stepped forward. She brushed Laura's hair off her temple and slipped the stem behind Laura's ear. The move left them standing very close to each other, backlit by the streetlight. Laura smiled, and Georgia didn't step back. "Like you said," Georgia explained. "Every woman should get a flower today."
Laura reached up and touched the flower. She cleared her throat and made a point of looking down the street. "So, um... you're the resident. What's the best restaurant around here?"
"Oh, there are lots," Georgia said. "Why don't we take a walk down the waterfront and see if we can find someplace we can agree on."
Laura nodded. "Sounds like a plan."
Georgia hesitated for a moment and then slid her hand into Laura's. Laura squeezed, and Georgia met her eyes. They smiled at each other and Georgia wrapped her arm around the flower pot as they walked together down the dark street.