The latest in a long line of service industry jobs, Tricia Fisher washes hair at the Nails N’ Thangs beauty salon.
A typical day gets derailed. Her abusive ex shows up and makes her late for work. Again. If Tricia gets fired, her father marches her down to the military recruitment office.
With her job already on the chopping block, Tricia needs to think fast to remain employed and keep her son. She must defy fate.
The Weird Shit That Happened Because of Tricia Fisher
by Ezekiel James Boston
In her teens, Tricia had indirectly learned that fidgeting and looking unsure usually made her various managers’ hearts melt, granting extended probation or a series of one more chances. Somewhere in her early twenties, the fidgeting seemed to trigger a rapid rules-are-rules response.
Holding her left hand in her right, Tricia made a concerted effort not to fidget.
The air conditioning hummed on. A vent blew right down on her. She never understood why they had the A/C on back here during winter. It’d make more sense for it to be kept warm like the rest of the salon.
Tricia hunched her shoulders and pulled her arms tighter to herself.
The salon was at the rear corner of a drab beige strip mall. Tricia often looked on the entire area as she walked from the bus stop. The same beige paint was used on the inside of the windowless office. While the room was just a little larger than the room she and her little Matthew shared at her parents’ house, it felt smaller. And had fewer decorations than any other office that she’d been in.
Black four-drawer filing cabinets lined the back wall, shortening the room a bit. Freshly slicked Mop & Glo wooden flooring created an L-shape that marked two-thirds of the room’s space as off limits. Bosses only. There were two big, comfy-looking black chairs at the desk—one for Mrs. Edsen and one off to the right on the short side of the desk. Invite only.
When Tricia recently turned thirty, her dad had teased her in his non-teasing way—in front of her son—that she was now older than the numbers of jobs that she had had since she was sixteen. Her mom tried to hush him, but Dad had then started to list them all. Every. Single. One.
Sharp laughter came from just outside the oak-framed glass door.
Ivy, the manager, was also the chief nail tech, and had the station closest to the office. The super busybody, and ultimate gossip, laughed her I’m-only-laughing-to-make-sure-everyone-knows-I’m-here laugh. The customers thought it was genuine, but everyone who worked at Nails N’ Thangs got to know Ivy’s laughs.
The client being treated must’ve said something close to funny and Ivy capitalized on it.
Tricia scanned the office again.
Besides three small picture frames on the desk facing where Mrs. Edsen would sit, there was nothing to use.
Through her various jobs, Tricia had learned a few tricks to not get fired. One was never snoop in the bosses’ office because some had cameras. The second was never lie or create a spectacle. Neither tended to work, and both had a way of coming back at you.
While she preferred to strike up a kinship through pictures and decorations, there was nothing here to clue her in. Sometimes she’d try to help the boss relate to her and the troubles of her age, but that—like the fidgeting—was becoming more of a sure way out the door. As a last ditch effort, she’d mention her son or that she had to move back home with her parents to get out of her abusive relationship with Burt. If that didn’t get the boss, nothing would.
The air kept blowing and Ivy found a couple of other things to laugh about. It sure was taking Mrs. Edsen a long time to deal with the guest. Was being confined to the frigid Mop & Glo scented office a standard part of being fired from Nails N’ Thangs?
The best way Tricia found to not getting fired, of course, was to show up and work.
That one wasn’t a trick: it was what you were supposed to do. But weird shit kept happening in her life.
Stuff that no one would believe. Like getting stuck for hours in a revolving door, trapped for hours in elevators, the subway just skipping her stop and the stop after it.
Once, when she had a car, a cute little old Fierro, she got trapped inside. She had driven the car onto the ferry, and napped during the crossing like always. That time, when she woke from her nap, the damn doors wouldn’t open; neither of them. Even though she had proof that the fire department had to come onto the ferry and use the jaws of life to get her out, her hard-nose boss still fired her. Worse, her Fierro was ruined.
Weird Shit That Happens to Tricia Fisher. Tricia smiled. Now, that’s a list her father should recite.
Funny at first, she grimaced and regretted just the thought of it. He’d probably preface the list with here are the excuses Trish has used to try and keep jobs. Then, he’d inject his yeah rights or reallys throughout the list.
Her mom had said that military men showed their love in different ways. Tricia knew her father loved her. There were just times when he could be a real ass.
Nothing uncanny had happened to Tricia today. Today was caused by good old asshole Burt. He discovered the new way she went to work and refused to let her get on the bus until she heard him out. Then she had to get a ride from him to not be late.
Of course, he was sorry. Of course, he was changed. And of course, in thinking over his latest line of bullshit, she wasn’t focused on the customer and ended up brushing the lady’s hair before starting the shampoo.
No big deal really, but the customer was there for a perm and Meg and Karen wouldn’t do the treatment because Tricia had lost track of time while brushing the lady’s lovely long hair. As the shampoo girl, she’d was told not to prebrush anyone in for a color or perm, but that forced time with Burt had knocked Tricia’s habits out of whack. And there was a comfort in brushing the lady’s hair.
The latch clicked.
The door opened. Toasty air and chitchat from the salon pushed into the cold office. Instead of Mrs. Edsen, Mr. Edsen came in. His bright red parka still had a bit of snow in the creases.
Mr. Edsen had one of those voices that was great for stories with eggnog around the fireplace. He said, “Didn’t mean to startle you.”
“I was just lost in thought.” Tricia laughed. Nerves. She hated being a nervous laugher.
“Well, the missus had to go.” He shuffled by and clicked off the A/C thermostat as he made his way around the short end of the desk. “Our daughter’s in labor.”
“Oh.” Tricia felt a thrill of possible continued employment. “Well, shouldn’t you be there too?”
“Nah.” Mr. Edsen shrugged off the parka and draped it over the back of the chair. “She’s from a previous marriage and hates me for pressing charges against her birth-father when the asshole had the balls to break into our place.”
“Oh…” Tricia nodded. The new child/grandchild angle moved a bit further from easy use. Having only had the job since late fall, Tricia had never seen Mr. Edsen without a coat of some sort. The ladies often talked about how amazingly fit he was for his early fifties and Tricia made an effort not to notice how his arms, shoulders, and neck pressed against his white dress shirt as he smoothed down his red tie and sat.
He pointed to the other chair.
She sort of jumped again, but kept her nervous laughter in check.
He motioned to the opened door. “Since it’s just you and me in here, I have to have the door open.”
He continued. “If you’d like to have it closed, I can have Ivy step in—”
“No,” Tricia interrupted. “This is fine.”
It was bad enough that Ivy was going to hear everything. Tricia didn’t want the gossip to give the blow-by-blow of how they were sitting or to make snarky comments about her facial expressions.
“So,” Mr. Edsen leaned back in his chair. “My wife tells me this is your third time in the office…”
Tricia’s mouth dried. There was no wiggle room. Hell, that wasn’t even a question. Just a statement of fact. A statement that—no matter how she responded—had all the momentum of I’m going to have to let you go right behind it. She was already so far behind on rent to her dad that he had her paying daily. Even as a grown woman, if she didn’t have twenty dollars on the mantle every night until caught up, he was going to march her down to a recruiting office first thing the next morning.
During their deal—her father’s deal, really—he had made it clear. She was too old to be a Marine, but other branches would still gladly take her. It was either that or take Burt’s offer until she could get on her feet. And, with Burt, she never would.
“Please don’t fire me, Mr. Edsen.” Tricia had never begged before. None of the jobs were worth it and her back wasn’t as tightly against the wall as it was now. If she didn’t take either man’s offer, she’d be homeless and there was no way she was going to put Matty through that.
Tricia wanted to say more, but nothing new would come. “Please don’t fire me.”
Mr. Edsen didn’t turn, but he looked to the open door. “So, this isn’t your third trip to the office?”
Apparently, that was the only way out, but she wasn’t going to lie even if it felt like he was trying to lead her that way.
“No. This is my third time in here.” Tricia’s eyes were growing wet. Don’t fucking do it! She steeled herself against crying. Don’t. “But, please don’t fire me.”
He continued to not look at her, but out the door. It was a distancing technique. When he looked at her, he’d deliver the news. Either way, it’d at least be quick.
And quick was her enemy. Long talks were the stuff extended opportunities were made of. Short talks lead to long walks.
Giving him all the time he needed. Tricia shifted her eyes to glance out the door.
She caught Ivy’s blue eyes locked on her through a reflection on the glass door.
Tricia returned her attention to Mr. Edsen.
Also on the list of Weird Shit That Happens to Tricia Fisher were other things. Good things. Like when she finally built up the nerve to run away from Burt. She had no idea where she would go, but, pregnant with Matty, she knew she had to get away from him.
Burt had gone off on one of his drunken even though we live in an apartment, I’m the man of the house, Goddamn it rants as he drove her home from work and he’d been nudging her shoulder in that way he did before balling his fist. The next traffic signal that didn’t go his way was going to be taken out on her. A green light went right to red. No yellow. Just red. She’d been paying close attention.
Seconds later, police sirens.
Minutes later, a sobriety test.
Minutes after that, her driving home alone as the cops took him to jail for driving under the influence. He’d get out. He’d be mad, but he’d be sober. And a sober Burt was manageable. However, by then, she’d be home with her parents and Burt would have to work to get her back. And he would, but things were better. For a while.
Mr. Edsen hadn’t looked back. His eyes shifted up.
Ivy leaned into the office. “Mr. Edsen.” A couple of the top buttons on her flowered blouse were now undone to showcase a scant bit of her ample breasts. “Donna just called and said she can’t make it in at all today.”
Tricia’s insides tingled. Donna, the shampoo girl who usually came in when Tricia’s shift was over, had probably been called so Tricia could be let go.
Mr. Edsen frowned at the name. “Donna?”
Ivy motioned with her head slightly toward Tricia.
“Oh, right. Donna.” Mr. Edsen sat up and fully faced Ivy. “What happened?”
Ivy gave an over exaggerated, upward-back shrug. “Apparently, a garbage truck lost its brakes and smashed her car into her house.”
“Wow.” Mr. Edsen’s head rocked back on his massive neck. “Is she all right?” He added, “I mean, is she and her family all right?”
Tricia felt touched. From what she knew of Mrs. and Mr. Edsen, neither of them supposedly cared about the employees. Yet, here was this moment—this shining example—that showed the opposite. She needed to work, but when bosses actually cared, that made her want to keep the job.
“Yes, they’re all fine.” Ivy nodded in a bimbotastic way. “But…” She glanced at Tricia.
Tricia met Ivy’s gaze. Though she shouldn’t have, since Ivy was the manager, Tricia looked at the woman’s cleavage briefly before regaining eye contact.
Ivy narrowed her eyes.
Tricia smiled and returned her attention to Mr. Edsen. “I can work clear through to closing Mr. Edsen. I can work through the weekend.” Tricia put the fact that Ivy was right there out of her mind. To hell with the woman talking about her as soon as she turned her back. “I can do that and more. Just, don’t fire me. And give me the schedule.”
He finally made eye contact again.
She hadn’t said please. Shit. “Please don’t,” Tricia added. “Not today.”
One of Mr. Edsen’s eyebrows, the one away from Ivy rose high onto his forehead like Zachary Quinto did while playing Spock in those new Star Trek movies.
Only seeing him in passing before, Tricia hadn’t noticed the color of his eyes and, as long as he was staring at her, it felt like she should’ve. But he was old. Not charming-old, but that sort of sexy-old. She only noticed eyes on guys she was—on one level or another—attracted to.
Instead of noting the color, she dropped her gaze. The part of her that wouldn’t mind a little company in the night whispered that his eyes were hazel.
She chastised that part of her. He was married. And old.
That’s enough! She put her mental foot down. And was glad not to hear another peep.
Mr. Edsen said, “Not today, then.”
Gratitude bubbling over, Tricia looked up and it all went flat.
Mr. Edsen still had that eyebrow raised high. The corner of his mouth, the corner that Ivy couldn’t see was curled back. Half of his face was strictly professional. The other half was nothing short of lecherous.
Tricia tried to find words to say, but the leer stole them and sent the part of her that would welcome company screaming for the hills.
Lightening her tone to a sugary sweet reminding tone, Ivy said, “But this is her third trip to the office.”
“So it is.” His face evened out to a pleasant strictly business expression. “However.” He faced Ivy. “We are going to be short staffed, right?” He didn’t give her time to answer. “Are you going to work the shampoo station? Can you spare anyone?”
Ivy’s mouth worked for a moment.
Tricia knew Ivy was searching for a solution, but there was no way one of the licensed beauticians in there would want to give up their spot in the salon to wash hair or do the various menial tasks around the salon. In a way, having the worst, least-qualified position in the shop just kept her employed.
Mr. Edsen nodded at Ivy in a way that was more than a nod. Tricia didn’t know the code, but a coded message had just been exchanged.
Ivy kept the same syrupy tone. “Okaaay.” And bopped once in place before spinning away. Closing the door behind her.
Mr. Edsen said, “Well?”
Ignoring the color, Tricia looked into his eyes. “I’m not fired?”
“No.” He stood and spread his arms in a way that could’ve been just stretching, but also could be reaching out for a hug.
“Then I better get to work.” Tricia fled to the shop. She didn’t look back. “Thank you Mr. Edsen.”
Focused on doing everything right, Tricia went back to her training and performed every step. It started with her greeting the customer as she had learned during her short time at Sunnah Executive Suites. After getting the customer’s name, she remembered it and used it as she inquired about their day, and what treatment they were there for.
And she went further. From putting a towel around their neck first, then the tarp, and then another towel to make sure no part of the tarp touched the guest, to emulsify the shampoo between her hands, to only using the balls of her fingers to massage the scalp as she washed the hair. Lastly, when she walked the guest to their next station, she made sure to make an introduction.
Tricia had just welcomed Wanda to her chair, prepped her, and washed her hands when Brenda came back with her strawberry blonde hair in a beautiful spiral perm.
Brenda said, “Thank you, Tricia.” And slipped folded up bills—a five on the outside—into her smock pocket as she gave her a small hug. “Everything was fantastic because of you.”
Tricia’s mouth broke open in a smile that she didn’t know she had. Pride. She was honored to have been a pivotal point in what was probably just another session for both Brenda and Karen.
Even better, when she glanced at Karen, Karen gave her a sly thumbs up.
“My pleasure, Brenda.” Tricia couldn’t get the smile to go away. “Hope to see you back soon.”
Brenda returned a smile as she walked away. “I think I just found my new place.”
Smiling after Brenda, Tricia spoke to Wanda as she ran her hands under the water to make sure it was on the lower side of warm. “And you wanted Shu Uemra’s Moisture Velvet, right Wand—”
Eyes closed and serene, the woman in the chair was not the same one that she had just greeted.
Where Wanda had healthy rosy cheeks, this Asian woman had a lean face with virtually nothing over her wide cheekbones. The combination of no eyebrows, no eye lashes, and extremely pale skin made her entire face look off. Wanda’s full head of shoulder length brown hair was gone. This woman’s hair was pale blonde and in a style that Tricia’s father called a high-and-tight. While bald on the sides, this woman had just a little more on top than Demi did when she cut her hair for G.I. Jane.
Tricia wanted to write it off to weird shit, but where was Wanda?
There, in the waiting area, reading Vogue—as she had been before—was the woman she had walked to her chair before Brenda had interrupted.
As before, Wanda was perfectly content thumbing through the magazine.
Knowing the woman hadn’t just disappeared into thin air gave Tricia mental well-being, but having that kind of lapse made her wonder if she was supposed to be on any medications.
“You’re fine. Trisha.” The woman opened her pinkish eyes. “Now that you have enough for the day, would it not end better by going home early?”
Tricia’s mouth gaped open.
“No. You need to earn enough for the weekend, too.” The woman blinked and an annoyed look stole over her features. “And you gave your word.”
Tricia began to fumble away, but the woman grabbed her. Her grip was cold and strong. She said, “Perhaps another day.”
And was gone.
Wanda was there, all prepped and ready to go. Wanda nodded. “Yes, there’s just something intoxicating to the camellia scent it leaves in the hair.”
Tricia looked around for the blonde Asian with pink eyes.
While they had blondes in Nails N’ Thangs, none were as stark-blonde as the woman, none had short hair, and—most telling—none were Asian.
Tricia’s mouth still hung open.
Wanda asked, “Are you okay, Tricia?”
Tricia jumped at her name and stopped her search. Trying to catch traction again with reality, Tricia closed her mouth and replied in more of a sound than a word. “Huh?”
Wanda sat up, “You were asking if I wanted Moisture Velvet, but now I’m wondering if you’re okay.”
“Yeah.” Tricia lied. A nervous titter escaped her lips.
She failed at dismissing what had just happened to weird shit. Somehow thinking about one guest as she walked another to her chair worked at the far end of plausible and she could’ve rolled with that. But to have the original customer back…That was just too much.
This bumped against the top of her weird scale. When she scanned around this time, she didn’t look for the woman. No, she looked for the tall slim man that always accompanied these moments. She was never close to him. Never within talking distance, but he was always near-ish.
Except this time.
It was just her and the other ladies in the salon.
Tricia wanted to take a break. She should’ve taken a break, but she was on the verge of being fired.
Tricia wiped her forehead and caught herself in mid-motion. She started to wash her hands again, “Moisture Velvet.” She laughed one more time before getting herself under control enough to force a smile. “You got it, Wanda.”
Tricia kept on her toes for anything else, but the rest of the winter day went by without incident.
Mr. Edsen had turned off the open sign two hours ago, but they serviced everyone who was in the door by their seven o’clock closing time.
The bottles tinkled as Tricia organized the nail polishes. Karen had gone on a short break after finishing with Lisa, their very last customer for the day, and setting her under the dryer for her Ombre dye-timer to ding.
Getting the shades of oranges to fade into red had Tricia’s complete focus.
She heard someone approach, but didn’t know it was Karen until her apple pie breath was upon her. Karen must’ve just taken a quick vape break.
Karen said, “Good job today, Tricia.”
“Thanks.” Tricia still worked on the polishes. Instead of looking up to the mirror to acknowledge Karen’s reflection, Tricia stole a glance for real eye contact.
Karen had a ten-dollar bill extended to her. “Your introducing the guests really made a difference in the amount of tips I got; probably in the tips everyone got today. But, unlike them, I’m saying thank you to your face and giving tangible gratitude.”
“Thank you.” Tricia stopped and sprung a hug, a restrained hug, on Karen. She thought everyone in there hated her. “This means more than you know.”
Karen patted her back. Without a doubt, it was a get-off-me pat.
Tricia held the hug just a little longer. She needed the contact. And then released Karen to go back to the polishes.
“Um.” Karen cleared her throat. “The tenner?”
Tricia turned and took it with a smile. “Sorry. Thank you.”
The timer dinged; saving them both from awkward conversation.
Karen walked away.
Almost having it perfect, a second person walked up on her. This one was significantly wider.
“It’s snowing out.” Mr. Edsen asked, “Do you need a ride home?”
Tricia stiffened slightly. “No, I got a ride.” It was a lie. When she had called her Dad to let him know she was working late, he had said that they were still taking Matty to the movies and that she would have to take the bus home. It hadn’t been snowing then, but she’d taken public transport in all kinds of weather. This light stuff outside was nothing, really.
Mr. Edsen lingered. “Well, okay then. But if you change your mind, I’ll be doing a little business in my car out back before heading home.”
Tricia didn’t look at him through the mirror. She simply nodded as she continued fiddling with the reds. They were more than good enough, but he wasn’t walking away, so she wasn’t done.
Eventually he said, “Good job.” And tapped her shoulder as he walked away.
Lisa came over with a five-dollar bill. She looked super regretful. “I’m sorry, but I only have a five.”
Tricia said, “It’s more than enough.” Besides the rare outlier, five dollars was usually the best tip Tricia ever received, and the bumper crop today hadn’t changed her appreciation. Instead of taking the money, Tricia was careful of the hair as she took a hug instead. “Hope you had a wonderful experience.”
“I did.” Lisa hugged her back with her arms. “If you’re always on duty Fridays, I’ll make that my day.”
“Deal.” Tricia didn’t want to muddy the feeling with her fairly inconsistent schedule. She released Lisa, and she and Karen walked Lisa to the door, and waved until the customer was safely driving away.
Mr. Edsen locked the door and went about securing the shop.
As she and Karen walked to the break room, Karen asked, “Do you need a ride?”
Still well within earshot, Tricia kept to the same lie she had told Mr. Edsen. “No, I have a ride.”
Karen said, “Okay. See you tomorrow.”
Though Tricia was going to ask Karen for a ride in the breakroom, Karen already had her coat and went right out the back door.
Not wanting to be alone with Mr. Edsen, Tricia rushed on her coat and made it back out of the breakroom before he had made it halfway across the salon.
She waved. “Good night.” And put on her first fingertip-less mitten that her mother had knitted her. Tricia pushed out the back door into the cold night full of fresh car exhaust.
Karen’s taillights passing in the light snow was a sudden reminder that Tricia really needed to get a car again.
Hoping to wave Karen down, Tricia hurried around the corner of the building to the main street.
Karen was gone.
Tricia finished putting her mittens on before sinking them into her gloves. She pulled her hood up and cinched it tight.
Across the street, right in front of Sammy’s Deli, a streetlight shone down on the sheltered bus stop she’d use. When Tricia didn’t want it to be known that she was taking the bus, she’d slide into Sammy’s after work for a sandwich and coffee. She’d strike up conversation with the guys and keep it going until everyone was gone.
But Sammy’s had closed an hour ago.
If Tricia sat at the bus stop, Mr. Edsen was sure to see her on his way out of the parking lot. She nodded to the last lie she’d have to tell that night. That’s where her ride was going to pick her up.
Before stepping out, she checked both ways.
Nearly all the shops had closed for the night, Thompson Avenue looked like a scene out of post-apolitical movie…And she was the woman alone in the world.
Tricia knocked the snow off the metal bench, but decided to stay standing. It’d make short work of her jeans long johns. Surreptitiously, she moved her mace from her purse to her pocket. Unfortunately, she had to peak at it to thumb the tip from the safe area so—if needed—she’d only have to press down.
When she looked up from her pocket, the snow moved sideways from over Sammy’s behind her toward the darkened Nails N’ Thangs.
Not feeling wind remotely strong enough to make that happen, Tricia pulled her hood back. The cold still clung to the air, but it felt just like a still night. Nothing like the wind-chill she should be feeling.
A muffled yelp came from the back of the store.
Tricia dashed around the back of the bus stop to hide and pull her phone. She bit a fingertip of her right glove. Pulled her hand out. Swiped the phone to dial 9-1-1, but it didn’t light, no less unlock.
She swiped again.
She dried her fingers inside her sleeve. Swiped again.
An unmistakable bellow—Mr. Edsen—filled the air.
The streets were empty. The shops were closed. And Mr. Edsen was being hurt.
Tricia rushed back across the street the way the snow was going. Her heart pounded in her chest as she moved along the wall closer to the sounds of a fight.
Instead of blowing away, the snow from the far side of the parking lot was being drawn to this area. The snow that came from behind her turned the corner.
Her breath came out in frozen puffs as she peeked around the corner.
There, standing over the facedown cowering bulk of Mr. Edsen, was a tall, thin man who wore a black beanie and was dressed in black from head to toe. The emergency light was out, so it was dark, but the shape of the man sort of looked like Burt.
Before she could call his name, the man pulled a gun and said, “I said keep quiet, fucker. I know what you were going to do!”
He didn’t sound like Burt. Not at all. Too young. Too confident.
Face in the snow, Mr. Edsen was groveling.
“Not on my watch, asshole.” The man pulled the slide back on the gun.
Fear wetted her eyes. Her guts quivered. Tricia stepped from the corner and yelled. “Go!”
The thin man looked at her.
Her legs locked up, but her mouth kept going. “Just take the money and go!”
He kept the gun pointed at Mr. Edsen, but stared hard at Tricia. “This is none of your business, lady. Go catch your bus.”
“We don’t know who you are.” Tricia pointed to the puffy blue zipper case that held the daily deposit. “Just take the money and go. You don’t want his death on your conscious.”
“Oh, I do.” The man kicked the deposit away. “I really do.”
This wasn’t a mugging? Did she just walk up on a mob shakedown? Not knowing what else to say, Tricia fell back on the words her mother would often say to her. “It won’t solve anything.”
“That’s just it. It will. It’ll solve so fu—” The thin man stalked a quick circle in the snow. He looked so pained and his voice took on a watery tone like he was angry enough to cry. He pointed the gun at Mr. Edsen again. “It’ll solve everything. Just go away.”
Tricia’s mouth went dry. She croaked. “No.”
The thin man ripped his beanie from his head and belted out a primal scream. His haircut was like the woman that Tricia had almost convinced herself that she hadn’t seen.
Tricia’s voice came back to her. “You don’t want the money, fine.” Tricia felt like she could move, but the impulse to approach the thin man was gone. She said, “Just go away.”
The thin man leaned over Mr. Edsen and pressed the gun barrel against the back of his head.
“No!” Tricia’s breath hitched.
She covered her face.
Silence filled the air.
She exhaled and breathed again.
The thin man was whispering.
Tricia lowered her hands and listened.
“…and you tell your wife about Donna and Ivy, effer. You don’t and—” The thin man looked at her. “No matter who’s around, I will be back to kill you.” He pushed off of Mr. Edsen and stalked away.
Tricia rushed over to help Mr. Edsen.
“Don’t.” He scrambled away from her touch. “I’m all right.”
Tricia asked, “Want me to drive you to a hospital?”
“I said I’m fine.” Mr. Edsen curled into a ball against his car and wept. “I’m fine.”
Speechless, Tricia backed away from him. When she turned, the pale Asian—also in all black—was right there.
The woman asked, “Which way did he go?”
Tricia wanted to ask who, but she knew who. She didn’t want to point, but did. “He went that way.”
The lady tore off.
The distant thrum of the bus drawing close lit the air. At a loss as to what else to do, Tricia hurried, caught the bus, and got on.
Weird shit kept happening through Tricia’s life, but nothing else ever came close to that night at the salon. When Mrs. Edsen had called that night, Tricia had thought she was going to be fired over the phone, but Mrs. Edsen needed her to come in because she had fired Donna. In the next day, even without Ivy there, Tricia found out that Mrs. Edsen had also fired Ivy and filed for a divorce from her husband.
Though Tricia never became a licensed beautician, Mrs. Edsen eventually noticed her growing popularity with both the employees and the clients and she eventually offered Tricia an assistant manager position, and trained her to be the manager.
Still, on cold nights like this one, after Matty had his wife and kids bundled up in the minivan from their monthly visit, Tricia couldn’t help but see her own son as the tall, thin man as he walked around the minivan to get into the driver’s seat.
His life had only been slightly easier than her own, but during the super rough patches he knew he could come back home. During those times, he’d be sure to tuck her in and kiss her forehead as she had to him so many times in his life. The last thing he’d say before closing the door was. “Mom, I don’t know what I’d do without you.”
Tricia never told him she knew what he might’ve done until the day she received a letter that signaled the end of the weird stuff.
Dear Tricia Fisher,
I’m sorry that I was unable to deliver this information in person.
If you’re reading this, it means that I will no longer be at the fringe of your existence or in the corner of your eyes.
We met only once, years ago. You may not remember, but I do.
My life up to that point, had been focused on making sure The Reaper never took you from your son like He took my mother from me. I was there for you. Every time.
I know this probably doesn’t make much sense.
I’ve never been good at expressing myself.
But I was there on the days when The Reaper was after you and always made sure you were late for your appointments. I know this made your life harder than it needed to be, but, believe me, it’s better than the alternative; if you catch my drift.
There’s nothing I can really say to close this letter out properly. Just know that your son already has a life different than mine and he’s well past the age where his feet could ever touch the path I walked that led us to meet.
Up until we met, I only had a vague memory of you. But that one moment brought it all back and I’m sorry that I can no longer watch over you.
Love you always and forever,
Tricia held the letter to her chest and wept for her guardian angel—the son she never knew.
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