Welcome to another Sample Sunday at the Sweet Escape! Today I have a sample from a little something I’m working on, Leslie’s Curl & Dye. YES, Dinner at Sam’s is still coming, but I find I need to bounce around, work a little here and a little there. This should be a short, contemporary fun release!
Leslie Sutton and Kade “KC” Coleman find themselves at odds when a KC opens a family salon that directly competes with Leslie’s small town beauty shop. But when Potter Lake’s Mayor reveals his true motivations, the two must set aside their squabble and work together to save the sweet, southern, slow moving town– and of course saving each other along the way.
As always, this is unedited and subject to change.
The shop was hopping. Crawling with people, full with the sounds of clippers buzzing and jaws flapping. Saturday is a busy day for most businesses, and it was no less true for a barbershop or a salon. A shop that wasn’t part of a corporate conglomerate was a small business and every dollar counted. So to be full on a Saturday was a good thing.
Only half of the shop was busy. I had a few clients over in the “Dolls” half of the shop, but most of my chairs there were empty. I didn’t understand what Leslie was saying about Guys N’ Dolls taking business from her shop. If a few people a day was enough to put her in dire straits, maybe her shop needed to close.
I shouldn’t say that. I’d hate for someone to swoop in and start taking customers from my chairs so I understood why she might be upset. But I wasn’t willingly giving those customers back.
I limped through the shop, smiling and nodding as I made my way. I’d played too hard last night and my knee protested this morning. Usually I could get away with only wearing the brace when I played, but I could just barely get out of bed, so I was wearing it all day.
“Ay, KC. I didn’t mess you up or nothin’, did I?” Erik was in the middle of a cut but flipped his clippers to the ‘off’ position as I passed his chair. “You’re favoring kinda heavy on your other leg.”
“Man, you wish your weak skills did this to me.”
“I’m just trying to check in on you, seeing as how you’re my boss, but if we’re going there—“
“Watch it, E,” piped up Kendrick from behind his chair. “First off, I’m your boss. KC is my boss. And second, my boss, Mr. NBA doesn’t like for folks to make notes on his game. Even that weak free throw about halfway through the game.”
“The one that was all air? I know which one you’re talking about.”
I laughed off the usual ribbing I took when my team won. Kendrick’s team was full of sore losers. The swollen and painful knee was well worth the hashmark in the win column.
“Ya’ll can talk when your skills are good enough to trump mine. I’ve got a bum knee and my team still beat ya’ll. How does that happen?” I shook my head and continued my trek to my office.
“Yeah, it was a good game or whatever, but the real show was after the game.”
I stopped and turned, giving Erik a mental message to shut up, but he didn’t catch it.
“After the game? What happened?” Asked another nosy ass barber.
“It was just some business,” I answered, glaring at Erik.
“Two young ladies showed up and had some words with KC. Did you see that one girl, the fine one with short hair? She put her hand up on her hip and she was like… what she say? Something…”
“She said she’d be all up in his business,” volunteered somebody at the front of the shop.
Erik smiled, nodding. Gripping his clippers and a comb, he returned to edging the back of his client’s head. “I’d like to be all up in her business.”
“Hey, watch your mouth,” I said, pointing at Erik. “Don’t worry about those women. It’s just a thing with another shop. Ya’ll get back to work. We’ve got a lot of customers to serve.”
I heard the gossip continue, just in more hushed tones behind my back as I approached my office. I needed to sit down, give my knee a break. And get away from this talk about Leslie from Curl & Dye.
I’d looked them up when I got home, since I’d never even heard of the shop before last night. There was little to no presence online, a Facebook page with a few photos and a listing in the Potter Lake phone book. The profile photo was a snap of the front of the shop, a run down store front with peeling lettering on single pane glass windows that spelled out CURL & DYE. From time to time, she posted a coupon deal on a cut or a service, but for the most part, the page looked empty. Unused.
No wonder no one goes to that shop, I thought. No one knew it existed.
Guys N’ Dolls, by deep contrast, was all over the web and social media. Kendrick’s degree was in Marketing and New Media, so he’d hooked us up with a dynamic website. We were all over the place, from Instagram to Facebook to Twitter to Snapchat. Any time a new medium popped up, Kendrick made sure we had a presence there and we kept our accounts populated with current photos and a weekly flyer. People came from all over the place to get a cut at Guys N’ Dolls.
“See,” I said to myself as I lowered into my chair and propped my knee up on the guest chair I’d dragged around the desk. “It’s not my fault that shop is going under. Got to come out of the dark ages.”
“Who are you in here talking to?” TC popped into the office, the familiar blue zippered pouch in the crook of her arm. “You know talking to yourself is a sign that you’re a little…” She twirled her finger around her head and whistled.
“That’s not how you’ll know I’m crazy. What’s the day looking like so far?”
“See for yourself,” she said, handing me the envelope and plopping into the other chair. She kicked up her feet and propped them on the desk, something I hated, but she ignored my protests so I stopped making a big deal out of it. “Whew, it’s good to get off my feet.”
I unzipped the bag and pulled out the wad of bills and the credit card slips. “Feels like a good day so far. You count it?”
“Nah. Didn’t want to be up front thumbing through a bunch of cash, but my mental count is a few grand so far.”
I nodded, moderately pleased. If business kept up like this, I would be able to replace the money I’d spent paying the power bill. That reminded me that I needed to make another call to Mayor Adams on Monday. I stuffed the bills and slips back in the pouch and zipped it up.
“You want me to do the bank deposit? Looks like your knee has you locked up right now.”
I glanced at my knee, snug in its brace. It was throbbing, but starting to feel better now that I was resting it. “I’d appreciate it, if you would. I don’t feel comfortable having all this money in the shop and yeah… my knee is having a day, today.”
“Have you been back to that doctor? He said surgery might—“
“I’m not going back under the knife, T. It’s inflammation. Nothing to feeling better but rest and some Advil.” I reached for the megasized bottle of pain reliever that I kept on the desk and unscrewed the top, shook out a few of the brown pills and swallowed them dry.
TC sighed, pulling her feet off my desk and pushing herself up out of the chair. “You’re so stubborn about everything, KC.”
“Am not,” I retorted, with a grin. She grimaced and sucked her teeth, then snatched the pouch from my desk, inadvertently bumping my knee with the bag.
“Ouch, you bully!”
“It was an accident!”
“It was not! You did that shit on purpose. You know my knee hurts and you smacked me right there with the bag.”
“I said it was an accident. You’ll know when I do something on purpose. Gimme a deposit slip and stop being a big baby.”
“Excuse me?” Interrupted a voice much more quiet and much softer than either mine or TC’s voice. I looked up to find Leslie, from Curl & Dye, standing in the door of my office, a cautious half smile on her lips.
“Oh. Hey. Uh….” I tried to stand, but she stepped in, her hand raised.
“Uh, don’t get up. I heard about the knee.” She turned to TC and offered a hand to shake. “I’m Leslie. I own a shop over on the other side—“
“Other side of the lake, yeah.” TC shook her hand and gave her a wide, friendly grin. “I heard about you, actually, last night. And you’re all the shop is talking about today.”
“Yeah I…” She swiped a hand across her forehead and chuckled. “Listen, I… wanted to apologize for that ambush last night. I didn’t know that you didn’t know about our shop. Monica told us to come over, and said she wanted Tamara to talk to KC about a job since that little salon she worked at was closing and… as the owner of said little shop, I saw red.”
“I understand that,” I told her. Because I did. “But you now you know where we are, what we’re doing here. And you know, when your shop goes down, there’s more than enough room for you and your staff to come over.”
It was like a shadow crawled across Leslie’s face. She went from friendly and apologetic to a rock hard sneer. “I told you last night, Curl & Dye isn’t going anywhere. And I’m never coming here to work for you when I own my own shop.”
“Oh. Okay,” I answered, with what I knew was a snide snicker. “That’s why you and your little pit bull was up in my face last night about me taking your customers. ‘Cause Curl & Dye isn’t going anywhere. Listen…”
I paused, for just a moment, to let the sounds of the busy, bustling shop filter back to the office. “Does your salon sound like that today? You’re here, so I’m guessing no.”
“I…you…” She huffed, blowing an errant curl out of her face.
“I’m not trying to take your business, Leslie. I’m really not. I didn’t even know there was a beauty salon open on the other side of the lake. But now that I know you exist, all I can say is… may the best man win. And by the sounds of my shop, today at least, I’m the best man.”
I forced myself up and out of the chair despite my stiff knee, and grabbed the zippered pouch from TC’s clutches. I dug my keys from my pocket and limped around a slack jawed, red faced Leslie. I was in pain…a lot of pain… but I had to get out of that office.