“Put it on,” she said, with one wave of her cigarette.
I obediently put it on. The necklace had an oval turquoise stone set into a silver fleur-de-lis. She was taking a deep drag as I did so.
She exhaled. “Yes, that looks very nice with your new hair.”
I remember the first time I saw her. My boyfriend and I had just moved in and were carrying boxes of the last odds and ends from the apartment where we had lived for eleven years. I still see her on the rough, cheaply stained bench, with her blue ashtray next to her on the seat.
Later on she would call out to my boyfriend from the upper window to come and help her with something.
“How do my highlights look?” She was trying to get an angle on them in her hand mirror. I had never been a fan of red hair and I wasn’t too sure about highlights either.
“Oh, they look nice.”
“Too brassy?” I didn’t know what brassy meant but I knew it wasn’t considered a good thing. “No, not one bit,” I said, figuring that if she asked, then they probably were.
To get away from the topic of her highlights, I quickly said, with no real intentions, “I need to get a haircut myself. I’d like a little style.”
“Come here.” I went over. “Turn around.” With her free hand she started tugging and fluffing up my hair. “You definitely cut it yourself. And I see a couple of white hairs, too.”
I tried to laugh off this devastating news. “I have an iron deficiency.”
“Let me call my hairdresser and see if she’ll give you my special rate.” She put down the cigarette and scrolled through her phone while everything in me wanted to scream “NO!” But I didn’t want to offend her or hear more reasons why I needed to go.
“Hello, Gigi? My friend here desperately needs a haircut. It’s frizzy and damaged. How much for a cut and blow out? My rate? And she needs a color treatment too. Thanks. We’ll be there at three.”
Gigi had stiff purple hair. I looked at myself in the mirror while she stood behind me, lifting my hair and letting it fall.
“Honey, we’ve got to cut at least six inches.”
“Honey, love your hair.”
“I do love my hair, I just like—”
“No, honey, you don’t love your hair.”
I looked at my friend, she looked at Gigi. “Cut seven,” she said.
The hairdresser led me to the sink to wash it. When I was back in the seat, my friend leaned over to her and I heard her say, “Think fire engine.”
After I put on the necklace and she looked at my new hair for a while, I saw she suddenly had an idea. She held out her cigarette. “Try it.”
I only hesitated for a second and held out my thumb and index finger. “Okay.”