Was that her?
The image reflected in the window of a real estate office arrested Alison’s forward motion abruptly, and two young honeymooners ploughed right into her, knocking her leather attaché case out of her hand. “Oh, I’m so sorry,” she said as papers flew everywhere in the hot wind.
The boy smiled. “Oh, that’s all right.” He and his companion bent and swept the pages together.
“Uh-oh!” The girl darted after a stray sheet flicking hither and yon on the vagaries of a hot, dry wind, swatting at it midair until at last she managed to pounce upon it just before it plastered itself to the front of a delivery truck. She swept her hair out of her face as she returned. “I’m afraid they may be out of order, but at least we didn’t lose any.”
“Thank you,” Alison said.
“Don’t mention it.”
Alison watched them walk on, entranced by the easy companionship, the way their hands brushed, then entwined unconsciously. Had she and Carlo ever looked like that?
She glanced again at the reflection in the window. In the hot July sunlight, an old lady stared back at her.
Well, perhaps that was overstating it a bit. Still, her face had sagged beneath the burden of grief and alienation, and in the glare of the hot noonday sun her ponytail hung stringy and mousy, peppered with gray. In her housecleaning clothes, she looked like a worn-out new mother. Only older.
How long had she been sliding into self-neglect without realizing it? Months? Years? Decades? So much of her identity had been tied up in Jeremy, and now that he was gone, she wondered if all this time she’d been getting by on her son’s reflected glory. Time was, she would never have left the house in her cleaning clothes.
She couldn’t stand by Carlo’s side tonight, not looking like this. Men had it so much easier. A man ages, and he becomes distinguished. A woman ages, and she becomes invisible.
Debra glanced up when she walked into the salon. “Well, hello there, Alison! What can I do for you today?”
“Do you have time for a cut and style?”
“Sure. What do you need? Just a trim?”
Something wild and restless took hold of her, an urge to cast off and begin anew. “No,” she said. “I need a change, Debra. I don’t really know what. I just want to feel like me again. Like the girl I used to be.”
Debra’s plain face split wide. “You know how long I’ve been waiting to hear you say that?” She clapped Alison on both shoulders. “You leave it to me.”
Two hours later, colored, bobbed, and made over, Alison stepped back into the heat and turned to face her reflection in the window of the salon. Ghostly in the depths of the reflection, Deb smiled and waved. Alison returned the gesture. The sunlight and the hot wind blew the haze out of her consciousness, waking parts of her she hadn’t been on speaking terms with in months. Years, maybe.
Maybe she could do this, after all.
I had to put this one together more quickly than I’d like, and the idea never developed as fully as I had hoped, so be gentle–but at the same time, please don’t hold back. I love concrits!
This week’s “Makeover” prompt sent me back to my novel about Carlo and Allison. If you haven’t read any of the others, of if you’re interested, here are the prompts about this troubled marriage. (But don’t expect them to make any logical sense, exactly. I’m just feeling out the characters and learning what this novel is about.)