explained her plan to deep clean. Although Rickyâs enthusiasm was lagging a bit, he agreed to do his part. And by the time they called it a night, theyâd actually made a pretty good dent on the place.
The next morning, Rita was eager to get over to Hair and Now. She hadnât been to the salon in years and was looking forward to rolling up her sleeves and helping out with some of her momâs clients. She knew the salon didnât open until nine, and that Charlene had been doing that, but since she had her motherâs keys, she decided to get there early and open it herself. Her plan was to surprise the girls by picking up a box of Krispy Kremes on her way. This kind of treat would not be appreciated where she worked in Beverly Hillsâeveryone there was always on some sort of weird dietâbut here in the Midwest, well, she didnât think anyone would mind.
Besides that, she told herself as she carried the cardboard box through the freezing cold to the back door of Hair and Now, all of this cold winter weather had to burn a few extra calories. She unlocked the door and let herself into the back room, pausing to absorb the familiar smell. The faint aroma of ammonia mixed with her motherâs favorite vanilla deodorizer combined with some pine-scented cleaning solution transported her straight back to childhood. âWelcome home,â she said as she turned on the lights.
She set the box on the counter between the washer and dryer and, surveying the tidy surroundings with everything neatly in place, she removed her coat, scarf, and gloves, hanging them in the closet by the back door. Nothing in here had changed. She turned the thermostat up a bit then went into the main part of the salon, flipping on the lights and taking a quick inventory of the cutting stations. Everything in here was the same, too.
The chairs were the same dusty rose color that her mother had chosen to redecorate with when Rita was a little girl, although the vinyl had some stains and tearsâsigns of years of use. The station tables were the same oak that had been fashionable in the ninetiesâmore worn and out of style perhaps, but still serviceable. The pale gray linoleum on the floor was the same, but definitely showing signs of wear. In fact, it was actually peeling in places. The walls were the same, gray wainscot below with a dusty pink faux marble paint above. Fashionable three decades ago, but so ho-hum now. All in all, Hair and Now looked rather old and sad and shoddy. Especially compared to where Rita worked.
Just the same, Rita knew that her mom loved this place. She always had. And she probably wouldnât want to change a thing. At least thatâs what she used to say when Rita was a teenager and full of ideas for salon upgrades. Among other things, Rita had wanted Donna to put in a mani-pedi station as well as a spray-on tanning booth, but she wanted to keep the salon strictly hair. Rita had also wanted her to change the color scheme. But her mom had insisted that the pink shades were feminine and soothing. Just the same, Rita wondered how her clients felt about it now. What if the rundown appearance cast a negative light on their level of service?
â Hello? â a womanâs voice yelled sharply. âWhoâs in there? Identify yourself before I call the police!â
âHey, Charlene, itâs just me,â Rita called back. âItâs Rita!â
âOh, Rita.â Charlene came in grasping her buxom chest with both hands as if she were having a heart attack. âMy word! I thought we were being burglarized.â
âIâm sorry. Didnât you see Momâs car out there?â
âI saw it, but I know Donnaâs still in the hospital. So I wondered if someone had stolen it and was breaking in. You know theyâve had some trouble around here. In fact, just last week I was telling Donna we should get a security system
R.L. Stine - (ebook by Undead)