The Orange Blossom Special

The Orange Blossom Special by Betsy Carter Read Free Book Online

Book: The Orange Blossom Special by Betsy Carter Read Free Book Online
Authors: Betsy Carter
Tags: General Fiction
never repeated what he heard or made judgments about what he intuited. Behind his back they gossiped about whether or not he’d left a wife in Havana or dated one of the customers. No one could remember ever seeing him outside of his shop.
    Victoria Landy had a standing appointment, Saturdays at eleven. Jésus had a high regard for the natural beauty of this woman and chose his words carefully around her. “How your skin glows today,” he would say, or “You are a happy woman. This is true, no?” Accustomed to being flattered, Victoria would answer with a flicker of a smile, then fall into easy conversation with him. He’d been teasing her hair for the past three years. When she and Maynard had their twentieth wedding anniversary party, it was Jésus who suggested floating flowers in the pool. And the time she had to go into the hospital overnight to have a cervical cyst removed, Jésus was the only one she told, and the only one who sent flowers to her room.
    The morning after Dinah came to dinner, there was an unusually ferocious rainstorm. Victoria ran into the beauty parlor, her auburn hair tightly packed under a clear plastic bonnet. “Honestly,” she said to Delilah, the receptionist, “sometimes I think all of Gainesville will just float away.”
    â€œWe should be so lucky,” answered Delilah.
    Victoria changed her clothes and went, like a schoolgirl, to her usual chair.
“El beso del sol,”
said Jésus. “You look like you’ve been kissed by the sun.” They both stared at her damp matted hair in the mirror. “I don’t either,” she said. “I look like some toad come out of the rain.” They laughed, she at his transparent attempt at a compliment, he because he thought she was right.
    â€œWe have a new girl today,” said Jésus, leading her over to the magenta sink. “Sonia, a friend of the family from Havana. She will shampoo you.”
    Victoria usually ignored the women who washed her hair. She’d lie back in the chair, arch her neck into the crook of the basin, and close her eyes as the warm water and the smell of ripe apple shampoo washed over her.
    But Victoria noticed that the girl had a pouty lower lip and a gap the size of an almond sliver between her two front teeth. Sweet face, she thought, as she rested her neck in the crux of the cold sink. Gently, as if she were lifting a baby, Sonia picked up Victoria’s head and placed a rolled towel beneath it. She washed Victoria’s hair, massaging her scalp at the same time. Her fingers danced deftly beneath the storm of lather and the sweet smell.
    â€œCream in my coffee.” The song came unbidden to Victoria. “Her skin is the color of cream in my coffee.” The words took on a tempo of their own, in time to the tango that was playing in her body. Only when Sonia wrapped a towel around her head and pointed to Jésus’s chair—“Mr. Baldissari, please”—did Victoria remember where shewas. “Well, Sonia,” she said, “you do that awfully well.” Later she slipped a five-dollar bill into her hand, more than Sonia earned for the day. She looked at the money and then at Victoria. “Is too much,” she said, holding it in her open palm like an offering. “No. Is too much.” “Don’t be foolish,” said Victoria in a hushed voice. “Just keep it.” Sonia tucked the bill down the front of her pink blouse. “Thank you, miss,” she said, then began sweeping the floor before Victoria could change her mind.
    â€œWho’s the new girl?” she asked Jésus.
    When Jésus smiled, feathery laugh lines played around his eyes. “Sonia. She is the daughter of a friend. She is one good looker, eh?”
    Next to them, Sonia began sweeping up the damp pieces of Victoria’s hair that had fallen from Jésus’s scissors. She wore tight white capri pants and

Similar Books

Redeeming Rue AP4

R. E. Butler

Luck of the Draw

Kelley Vitollo

Caring For Mary

Nicholas Andrefsky

Courting Claudia

Robyn DeHart

Lady of the English

Elizabeth Chadwick