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Authors: Julie Jarnagin

Canyon Walls (9 page)

BOOK: Canyon Walls
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The two girls in the bank began whispering before she could escape through the glass doors. She could feel their eyes following her. When she was alone in her truck, all her insecurities brewed in her mind. They were probably saying that Will was far too good looking and successful for a girl like her.

Cassie skipped the stop at the library she'd planned and headed toward the post office so she could get back to the canyon. But as she drove past a storefront on Main Street with a sign in the window that said
Beauty by Betty
, she slowed the truck and made a U-turn in the middle of the street to pull into the parking space in front of the shop. Baskets of geraniums hung in front of the windows dressed with white lace curtains.

She pulled the sun visor down to see if it had a mirror on the inside, which to her surprise, it did. She pulled the black plastic clip off the back of her hair and inspected her straight dishwater blond hair in the tiny mirror.

Sometimes she trimmed it herself, but it had never been colored and hadn't been cut by anyone other than herself in years. Through the window, she saw three women. One woman sat in a chair with her head looking like a silver space shuttle. A lady with short, spiky hair stood over her with a paintbrush and small black bowl, and another woman sat in a chair and flipped through a magazine open on her lap.

Cassie looked down at her work clothes—her favorite pair of khaki pants and a purple shirt. She quickly decided her clothes looked too ratty for an afternoon at the hair salon, not that she had ever spent any time in a salon. Just as she had put her truck in
, she locked eyes with the woman with the magazine who waved to her, motioning her to come inside. Cassie groaned. Now she was stuck. If she didn't go inside, the lady would think she had snubbed her.

The woman dropped her magazine and stood from her chair, waiting for her to come into the store. Cassie opened the truck door slowly. She forced a smile as she walked into the shop.

The lady with the head of thick black hair and the T-shirt emblazoned with multicolored jewels said, “I could tell you were trying to decide whether or not we took walk-ins. Tammy, I told you we needed to get one of those new signs for the front door. Plus, I can spot a head of hair in need of a trim from a mile away.”

“It's true,” Tammy said. “One time I went up to the
city to the state fair with Betty, and we spent most of our day talking to strangers about what hairstyle would best frame their features.”

Betty moved a stack of celebrity hair magazines out of the chair. “What's your name, darlin'?” she asked with a thick drawl.

She was tempted to call Betty “honey.” “I'm Cassie Langley.”

Betty pointed a comb toward her. “The new camp director. I've heard a lot about you.”

Cassie didn't dare ask what she had heard.

Tammy looked down at Cassie's tennis shoe, which she had cut open on the end to make room for her swollen and bruised toe. “Those are some unique shoes.”

She held out her foot. “I injured my toe.”

Betty took her arm and led her to the chair. “Come and get off that foot.”

She pulled her fingers through Cassie's hair. “What are we going to do with your hair today? We're having a special on perms.”

Cassie looked at herself in the mirror and then at Betty's reflection. “Well, honestly, I came in here thinking about getting highlights, but I don't think I'm ready for that quite yet.”

Betty pulled Cassie's long hair out to the sides of her face. “I agree. You already have a fabulous color. I hardly ever see anyone with her natural color come through these doors. I don't even remember what color my hair really is.”

“Mine is gray,” the lady with the head covered in tinfoil said. “But nobody else needs to know that.”

It felt good for Cassie to laugh with the three women. “So what do you think?” Cassie asked Betty.

“It's not going to take a lot to make you look gorgeous. Look at you. You're stunning. Perfect skin. Beautiful features.” Betty spun her around in the chair. She gripped both of the armrests. “Let's give you a great cut. We'll leave it long, past your shoulders, but with lots of layers and movement.”

Cassie felt the knot in her stomach tighten. “Will I still be able to get it into a ponytail?”

“When I'm finished with you, you won't want to pull it back.”

Cassie put her hands over her face. What was she doing here?

“Come on. It's only hair. If you don't like it, it will grow back,” she heard the other customer say.

Tammy stood behind Betty's shoulder in the reflection of the mirror. “The boys will fall all over themselves for you.”

“I don't know,” Cassie said.

Betty pulled her scissors out of a pocket in a black apron tied around her waist. “A haircut can be like a new beginning, starting fresh. A lot of people come to me when they know something big is about to happen in their lives—a new job, a baby, a marriage, a big move.”

Cassie closed her eyes. She could feel them all staring at her. “Okay,” she said quickly. “You can cut it.”

The three other women whooped and hollered as Cassie stroked her long mass of hair. Betty took Cassie's hair away from her hands and pulled it back in a low ponytail. “I think I better turn you away from the mirror for this,” Betty said as she turned the chair around and walked to the other side of her.

Tammy and the customer watched as she felt Betty hold the scissors up to her hair.

Cassie suddenly felt sick, like someone was stealing her security blanket. “Wait. I don't think I can do it.”

Betty held her scissors up in the air.

“I'm sorry. I can't cut my hair.” Cassie wanted to explain, but she couldn't think of a reasonable explanation to satisfy Betty. She didn't want short hair. No, it wasn't short hair she was afraid of; it was the idea of having different hair. She couldn't bear to think of it changing.

Tammy put her hands on her hips. Cassie could see in their eyes they weren't going to give up easily. “You know, your hair may be long enough for Wigs for Kids.”

Cassie had no idea what she was talking about, but she was glad Betty had taken the scissors away from her head. Betty disappeared through a curtain in the back of the tiny shop and came back with a tape measure and extended it from the ponytail holder to the end of her hair.

Cassie didn't have a clue what Betty was doing. Was this what they always did these days before a haircut? The last time Cassie had a haircut, she had been standing in her bathroom with a pair of kitchen scissors.

Betty looked at Tammy and nodded.

“What's going on?”

Betty picked up her scissors, which made Cassie groan. She had told them she wasn't cutting her hair today.

“Wigs for Kids is a program that takes donated hair and makes it into wigs for kids who lost their own because they were sick. We'd have to cut off a little more than we talked about, but you make the call.”

Cassie sat straighter in the chair, running her fingers through her long hair one last time.

“So what do you think?” Tammy asked.

“Let's do it,” Cassie said with a sigh.

This time the women didn't cheer but gave tight-lipped approving smiles.

Cassie held her breath as she felt the scissors working their way through the hair that had been with her for so long. She kept her eyes focused on one of the dryer chairs in front of her, afraid if she moved Betty would slip and all Cassie's hair would be gone.

When she felt the ponytail fall away from her head, she felt pounds lighter. She shook her head, and the hair she had left swung above her shoulders.

Betty handed her the hair still held together by the rubber band. “How do you feel?” she asked.

Cassie stared at the hair in shock. She reached her fingers to touch where seconds earlier her hair had been, but she touched nothing but air. A squeak escaped her lips.

“Don't panic,” Betty said. “It's going to look great.”

A new beginning. That's just what Cassie needed today. “Cut it however you want. I trust you.”


Cassie nodded.

As Cassie watched hair fall to the floor, she tried to keep her mind off it by watching Tammy pull the tinfoil squares out of the hair of the woman sitting beside her. Cassie tried to ignore all the gossip about people she didn't know. They talked about divorces and people getting fired at work, alcohol problems, and money issues. She resisted the urge to try to see her reflection as Betty worked.

The foil was now gone from the woman's hair, and it was a shade of frosty blond. She fluffed the blond wisps of hair with her fingers. “Tammy, you always know everything going around town. I don't need to read the paper.”

Tammy wrapped a strand of hair around a curling iron. “Oh, you know how it is. When some people sit in this chair, they can't help but tell their life stories.”

“Wow,” Cassie said.

“What?” Betty asked.

Cassie pressed her lips together, wishing she hadn't said anything. “Oh. . .I was thinking about how much power you guys have.”

Betty stopped cutting. “What are you talking about? We're hairdressers, honey, not congressmen.”

“Yeah, what do you mean?” Tammy asked with a new interest in her voice.

“You know everyone's problems,” Cassie said, trying to figure out how to explain what floated around in her mind. “It seems like it could give you a lot of opportunities to do good.”

“I can't go around trying to fix people's marriages,” Tammy said with an edge in her voice.

Cassie watched a large chunk of her own hair fall to the linoleum floor. “No, but you sure do have an awesome chance to make some people who are hurting happier by just listening. Plus, you get to make them feel better about themselves by fixing their hair.”

The women looked at each other and then back at Cassie.

“Besides,” Cassie said, “I'm sure you never run out of things to pray about after you leave here every day.”

No one spoke for a minute. Cassie worried she had offended Tammy. After a few seconds, Tammy smiled. “You know, she's right.”

“Smart girl,” Betty said.

After the hair stopped falling, Betty combed mousse through her hair with her fingers and then spent a few minutes blow-drying it.

Tammy stood in front of her, examining the hair on Cassie's head. Cassie couldn't hear a word she was saying because of the blow-dryer in her ear. “It's amazing,” she read from Tammy's lips.

Tammy had finished her customer's hair, but the woman with the blond hair didn't leave the chair, obviously waiting to see the finished product.

Betty turned off the dryer and told them she was almost finished. Everyone oohed and aahed about her new look, but Cassie couldn't help but wonder if she had really looked so bad before the change.

“Are you ready?” Betty asked, her enthusiasm written across her face.

Cassie's stomach fluttered as Betty spun her around in the chair.

“What do you think?”

Cassie couldn't open her eyes, and her hands gripped the chair. She couldn't imagine herself looking any different than she had looked for the last ten years. She didn't know if she liked the attention she was getting over it now.

“Come on,” Tammy said, putting her hands on Cassie's shoulders. “Open your eyes.”

Cassie slid one eye open and saw a woman she didn't recognize in the mirror. She looked like a woman, not the girl who had walked in the door. Her longest layer rested between her chin and her shoulder. It didn't hang off her head into her face like it used to, but now her hair looked bouncy and light. Bangs swept across her forehead, and the ends of the layers flipped out softly. Her hair was shinier than Cassie had ever seen it. “You did an amazing job,” she said to Betty, who stood above her beaming.

Driving back to the camp, Cassie couldn't stop touching her hair. She shook her head, surprised at how light it felt. She braced herself for Beth's reaction. When she spotted Beth walking by the swimming pool, Cassie lowered the window. “Do you want a ride?”

Beth walked around to the passenger door without looking at her and started talking before she even closed the door. “It's cooler out here than it is in my kitchen. When I get everything on in there, it's like an oven. . .literally.”

Cassie didn't speak as she drove toward the kitchen and parked in front of the back door.

Beth didn't seem to notice. “Maybe we could ask Emory to pull the fans out of storage, if he hasn't already taken them apart for their parts.”

“Sure. I'll ask him to do that,” Cassie said.

“I can't stand the heat—” Beth looked at her and stopped. “Your hair!” she screamed.

Cassie put her finger in her ear to stop the ringing.

Beth's eyes opened wide. “When did you do this? Why didn't you tell me? You look so good,” she said, her voice going higher with every word.

“Thank you,” Cassie said. “I don't know. I drove by this place, and then it all happened so fast.”

Beth reached over and touched a strand of hair flipping away from her face. “I can't believe it. You look so different.”

“I feel different.”

“Don't get me wrong, you looked great before, but wow,” Beth said.

Cassie pursed her lips together, but she couldn't stop the grin from spreading through her lips. “Thanks.”

Beth tilted her head. “And you know what, you deserve it.”


When Will arrived at the camp, the sun had already slipped away behind the ridge of the canyon. He didn't know what he was doing there, but he was excited to spend time with Cassie, who was sitting on the front step of the cafeteria. As he got out of his truck, campers filed out of their cabins with blankets and sleeping bags draped over their arms.

BOOK: Canyon Walls
10.85Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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