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The young saleswoman was an extraordinary sight. Nick watched her in that appalled fascination normally experienced at car crashes. He simply couldn't tear his eyes from her. Powder caked her face. Her lips were painted with bright red lipstick, outlined with a darker colour exaggerating their shape. She had lined her eyes in thick black, and her eyelashes were curled up and clagged with mascara. Her eyebrows appeared to have been drawn in place, and her cheeks were highlighted with pink blusher. Beneath the face, the neck was startlingly white. Apparently the young lady had reached her jaw and run out of either steam or make-up. The net effect was that of a mask, which he supposed in a sense it was.

The spectacle continued with a purple satin blouse, button-poppingly tight, tucked into a pencil skirt that locked her knees together so firmly that movement could only be facilitated by use of her lower legs, at the ends of which were the most astonishing shoes Nick had ever seen. They were raised on platforms an inch high, meaning an extra inch could be added to the skyscraping stiletto heels. They were red, and yellow, and blue. They looked like the kind of shoe his five year old granddaughter would design in her scribble pad.

She was standing in front of a brightly lit display, giving the hard sell for a new wonder hair restorer. She held up a bottle, revealing scarlet nails of an impractical length. She shuffled around to allow her audience of five bemused pensioners to see the bottle in all its glory, telling them in flowery terms how this product was about to revolutionise the lives of baldies everywhere.

His wife appeared at his side, juggling several shopping bags and stared at the saleswoman. 'Good God!' she muttered.

Nick slipped his arm around her waist. 'I'm trying to work out how much is real. So far I've narrowed it down to the neck.'

His wife scrutinised the woman. 'Well the hair isn't real. You can see they're extensions.'

Nick snorted. 'So the woman selling hair restorer has to use extensions?'

His wife elbowed him. 'Oh keep up! All the WAGs have them, so all the young girls have to have them too.'

Nick said nothing. He was completely out of his depth here.

'Anyway, I got your prescription. The pharmacist says you shouldn't drink while you're taking them,' said his wife, rummaging through her bags.

Nick looked down at her and smiled. 'Thanks love. Your hair looks nice,' he added, remembering just in time that she had been to the salon.

She straightened up with a scowl. 'No it doesn't Nick. It looks bloody awful. Silly little cow cut it way too short.'

Nick studied her carefully, stepping back for a better view. 'Well, it's … different. You never know, you might get to like it short.'

The young saleswoman, seeing that her audience of five was losing interest, waddled towards Nick and his wife, waving her bottle of hair restorer. 'Have you heard about this new wonder product?' she called.

Nick waved a hand and shook his head. 'No thanks, I still have plenty of hair.'

The young woman stopped, rather breathlessly, in front of them, giving him an appraising look. 'I can see that, sir. You have a fine head of hair,' then she turned to his wife, smiling a fake smile. 'But this product is scientifically proven to aid hair regeneration in women too.'

Nick saw the look in his wife's eye and took a step back.

She drew herself up to her full height and took a deep breath. 'Young lady, I will have you know my hair is in perfect health, thank you so very much. I have merely had it cut short.'

'It's perfectly normal for women's hair to thin as they …'

'Don't you dare say it!' said his wife, holding up a hand and giving the saleswoman a withering look. 'Besides, my hair is not thin, it is short. It does not need regeneration, it will grow back on its own. And you, young woman, should learn some manners,' she looked her up and down, 'and some dress sense!'

As Nick was propelled out of the shop by his furious wife, he glanced back at the bewildered saleswoman. He felt just a little sorry for her, but she had learned a valuable lesson today: don't mess with an older woman, especially one who's just had a serious haircut.


© 2012 Kay Lawrence.


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