Charisse opened shop with an optimistic heart on Tuesday. She’d researched a few loans to buy back her salon and decided to pursue one: she’d borrow against her trust fund. In a way, it still felt like a handout by using the trust fund money, but she wasn’t really using it. It would only be collateral if she defaulted. The problem was carving out enough time to go to a bank.
She flipped on the music, this time deciding to play Debussy rather than Mozart. It was the wrong time period, but Debussy was at least French while Mozart was German. She walked to the back of the salon to start the first pot of coffee for the day. The misty tones put her at ease and made her think she should text Conor and thank him for the roses. She hadn’t wanted any contact with him while she figured out a plan. Now she felt a smidgen more equal to him.
Probably her father texting her again. She still didn’t want to talk to him.
She took her phone out and caught her breath. Conor. He’d sent a picture of a steaming cup of coffee from a popular New York coffee shop. His text said, “Not nearly as good as yours. What’s your secret?”
The words surprised her. It was like they were friends who texted little things to each other throughout the day. He’d said he wanted a fresh start with her. She couldn’t help but smile. She should definitely reply.
She did a Google search until she found a good picture of what she was looking for: a frog called a coqui from Puerto Rico. She saved the picture and texted it to him.
“You put frogs in your coffee?”
“No, silly. The frogs are from the same place as the coffee.”
“A mystery! I’ll text when I figure it out.”
Charisse thought she wouldn’t hear from him for awhile. She didn’t know many people who knew about the coqui. But in the middle of blowing dry her first customer’s hair, she felt her phone vibrate in her back pocket. She wanted to take her phone out and check it right away to see if it was Conor, but she never checked her phone when she was with a customer.
She took a deep breath and tried not to rush. When she walked her customer over to the desk to take care of the payment with Mei, she saw her next customer waiting. Charisse waved and said, “I’ll be right with you.” She took off to the break room in the back and pulled out her phone. Conor.
His text said, “Puerto Rican coffee? That stuff’s really hard to get.”
She grinned as she typed. “I have a secret source.” It was actually her dad who had the secret source, but she didn’t want to bring him up. She typed another text. “I’m impressed you figured it out.”
“My driver’s from Puerto Rico. He talks about falling asleep to the sound of the coqui when he visits.”
The text caught her off guard. It brought up memories of visiting the island with Marie and her mother. Her thoughts transformed to visions of her and Conor together in Puerto Rico. She’d love to fall asleep in a hammock, snuggled next to Conor with the lilting sound of the coqui lulling them to a half-sleep where they could still feel each other’s skin and know they breathed in harmony.
She shook her head. First, she had to buy the salon back. She texted, “I used to fall asleep to them too. Thanks for all the roses.”
She shoved the phone back in her pocket and walked out to greet her customer. She couldn’t spend the day flirting with Conor. She had to get the loan secured first. But Conor had other ideas. A fresh round of white roses for all the stations sat on Mei’s desk. In the middle was a bouquet of yellow roses mixed with red tips.
“I like your new partner,” said Letti with a curling iron wrapped up in a customer’s hair. “You’d better start dating him soon, or he’ll be free game for the rest of us.”
A chorus of agreements went up from all her lady luvs.
Charisse walked over to stand at the desk. She hadn’t told them anything about Conor being the real owner. Hopefully she wouldn’t have to. She touched the bottom of a rose and drew in a deep breath of the heavenly fragrance. “I’ll tell him how much you like them. Just don’t get used to them. I’m sure he’ll get bored with this new venture soon.”
She plucked a card with her name on it from the peach bouquet. It said, “I have the papers on my desk. Let’s sign and then dinner. Conor.”