Charisse breathed in the early morning scent of the city before traffic exhaust clogged up the air. The sky was a pale blue as if it were starting over like Charisse felt she was starting over. She’d line her life up again, starting with going over her schedule at the salon, finding a therapist and setting a lunch date with Daddy to sort out the trust fund. Then she could have the loan all sorted out when she called Conor. She wanted to talk to Marie about everything too, but she hadn’t been home last night when Charisse returned, and Charisse hadn’t wanted to wake her this morning.
She turned the corner and smiled at the sight of her salon. She didn’t care what Conor said, work helped her. It was therapeutic. She was ready to visualize hairstyles and listen to her clients’ problems. The salon should be empty, so she could do her prepping without interruption.
But when she got to the door, she saw all her lady luvs through the glass, readying their stations. The door wasn’t even locked. She flung it open.
“What are you guys doing here?”
Soon Charisse was surrounded by her lady luvs, soaking in the warm welcome despite her confusion.
Letti finally reached her, hugged her and said, “I was surprised when I got your text because Conor said you’d be gone today too.”
Charisse squeezed her back. “Conor doesn’t think I should be working, but he’s wrong.” She pulled away. “Why are all of you here early?”
Letti widened her eyes, and silence settled in the salon.
“He didn’t tell you?” asked Letti. She folded her arms across her leopard printed satin blouse and tapped a red fingernail against her arm.
“I was just doing what he said as your partner,” said Mei with worry in her eyes. “I thought you’d agreed to it.”
“Agreed to what?” asked Charisse. Heat burned from the inside out. The scents of different shampoos didn’t blend that morning but rather irritated her.
Letti said, “Conor ordered Mei to schedule all your clients yesterday with one of us either before we usually opened or after we closed, depending on what they wanted.”
Charisse blinked and stood silent. He was taking over her salon. “But that’s not how we do things. You’re supposed to schedule them for me at those times or during lunch throughout the week.”
“I’m sorry,” said Mei, her face scrunched up like she was about to be fired. She drew her ponytail around and started to braid it. “He said you might not be in all week, and he didn’t want the salon to lose the clients. And you weren’t answering your phone.”
“It’s fine, Mei,” she said, putting her hand on her arm. “I should’ve called myself, but I was…well, it was a really bad morning. Who’s coming in? I’ll at least take one this morning and one this afternoon. I need to leave my lunch open.”
Mei led her over to the desk to go over the schedule. The other lady luvs said they were glad she was better and went to their stations to finish getting ready for the day. Letti, however, stood by Charisse as she talked to Mei.
When Charisse was done with Mei, Letti whispered, “Breakroom. Now.”