half-moon curl of platinum hair sprang from my scissors to
growing pile on the floor.
take too much off, Grace," Vonda Jamison cautioned, craning
neck to check my progress. Iâ€™d been cutting her hair since
were in high school--youâ€™d think sheâ€™d trust me by now.
still." I tapped her head with my comb. Snip, snip.
More curls drifted down. "You said you wanted it
not shorn." She slouched back against the black
chair. "Maybe I should go red."
swiveled the chair so she faced me instead of the mirror.
usual salon noises--customers chatting, water running in
basin, the phone ringing--washed around us but I tuned them
Ricky?" I asked. When Von started talking about changing
her hair color, it usually meant she and Ricky were on the
sigh was all the answer I needed. After fifteen years of
met as high school sophomores--we were pretty good at
reading each otherâ€™s
eye rolls, shrugs and sighs. "Over again?"
likely. Vonda and Ricky Warren had been on-again-off-again
long as Iâ€™d known her. One particularly long stretch
had resulted in a six-year marriage, twice as long as my
at matrimony. When they divorced, I thought the "off"
be permanent, but theyâ€™d hooked up again before theyâ€™d paid
the lawyersâ€™ fees. So I laughed, earning myself a glare.
I deliberately changed the subject. "Are you going to the
Constance DuBois and her crowd are primed to snag all the
their â€˜Preserve the Rothmere Antebellum Mansionâ€™
PRAM." She wrinkled her nose. "How can people vote to
pay for historically accurate nineteenth-century wallpaper,
new PCs for the schools? I swear, RJâ€™s using the computer
of an abacus at Jefferson Davis Elementary. Iâ€™m going to
damned sure the vote goes in favor of funding the schoolâ€™s
got Vonda riled up faster than issues involving her eight-
Richard James Warren the Fourth. I agreed with her that
the school needed to update its technology, but I also knew
homes like the Rothmere mansion brought a lot of tourists
to St. Elizabeth,
Georgia. And tourists meant money for local businesses
momâ€™s salon, my place of employment.
not to disagree with Von, I started to texturize the hair
on her crown.
"And what about the Morestuf Mart? Do you think we should
that at the Town Hall Meeting?"
no." Vondaâ€™s answer was swift and sure. "A big box
store like that will eat into the profits of the downtown
places like Violettaâ€™s." Her gesture took in the whole
"The historic district is the primary reason tourists come
Elizabeth. They can get Morestufs and Home Fix-Its and
back in Detroit or Philly or Kalamazoo--they come to St.
our charm and quaintness and Southern hospitality." She
let her voice
lapse into an exaggerated drawl. "Right, sugah?"
I agreed, laughing. Vonda and Ricky owned a bed and
on Peachtree Street and tourists were their lifeblood, as
for most of the town since the paper mill shut down about
back. Pulling out my hair dryer, I cut off further
as I finished Vondaâ€™s hair. "There." I turned the chair
so she could see.
honey, youâ€™re a genius." She beamed at her reflection.
Wispy bangs hung down slightly over her brown eyes, giving
face with its pointy chin a mysterious look. She looked
if I did say so myself.
just figuring that out?" I returned her exuberant hug and
her to the door.
you at the meeting tonight?" she asked, slipping on Jackie
miss it," I assured her.
neither would anyone else in town, I thought as she left,
the bustle in the salon. Normally, Wednesday afternoons
bit slow, but the salon, the front half of my momâ€™s
was packed. Mom, the Violetta the shop is named for, was
a cut at her station near the front windows with the blinds
to cut the glare. Stella Michaelson, our manicurist,
manicures at a time in the Nail Nook, an alcove behind the
with her white Persian, Beauty, curled on a cushion at her
Althea Jenkins, my momâ€™s best friend and our part time
waxed and tinted brows in the small room that used to be
parlor but which my mom had co-opted for the salon when she
Violettaâ€™s should offer spa services. Rachel Whitley, a
and aspiring beautician, shampooed our clients in the sink
of the former
powder room. Weâ€™d removed all the walls (and the toilet)
replaced some of them with waist-high barriers of glass
bricks and it
really opened the place up.
addition to our regular clientele, I noticed several of
what I called
the haute ton--a term for high society women I stole
favorite Georgette Heyer Regencies--waiting for trims and
Not only was the Town Hall meeting an important budget
forum, it was
this weekâ€™s best opportunity to be photographed for the
Gazette, our weekly newspaper more concerned with
and the results of local gardening contests than the Iraq
war or Wall
Street projections. And that wasnâ€™t a bad thing. Living
in Atlanta with Hank, Iâ€™d endured enough stories of child
violence, political skullduggery and genocide to last me a
The upbeat stories in the Gazette
exactly suited my current mood.
Mortimer, the curator of the Rothmere mansion and museum,
was my next
client and Rachel was just finishing up her shampoo.
me a "two minutes" signal and I got a diet root beer from
small fridge we kept behind the counter and relaxed for a
the way the sun slanted through the wooden blinds and
striped the broad
tuned in to the conversation Mom was having with the
in her chair. My mother, Violetta Terhune, leaned in over
girlâ€™s shoulder. The violet tunic Mom wore contrasted
with her gray-white hair and her still lovely complexion,
a few wrinkles. Her blue eyes, framed by rimless glasses,
into the girlâ€™s eyes in the mirror, like they shared a
Her soft bosom and twenty extra pounds made her look sweet
and motherly, but Iâ€™d seen that determined smile on her
times than I could count when I was a teenager. Come to
of it, I still saw it on occasion.
Mindy-honey, you know your mamaâ€™s not going to like it if
home with your beautiful hair in a mohawk"--she stroked the
bright head--"and magenta stripes." Mindy started to
but Mom over-rode her with, "Let me show you what I think
just darling on you. I saw it on that actress, you know,
in that movie about teenage vampires living in Dallas--such
youâ€™re way cuter than she is." And she began snipping at
hair, talking all the while. Mindyâ€™s face went from
to resigned to tentatively pleased as I watched.
that, I thought, suppressing a smile, summed up both the
the irritations of living in a small Southern town.
knew everybody which created a warm sense of community. On
other hand, nothing was private and everybody thought they
have a say in your life which annoyed the heck out of me.
the soda can into the recycle bin--my idea--I returned to
stopping to tell Mindy she looked fabulous and earning a
smile of approval
from my mom.
was finishing up Lucyâ€™s blow-out when the front door banged
jingling the bells and clattering the blinds. A man
in full Civil War regalia. Confederate gray, of course,
with a sword. That might have seemed strange or out of
most salons, but Walter Highsmith owned the Civil War
two storefronts down from Violettaâ€™s and he stopped in
Iâ€™d long suspected he was sweet on my mom, but as far as I
relationship had never progressed beyond dinners,
conversation and friendship.
A short, plump man with a full goatee and a mustache that
he waxed into
rigid loops, Walter was, I thought, a bit barmy on the
whole Civil War
thing. He participated in re-enactments and came running
to tell Mom whenever he acquired a particularly interesting
memorabilia. Today, though, his chubby cheeks were flushed
angry red and he was almost sputtering as he sought out my
Walter," she greeted him, putting her combs into a jar of
you know what this is, Miss Violetta?" he asked, flapping
an envelope. "Itâ€™s an eviction notice. That . . . that
woman is throwing me out at the end of the month. Right as
season starts!" The ends of his mustache quivered.
no," Mom said. "Why would she do that?"
knew the "she" my mom referred to was Constance DuBois,
of several properties on the downtown square, including the
Walter rented for Confederate Artefacts. It originally
the DuBois Bank and Trust which had re-located to a bigger
on the west side of town in the mid-1980s.
been there nineteen years, Miss Violetta. Nineteen
He stopped to take a deep breath. "Never have I been late
the rent. And now she evicts me without so much as the
of a conversation, just because she has a friend--a Yankee
York--who wants to open a scrap-booking shop. Frilly
precious papers and furbelows. Fah!" He threw up his
and the letter wafted to the floor. He stamped on it.
he pulled the sword from the scabbard at his side and ran
through. "Iâ€™m not going to stand for it! She canâ€™t
down, Walter," Mom said. All eyes in the shop were on the
furious Confederate colonel waving his sword around with
impaled on the tip.
his fussy mannerisms and mid-nineteenth century diction, I
with him. Losing his storefront on the square and
some hole-in-the-wall tourists would never find would
him out of business.
door opened again. A woman entered, talking non-stop into
cell phone glued to her ear. Uh-oh. Constance DuBois
grande dame of St. Elizabeth society; former Peach Festival
president or former-president of the Junior League, the
PTA, the Historical
Preservation Society, and Save Our Shoreline; chairwoman of
Spring Festival committee and PRAM; and evictor of Walter
She sat on the boards of more local businesses than I could
her deceased husbandâ€™s bank, now run by her son. I hadnâ€™t
seen her since returning to St. Elizabeth from Atlanta four
but a quick glance told me she hadnâ€™t changed. Same
page boy cut, same prominent cheekbones, same sleek body
garbed in designer
resort wear. Now sixty, my momâ€™s age, she could probably
fit into the debutante dress she wore at eighteen.
Mortimer stiffened in my chair and I looked at her
I said later!" Constance DuBois snapped into the cell
before closing it. She greeted my mom with a smile that
moved the corners of her mouth and didnâ€™t touch her eyes.
Walter said, his eyes bugging. "What is the meaning of
He flourished the sword in her face. The envelope jarred
and drifted sadly to the floor.
words didnâ€™t you understand?" Constance asked, facing
him. "Out. By. June."
wonâ€™t get away with this."