The Creative Peak
New inspired writing from an independent publisher
New inspired writing from an independent publisher
T A Cherry
Melissa was heartbroken when her long time boyfriend walked out on her. To distract her from loneliness she put all her efforts into her new hairdressing
salon. Her father, a kind and benevolent man, had supported her all the way to winning a national hairdressing award. The future looked good for her.
In her mid-twenties, tall and beautiful, she has the pick of the local men. It was time to step out from behind her father’s shadow, run her new business and find a handsome man. But things didn’t quite go according to plan! Even though there were plenty of men available, nothing seemed to go smoothly. There was a problem around every corner!
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Melissa let herself into her salon. It was only the second Saturday that her new hairdressing premises had been open. Each time she came into it so she marvelled at her father’s work. The extensive space, with the stylists chairs, was a Romanesque design with the mirrors set under curved arches. The divisions between the principal areas were constructed to give a medieval appearance and all the furniture also complemented the overall style. Her father had converted an empty shell of a large shop into this exquisite salon in a matter of weeks.
It was early in the morning and well before eight o’clock. She liked to start before anyone else was in, as she felt it gave her a good view on the day ahead. The salon was eerily quiet as no one had arrived yet. She looked proudly around at all the specialist facilities. Her father had assured her that she would need a large salon as he felt confident she could make a go of a much bigger business. It was so much larger than the small shop she had rented before winning a national hairdressing award.
She suddenly jumped as she realised she wasn’t alone. Her hair brush was in her hand, as she was about to brush her long black hair. She considered it crucial to look the part of the owner of a prestigious salon. Her style of dress and hair were the best advert for her business, which was now simply called Melissa.
In the doorway, a man was standing as though afraid to come in. He was about six-feet tall, broad and muscular. She guessed he was about seven or eight years older than her and in his late thirties. He wore a thick checked shirt and rather grubby jeans. His hair was a nondescript brown and was dishevelled. He clearly hadn’t shaved that morning.
‘Can I help you?’ she asked, just hoping that he hadn’t come for a haircut. Whilst she liked all new customers to just drop in, she didn’t think he would be a very good image for her second Saturday of opening.
The man looked her up and down and then took only one pace forward. He was very hesitant about coming in.
Melissa said, as brightly as she could manage, ‘Have you come for a haircut?
He shook his head and then added, ‘No I’ve come to ask you something.’ By now he had advanced a few metres inside the door. He was standing in the middle of the shiny grey mosaic floor.
Melissa walked towards him and smiled. She said, ‘What is it?’
He turned back towards the door and said, ‘Come in, Chloe.’
The smile on Melissa’s face soon disappeared. Chloe was a fifteen year old girl, who had wanted a Saturday job. Melissa had allowed her to start last week, but she hadn’t been a good worker. However, as Melissa tried to see the best in people, she thought that she only needed a bit of training. It would be based around the principal that you smiled at customers. Last week, on Chloe’s first day, she had seemed to pout whenever she had been asked to do some of the jobs, such as cleaning a sink. Melissa put her manner down to lack of experience. She would normally have let Chloe come back this week, apart from what had happened at the end of the day.
Melissa’s best friend, Sarah, who worked in the salon as a stylist, had seen Chloe steal a large bottle of expensive shampoo. She had watched as Chloe slipped it into her bag after taking it into the staff room.
The man looked at Melissa and said, ‘Can you tell me why you don’t want Chloe any more? After all, last Saturday was her first day.’
Melissa wasn’t given to anger and temper, but she was now really annoyed that her judgement had been called into question by this man.
She rather snapped, ‘Exactly who are you?’
‘I am Mark, Chloe’s father. I look after her as my wife died at childbirth.’
That rather took the wind out of Melissa’s sails, but she wasn’t going to be deflected from her decision.
Melissa said, ‘I am the owner of this salon. Chloe didn’t have the best of attitudes last week, but I would have been willing to give her some training to show what it means to work in a business. Unfortunately, one of the other stylists saw her stealing a large bottle of shampoo. Therefore, I told her she was a thief, and that she was never to come back here again.’ She looked at Chloe, who was staring down towards the floor and chewing incessantly.
Mark immediately turned to her, ‘You didn’t tell me!’
‘Yeah well, she’s making a bit of a fuss about it,’ said Chloe, ‘I was going to pay for it, but I forgot.’
Melissa immediately said, ‘There was no intention to pay for it. Sarah saw her take it into the staff room. We don’t normally take any of the products from the salon into there. It is purely a staff area and not something that could have been done by accident. I explained that rule to her at the beginning of last Saturday.’ She then added, ‘The shampoo was right next to the counter. She could have gone to the staff room to get the money to pay for it if she wanted to. Or she could have paid on the way out. She was alone in the staff room, but was keeping a careful watch to see whether anybody was coming.’
Mark said, ‘How do you know all this?’ and stared directly at Melissa.
She was trying to hold her temper with this man, who thought he could just walk in here and question her. Her temper rarely rose, but when it did, she would take a few deep breaths and it would be gone. Melissa, when she was growing up was nervous and passive. It was only in the past few years with her own business that she had become more confident. She took a few deep breaths and looked down so that she could regain her composure. Mark was standing on the very clean floor. For the first time Melissa noticed his boots were muddy. As he had been standing there so several bits of mud had fallen off. This wasn’t a good start to the second Saturday. She was going to have to clean it up after he had gone.
Because of her intense look, Mark looked down and mumbled, ‘Sorry, I’ve just come from the fields.’
Melissa continued, ‘The reason we know she stole the shampoo is because Sarah saw her. The door to the staff area was open. At the far end there is a mirror. Sarah saw Chloe deliberately go behind the door and tuck the shampoo into her bag. There are no lockers or anything behind the door, so there would be no reason to go there. Unless she was intent on stealing.’
Mark looked carefully at Melissa’s face, and then turned to Chloe and asked, ‘Is that true?’
The fifteen year-old just looked down and shrugged her shoulders.
Melissa felt a pang of sympathy for Mark. He had obviously been conned by his daughter. She saw him turn red with embarrassment. He was a good-looking guy, with a rather rough hewn look, but had a pleasant face which showed signs of an outdoor life. He was well tanned and had the complexion of someone working in the sun and the wind.
Mark said, ‘You’d better go Chloe. You’ve let me down again. I really don’t know why I bother with you.’
Melissa never liked to get involved with families. Hairdressing was a popular profession and young girls saw it as their career or certainly a way to earn some money. Because many were still at school, Melissa often got involved with their parents. She tended to see a different side to their daughters and it was always a difficult conversation with parents when she had to say that their daughter had a poor attitude.
Melissa looked at Mark, and as they exchanged glances, she thought that would be the end of the conversation and he would leave.
He didn’t move and said, ‘Did you say anything to Chloe?’ Who, by this time, had taken the opportunity to disappear completely from the salon.
‘Yes. I took her into my office along with Sarah. I told her what Sarah had seen.’
‘What happened? asked Mark.
‘She denied it. So I said to her, if it wasn’t true she would be happy to open her bag so I could look inside. She said she wasn’t going to be searched. No, I couldn’t look in her bag.’ Melissa was finding it difficult to look at Mark as he was red with embarrassment, so she glanced past him out of the window. ‘I then added there would be no pay for that day and that she should not come back next week. Chloe then left and I have not seen her until you bought her in this morning.’
Melissa was somewhat dismayed that Mark still hadn’t moved. As she moved her eyes back onto his face so he put his hand into his pocket. He drew out his wallet, which was stuffed with notes. He said, ‘I’m sorry for the inconvenience she has caused you. She is often out of control, I was just hoping that a job here would settle her down. I will of course pay you for the shampoo. You said it was large and expensive,’ but Melissa made no attempt to reply. He took from his wallet two twenty pound notes and said, ‘Is that enough?’
His offer of the money took Melissa by surprise. She said, ‘No thanks. I do not want your money. It is the principle of the matter, which is more important. Also I don’t want the shampoo back.’
Mark said, ‘I can’t be responsible for Chloe’s actions as I’m having less and less influence on her. She’s always been in trouble, but I feel in debt to you. I insist that you take the forty pounds, unless it is more and then I will pay that.’
Melissa just shook her head. Mark stared at her without smiling, and put the notes down on one of the stylist seats. He mumbled, ‘Sorry for all the trouble.’ He went to turn away, but then looked down to the floor. ‘If you give me a dustpan and brush I will clean up the mess that I have made.’
Melissa now felt slightly embarrassed by his presence. She was really annoyed with Chloe and him, but she couldn’t possibly give him a dustpan and brush to clean it up. She was going to have to do it herself before anybody else came. She shook her head and said, ‘I will clear it up after you have gone.’
He hesitated slightly before turning round and going towards the door. He tried to walk carefully, but more mud came off his boots. When he got to the door, he turned and said, ‘I’m afraid we’ve not made a very good start as we are business neighbours.’
Melissa was expecting him to leave and was already starting to think about the day ahead, but his remark caught her attention.
‘Do you run one of the shops round here?’
He nodded and said, ‘Yes. I own the vegetable and florist’s shop just on the other side of the square from here.’
Melissa didn’t really know what to say as she’d hardly looked at the other businesses that were around the Market Square. His remark gave her a reminder that she really ought to go and introduce herself to some of them.
She didn’t feel light-hearted, because her newly opened business was weighing heavy on her. Normally, as he was a good-looking guy she would have offered him a haircut. But she didn’t and just let him go.
She cleared up the mud and by that time some of the other stylists had started to arrive. Some had been part-time with her at the old salon, but many were new. They were freelance and wanted to be associated with the salon and with Melissa. They obviously hoped her award would rub off on them and get them more clients.
Melissa’s previous salon had been in a small converted shop on a backstreet. It was a far cry from the new one in which she was now standing. Her father had decided on a Romanesque style to upgrade her image and because it greatly suited the eighteenth century building where the salon took up the ground floor. It had pride of place overlooking the Market Square of Marfield. Three sides of a rectangle enclosed the market, with surrounding shops. On the fourth side there were more shops and a main road cutting through the edge of the square. There were a few days in the week when the market stalls were full, and on other days the central areas were used for parking.
She walked to the door of the salon and stood outside looking around at the other businesses. Then her eyes caught sight of the combined greengrocers and florists at the other end of the square.
It was going to be one of the first places she had intended to visit. She was thinking about weddings. Quite often the bride and bridesmaids would want flowers as part of their hair style. It would seem an obvious place from which to get the flowers. She had noticed that the shop did have an Interflora sign in the window, which normally meant they produced good flower arrangements. Also, as it was a greengrocers it would be a good opportunity to get fresh vegetables on a regular basis. She wasn’t really a vegetarian, but would often have meat-free meals. She would have had more of them if she could be confident of getting fresh vegetables, rather than those in supermarket plastic.
As she looked over the market place so several of the stylists greeted her as they went in. She took a deep breath. It was going to be hard work to run this business. She had some confidence in the way she had built up the little salon, but this was a much bigger enterprise. She was very grateful to her father, who had made all the necessary arrangements for finance, as well as for the complete fit out of the new salon. She sighed as she thought about him. He had told her to get on with the hairdressing and he would deal with everything else.
It was time to get on with the day’s work. She had just wanted to take the opportunity of a breath of fresh air, because the rest of the day would be in the salon and probably she wouldn’t leave until it was nearly dark. It was very tiring, but she hoped that the future would bring its benefits. It was hard work. Her hands smoothed down her black trousers. She checked that her shoes hadn’t picked up any of the mud from Mark’s boots. One of the new stylist walked past her and said, ‘You look stunning this morning, Melissa.’
‘Thank you.’ Her long black hair and slim figure brought her many compliments.
She took one final glance around the square. There were several charity shops, a couple of small supermarkets and two pubs. This was a market town up in the hills of Derbyshire. It was still thriving although there were several shops that had closed and that would be a worry for all of them. The only shop that caught her interest was a bookshop. It was a mixture of new and second-hand. She did like to relax in the evenings by reading and so decided that it would be one of the first places she would call. She would leave a visit until early one morning during the week when business would be slack.