HOLLY STOOD IN FRONT OF the full-length mirror and inspected herself. She had carried out Gerry’s orders and had purchased a new outfit. What for, she didn’t know, but several times every day she had to drag herself away from opening the envelope for May. There were only two days left until she could, and the anticipation left her no room to think of anything else.
She had settled on wearing an all-black outfit to suit her current mood. Black fitted trousers slimmed her legs and were tailored perfectly to sit over her black boots. A black corset that made her look like she had a bigger chest finished the outfit off perfectly. Leo had done a wonderful job on her hair, tying it up and allowing strands to fall in loose waves around her shoulders. Holly ran her fingers through her hair and smiled at the memory of her time at the hairdresser’s. She had arrived at the salon with her face flushed and out of breath. “Oh, I’m so sorry, Leo, I got caught on
the phone and didn’t realize the time.”
“Don’t worry, love, whenever you make an appointment I have the staff trained to pencil it in for half an hour later. Colin!” he yelled, clicking his fingers in the air. Colin dropped everything and ran.
“God, are you taking horse tranquilizers or something? The length of your hair already, and I just cut it a few weeks ago.”
He pumped vigorously on the chair, raising Holly higher. “Anything special tonight?” he asked, attacking the chair.
“The big three-oh,” she said, biting her lip.
“What’s that, your local bus route?”
“No! I’m the big three-oh!”
“Of course I knew that, love, Colin!” he yelled again, snapping his fingers in the air.
With that, Colin appeared from the staff room behind Holly with a cake in his hand, followed by a row of hairdressers joining Leo in a chorus of “Happy Birthday.” Holly was dumbfounded. “Leo!” was all she could say. She battled the tears that were welling in her eyes and failed miserably. By this stage the entire salon had joined in and Holly was just overwhelmed by their show of love. When it was over everyone applauded and normal business resumed.
Holly couldn’t speak.
“Christ Almighty, Holly, one week you’re in here laughing so hard you practically fall off your chair and the next visit you’re crying!”
“Oh, but that was just so special, Leo, thank you,” she said, drying her eyes and giving him a huge hug and a kiss.
“Well, I had to get you back after you mortified me,” he said, shrugging her off, uncomfortable with the sentimentality.
Holly laughed, remembering Leo’s surprise fiftieth birthday party. The theme had been “feathers and lace” as she recalled. Holly had worn a beautiful tight-fitting lace dress and Gerry, who was always game for a laugh, had worn a pink feather boa to match his pink shirt and tie. Leo claimed to have been excruciatingly embarrassed, but everyone knew he was secretly delighted with all the attention. The next day, Leo had rung every guest who had attended the party and left a threatening message on their machine. Holly had been terrified to make an appointment with Leo for weeks after that in case he butchered her. Word had it that business was very slow for Leo that week.
“Well, you enjoyed the stripper that night anyway,” Holly teased.
“Enjoyed? I went out with him for a month after that. The bastard.”
A slice of cake arrived in front of each customer and everyone turned to thank her.