with her whole life in front of her and the man she'd loved
by her side. Now she'd come back, with his ashes in an urn,
and not even the chance of a child in her future. But she had
a sneaking suspicion there was one in her late husband's not too-distant past.
And as for romancewell, those days were behind her. Or
were they? For Max Wright was pursuing her with a vengeance
that made her feel things she thought she'd never feel again.
Maybe it was time to practice some beauty shop magic
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
The Garden of Proserpine
Here, where the world is quiet, Here, where all trouble seems Dead winds and spent waves riot In doubtful dreams of dreams;
I watch the green field growing For reaping folk and sowing, For harvest-time and mowing, A sleepy world of streams.
Algernon Charles Swinburne
Today, as I fly out of LAX, probably for the last time, the souvenirs I'm taking with me are two truths I gleaned doing hair in the Hollywood movie industry: 1) appearance is everything; and 2) reality, that eternal shape-shifter, is the biggest illusion of all.
Reality is 99.9 percent perception. It morphs into whatever form best moves ahead the perceiver.
As I, Avril Carson, thirty-five-year-old widow of Chet, and former aspiring-starlet-turned-Hollywood-stylist, wipe my clammy palms on my Dolce & Gabbanaswhich I bought gently worn at a consignment shop for a fraction of the retail price but no one needs to know thatand prepare to speed into the wild blue yonder into the next chapter of my life, witness Hollywood truths one and two play out in real life.
It goes like this: Even though I loathe flying, I've convinced myself that I must fly across country because the alternative is to come rolling back home into Sago Beach, Florida, in a Greyhound bus.
No can do. Ride the bus, that is.
Not when these jeans retail for nearly three times the cost of a bus ticket.
Not when I'd have to travel twenty-seven hundred miles, stopping at forty-one different stations along the way, to arrive at 3:42 in the morning. Call me vain, but I refuse to go two days, sixteen hours and fifteen minutes without a shower. It makes my skin crawl just thinking about it and the mélange of aromas simmering in that busload of unwashed strangers.
If personal hygiene is too selfish to justify bus snobbery, think of my mother. She has taken such pleasure in my being the hometown girl who's made good in Hollywood; I simply can't let her down by arriving in less than style.
Work with me, here. I mean, come on, I hate to fly. If I were being completely real, I'd keep my feet on the ground through the air from one coast to the other.
But it's not an option. So, I keep reminding myself of the above rationale and that flying is safer than traveling crosscountry via ground transportation. Blah, blah, blah
Full of Dramamine, which has not yet kicked in, I board the plane, settle into my aisle seat and try to center myself.
Oh, God I'm really doing this.
Chet would've been proud of me for venturing so far out of my comfort zone. I press my leg against my carry-on, which holds the box of his ashes, hoping to absorb some of his courage.
Chet Marcus Carson, extreme sports reporter for WKGM Hollywood. Nothing scared him, which is part of the reason he's dead nine months now. Parasailing accident.
Chet Marcus Carson, the reason I ended up in Hollywood to pursue my dream. Much to my mother's hysterical dismay, he yanked me up out of Sago Beachpopulation 212and set me firmly on the road to making something of myself. I was going to be an actress. A star. Just like all my favorites in the old black-and-white romances. The ones I used to watch over and over again. The ones that made me dream big and believe in happily ever after.
And Chet, he was going to be a sportscaster. Together we were going to set the world on fire and never look back at the Podunk town of our youth.
God, that sounds so stupid now. So naive.
I suppose I was. And now, Chet Marcus Carson is the reason I'm going home. I tried my best to stick it out on my own, but by the time I lost Chet, the Hurray-For-Hollywood, rose-colored glasses were gone; I wasn't cut out to be an actressnot in this how-bad-do-you-want-it, bare-it-all day and age.
My dream was over, but Chet's rose like a turbo-inflated hot air balloon. I resorted to the only things I knew: doing hair and being a strong support system for him. Through his contacts, he got me a few jobs doing hair on the sets of various local productions, but my heart wasn't in it. Once I got a look behind the curtain and glimpsed the real Hollywood, all I wanted was to ground myself in reality. I wanted to raise a family, to be a good wifeto be normal again.
Then one day it all came crashing down. The only man I'd ever loved was dead. And I was stuck in this soulless town that was just one big reminder that somehow I had to go on without him.
How in the world could I do that?
Still, today, I'm only supposed to think positive thoughts. Buckling myself into this Boeing 707, I glance at the woman in the window seat, sitting all snug and relaxed, listening to her iPod, shutting out the rest of the world. Taking a cue from her, I focus on my breathing and try to redirect my thoughts to a happy place, but before I get there, a man pauses in the aisle beside me.
"Excuse me, I think I'm sitting next to you." He removes a black cowboy hat, glances at his boarding pass and gestures to the vacant middle seat. "Row twentyfive? Seat B?"
The guy is tallmaybe six-four. The manly-man variety that takes up lots of space. The type who sprawls and hogs both armrests.
My legs feel like overcooked bucatini, but somehow, I manage to stand without whacking my head on the lowflying overhead storage bin.
The cowboy can't back up because there's a long line of people behind him. Behind me, an older couple is stashing their belongings. With no other options, the cowboy and I do an awkward dance as he slides past me to the middle seat.
Soon enough, I'm settled and attempting to resume my stream of reassuring thoughts. Let's see, where was I ?
Aerodynamics. Uhh, sure that's as good a place as any to start.
Aerodynamics is a proven reality, not just Hollywood hype. Aerodynamics allow this eight-hundred-and-seventythousand-pound tin can, which is comprised of six million parts and one hundred and forty-seven thousand pounds of "high-strength aluminum," to defy gravity.
Which seems utterly ridiculous if you consider the laws of gravity. Because something this heavy is not supposed to fly. Then the airline fills it full of people and overstuffed luggage and those tiny bottles of booze and
I feel as if someone's slipped a noose around my neck. Perhaps I need that booze to preempt an anxiety attack.
All right. Settle down. Breathe.
I learned those factoids about the makeup of an airplane on the Boeing Web site when I was surfing for comforting facts to quell my fears. I thought if anyone could sing the praises of flight safety, the airline manufacturer would have the shtick down pat.
Still, knowing myself like I do, I came up with a backup plan. Thus was born my list of the drawbacks of bus travel.
And you thought I was an insufferable snob, didn't you? I have one word for you: Self-preservation.
Let's just get through this. Focus, Avril. Happy thoughts. At this point, the flight attendants are midway through their pretakeoff spiel.
"Ladies and gentlemen, please take note of the emergency exits located throughout the cabin." They point their manicured fingers toward the sides of the plane and smile like we're all at Disneyland. "In the unlikely event of an emergency, lights along the floor will direct you to an exit ."
The engines fire up.
Oh, God The noose tightens.
I am perfectly safe.
People fly every day.
Statistically, I have a better chance of winning the lottery than being killed in a plane crash. Hollywood cannot change that reality.
As the engines roar, and the plane taxis down the runway, I'm gripped by the third Hollywood truth: When bullshit fails, backpedal like hell and disassociate yourself from the lie as fast as you can.
I hate to fly. I really, really hate it. I can't believe I tried to make myself buy into this crap. Forget aerodynamics. Huge, phallic-shaped metal objects that weigh hundreds of thousands of pounds are not supposed to swim weightlessly through the air thirty-five thousand feet above the clouds and the earth.
The words Let me out of this death trap! gurgle up in my throat, but even if I could find my voice, it's too late. The plane lifts off. The G-forces press me into the seat like invisible hands hell-bent on pinning me down.
I hug myself and squeeze my eyes shut. My breath comes in short, quick gasps. "Oh, God. Oh, God. Oh, God. Oh, God!"
"Are you okay?" the cowboy asks.
I nod, vigorously, and realize I was probably muttering Oh, God under my breath. I hope I didn't sound like I was having an orgasm.
Biting the inside of my cheeks to keep other words from flying out, I draw in another deep breath through my nose. Come to think of it, I hate the smell of planesthat blend of humans, jet fuel and airplane foodalmost as much as bus odor. Still, the scent, pleasant or not, is a touchstone, an anchor to the here and now, and I latch onto it like a life preserver, hugging myself tighter.
"Takeoff's my favorite part of the flight."
I open one eye and look at the cowboy. Not only is he taking up both armrests, he's listing in my direction.
He's so much bigger than Chet, who was lean and fair and Hollywood fabulous. The cowboy is dark and goodlooking if you like a raven-eyed, five-o'clock-shadow, ferallooking, Tim-McGraw sort of man. I shift away from his manliness.
"There's always so much possibility when a plane takes off." He has one of those piercing, look-you-in-the-eyes kind of gazes. "It's so symbolic. New places. New beginnings. New opportunities. What's your favorite part of the ride?"
My favorite? Why is he talking to me? "I hate to fly."
"Really." The word is a statement laced with a hint of miss letting fear rule your life."
Who in the hell does he think he is? Anthony Robbins? "I'm here, aren't I? I'm certainly not letting fear rule me. Otherwise I'd have my feet planted firmly on the ground rather than hanging out up here in the clouds, thirty-five thousand feet above"
The plane dips into an air pocket. "Oh, God!"
The words are a whimper, and I melt into my seat, too scared to be thoroughly mortified for being such a big baby.
Okay, maybe I'm a little mortified. Because he's still staring at me.
Oh, leave me alone. I close my eyes again, feeling the first waves of the Dramamine. That foggy, far-off haziness that clouds the head before it closes the eyes is creeping up on me.
"Okay, you get partial credit for being here," says the wise guy.
Partial credit? Like I care. I swallow a yawn. "But to get full credit, you have to tell me your favorite part of the flight."
I'm tempted to tell him where to put his favorite part. To leave me alone so I can go to sleep and wake up when we're safely back on the ground. But this guy is persistent. It'll be a long, uncomfortable flight if I piss him off. I revert to Hollywood truth number four: Tell them what they want to hear and they'll go away.
"My favorite part of the flight?"
My mouth is dry, but I manage to say, "When they open the door at the gate. Now leave me alone so I can go to sleep. My Dramamine is kicking in."
"Come on," he says. "You can do better than that."
"That's a cop-out. Opening the door at the gate is not part of the flight. The flight's over."
"Well, it's certainly better than the take off"
I gesture at the air to indicate the turbulent departure, only to realize we've leveled off and are cruising at that smooth, steady pace that's almost bearable.
He smiles and takes the in-flight magazine out of the seat pocket. "Sleep well."
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
With the death of her husband sports reporter Chet, thirty-five years old widow Avril Carson leaves Hollywood as a stylist to the stars to return to her hometown of Sago Beach, Florida to work at her mom¿s beauty shop. While doing the hair of the stars, Avril learned that ¿appearance is everything¿ and that ¿reality ¿ is the biggest illusion of all¿ consisting of 99.9% perception. Of course the plane flight has too much reality especially since she is carrying Chet¿s ashes although the cowboy Max Wright sitting next to her is nice. Still she is going back to do hair in a town whose population is 212.----------- However, in spite of at times feeling overwhelmed by the warmth of the customers at her mom¿s shop, Avril feels welcomed. She struggles to keep the secrets that her clients share with her as if they confess to her as a holy person, but she tries her best to not divulge who is doing what to whom to others. Max wants to see her, but she still grieves Chet and must forgive others as well as herself for there is ailing Kally, hurting Zane, and the little child Sam to take care of before Avril can move on.---------------- Told in the first person by Avril, BEAUTY SHOP TALES is a warm contemporary relationship tale. Avril is terrific as she holds the story line together by learning to forgive transgressions that hurt her so that she can once again live life to the fullest. Readers will appreciate this well written story with a small dose of sidebar chick lit commentary to add lightness to a deep poignant family drama.---------------- Harriet Klausner
I had to make my self read it, but at the end it was really good, i would not read it again though.