Authors: Aspen Drake
By Aspen Drake
This is a work of fiction. All the characters and events portrayed in this novel are fictitious or used fictitiously. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the publisher or author, except in the case of a reviewer, who may quote brief passages in a review.
Fierce Salon Episode Three
Published by Surrendered Press
Copyright 2014 Aspen Drake
“Tell me again why this is a good idea?” I look up at Gabi from beneath a pile of dresses on her bedroom floor. She’s been tossing clothes at me for an hour, trying to get me ready for the first date I’ve been on in over two years. And since Shane pretty much stopped taking me out on dates after the first couple weeks, it feels like forever.
“Because you need to get back on that horse.” She holds up a pair of break neck high heels. “And if that horse happens to own a bakery, all the better.”
I roll my eyes. My best friend can be a romantic when she wants to be but mostly she’s just straight-shooting and dirty. I love her for it.
“I don’t know anything about fancy art. What if I say something to offend the artist?” I’ll have to warn Mason that I don’t know how the hell I’m supposed to act so he shouldn’t leave me alone with anyone important.
“You won’t.” Gabi gestures for me to stand up and raise my arms. When I do, she pulls off the t-shirt I slept in and yanks a teal sequined dress over my naked body. “And this is perfect. It sets off your eyes.”
I glance in the mirror. It does look good and makes my eyes pop. After inspecting the width and depth of my ass in the stretchy fabric, I nod to her so she can move on to accessories.
I like the idea of getting dressed up but it’s the execution that I suck at. I’d be happy in yoga pants and a tank top for the rest of my life so I have to rely on the expert skills of my bestie to get me presentable. I hope she ate her Wheaties this morning.
“Your ass looks amazing.” She smacks it to get my attention. “Stop looking at it and tell me which necklace you like better.”
Both are beautiful but I go with the silver pendant to keep it simple. I don’t want to look gaudy and that’s a distinct possibility if I don’t rein Gabi in.
Once we’ve perfected my ‘barely there’ makeup and straighten and curl my hair, I’m just about ready. Mason is due any minute. I go to sit on the couch and remember I’m not quite done. “Shit, I almost forgot underwear!”
I walk toward the suitcase that still holds my daily wardrobe but Gabi stops me with her hand. “Uh uh. The bra is built in and you don’t need panties.”
I laugh and step toward my suitcase anyway but her grip only tightens. “I’m serious, Aims. Nothing underneath. You’ll have a VPL and if things get good, you’ll be all soggy. You don’t want a yeast infection, do you?”
I stare at her in disbelief. Is she seriously trying to tell me that going out in public in a mini dress without panties is for my own health? “No way.”
“Yes way.” She cups her palm around her ear and points outside. “And he’s here.”
Mason knocks on the door and I count to ten before stepping forward and opening it up.
“Hi, Mason. Come in.” I step to the side and gesture for him to enter.
Mason hands me a bouquet of red roses and leans forward to give me a kiss on the cheek. “You look stunning, Amy.” He takes a step back and looks me up and down. “Seriously…wow.”
“Thank you, Mason.” I can feel the heat creeping into my cheeks but I don’t mind. Compliment blushing is nice. Embarrassment blushing is the worst. “You look very nice too.”
He winks and pulls a white paper bag from his jacket pocket. “And this is for you too.”
I laugh at the cream stick from his bakery. A cream puff sounds delicious but my stomach is too nervous to eat. “Thanks for this too. I’ll save it for later.”
“Yeah, like it’ll be here later.” Gabi appears from the kitchen with a vase. “But it’s cute that you think it might be.”
I pull Gabi to my side. “Mason, this is my best friend, Gabi. Gabi, this is Mason.”
“Gabi.” Mason offers his hand then pulls her in for a hug. “It’s a pleasure. If I had known Amy had a roommate, I would have brought an extra cream stick.”
Gabi doesn’t miss a beat. “Well, my boyfriend might not like it but if it’s a gift, I wouldn’t be able to refuse your cream.”
I shove her shoulder and laugh. “Behave while we’re gone!”
“Nope. But you guys have fun and don’t behave too much. I want some stories to cream myself to!”
“Please ignore her,” I say to Mason as I pull him out the front door. I shout back into the cottage with a laugh, “She’s a pig!”
“She’s fun.” Mason puts his arm around my waist and guides me to his Jeep Cherokee. “You seem to be more relaxed around her.”
I internally groan at the comment. Mason has only seen me at my worst or when I was nervous at the salon. He hasn’t seen the normal, happy Amy but I’m determined to have fun tonight and make sure he remembers me as more than the blubbering idiot that scared customers out of his bakery a week ago.
The gallery is downtown in a chic new building. Mason explains that one of his employees has a few photos on display so he was guilted into attending. Guilt or not, the shrimp cocktail and bacon wrapped filet mignon are enough to keep me interested for hours.
“What do you think of this piece?” Mason hands me a refill of the chardonnay I’ve been sampling all night as I stare at a painting.
“It’s heartbreaking.” I didn’t expect tears so I’m not wearing waterproof mascara. I tilt my head back and look at the overhead lights for a second to will the moisture back down my sinuses. “I can’t imagine what these kids have to do to survive when their parents just toss them out.”
He nods and rests his hand on my back. “Yeah. Makes me realize how good I had it. My teenage years weren’t perfect but at least I always had food and shelter.”
The portrait of a young teenage boy with dirty clothes and a black eye standing on an urban street corner pretty much sums up the majority of the work on exhibit. The proceeds of the event will help gay and lesbian youth that have been kicked out of their homes and are struggling to survive on the streets.
“I wish I could buy one.” I look around the room at the framed photos, sculptures and paintings that each portray the harsh reality these kids face every day. “I’m going to make a donation.”
Mason squeezes my shoulder and pulls me into his chest. “Me too.”
“Amy.” The deep voice behind me makes me jump out of Mason’s embrace and tug at the hem of my dress. When I turn around, Nate is inches from my back and giving me the intense stare he’s famous for. “How are you this evening?”
“Nate. Hi.” I don’t know why I’m so nervous but he’s still pissed at me for the late night ride home so I have to tread lightly. “I didn’t know you would be here.”
“How would you know my schedule?” He’s trying to be casual but there’s an edge to his voice that I’m becoming accustomed to. “It’s not like you’re following me, right?”
“Huh?” I don’t understand the joke so I let it go. “Well, it was great seeing you.”
I turn to Mason and gesture toward the gallery owner. “Let’s go ask who to make the check out to.”
“Of course.” Mason takes my hand and leads me away.
As soon as we’re out of earshot, I lean into Mason. “Thanks for saving me. I think my boss hates me.”
Mason laughs and grabs a piece of bruschetta from a passing tray. “I don’t think that’s the problem.”
I glance back at Nate and he’s still glaring at me. As usual. “Trust me. It is.”
Rayna Bach is one of the foremost advocates of controversial and political art in the country. She is known for finding undiscovered talent with a social focus and getting rich do-gooders to donate to related charities. There’s a line of people waiting to speak to her so Mason excuses himself to visit the restroom while I stand in queue.
“Is there some kind of etiquette I should know about before I get to her?” I ask the kid standing in line behind me. He looks like he’s only seventeen or eighteen but his excitement makes me think he’s an artist too.
“I have no idea.” He looks around but the smile doesn’t fade. “I’ve never been to a place like this.”
“Oh, an art virgin too?” I extend my hand. “It’s good to know I’m not the only one. I’m Amy.”
“Nice to meet you, Amy.” His hands are soft but the splotches of paint on his nails confirm my artist theory. “I’m Andre.”
“Well, Andre, what do you think of the stuff you’ve seen so far?” I step toward a photo of two boys holding hands in the middle of a wrecking yard.
“It’s amazing.” He says the words with reverence as he steps up to me. “I can’t believe people like this are willing to pay so much money for these kind of pictures.”
I was thinking the same thing. The price tag is $800 but the emotion it conjures makes me think it’s worth at least twice that much. “I’d buy it in a heartbeat if I could.”
“Really?” He looks at me again with new eyes. “Why? What do you see when you look at it?”
Mason joins us but doesn’t interrupt as I look at the photo from different angles. “It makes me think that even in the most desolate environments, if you can accept who you are and are willing to open yourself up to happiness, that it’s possible. You can let everything else go and just be happy with what you have.”
Andre nods and looks at a man talking to Ms. Bach. The man looks like he’s his older brother but the doe eyed look Andre gives him makes me think there’s more than brotherly affection there. When the man catches his eye and waves him over, Andre’s face lights up.
“I’ve got to go but it was nice to meet you, Amy.”
“You too, Andre.” I watch the boy walk up to the man and get introduced to the gallery owner. The awe on his face makes me smile.
“What is?” Mason follows my gaze to the group ahead of us.
“That kid. He’s in love with that guy and it looks like he’s meeting his hero right now.”
“He told you that?” Mason looks between Andre and me with a confused expression on his face. “In the two minutes I was gone?”
“No, he didn’t really say anything. I can just tell.” I take Mason’s hand and we walk toward one of the photos by his baker. “You can see it in the way he looks at him.”
“So, you’re saying you can gauge a person’s interest by the look in their eyes?” He has a smirk on his face that doesn’t hide his disbelief.
“Yup. For example, look at that couple over there.” I point to a couple in line at the bar. “Look at how he watches her mouth when she talks and the way she keeps a hand on his arm at all times. They’re obviously so in love with each other they can’t keep their hands off.”
“Okay, so what do you think about this couple?” Mason holds out his glass to my left so I turn in that direction and come face-to-face with Nate. Again.
I smile at Mason while I pinch his forearm. Hard.
Nate is just inches from us but now he has a tall woman on his arm that looks like she’s straight off the runway. In heels, she’s just about Nate’s height and has beautiful brown hair that shines like she just had a keratin treatment.
Nate still looks pissed but he has a smile plastered to his face now. “Mason, Amy, I’d like you to meet Audrina. She’s visiting from the U.K.”
I hold out my hand to her. “Hi, Audrina. It’s nice to meet you.”
“It’s lovely to meet you as well.” Her accent is smooth as butter as she shakes my hand then looks to Mason. “Mason, did he say?”
“Yes,” Mason takes her hand and brings it to his lips, “it’s a pleasure to meet you.”
“Are you fans of this type of art?” She looks around the room as if there are cockroaches on the walls.
Suddenly, I don’t like her or her snooty accent. “I do, in fact.” I wrap my hand around Mason’s arm and tug him back a few inches. “I find the rawness moving and I don’t usually react to art in that way. I’m planning to make a donation to the cause.”
She looks me up and down and I can see the mental math she’s doing to figure out what my outfit costs. I’m sure it all adds up to less than the makeup she’s got caked on her unnaturally beautiful face. “That’s sweet. I’m sure they’ll appreciate it. Every penny counts, they say.”
My instinct is to tell her off but the way Nate is watching my reaction keeps my mouth in check. “Yes, they do. If you’ll excuse us…”
Without waiting for a response, I drag Mason to the bar for a refill. “Can you believe that bitch?”
He shakes his head. “She’s definitely…direct.”
“Yeah, direct like a mac truck!”
Mason chuckles softly and pulls me into his chest. “Calm down, Amy. She’s just jealous of you.”
“Right.” I snort in his shirt, making him laugh even more. “There’s nothing about me that woman envys.”
I look up at Mason, resting my chin on his chest. “Do you mean because of you?”
“Uh, no.” He arches his back so he can look in my eyes. “And you never answered my question.”
“What question?” I can’t even remember what we were talking about before that
“I asked what you thought about that couple. What they were thinking about each other.”
“Oh.” I chance a quick glance to Nate and see him walking out with his hand on Audrina’s back. “Well, I wasn’t really paying attention to his reaction. But knowing how he feels about me, he was probably proud of her.”