“I’m going to make you look divine,” said the beautician. “Just you wait and see. I’m not saying that you’re not a looker already; you are, babe. But today is your special day. Don’t you worry about a thing, girl. You just relax and enjoy yourself. Leave all the work to Aunty Marge.”

Simone sat in the purple-padded salon chair quietly. She had no choice; this woman never stopped talking. “Now just lean back a little, sweetheart; a little more; that’s it. Relax your neck. There’s no need to get stiff now is there, on your special day? Close your eyes if you want. Dream of beautiful things.”

Marge turned the cold knob, then the hot knob, testing the water. “Ooh! Aah! Ooh! Aah!” she said, and pulled her hand back. “Excuse the monkey noises, dear.” She turned the cold a little more, and tested again. “Just right now.” She pulled Simone’s hair together and ran it through the water. There was a citrus scent; lemony-grapefruity.

“They’re looking over at you. Ooh, they are – the other girls and the customers. Everyone knows, at least around here they do. They’re proud that one of our local girls was chosen. You did real good, darling.” Simone opened her mouth to say something, but before she could, Marge continued. “Now don’t speak, honey. Don’t you say anything at all. You save your breath for later. You’ll need it to climb all those steps – how many are there, 108? – so people can see you properly.”

Marge washed and conditioned Simone’s hair. Then she asked her to sit in another chair which was also purple-padded. “Ooh, you’re sitting rather high in this one, aren’t you, love? I didn’t realize you were so tall. I mean, I knew that you were a tall girl; they always are; but not that tall. What are you, six-feet?”

Simone opened her mouth to tell her, but was again interrupted. “Ok, I’ll do your hair real nice, now. You’ve got beautiful hair; I hardly need to touch it. I’ll just give it a little brush up. Some spot relaxer, and a bit of fire. Maybe a touch of hydrogel. And protein coating. And my secret ingredient; I’m sure you won’t tell anyone – black olive oil. How does that sound?” Simone nodded. “Perfect. You just relax there, honey. Aunty Marge is looking after you.”

There was almost a minute of silence, and then Marge said, “I don’t really know your mother, but I see her in town shopping sometimes. What a beautiful lady. I can see where you get your looks from. I’m surprised she didn’t get chosen herself when she was your age. Good job she didn’t, eh?” Marge winked and laughed.

“Ok, your hair’s all done; let’s start on that lovely face of yours. I hardly need to touch it. Let’s start with some cleanser and foundation. Some shading here and there. Maybe a bit more here. And here. And here. And there. Some blush – I’ll just brush it over – there you go. How’s it looking so far?”

Marge continued. “Business is bad this year. We’re barely getting half the customers. These days you need to look better than ever to even stand a chance of getting a job. These women don’t understand the value of investing in themselves. But you do, don’t you love? You’re making the ultimate investment.”

Simone didn’t get the chance to agree with Marge. “I’ll finish up your face now, babe. We’ll go with something classy. How about purple? That’s a regal colour, seems appropriate, doesn’t it? Oh, that looks so good on your eyes! I knew it! I knew it! It looks fabulous! Just hold them still while I do your eyeliner. I’ll bring it out a little at the sides, like Cleopatra, it’ll look dramatic. Oh, the purple looks good on your lips too! So good! Don’t you look beautiful?

“If only our brave boys could see you now. Wouldn’t they march into battle with a spring in their step? Thank God for this holy war, I say. How bad would the recession be otherwise? Providing no tribute – who do they think they are! Our economy is sinking, and theirs is booming, and they say we couldn’t have any! Where’s the sense in that?

Simone wasn’t in the mood for this discussion, and was about to change the topic, when Marge said, “I’ll touch up your fingers and toes, my love, and you’ll be ready. What do you say, purple varnish? With some silver sparkles?” Simone nodded. “The moment I heard the news I knew what to do with you. Make you into a proper princess. Sorry, should I say goddess? You know what I mean, love. The girls here are so jealous. They wanted to help me, but I said no; you’re not a doll being made in a factory by dollar-a-piece workers. You need the hand of a master craftswoman. And who better than your Aunty Marge?” She held up a mirror at various angles for Simone to peer into.

“I’m all for the war, darling. It brings more prisoners for sacrifice, it expands our influence, and brings in wealth. But killing people always makes me sad. That’s why events like this are so important to cheer us all up. I mean, seeing you tonight climbing up to the top of the temple, wearing your golden jewellery and crown, the Goddess Incarnate! And the knowledge that you will happily give your life for us, as part of the ongoing sacrifice that sustains our world. Your body will nourish the soils, and plants, and animals, and birds; and your beating heart will liberate all of our spirits, and reunite them with the sun.

“Oh, I hope I get to consume even a tiny shred of your holy body tonight. But even if I don’t, at least I know I’ve played my humble part.” She stopped and cleared her throat. “Forgive me love, I’m getting emotional. Do you want a final blow-dry?”


3 Responses to “Divine”

  1. “. . .a minute of silence, then “I don’t really . . .” I know Hemingway used lots of “saids”, but it is generally frowned upon. I would be interested to know what you think.
    “How bad would the recession be otherwise?” I think an exclamation mark would be better, as you have in “Who do they think they are!”
    I hope these picky-pickies don’t irritate.

    • No I am always pleased to be taken to task! My writing teachers have generally been supportive of “saids” versus other descriptors. That way you let the dialogue work harder. And if you remove them entirely, you can lose track of who’s speaking. However in this case I think you are correct, the said is unnecessary. Thanks.

  2. I agree that it is not a good idea to look for alternatives to “said”, but on the other hand we don’t “say a question” do we.

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