Giselle watches the honey-lit countryside crawl through the passenger window, resting her chin on her hand. The wind was whipping their hair as they sailed down the road. Leoni drives faster than needed due to the lack of drivers around her. A cigarette glowing in her fingers, smoke billowing from her painted lips. Morning grogginess takes Giselle’s attention from the sea of grass and flowers to a lulling, lingering sleep.
Leoni taps Giselle’s arm, startling her awake, “Don’t sleep while I drive, it’s not fair.” Giselle squints with a half-hearted whine, stretching, yawning, and straightening in her seat.
“Quiet makes me sleepy… How far out is it anyway?” She asks as she digs through her faded tote for a bottle of coffee. Leoni turns attention to the glint of metal a moment before turning her eyes back to the road ahead and blowing a lung of smoke out the window.
“We’re about there. Can’t wait to see your reaction to this place.” Leoni smirks, rounding a bend into a small village partially surrounded by fields, the other end blocked by a thick dark forest. Giselle knew she’d love the feel of this place just by looking at it.
Giselle studies the shops as they pass, smiling faintly at the bustling bakery and the lovable cafe filled with cozy small-town people well acquainted. Leoni ashes her cigarette in the cup holder ashtray and pulls up to a large, faded slate cottage placed squarely in front of the looming woods.
The pair exited the car, Giselle slinging her tote over her shoulder and looking up the cobblestone path to the front doorsteps while Leoni continues ahead without her. Her thin, black sweater barely held off the valley chill blowing through the grass and up her spine. She follows shortly after to escape the morning bite.
Leoni digs through her pockets while Giselle grazes her fingers over the splintering wooden door, frowning at the tattered oak. She pulls a chip of paint off the door and softly chuckles to herself.
“Definitely a “fixer-upper”.” Giselle rises as she speaks, tossing the paint chip over her shoulder. Leoni nods, taking a key and a pack of cigarettes from her pocket. She sticks the key in the door and pushes it open, both women’s hair billowing as a gust of musty air flies past their face.
“Oh, lovely…” Giselle crinkles her nose and sags her shoulders.
“This place is pretty ancient.” Leoni agrees, the faint light from her cigarette illuminating her lips as a wisp of smoke escapes. Giselle carefully wanders into the foyer, wiping a light layer of dust off the banister leading upstairs, gazing up at the dappled hallway above as dust gently dances in the air.
“I’ll put together a list of contractors for help fixing up the place,” Leoni’s cloud of smoke joins the dust as she speaks. Giselle nods in thanks, wiping her finger off on her sweater. “As for the other items,” she takes a folder out of her briefcase and scans it quickly, “you’ll need to take care of those yourself.” She hands Giselle four handwritten letters in different colors, each with more urgent writing than the last.
Giselle raises a brow at the chicken scratch sprawled all over the final, salmon paper. She couldn’t glean a thing off of it. Pulling her glasses from her pocket, she placed them on her nose and took another look at the letters. The scribbles still didn’t make much sense. She folds the final pages and pockets them with a sigh, twirling her glasses between her fingers.
“I’m sure that’ll be interesting.” She huffs under breath. Leoni nods and turns to leave.
“Call if you need me. Otherwise, you know where I’ll be.” She waves as she leaves pulling her keys from her pocket, door closing behind her. Giselle glances at the remaining letters, shuffling through them once more before tossing them on the table. She needs to fill some time while she waits for the moving truck to arrive.
She hums, wandering up to the second floor and looking into the rooms. The floors were about as dirty as the air, the windows opaque with dust. Giselle grimaces and groans softly, arms already aching at the thought of all the cleaning she had to do. She purses her lips and trots down the stairs, nabbing her bag before speeding out the door.
Giselle walks into the waking village not far from her new home. A small bookstore caught her eye, attention moving to the family boutique with the beautiful dresses in the windows. The smell of the bakery dances in the air and smothers the natural scent, filling her senses and carrying her to the open arms of a warm building. She presses up to the glass and peers hungrily down on the many fresh pastries beyond her grasp.
Before she could finish deciding which pastry looked best, laughter erupts beside the building. She pulls back from the glass. A group of women leaves the salon, a bell ringing behind them, laughing joyfully. Giselle pauses, pulling her hands off the bakery glass as she peers inside the salon, surprised to see the large number of women chatting inside, ages ranging from teen to ancient.
Giselle hesitates, her feet refusing to carry her without a treat. She pushes herself to swing the door open and join them.
The salon quiets the second the unfamiliar face steps through the threshold. Taking a single beat before continuing their chatter as if nothing happened. Giselle looks over the floor, unoccupied chairs rarely breaking the uniform lines of business.
“Can I help you, dear?” An older woman asks as she approaches the counter. Giselle gives a faint smile and nods slightly.
“Yeah, I uh… thought I could use a styling.” She says as she watches another group of three leaves at the same time. The small elder taps away at the keyboard, a quiet jingle sounding.
“New home, new do.” She titters sweetly. Giselle resists the powerful urge to pinch the woman’s cheeks, nodding and returning the giggle.
“Something like that,” she pauses, “wait, how did you-?”
“New faces are rare here. Everyone knows everyone else in small towns like this.” The old woman explains with a wave of her hand, beckoning Giselle to follow her to a chair. Giselle has to force her feet to follow, picking nervously at her coat button.
She sits down in front of a mirror and wraps herself in the cloth. Before she could request a trim, she was spun around and laid back for a full treatment. She stays silent, somewhat stunned.
“What brings you to Grimsel?” The lady hums, massaging shampoo into messy brown tangles.
“I moved over here. After… I was given the house.” Giselle drops her voice slightly, shrugging and closing her eyes without another word. Silence lingered between them. The elder pat Giselle’s forehead.
“Welcome to your new home,” She offers, a hopeful smile pricking her lips, face wrinkling with the motion, “We’re glad to have you here.”
“...Thanks. I’m Giselle.”
“You can just call me Irmela.” She replies. Giselle rolls her shoulders, relaxing with generous success. The elder’s grin could drown Giselle in sweetness. Her delicate, ancient fingers graze Giselle’s scalp in long, free-flowing strokes. Her mind went blank, every worry and fear pulling back to be momentarily forgotten.
Water cascading over her hair rouses her from a state of silent zen. Irmela combs through the locks while they rinse, tugging at knots and keeping Giselle from returning to the sweet nothing. She blows a sharp breath and fiddles with the folded paper in her pocket.
The rest of the styling goes smoothly, Giselle barely moves and Irmela works quickly with comb and gel in hand. Her hair now wavy and reaching her shoulders, her bangs cresting over her eye and framing her face.
“Wow... Amazing, Irmela,” Giselle muses as she toys with the details, “What do I owe you?”
“We can discuss that at the front counter. Come along.” She waves her to the front end of the room. Giselle lingers at the mirror getting the arched bangs pinned out of her vision before following her. Irmela taps away at a computer nearly as old as she is while adjusting the thick glasses on the bridge of her nose.
Giselle spies a bowl of suckers on the counter next to the computer. Her eyes widen slightly, a sparkle of immaturity fighting her for control. She glances at Irmela and snakes her arm around the chunky screen to snatch a handful of candy. With a small smirk and a triumphant hum, she picks through the flavors, puts a cherry sucker in her teeth, and pockets the rest.
“There we are. I would also like to invite you to a town gathering. I think It’ll be a great chance for you to meet the rest of the village.” Irmela says, taking a flyer from the drawer and handing it to Giselle. Giselle looks it over, the lacking design and limited information left much to be desired. She slants her mouth and tilts her head, rolling the sucker in her teeth with a hum.
Town Meeting - Nov. 20th
(20:00 - 22:00)
Moon Phase - Waxing Gibbous
“I guess I could come. Is there anything else I should know? Like, is there food involved? Just so you know, I’m allergic to soy.” Giselle offers, lilted in her confusion. Irmela shakes her head and waves away her concern.
“Oh, no worries there. Just some animals. I hope you have no issues with felines, reptiles, or birds.” Irmela titters at her own humor. Giselle offers a half-hearted snicker, but the state of her invitation was beginning to throw her off. She shakes it off and takes her wallet out of her messenger bag. Giselle quickly pays and leaves the salon, hiking her bag over her shoulder and walking the strip back home.