1 - A R I A N A
“The human heart has hidden treasures, in secret kept, in silence sealed; The thoughts, the hopes, the dreams, the pleasures. Whose charms were broken if revealed” - Charlotte Bronte.
Searching through my bag with one hand holding my paper cup of coffee in the other, I try to find my keys. I open up my studio downtown ready for the packed up Friday ahead.
I look up at my sign, a pearly white wooden canvas with a lotus flower carved out and Lotus written in cursive in black and below, also in cursive but smaller by Ariana. Simple, yet elegant. I chose the name Lotus because I liked what it meant to me: ’A flower that struggles through the mud to emerge beautiful and whole’. You have to work hard for what you want, even after facing adversities.
I’m a nail technician and have my own studio I opened two years ago. Two and a half blocks away from my apartment it was almost fate when I found this place for rent.
It was hard in the beginning, building up my clientele and stocking up the place, but after some months I had some returning clients and mouth to mouth publicity did the rest. For a twenty-six-year-old, it is quite an accomplishment to have a good business and a steady clientele. I moved from my hometown to the city after college, running away from my past when I needed a fresh start.
I put on the lights, check my agenda and start prepping the studio. I turn on the computer, press play on my Spotify playlist and take a sip of my coffee as the soft tunes start playing. Checking the calendar for the day, I have some appointments this morning and in the evening a client is scheduled for makeup.
The sound of the bell chimes when my first client walks in.
“Good morning, Mrs Martin.” I smile as the older woman walks in.
“Good morning, darling,” Mrs Martin is one of the first clients that came in when I opened the studio, and after two years of being my client, she is very fond of me.
“And hello to you too Rufus,” I say when the little pomeranian sticks his cute snout out of Mrs Martin’s purse.
“How are you dear?” She asks, coming over to give me an air kiss.
“Busy these days, I have a lot of appointments scheduled. Do you want something to drink?”
“Yes, tea please,” she said, sitting down in one of the black leather chairs. “It is always busy this time of year, a lot of movie premieres and in May the wedding season starts. I have two events to attend this weekend alone.” She heaves a sigh.
I give Mrs Martin her cup and let her pick a tea flavour while I sit down facing her. “Are we going to match designs with what you are going to wear or do you want a natural nail?” I enquire while taking her hands. I start filing and taking the old gel design off.
“I have two different outfits, one is a royal blue gown and the other is a soft pink cocktail dress with a blazer on top, so I would go for a more natural design I think.” She says while eyeing my inspiration book.
“What do you think of a french tip with some soft pink acrylic flowers?” I offer while showing her the flowers in the picture. “It will be sophisticated enough for the cocktail dress and a bit bolder to go with the gown.”
“I trust you completely darling, I like your ideas.” She closes the book and lets me take care of her.
“There you go Mrs Martin, all finished,” I say while rubbing on some cuticle oil and giving her a massage with it. “Next appointment Friday in three weeks at 9:00?” I ask while getting up and opening my planner on the computer.
“Excellent darling, perfect work as always.” She beamed, sticking out her hands to look at her nails.
I loved my job, I got to be creative and meet a lot of interesting people and listen to their stories while making a living. It was a gratifying sensation, taking care of my customers while indulging in their interesting lives.
I had planned lunchtime with Jenna, she would come over with some takeaway salads from the cafeteria near her apartment. They had the greatest avocado salmon salad I ever tasted. I’m a sucker for tasty food. I don’t diet, I work out at Yoga every Saturday with Jenna and it helps me keep my figure and mind in check.
Jenna arrived just in time. I was finishing up with my second customer as she walked in. She was a natural beauty and didn’t need to make a big effort to look incredible, trotting on high heels like it wasn’t a big deal. For me it was, I would definitely fall flat on my face. Long wavy blonde hair danced around her heart-shaped face and her emerald green eyes. She wore her two piece business suit and looked flawless.
“Hiya girl!” She waved and came behind the counter to give me a hug.
“Jenna!” I smiled and hugged her back.
She was a ball of positive energy and radiated self-confidence, a trait necessary for her job. She worked at a firm located not far from my studio. We went to college together and while she studied for the bar to become a lawyer I attended beauty school after obtaining my business degree.
“How’s your day so far?” I sat next to her and opened the paper bag she brought with her and took out our lunches.
“Apart from getting some snobby rich boys out of jail for drunk stupid behaviour a quiet morning, you?” she sighed deeply, airing her annoyance.
“I had Mrs Martin this morning, and this evening I have a makeup appointment. Stephany got me a new customer so I’m a bit nervous about that - she said they were peculiar.” I twisted the bottle cap off my green tea and took a sip.
Stephany was a freelance hairstylist I met attending beauty school and often got me to go with her to do makeup. I was grateful to her for it because with the studio I didn’t have much time looking for new customers.
“Eccentric rich folk you mean?” Jenna laughed.
“Probably.” I shrugged, putting the bottle back on the table and focusing on my salad.
We talked about everything that was going on in our lives. Jenna had an interesting love life, mine was lacking, I hadn’t had a relationship or fling in a while, due to some circumstances in my past that I don’t like to talk about. Let’s just say that I have some walls built around my heart.
She told me about a party next Saturday with her co-workers and that she wanted me to come with her. We could get ready together at her apartment and I happily accepted. Would be nice to go out and have some fun. The busiest time of the year was starting and that’s always a good reason to unwind.
I was looking forward to my appointment tonight. The makeup artist bookings weren’t as common as my studio schedule. I really enjoyed going to the houses of my customers, seeing where they lived, how they were preparing for premieres and galas. Normally I got booked with a hairdresser and stylist.
When I was ready to leave my apartment that evening, I faced the mirror to put on light makeup, a bit of black eyeliner and mascara would bring out my honey brown eyes. I styled my long curly chocolate hair up in a ponytail and decided I was good to go.
I entered the cab when it arrived and told him the direction. I typed a quick text to Stephany telling her I was on the way before pocketing my phone.
The yellow vehicle stopped and my jaw dropped when I looked up to the big black pristine building in front of me. It was modern, black mirrored glass from top to bottom. Money and power oozed from the sleek structure. Straightening my dress I walked to the entrance.
Announcing myself through the intercom, I entered a very large lounge with neatly placed couches and at the left a reception. Artistic prints lined the walls and everything looked put together by capable interior designers.
I read the name of a renowned haute couture company when I passed the wall with the plaques of the companies that had their offices in the building. I gasped audibly and hoped that no one would’ve heard me, thankfully the lobby looked empty.
Pushing the button to the twenty-second floor, I tried to calm myself down while the elevator went up to its destination. I fidgeted with my hands as the classical music played inside the cabin.
The doors opened at my destination and I was met with an open room with clothing racks covering the entire wall to the right and at the other side makeup tables lined up with a couple of models seated and others trying on the garments with the designers.
“Ariana!” Stephany shouted from one of the vanities. Upbeat music was playing and she was styling one of the models’ hair. “Good that you could make it,” she beamed. “It’s a bit hectic today, I need you to start on this girl as soon as I finish.”
“This is amazing, Stephany,” I told her while eying the room in awe. “How did you get this job?”
“A friend of mine is one of the models and she said the team needed some extra hands. You’re welcome.” She grinned at me, poking me playfully with her elbow.
Normally I took my time with my clientele, to pamper them and make them relax. This was totally different. We had to work fast and make no mistakes. Stephany was right next to me and helped me where I needed it. It was a new experience I welcomed with open arms.
I’m nowhere close to being a fashionista, but I can appreciate the beauty of haute couture, the way a dress can make your figure stand out and highlight certain areas, and these clothes and products were all high-end.
When we were doing the final touches to the models I saw the elevator opening and a man walked in. I followed him for a moment from the corner of my eye before fixating back on the task at hand.
He was dressed in an all-black suit with a grey tie. I had no time to let my eyes wander and check out his features. From the way he carried himself, he looked quite important. At a steady pace, he walked into the office in the back and closed the door.
“Whose office is that?” I questioned Stephany and I used my bronzer brush to signal towards the door the man disappeared through.
“The owner and head designer of the brand, Mrs Ortiz,” She responded.
I heard some argument going on in the background, coming from the office. Looked like Mrs Ortiz wasn’t happy with her visitor. I could hear some of it, but it was in a different language. Spanish or Italian maybe.
“Joder, Dante. ¿No puedes comportarte una maldita noche?” She yelled. (Fuck, Dante. Can’t you just behave for one damn night?)
She stormed out of her office and with a thundering step, she sauntered over to the designer in charge. “Michelle, Dante’s date is - sick.” She told him while giving the visitor, now known as Dante, a deadly glare.
He grinned widely, flashing his pearly white teeth. A cold chill ran across my spine. He had short black hair, prominent cheekbones and a neatly trimmed short goatee. But, his eyes. I shivered at those black pools.
Not paying attention, lost in my thoughts, I didn’t notice what they were talking about. Until Mrs Ortiz barged my way and said: “She will do,” pointing at me.