Cheery greetings, buoyant wishes of a Happy New Year. I am given credit for my “gorgeous” tan. The hairdressing salon of Hugo Jirousek is at our feet. My grandmother is asked for a detailed account of our stay at Antibes.
“No, there wasn’t any other stylist to rival Hugo and, factually, we haven’t taken any chance,” my grandmother assures the Master of our unwavering loyalty and Hugo Jirousek is over the moon. There isn’t any other lady as obliging and charming as Frau von Roggenhofer! He passes us over to his best junior for the shampoos and flutters away to give his famous touch to another of his most obliging and charming clients.
I relax under the skilled hands of the junior stylist massaging my scalp zealously, assured of a queenly tip.
“Thank you, the water is neither too cold nor too hot; it’s just perfect.”
My head is wrapped in a warmed-up towel I am escorted onto an armchair and offered coffee, biscuits and glossy magazines to be kept happy until the Master will finish setting my grandmother’s hair, accompany her under a hair-dryer and be ready for me. With impish satisfaction I imagine Egon waiting in his wicked love-nest, getting more furious with every minute, leafing through his notebook for another bird to take wing with. What a great feeling not to be jealous, to be so cool, so detached!
“I’m ready for you now, Fraulein Irene.” Hugo Jirousek disposes of the magazines on my lap, wraps the towel off with his nimble fingers and gives me a most alluring smile. Now it’s my turn to get beautified. What a pleasant man, this Hugo! And very handsome with it! He must be Egon’s age! How strange that today I don’t see him as a hairstyling android but as a highly attractive man with the reputation of a lady-killer, favouring his choice-clients with special home care, setting their hair and who knows what else! Now he has noticed my appraising glances and shoots me a very amused smile.
“I heard you enjoyed the French Riviera a lot, Irene.”
Hear, hear, he is renouncing on the neutral Fraulein! I wonder if my grandmother would like it! His touch acquires a new, hair-raising quality.
“Oh, you know, Hugo,” I keep the ball rolling, “it was springtime! Quite a change from this gloom. Have you ever been to Antibes?”
“Indeed I was, Irene! Every time when I am free, which is not very often, alas, I fly to the French Riviera to enjoy the sun and some more! I even thought about settling down at Antibes, once. Of course, I couldn’t bear leaving my ladies behind, even if many of them are wintering there and would need me there a lot. Why not having a wee haircut, darling? You’ve lost some weight and it will round up your lovely face. What’s wrong with you, Irene? I wish I could help! Your shoulder-length hair looks a bit too heavy for you now. Shorter hair will give you a little bounce, and then: nothing but short hair will go this spring. I like my ladies to be the avant-garde of fashion.”
“If you think so, Hugo, do!” I shut my eyes and surrender to his fingers.
“How do you like Fraulein Irene’s new style, Gnadige Frau?”
The transformation done, Hugo shows me off to my grandmother.
“Well, you know, Hugo, I’m for long hair on principle. You can’t ever be wrong, though. It suits my little one perfectly. I wish I could persuade my daughter to come over, at least for a haircut. But nothing doing. How fortunate that Irenchen has taken after me!” My grandmother is getting up.
“I’ll call for an appointment next week. Don’t forget to put us down for the Medical Ball, even if it’s still such a long time away. I’m sure all Prague will be passing through your hands.”
“You know you can always count on me, Frau von Roggenhofer. I’ll try my best to design something very special for both of you.”
We part on his promise and hand- kisses. His very first hand-kiss for me!
The appointment at Hanna Vodolska’s is crowned with the same success and I think the divine gown we opted for will make waves at the Medical Ball. I accept with pleasure my grandmother’s offer to break off at Mysak’s for a rest and gobble up my full of the mouth-watering treats with her approval: sugar is not just famous for making wonders to a girl’s complexion but also for its soothing effects on overwrought nerves.