Face Salon Shears
On cautious, creeping toes, Damon and Ronan achieved the unthinkable. Unthinkable to every boy on their block – barely comprehensible to poor Ronan, who shook in tattered sneakers. They cracked Bellinger’s damaged back door and stole into his salon.
The brothers had never been inside. They weren’t even allowed to peer through the monstrous front windows with their luscious gold lettering.
‘That stuff’s not for kids,’ their mother said each time she came home a new woman, poking at her face. Generally critical, her pointed fingers caressed with such admiration.
The darkened salon seemed empty. Damon stared about him. The walls were stacked tidily with countless tools and books. A little wheeled cart was loaded with ointments, tweezers, needles and scissors to be whizzed across the shining floor to any of the numerous full-length mirrors. Besides the strong blanket of disinfectant that clouded their nostrils, a trail of curried lentil soup wafted from the level above.
Bellinger must be up there.
Ronan’s nerves mounted.
‘We can’t be here,’ he muttered to his absorbed brother, eyes flicking fearfully between scalpel and glinting needle – some were twice the length of his index finger, others barely longer than a grain of rice. ‘This is hallowed ground to Bellinger – the place he practices his craft.’
‘Is it really? I never would have guessed. Come on, Ronan – get a grip.’
‘If he ever catches us here …’
Ronan’s eyes leapt beyond his will, drawn incessantly to movement and hiking his nerves to panic level. But it was only a trio of goldfish, the style to order kind. They swam in a decorative aquarium, near fluttering behind glass with their outsized fins and massive bobble cheeks.
Those little additions to the poor, unhealthy creatures were nothing.
‘The man is a chameleon,’ Ronan added when Damon didn’t reply, utterly engrossed by a small rubbish bin. Some blobby, yellowed substance splattered its rim, and a shred of pinkish tissue – don’t think what … he wouldn’t think what – flopped over the edge.
Why was every adult obsessed with this place? Their mother spent thousands every month keeping up to date with facial trends.
‘Literally, Damon. A chameleon. And you’ve heard Lon’s stories.’
Even more than his brother’s pride, Ronan cursed Lon lewdly in his diffident mind, unable to voice a single swear, a single reason why Damon should just walk away. It was that smart-aleck who had proposed – egged on, dared, conned – his idiot brother take up this ridiculous quest in the first place.
‘Bellinger traps kids that get on his bad side. He needs faces to practice on, refine his craft. I think sneaking in maybe counts against us,’ he added, as pointedly as he could, between shaky breaths.
‘Pile of rotten mincemeat,’ Damon replied, a confident grin shattering his general awe at where he was and what he had accomplished.
‘I don’t care if it’s a pile of rotten mincemeat.’ Ronan’s whisper was hoarse. ‘Hurry and pick something – nothing he’ll notice missing. We have a time limit. He’ll be finished eating any moment.’
Despite his brother’s urgency – or because of it, damn him – Damon considered each sharp and pointed option lazily, on the lookout for perfect proof of entry. He drew out his time in that forbidden world of wonder and relished every moment.
‘What prize is befitting of my … ah, here we are! These ought to convince Lon.’
Damon chose a small set of bone shears and hefted them exultantly in the air.
‘Fine.’ Ronan was terse, fine hair prickling along his arms, sharper than the shears. He couldn’t stop glancing over at the stairs. ‘Please, Damon – let’s get out of here.’
Spinning on his heel and prize held high, Damon’s jubilant smile melted into a perfect round O of surprise. Slowly, his arms drooped, shears dangling loosely by his side.
Bellinger, thin as straw and entirely unwrinkled though decades curved his spine, stood directly behind Ronan. He wore a face that Damon, beneath his icy shock, was sure had once belonged to the florist around the corner.
Ronan stood perfectly still. How he hadn’t noticed, he couldn’t know. But he felt the looming presence at his back. Though he didn’t dare look, Ronan knew who it must be.
Damon’s eyes locked with Bellinger’s – that lightning violet-blue wasn’t a shade offered in their mother’s catalogues – for too many tense seconds. Only when he blinked did Damon think of the bone shears he’d claimed, cold in his weak grip.
Perhaps there was still time – time to rectify that proud theft before the brothers learnt firsthand whether Lon’s stories were true.