I stiffened my neck to keep my head from following the hairdresser’s pull. The manicurist’s hold tightened around my foot.
“Sorry,” I apologized for the fifth time. It’s not my fault I’m a little ticklish. Anyway, I shouldn’t keep track. I should pay attention to Casey’s babble. I sighed. I wished stress didn’t mess my concentration.
“I’m boring you?” Casey stopped pacing in front of me. Concern wrinkled his eyes. He had seen me torn to pieces, feelings raped and crying for protection. He had never seen me out of control.
“I’m sorry, Cas. I know what you’re saying is important. I just. Can’t. Focus.” A mild grunt of frustration passed my lips. “I think I’m glossophobiac.”
“Irrationally afraid of speaking in public.”
“Freaky over-the-top stage fright?”
“I’ll need to heat her up,” the hairdresser interrupted.
“Perfect timing! I’m done with her feet,” the manicurist answered.
She rose from her low stool and traded it for a chair by my right armrest. She began her routine again, on my hand this time.
As the hairdresser turned his blow-dryer on, Casey replaced the manicurist on the stool. He put my feet on his lap so we could communicate telepathically – which was easier than yelling to cover the sound of the blow-dryer.
“Why did you ask her to do my feet?”
“A, she couldn’t do your hands before Sandy stopped going around you to work your highlights. B, you deserve to feel perfect from head to toe.”
“I’m not sure Barbie dolls can feel.”
“Ah, come on! You know you should be enjoying this.”
“Just another thing stress deprives me of.”
A wall of silence answered me. Casey had blocked a thought he didn’t want me to hear. Not unusual but it always makes me wonder what is hidden. Scenarios formed in my mind. They surprised Casey and something he really didn’t want me to know slipped past his wall.
I had a glance of Amy, blond hair spread over a desk and half her clothes missing. Casey hurriedly reeled the thought in.
“So this is how you ruined your keyboard!” A few weeks ago, Casey changed his keyboard declaring the old own victim of a fit of rage. I never believed it.
“That was completely unintentional!” He reddened quickly like a child caught with his hand in the cookie jar.
“The breaking part or the sex part?” That escapade was bad move, even for Casey. Without being Don Juan, Casey isn’t known for his abstinence either. But Amy? Obnoxious teenage crush Amy? What a mess!
“Tell me about it,” Casey reacted straight to my thoughts.
“Why did you do it then?”
“She caught me by surprise. It was Sunday. The PR department was empty. I didn’t make the effort to close my mind. Next thing I knew, someone was broadcasting sexual fantasies about me loud and clear. You can’t understand what that does to a telepath.”
“Well, it breaks office supplies and Sean doesn’t cheat on Rebecca.”
“How would you know that?”
“He’d be beaten to a pulp. You’re avoiding my point.”
“Agreed, having explicit images beamed straight in your skull is just temptation. Add celibacy, opportunity and a fiery lady, like Amy or you, and it’s a siren’s call.”
“Should I shed a tear? And what makes you think I’m fiery?”
“Your hair. And the memories engraved in one of your exes’ mind.”
My thoughts turned into a giant question mark.
“He saw me at a coffee shop, associated my face with PSI and PSI with you. Started wondering if his non-reader ass was right to dump you after the Psychic Acknowledgment and conjured up some breath-taking memories.”
“That’s what Becky picked from your brain in the plane, isn’t it?”
“Huhuh! And if you want to know the rest, your ex told himself he should call his marriage counsellor – who, laughingly enough, is a telepath – and ask her if dirty thoughts about exes are normal in his situation.”
“He was always inept at decision-making,” I thought while also thinking “Gosh, I hope I don’t know her.”
“The worst is that Amy’ll never understand how she manipulated me into it.” No, she wouldn’t; Amy was one of the few non-readers working at PSI.
“Don’t apologize to me. She’s your problem, not mine.”
“Oh! That’s not why I apologize! I’m sorry for plucking compromising scenes out of your ex’s mind and for forcing this interlude to end.”
All my muscles tensed. Right. Conference.
After Sandy had me rinse out my hair, things started to get a little crazy. As he paced back and forth, Casey talked about a thousand things; questions to expect, questions to deflect, information to share or to hide… Meanwhile, Sandy worked his magic on my hair and a make-up artist used hers on my face. The manicurist was long gone by then.
Sandy worked my new copper highlights to perfectly frame my face. All my curls looked natural though they would never fall like that on their own. The make-up artist gave me soft smoky eyes and peachy lips. I looked like a star.
Rebecca came back and whistled when she saw me. She had surveyed the conference room and talked with the security agent. She hung a garment bag in the closet and sat on the bed, yawning at Casey’s speech.
Once Sandy and company were gone, Casey handed me the garment bag and steered me to the bathroom, beaming that I had to hurry. I nervously shimmied my way in a suit that looked almost like one of mine but probably cost twice as much.
On the counter, Casey had laid out my accessories. I never wore much jewellery and hesitated. “Put them on,” was the incentive I got through the door.
I walked out and Casey handed me my high-heels. Before we left, I stood in front of the full-length closet mirror.
Indeed, I looked like a star. A shooting star. Incredibly beautiful and bound to crash.