Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Pretty is as Pretty Does (Class Reunion Series) by Debby Mayne

Pretty is as Pretty Does (bk 1)
Bless Her Heart (bk 2)
Tickled Pink (bk 3)
Abingdon Press (June 1, 2013)
Debby Mayne

Chapter 1

Priscilla Slater

Wow. Ten years. As I read my high school reunion invitation a second time, I can’t help smiling. Although I own one of the most successful businesses in my hometown of Piney Point,
Mississippi, I’ve lost track of most of the people I graduated with.

Knowing the people I went to high school with, this is going to be one crazy event—that is, if everyone attends. I’m not sur- prised Laura added a preparty to the invitation. Her husband has never attended any social event before prepartying his face off—even in high school. Pete Moss graduated with the distinct honor of high school lush, and as far as I know, he continues to hold that honor, which is ironic since I don’t remember ever seeing Laura touching a drop of anything stronger than her mama’s two-day-old sweet tea.

Poor Laura.

I pin the invitation to the bulletin board beside the fridge. And for extra measure, I jot the date on my calendar. In pencil, just in case . . . well, in case something comes up.

As I kick off my killer high-heels, I wonder if Maurice will be there. I sigh as I remember the guy who, in my mind, almost became my boyfriend. I used to stand in front of my bedroom mirror, practicing “looks.” I think back and realize things weren’t as they seemed, but I still wonder if he’ll see me differently now that I’ve made something of myself. Not that I’m trying to impress anyone.

And I sure haven’t impressed my parents. Quite the oppo- site. Still, I’ve taken a small-town beauty shop and turned it into a fabulous business—one of the most successful in Piney Point. And I’m not ready to stop there. I already have three shops—the original, which used to be called Dolly’s Cut ’n Curl, one in Hattiesburg that formerly held the title Goldy’s Locks, and the salon where my current office is located in Jackson. In honor of the first, they are all called Prissy’s Cut ’n Curl, although I’m seriously considering changing the name to something a little trendier since I’m planning to expand. I mean, really, can you imagine anyone in New York City telling her friends she gets her hair done at the Cut ’n Curl? Besides, I hate being called Prissy.

I’ll never forget Mother’s reaction when she found out I’d dropped out of my first semester of college and enrolled at the Pretty and Proud School of Cosmetology. You’d have thought I announced I wanted to pledge Phi Mu or something. No offense to anyone in Phi Mu. It’s just that Mother was a Chi Omega, and that makes me a legacy, which carries even more clout than being Miss Piney Point, something I never was. Mother would have had a fit if I’d even suggested entering a beauty contest. So when I met some of the Chi Omegas at Ole Miss, I was surprised by how many of them were beauty queens— something Mother never mentioned. Makes me wonder what happened to her between her Chi O heydays and now.

My parents are academics and proud of it. Mother is a pro- fessor of English, and Dad is head of the history department at the Piney Point Community College, but you’d think they had tenure at an Ivy League school the way they carry on.

I missed lunch today and my stomach’s grumbling. But when the noise turns to hissing, I relent and pull a Lean Cuisine from the freezer. I know how to cook, but it seems pointless to do that for one. I also know that one Lean Cuisine isn’t enough, so while it heats in the microwave, I grab a bag of salad and dump the contents into a bowl. Then I chop a tomato, grab a few olives, and pour a tablespoon of ranch dressing on top. I step back and study the salad before I squirt another tablespoon or two. The salad’s full of fiber and the Lean Cuisine is low-fat, so I figure that balances out the extra calories.

Just as I’m about to sit down and enjoy dinner, the phone rings. It has to be Mother, I think. She’s the only one who ever calls my house phone. I hesitate, but my daughterly duties overcome me. What if she needs something? I’d never be able to live with the guilt if I didn’t answer an important call from the woman who gave birth to me after twenty hours of labor— or so she tells folks when they ask why I’m an only child.

“Did you get your invitation yet?” she asks without letting me finish my hello. “Are you planning on going?”

Leave it to Mother to know about the reunion before me. “Yes . . . well, probably.”

“There’s really no point, Priscilla. After all, it’s all about showing off all your accomplishments, and it’s not like you’ve made all that much of your life.”

I bite my tongue, as I always have. I want to let Mother know how I really feel, but talking back has never gotten me anywhere with her, so I somehow manage to keep my yap shut. She takes that as encouragement to keep going.

“That silly-frilly little job of yours will get old one of these days, and then what will you do?”

“Mother, you know it’s more than a job to me.”

She laughs. “All you do is decorate the outside of women—”

“Some of our clients are men,” I remind her.

“Okay, so you work on the outer appearance of women. . . and men. How does that really make any difference in the world? You could have been so much more than that, Priscilla. Your father and I—”

“My business makes a huge difference in a lot of people’s lives. Our clients feel better about themselves, and I keep a couple dozen people employed so they can feed their families.”

“Well, there is that.” Mother pauses as she reloads. “At any rate, why would you even want to go?”

“Because I want to?” I can’t help the fact that I’m starting to sound like an adolescent.

“That’s a shock. Your father and I were wondering why you haven’t shown your face in town in the past year. Then it dawned on me that you didn’t want folks to see you wearing braces. I’m surprised you even have a salon left. You know what the mice do when the cat’s away.”

“I hire people I can trust,” I tell her through gritted teeth.

“So are you going to the reunion or not?”

“Like I said, I’m not sure.”

“Do you want your old classmates to see you in braces? After all, since you’re so into appearances, I would think—”

“I’m getting them off soon, so that’s not an issue.” I suspect she’s annoyed that I got braces for cosmetic reasons. I begged Mother to let me have braces when I was a kid, but after the dentist assured her it wasn’t necessary for good dental care, she told me I was just being shallow. Throughout high school, I smiled with my mouth closed so people wouldn’t notice my overlapping front teeth.

Mother lets out one of her long-suffering sighs. “Okay, well, if you do decide to go, give us plenty of notice so we can clear our schedule for your visit. Your father and I have social obli- gations, since he’s the head of his department.”

“Yes, I know.” Ever since Dad’s promotion, Mother likes to remind me of his position. And it’s been at least three years.

“Whatever I decide, there’s no need to clear your schedule.”

“You know you’re always welcome to stay here at the house,” she adds.

I wish I really did feel welcome. “Thank you, Mother.” But I’ve learned to live with the tension.

“And don’t forget to bring your church clothes. We’re not like your church in the city. We still show our respect by dressing nicely.”

“Yes, I know.”

I hear Dad calling out to her, so I’m relieved when she tells me she needs to run. After I hang up, I lean against the wall and slide to the floor. Talking to my mother is exhausting.

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