“I hate my hair,” I said, wiggling in the dark wood chair at Mom’s makeup table while she braided my frizzy red mess.
She caught my gaze in the mirror. “Why would you say that? You have beautiful hair, Evie.”
“All the kids at school tease me.”
“They call me flame head and rusty.”
Pursing her pale pink lips, Mom’s eyebrows pinched together as she finished with my hair, mulling over what I’d said.
“Evie, do you like what you see in the mirror?”
With my hair somewhat under control and wearing my favorite green sweater, I did like what I saw in the mirror.
“Yes, ma’am.” My gaze shifted down, embarrassed to admit such a thing.
She placed her hands on either side of my face and tilted it up. “And what is it you like most when you see yourself?”
Looking at my reflection, I said, “My hair.”
“Because it’s just like yours.”
She smiled. “It’s okay that you don’t like the other kids calling you those silly names. But don’t ever hate any part of yourself, because of what someone else thinks or says. It’s their opinion and has nothing to do with you.”
“But I want them to stop.”
“Right now, I realize all you want to do is fade into the background and not be noticed. A lot of seven-year-olds do. Be firm. Tell them your name is Evelyne Rose Chapman and you won’t answer to any other name.”
“Mom, times have changed since you were a kid. It’s rough out there.”
“Evie, the day will come when you’ll embrace what makes you different from everyone else. I love the color of my hair.”
“Of course, you do. Your hair is long and luxurious.”
“I was once called carrot top mop.”
A burst of laughter flew out of me. The idea that anyone would call my mother a stupid name like that was ridiculous to me. Mom was beautiful, with clear pale skin, bright green eyes, and wavy red hair. She looked like a Disney princess. Then I realized something and suddenly stopped laughing, wiping the smile off my face. Mom probably didn’t like that name any more than I liked the names I was being called.
“I’m sorry I laughed. I just can’t imagine anyone saying that to you.”
“I was a kid at one time too, you know.” Leaning down, she pressed her cool cheek against mine, both of us looking at the reflections straight ahead. “Don’t ever hide your uniqueness, Evie. It’s what makes you you.”
I knew Mom was right because she was always right. Never in my short life had I posed a question to her that she didn’t know the answer to. That was just one of the reasons why she was my heroine.
After prying my face off the café sofa, I made a quick getaway while Maine was waiting on a line of customers. I was discombobulated and did not need her interrogating me about the handsome stranger just yet. Besides, we would definitely be discussing him later because I wanted to know why she allowed him to stare at me for so long without intervening.
Since it was such a beautiful day I decided instead of driving, I would walk the few blocks down to the superstore. I first hit the electronics department to buy a new pair of earbuds. Mine were the old kind that had to be physically attached to my cellphone. They died a slow death last week and I’d been painfully mourning them since. Whenever I needed to shut out the external as well as the internal noise, I grabbed my earbuds and blasted music. Lately, I had been on an acoustical kick with Boyce Avenue and Lifehouse, with some Snow Patrol thrown into the mix. Music never failed to lift me out of the situation and consume my soul. The lyrics made me feel less alone. Reminding me there were others who needed to escape the world and have a good cry now and then.
I strolled down the aisle with every intention of getting the same archaic type of earbuds I had, but a pair of Bluetooth sound-canceling ones caught my eye. I pondered the pros and cons. The sound-canceling aspect was a definite pro. But the price was a big con. Currently, finances were okay, but that would change soon enough, and I had to be prepared. Before I was tempted any further, I grabbed the old-fashioned earbuds and walked away.
I made my way toward the grocery department, passing several rows of bikes in sporting goods when a mint green one caught my eye. I wasn’t exactly a health-and-fitness kind of gal. I got enough exercise doing all I had to do each day. But the mint green three-speed with a tan seat was cute. There was something retro about it that drew me in. The idea of riding with the wind in my hair listening to my tunes sent me into full daydream mode. Which was why I startled when I heard a husky voice clammer in my ears.
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