Without a word, the dark, lanky, twenty-something stylist put down his tools and walked to the back of the busy salon. Rose studied her reflection. It’s not what she’d expected. She’s not sure whether or not it’s what she’d wanted. As the slender chrome hands on the clock pushed unapologetically toward 5pm, the hope and excitement with which she’d awakened frayed to a delicate thread.
Across the small, narrow room sat her daughter, Marivel. She’s beautiful. Her caramel face fresh and taught. Her warm-black hair is simple, shiny—effortlessly elegant. She’s at ease with herself and her surroundings. Rose prevailed against the smile that fought to make it through the barricade of her pride to waken her lifeless lips. There were moments when, despite years of practice, it was still difficult to project her signature indifference.
Then there is Adriana, her granddaughter in the adjacent chair. A young man with black jeans, designed to look worn; heavy boots; a skin tight, snapped shirt; and large plugs in his ears tousled her silken locks and casually scowled in admiration of his handiwork. She too is lovely—in her mid teens, but the club-sheik style grants her another few years of glamour and sophistication.
The edgy indie beat pumped heavily against the backdrop of bare brick walls and pretentious minimalism. The salon was Rose’s nightclub; the stylist her bartender. That’s why she’d come. That’s what she’d wanted. She wasn’t ready. She didn’t think she’d ever be ready. After all, only thirty-seven years separated her from her granddaughter. The emotions were complex; the memories exhausting. This wasn’t Mexico. She’d made that clear years ago when she walked out the door. She’d forced wide the gap between her grandmother’s legacy and her own destiny. She’d rejected this role and everything it represented. And now, it was upon her. There was no one else. They were all gone.
Death seemed so matter of fact. The phone call felt so natural. The cancer had taken her mother months before the breath finally left. Rose called the unresolved conflict to the forefront of her mind as if on cue. There was a requisite sadness—the kind that comes with finality. But, there was also the undeniable relief that inevitably comes at the end of such a merciless battle. Any attempt she’d made to reconcile the two emotions brought to center a guilt that was absolutely unacceptable. Even in death, Rose was haunted by her mother’s manipulation. And now, three years later, it still wasn’t over. Perhaps it never would be.
The mantle hadn’t fallen gently from the sky to rest on her shoulders. It wasn’t passed with the ceremony of a tender moment on a candlelit deathbed. It had come at her like a tsunami. It had swept up on the shore with a force so powerful that it instantly and permanently altered her relational landscape.
“It’s really light, mom.”
The stylist had spun Marivel’s chair toward the center of the room. Rose turned to face the wall sized, wood-framed mirror. No need to acknowledge her daughter’s voice. She ran the stark highlights through her fingers, shifting the weight of the strands from left to right. The young man's heavy footsteps signaled his return from the consultation in the back of the salon. Rose's voice fell rhythmically against his stride.
“Why’d it come out so blonde?”
He didn’t bother to look at her. There was nothing he could say. She'd been there since late morning, hijacking his business for the day. There was no hope of meeting her demands. He couldn't trim away the weight she felt or change the color beneath the roots.
“So, what do you want to do?”
His tone was flat and lifeless, masking his disdain. Rose glanced at her daughter, then returned his volley by silently flipping the page of her style magazine.