Then again, no one else stares so unabashedly while I’m trying to work. Knowing he’s watching my every move makes me incredibly nervous. My pulse speeds up and my hands grow fidgety. After a while, he opens his mouth to speak.
“Are you mad at me?” he asks quietly.
My hands pause what they’re doing. It’s such a juvenile question to ask. I feel like we’re kids and we’ve been giving each other the silent treatment. But for such a simple question, it’s a really hard one to answer.
I was mad at him three weeks ago. I was mad at him last night. But right now I don’t feel angry. Actually being near him and seeing how he looks at me makes me think he must have had a very valid excuse for not showing up, and it had nothing to do with how he felt about me. I just wish he would explain himself.
I shrug as I begin to work the shampoo through his hair again. “I was,” I tell him. “But you did warn me, didn’t you? You said everything else comes before the girls. So mad might be a bit harsh. Disappointed, yes. Annoyed, yes. But I’m not really mad.”
That was way too much of an explanation. One he didn’t really deserve.
“I did say that my work is my number one priority, but I never said I was an asshole. I let a girl know beforehand if I need space to work.”
I glance at him, briefly, and then give my attention to the bottle of conditioner. I squirt some in my hands and spread it through his hair.
“So you have the courtesy to warn your girlfriends that you’re about to disappear, but you don’t have the courtesy to warn the girls who aren’t screwing you?” I’m working the conditioner through his hair, not being nearly as gentle as I should be.
I think I changed my mind . . . I’m mad now.
He shakes his head and sits straight up, turning around to face me. “That’s not what I meant, Auburn.” Water is dripping down the side of his face. Down his neck. “I meant that I didn’t disappear on you because of my art. It wasn’t that type of situation. I don’t want you to think I didn’t want to come back, because I did.”
My jaw is tense and I’m grinding my teeth together. “You’re dripping everywhere,” I say as I pull him back to the sink. I pick up the sprayer and begin rinsing his hair. Again, his eyes are on me the whole time, but I don’t want to make eye contact with him. I don’t want to care what his excuse is, because I honestly don’t want to be involved with anyone right now. But damn it, I care. I want to know why he didn’t show up and why he hasn’t made an effort to contact me at all since then.
I finish rinsing his hair and I wash the suds down the drain. “You can sit up.”
He sits up and I grab a towel and squeeze the excess water out of his hair. I toss the towel in the hamper on the other side of the room and begin to walk around him, but he grabs my wrist and stops me. He stands up, still holding on to my wrist.
I don’t try to pull away from him. I know I should, but I’m too curious to see what his next move is to care what I should be doing. I also don’t pull away because I love how the slightest touch from him leaves me breathless.
“I lied to you,” he says quietly.
I don’t like those words, and I certainly don’t like the truthfulness on his face right now.
“I didn’t . . .” His eyes narrow in contemplation as he exhales slowly. “I didn’t come back because I didn’t see the point. I’m moving on Monday.”
He says the rest of the sentence like he can’t get it out fast enough. I don’t like this confession. At all.
“You’re moving?” My voice is full of disappointment. I feel like I was just dumped, and I don’t even have a boyfriend.
“You’re moving?” Emory asks.
I spin around, and she’s walking a client to one of the sinks, staring at Owen, waiting for an answer. I face Owen again and can see that this moment of truth is over for now. I walk away from him and head out of the room, toward my station. He follows quietly.
Neither of us speaks as I comb through his hair and try to figure out how I’m going to fix the mess I made of it last night. I’ll have to cut most of it off. He’ll look so different and I’m not sure I’m happy about his having much shorter hair.
“It’ll be short,” I say. “I messed it up pretty bad.”
He laughs, and his laugh is exactly what I need in this moment. It alleviates the heaviness of what was happening back in the other room. “Why would you let me do this to you?”
He smiles up at me. “It was your birthday. I would have done anything you asked.”
Flirtatious Owen is back, and I both love it and hate it. I take a step away from him to study his hair. When I’m positive I know how to fix it, I turn around and grab the scissors and comb, which are right where they’re supposed to be. I remember dropping them on the floor last night, and it occurs to me that Emory more than likely walked into a mess this morning. I didn’t sweep up what I did cut of Owen’s hair before we left the salon, but it’s gone, so I’ll have to thank her later.
I begin cutting his hair, and I do my best to focus on that and not so much on him. Somewhere between the beginning of the haircut and this moment, Emory returned to her station. She’s now seated in her own salon chair, watching us. She kicks off the cabinet with her foot and begins spinning.
“Are you moving forever or just for a little while?” Emory asks. Owen looks in my direction and raises an eyebrow.
“Oh,” I say, forgetting they haven’t been formally introduced yet. I point to Emory. “Owen, this is Emory. My strange roommate.”
He nods slightly and looks in her direction without turning too much. I think he’s nervous I’ll mess his hair up even more, so he’s being as still as he can possibly be. “A few months, probably,” he says in response to her. “It’s not permanent. A work thing.”
Emory frowns. “That’s too bad,” she says. “I already like you a whole lot better than the other guy.”
My eyes grow wide and my head swings in her direction. “Emory!”
I can’t believe she just said that.
Owen slowly turns his attention back to me and cocks an eyebrow. “Other guy?”
I shake my head and wave her off. “She’s misinformed. There is no other guy.” I glare at her. “There can’t be another guy when there’s not even a guy.”
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