Dafna sauntered up to the check-in desk of Sigrid of Sweden and waited while the receptionist finished up with a middle-aged, big-haired bleached blonde with a southern accent.
“ –and I need a full hour for the blow and set, in addition to my standing noon appointment,” the lady said, pointing a bejeweled and manicured finger at the receptionist’s book. “I like the lunchtime slot. Always.”
“No problem,” the receptionist replied dutifully, but as soon as the woman was out of earshot, the receptionist looked up at Dafna, an expression of disgust on her face. “Some people,” she said.
“Really,” Dafna agreed.
“You’d think her whole entire life depended on a blow-dry.”
The receptionist looked at Dafna for confirmation of the absurdity of it, and Dafna rolled her eyes, but inside she felt sympathy for the blonde, fully aware of how stressful it could be when you just wanted a little service. It really was just a question of tone. If the woman had asked nicely—
“So, who are we here to see?”
Dafna gave the information, smiling sweetly throughout.
“You’re not in the book today. Viveka must be squeezing you in. Why don’t you sit down and I’ll let her know you’re here.”
Dafna sat on one of the white-and-cream-striped chenille banquettes, closed her eyes, and inhaled the happy familiar fumes of nail polish, shampoo and peroxide.
“Dafna?” she heard someone say in a sharp-pitched foreign voice.
A tiny middle-aged woman with bright red glasses, powdery white skin, and canary yellow hair came scuffling toward her. Dafna rose, an expectant smile on her face. She followed Viveka down a long, dimly lit hallway and into a small, even more dimly lit room.
“So,” Viveka said, “ve begin vith de vax. Let me look.”
As Dafna lay down on the table, a sheet of paper crinkled unsettlingly beneath the weight of her body. Once she was settled, Viveka pulled over a magnifying glass, covered Dafna’s eyes with a cold cloth, turned on a bright light, and grabbed Dafna’s chin. She turned Dafna’s face to the left and to the right and tilted it all the way back. Then she announced her verdict: “Uh oh.”
“What is it?” Dafna ventured.
“You haf some very stronk hairs. And a few ingrown under the chin. You are using exfoliant?”
“But that is too much. No vonder.”
“No wonder what?”
But Viveka didn’t answer. She was already busy with the wax. When the burning emollient made contact with Dafna’s skin, she couldn’t help shrieking slightly.
“What kind of wax do you use?” Dafna gasped.
“Bee’s,” she said, spreading more of the burning emollient across Dafna’s entire chin and underneath it as far as her throat. “Something is the matter?”
“It’s a little hot,” Dafna managed.
“It’s supposed to be hot,” Viveka chirped back. “It’s vax.”
Viveka pressed a thin strip of cloth across a section of Dafna's jaw, then tore it away with a violent yank.
“Thank you,” Dafna said, though the pain was piercing. “Get it all. Just get it all.”
The procedure took an excruciating ten minutes. Each time Viveka tore the wax strips from Dafna’s face, it felt like a layer of skin had gone with it.
“All done,” Viveka announced after some final tweezing. “Now ve do de lashes. Look up.”
And then, while Dafna’s eyes were still open, Viveka began to apply dye to Dafna's lower lashes. Lucia never did it this way! Dafna jerked her head away.
“Hold still,” Viveka ordered, “or I get dye on de skin.”
Dafna forced herself to be still, but her heart was racing. The dye felt wet and runny, not dry and clumpy like the dye Lucia applied.
“And close,” Viveka said.
Dafna had a vision of herself crossing the street with a Seeing Eye dog.
“I think this is a mistake,” she murmured, trying to get up from the table. “Thank you so much for—” But she couldn’t continue. The skin under her eyes felt as if it were on fire.
“Help!” Dafna cried. “Wipe it off! Please!”
It wasn’t just the skin under her eyes that stung; now it was also her chin, lip, and brows. Her entire face was alive with stinging. “Ohhhhh,” Dafna moaned. “Wipe it off. Just wipe it off!”
Viveka applied some damp cotton compresses, which helped.
“I need to get back to work,” Dafna said, removing the compresses after a few moments and getting up. She hurried toward the door, though her face still tingled and throbbed. “I apologize for taking up your time. I’ll pay for everything.”
“I am the one who is sorry. I’ve been doing—”
But Dafna didn’t stay to hear the rest. In a flash, she was halfway down the hall, on her way to the bathroom. In the sanctuary of this haven, she splashed handful after handful of cold water against her pulsing face. Little white blisters, like whiteheads, were sprouting up all over her chin. She could even make out the distinct mark of strips in a few places.
There was only one person who could fix her now, and Dafna wasn’t going to wait to find out if she could be squeezed in or not. This was an emergency! She paid, leaving a generous tip, since Viveka had, after all, squeezed her in as a favor to Jennifer, whose face was clearly made of tougher stuff than Dafna’s.
La Belle Complète was only a few blocks away, and Dafna was there faster than you could say “Is anyone free for a lash tint?” The receptionist there said she didn’t see Dafna’s name in the book.
But I’m Dafna Shapiro, she yearned to say, daughter of Howard Shapiro, CEO of Piró, in case the name alone doesn’t ring a bell. But she didn’t. She took a deep breath and said evenly, “I’m not in the book, but whomever I spoke with this morning told me to just show up. She said Rosa would squeeze me in.”
“The whomever you spoke with was me,” the receptionist said irritably. “I told you Rosa might be able to take you at the end of the day.”
“Oh,” Dafna said. “Really? Are you sure that’s what you said? I could have sworn—”
And then, a miracle: enter Rosa, whose mouth broke into its wide toothy grin as soon as she saw Dafna, but just as quickly the smile faded when she spotted the situation on Dafna’s face.
“Who did this to you?” Rosa demanded. “Who? Tell me. I must know.”
“Can you help me?” Dafna begged.
Rosa, whose soft, warm, lavender-smelling hands had so often administered a soothing touch, enveloped Dafna in her bosomy embrace. “I could try a soothing mask and some calendula. At the very least, I could reduce the swelling. Are you my next? ”
“She’s not your next,” the receptionist interjected. “Your next is coming down from Pedicures right now.” She shot Dafna a scornful glance, then checked the appointment book. “Beth Rosenblatt.”
“Beth Rosenblatt?” Dafna said, relief sending her voice into the stratosphere. “But I know Beth Rosenblatt. She’s my best friend! I’m sure she wouldn’t mind if I switched appointments with her.”
“You don’t have an appointment to switch,” the receptionist said. “If Beth wants to give you her appointment—”
The elevator door opened and Beth got off wrapped in a pink terry-cloth robe. She was sporting open-toed paper slippers and scarlet toe nail polish, the strip of cotton separating her toes still firmly in place. “Hiiiiii!” she said in her sometimes too-perky voice (now being one of the times it struck Dafna as way too perky). “How funny! What are you doing here? I thought you were stuck at work.”
Beth didn’t work. She had worked until her engagement a few months ago to one of Dafna’s rejects. Now her job was planning her wedding, the details of which she never seemed to tire of disclosing and dissecting with Dafna, much to Dafna’s chagrin.
“I’m on my lunch break,” Dafna explained, trying not to pounce too quickly.
“I assume you’ll be at Lincoln Center tonight,” Beth said.
“I was planning on it,” Dafna concurred, taking a step closer and lowering her voice, “but I just got the worst waxing job of my life. Look.”
She jutted her face forward and Beth said, “Holy shit.”
“I can’t possibly be seen now unless Rosa gives me a quick calendula treatment. The only thing is”—Dafna’s shoulders tensed as she checked the time—“I have to be back to work in less than an hour.”
“Bummer,” Beth said, her perky expression wilting. “I thought we might be able to grab a Caesar salad together. My mother’s making me nuts over the choice of a florist. She wants me to use Thom LeBaux. Can you imagine? He’s so pretentious, and the flowers he did for Amy Miller’s wedding were a joke. He had flowers in these black rectangular vases that looked like roach motels. Vile.”
“Sounds it,” replied Dafna hastily, knowing the seconds were ticking on the clock. “I’d love to hear more about it, but I was actually wondering if you could possibly give me your appointment with Rosa right now and then we could talk about the florists later at the benefit?”
A look of anguish crossed Beth’s face. “I’m so sorry,” she said. “I’m on a tight schedule today myself. I have to get to Cristoff Cuvier by three for my hair and—”
“No, of course," Dafna said. "No need to explain. It was rude of me even to ask. I just thought it was worth a try.”
“But I’m totally devastated you had a bad reaction to the wax,” Beth offered. “Remember the time I broke out in that rash from the collagen injection in my lip? Uch. It was awful. I didn’t go to work for a week. I’ll never forget how hard you laughed when you saw me. I found a great guy for lips, by the way. Carpolon. Dr. Phil Carpolon. On Eighty-sixth and Park. How convenient is that? He’s amazing with a needle. I never feel a thing.”
“Great,” Dafna managed to say. It was disgusting how self-absorbed Beth had become since her engagement. “I better get going.”
“And I better get to Rosa.” Beth tilted her head to the side with an apologetic sigh. “Ciao for now?”
“Ciao for now,” Dafna said with a little wave.
Excerpted from The J*A*P Chronicles by Isabel Rose Copyright © 2005 by Isabel Rose. Excerpted by permission of Doubleday, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.