" I'm telling you, I have to be the best stylist around." With a prideful smirk, the hairdresser turned her client around to admire her work. Placing her hands on her hips, she waited to see the woman's reaction.
"Open your eyes now."
Niamh tightened her eyelids as she took a deep breath. Looking through her eyelashes, she could see her reflection in the mirror before her.
" Come on! You're making me nervous!"
Huffing, she opened her eyes completely, amazed and shocked at what she saw.
Words escaped her as the new woman took her breath away. Running her hands through what was left, Niamh let out a whisper of disbelief," It's perfect."
" Of course it is. This was the perfect change for you, girl. I never thought you would go this far."
" Me either, but it was time for a change. A clean slate." Niamh tucked her now ear length hair behind her ear as a small smile came to her lips.
To think that just this morning-after another night laying with a nameless man-she had been on the verge to hack it all off herself with a pocket knife, as scissors were nowhere by. She remembered waking up with the smell of smoke, sex, and despair trapped in her curls. The stench had her retching in the stranger's bathroom before she made her quick escape to her own bare apartment. Her red eyes had burned back at herself as she gripped the bathroom counter contemplating her options. It had seemed simple to tighten the grip she had on her hair, to saw away shame. Luckily, the only thing that saved her from creating a mess was the bile making its way out of her system.
Niamh was thankful that she was able to talk herself into an emergency appointment with no trouble. Getting a haircut was the most attention she had paid herself in a long time, and she inwardly apologized for the neglect.
As she and the other woman walked to the front desk of the salon, Niamh gave appropriate nods and laughs as the hairdresser talked endlessly. Everything had been in such disarray for so long now, that she had lost whatever little bit of herself she once had. Without her mother or brother, Niamh had walked around in a hollow body. Not much mattered to her anymore. She had become even more uncaring and to herself than before. Some days, as she prepared for her mission ahead, she seemed to run on only two modes. If she wasn't enraged by the thought of Daniel Saslow and the pleasure destroying him would bring her, then she saddened to the point of preying on any men who would be able to satisfy her carnal appetite.
It is a tactic she had resorted to doing again, fucking because she didn't give a fuck. Instant gratification was what she was looking for, and the release of stress it brought her only lasted so long. She didn't look for enjoyment in any of the guys she picked up. Even if they were skilled enough to bring her to a blissful high, she would eventually find something wrong. It was the act itself she wanted, emotions weren't necessary or encouraged. Though she always made it a point with them, she never kept to it herself .She was a volatile woman, switching from screaming approval to screaming insults. After close encounters of things moving further than just words, Niamh told herself that she was going to end up in some dumpster if she wasn't careful.
That thought alone should have stopped her, but without any other outlets she tricked herself into thinking that with a little alcohol, she could bare things a lot better.
Every morning after, she would slip into a self-deprecation and shame without fail. She used to rationalize her actions, but soon she ran out of excuses and reasons that even she could believe. When Niamh saw herself crawling into the bedroom of her most recent conquest, she had felt embarrassed as she searched the floor for her clothes. She hadn't even bothered looking back to see who he was. As soon as she had slipped back into her dress, she bolted out as quickly as she could.
Reaching into her pocket book, she retrieved her wallet as she paid for her visit.
"Since your visits come every few years, I guess I'll be waiting for you to pop up. I won't even bother telling you to come back soon." The older woman teased.
Waving goodbye, Niamh placed her sunglasses on her face as the woman picked up a phone call, attending to her business. If the change in her look hadn't pumped life back into her, the feel of the sun's rays on her face did.
A text message alert vibrated at her hip. Settling into her car, she saw the list of missed calls and texts from Joseph lining her screen.
Call me. Immediately.
She could hear his scolding voice in her head and shivered as she pulled out of the parking lot. His concern wasn't surprising to her as she had failed to call him when she left his house yesterday. Joseph knew what she did in her own spare time, and he wished that he could put her under lock and key for her own safety. There had been incidents where she disappeared for days at a time, not relaying any messages of where she was to anyone. He knew she was vulnerable, and cringed to think what could happen to her. If someone else didn't hurt her, he was sure that she would come close to doing it herself, physically, mentally, one way or the other.
As she turned up her radio, another call from Joseph came through the car system. Taking a deep breath, she pressed the phone icon located on her steering wheel.
" Where are you? I've been calling you, and calling you." The heat behind his voice made her flinch internally. She didn't take too well to confrontations, and having one with him was the last thing she wanted.
" I apologize, I must have had it on silent-"
" Bullshit." Joseph raised his voice as his temples throbbed. He could feel the heat on his face as he counted down to keep his calm.
"You're late. Be here in fifteen minutes Niamh, or I promise you...."
"Okay, okay. I'll be there."
"Fifteen minutes, Niamh! That's it or I'm coming after you."
"I said I will be there." She said in a sing song voice. Had it been anyone else being so demanding of her, she wouldn't have given them a second of her time, but Joseph had taken her under her wing, mending the few places of pain she allowed him to see. Before, she was a man who she had admired for his work. Slowly but surely she found herself looking to him as a father. Though she tried her best to tamper down that feeling of attachment, deep down she craved it, and even wanted to let him in.
In her current state, it was hard for her to decide whether or not that was a good thing. She had always been a fatherless child, and never thought anything of it, but now she was a motherless daughter. She would cling to any resemblance of parental love right now, if she could. The rejection from her mother replayed daily in her mind, and having Joseph around was a nice distraction, but she knew that there were some things that even he couldn't mend within her.