“There you go Isabel, all done.” Laddy held up the mirror so Isabel could see herself. “Your skin really is unbelievable,” she said.
Isabel blushed. “Thank you,” she said. “I don’t know how you do it.” Laddy patted her on the shoulder. “Well it’s easy when you have a client with skin as lovely as yours.
Now what are you going to do with the rest of your special day?”
“I have a date,” Isabel said. “The usual?” asked Laddy, raising an eyebrow. Isabel lowered her gaze. “Yes,” she said, smiling in spite of herself.
Laddy put down the towel she’d been drying her hands on. “Don’t you want something more?” she asked. Isabel began to squirm in her chair. It got under her skin.
Everyone seemed to know what was going to be good for her. None of them seemed to think that Isabel was capable of deciding that for herself. “It’s what makes me happy,” she said.
Laddy sighed. “I just want you to know that you deserve more.”
“I might deserve more,” Isabel replied, but this is what I have, and it’s good enough for me.”
“And another year goes by,” said Laddy. “I don’t mean to be unkind. But you are not getting any younger. At some point this will all be in the past.
Then what? There will have to be a day when you can’t deny it any longer. Why not find someone who is available to you?”
Isabel wrapped her scarf around her shoulders and handed Laddy a wad of bills for her service. “But that day is not today,” she said. Laddy took the money and reached out for a hug.
“I hope for your sake, he sees the real you, because you are wonderful. Only a fool wouldn’t be able to see that.”
“I feel wonderful,” said Isabel. She pushed through the door into the sunlight. The sun felt lovely on her face. How many people really noticed that? She wondered.
She closed the top of her handbag and set off down the street. She’d worn her best dress. It fit her well. Accentuated the good things and minimized the bad.
Today her curves were in all the right places. It was her day off. And she planned on enjoying herself.
She passed a group of construction workers on Elm and they whistled appreciatively. Isabel loved it. “Thank you boys,” she said with a smile, blowing them a kiss.
She rounded the corner onto Broad. The Palm was just down the block. He’d be waiting. He was always early.
She’d have a glass of wine, he’d have a whiskey neat and they’d spend a half an hour or so catching up. She’d check her watch and say she should be going.
He’d say, “Do you have to?”, and then he’d reach across the table and cover her hand in his and tell her he’d gotten a room. Just in case.
And they’d spend the rest of the day making love in a king sized bed with the curtains drawn and the lights down low. And she would feel beautiful.
Beautiful! She hurried her pace in anticipation.
There he was. Vincenzo Sabato. Lean and dark and waiting. For her.
Isabel smiled and waved. His face lit up and he stood as she got closer. He kissed her cheek. First one side, then the other. “You look exquisite,” he said.
She sipped her wine and they talked. Electricity sparked between them. “Do you know how much you mean to me?” Vincenzo cupped her cheek. “How I adore this face,” he said.
Isabel smiled and lowered her eyes. “I have a room,” he said. “Just in case.”
The afternoon went too fast as it always did and when Isabel stood to open the curtains the sun had reached the other side of the horizon.
She turned back to the handsome man with the sheets tangled around his waist. “I have to go,” she said.
She went to him and sat on the edge of the bed. “I think I might love you,” she said. He smiled and took her hand and pulled it to his lips. “Then come with me."
“Do you know how I miss you? How I wait for these days? Come with me. We can see the world together.” He kissed her and she began to cry and the salty tears stung as they rolled down her cheeks.
“Oh how I wish I could,” she said. She dressed quickly and arranged her hair and put on her hat and gloves. She had twenty minutes to make the train.
The next morning Isabel woke with the sun. She had two shows that day and only an hour to get ready. She pulled on her satin robe and sat in front of her vanity and began to brush her hair.
She’d always had the most luxurious hair. “Like a gypsy’s,” her mother always told her. Her gaze traveled from her forehead to her eyes. Her eyes were something else she liked about herself.
They were deep and multicolored, shifting from green to brown. But below her eyes..... The rest of her face was covered in coarse hair, from her cheekbones to her chin.
The hair had begun to grow when she was only 12. The doctors blamed it on some kind of hormonal imbalance. “It would be pointless to shave it,” they said. “It will only make it worse."
So she left it. But twice a year she saw Laddy, who made it all go away, if only for a few hours.
Yesterday she had been beautiful. Today she was a freak. She left her caravan and crossed the lot to the food tent. The Sabato Brothers were practising in the yard.
Vincenzo hung upside down from the trapeze waiting to catch his younger brother Vito. Isabel stopped to watch. But only for a moment.
“Good morning Bella,” called Vito waving from the tower. Isabel waved back and turned away. She had taken only a step or two when Vincenzo called out, “Imagine taking that to bed!"
The boys' laughter followed her across the lot. But Isabel carried on, counting the days until he saw her again.