Avril Carson had to try. Because the hairdresser-turned-actress (turned hairdresser) had left little Sago Beach, Florida, with her whole life in front of her and the man she'd loved by her side. Now she'd come back, with his ashes in an urn, and not even the chance of a child in her future. But she had a sneaking suspicion there was one in her late husband's not too-distant past....
And as for romance--well, those days were behind her. Or were they? For Max Wright was pursuing her with a vengeance that made her feel things she thought she'd never feel again.
Maybe it was time to practice some beauty shop magic on herself....
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August 31, 2007
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Excerpt from Beauty Shop Tales by Nancy Robards Thompson
The Garden of Proserpine
Here, where the world is quiet, Here, where all trouble seems Dead winds and spent waves riot In doubtful dreams of dreams;
I watch the green field growing For reaping folk and sowing, For harvest-time and mowing, A sleepy world of streams.
--Algernon Charles Swinburne
Today, as I fly out of LAX, probably for the last time, the souvenirs I'm taking with me are two truths I gleaned doing hair in the Hollywood movie industry: 1) appearance is everything; and 2) reality, that eternal shape-shifter, is the biggest illusion of all.
Reality is 99.9 percent perception. It morphs into whatever form best moves ahead the perceiver.
As I, Avril Carson, thirty-five-year-old widow of Chet, and former aspiring-starlet-turned-Hollywood-stylist, wipe my clammy palms on my Dolce & Gabbanas--which I bought gently worn at a consignment shop for a fraction of the retail price...but no one needs to know that--and prepare to speed into the wild blue yonder into the next chapter of my life, witness Hollywood truths one and two play out in real life.
It goes like this: Even though I loathe flying, I've convinced myself that I must fly across country because the alternative is to come rolling back home into Sago Beach, Florida, in a Greyhound bus.
No can do. Ride the bus, that is.
Not when these jeans retail for nearly three times the cost of a bus ticket.
Not when I'd have to travel twenty-seven hundred miles, stopping at forty-one different stations along the way, to arrive at 3:42 in the morning. Call me vain, but I refuse to go two days, sixteen hours and fifteen minutes without a shower. It makes my skin crawl just thinking about it and the m�lange of aromas simmering in that busload of unwashed strangers.
If personal hygiene is too selfish to justify bus snobbery, think of my mother. She has taken such pleasure in my being the hometown girl who's made good in Hollywood; I simply can't let her down by arriving in less than style.
Work with me, here. I mean, come on, I hate to fly. If I were being completely real, I'd keep my feet on the ground through the air from one coast to the other.
But it's not an option. So, I keep reminding myself of the above rationale and that flying is safer than traveling crosscountry via ground transportation. Blah, blah, blah--
Full of Dramamine, which has not yet kicked in, I board the plane, settle into my aisle seat and try to center myself.
Oh, God...I'm really doing this.
Chet would've been proud of me for venturing so far out of my comfort zone. I press my leg against my carry-on, which holds the box of his ashes, hoping to absorb some of his courage.
Chet Marcus Carson, extreme sports reporter for WKGM Hollywood. Nothing scared him, which is part of the reason he's dead...nine months now. Parasailing accident.
Chet Marcus Carson, the reason I ended up in Hollywood to pursue my dream. Much to my mother's hysterical dismay, he yanked me up out of Sago Beach--population 212--and set me firmly on the road to making something of myself. I was going to be an actress. A star. Just like all my favorites in the old black-and-white romances. The ones I used to watch over and over again. The ones that made me dream big and believe in happily ever after.
And Chet, he was going to be a sportscaster. Together we were going to set the world on fire and never look back at the Podunk town of our youth.
God, that sounds so stupid now. So naive.
I suppose I was. And now, Chet Marcus Carson is the reason I'm going home. I tried my best to stick it out on my own, but by the time I lost Chet, the Hurray-For-Hollywood, rose-colored glasses were gone; I wasn't cut out to be an actress--not in this how-bad-do-you-want-it, bare-it-all day and age.
My dream was over, but Chet's rose like a turbo-inflated hot air balloon. I resorted to the only things I knew: doing hair and being a strong support system for him. Through his contacts, he got me a few jobs doing hair on the sets of various local productions, but my heart wasn't in it. Once I got a look behind the curtain and glimpsed the real Hollywood, all I wanted was to ground myself in reality. I wanted to raise a family, to be a good wife--to be normal again.
Then one day it all came crashing down. The only man I'd ever loved was dead. And I was stuck in this soulless town that was just one big reminder that somehow I had to go on without him.