ROSIE'S CURL AND WEAVE: Four Novellas
STEP INSIDE FOR A DAY OF BEAUTY, LAUGHTER...AND LOVE.
Whether you want a cut, weave or braid; a facial, manicure, or massage; there's always a helping hand-and a sympathetic ear-at Rosie's Curl and Weave on 125th Street in Harlem. And sometimes, when you least expect it, love walks in the door. So sit back, relax, put your feet up, and enjoy, as four talented writers render four magical stories about the love of beauty and the beauty of love.
Rochelle Alers gets the sparks flying, as a high-maintenance banker finds herself falling, against her better judgement, for a handsome delivery man who walks into Rosie's...
Donna Hill puts the assistant manager of Rosie's in the path of a fine-looking contractor, whose hypnotic honey-brown eyes could be her undoing...
Felicia Mason helps the owner of Rosie's discover that you don't have to be young-just young at heart-to fall in love...
Francis Ray turns a timid, dowdy duckling into a confident, sexy swan-and sends her into the arms of a handsome artist-with the help of Rosie's Curl and Weave...
Release date: November 16, 2021
Publisher: St. Martin's Publishing Group
Print pages: 311
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Rosie's Curl and Weave
She walked in the door and set off Louis Sweet’s personal earthquake alert. She appealed to him all at once and on so many levels that Louis could only stare and hope he didn’t topple at her feet like an unsteady building straddling a fault line. Smiling a general greeting, she moved to the receptionist’s desk to check in. Louis tracked her every movement.
“Hi, Ms. Webster. You’re right on time,” the receptionist told her. “A shampoo assistant will take you at station three.”
“Thank you, Rebecca. It’s busy today,” the woman said, glancing around the shop.
Louis’s appreciative gaze stayed on the sway of the customer’s full hips as she followed the receptionist to the salon’s shampoo area. She walked with confidence, like a woman with a purpose. The honey of her voice carried a gentle softness and a refinement that made him take more than casual notice.
For more than three decades, Louis Sweet had earned a successful living by noticing the details others missed and by making women beautiful. About fifty, just a few years younger than his own fifty-seven, she had the fuller, rounded figure Louis had always admired on a woman. The electric blue suit and pearls added a gracefully feminine touch. Her Ferragamo shoes and handbag let him know she paid attention to detail and had a sense of style.
Her smile was as radiant as sunshine, her voice as melodious as a sweet song.
Something long dormant in Sweet’s existence roared to life.
“That’s a fine-looking woman.”
“Huh?” He glanced at the two women standing beside him, one of whom had been harassing him about buying magazine subscriptions.
“We have several excellent choices that will enhance your customers’ wait and relaxation experience in the salon.”
His grunt, a noncommittal answer at best, couldn’t be mistaken for interest. His attention was elsewhere. Louis still watched the woman named Ms. Webster. She settled in the shampoo chair, placed her handbag in her lap, and let the shampoo girl, someone he didn’t recognize from here, drape a cape around her smart blue suit. She crossed her legs at the ankles and Louis strained his neck trying to get a better look.
Reluctantly he turned his full attention back to the saleswoman. “Look, we already get a bunch of hair books and about ten women’s and men’s magazines, including Ebony, Essence, Jet, Today’s Black Woman, Emerge, and Black Enterprise. Right, Della? My customers have enough to read. Thanks anyway.”
Without giving the spluttering saleswoman time to pitch anymore, Louis headed toward the shampoo area.
Della Frazier smiled as she watched his progress across the salon. “Well, it’s about time,” she said.
The saleswoman turned to Della. “Ms. Frazier…”
“I’m sorry,” Della said as she turned the woman toward the door. “He’s the boss and he’s right. Our customers really do have lots of options. Good day.”
Della ushered the saleswoman out the front door, then watched her dear friend beeline to Elaine Webster. “He’s out of practice. I’d better check on him,” she muttered to herself.
“Della, do you have a moment?”
She made her way toward Perry, the stylist who beckoned her.
“Mrs. Anderson is interested in details about Rosie’s Ultimate Adventure,” the stylist said.
Della turned a bright smile on the customer seated before Perry. Louis Sweet forgotten for the moment, Della pitched the salon’s most expensive and exclusive pampering package. “It is divine. You’ll love yourself for doing it and if you’re giving it to a friend, he or she won’t ever forget the experience—or you.”
* * *
Feeling like a stranger in his own business, Louis hovered near the shampoo area. He didn’t know half the people busy washing, conditioning, and coloring hair. Making a mental note to ask Della about the new hires, Louis zoomed in on the woman named Ms. Webster.
The black plastic cape covered most of her body, but he got a good view of her legs and the fine curve of her calves. Louis had always been a leg man. Hers were thick, shapely; just the way he liked them.
“Mr. Sweet, good to see you, man!”
Louis shook hands with a long-time customer. “Maurice, it’s been a while.”
A shampoo assistant tucked the man’s long hair into a clear plastic cap, then stepped away.
“You just come in to collect the profits these days, huh? Living large.”
Louis laughed. “No, it’s not like that. I’ve been busy on some projects.”
“Been so long I bet you forget how to handle a pair of clippers.”
“It’s like riding a bike and taking candy from a baby,” Louis said. Without thinking, he checked his employee’s work, then secured the cap around the man’s ears. “I see you’re sporting that old-school look.”
Maurice touched the bag on his head. “The old school is the new school now. Good thing I saved some of those suits I was wearing back in ’73. Had a brother offer me three hundred dollars for a powder blue leisure suit I had on one day.”
“Yeah, and tell him what you did, Maurice,” a shampoo assistant said.
“I told that fool ‘just a minute,’ then walked into Kmart, bought me some sweats for twenty bucks and handed him that suit. I had four of ’em just like it at home.”
Everybody in the shampoo area laughed. Louis noticed the smile on Ms. Webster’s face and remembered his original purpose. But before he could say or do anything, he found himself in the middle of greetings and well wishes from staff and customers. Some of the newer people, realizing he was the big boss, introduced themselves.
It had been a while since he’d been in the shop. Louis had almost forgotten the easy camaraderie that flowed all around. Cool jazz softly piped through the salon added a relaxed feel to a place where hustle and bustle was the norm.
Louis looked around his thriving business and realized how much he missed hearing the whirr of blow-dryers and the hum of the hood dryers. He got a kick out of the occasional moan of pleasure from a customer getting a good scalp massage during a hair wash. He loved the acrid smell of chemicals and the sweetness of the fruit-scented deep conditioners. Today a couple of televisions were on, as always, tuned to the soaps and the talk shows. The phone rang, the front door chimed as a customer walked in, and, above it all, a symphony of voices in conversation, easy debate, and the latest gossip welcomed him.
Louis Sweet stood in the middle of the floor and grinned.
It was good to be home.
“Mr. Sweet, would you take a look at this?”
A few stations down, a stylist and an assistant were taking a look at a customer’s scalp. Louis joined them, secretly pleased that his opinion was still valued after all this time. Louis and his late wife Rosie had been doing hair longer than some of the shop’s employees had been living.
He gave his approval to the work the two were doing and recommended fifteen minutes of deep conditioning.
“You can sit up, Ms. Webster,” the shampoo girl at station three said.
Louis turned from his inspection of another customer’s hair and toward Ms. Webster. “You’re doing a great job, Mela,” he told the assistant.
But he missed the shampoo girl’s proud beaming smile because he was already headed to station three where Ms. Webster was getting a towel wrapped around her hair.
“Hello. I’m Louis Sweet.”
She smiled at him. “I gathered as much. I’m Elaine Webster. Nice to meet you.” She held a manicured hand out to him.
Louis shook her hand, then held it longer than necessary.
“Your hands are very soft.”
“I get manicures done here. Pedicures too.”
“Of course. We’re a full-service salon.”
“Is that a fact?”
Sweet’s eyebrows rose. This was looking right promising.
The shampoo assistant patted the excess moisture from Elaine’s head. “LaTonya can take you now.”
Louis held out a hand to escort Elaine to her stylist.
“Have you been coming to the salon long? I don’t remember seeing you,” he said. She had to be a new customer. Louis knew he would have noticed her on one of his visits to check on things.
“Just about six months. Rosie’s Curl and Weave was recommended to me by a friend.”
“Good to hear. You know, we offer a gift certificate to customers who recommend others. How many have you earned in the six months you’ve been coming here?”
“None, I’m afraid.”
Louis helped Elaine into the stylist’s chair. Della, standing near the stylist, slyly smiled at him.
“What has you so amused, Della?”
“Oh, nothing,” she told him. “Are you ready to take a look at those estimates now?”
“Sure,” he said. “I’ll meet you in the office in a moment.”
Della exchanged a knowing smile with LaTonya, then made her way to the business office.
“It was a pleasure meeting you, Elaine Webster.”
Elaine twisted the gold wedding ring on her left hand. Louis’s eye, drawn to the nervous gesture, took in the sparkling gold and the glistening diamond. Disappointed, he took a step back.
She was married! Served him right for thinking the thoughts he’d been thinking.
With a quick word of departure he hastily made his way to the office, where Della sat on the edge of the desk, flipping through a trade magazine.
“I see something caught your interest out there. It’s about time.”
“What are you talking about?” he asked. Louis stomped around to Della’s desk chair and plopped into it.
“Louis, it’s me. You can fool some of the people most of the time, but never me. I know you too well. Her name’s Elaine Webster.”
“I know her name. She’s married.”
Della shook her head and closed the magazine. “She’s actually a widow. Her husband died about a year or so ago.”
Sweet’s face lit up and he smiled. “Really?”
“That’s supposed to be a sad thing.”
He schooled his expression into a look of remorse. Della laughed.
“You’re still a mess, Louis Sweet.” She walked to a filing cabinet and pulled open the second drawer. “So, what do you want to know?”
Della sighed. “We’re going to be here all night.”
Louis rubbed his hands together. “Excellent.”
Shaking her head, Della pulled out a thick file. “Okay, if the contractors complete the work by the end of July we could have…”
Looking puzzled, Louis stood. “Hold up, Della. What are you talking about?”
With the folder in hand, Della took a seat on the black leather sofa. She handed him a sheet of paper. Louis barely gave it a glance.
“You said you wanted to know everything about the construction project.”
“Construction? No, no, stay with me, woman. I want to know everything about Elaine Webster.”
Della closed the folder and arched one elegant eyebrow up at him. “I beg your pardon?”
“Tell me everything you know about Elaine Webster, the full-figured lady in the blue suit,” he said, nodding his head toward the salon.
Louis thought about it for a moment, then bobbed his head in the affirmative. “Yes, I’m serious. You said she’s a widow. What else do you know about her?”
Della folded her arms. “Louis Sweet, you old reprobate. I know that look.”
“That ‘love ’em and leave ’em look’ of yours. Ms. Webster isn’t like your passel of professional widows and lonely hearts.”
Copyright © 1999 by Felicia L. Mason
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