“Hi! I’m Ro’mun!”
“Hi, Roman.” I grin down at the little boy. “I’m Jessie.”
“Jessie!” he repeats and I laugh. I reach down under the counter and pull out the bowl full of toys I keep there.
“Would you like one?” I ask.
His little hand goes to the bowl and his little chubby fingers wrap around a bright yellow spongey ball.
“What are you supposed to say, Little Man?” the girl says.
“Thank you!” Roman says, squeezing the ball.
“You’re welcome,” I laugh, and I can’t resist rubbing the top of his head, ruffling his dark hair.
“I’m Ana,” the woman says, smiling at me.
“Jessie,” I murmur. She’s friendly and has a sweet smile, but I can’t help feeling intimidated.
“Do you own this shop?” she asks, obviously recognizing my name from the sign outside.
“I do,” I answer proudly. “I make all of the products myself.”
“Oh gosh! I love it. You’re obviously just the person I need to talk with!” she says excitedly.
“My brother has a beard,” she says, stating the obvious. “And he’s always scratching it, because it’s so itchy and dry.”
“Maybe I just like scratching my beard, Ana. You ever think of that?” Allen complains and he sounds so annoyed I barely resist the urge to laugh.
“Whatever. Do you have something to help him?” she asks.
I look up at her and then back to the man. He doesn’t really seem like he wants my help. That’s confirmed loud and clear when he responds.
“I’m not buying some crap in a bottle for fifty bucks so I will smell like a girl,” he grumbles and then, as if he just remembered I’m there, grudgingly looks up at me with a tagged on “No offense.”
I nod in reply, because I don’t know what to say. I figure my wisest move is to let him and his sister fight things out.
“Will you quit whining? You’re embarrassing her. The prices are very reasonable and I happen to know my man pays you well enough you don’t have to blink at buying beard conditioner,” Ana mutters, walking away from the counter and going over to a corner of the store that has almost black stained shelves with white glass bottles.
“Beard conditioner?” I bark at my sister. She’s lost her mind. “Roman, you need to contain your woman,” I mutter. Roman ignores me, though, as I knew he would.
“Beard conditioner,” she insists, handing me a small bottle. “What about this one?”
I look at it with distaste. I have some stuff I bought at the local Walmart that works fine. My sister is just crazy. She’s always trying to get me to buy better clothes, better shoes, and anything else she can think of. I know our lives have changed drastically now, I get it. Still, just because we don’t have to worry about money doesn’t mean I need to go out and spend it on shit I don’t want and will probably never use. I twist open the lid and scrunch my nose up as I take in the smell.
“No way,” I growl, putting the lid back on it.
“Why not?” Ana whines.
“I’m not putting anything on my beard that will leave me smelling like a damn lemon cake.”
“You like lemon cake,” Ana says obstinately.
“Not on my face. Absolutely not.”
“Allen, you need to—”
“Roman, speak to your wife, please?” I tag on the please because no one orders Roman around—and lives.
“This isn’t Roman’s—”
Before I can interrupt Ana, who has already spoken over top of Roman, the girl at the counter speaks up.
“You can honestly make one from home that will work just the same without the smell,” she says quietly.
I turn to look at her and for the first time really take her in. She’s standing there in a pale blue sleeveless dress that flows freely down her body. As she walks around the counter and comes toward me and Ana, I notice the dress goes all the way to her ankles. There’s no skin on her showing at all except her neck and collar bone and her arms. It’s so different than most women I’ve seen here in Florida. It’s not bad, just different. What is bad is that the dress falls so free and loose it doesn’t even hint at what kind of body she has underneath—and I’d really like to know.
Even if I shouldn’t.
“Say what?” I ask as she gets closer. Her steps fall just as soft as her voice. Every other step I see her foot peek out from under her dress, revealing black flip-flops and long toes. The tops of her nails are painted a clear gloss so they shine. Simple, understated, and somehow it manages to look… sexy. Her long brown hair has been brushed until it shines and it’s kept in a large pony tail that starts at the top of her head and swishes when she walks. Her face doesn’t have makeup on it. She has the same clear gloss on her lips that caught my eye on her toes. Even her fingernails are fixed that way.