I wasn’t sure if she was asking literally or if it was some new code word for dirty talk. Didn’t matter. There was only one answer.
But before I could give her my yes, she continued, her eyes truthful as she caught my gaze. “And you can talk to me about salad, too.”
Another groan escaped me and all I could manage was a one-word answer.
* * *
This would be the scene in the movie with the shopping montage, if I were indecisive and liked to try on and model wigs. But I was decisive.
I selected a brunette model quickly from the dozen or so the sales clerk with yellowed teeth showed me. There was the long, shampoo-model look. Then the slightly wavy style. Then the housewife shoulder-length bob. Then the crazy curls. Then the boyish wig, which I vetoed because I didn’t want to look like a boy at all. Finally, there was the just-long-enough-to-tuck-behind-the-ears-but-just-short-enough-to-show-off-my-neck one.
“That one,” William said.
“No,” I said, shaking my head.
“Why not?” he said with affront in his voice.
“It’s cute, but it’s just too obviously a wig. I think I have to go with slightly wavy. It’s the most…” I paused, noodling on the right words. “It’s the most normal. And, to be honest, the most boring. I don’t want to stand out.”
“Right, right,” he said, refocusing on the vital mission—not getting caught on Saturday.
“May I try this on?” I asked the clerk.
“Of course. Here’s a cover for your hair,” the clerk said, and I took the stocking cap and the wig.
I turned to William. “You are so not seeing this part. Look the other way.”
He swiveled around so he was facing the door. His back was to me. The store was tiny, with wigs on styrofoam heads stacked on shelves from floor to ceiling.
“Now, put your hands on your eyes, too.”
He did as told. “Do you want to blindfold me as well?”
“I have a scarf if you want,” the clerk offered. “It’s behind the counter.”
“Oh, please, bring it on.”
“I think we’ll be fine without. I’m fast.” I tugged the cover over my hair, tucking my blond ponytail beneath the edge of the panty hose–like material, then pulled on the wig. I adjusted the fake hair, centering the bangless-look and tucking a strand behind my ear, to look as natural as possible.
“This one is it,” I said, as I checked it out in the mirror.
“Can I look now?” he asked.
“Yes, but I’m getting this one.”
I didn’t wait for his reaction. I simply paid for the wig, chalking up the fifty-six dollar cost as a necessary expense for what would likely be a one hundred thousand dollar payoff.
“Can you take a picture of me in my wig?” I gestured to the white door that must have led to the back of the store. It would make a good background for a fake ID. “Is it okay to take a picture?” I asked the clerk.
I gave William my camera, and I stood against the door.
“Look mad,” he teased.
I furrowed my brow.
“No! Don’t use that. Let’s do a half smile,” I said, and I knew I looked awkward because I didn’t have a very good smile, but awkward would probably be appropriate for this purpose.
He took a few more shots, then showed them to me. “You approve?”
“You are a good photographer. Even though the subject is ornery.”
“Didn’t I tell you? My specialty is ornery subjects.”
“No wonder we get along so fine,” I said and put my camera away, dropping the wig in the zippered compartment, too. I slung my backpack on my shoulder, and walked out to Melrose. The sun was strong in the sky even in the early evening, and the rays felt good on my bare arms.
“We do get along fine, don’t we?” he said, picking up the thread of the conversation.
“Yeah, it’s weird but it’s true.”
Then I spotted a flash of blond hair up ahead, and the fresh-faced smile of an actress I loved. A Broadway ingénue, and my brother’s wife Kat’s best friend. “That’s Jill McCormick,” I whispered reverently to William.
“She won a Tony last year for her first ever Broadway show Crash the Moon. I saw her in it. My brother flew me out to New York one weekend because Jill is best friends with Kat—she was the maid of honor at my brother’s wedding. We all went out after the show. Oh my God, she has the voice of an angel. And that’s her husband. He was her director and they fell in love during rehearsals.”
“A proper love story for that business,” William said.
As Jill and Davis neared us, Jill raised her hand to wave. “Jess, is that you?”
I stopped in my tracks, as something like shock and utter delight flowed through me. “I can’t believe she remembers me,” I said to William.
“You’re hard to forget.”