Amber laughed. “I know. Sorry, but cold is better for keeping the colors bright.”
“I’ll survive,” Star said, closing her eyes against the spray.
“I can’t believe you’re doing this right before you go home,” Amber said. “Most of the girls I’ve seen this week are trying to get their hair color back to normal before the semester ends.” She turned off the water and helped Star sit upright. She wrapped a towel around Star’s hair. “What’s your mom going to think?”
Star reached up to hold the towel in place as she walked back to Amber’s station. “That’s a really good question.”
The woman walked toward them across the parking lot. Two small boys trailed after her, but Star ignored them. As a kindergartner, preschoolers no longer held her interest. The way the woman’s purple and blue hair glowed in the sunshine mesmerized her, however.
She patted Mama’s arm with her free hand. “Mama … look at that lady!” She pointed with her ice cream.
“Star!” Mama hissed at her, pushing her arm down into her lap.
As the woman walked past them, Mama mumbled, “I’m so sorry.” The woman didn’t appear to notice. She herded the boys through the door and disappeared. Mama turned back to Star.
“In this family, we don’t point at people who look different.”
Ice cream dripped down the side of Star’s cone and across her fingers, unnoticed. When Mama used that tone, it was best to maintain eye contact.
“Okay, Mama, but can I do that?”
“Can I have fancy hair like that lady?”
“No. Your hair is fine just the way it is.”
“But I want to look a mermaid, too, Mama!”
“You are a smart girl. Being smart is better than being a mermaid.” Mama wiped at Star’s elbow, catching the ice cream before it dripped onto her dress. “Your hair is perfectly suited to your face.” She lifted Star’s chin in her hand and looked into her eyes. “Don’t you let fancy magazines tell you to change yourself. Be confident in who you are inside. Do you understand me?”
Star didn’t understand. She licked at her sticky fingers and wondered what “confident” meant. When the lady with the cool hair came back out, Star was careful to look only from the corner of her eye. That lady looked pretty smart, too.
“Okay,” Amber said, turning off the blow dryer, “you can open your eyes now.” She adjusted one last strand.
Star blinked her eyes open and looked into the mirror. Her normal mousy brown hair had been replaced with a fiery mane of curls. The vibrant red on top transitioned through several shades of orange before becoming lemon yellow at the tips. She shook her head to make the curls bounce.
“You look like you’re ready to kick some ass,” Amber said from behind her.
“I am,” Star said. She leaned in close to the mirror and locked eyes with her reflection. She’d never felt more like herself.
inspired by The Daily Post’s prompt for 6/15/16 – Natural