One of the perks of having an identical twin is being able to preview how a haircut would look on you without having to try it on yourself. Not that Ren Sutherland could pull off the chin-length bob that Reggie had asked for. Though their DNA dictated the same bone structure, Ren could never cut her hair so short. If she cut her hair any shorter than shoulder-length, she would look like Little Orphan Annie.
On the other hand, Reggie had the patience and dedication to wake up at the asscrack of dawn and straighten her hair every morning. She also got her nails and eyebrows done religiously every three weeks and attended a kickboxing class four times a week. Her porcelain-smooth, golden skin was courtesy of a regular visit to a spa for tanning and exfoliation. She called it “required maintenance” for her one-hundred and thirty pound, five-seven frame and often harped on Ren for not doing the same. She was twenty-nine-years old and proud that she could pass for twenty-two.
Most mornings, Ren rolled out of bed, pulled her hair into a ponytail, and headed into the salon wearing a t-shirt and a pair of jeans. She didn’t need to look glamorous to cut and dye hair. The shapeless, ugly, pink smock she wore to protect her street clothes was about as revealing as a nun’s habit. On the other hand, Reggie always needed to look gorgeous, since she was a commercial model slash actress.
Her dirtbag boyfriend Blake used to say that the most significant difference between her and Reggie was that Reggie knew how to look like a woman, and Ren didn’t. Ugh, ex-boyfriend! Damn, she still got enraged thinking about him that way even though it was going on two months that she dumped him for cheating on her... and stealing money from her bank account. Dick.
Ren turned her twin’s jaw left and right to check if the cut was even from all angles. Frowning, she seized one wayward lock, snipped an eighth of an inch, and stepped back to admire her handy work. She smiled with the satisfaction of a job well done. The blunt cut only served to highlight Reggie’s high cheekbones and stubborn chin, making her look like a fierce warrior woman. She would at least look the part of the role she was about to audition for: a young Spartan queen.
Reggie finally looked up from the latest issue of People magazine on her lap, studied her new haircut in the mirror in front of her, and smiled at Ren. “Damn, that’s hot. You do good work, boo.”
Ren propped her chin on her sister’s head and stared at their reflections in the mirror. They looked like a side by side before-and-after for Extreme Makeover: the soccer mom and the glamazon. She would laugh if the situation wasn’t so disheartening. “I have to be good at something.”
Reggie rolled her eyes. “Oh, stop it, Miss I’m-a-Kickass-Business-Owner-and- Have-Two-Masters-Degrees. You’re the golden child. You’re good at everything.”
“Except finding a man who won’t cheat on me and steal my shit, apparently,” Ren said wryly. She dusted the nape of her twin’s neck with baby powder, then whipped off the protective purple cape from her shoulders.
Reggie turned her seat around to face her, grabbed her wrists, and gave her a droll look. “Blake was a natural-born douchebag, Ren. I bet his own mother doesn’t like him very much.”
Ren slapped a sticky lint roller into Reggie’s hand, so she could remove the excess hair on her clothes and turned away to grab a broom. “Never underestimate the power of Blake’s sleazy charm. Everyone likes him at first... until they realize what an utter waste of space he is.” She began to sweep the red hair from the floor into a pile that she pushed onto a dustpan. She glanced at her twin, who was busy rolling the lint remover on the shoulder of her yellow V-neck sweater. “Of course, you never fell for his pseudo-romantic 90’s angst shit.”
Reggie hated Blake Hardwick from the get-go. Ren fell hard for Blake’s bad-boy-musician-who’s-a-poet-at-heart shtick, but Reggie wasn’t buying. She had expressed loudly and frequently what she thought of Ren’s relationship with Blake, and Ren, who was nuts about Blake at the time, had taken offense. The arguments almost caused an irreparable rift between them, but ever since Ren dumped the asshole, she and Reggie had been actively patching up the cracks of their relationship. It helped that they once shared a womb and would do anything for each other.
“That’s because I was born with a Teflon shield that naturally protects me from oily jerkweeds,” Reggie pointed out smugly.
“And she’s got an amazing bullshit detector,” piped up Amy Weinberg, Ren’s best friend and the co-owner of the salon. She pointed her shears at Ren. “You, on the other hand, will fall for any loser with a pretty face. I told you Shitbag Blake was bad news.”
At five feet flat and with a metabolism so high she couldn’t help but be as skinny as a rail, Amy resembled an angry pixie. The resemblance was only enhanced by her signature hairdo, which kept her straight, black hair cut short like Mia Farrow in Rosemary’s Baby. She favored dark colors when it came to clothing and enjoyed wearing sleek, form-fitting outfits that complemented her petite figure and snow-white skin. Today she was wearing a burgundy V-neck shirt with a plunging neckline and fitted black jeans that clung to her legs like second skin. She openly mocked the pink smock. The frat boys who came in from time to time often requested that Amy cut their hair because they always got a free show as well as a gorgeous haircut.
Though she had a Master’s degree in Film, Amy’s real passion was hair. Her hobby in college was to give free haircuts to everyone in their dorm. When she realized she couldn’t earn money watching obscure German movies all day, she decided she wanted to cut hair for a living. Armed with the financing lent to them by Amy’s restaurateur father, Amy and Ren opened Cheveux Jolie on Melrose, a strategic location, because they catered mostly to starving hipsters who wanted quality haircuts but didn’t want to pay hundreds of dollars.
Like Reggie, Amy didn’t like Blake from the very beginning, referring to him as a deadbeat schmuck.
After a couple of months of eye-opening revelations, Ren had the startling realization that she was the only one stupid enough to put up with Blake for so long. With a sigh, she swept up the remaining hair on the floor and dumped it into a trashcan. “Yeah, well... at least I’ve gotten rid of him,” she muttered lamely.
Ren sighed. Reggie and Amy probably thought she was a total loser when it came to relationships. Unable to blame anyone but herself, Ren conjured Blake’s soulful, brooding blond beauty in her head and fantasized kicking him in the balls for the twentieth time that day.
An awkward silence descended upon the room, but Amy saved the day by gliding up to Reggie and ruffling her hair. “I dig the new ‘do, babe. You look like the love child of Ann-Margret and a tiger. We can punch up the red, you know, make those hazel eyes of yours really pop.” She wiggled her eyebrows. “I’d do it, darling, but I’ve got an eleven o’clock. Your sis is free, I think. Right, Sasha?”
Sasha, their pink-haired part-time receptionist, didn’t even look up from the computer but merely raised a thumb.
Reggie gazed imploringly at Ren, who had begun to clean up her station for her next client. “Sweetie pie, will you, please?”
Ren glanced at her wristwatch. “There's no time, Reggie. We have to meet mom for lunch in an hour."
Reggie crossed her arms across her chest and glowered at her. "Oh, please, that woman can stand to wait a few minutes. It will do her some good to realize that the world doesn't revolve around her."
While neither of them had a close relationship with their mother, Reggie was not a fan at all. Their mother was particularly vocal about her disapproval of Reggie's line of work, and Reggie would never back down from a good fight. Ren pictured a couple of hours of her mother and sister passive-aggressively sniping at each other. God, it was going to be a fun lunch. "Sasha, can you mix up a batch of R68 for Miss Movie Star here?"
Reggie squealed and threw her arms around Ren's neck, kissing her on the cheek. "You are the best sister a girl could ever have!"
Without a word, the pink-haired receptionist left her post at the front counter and disappeared into the backroom to mix up the dye. When the little bell that alerted them whenever the front door opened sounded, Ren disentangled herself from her sister's embrace and turned to take care of the customer. Suddenly, all the air left her body in a whoosh.
There was only one word for the dark-haired man standing by the front counter: Magnificent. No, glorious.
He was tall, at least six feet, and possessed a lean, athletic body emphasized by his black t-shirt. His hair, a dark mahogany color with hints of red in the light, was brushed back neatly from his forehead and touched the neckline of his shirt. What saved him from being too pretty were the sharp, austere angles of his face and his long, hawkish blade of a nose.
It was a face with a profile that belonged on one of those antique gold coins her grandfather used to collect.