Single dad Steve taking his kid to have a haircut. Darcy is the hairdresser. Steve probably needs a cut too. ;)
It’s half-past seven on Saturday evening, and the shop is completely dead. The hours on the door say eight a.m. to eight p.m., though, and Alicia would have Darcy’s head on a platter if she decided to close thirty minutes early and possibly missed out on business.
It’s a good thing, too, because at exactly seven forty-two, the bell on the door chimes.
Darcy looks up from her magazine. Standing uncertainly in the doorway is a tall blonde. He’s holding the hand of a boy who can’t be anything other than his son, based on their identical faces. The only thing missing from the little one is the five o’clock shadow his father is sporting.
“Hi,” she says, standing and putting her magazine aside. The story of Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow’s conscious uncoupling will have to wait. “Here for a cut?”
The man nods, stepping further into the room and pulling the little boy with him. “Do you cut children’s hair?”
“Oh,” Darcy says, taken aback. She glances down at the little boy, offering him a smile. “Yes, I do.”
“Oh, good,” the man lets out a sigh of relief, and Darcy doesn’t know why she finds it so funny. “I didn’t remember that tomorrow is Easter Sunday until my mother called me to ask if I was still planning on bringing Zack over for dinner. She’d kill me if she knew I let his hair get this long.”
Darcy laughs, kneeling down so she’s eye level with the little boy. He looks to be about five. “Hi, Zack,” she says cheerfully, holding out her hand. “I’m Darcy.”
“Nice to meet you, Miss Darcy,” Zack says politely, shaking her hand and offering her a sweet smile.
“Your dad says he wants me to give you a haircut, so what do you say I help you hop up into my chair and I can take care of you?”
“Okay,” he says obediently. He waits patiently as Darcy lowers the chair and waits for him to hop on, and starts to giggle when she uses the foot pump to raise the chair back up.
“Just want it neatened up?” She directs the question toward Zack’s father.
“Yes, please,” he says, moving over to the waiting area and sitting down.
Darcy works on Zack’s hair in silence. She learned a long time ago that it’s a bad idea to talk to children while they’re getting their hair cut; they’re easily distracted and tend to turn their heads to face the person speaking to them. It doesn’t make for very clean haircuts.
She finishes in less than ten minutes. “Okay, Zack,” she addresses the little boy, “you’re all set. Thank you for being so patient and sitting so still.”
“Thank you, Miss Darcy.” He smiles up at her again and hops down from the chair.
“He’s so polite and well-behaved,” Darcy marvels. “I can’t get over his manners.”
“Thank you,” his father smiles, and Darcy notes that their smiles are also identical.
“No problem.” She looks up at him. “Would you like me to trim yours, too?”
He glances at his watch. “Oh, no, I couldn’t ask you to do that,” he says. “It’s already five of, and your sign says you close at eight.”
“Give or take,” she laughs, waving a hand dismissively. “Besides, you’re already here, and it won’t take me long.”
“Are you sure?” He looks at her uncertainly.
“Of course, Mr…” She trails off, realizing she doesn’t know his name.
“Rogers,” he supplies. “Steve Rogers.”
She grins. “I promise not to make any jokes about Mister Rogers’ neighborhood,” she tells him.
“Trust me, I’ve heard them all,” he grins back, sitting in her chair.
His hair is softer than it looks, Darcy discovers when she goes to run her fingers over it. “So Easter must be a big thing for your family?”
He laughs. “It is for my mom,” he says. “She’s not even really a religious person - none of my family are - but it’s an excuse to get us all in one place for a big dinner.”
“That sounds nice,” Darcy murmurs, pinching lock of hair between her index and middle finger and snipping neatly at it with her shears.
“It is, actually,” Steve agrees. “My family is pretty close-knit, and believe it or not, we enjoy being around one another.”
“That sounds really nice,” she laughs. “I wish my family could get along like that.”
“It isn’t that they don’t,” she starts thoughtfully. “It’s just that we’re not close. We love each other, for sure… but there are no warm and cozy family get-togethers.”
She runs her fingers along his scalp, gently massaging it, and the way he leans into her touch makes her wonder how long it’s been since anyone has done it. “So you and Zack’s mom must be pretty proud parents,” she starts casually. “At least, if this is what his behavior’s like all the time.”
“I’m as proud as can be,” he answers, and she doesn’t have to look at him to know he’s beaming with pride. “I’m sure his mother would be proud of him, too, if she were still alive.”
“Oh, god,” Darcy stammers. “I’m so sorry.”
“It’s okay,” he reassures her. “You wouldn’t have known unless I’d told you.” He pauses, and Darcy uses her palms to tilt his head slightly at an angle. “She died when Zack was a baby. Car accident.”
“I’m sorry,” she says again.
“Pain is a funny thing,” Steve says. “It never really goes away completely, but I’m always amazed at our ability to learn to live with it.”
“It is pretty amazing,” Darcy agrees. “We learn to live with it, and we soften the sharpness of it with other things. Like hope, and love, and kindness.”
His eyes meet hers in the mirror, and he smiles. “I like that. Very wise, very sage.”
She returns his smile. “It’s too bad I’m done with your hair,” she shrugs. “You might be interested in hearing my other sage, wise words.”
“Would you be willing to share?” He asks, turning to face her as she gives him the hand mirror.
Steve nods and stands, reaching into his back pocket. He pulls a few crisp bills out of his wallet, and when he places them in Darcy’s hand, she looks up at him and shakes her head. “This is way too much,” she says solemnly.
Puzzled, he glances at the price list on the wall. “But the price list says—”
“Oh, didn’t you know?” Darcy interjects. “We’re having a special today. Two for the price of one with a condition.”
Steve raises an eyebrow. “A condition?”
“Yes,” Darcy nods. “Last customer in the chair has to agree to call his barber at some point in the next week.”
Slowly, his face breaks out into a grin. “Ah, I see. That’s a good special. But how will I be able to call my barber if I don’t have her number?”
Darcy’s grinning now, too. “I thought you’d never ask.”