Flash Fiction: Nothing Starts With A Smile

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I deserve this. I have worked hard and taken virtually no time off in the last two and a half years, and now I am taking this week and enjoying my time in San Diego and I am not thinking about how badly the office is going to the dogs while I am away.

I am not thinking about it at all.

Or so I keep telling myself.

And in order to keep telling myself this, I am going to force myself to leave this tiny hotel room and pamper myself. I am walking out onto the streets of downtown San Diego, and I am going to find somewhere to spend some money on frivolous things.

But first, I need to get dressed. Throwing on a knee length blue floral skirt and a white flowy tank top, I slide into a pair of comfortable flats and head out of the hotel and up walk up the street. The hum of the city comforts my quiet brain, and I weave through the crowd.

Someone bumps into my shoulder and mutters a weak “sorry…” before continuing onwards, and I just sigh and roll my eyes. Some things stay the same, no matter where you are.

After walking twenty four minutes up the same street, I came across a nice looking beauty salon. Looking inside, there weren’t many clients in there yet, plenty of space for me today. I’ve never had a manicure or a pedicure before, and today is a good day to break that streak.

The young lady at the counter smiled at me when I walked through the door, and I returned it in kind.

“What can I do for you today?”

“Is there someone available for a mani pedi?”

“Of course! Pick your colour and I’ll get one of the girls to set up the booth. Did you want the shellac or regular?”

I turn to the carousel of nail colours, and sift through them as I reply, “Just regular, please.” I pull out a nice bright blue and a deep purple and carry them back to the counter. The girl behind the counter smiles at me, and waves me over to the pedicure chair. I slid off my shoes and put them right next to the chair.

As I sat down and placed my bare feet into the warm water, I hear a giggle from a few seats away from me. The bright blonde curls shook as the girl sitting in the seat laughed, and I felt my cheeks heat up.

Oh no… she’s cute…

“Hey! Relax over there! Is this like, your first time or something?” The smile on her face shone brighter than the sun, and I felt my stomach flutter and coughed slightly.

“Nah, I’m here like every day!” I retorted, and stuck out my tongue. Phew, awkwardness deflected. The fluttering in my stomach hasn’t budged, but at least my cheeks feel like they’re no longer on fire.

Her laugh sounded like a melody, joyous and pleasant, and I felt my own laugh building up inside my throat. The aesthetician was doing her magic on my sore feet, and I felt light-headed from the conversation that came as a surprise.

“No, for real though, it is my first time. I’ve never done anything like this for myself, and I decided today was the day to try it. My name is Serena, what’s yours?”

“I’m Riley, here for a conference, but I like to take time for myself now and then.”

Oh no… she’s independent AND cute…

“Wow, that’s a pretty nice deal you’ve got for yourself! How often do you go on conferences?”

“Usually every few months, I do sales on contract. It’s pretty fun, and pretty low stress. And I also get to have pampering days every few months, so it’s great!”

Twenty minutes of conversation felt like swirling through the oblivion of space, and I lost track of time. By the time the aesthetician was done with my feet and my hands, we both knew about each other’s jobs and what the plan was for the rest of the week.

“We should get together again before you leave to go back to work!” Riley said excitedly, as we were walking out of the beauty salon.

“Are you busy now? Maybe we could go for coffee… if you want?”

The smile on her face was coy, and she nodded emphatically.

“My presentation isn’t until tomorrow, so why not.”

There was a Starbucks less than five minutes away, and we chatted the entire way, mostly about how each of us takes our lattes. Hers was a Grande non-fat chai latte with a shot of hazelnut with whipped cream, which sounded much fancier than what I always get, a Grande caramel macchiato with extra caramel. I offered to order for her, and she nodded, tucking her blonde curls behind her ears.

My cheeks flushed as she looked at me and smiled as she walked into the Starbucks, and I tripped over the threshold. She giggled as she watched me right myself, silently thanking every deity that I didn’t actually fall flat on my face, and I ordered our drinks and paid.

There were almost no other patrons in the shop, and we sat by the window across from one another.

“Maybe we can go for dinner later too, I hear the restaurant in my hotel has a really nice cabernet sauvignon and I managed to score a free voucher for two dinners and a bottle of wine from my employer. Dinner can be on me?” Riley’s bright brown eyes flashed at me with the question.

My heart stopped. Time stopped. I swallowed thickly, and time started again.

“Okay.”

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