What I’m Writing
Jack and Diane are back. They caught my interest in my last story. This week I’m following them on their second date. Will it work for them? No guarantees.
See my post for the first Jack and Diane story, Death by Millstone, here.
The Second Date
Jack Marin stepped into the hair salon. A young man greeted him from the reception counter.
“Who are you here to see?”
Jack glanced around, taking in the slick ambience of the salon. “I’m meeting a client of Krystal. Her name is—“
The receptionist grabbed a microphone. “Krystal, someone to see you.” He turned away to take a phone call.
Jack stood a moment till he realized he had been dismissed. He sat in a beige faux leather chair. In a room directly ahead of him a stylist dressed in black was blow-drying a client’s hair. The two chatted freely as she worked.
“You must be Jack. I’m Krystal.”
A woman in a black apron waved him over. “We’re back here.”
Jack followed her around a corner to find Diane Somers sitting in a salon chair, draped in a black apron. Diane pulled an arm out from under the apron, waved, smiled at Jack in the mirror without turning.
“Sit here.” Krystal pointed to the empty chair in the next station.
“Jack, this is Krystal,” Diane said. “My stylist and friend for more than ten years.”
“Welcome, Jack.” Krystal picked up scissors and a comb.
Jack nodded. Talking to Diane and Krystal in the mirror made Jack uncomfortable.
“Thanks for meeting me here,” Diane said. “I’ve been running late all morning.”
Jack nodded to the mirror.
“So,” Krystal said, “I hear you guys just met last week.”
“We did,” Jack said. “At the beach.”
“Good beach weather,” Krystal said. “Almost too warm for this time of year.”
“Thanks to our fucked up climate,” Jack said.
“Tell me about it,” Krystal said. “My kids are so into climate change projects at school.”
“Krystal’s kids are adorable,” Diane said.
“Do you have kids, Jack?” Krystal asked.
“Two. Both back east, one in New York, the other Rhode Island.”
“Get to see them often?”
“Not enough. Damn pandemic. I haven’t seen them in almost two years.”
“I didn’t know you had kids,” Diane said.
Jack smiled. “Our first meetup kinda went down the toilet, huh?”
“No, no. I’m glad you had a chance to talk.”
“What about you, Diane. Kids?”
“One. A daughter here in LA. She’s an event planner, works mostly with a private high school.”
“Cool. She’s close.”
Diane shrugged. “I haven’t seen her since my husband died three years ago.”
Krystal had been listening intently. She returned to cutting and shaping Diane’s hair. She tipped Diane’s head forward to get at the back of her neck.
“My wife has been gone two years next month,” Jack said.
“You’ve both been through a lot, huh?” Krystal said.
“I still miss her like crazy,” Jack said. “The only comfort I have is knowing she’s in a better place.”
Krystal smiled. “She’s at peace.”
Jack laughed. “Funny. I believe in an afterlife. I know our spirits live on somehow. But I’m in no rush to get there myself.”
“It’s not your time yet,” Krystal said.
Forever, with nothing to do.
“It’s not that. I’m a doer,” Jack said. “I have trouble being idle. When I think of being in heaven, or in some spirit world, I shudder. It must be so boring. Sitting around feeling joyful. The joyful part is okay. It’s the sitting around. For eternity. Forever, with nothing to do.”
Diane peered at Jack in the mirror. “I think it would be wonderful.”
“Not so much for me.”
Krystal set her scissors on the counter. “Let me tell you a story.”
Jack turned to face Krystal, trying to keep one eye on Diane in the mirror.
“I went to a medium last year. We talked about this.”
Jack squinted at the thought of a medium.
“I felt something like you do, Jack. She told me the spirits aren’t just sitting around.”
“She said they keep growing and learning.”
Jack leaned closer.
“The medium believes we go through a transition when we first die. We have to learn how to be in the new spirit world. In heaven. It takes some adjusting.”
“Do they join up with all the people who have died ahead of them?” Jack asked.
“Oh sure. They interact, learning from one another. Experiencing how they all were good, how they made mistakes, what they learned from that.”
“That’s fascinating,” Jack said. “So my wife is still growing…”
“Oh yeah. The medium even believes we all come back to live multiple lives. But we don’t remember our previous lives. Each one is fresh. We keep growing. Keep trying to get it better.”
Jack stared at his own reflection in the mirror. He murmured, “We keep growing.”
Diane looked at Jack, then caught Krystal’s eye in the mirror. Krystal winked.
“Jack, that means something to you.” Diane smiled.
Jack shrugged. “I think so. I need to think about this.” He turned to Krystal. “Your medium says we never stop growing, right?”
“That’s cool. It makes sense. Why has no one ever said this before?”
Diane opened her mouth to speak. Jack cut her off. “This is why I gave up on religion.”
The conversation died for a few moments while Krystal blew-dried Diane’s hair. Jack stared at the mirror.
A half hour later Jack and Diane sat over hot drinks in a nearby coffee shop.
“Krystal is amazing,” Jack said. “You’re lucky to have her as a friend.”
“She has helped me almost more than my therapist. Since my husband died.”
“I can’t stop thinking about what she said…about her medium. That’s life-changing. I mean, I never thought of the next life as a time of growing. Really cool.”
Diane sipped her coffee. “Were you and your wife close?”
“Oh yeah,” Jack said. “My best friend.”
“My husband and I were the same,” Diane said.
“Have you talked to a counselor since your wife died?” Diane asked.
“You mean, a therapist? Nah. No need. I’m dealing okay.”
Diane stared at her cup. “Are you?”
She looked at Jack. “I said, are you? Are you dealing okay?”
“Yeah. It gets better as I move along.”
She looked into his eyes.
“What is this, a therapy session?” He leaned back in his chair.
“No, but I wonder if that’s what you need.”
“You hardly know me. This is only our second date. What are you talking about?”
“You told me I was a good listener.”
“Do you even listen at all?”
Jack ran his hands through his hair.
Diane pointed to his gesture. “You just watched me get my hair done. You have not said anything about how it looks.”
“It looks good.”
“Thanks. Too late.”
Jack shook his head in confusion.
“The day at the beach you gushed on about yourself. I listened. You never noticed that I dodged talking about what bothers me.”
Jack shook his head again.
“And just now you were up to your eyeballs talking to Krystal about your wife. You never asked me if I wanted to talk about my daughter. About our estrangement.”
“Sorry. I didn’t realize.”
“That’s my point.” Diane shook her head. “When we were just leaving the salon, Krystal whispered to me, “That man would melt the polish off your toenails.”
“She thought you were hot. Me, I feel like this will be too hard to make it work.”
Diane stood. “Thanks, Jack.”
Diane picked up her coffee cup and headed for the door.
Jack stared after her.