CHAPTER FIVE HUNDRED and FORTY-EIGHT
Monday evening — 5:35 p.m.
Sandy touched Charlie’s arm before walking toward the back of the shop. Charlie and Tink were Sandy’s last clients before heading home. She usually didn’t work on Mondays, but they’d been gone all last week. Plus, she’d wanted to get Charlie cleaned up to celebrate his new, braces free life. She left the teenagers alone while Tink’s deep conditioner worked and Charlie’s highlights were processing.
“What do you think?” Charlie asked Tink, who was sitting in the chair next to him.
“About?” Tink asked, looking up from The Great Gatsby, a book she was reading for their literature class.
“How is that?” Charlie asked, gesturing to the book.
“Oh, the book?” Tink asked. “It’s okay. I don’t like him very much. He’s kind of … I don’t know, a jerk, I guess. They live this addict life. They make it seem so glamorous, but then they suffer the downfall of their addiction.”
“Like everybody,” Charlie said.
“Everyone,” Tink said.
“Everyone,” Charlie said with a nod. “Thanks.”
Tink grinned, and Charlie smiled.
“I don’t like the way he treats his girlfriend or wife or whatever she was,” Tink said.
“Well, I get it after you,” Charlie said.
“We can talk about it when you’re done,” Tink said.
Charlie grinned at her, and she laughed. They both remembered all too well, how, not so long ago, Charlie couldn’t read and Tink was too overwhelmed to bother. Tink went back to her book and Charlie fell silent.
“No,” Charlie said after a moment.
Tink looked up at him.
“I meant, what do you think about my braces?” Charlie asked.
He gave her a broad smile. The teeth that hadn’t been broken were straightened and what was broken had been capped. Now, he had a straight, gleaming smile.
“I think you are very handsome,” Tink said. “Too good for the likes of me.”
She looked back down to read.
“Don’t say that,” Charlie said.
“Say what?” Tink asked, looking up from the book.
“That I’m too good for you,” Charlie said. “You’re amazing. I want to spend my entire life trying to be good enough for you.”
“I don’t know what we’re going to be, you and me, when we get older, but I know that I will always love you,” Charlie said. “I will always be your friend, even when you’re a rich and famous whatever you end up being. I will still be working to be good enough for you.”
Tink’s eyes filled with tears.
“Thanks,” Tink said, mildly. “You’re amazing too.”
Charlie smiled at her.
“And very handsome?” Charlie asked.
“And very handsome,” Tink said with a grin. “Even with all that foil in your head.”
“Come on, Charlie,” Sandy said, coming out from the back. “I’ll wash you out now.”
Charlie got up, kissed Tink’s cheek, and went to the back where Sandy’s washing bowls were located. Tink looked at herself in the mirror for a moment.
Life was sure different than it was just a few years ago. She smiled at her reflection and saw her new braces. Her fingers touched the metal with near religious reverence. Shaking her head at herself, she went back to her book.
Denver Cereal continues tomorrow…
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