The Bribe ~ Short Story

Since it’s a new year, it’s time for a new story. I toyed around with this idea for a story for quite some time, and I didn’t originally intend to share it on my blog. But I thought better of that, and since I haven’t posted one in over a year and a half, and decided that I would post this one. I hope you enjoy it!

All of the events in this story are solely based on the author’s imagination, and any resemblance to any persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

The Bribe

I’m Ashlyn. I was fresh out of beauty school, and was happily working at a hair salon for two weeks. I only had one repeating client at the time, but I had no idea how she would be a part of my life beyond the salon.

It was Monday, and I had a long day of work ahead. I enjoyed working at this salon, but the hours were long for me. To make things worse, Jenna walked in, my repeat client. She was a senior at her college, and she would be graduating that weekend. She chose an ombre hair dye in her school color – blue. I liked dying people’s hair, and quickly started preparing her already destroyed ends for the color. I noticed the bad state of her hair, and suggested a deep conditioning treatment to hopefully repair some of the damage, and also suggested to skip the dye. That was no use, however, as she knew what she wanted, and nothing else. I was really worried about it not turning out, but, one of the rules of hairstyling is to do what the client wants. So, in the end, since I couldn’t convince her, I had to do as she wished. I applied the blue dye to her fragile hair, and waited the proper amount of time. Jenna was looking at a magazine as I came over to wash her hair.

“I just hope it turns out well, Miss Ashlyn Jacobs,” she said, with a bit of a “tone.” I smiled, and said I was sure it would. I put on gloves, and reached for her hair. The moment I touched it – oh, horror – the bottom third of her hair fell completely off. I stared tragically at the mess around me, and she quickly demanded what had happened.

“The dye just – just – was too much for your hair,” I said.

“What have you done now?”

I couldn’t avoid it. “The bottom third of your hair – fell off!”

“What?” she screamed at me. “You’ve ruined my hair!”

I couldn’t help a tear that ran down my face – it was true – I’d ruined her hair! And now what could I do with a horribly upset client, a mess of hair, and shaking hands?

She cried. I cried. We were both upset. And my employer, the owner of the salon, Michelle, came out to see what the ruckus was. I tried to calmly explain my predicament to her, though my voice was quivering. She looked for a moment at the mess, and told me that the first thing to be done was to wash the rest of her hair. I did, but not without Jenna’s endless barrage of complaints and accusations. I finished and blow dried her hair as per Michelle’s instructions. Then I told Jenna that I could cut her hair into a really cute and attractive style if she’d let me, and no one would know the damage that had been done. She stood up, snatched her purse, threw a deadly glance at me, and, without paying, stormed out of the salon.

“I’ll never let you do my hair again,” she shouted over her shoulder.

I sunk into a chair, and put my head it my hands. The beginning of my third week didn’t start very well. Thankfully for me, though, no other clients were in the salon at that time. I slowly swept up the hair that lay on the floor, and cleaned up my space. I sighed more than once during the process. I had two walk-ins that day, and did my best to be as cheerful as I could. I was so glad they didn’t know what I’d done a few hours before. Michelle told me that if I let something like that happen again, she’d have to let me go – not because I was bad at it, she said, but it would make a bad name for the salon.

The next day, I tried to refresh my bright outlook on life. I wondered, though, how Jenna’s hair was going to turn out for her graduation. It was only two days away. I looked at my calendar – I didn’t have anyone scheduled to come in today, so I mostly just hung around, sweeping hair, and cleaning tools. I had just put some money in the cash register when someone came up and leaned his elbows on the counter with an amused expression.

“Can I help you?” I said, surprised to see someone watching me.

“Yes,” he said, “I’d like a haircut.”

“Oh,” I replied, “what’s your name?”

“Kyle.”

I cataloged him in the computer, and then asked him to follow me to the chair. I flung a cape around his shoulders, and while I was snapping the back of it, I asked him what he’d like done. He said he’d like a trim, and the tips of his dark brown hair bleached. I gulped, and nodded in assent. After much talking while I was cutting, I found out that he was also graduating that weekend, and at the same college as Jenna. Of course, I thought, he wouldn’t know her, and so I didn’t ask. Once it came to bleaching his hair, though, I hesitated.

“You wanted just the tips bleached, right?” I asked, standing up the tips of his hair to make sure I knew what I was doing this time.

He nodded. “Yep.”

I mixed up the solution, and applied it to his hair with foils. Again, I waited the allotted time, watching the clock with great vigilance. Once it had sat on his hair long enough, I took off the foils, and to my relief, his hair didn’t fall off. I washed it, and then spiked up the top as was his request.

“Is that all you wanted?” I asked.

He looked at it for a moment in approval. “Yes – it looks just like what I wanted,” he said.

Following me back to the counter, he pulled out his wallet. “How much?” he asked.

I calculated for a moment – cut and color, so, “it will be 30 dollars.” I looked at him as if to make sure that the amount wasn’t too much. He didn’t make any expression other than the one he’d been wearing the whole time – an “I know something you don’t” kind of smile. Or a “know-it-all” kind of smirk – I couldn’t tell at the time, though it grew very clear later. He handed me the money, and was about to leave as he saw me putting it into the register, but paused. I tried not to notice him, and began carefully studying the calendar again – not like I didn’t already know what was on it, but still – then he walked back up to me.

“This,” he said, handing me a ten dollar bill, “is for you.”

I stared for a moment in disbelief. “Really?”

“Yes!” he said, smiling at my evident pleasure, “you did a fantastic job, and should be rewarded. See you next time,” he said, casually walking away.

I was grateful for the extra money, but as for the “see you next time” – I said to myself “yeah, right. Like that’s gonna happen.”

Three weeks later, when I was working on another client I ran to the counter to grab something, and I saw Kyle standing there, spinning his keys.

“Hey Ashlyn,” he said.

“I’ll get someone to help you in a moment,” I said cheerily, my hands full of combs and scissors.

“Aren’t you available?” he asked, a little disturbed.

“No, I’m working on someone right now. I won’t be done for probably twenty minutes. Let me see if Michelle is open. I’ll be back.”

I came back, and he was patiently waiting for me. “I’m sorry, Mr. Anderson, but –“

“You can call me Kyle,” he chuckled.

“Oh,” I said, turning red, “Michelle isn’t ready yet either. It will be at least fifteen minutes. Everyone is busy right now.”

“No prob,” he said taking a seat in one of the chairs in the waiting area.

I carefully finished cutting my client’s hair, and went back with her to the counter. She paid me, and gave me a fifteen dollar tip. I was the first stylist who was open to take on Kyle, so I did.

“Kyle? I’m ready for you,” I said, walking up to him.

“Great,” he said, putting his iPhone in his pocket and following me to the chair. He told me he just wanted a trim again, and to re-bleach his ends.

I made polite conversation, and asked him how his graduation went.

“It went pretty cool,” he said, “but there’s this girl named Jenna.” I tried not to look surprised, but my heart skipped. “And she had her hair done way different. It looked pretty good, but I’m so curious as to what happened. She wouldn’t tell me – she said some disaster.”

I tried to act casual. “What did it look like?” I asked.

“Well,” he said, “it wasn’t anything strange, but she’d said she wanted to dye part of her hair in the college color – blue – and then she showed up with shoulder-length hair and no blue,” he said, carefully watching my expression.

I tried to look shocked. “Oh, dear, that’s unfortunate,” I said, maintaining a pretty believable surprised but not overdone expression.

I finished with his hair, and again he followed me to the counter, and quickly produced fifty dollars.

“Oh,” I said, looking at the wad of cash he tried to give me, “it’s only thirty dollars for the cut and color.”

“I know that,” he said, with his signature smile, “keep the rest as a tip.”

I was stunned, and made my gratitude evident by thanking him more than once. He waved his hand as if to stop me, and so I pocketed the extra cash.

Since the mistake with Jenna’s hair, things went pretty well – it was summer, school was out, and I was busier than ever. Kyle kept coming around, and every time I’d have to do his hair, which I didn’t mind. Strangely, though, he’d only let me do it, but it made sense to me later.

In the next week, I had another client who came in with gorgeous long hair, and she wanted to dye it black. Black wasn’t a bad color on her, so I was glad – though I enjoyed dying hair, I was tired of doing blue, green, and purple, and I was glad for the change. Her name was Emily, and she was 22. She and I got along pretty well on a professional level, and I quickly began putting the dye on her hair. As I washed it out, she asked me a very strange question.

“Do dyes burn your hair?”

“No,” I said, “unless your hair is already too damaged, or if it’s left on too long.”

“Did you leave it on too long?” she said, a little panic in her voice.

“No, not at all – rest assured,” I said, and smiled.

Once I washed the dye out, her hair was a sleek black and she said she liked the color – but it looked flat. That often happens with dye, and I said I could put some highlights and lowlights in her hair to make it more “real.” She agreed to have it done, but I suggested waiting a few days to let her hair get used to the dye. She didn’t want to wait, as she had an event the next day. So, I began putting the foils in her hair. The highlights and lowlights gave a better dimension to her hair, but she said that wasn’t enough. Now she wanted a purple ombre.

“So here we go with purple again,” I thought to myself.

Again, I told her she should wait, and after talking through it for a while, she agreed to come the next week. This whole process took me over an hour – and then I heard Kyle call me from across the salon. I looked and – horror again – I’d left him the entire time with the foils on his hair! What was wrong with my brain? I bolted over to him, and tore the foils off. I’d done it again, only this time, it was my fault – the tips of his hair broke off. I literally started crying as I tried to wash the rest of it off his hair. I finished and dried his hair. Of course, he already knew what had happened – it’s not like I could or should hide it.

“What’s so wrong?” he asked, quite calm at the whole affair.

“I’ve ruined your hair too!”

“Too?”

I gasped.

“It’s not all that bad,” he said, “my hair is already short, and taking the tips off isn’t a big deal. It seems like I’m taking it better than you,” he laughed.

Michelle just so happened to walk right by at that moment, and she demanded what happened this time.

“Michelle,” I choked, “I’ve ruined Kyle’s hair too! Look at it!”

She looked at me for a moment as if to say, “I’ll talk to you about this later,” and I got to work – trimming the unevenly broken ends. I finished, and almost begged him not to tip me. He paid the right amount of money, but didn’t leave for some time. He looked like he was looking at hair gel to purchase, but I wasn’t so sure.

Michelle told me very clearly I was not allowed to work here anymore, so I took my last paycheck and cleaned out my spot at the salon. I knew this should happen – I thought I was too feather-brained to do any sort of work like this, and I’d been proven right. I loaded everything in a large bag, collected my tip money in my pocket – obviously from earlier that day – and made my way out of the salon once and for all. I began immediately thinking how awful this would look on my record, and how I’d ever be able to get a job after this. As I was walking out for the last time from the salon, Kyle just “happened” to be leaving at the same time, and “didn’t notice” me walking out right then and got in front of me. He opened the door to leave, and just then suddenly realized I was behind him.

I thanked him as he held the door open for me, and briskly walked past. He caught up to me.

“Where you going?” he asked.

“To get lunch,” I said, adding a “Mr. Nosy” at the end in my head. Thankfully, it didn’t escape my lips. I was not in the mood to do any talking – especially to him. I didn’t want to tell him that I’d been fired – err – laid off. Why should I? He didn’t need to know everything.

“See you next time,” he said, as usual.

“No, I’m afraid you won’t,” I muttered.

He turned back at me with a surprised expression. “What?”

“I’m not going to work at this salon anymore,” I announced, as if it had been my decision.

“I thought you liked it here!”

“I used to – now I don’t.”

“Don’t think that messing up my hair should make you leave – it’s no big deal. Really. I know it’s just a mistake.”

“Not everyone thinks that way, though, and I’m not ever going to work here again,” I finished, making a bolt for my car.

That was the last time I saw him at my salon – ah, things weren’t going so well after all. I did go to get lunch, and ate it in silence. I puttered back to my apartment, and climbed the stairs to my room. Now what was I going to do? Start applying at other salons? No, that wouldn’t be a good idea – I’d just been fired, so who would want me? It was then that I thought I should go into a different branch of work entirely; I enjoyed talking to people, so the next day I applied for a job at a restaurant. I applied at several ones, but no one wanted me. Then, my last ditch effort – it was crazy, I knew – I applied at one very expensive-looking salon that had a “now hiring” sign out front. I landed the job on the spot. I almost jumped for joy; I could work at what I loved most again! And this time, I kept a very close eye on anyone I was coloring.

That next year didn’t go so well, despite the new job. The salon went bankrupt which left me out of work again. It seemed like no matter what I did, there was always something pushing me back. After seeing my résumé, my last salon efforts turned many businesses away. Since I was out of a job that meant no income, which meant that I couldn’t pay for my apartment. And that meant I would soon be out of a place to stay. I wasn’t about to go ask my parents if they’d let me stay with them – as soon as I had become a Christian and finished school, I was out of their house for good. They seemed to want nothing to do with me. As if that already wasn’t enough, my car broke down on the way to the grocery store, and that was yet another cost with money I didn’t really have. And to top it all off, one day I got a very strange phone call.

I picked it up. “Hello? This is Ashlyn. How can I help you?” I said, trying hard not to sound depressed.

There was a slight pause at first from the person on the other end. I waited.

“I want to talk to you, if you have a minute,” she said, her voice a little bit unsure.

“I have plenty of time right now – but who are you?” I asked. Her voice sounded a little familiar, but I couldn’t place it.

“I’d like to talk to you in person,” she began, “and I really called to ask you if you’d come to dinner with me next Saturday,” she said, almost as if the idea had just dawned on her.

“Who are you?”

She didn’t say who she was, but said I’d probably know her once I saw her. She named the restaurant we were to meet at, and she made it very clear that it was her treat. After talking with her for a while, I finally agreed to come. It was risky, I knew, but somehow I had a very strange feeling that I should. The day rolled around, and I almost didn’t go – but I had to keep my promise, and with bated breath, I went. The restaurant was a very fancy one, and I walked in with wide eyes. I looked around to see who it was I was supposed to meet there, and a waiter came up to me.

“Can I help you, ma’am?” he asked.

“No, thank you – I’m supposed to meet someone here and she should be coming soon,” I smiled.

He nodded, and said “not at all,” and left. I stood by myself in the entry of the restaurant. Then someone tapped me on the shoulder.

“Ashlyn?” she said, in a shy, yet kind voice.

I whipped my head around to see who it was, and to my utter surprise there she stood right in front of me – Jenna.

For a moment neither of us said anything, and then Jenna smiled an apologetic smile, and said, “Yes, it’s me – will you come to my table?”

I agreed and followed her to the table. I looked and – no! it couldn’t be – there sat Kyle as well. I wanted to turn and run away at that moment, but I remembered my promise, and I wasn’t going to break it. I sat down on the opposite side from Kyle and Jenna so I could talk to them, and they to me. Before we got into any conversation, a waiter thankfully arrived, and we all ordered something to eat and drink. Once our meals were served no one took a bite for a moment, and I wasn’t about to be the first one to. This was all very strange to me.

Jenna was the first to speak up. “Ashlyn, I need to confess,” she said, turning for a moment at Kyle, who nodded for her to go on. “That day I insisted on wrecking my hair, when you told me not to, I got very mad, as you know.”

I nodded to myself in my thoughts, but not so anyone could see.

“The next day I told Kyle about the ordeal, and asked him to – maybe I should say bribed him to – somehow make you lose your job and try to make life miserable for you.” She slowly looked at her napkin, and shook her head.

I gasped, and looked at Kyle. Jenna continued.

“So for the next few months I kept tabs on him and you, making sure he had a way to catch you – I heard what Michelle had said that day; if something like that happened again, whether it was your fault or not, she’d have to fire you. So because Kyle and I had been friends for a while, it was easy to make Kyle bleach his hair to hopefully get you in trouble. My plan worked – you got fired.”

I looked at the plate of food in front of me for a moment.

“I was happy for a time – it was almost rewarding to want to ruin someone’s life in revenge, but once it had happened, and you moved along without complaining, so I was told, it wasn’t so fun to me anymore. I ended up feeling miserable, and rightly so. I should never have done those things –“

“I shouldn’t have been so forgetful about Kyle’s hair, though,” I said. “I do have a dreadful habit of forgetting things.”

“No, no, that’s not the problem,” countered Jenna, “I was the evil mastermind behind all this – you had nothing to do with it. My selfish and sinful plans are what the problem is. And Kyle was just my pawn – he never would have dreamed of doing something like this, I’m certain.”

“Ah, wait, wait, wait,” said Kyle, interrupting Jenna and speaking for the first time. “I am partly to blame too. I agreed to be bribed to do this, so it’s also my fault.”

What was I to say? That I forgave them? How could I? They had both contrived to wreck my life, and had done a pretty good job at it. Then I remembered how all my sins had put Christ on the cross, and that his death was man’s fault – and that meant I was a part of it. If he could forgive me, as he had done, couldn’t I forgive these people for such a small offence compared to the ones I’d done to Jesus?

Jenna spoke again before I could say a word. “I’ve gotten right with God, and I need to get right with you,” she said, looking at me.

“Me too,” said Kyle. “Jenna told me about God, Jesus, and Christianity two months ago – after she’d become a believer. I gave it good thought and consideration, and even started reading the Bible. We are both children of God now, Ashlyn, as I know you are. You were the first person to talk to me about that,” he said, also looking at me.

“But I never said a word about it to you, Kyle,” I said, quite surprised.

“You didn’t have to. I knew from your actions,” Kyle very matter-of-factly replied.

“We – I,” said Jenna, “want to ask your forgiveness.”

I paused as if to make sure that their penitence was real. That was not needed, nor should be looked for, but I did. I smiled.

“You have it – I forgive you; both of you,” I said, my voice full of emotion. How could two people who’d tried so hard to make life hard for me now be coming to repent? It was only the work of Christ in them that made the difference. I was glad for them both – and if their relationship with Jesus was real, I hoped to turn my enemies into friends. No anger was left in my heart any longer.

“Thank you, very, very much, Ashlyn,” said Jenna earnestly, “I could not live with a free conscience without it.”

Kyle pulled an envelope from his pocket, and pushed it over to me. I looked at him with a questioning look, and then tore it open. I gasped. Inside was a check written for two hundred thousand dollars – addressed to me – from Kyle.

“Please, don’t. I forgave you – I don’t want this,” I said, trying to give it back to him. He refused it.

“It’s yours – the money I earned from my portion of Jenna’s plan. It’s rightfully yours.”

Jenna nodded enthusiastically. “Please – keep it,” she said.

I wanted to cry all over again. This was an answer to my financial needs, and from the very person I least expected it. I thanked them both over and over, and carefully put it in my purse.

We ate our dinner without any interruptions and had a very pleasant time. All the wrongs had been righted, and we were finally on good terms. Just before we were about to leave, Jenna ran up to me again.

“Ashlyn, I have a party to go to this Saturday – are you available to color my hair?”

“If you’re willing to risk another haircut,” I laughed.

She laughed too. “I’m sure it would be the best cut I will ever have, should that happen. I’m not worried, you’ll do great.”

I went to her house and colored her hair from a store-bought kit – without any mistakes, this time. Jenna, Kyle and I became very close friends, and both Kyle and Jenna were in my wedding a year later. Jenna was my Maid of Honor.

~Ashlyn Anderson

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

♥Amara

All of the events in this story are solely based on the author’s imagination, and any resemblance to any persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

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