Holly couldn’t stifle her delight as she walked up to the nail salon after hours. Excited though she was, she remembered the sting of frustration from earlier that day. All she’d wanted was a basic manicure, but when she walked in, she found the salon full to bursting and the staff run ragged.
“I’m sorry,” said Maggie, the girl behind the counter. “We’re booked solid. I just can’t fit you in.”
“Can’t you, though?” Holly had begged. “I mean, look at these nails.” She’d held up her hand. “I really need them done by tomorrow.
Maggie fell silent. Her eyes shifted from Holly’s nails to her face and back again. “I’ll tell you what,” she said. “We’ll make it up to you. Why don’t you come back, say, an hour after we close? No one will be here, and I’ll do your nails personally. It will be relaxed, laid back.”
Holly remembered the relief she felt as she gladly accepted Maggie’s offer. Now, at eight o’clock, there was Maggie standing behind the counter, waiting. Holly tapped lightly on the large glass window and waved. Maggie waved back and smiled prettily.
“Hi,” Holly said as she came through the shop door. “Thanks so much for doing this!”
“No problem!” said Maggie. “You were the only customer we had to turn away, unfortunately, so I’m glad we could make it up to you.”
“Where should I sit?” Holly asked, slipping out of her coat.
“Why don’t we go around to the back?” Molly asked. “I have to close up the front of the shop anyway so no one thinks we’re open.”
“Sounds reasonable,” said Holly, feeling more and more like a VIP. “Lead the way.”
The back room was small, but not uncomfortable. A chic little manicure table was set up in one corner opposite a door which Holly assumed led to some kind of rest room. “This is where the private appointments get their work done,” Maggie said as she ushered Holly inside.
“Private appointments?” Holly asked. “I had no idea you even did those.”
Maggie grinned. “I know. Most people don’t.”
“Hence private, right?” Holly joked.
Maggie giggled. “Exactly. Have a seat, won’t you?”
Holly didn’t need to be asked twice. Maggie sat across from her, drew a nail file from its place and set to work on Holly’s cuticles.
“So, tell me,” Maggie began, “anything fun going on tomorrow? You said you needed your nails done by then.”
“Oh.” Holly felt her cheeks warm. “Well, you see, there’s this new guy I’ve been dating for about a month or so. I’m seeing him again tomorrow.”
“I see,” said Maggie. “Can’t say I’m surprised, a pretty little thing like you. What’s he like?”
“He’s amazing,” Holly gushed. “Honestly, he’s everything I ever wanted in a man. He’s tall, with almost icy green eyes, and just a touch of bad boy stubble.”
“Ooh,” said Maggie. “I love bad boys, too. What’s his name?”
“Tom,” Holly answered, lingering over the word as if it were music to her ears.
“Nice,” Maggie said as she continued her work. “I know it’s only been a month, but are you guys exclusive yet?”
Holly hesitated. “Well, no. Not yet. I guess he’s a bit reluctant at the moment.”
“Oh?” Maggie inquired, lifting her eyes to meet Holly’s. “And why’s that?”
“Well,” Holly began. She leaned close, as if to keep the secret from traveling. “I guess his last girlfriend was a real piece of work. He’s told me stories.”
“What kinds of stories?” Maggie asked, leaning in as well.
“Don’t tell anyone this,” Holly began, “but I guess she was extremely jealous. He couldn’t even talk to another woman. And she had a violent streak.”
“You don’t say,” Maggie interjected. “Go on.”
“Well, from what he says, I guess she would threaten him.”
“Threaten him?” Maggie lifted her eyebrows.
“Yeah,” Holly answered. “Like ‘if I can’t have you, no one will.’ That kind of stuff.”
“Wow,” Maggie said, leaning back in her chair. “She sounds like a real monster.”
“Absolutely,” Holly nodded emphatically.
“You know what?” Maggie said. “I’ll bet she’s ugly, too.”
Holly laughed. “Right. Absolutely hideous!”
Maggie laughed with her, and for a moment that was all the pair could do. When the laughter finally subsided, Maggie set back to work. “So tell me,” she began again, “what do you think of the little mole he has on his ass.”
Holly choked. “I’m sorry?”
Maggie looked up. “Or have you not seen it yet?” she asked. “Now that would be a surprise. He jumped into bed with me after the second date.”
“What… what are you….?” Holly pulled her hand away and shrunk in her seat.
Maggie laughed. A low chuckle built into a mad cackle. Holly began to tremble. She felt the sweat begin to bead on her forehead. “I… I think I….” She fumbled for her words as she rose from the chair.
The room’s second door swung open. Holly turned instinctively. A pair of women darted toward her. She recognized them as the others who had been working there earlier that day. Their vicious expressions chilled her. Before she could fight back, they seized her and forced her back into the chair. Each woman took a side, holding Holly fast in place.
“What is going on?” Holly demanded through trickling tears and panting breaths.
Maggie looked down at her from across the table. She seemed to be studying her face. “Interesting,” she said. “You’re not Tom’s usual type. I didn’t think he liked… sweet girls.” The words came out as would a mouthful of rotten meat into a napkin.
“Please let me go!” Holly begged. “Please!”
Maggie chuckled once again. “I’m afraid I can’t,” she said. “You haven’t paid yet.”
“Paid?” Holly knitted her brow in puzzlement. Her words came fast and desperate. “Of course I’ll pay you. Anything. Just name your---”
“Oh, shut up!” Maggie snapped. “I don’t want your damn money!” She opened a drawer and produced a small box. “I have something different in mind.”
The lid came off the box easily. Maggie tipped it forward to show Holly the contents. Holly stammered, “What… what are---?”
“Do you see why I can’t let you leave yet, Holly?” Maggie asked, as she took one of the fine sewing needles from the box. It glinted in the light as she waved it back and forth. “We’re not done with your nails yet!”
Written by Jdeschene