She came back for three days, but there was never an answer when she pressed the buzzer, although she could vaguely hear it ringing somewhere inside the plain cement building. Perhaps the information Eduardo had was mistaken or too old to be of use, perhaps Lita had never been at this address or had left already or … Isabel’s mind churned with more frightening possibilities … perhaps she couldn’t come to the door, she was incapacitated in some way, being held against her will, she had been drugged or worse. And then there was the name on the buzzer. So strange – Factory Deliveries. She didn’t know what to make of it. At this point the thoughts became unbearable and Isabel considered going to the police.
After one more try she got back into the car and, sighing, sank back against the seat.
“Jchyoo have no luck today, eh?” the driver offered. He had taken her every day, waiting patiently while she stood out in the cold, watching the building, ringing the buzzer, looking up at the large windows so smudgy with years of accumulated dirt that it would have been impossible to see anything inside even if someone had been standing right in front of one of them.
“I don’t know,” said Isabel, “but I think it is not going to be better. Maybe you will take me to this place?”
She handed him a slip of paper and soon they were pulling up in front of a small store on Seventh Avenue in the Park Slope section of Brooklyn.
From inside, Raymond and his friend saw the car arrive and with a flourish they swung open the door for her.
“Finally,” Raymond said to her as he shut the door behind her, “we thought you would never get here. Look what Christopher has arranged for you. Oh, excuse, please, Christopher this is Isabel all the way from Mexico. Isabel, Christopher. There that’s done. Come come,” he waved her toward the back of the store where a rack of clothes had been prepared.
They fussed and pawed over her, holding her hair different ways, trying skirts and blouses on her. She allowed them to dress her up like a doll and finally, when they were happy with how she looked, they stepped back and took her to a three-way mirror.
“Oh,” she said. “I look like a magazine. I mean like I should be in a magazine.”
“And well you should,” Christopher said. “You are gorgeous. I can’t wait until the opening. When is it again? Monday?”
“No, Tuesday,” said Raymond. “Gawd, don’t come the wrong night.”
Christopher shot him an exaggerated look and turned back to Isabel.
“Now the hair,” he said. “Come to the back. I have a setup near the sink. What do you think of highlights? I’d like to see you with some red,” he ran his fingers along the bottom of her long hair, holding some strands up to the light. “and we can leave it longish, but some of this has to go. It’s much too heavy. And then all that wonderful wave will come through.”
He followed her, holding the ends of her hair, then sat her in a chair facing a standing mirror he had brought out from one of the dressing rooms, draped her with a plastic poncho and went over to a table where he had set up bottles, mixing bowls, hair brushes, combs, scissors, blow dryer, towels – everything neatly arranged in rows as if for inspection.
When he turned to start, Isabel looked into the mirror and started to cry.
“It’s not as bad as all that,” said Raymond to Isabel’s reflection in the mirror. “I assure you, Christopher is very good.”
“It’s not that,” said Isabel. And the whole story came tumbling out, while Christopher layered her hair with foils and brushed in the highlights and Raymond leaned against the dressing room door frame, arms folded, just listening.