ALL THAT GLITTERS WAS NOT GOLD. Heavy glass doors framed in black metal with gold trim, 220 Rodeo Drive next door to Tiffany's–elegant, yet simple. Inside, a grand white marble staircase led to a private, hidden second floor. To the left, a simple, modern glass desk with a clean, almost sterile waiting area. Two stylish leather chairs and a small glass and chrome table. Only two select fashion magazines, both with André's photograph on the front cover, were discriminatively placed on the table. No one appears to have touched them; they were pristine, they were vanity, nothing more. No one would dare mar their edges; rifling for perfume samples or photos of the latest hairstyles. This was André's Salon after all. People came here from all over the world to be assessed by the master stylist himself, he alone would know which style suited them. Celebrity or Hollywood housewife, no one would dare present André with a proposed ‘look' even from the pages of ‘Allure' or ‘Vanity Fair,'-even if Andrés' photograph was on the cover.
“May I help you?” a small voice beckoned.
A young woman, perfectly groomed, with black, bobbed hair, black dress, black makeup; the only color was her bright red lipstick. She could have been mistaken for part of the decor, had she not spoken, so suddenly, so softly.
“Yes, um, I'm here to see André, plese?” Michael's voice rose nervously.
“And you are?” she asked.
“Oh, sorry, yes, I'm Michael. I met André in Dallas recently, and he asked that I stop by, if I were ever in Los Angeles,” he said. He presented André's tattered business card.
“That's okay,” she dismised it with her palm up. “Michael was it? And your last name?”
“Lawrence, Michael Lawrence,” he said nervously. His voice cracked, like a child.
“And where did you say you met Monsieur André?” she said suspiciously.
“The, um Dallas Convention, last March?” he said.
“Have a seat, it will be just a few moments,” she motions to the chairs in the waiting area. She clicks the keys on the phone, with her perfect manicure, as if tapping out a secret message in code. She spoke softly into the phone, her hand above her mouth as if hiding. Michael tried not to listen, but desperately sought the sound of his own name, and some sound of encouragement. He waited.
Her voice quickened and she perked up, “You're in luck, Monsieur André is available and will see you in just a few moments.” Her suspicious mood had changed from haughty and aloof, to gracious and charming. What Michael didn't know was that she had heard this story a thousand times before, from every wannabe stylist in the world, but this time it surprised her to be true. André remembered Michael. He remembered him well.
“Can I get you anything, Pelligrino…?” She asked.
“No. Nothing. Thank you. I'm fine.”
“Very well then, let me know if you change your mind, it may be awhile, André is consulting with a client,” she said.
“I will, thank you.” He glanced around, took deep breaths, and tried to relax. The parade of glamorous people ascending the staircase seemed routine. Their dark glasses and clothing hid their identities. It was magical and strange.
Voices became louder behind the staircase, a mechanical sound, the squeak of rubber the soft hiss of brakes; he hadn't noticed the elevator. The doors quietly opened, and there stood André, in a gray Italian suit, and signature scarf. He smiled.
André approached and kissed Michael on both cheeks, while gripping his shoulders, in traditional European fashion.
“Michael, darling, how good of you to come. It is good to see you again. How are you?” André said. He was utterly without pretense and charming, not ominous and foreboding, as he had been in Dallas.
Michael's body stiffened in discomfort, with his arms to his side, his hands clasped his own thighs, “I'm great…thank you, it's good to see you too,” he hesitates, “…your salon is amazing.”
“Would you like a tour?” he interrupted. André turns to the receptionist, “Dierdré, hold my calls.”
“Of course, yes, thank you,” Michael said, as he tried to contain his enthusiasm.
As they toured the salon, Michael was half-listening as he rehearsed in his mind where his station would be; who the power players were, their personalities, how to fit in. Whom to win over and whom to beat. André's light french accent was a whisper to the dialogue going on in Michael's mind. His thoughts were racing, and plotting his next move to turn the conversation to advantage, to employment.
Before Michael could form the words, André said, “I suppose you are here for a job?”
Michael was relieved that the conversation had finally turned so quickly to his desperation.
“Well, yes, I was hoping your offer was still stood.” Michael struggled with the words, “Mon-seur André, I am a huge fan of your work, it would be such an honor to work for you, to learn from you.” He said. “I only just moved here, I mean literally, like yesterday. I haven't even taken my state exam,” he confessed.
“Well, you will have to sweep hair for now, that is all I can offer, until you are licensed.”
“Absolutely, that is more than okay.”
“Well, thank you Michael, for coming. Please show yourself out. Tell Dierdré to put you on the schedule as soon as possible. Tomorrow, if you like.”
“Thank you, Sir. Thank you, so much,” he gushed.
While, not as planned, Michael was now the newest member of André's Salon on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. Sweeping hair, but he wouldn't have to mention that part.
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