CHAPTER THREE

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"If you don't stop turning your head, I'm going to pull your hair out by the roots, Kristina Leigh ― on purpose!"

"Do that and you'll never see this Hermés scarf again," I retorted as Carene yanked another chunk of hair towards the crown of my skull.

Her eyes narrowed at me in the mirror, and I stuck out my tongue playfully.

She said, "You know who would kill both of us if anything were to happen to that scarf."

"Even so, don't think I'm not brave enough to do what it takes for the integrity of my locks!"

"You mean stupid enough," Carene said. "Now please, for the love of Pete, hold still for one second so I can finish this. It's like working with a nap-starved five-year-old!"

"Sorry," I grumbled, wincing as she pulled my freshly-curled ponytail higher on my head. "But don't make it look like I'm trying too hard. I don't wanna be the jilted ex-girlfriend ― just the hot one."

"Got it." She affixed a ponytail holder around my hair when it was high enough for her liking, then held out her spare hand, eyes still raking over her handiwork. "Hairspray?"

Trying not to move more than necessary, I closed my fingers around the pink aerosol can at my elbow and eased it into the air above my head so she could reach it.

A half hour later, with my hair perky and sleek and my makeup dynamic yet dainty, Carene let out a satisfied sigh and smiled at my reflection; her shoulders relaxed for the first time since she'd taken it upon herself to doll me up like her personal Barbie. I didn't mind, though. Carene was great with hair and makeup, and this was one of those times I needed her to work her magic.

In less than two hours, I'd be seeing Aaron. In person...

...still good and dumped.

"You look beautiful," Carene gushed at me, twirling a tress of hair cascading towards my shoulders. "Now gimme the scarf. It's time."

When I stuck out my lip and brought the coveted Hermés silk scarf against my chest, she rolled her eyes. "It's not like you'll never see it again."

"But I'm sad," I said pitifully.

"It was supposed to make you feel pretty, not make you more sad."

"Fine." Pouting, I handed over the beautiful scarf that Sherry had once won as a door prize at some surgeon's Halloween murder mystery party. Carene and I enjoyed holding it in turns when we were down in the dumps. It made us feel fancy to wear a scarf that cost over three-hundred dollars retail.

Carene returned the scarf to her mother's closet, and I gathered the mess of cosmetics and hair products we'd spread all over Sherry's bathroom counter like a Cirque du Soleil dressing room. She'd let us make camp in here because it was so much bigger than Carene's bathroom, and since there were two of us and only one of her, she'd opted to get ready for church in the downstairs half bath.

Next on the agenda was finalizing my outfit, which Carene was more than happy to assist with. When we made it back to her room, I showed her the garment bag of potentials I'd brought with me, and she sifted through them, waiting for inspiration to strike. There was a pair of tailored black dress trousers with a cinched waist and tie sash that gave her an idea, and she took to her closet like a madwoman, flinging articles of clothing every which way in a maelstrom of fabric as she searched for whatever piece she had in mind. Eventually she turned up an attractive heather gray blouse with a rounded neckline and quarter-inch sleeves; she threw it at me, insisting I try it on immediately.

I did as she demanded, humoring her sass because she was in the zone at my behest. The soft knit top fit me like a glove, and not for the first time was I thankful that Carene and I were almost the exact same size and able to share our wardrobes with each other.

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