Writing exclusively for Stylist, author Sophie Kinsella pens a short story in just 2.5 hours. And it’s aptly called The Stylist.
I’ve never been unfaithful before. Not to a man, nor to a friend, nor to a stylist. And Danny is all three. My heart’s pumping with guilt; my hands are clammy. Thank God Ottoline’s put me around the corner from reception, out of view.
Danny’s not working in the salon today but even so, I’m paranoid. Danny’s been my stylist for years. He forced me into highlights. He made me have that chunky bob, which I hated even before he took the first chop. That’s the trouble – he’s a bit of a bully. Plus, everyone in Lincoln has been talking about this lovely new stylist, Ottoline, and I was desperate to try her out.
So far, it’s been a totally different experience. She talked softly during our consultation, caressed my hair and didn’t make a jibe about my outfit (deep blue rimmed black skirt, black-and-white striped top and a deep blue cardigan). Danny always has some little snide remark. Danny, I’ve realised, always gets me down.
And I don’t need any extra reasons to be down this week. On Tuesday I had the evening from hell, with my boyfriend Andrew, and his mother and sister. His mother, Diana, is OK. I don’t think she likes me but she does her best. It’s his sister. Scary Mary, as I call her. She sneered at me when I said “What lovely daffodils”– they were narcissi, apparently. (What’s the difference, anyway?) Then I’d never heard of some contemporary artist that she represents, and she laughed in my face.
I glance at my reflection and sigh. My head’s in foils, which makes me look like a robot. Does anyone look good at the hairdressers?
“All right?” Ottoline says as she walks past. “Can I get you anything?”
“Ottoline?” A piercing, familiar voice comes from the reception area. “What the hell’s going on?”
My stomach clenches in shock. It’s him. It’s Danny. He doesn’t normally come in on a Thursday. What’s happened?
“Excuse me.” Ottoline smiles, and heads away, round the corner, to where the reception desk is.
“What are you doing, poaching my clients?”
I can hear Ottoline’s soothing voice, answering him, but my heart is thumping like a rabbit’s.
“…Jenny Matthews!” he’s exclaiming. “Where is she, the unfaithful little cow? Jenny?”
The idea of a confrontation with Danny, right here in the middle of the salon, is terrifying. There are glass doors to my left, leading out onto the street. Before I know what I’m doing, I’ve got up from my seat and scuttled out. I head across the cobbled street and stop, breathless. What do I do now? I catch sight of my reflection in a bakery window and flinch. I have a head of foils, a caped gown like Batman, and a wild, desperate expression. I should not be out in public. And the two girls pointing at me from across the street clearly agree.
Now I can see Danny in the salon. He’s peering through the plate glass window, onto the street. Before I can stop myself, I’ve ducked into a nearby bakery shop. I crouch behind a display of meringues, panting.
“Love... are you all right?” says the bakery store owner after a minute or two. “Have you just run out of the hairdresser?”
“I’m avoiding someone,” I whisper. “Are you in trouble? Do we need to call the police?”
“It’s my stylist,” I admit. “I cheated on him, and he’s found out.”
There’s a collective intake of breath.
“I did that once,” says a red-haired girl and shudders. “It was awful. I pretended I’d been on holiday but he totally guessed and he made me feel so bad...”
“For goodness sake!” says an elderly woman holding a baguette. “It’s a hairdresser, not a husband! Why shouldn’t you play around? Stand up for yourself!”
“I couldn’t agree more,” comes a voice behind me. I swivel round and my heart drops. It’s Diana. She’s standing in the doorway of the shop and has clearly been listening to the conversation. She’s wearing a neat mac, carrying a smart handbag and looks like the perfect Lady Out Shopping In Lincoln. Whereas I look like something from Halloween. Or a refugee from a particularly bizarre fancy dress party.
“I thought it was you, Jenny,” she adds.
“Diana!” I say, in an embarrassed rush. “Hi. I’m just... um…”
“Running away,” says the woman with the baguette, and I give her a resentful glance.
“I’m not great at confrontation,” I say defensively. “Is that a crime?”
“You don’t need to resort to confrontation,” says Diana. “You can use diplomacy. Maybe some moral support, too.” Her eyes suddenly twinkle. “You know, I need some shampoo. Why don’t you come with me back to the salon and we’ll face down your stylist together?”
I gape at her. “Really?”
Diana has opened the door and is ushering me back across the road. “It seems to me, Jenny, that you could learn to stand up for yourself a little more. There’s being polite, and there’s being passive.” She sighs. “Mary was intolerably rude to you on Tuesday, I told her so.”
“You did?” I say in amazement. “And I told Andrew he should have defended you.”
“Really?” I’m a bit gobsmacked. Andrew never mentioned that to me.
We reach the door of the salon and Diana turns to face me. “You’re very loyal, Jenny, aren’t you?”
“Well...” I nod. “I suppose so.”
“It’s a lovely quality, but you can take it too far. Stylists need to earn loyalty.” Her eyes glint at me. “And so do partners. Remember that.”
Wedding Night by Sophie Kinsella is available now (£18.99, Bantam Press)