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The high-end Indianapolis salon’s name was sleek and sophisticated on the sign. I sighed as I eyed the place from my car’s parking spot across the street. I wasn’t a salon type guy. I definitely wasn’t a posh type guy. But, my boss had ‘suggested’ I update my look before I took on the next big clients he wanted to assign to me at the advertising firm.
When I stared at him blankly, not quite sure what he meant by ‘update’ my look, he just shook his head. “You know, I always thought the guys on your team understood fashion and hair and all that crap. You clearly missed the day they gave lessons on that.”
My boss knew I was gay? How the hell…? I never lied about my sexuality, but I definitely didn’t announce it to coworkers, and it sure as hell was not a topic of conversation I ever had with Mr. Withers.
Still staring at the man, what had started as confusion morphed in to confused panic. But, Mr. Withers saved me.
“Damn, man, stop gaping. Here take this card. It’s Jodie Danner. She’s the owner of a big name salon in town and one of our advertising clients. I’ll tell her you’ll be contacting her. She can help you with the fashion and hair update, or I’m sure she can put you in touch with someone who can assist you.” He handed me the card and slapped me on the shoulder. “Now, go call the woman, and don’t come back here ready to take on bigger clients until you’re spit-shined and polished.”
I called Jodie that day after I was sure Mr. Withers had already contacted her. As luck would have it, she was a huge fan of Mr. Withers and couldn’t wait to help the two of us. She did some checking of certain stylists’ schedules and seemed very pleased with herself when she told me Braeton would be available to cut and style my hair. Braeton? My barber was named Jim, and he did a fine job. Why did I need a Braeton to cut my hair?
So, there I sat, in my car, staring at the salon called Posh. Dreading the moment with every fiber of my being. I didn’t do pretentious. I didn’t do uppity. I was more of a sports bar and barber shop guy. Yes, I liked men, but that didn’t mean I was applying moisturizer and eyeing the newest colors for fall.
But, my job was everything to me. If Mr. Withers wanted me to polish my look before giving me bigger clients and advertising accounts, so be it. I’d deal with a day of awkwardness to keep my boss happy. A happy boss gave better assignments and bigger raises.
Sighing, I unfolded my six foot three frame from the agency’s car. Glancing down at my dark jeans and black polo, I felt I looked okay. I wasn’t sure exactly what Mr. Withers was expecting to change with my clothing.
Walking toward the building, I schooled myself to deal with whatever was on the other side of that door. I was good at selling advertising ideas and designs, so I could handle getting posh for a couple hours.
Yanking the door open more forcefully than I meant to, I was immediately surrounded by cool, fragrant air, techno type dance music playing softly through hidden speakers, and a bustle of activity. The place was clearly sophisticated, but it didn’t scream snooty or snobby – just professional, classy, like you knew you’d get what you came there for. The atmosphere wasn’t exactly the nightmare I’d been dreading.
I noticed there was no list of services with prices like at my comfy little barber shop, which meant I would be paying a pretty penny for this posh-ification. But, if it brought me bigger clients, then it was worth it.
An attractive, tall, lithe man sauntered toward the front working his electric blue button-up and stylish jeans like a fashion model. Eyeing me from head to toe, he smiled flirtatiously. “Hi there. What can I do for you today?”
Finding myself mesmerized by his beautiful brown eyes for a moment too long, I stumbled over my words a bit, “Oh, um, hi. I’m supposed to have an appointment with Braeton?”
“Oh, honey, I’m sure you’d love to have an appointment with me, but I can assure you I’d remember putting you on my schedule. And, sadly, you aren’t there.” He winked. The man was gay, no question about it. I was usually put off by guys who were so much more out there than me, but Braeton was hot and beyond intriguing. I was drawn to him. The last time a guy had made my stomach flutter was in gym class my junior year, but Braeton definitely brought out the butterflies.
“Well, I spoke to Jodie and she specifically said that Braeton, I mean you, could take care of me.” I felt like I was begging the man to style me, fix me up, polish me. Leaning forward to eye the computer screen, I added, “Could you just check? Humor me a bit? Name’s Andrew Hines.”
“Believe me, I’d love to take care of you, but like I said…,” Braeton clicked a few times on the keyboard before his mouth opened in disbelief, “how the hell are you on my schedule?”
“Like I said, Jodie took care of it for me.” I shrugged apologetically.
“Today just got much better for me. I was expecting someone much less attractive than you, so I’ll have to thank Jodie.” Braeton winked again.
Maybe today wouldn’t be so terrible.
“Thank Jodie for what?” A spunky blonde woman rounded the corner. “Oh! Is this Andrew? Sorry, Brae, I didn’t get a chance to tell you. Your last client of the day called a few days ago and canceled due to her poodle being out of sorts and needing a doggie spa day or something like that, so I filled the spot in with Andrew. He works for Mr. Withers, our advertising agency. I promised Mr. Withers we could get Andrew all polished and updated with hair and fashion. And I just knew you’d be the perfect guy for the job.”
Jodie winked at Braeton while she patted his cheek before taking my hand and leading me to a chair. “Braeton is beyond talented. He has one of the most sought after waiting lists here at Posh. You’ll be in very capable hands. I’d like to suggest you take him shopping with you. He’s got a real eye for fashion and could help you update your wardrobe for those new clients.” She ran her hands through my hair as she spoke, watching me in the mirror. “Yes, I think Braeton can work with this. You’ve got great hair, just looking to show off. Well, I’ll leave you guys to it then. I’m so very glad we were able to accommodate you today, Mr. Hines.”
“Thank you, Jodie. I appreciate you fitting me in. I promise not to tell the waiting list that you pulled strings for me.” We laughed as she walked away to check on other clients.
“Well, you’re my last appointment today. Let’s get your hair all fixed up first, then I’d be happy to help with shopping if that’s what’s next on your agenda.”
“You don’t have plans?” I hadn’t planned on going shopping right then, the task seemed daunting, but if style-extraordinaire, Braeton, was willing to lend me his eye for fashion, I could make shopping be on my agenda.
“I’m a gay man, I always have plans of some sort even if that means watching kitten videos on YouTube, but I can change them. No worries. Nothing can stop me when it comes to shopping. And getting to dress you just climbed to the top of my bucket list.” He played with my hair, running his hands through it, cocking his head to the side. “So, your boss wants you updated, huh? How old are you?”
“Just trying to gauge things. So, you’re maybe pushing the edge of looking too old to get some of the younger, hipper clients. I’m thinking a new cut, lighten you up a bit to hide the gray, and add some product. You’ll look professional but not stuffy.” He dropped his hands to my shoulders, squeezing a bit. “How’s that sound?”
“You just called me old and stuffy. Sounds fucking fabulous.” I bit out with a sarcastic laugh.
“Oh, stop pouting. I’ll make you fabulous, dah-ling.”
He walked toward a back room. “Come with me while I mix my colors. I get lonely.”
Rolling my eyes at him, trying to figure out what it was about him that drew me in, I shook my head and followed him.
I watched, in awe, as he mixed the concoction he promised would deliver the perfect color for my hair.
“So, Drew…can I call you Drew?”
“Not if you expect me to answer. It’s Andrew.” I felt like Andrew was more mature, sophisticated, responsible. Drew seemed…not me.
“Mmmm, feisty, I like it.” He mixed the colors some more, then indicated I should follow him. “No, I think I like Drew better. You can be Andrew to all your stuffy, old fogey friends, but your hip, fashionable, younger friend will call you Drew.”
“I doubt you’re that much younger than me.”
“Twenty-eight is definitely younger than thirty-five, Drew.” He tossed a saucy wink my way.
Acting as if the decision was made whether I liked it or not, Braeton started his magic on my hair. Two hours later, I stared in the mirror and wondered if he’d somehow replaced me with a completely different person. I looked younger, stylish. Hopefully, I looked updated enough for Mr. Withers.
After paying for the service, which almost made me choke when I heard the price, I glanced at Braeton awkwardly. “So, um, did you really want to help me with some new clothes?”
“I’m all over that shit like glitter on a drag queen. But, let’s grab some food first. I need sustenance if I’m going to complete your total makeover.”
I laughed as we headed toward my car. “Did you want to meet me somewhere or ride with me?”
“I walked to work today, so I’ll ride with you if you don’t mind.”
As we climbed into the car, I had a sudden thought, “So, this is going to sound weird, but how much is this going to cost me? I mean, I know personal shoppers get paid big bucks.”
Placing a hand to his chest, he gasped, “I’m going to pretend you didn’t just insinuate I would need to be paid for my shopping services. It makes it sound so cheap.” He laughed as I gauged whether he was serious or not. “I’m kidding, Drew, damn loosen up man. Buy me dinner and we’ll call it even. I love shopping like I love breathing, it won’t be a chore for me to help you find some new pieces.”
And, just like that, Braeton entered my life like a rainbow freight train.