Category Archives: literary fiction

To Hair DO or To Hair DON’T? That is the question.

Chapter 2



“How are you, dear child?” asked Lea.

“Do you realize you’re calling a “child” someone, who’s about to turn 30 any minute now? Bit inappropriate, don’t you think?” said Zoe to the phone in her hand as she stood up in her bed and looked around the dark room.

“It’s a figure of speech. And to me, you still are a very young lady indeed. Anyway, why do you deviate from the question?” said her grandmother at the other end of the phone line.

“Hmm, let’s think, I might be “deviating” from your clever question, because I don’t want to bloody think about it. Does this make sense?” Zoe raised her voice slightly.

“May I remind you that most of your life is still in front of you, which means that the best things in it are yet to come? There’s no need at all for you to be grumpy and bitter.” cheerfully said Lea.

“And may I remind you, Lea, that you don’t know anything about life nowadays and how it can annoy the shit out of you! You stopped living ages ago.” Zoe was nearly shouting.

“I know for a fact that you do not intend to insult me. After all, you seek my help whenever you write in that diary of yours.” said her grandmother.

“You’re right. I don’t know why I do that. It’s pointless. I need someone to talk to in real life, because this… you, are freaking me out!” said Zoe in one breath.

“There is nothing to be afraid of.”

“Of course, what else would you say? In fact, why don’t I just ask you something? What was happening in your life around the time you hit 30?”

“Oh well, I had my family to think of. Your father was just 10 at the time and your uncle was 8. They were naughty, naughty boys, I promise you that…and then there was you grandfather with his important job of running the local winery… So at that point, I was probably constantly washing dirty pants and ironing white shirts. There were no washing machines back then, I must tell you…”

“Oh, he was just 10… Brilliant! You had two grown-up children before you were my age…” Zoe felt annoyed.

“Things were different when I was young. For instance, we used to get married at a very early stage in our lives and…”

“Stop talking! This is depressing.”

“Oh, but it shouldn’t be. I’m actually trying to make you feel better about yourself.”

“It’s not doing the trick though, is it?” said Zoe quetly to herself then asked in a normal tone “How do you mean?”

“I meant to tell you that you have much more freedom now – of speech, of movement, of choice, in general. We never had time to think about how we felt or where we wanted to be. We just had to get on with life and cope with the events of it like grown-ups. Whereas you and your generation have the opportunity to pursue your dreams.”

“Our crap dreams that turned out to be the shit reality…”

“Do you see? Even the way you speak has changed in a great manner.”

“Yeah, sorry Lea, I’m in a bit of a mood lately.” said Zoe as she realized she’s been rude to Lea.

“Not to worry, you have been excused.”

“Oh, thank you, you’re too kind.” said Zoe and smiled for the first time since they’d started talking.

“There is a reason why I called you tonight, Zoe.” said Lea.

“And there’s me thinking you just wanted to wake me up and have a meaningless chat in the middle of the night.” Zoe had to admit that she might be going crazy, but she she’d at least enjoy the ride to the mental clinic.

“The reason being is to tell you that you should look after your appearance and care about the image of yourself you present to the world better.” continued Lea.

“Now who’s being insensitive?”

“It is just an observation.” said Lea.

“How dare you? I look after my appearance well enough, thank you very much.”

“Wearing fashionable clothes, a lot of make-up and outrageous hairdos is not my understanding of a style suitable to a young, sensible lady.”

“Nor are those huge, hideous beehives that you used to wear, which by the way, I suspect were wigs. And  don’t try to deny it, I’ve seen the photos.” said Zoe and instantly felt amused.

“They were a little bit over the top, I agree, but they were stylish, elegant and made a woman feel very feminine indeed.”

“And me and my generation are just tacky, you say? Okay. You certainly know how to make a girl…sorry “a young lady” feel special.”

“I’m just stressing on to the fact that today’s hairdressing services and the cosmetics available to you are all very advanced and well developed and you should take advantage of that all. My aim is to show you that you should figure out how to feel unique instead of conforming to the current influences of modern culture. All of that comes and goes very quickly.” explained Lea.

“Can I just stop you there for a moment to remind you that when someone works in consumer PR they can hardly escape the environment you talk about.”

“I understand, but dear child, your hair has currently two shades of brown and maybe even some orange in it…”

“That’s cos I dye it at home on my own…”

“…and don’t even get me started on the clothes you sometimes wear…I’ve even seen men’s shirts and pants 5 times bigger than your actual size in your wardrobe!”

“Lea, relax. You’re gonna get yourself a heart attack and then what will I do? I don’t know the number for emergency, where you are.”

“I’m fine. I would like to see you wearing more dresses, that’s all.” said Lea.

“Listen,” continued Zoe, “my clothes are no different to what everyone else around my age is wearing right now, so I wouldn’t be too concerned about that. My hair, however, is a different matter. I simply haven’t been able to afford to go to a decent hair salon lately. And you know what? That’s fine too, because right now the hombre look is quite hot and I’m good at braiding and plaiting my hair to disguise the split ends…so Bingo, that’s my hair problem solved!”

“I don’t about what you consider to be hot or cold right now, but I can assure you – going to the hairdressers and having your hair done is one of the greatest pleasures in life, my darling.It has been and always will be.”

“I suppose one thing hasn’t changed that much since your time after all.” said Zoe as she sighed, “I’m gonna have to let you go now, Lea.” mumbled she as she tapped the  screen of her phone to end the conversation. She closed her eyes and reached for the pillow. Since there was no one else to hold, the pillow was the subject of Zoe’s affection now.

The next morning was Sunday and Zoe was taking things slow in front of the laptop. She was enjoying a tomato and cheese toast and a Greek coffee while browsing the net and checking her social media accounts. She logged on to Facebook and a status update from someone called Lea popped right in front of her eyes. “Sundays are always great for a visit to the beauty salon”, read the post “don’t you think? Who else thinks Zoe is in need of a new haircut?” The post had gathered more than 500 likes. Impossible, thought Zoe, I dodn’t even know that many people. One of the comments read “’Bout bloody time”. Zoe blinked in disbelief against the screen. She didn’t even know a Lea on Facebook, for Christ’s sake. She blinked again and the post disappeared. I’m still sleeping, thought she as she shook her head, My grandmother isn’t on Facebook. Never has been, never will be.

Next she logged on to Twitter only to find the entire news feed full of tweets promoting hair and beauty salons. She sat there for a while, scrolling down the feed until she felt defeated. I suppose it wouldn’t be so bad to treat myself to a little birthday present after all., she nodded and phoned one of the local salons to make an appointment.



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Only you can help…


“I can’t be dreaming, I’m in the bathroom!” said Zoe to the phone in her hand. The pitch of her voice kept rising.

“You are not dreaming. We are conversing over what they call a mobile phone” said the lady on the other end of the line.

“How would I be “conversing” with you…when you’re dead! You’ve been dead for 30 years!” “You called me…well technically, I phoned you, but you asked for my help.”

“I don’t even know you…never met you in my life…”  Zoe’s hand was sweating and she nearly dropped the phone.

“We have met once, but you were too young to remember it.”

“No one’s said anything.”

“I suppose not. It wasn’t the happiest of occasions for your family. Even though you had just been born…they couldn’t celebrate…”

“Now you mention it!…D’you know, I’ve always wondered one thing?”

“Don’t panic, dear child.” “I’m not panicking, I’m raving mad at you! Why did you leave them, mum and dad… us, when they needed you most?”

“What happened was not my choice.”

“Damn right, it was! You should have taken better care of yourself! Looked after your health more!”

“This is Life you are talking about and Life is unpredictable.”

“If you’d waited a few more years to get ill, maybe mum would have been able to help you!”

“I had no idea you had all these emotions hidden inside of you. Have you always felt that way?”

“Don’t try to change the subject! Didn’t you want to live long enough to know your grandchildren!?”

“Of course, I did.”

“I don’t think you did. I think you are…you used to be just…just a selfish woman!”

“I didn’t call to argue with you, young lady!”

“Why did you “call” then?”

“To let you know that I am there for you. I have always been and always will be.”

“You’re where for me!? Oh, my God, what have I done to deserve this?” sighed Zoe.

“You have done nothing wrong…” said the woman with a soothing voice.

“I’m not talking to you! Was talking to myself. It’s official! I’m bonkers!” said Zoe and tapped her phone on the screen to end the call.

Right. I just hung up on my grandmother! I should text her to say “sorry”. Surely I should! thought Zoe to herself and looked at the calls log on the phone.  The call she’d just received appeared to be from a withheld number. Of course! What did you expect to see, you silly cow – the number for Heaven? So you could ask if there’s a booking for you at the Paradise hotel? And when it is for? Oh, maybe not the “when”, I don’t want to know the when! How did I get here? she asked herself and leaned on one of the walls of the toilet in the shared house in North London, where she rented a room for ₤150 a week . Hang on she thought, and looked at the time, It’s still 4 am. Practically speaking, it’s still last night. I’m still drunk, that’s it – I’ve had too much whiskey and my head is still spinning. I did not just receive a call from a dead relative. I’m hallucinating. Okay, think. What happened last night?


Chapter 1

  Zoe came home from yet another day at the office of the little PR agency where she shared an office space with her boss Caroline and two more girls – Lynn and Mandy. Lately the days there seemed longer and felt increasingly less satisfying. She had been interning for Caroline for just over three months now and things were moving in no direction for them to work together further as a team. It wasn’t that Caroline didn’t like what Zoe was doing for her agency. Zoe knew everyone there appreciated her and her efforts. And they all used to get along so well. But her boss’s spirits had recently dropped its normally high levels, which had led the young woman to believe that their paths will soon be separating. Besides, Caroline never stopped going on about how many bills she’d had to pay and how hard it was for a business woman nowadays to stay on top of her game. On top of your game?! Zoe wondered, you can’t even afford to pay my transport expenses!? Why did I take this internship!? She’d seen the advert on Gumtree. She should have known better, should have known it was dodgy. But a few months ago, still in Manchester, freshly out of university and eager to start her fabulous career in media and PR, she was absolutely convinced that fait had only good things in store for her. She didn’t spend too much time looking around for an internship. She wanted to be out there as soon as possible. She didn’t even look for a paid job, because the presumption was that graduates have to gain some work experience first, before they can be trusted to do the job properly. That’s what they told her to do.  That’s what everyone did. Everyone was interning and doing all sorts of work placements, selling themselves practically for peanuts.

How she missed the coziness and convenience of well-known, welcoming Manchester. Where she knew all the streets, squares and canals she needed to know. No maps necessary, no GPS and navigation systems on smart phones required. Just the occasional stopping and asking a stranger on the street for directions. Her favorite route was, of course, either to the gym, to university, or to Arndale. She loved jogging around the Salford Quays. Having lunch on the grass in the Media City during class breaks. Going out on a Saturday night with the girls in the Northern Quarter. People-watching while having a cocktail in one of the many bars on Deansgate Locks. Buying fruit on her way to work from the market on Market Street. Drinking beer and enjoying the sun on the grass at Piccadilly Gardens. She loved it all. Magical, happy, timeless, blissful, young, stress-free, and full of hope. These words would pop into mind, whenever she thought of the three (best) years of her life spent in her city. Why didn’t she stay there then!?

After a few months living in one of the greatest and most expensive cities in the world – London – and not being able to see it and enjoy it properly, as a result of the nonexistent money flowing into her bank account, she’d began to feel the strains of it all. The loneliness she felt amongst the millions of people was never so intense. She missed her friends, her schoolmates, her flat mate, even the tutors at university. But it was time to move on, she’d decided. Time for a change of scenery and bigger challenges. So she came down to London.

Up until now, everything seemed bearable to Zoe. The unpaid job, the unbelievable amount of lost time spent commuting on the public transport. The lack of close friends and family or even a lover to get you excited about things… The pollution. The 130 000 different languages and accents you hear everywhere around you. No wonder when she first came down here, she felt like she’d arrived in a completely different country, not England at all. It seemed to her that people had no respect for their adopted land. Many didn’t even bother to learn to speak English properly they didn’t care about fitting into the bigger picture. All they cared about is staying within the borderlines of their own little communities. Holding strong on to their own roots, buying only their native food and drinks from the many Turkish, Polish, Greek, Italian, Bulgarian, Indian, African or God knows what else shops. Given the demand, these shops were now growing like mushrooms after rain behind every corner of every street.

Things in Zoe’s own little life started to feel very different only recently, as an eye-opening realization was repeatedly nudging her in the chest. She was soon to add one more year of life experience to her so far 29 years of age. With the big 3-0 knocking on the door, Zoe needed to start earning money and behave like a grown up ASAP, if not immediately. She thought about the direction of her life day and night. This whole thing made her feel as if she was still in the shower, preparing for the date of her life. This date was supposed to be life altering, fulfilling and unforgettable. She was full of hope, with butterflies in her tummy,… She wanted to be pretty, so she stopped the water in the tub and reached for her towel. Loud steps outside the flat distracted her from her singing. She could hear them approaching. “No!”, whispered Zoe to herself. Big 3-0’s finger was on the buzzer and the noise was loud. “No!”, jumped up Zoe, water still dripping off her bare flesh, “I’m not ready yet!” The key was in the lock and the lock was now turning… “I’m not even dressed yet! You’re way too early!” The door opened, Thirty approached in the corridor… “You’re not supposed to have a key, I haven’t given you a key…Stop!”, panicked Zoe as Thirty’s hand rested now on the bathroom door handle. “It’s all over”, Life smiled cheekily at her, “Say goodbye to your Twenties, it’s time to open up your eyes… “I want one more year, please! I’ll put everything in order! You’ll see! Come back later, when I’m prepared…” “…open up your eyes…”, whispered Life. She woke up with her heart racing and her face all swimming in sweat. The room was dark. It was the middle of the night. She was on her own. As she calmed her heart rate down, she reached for her diary on the bedside table: “Dear Lea, only you can help me. I’m turning 30 soon…” She wrote until she dozed off into a dream again. And then the phone rang.

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