So the hotel that we found for cheap may be a hostel. A really gross hostel.
“ Thank god I never actually went backpacking through Europe like I wanted,hostels are gross.” G complained.
I just sighed in reply.
I was too tired to care where I slept as long as I could sleep. We put our bags in the lockers we were given. I put most of my money in my bra and socks to keep it from getting stolen even though it was kind of uncomfortable.
When we got to the room, it was full of bunk beds with other women sitting or sleeping. The beds were small and covered in hard plastic. I guess we were supposed to bring our own sheets.
As soon as I got semi comfortable and tried to fall asleep, I felt bugs jumping around my ankles and biting me.
“Bed bugs! I want my money back tomorrow morning, are you kidding me?” some other girls said before it went silent again.
So with the noises of twenty other women breathing and bugs biting at my ankles, on a plastic wrapped bed, I finally fell asleep after the longest day of my life… so far.
The next morning we left the hostel as soon as possible. We decided that the first thing we needed was an apartment.
We ended up at a coffee shop for breakfast. Before now i had never batted an eye at the price of a coffee and muffin, but now we had a limited amount of cash, and were looking for apartments and the idea of wasting even 6 dollars physically hurt.
G was scrolling through her phone looking for apartment leases while I was trying to figure out our budget. I admit we were really bad at running away. As far as we know the cops aren’t after us… yet. Gigi’s dad is the criminal, not us. We just don't want to deal with the consequence of our parents actions.
“Claire, my mom just texted me.”
I looked up, alarmed. This was the first time that Geillis, i mean Gigi’s mom had tried to contact her. The fact that i haven't heard from my uncle wasn't that surprising as he is currently on a dig in like Egypt or somewhere.
“She said that if I'm able to stay away and safe, then I should, and that she loves me…”
We both just sat there dumbfounded. This is less like running away and more like just moving to new york.
Screw it, I thought, if we still have our phones, if G’s mom approves, then why are we trying so hard to hide? Yes people might recognize us but we can deal with that later.
“I have a stupid idea,” i said.
I told G how my uncle has a small apartment in the city that he kept after teaching a few semesters at a college. I thought that if he isn't subletting it, we can just crash there.
We looked up the listing for my uncles apartment. It was on some website, where my uncle lamb was looking for subletters.
We couldve applied for the apartment. But i thought of something else.
I guessed my uncles username amd password to get onto the website. It was easy. His password was my initials and birthday.
I deleted the listing from the website. And then continued to make sure it wasnt liksted on other sites.
“ You smart ass bitch I love you.” G said when I was finished.
We then made our way to the apartment, which is in chinatown. Technically my uncle is kind of rich, but he loves a deal, and saves his money, so a penthouse in manhattan that he doesn't get to use didn't make sense. So paying for a small place in chinatown that he can sublet when he feels like it works just fine. I think I remember him saying something about how he pays for the apartment when it's not occupied and even if it is the money goes through him because he doesn't trust others with his finance and stuff, like landlords. hopefully I'm remembering correctly.
I struggled up the six flights of stairs with Gi trailing behind me. Eventually we made it to apartment 3C and I began the search for the spare key, which ended up being behind a loose board of the border around the door. Classic uncle lamb.
Inside the apartment were the bare necessities, but after the night in the hostel and living in dorm rooms for three years, this was all we needed. A small kitchen, that was basically the same room as the living room with three doors visible, leading to the bedroom, office, and bathroom.
Just like the kitchen, the bathroom was tiny, the bedroom fit a bed and a dresser, the office a desk and pullout love seat, it was perfect.
We both crashed on the red coach in the living room, facing an ancient tv. Of course, we argued over which room we each got. We both wanted the smaller one, the office.
G argued that technically it’s my place so I should get the bigger room with the real bed.
I said I don’t care and I rather have the desk to draw at. And she deserves a real bed too.
We compromised by moving the dresser into the office and the desk into the bedroom since it had a tiny closet. I got the bedroom, I didn’t mind but I still felt bad.
I was exhausted. I thought about the last 48 hours. How my life went from stressing out over an AP Bio lab to stressing out about where I’m going to live. I didn’t have time to process the fact that my dad was a criminal because we’ve been moving so fast.
Was everything fake? Was my childhood real? How could I have had everything I’d ever want, a big doll house, a horse, while all the people that needed more suffered because of my dad's actions? Seeing people all over the city asking for spare change broke my heart. The few times I went into Boston with friends from school, they’d make comments about how it was their fault because of drugs or something and wouldn’t give them change. But really paying attention this time, feeling the sense of not having a home myself, I noticed that a lot of them were young, like me, and we shouldn’t judge others like that, but help them. Now that we have this apartment for now, we can afford more, like being able to spare change at least.
The world I grew up in was a lie. The closest I got to anything real was traveling with my uncle over the summer, and even that was different, protected and from a distance, seeing the real world through tinted windows or through the finds of his digs. I found myself excited about being in the city, having no plans and no clue what will happen next. I was completely terrified, my stomach in knots, but I couldn’t stop smiling.
I settled down on my bed and looked out my window at the view of a brick wall. (Of course)
But something caught my eye, a familiar shade of red. I sat up on my bed to see the graffiti that was covering the wall just outside my window. It was an image of a man and a woman, the woman was in a white dress and they were holding hands but there was a cloth wrapped around their hands, and it was stained red. What? The man had dark hair and was looking at the woman like she was his whole world and the woman was smiling and laughing. She had bright red hair with golden and copper highlights. It felt oddly familiar.
Suddenly it hit me. It reminded me of the mysterious boy on the subway. I can still remember his piercing blue eyes looking at me with the depth of the ocean, maybe because of the color, or something else entirely.
He was so bold. Tall, bright red hair, and his tattoos. He was so noticeable, but he noticed me.
I fell asleep for a quick nap once again wondering if I’d ever see that cute smile again.
Gigi and I had a rude awakening after our very long naps.
We didn’t have tampons and now are out of toilet paper… and need to find a laundromat.
We made our way to a local store to get the basics. We filled up our cart with tampons and bread, toilet paper and toothpaste. The fact we only had a few thousand dollars in cash was still on my mind as I tried to do the math in my head about how much food and tampons cost. I think we need to get jobs.
I lost G down the beauty aisle. Damn.
I found her holding different boxes of hair dye in her hands.
“What do you think you’re doing,” I asked.
She whirled around and looked at me with wide eyes like she just got caught sneaking out of campus at school or passing me a note in French class.
“ just thinking about dying my hair… we might need disguises, you know, so it’s harder to recognize us. I don’t want to be seen as “Geillis Duncan - daddy’s girl’.”
As much as I wanted to tell her to put the 20 dollar hair dye back, she had a point. We don’t want to be questioned by reporters or something. She continued mumbling to herself about how blondes have more fun but redheads are fire. Then I heard her mention me and bleach.
“Woah, you go for it but I am not dying my hair!”
“Come on!! I’m going red, you can totally pull off blonde!” She pleaded.
Just then, a worker came up to us, he was a tall black guy that smiled and looked nice even though he was working at a store at 6 pm and wearing a gross orange vest as his uniform. His name tag said Joe.
“Need any help ladies?” He asked in a way that made it seem like he really was interested and wanted to help.
He noticed the boxes that G was holding and plucked them out of her hands.
“No, That is all wrong for your skin tone, try this red instead…” and then he turned to me, “was the blonde for you?”
I tried to tell him that I am NOT dying my hair blonde, because I don’t think my curls could take it, and I really don’t want to be blonde, but he interrupted me. He pulled down on a few strands of my hair.
“You have gorgeous curls, but GIRL What is with these dead ends?”
My brilliant response was an “uuhhmmmm.”
“Do you guys want to get paid for me to do your hair?” He asked suddenly.
I looked at G trying to convey my confusion with my eyes. What is this guy on?
“Look dude, whatever kink that is, we are not interested…” G began, but he started laughing, once again interrupting.
“No, no. I’m a hairstylist, well I’m trying to be. I’m showcasing how to cut a long bob and do a dye job for some new students and I need people to work on. I can dye your hair red, and cut hers. You each get fifty bucks.” He finished, still smiling at us.
G and I looked at each other and shrugged. Sure why not I thought. I get PAID to get my hair done.
We agreed to meet him tomorrow at the salon he is training at around 9 am and followed him up to the register to pay.
I noticed nail polish on display for 99 cents. I picked up a bottle of black polish. I would never in a million years wear black nail polish at school. I think I’ve only ever had my nails painted pink and yellow. But this is a new life, one where I can be anyone and do anything I want. I’m gonna have a freaking bob tomorrow. I just thought “freaking” and “damn” earlier. The old me might not have had short hair and black nails, but the new me will. I put down the polish next to the toothpaste, which earned a glance from Gigi, but she didn’t say anything about it on the walk home. (HOME)
The next morning, G and I trudged to the salon Joe worked at with three coffees. We left early, because I really wanted to make a good impression for some reason. At 8:45 we arrived to find Joe sitting outside on the steps. G handed him the coffee and we headed inside.
There was a bit of awkward silence before Gigi boldly asked Joe how old he was.
“Eighteen,” Joe said defensively, “I dropped out of high school last year and enrolled at the Beauty Academy in Queens. Luckily I got into the styling program here. That’s important. You gotta make connections with the right stylists to find a job.”
“ We are eighteen too. Oh I’m Gigi by the way and this is claire… a.” G said. She forgot the new name she picked out for me apparently. I kind of did too.
Gigi continued to ask him questions, maybe trying to flirt, or she was actually interested in becoming a stylist. If I had to guess, it’s a little bit of both.
“Dang, you ask a lot of questions,” Joe exclaimed, sounding humored and not annoyed. “If I tell you everything I got now, then what am I gonna put in my autobiography?”
I smiled thinking about Joe writing an autobiography,I think it’d be funny. Gigi tilted her head to the side, playing with a piece of her hair, obviously confused but also still flirty.
“I’m just messin’ with you,” Joe said, while slapping the air with his hand.
He suddenly became serious again by pointing us to sit in chairs as the class started to come in. He tried to be all professional in front of the students, a lot of them older than he is.
“The first thing we gotta do when cutting a fierce bob is find the natural jaw line,” Joe said as he began instructing the class, and cutting my hair.
G was spinning around on her chair, once again twisting her hair with her fingers. She noticed me looking at her and gave me two thumbs up and a small smile.
I was breathless. I had never imagined what I’d look like with short hair, but I looked completely unlike myself. I looked more mature, and somehow my eyes looked larger. Joe managed the impossible, he controlled my hair. With a deep conditioner and a diffuser, my curly hair framed my face perfectly and I think I could now manage it better at this length. I’ve never had hair this short, it’s always been longer than my shoulders. Short hair felt so freeing, the physical weight on my shoulders gone, matching what I felt about being in this city, starting a new life.
Next up was G. Joe repeated the process of explaining everything he was doing to the class as he dyed her hair. Gigi kept her eyes closed even when she wasn’t in front of a mirror, like she was afraid to look at her new reflection.
When Joe was done blow drying her hair, he made a big flourish of showing it to G.
Her hair was bright red. It looked like she could be Ariel, a more badass mermaid. It wasn’t a natural red at all, but it was Gigi.
“Now your hair matches your personality.” I said. And I meant it.
She looked at me beaming. “I know right!”
“Damn I outdid myself on you guys! Can I take pictures for my portfolio?” Joe added.
After taking our pictures, and then a selfie of the three of us, Joe handed us each fifty dollars and led us out of the salon.
He was basically the first person we met in the city and he was really cool. He was who we were trying to be, still technically teenagers but thriving as adults.
“Hey wanna get lunch with us? Our treat?” I asked, holding up the fifty dollar bill he just gave to me. I knew G would agree, seeing as she might have a little crush on him.
Joe looked up from his watch with a giant grin on his face like he was actually surprised and happy that we wanted to hang out with him.
“Sure thing lady Jane.” He said as he led us in the direction of a burger joint.
We settled in our booth, and ordered drinks.
Finally having a moment to breathe, I repeated, “lady Jane?”
“Oh! Your accent, it’s all posh and proper and fancy. You sound like the queen of England. It reminded me of this character fromaromancenovel so…”
Gigi looked at him skeptically, “you read romance novels?”
“Kind of, my girlfriend got me into them. It’s kinda like my guilty pleasure.”
I decided I liked lady Jane more than Clara, and Gigi decided she wanted a nickname.
We spent the rest of the afternoon getting to know Joe and it felt like we had known each other our whole lives. He told us about his relationship with Gayle but also the complications with some guy named John they were both involved with. I can barely wrap my head around it. Gigi also wants us to try calling her Red. I think it’s a little too on the nose but she seems to like it.
“ So Lady Jane, Red, you’re both new in town.” It wasn’t a question but a statement.
Joe inquired as he walked us back to our apartment. What a gentleman.
G huffed in response. “How did you know?”
“ because you’re still excited to be here… don’t worry you’ll get over it. And I get to watch as you become dead inside and see the light fade from your eyes as you become real New Yorkers!”
He walked us to our building and we exchanged numbers. We made our first real friend. Now all we need are jobs