Chapter 1

Another lovely morning. Well, sort of. The weather was so rainy she could barely see past her nose. Said nose was feeling just a little bit blocked. She suspected that she was coming down with one of those dastardly colds again. Mrs. Sanchez must have been the one to give it to her. The elderly lady was constantly sneezing during the time she was curling her hair. Man, what a damper.

Shaking the rain off her anorak, she reached forward to grasp the warm metal door handle with her freezing palm. As soon as she opened the door, a blast of hair-dye fumes and warm air rushed out to meet her. The warmth crystallized into puffs of white, and fled as soon as she swung the door shut behind her.

"Hiya, everyone," she greeted, throwing off her jacket. "How's the morning coming along, crew?"

"Ciao, bella," Grandpa Cosmo called, throwing her a huge smile. He was smoking his pipe, as always, letting the puffs of chemicals escape through the tiniest crack in the window he was sitting next to. Everyone was in their normal places (dad: nowhere to be seen, Grandpa Cosmo at the window, Nonna probably in the robe room, Detta, also, nowhere to be seen), which meant that—

"You could've gotten here earlier!" her mother said through teeth that were clamped over a brush. She was brushing at Mrs. Esther's hair, carefully straightening it. "What do you do all morning?"

"...Uh, sleep?"

"Well, don't! Your sister is going AWOL on me, and I need help if I'm to keep this place afloat."

Ah. She was in one of those moods. This usually meant: keep yourself constantly at a three meter radius, do not anger her, and follow orders. if you want to survive unscathed and guarantee that you get lunch in the afternoon. Her apartment was still being put into order, so her mother had taken it on herself to provide for her meals until she was ready to really 'fly the coop.'

Tizzie's father was a really laid back person of true Italian ilk. Her mom might as well win the award for 'most high strung woman in the history of mankind.' Husband and wife were completely different, polar opposites. Heaven knows how they ended up together and hadn't had an ugly split up in more than thirty years of marriage.

Her father's parents, (Grandpa Cosmo and Nonna), were also reasonably easy-going people. Nonna could sometimes be a little uptight, but that's only when it came to things like ironing shirts and cooking. Detta, her sister (unfortunately, the older one), is what Tizzie liked to call a deserter. She really couldn't give a damn about their work or what the family did in their spare time. For all Tizzie knew, she was somewhere taking drugs and drinking herself silly.

They used to be close. That, however, was another story entirely.

On the other hand, Mrs. De Luca was picky, bossy, caring, and extremely annoying when she put her mind to it. Tizzie loved the woman (well, it was her mother), and she had been there through everything Tizzie had ever experienced. One of the reasons she got along with Nonna was that she cooked like a whiz. Mrs. De Luca passed the examination for being the most American out of all of her family with flying colors. The parents on the American side of the family were vague, Tizzie remembered, but she had some fleeting memories of them.

And Tizzie?

Well, she was sort of in the middle of all of this. She kept it silent, went with the flow. Though there was an argumentative (one that she kept under lock and key), most did not get to see it unless Tizzie's ire was thinly concealed.


Her head snapped up, thoughts shattered. "Whassamatter?"

"Get me the curlers, quick!"

Tizzie hustled over to the counter and fished out the curlers Mrs. De Luca wanted, handing them to her without any delay. "Here you go, sarge."

"What was that?"

"Nothing, nothing. I'm going to get changed."

She shuffled her way back into the robe rooms, trying to evade Mrs. De Luca's penetrating laser gaze. She had gotten just about as much sleep as she needed to keep her on her feet. The night was spent sorting out bills and expenses—she wanted to get this over with as soon as possible so she could get into her own apartment and start living by herself. Her mother pointedly opposed the fact. It wasn't as if she was moving halfway around the world. She was reinstating herself in Allentown, not Mumbai. You'd think she was abandoning them, and the salon.

She slipped into the robe room, heaving a sigh of relief when she knew that Mrs. De Luca couldn't see her anymore.

"Buongiorno, small one," Nonna said from behind her, surprising her horrifically. Tizzie spun about, and placed a hand on her chest.

"Nonna! You scared me," she gasped, feeling her racing pulse settle.

"Your mother—she is angry again?"

Tizzie adored Nonna's broken English. It had such a homey, rich sound to it. Nonna understood a lot of things, and spoke English quite well, but her Italian accent always leaked through. When she'd get frustrated or angry, her English would inevitably swerve back to Italian until she was elaborately explaining the reasons why the target of her speech would be considered an idiot back in her home country in her mother tongue.

"You know how she is," Tizzie mumbled, reaching for a shirt on one of the cupboards. She peeled off her sweater and slid into a mandarin-collared top of peach color with the name of the shop printed on it in swirling print: "L'artigiano del Sorriso."


Grandpa Cosmo's voice startled her. "Che cosa è esso?" She pushed through the robes and walked into the salon's parlor. The day was starting just now and she had already been called 'bella' twice. It was going to be busy.

When Tizzie was finally free of the robes, she saw that there were six customers—four were currently having their hair washed, and the other two were waiting on the couch. They had six sinks in total in the salon, but Regina had taken leave because she was on her honeymoon (trust her to run off with some random dude in the middle of the work season!), which only left Tizzie, mom, and Stacey. They weren't many, but they had experience.

Mrs. De Luca hissed at Tizzie from behind a brush again. "You go get Mrs. Stein. She's sitting right over there."

"Okay," she grumbled under her breath, walking towards the aforementioned lady. Mrs. Stein was a well educated lady cruising easily into her thirties, and she was a frequent customer. She was the town's librarian, and almost everyone knew her—she was more popular amongst the kids. Tizzie barely had time to visit the library anymore. Everything had just spun out of control when she turned eighteen.

Tizzie guided Mrs. Stein over to the sink, and asked her what she wanted.

"Oh, just the usual, dear."

"Alright." Tizzie gave her a smile and eased her backwards. As she started the flow of water, her mind ran over the details. Mrs. Stein wanted brown dye and faint blond highlights, as always. It looked good on her. The blond lit her features up and went with her slightly peachy complexion.

The door to the salon opened again, and in stepped the one and only Mrs. Richards—the oldest and the meanest gossiper in Hollowhill. And, of course, one of the longest-visiting customers, since they were the only hair salon for miles.

"Ah, good morning, Euphemia!"

Mrs. Richards sniffed in the direction of Mrs. De Luca, and carefully took off her (fur, Tizzie noticed) coat. "Good morning, Mrs. De Luca." Then, her dark gaze snapped to poor Tizzie and locked on. Tizzie could swear that the lady had some sort of fighter jet radar in her eyes. She nearly drowned Mrs. Stein because she couldn't look away.

Tizzie shook her head, gave a short hello, and then turned back to her work.

He squirmed, trying to get the sticky substance out of his hair. "Someone, get this off me!"

Another man sitting opposite to him in the spacious car, gave an exasperated sigh. "I tried. No one can loosen gum in hair, you know that."

He turned to the man in the suit, dusty gray eyes accusing. "It was that idiot's fault!"

Another sigh. "You should have thought of that before you went after his girlfriend."

He shrugged "Couldn't help myself. It's in my nature."

"Well, then, get it out of your nature."

"Why don't you get the gum out instead?"

"Maybe you'll learn from this little experience."

"I'm not five, and you're not my father."

"Sometimes, I wonder."

"Shut up, okay? Cut the proverbs and do something!"

The man eyed the tousled chin length locks, and the pink globule threaded inside of them, spreading like a web. "It's not the end of the world, you know. Hair grows back."

"I am NOT cutting it." His gaze was cool and completely collected. With a twinge of discomfort, the man realized that the twenty-four year old was not letting this argument go without a fight.

"There's no other way."

"Are you deaf?"

"Perhaps." The man turned away from the car's interior and scanned the quickly passing landscape. The car rolled by a sign that had a pair of scissors on it. A large arrow pointed in the direction they were heading, and big letters shouted: "Boutique." At least there was something along the lines of that in this place.

Hollowhill was a rural town, nestled in the little known nooks and crannies of Pennsylvania. A beautiful town, but it looked like it was stuck somewhere in the nineteenth century. There were barely any televisions to speak of in this place (except for the one at the launderer's and the café), but Hollowhill was renown for its theater and infamously rich food.

That's why he had brought him here. In hopes that this place would set that head of the boy's straight and get his priorities in shape, Cole had dragged him all the way to Pennsylvania. Sure, he didn't have the best home to speak of, but Cole knew plenty people who had much more horrible backgrounds than him and still turned out with hearts of gold.

The same couldn't be said for the walking disaster sitting across from him.

"What are you looking at?"

Cole shook his head. "There's a boutique up ahead. We're stopping."

Tizzie exhaled heavily, sitting back and munching sullenly on a sugar least, she thought it was a sugar cookie. The fumes had practically robbed her nose of all sense of smell, so she didn't try to discern what she was masticating by sniffing it first. The taste hit her mouth: a flood of sweet velvet and a blanket of slightly salty dough. Nope. This was Grandma Katerina's chocolate chip.

Tizzie sat back, ready to enjoy the rest of her luscious treat, when the doors of doom opened, and in stepped the weirdest thing she'd ever seen around Hollowhill. Take in mind, this is 'weird' by Hollowhill standards, and not 'weird' as you'd think it is.

It was a guy.

Yes, that was enough to put it on Tizzie's weird list. Continuing, though, he had something tangled in his hair—she caught a glimpse of it. It He didn't look too happy about whatever it was, because his face was frowning. He turned on his heel, ready to walk out of the store, when he was pushed inside by another man (two in one day? It was a new record!), who was wearing a suit and appeared quite grim.

She sat back up. Knowing Mrs. De Luca, she would make her daughter deal with this.


Oh, how did I guess?

"I'm on it." Tizzie pushed myself up on her feet, and wiped away any traces of hair on her jeans and shirt. Tizzie walked over to them, plastering a smile on her face. "Hi there! What could I do for you?"

"Let me go, perhaps?" the voice came from Mr. Gum-in-hair.

"Don't mind him. My name is Cole Porter," the man behind the dude with the scowl said. "Could you do something for this?" At the word 'this,' he grabbed the offending lock of hair and brought it out from the others, making her see how badly the gum was actually ground into the hair. It was kind of disgusting, actually...

"Okay...if you'll come with me."

"What's she going to do?"

"Don't worry. I don't bite, neither am I Sweeney Todd. Come on." He shot her a glare capable of burning her to a crisp (if glares were capable of burning people to a crisp, she really would have been schnizzled on spot).

Tizzie sat him down straight on the chair. This had happened about a dozen times with Tony, so she knew exactly what to do. Tizzie automatically grabbed the hair mousse and squeezed a good amount of it onto her hands. His steely eyes darted back to her.

"What are you doing?"

"Getting rid of the gum in your hair."

She plunged her hands into his hair (which was surprisingly thick and well kept) and drew outwards, trying to catch the gum with her fingers. Soon enough, it started becoming softer. She grabbed the comb on the counter and yanked the gum out, although her patient wasn't too happy with this particular movement. There was some still in there, though.

"Jesus! Be careful, will ya?" His voice dropped about an octave. Obviously, he didn't think she was listening—or if he knew that she would, she wouldn't care. "It's bad enough that I had to come to this run down place...psycho, icing my hair...get out of here."

That's how he felt, now did he?

Well, then, no use in letting the boy off just for that! Tizzie was already very much frazzled from her run in with Mrs. Richards, and this whippersnapper was simply begging to be smacked into place.

"I think I'll have to cut your hair."


"The gum doesn't come out."

So...yes, she just had condemned him to a fate of shorter hair, simply because she was feeling ticked. He asked for it! Yes, she knew she was psychotic, sometimes, but he didn't have to point it out so blatantly. And yes, she did lie, but it was only an eensy-weensy bit. It wouldn't do any harm. He certainly sounded like he needed a wake up call, anyway.

So she set herself a-snipping before he could complain. After she had cut some off, he couldn't say anything - it was no use in doing something now. The damage was already done.

When she had finished with him, he looked unrecognizable. Before, his hair had hung to his chin, and just a little lower. The hair itself was a glossy sort of dark coal, and it looked, oddly enough, blue in the sunlight. They weren't highlights, because she had seen the roots of the hair whilst she was busy doing the buzz cut.

No, withhold your gasps. She didn't really buzz cut him. She had just made it...shorter, that's all. Nothing flopped over in his face now. She had spiked the hair very slightly with a wee bit of gel that she had sneaked into her palm and completely sheared his bangs. They had been ghastly, hideous—a complete abomination.

Besides, the shorter hair showed off his features better. Now you could clearly see a set of gray eyes and a sharp nose without having to squint through forests of hair to get an idea of what the guy looked like. He also looked fresher, like he had taken a breath of fresh air without all that stuff dangling about his face.

If only he shared her sentiments about his new do.

"You! What did you do to my hair?!"

"I told you...the gum wouldn't come out."

"That's a lie!"

Maybe it was. But you needed it! "You look really good."

"I look good anyway."

Whoop, someone'sfull of himself. "Listen here, buddy, I suggest you patch up your attitude before I have to sew your mouth in compensation. Sciocco."

"You sure my attitude's the one that needs fixing?" He got up from his chair, and shook his head, as if he was expecting to have hair flop all about him. That's one habit he'd have to break thanks to Tizzie. "Argh! Cole, we're out of here!"

She didn't even mention him paying. Tizzie didn't want to be paid, anyway. She had already done her good deed for the day, and that was successfully knocking him off of his high horse. When he stormed out of the salon (to Mrs. De Luca's utter disbelief), Tizzie was left behind grinning like an imp that had pulled of a nasty trick. He bumped into someone on his way out, and that someone just happened to be Detta.

Of course. What perfect timing.

She stared after the angry guy in what seemed to be a cross between amazement and fascinated horror, brown eyes wide. She and Tizzie (although the latter was inside) watched as the blue Volvo sped away like it was possessed. After the car disappeared into the horizon, Detta strode into the store, her knuckles wholly, pallidly white where she gripped at her bag.

"Who just did that man's haircut?!"

She flew inside the store, looking as wild as a harpy.

"It was your sister."

Thank you, mom...


You know something is wrong when Tizzie has her full name shouted at her from across the room.

Detta pounced on her, eyes spitting sparks. What had she done wrong this time?

"You"—she grabbed the front of Tizzie's salon shirt and pulled it forward, one hand pointing in the direction in which the Volvo vanished —"did not just do that!"