Romance Speculative Friendship

The three rusted bells suspended from an old shoelace tied to the vertical handle, chimed as the door to the old barber shop swung open just a few moments before closing. A young man in his early twenties cautiously stepped inside as if he had just done something very wrong. He hung his head and stood among the mismatched chairs in the tiny foyer designated for waiting patrons, wringing his baseball cap with both hands. 

The cramped and outdated shop was empty save the two stylists who busied themselves cleaning and preparing to close for the evening. “Sam left for the day.” The blonde woman called over her shoulder referring to the owner who typically accommodated the male patrons. She ducked into the back room with a handful of color tubes to return to the storage rack, leaving the younger of the two women to assist the young man who remained even after being informed of Sam’s absence. He smiled awkwardly and fidgeted in place as she approached. 

“Do you need a cut?” she asked.

The young man blushed, “Yes, please.” he answered softly. The very sound of his deep velvety voice invoked a surprising feeling in the stylist. Her knees felt weak, and an involuntary smile erupted from her pursed lips. She motioned for the young man to follow her from the carpeted area into the salon. “I’m sorry for showing up so late. I didn’t realize you’d be closing.” 

“It’s totally fine. I have no plans this evening, may as well make a few bucks.” 

The blonde resurfaced from the back, “Oh, but you do have plans. You’re going to the club with us tonight, remember?” 

“I’m not.” the petite brunette stated with conviction. She looked directly at the young man and assured him, “I’m not going anywhere. You’re fine.” 

The blonde stylist threw a small towel in her friend's direction, “Yes, you are! However, you have plenty of time for your cute customer. She said, winking at the young man.

The brunette shook her head in protest. “What’s your name?” she asked, leaning over the tattered appointment book perched at the edge of the counter. 


“Nice to meet you Chris, I’m Sandie.”

Chris wanted nothing more than to confess he already knew her name. In fact, they had gone to high school together, shared four classes and had officially met on several occasions at parties and other various social gatherings. True, it had been a few years since he revealed himself, but Chris always knew where Sandie was. Oh, he wasn’t stalking her, simply admiring her from afar. Maybe if she knew, she’d find it romantic, or at the very least, charming. Chris chose to remain incognito, for now. 

“Have a seat.” Sandie offered, gesturing toward the sink. “Let’s get a quick wash, and you can tell me what you’d like done with your hair, ok?” 

Chris obliged, leaning his head back into the black porcelain basin. He tried not to stare as Sandie leaned over him, adjusting the water temperature and testing it in her free hand. “How’s this?” she asked, lightly misting the stream over his hair. "Temp ok?” 

“It’s fine.” he managed, still attempting to keep his eyes from looking directly into hers. He could smell the coconut scented shampoo as she dispensed it into her hand first before massaging it into his hair. It was intoxicating, and Chris found the whole experience rather sensual. He didn’t even mind the occasional sprinkle of water on his cheeks and once directly into his left eye. 

Sandie grabbed a clean towel, blotted the few rogue droplets from his face and wrapped his clean, soaking hair. “Go ahead, sit up and we can get started. My chair is the third one from the left.” she informed him. 

Chris walked the six feet across the narrow salon where a row of five styling stations lined a mirrored wall. He sat in the corresponding chair to Sandie’s own little slice of the outdated barber shop. There were several photos of Sandie and her friends stuck to the mirror, and a plastic novelty trophy for “Best Hairdresser” perched on the laminate top of her distressed wooden storage cabinet. He wondered why she chose to work in such a small and dated shop when the town was littered with trendy and modern salons offering everything from trims to tattoos. 

Sandie stood behind Chris and began to comb through his damp, towel tousled hair. Her friend and coworker stopped to say goodbye before leaving for the evening. She patted Chris’s caped shoulder, “See ya’ around cutie.” Chris smiled politely.

“Oh, Heather, can I borrow your new clippers?” Sandie asked.

“Sure, they’re in my second drawer.” Heather informed her, gesturing to the station to the right of Sandie’s. She hesitated a moment and retracted her offer in lieu of a deal. “Wait! You may borrow them, but only if you promise to meet us at Waves later, and don’t just say you’ll be there and not actually show up.” 

Waves was a quaint club near the shore where twenty-somethings gathered to drink, dance and decompress. The club often featured local bands, DJ’s and on Thursdays, Karaoke. This particular Friday, the club was hosting a popular local band and Heather was eager to get out and dance. “Say yes. Otherwise, what will you do, go home to an empty apartment, open a bottle of Pinot and drink alone? Sandie, that’s just wrong. It’s not like you’re betraying Ian if you go without him.” 

Chris felt his heart sink at the sound of another man’s name. He was sure Sandie wasn’t seeing anyone, but Heather may have just dashed his hopes of ever having a chance to ask her out. He let out an involuntary, yet audible sigh, making Heather giggle. She touched his arm again, “Don’t worry cutie, Ian is Sandie’s very platonic, very gay best friend and roommate who has been visiting his family in Vermont for the past week.” 

Both Chris and Sandie experienced a pang of embarrassment yet chose to ignore the obvious. Chris lowered his eyes as Sandie reached into Heather’s station and snatched her new clippers from the drawer. “Fine.” she conceded, “I’ll see you guys around eight, but I’m not staying long.” 

Heather blew a kiss from the door and took her leave. Sandie and Chris managed small talk for the twenty minutes it took to finish the haircut, intentionally avoiding Heather’s obvious implications. Sandie took a knob handled brush from the top of her station and dusted the loose hairs from Chris’s neck. “There, all done.” 

Chris paid, thanked her and left a five-dollar tip on the counter. As he opened the door, he glanced back at Sandie who was hurriedly straightening her work area in preparation to close the shop. She looked up and smiled, sweetly, sincerely, leaving Chris with a feeling of warmth and hope. 

Waves parking lot was only half full by the time Sandie arrived. Grateful for a close spot, she exited her car and headed in. The doorman checking IDs greeted her personally, as they had known one another for years through Heather and her usual group of friends. “Sandie, great to see you, where’s Ian?”

“Hey Joe. Ian is still in Vermont visiting his parents. He’d better hurry home, I feel naked without him.” she teased. 

“Heather and the guys are already here. Have a great time tonight.” Joe offered. 

Sandie climbed the staircase leading from the entrance into the main bar. The house DJ was still playing as the featured band’s first set wasn’t due to begin for another hour. She noticed Heather almost immediately, but then again, everyone did. She was not only stunning and animated but had a unique style which was almost impossible not to notice. Heather was dressed entirely in black which was contrasted by her near platinum blonde locks and bright red lipstick. She embodied the “everyone wanted to be her or be with her” cliche perfectly. As Sandie serpentined through the crowded dance floor, Heather approached. “I’m so happy you’re here! Listen, go get yourself a cocktail and I’ll meet you by the bar in a few minutes.” 

Sandie spotted an empty barstool near a high-top table in the far corner. She hurried to claim the seat before a sweaty and exhausted dancer decided it was time for a drink break. She rested her purse on the table and dug into it for cash. She was about to flag down a waiter when a man near her own age, dragging a stool invited himself to join her. “Hey, mind if I share your table?” he asked cordially. 

“Not at all.”

“I was going to bring you a drink, but somehow I sensed you’re too savvy to accept a cocktail from a stranger.” 

Sandie was a bit taken back by his impertinence but quickly surmised his lack of threat. “You sensed correctly. Besides, you have no idea what I’d order.” 

The young man let a quick chuckle escape, “Malibu Bay Breeze.” he stated with conviction. 

“Yeah, how would you possibly know that?” Sandie wasn't impressed but rather leery, instantly regretting her decision to allow him to share her table. 

He laughed again, this time louder and less mysteriously, “Heather told me to join you. She also informed me of your cocktail of choice. It was her idea that I buy you a drink, but as I mentioned, I gave it some thought and decided not to take liberties. 

“Well, that makes sense. Please don’t be offended, but I would rather not get myself into a situation I can’t get out of tonight. By the way, I’m Sandie.” 

“Stephen.” he offered, extending his hand. 

“Are you here with friends?” 

“Actually, I came here with my brother.” 

“Oh, that’s nice. Is he dancing?”

“No, I think he ducked into the restroom when we first came in. I’m sure he’ll find me soon. I hope you won’t mind if he joins us. I believe you two know each other. His name is Chris, Chris Robbins.” 

“Oh, I just cut his hair. Nice guy.” she offered.

Stephen cleared his throat, and called for a waitress, “Excuse me?” 

“Hey, what can I get for you?” the slight waitress asked sweetly. She reminded Sandie of a pixie, tiny and cute without being flashy or obvious. She wore little makeup, and her auburn hair was kept short and swept over her left eye. Stephen ordered two beers and a Malibu Bay Breeze for Sandie. The waitress promised a speedy return and disappeared into the crowd. 

There were a few seconds of awkward silence before Sandie asked, “So, is this your first time here? I don't think I’ve seen you before.”

“Not my first time, but it has been a while. Sandie, we have met before, but I cannot blame you for not remembering me. You were only a freshman when I was a senior in high school. We met at the school carnival. You and I were both assigned to the dunk tank.” Stephen explained.

“I’m so sorry, I do vaguely remember, but I’m confused. The boy that worked the dunk tank with me died in an accident right before he graduated. For the life of me, I cannot seem to recall his name.” 

“Stephen Robbins.”

“Yes! That’s it! wait, what?”

“Don’t freak out. My brother is coming, maybe he can help you understand.”

“Oh, no, I’m out of here. This just got too weird. You need professional help. It’s really messed up that you would screw with me this way.” Sandie stood, grabbing her purse. She tried to walk from the table, but the crowd was thick, and her immediate exit was temporarily delayed. She noticed Chris standing behind the person directly in her path. He stepped around and attempted to say hello, but Sandie shut him down, “So, are you a freaking ghost too?” 

Chris looked over at Stephen who offered his bar stool to his brother. “Sit, I’ll stay with you and hopefully we will get Sandie to understand.” 

Chris rested one leg against the empty stool and pleaded for Sandie to stay. “Please, just give us a few more minutes.”

“Us? You’re going to continue to play the dead brother card?” 

“Sandie, Stephen is dead. The mere fact that you can see him, hear him and give credibility to his existence is nothing short of miraculous. Only people with open minds and hearts can communicate with the dead.”

“So, are we talking Zombie, or what?” 

Chris trembled nervously, fearing Sandie would find a break in the crowd and flee before he could make a connection. “No, no Zombies, more like an ethereal being. He has actual substance for those who believe our souls can exist beyond our physical bodies. He can’t be harmed, or physically interact with the living, but he is here, and for a reason.” 

Sandie took a deep breath and sat back down. She addressed Stephen directly, “Why are you here?” 

He looked to Chris as if asking permission to offer the answer. Chris shook his head and Stephen began, “Sandie, I cannot completely transition to the afterlife until I fulfill a promise I made to Chris, years ago. I have tried many times over the past few years, but the circumstances were never quite in line with the intended outcome. I promised, long ago, that I would help Chris ask you out. He was so shy in high school, and you were somewhat of a wild child back then; he was quite intimidated.” 

Sandie was less frightened and more intrigued, “I’m not that girl anymore.” 

Chris mustered his nerve and continued on his own, “I know. I have been admiring you all along. I think the changes you’ve made to be the person you have become are amazing. I love your generous heart. I adore the way you treat everyone, with kindness and no judgment. I could go on, but I’m hoping this won’t be my only chance to tell you how much you mean to me.” 

Sandie felt tears begin to burn in her eyes. She fought to keep them from spilling down her cheeks, but her emotions were too great to conceal. “I had no idea.” she choked. 

“Of course not, how could you know when I never took the risk of telling you, or even striking up a conversation with you. Stephen has tried to divinely intervene on my behalf, but to no avail; that is, until tonight. I believe our timing is finally in alignment.” 

Sandie realized the waiter had dropped their drink order and downed her cocktail in one long swill. There were moments of silence, neither brother dared to break with more otherworldly information for Sandie to digest. The alcohol began to lower her inhibitions and the words came more easily, “Stephen, if I agree to go out with Chris, will you disappear forever?” 

“No. I can always come back, but I won’t have any specific agenda. However, if you prefer I remain stealth, I will do so.”

“Maybe I am losing my mind, or maybe you did in fact manage to drug me somehow, but I am finding this all very fascinating and quite endearing. Stephen, you hung around to help your brother find the love he is destined to have, and Chris, you’d give up seeing Stephen if I asked you to do so?” 

The brothers answered in unison, “Yes.” 

Sandie waved the waiter over and ordered her second Malibu Bay Breeze, then turned to the brothers, “Far be it from me to cause any rift in your family dynamic, however unconventional. I mean, every family has its secrets, right? This one just happens to be astronomical. I feel as though I’ve been chosen to protect the Holy Grail.”

Stephen laughed, “Well, I’m certainly not as coveted, but I do understand. I knew you were the one, so special and so perfect for my brother and his enigmatic relationship with the dead.” 

Sandie reached for Chris’s hand, “Thank you. Not only for coming into my life, but for reminding me to believe, even in things that seem impossible.” 

Chris tightened his fingers over Sandie’s hand, “Especially in things that seem impossible.” 

May 26, 2023 19:28

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Mary Bendickson
20:28 May 26, 2023

Seeing dead people! And she is not running for the meds. A unique way to meet the one true love.😜


Myranda Marie
21:05 May 26, 2023

I figured it's one hell of a spiritual experience !! haha ...thanks for reading !!!


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