Everyone in Eddenton, even the infants, knew not to offer anything more than a quick “Good morning” or an “Evenin, yall” to Armina Washington and Salve, short for Salvetta Fairmont. Even a sprite “Hello” could come back to you as The Tale of Two Snubs. It all depends on Armina. Armina, a proud entrepreneuress (a term she coined the day of her salon opening), is serious about her business despite its nominal appearance. And careful to keep her business a privileged enterprise while shamelessly selling your secret family recipe to anyone with the lucid dream of a restaurant.
It’s been said, not to Armina’s face, of course, that the crows stay away from her properties; she has a few plots of land in the modest, but growing, town. They say the crows got tired of carrying all the trash Armina would tell them after luring them in with scraps. The scraps were likely provided by Salve, Armina’s hopeful wings. Lifting Armina up just so she can sip a cloud one of these old mornings seems to most to be her life’s work. Naturally, Salve took out a second mortgage on her inherited home to invest in Mina’s Nail Spa on Main. And just as naturally, she anticipates Armina’s Hot Topic of the Hour.
“You know, they say, she’s like Eve, one of those Seeing Women. They say, when she was in her mama Bullie’s womb, that Bullie couldn’t eat nothing apple-like. No pears–”
“No plums and no peaches either!” interrupts Salve. Armina, annoyed at the interruption, cloaks her frown in earnest sisterhood.
“Mmmhmmm, that’s a sho’ nuff sign right there,” she coos.
“Oh shut up, Armina,” said the woman whose hands Salve just refurbished with a flawless french tip. Biddy was a faithful customer, despite her disdain for needless gossip. “You’re always seeing signs where anyone with good sense sees a rumor, and a fantastical one at that.” Biddy stood, saying, “Pregnancy affects every woman differently, no matter how much of the experience is the same. Every woman is different just like every child is different. Difference doesn’t warrant all this vain imagining.” She handed Armina her payment rather gracefully. Armina received it rather indignantly.
“Oh, here she goes, Salve, with her professor tongue. Ain’t no lecture hall around here, Biddy. Save all that fancy talk for them white folk at that university that fired your All Knowin ass.” Armina said with all the glory of someone receiving the attention they never got as a child, or a teen, or a blossoming woman, or a wife. Biddy paused, keeping a steady gaze.
“Armina, you can bring up my hardships all you want. You can wave them around like bright banners of triumph and you can even make me feel a little low everytime you do it. But you can’t make the truth sting no less.” Stated Biddy matter-of-factly as she stepped, self-satisfied, out of the one bedroom home masquerading as a nail shop large enough for just five appointments at a time, and a “No Walk-ins” sign fastened to the door beneath the business number.
As Biddy left the judgment of the nail shop she passed the peculiar young infant, now woman, at the root of such fanciful speculation. They locked eyes. Biddy smiled. She’d never noticed how stark the woman’s features were. Her face was a multisyllabic word spoken by a loving God. Her skin glowed dark, like the moon and the sun aligned behind her back. Copperhead did not smile back, nor did she frown. Biddy suddenly felt naked, her heart pulsing as if an open door had found her exploring herself. Her feet matched her pulse and Copperhead entered the salon with a demeanor comparable to her namesake. Biddy was certain the ladies in the salon would have a few wounds to tend double what they caused her just moments ago. She smirked, reveling in the thought. Right then, Biddy wished she was one of those Seeing Women just this one time. She turned and reached toward the door to her gray 2013 Toyota Camry, her french tips invoking a smile.