“Are you sure this is safe?” I asked Kit.
“Of course; it’s totally safe. Good grief, Valley Girl, it’s not gonna kill you or anything.”
I smiled at her use of the nickname she’d suddenly given me. Valley Girl. It sounded so cool.
“Well, if you’re sure, Kitty Kat,” I replied. If I had a nickname, then she should have one, too, although Kitty Kat didn’t sound nearly as fab as Valley Girl. I picked up the box of hair dye and read the instructions, for the third time. “It says here you should try a test on a patch of skin by your elbow. For allergies and stuff.”
“Oh, they always say that. They have to; it’s the law. But don’t pay any attention. And stop worrying. It’s gonna be fine. When you’re done, you’ll be a gorgeous redhead, like Ann Margaret.”
“Ann Margaret! She’s a million years old. Think of someone younger.”
“Okay, how about me?”
Kit did indeed have gorgeous reddish-brown hair that was admired by everyone in school. And since I wanted so much to be like her, I had agreed to her suggestion that I dye my dark-blond hair the same color. I picked up the box again. “Says here we should rinse it out no more than thirty minutes later. It’s been thirty-five.”
“Oh, Val, they say thirty minutes because they have to. It’s the law. But everyone knows you have to keep it on at least ten minutes more.”
“I think it’s starting to burn my scalp.”
“Good, that’s good. That means it’s penetrating the hair shafts.”
I was getting nervous, particularly at Kit’s sudden knowledge of the law, not to mention hair follicles. But I was wishing now I had just stuck with the hair color God had given me.
At the thought of God, I suddenly heard the front door slam. Had to be my mother, as close to God as you could get. I heard her footsteps coming down the hall to the bathroom and watched the locked door handle jiggle as she tried to open it.
“Valerie, what in the dickens are you doing in there?” she called from the other side. “Open this door at once.”
That was Kit’s cue to climb on the back of the commode and squeeze through the small window that led out to my backyard.
“Nothing, Mom. I’m taking a shower; I’ll be done in a few minutes.”
“Shower? At three in the afternoon? Is that Katherine in there with you?”
“No, of course not.” It wasn’t a lie. I glanced out the window and saw Kit raise two fingers, giving me the peace sign. She was so cool.
“That girl is such a nuisance,” my mother said from the other side of the door.
“She’s not even here,” I said, raising my voice.
“You’re not having any problems, are you?” Her voice had softened a little. “Female stuff?”
“No,” I said. Just you, I thought.
“Okay; then finish your shower or whatever it is you’re doing. I bought a new rug I want you to see.”
Twenty minutes later, after rinsing and scrubbing and then re-rinsing my hair, I emerged from the bathroom with a towel wrapped around my head. I wasn’t close to Kit’s gorgeous auburn, or even Ann Margaret. More like Lucille Ball at the height of her zaniness.
The next day my mother took me to LaVonda’s House of Beauty, a place she visited every five weeks to restore her own honey-blond locks to their natural shade. LaVonda herself did several things to my tresses, apparently all legal, and was somehow able to return my hair close to its usual drab color.
On the drive home my mother instructed me to never try anything so foolish again, and more importantly, I was to have no contact whatsoever with that girl Katherine. She and I were forbidden to be friends, and that was the end of that.