"Monica's Beauty College?" the man repeated. Rowan Maser, I think was his name. His thick fingers threatened to crush my résumé.

Okay, so perhaps it had been rather tacky to print it out on purple paper. My own fault for being so addicted to Legally Blonde. I gritted my teeth and nodded. "Yes, I attended the college for three years. Graduated a few months back."

Mr. Maser's face remained blank. "I've never heard of it."

"It's on Harrison Boulevard," I said. "Next to the Wendy's?" Goodness grief, was I asking a question? I ran a hot pink nail down the rip in my jeans and silently planned more confidence.

He held up a hand defensively. "I'm not doubting its existence, Miss Bryner. I was only commenting. But... but I do wonder if it's a reputable school."

Of course Monica's was a reputable school! It had only taken me four applications and stalking Monica herself to let me in. Girls trained at Monica's wound up working at professional salons or even making it to television networks and all of that. Yet here was I, not doing any of that, just answering a very vague newspaper ad. I forced a smile. "Monica's is one the finest beauty school in the state."

I don't think Mr. Maser cared. He didn't seem the kind of guy to care about anything. Old, at least forty, not exactly in the pique of health, red hair already balding and greying. What sort of person was he to need a beautician? His thin lips smiled back. "Good to hear. Perhaps that sort of education is what we're looking for."

"Good, because I really need this job." Ugh. I could have smacked myself. One not supposed to ramble and beg at interviews. That was a first no-no. "Sorry."

Mr. Maser's turned back to my hideously purple résumé. "And I see that you were working toward an associates degree in social work."

I almost laughed. Real college. That had been a pure joke, pure mistake. Two semesters at community college and a job at Burger King, and for what? I can't believe I had let people talk me into college. "Yes. It was a degree I am no longer involved in."

He shrugged. "It's hard to do anything with a social work degree of that level, anyway So make-up and hair is more your thing, then?"

Was he trying to sound cool? I pointed at my own hair. What usually took other people half a pack of bobby pins and a bottle of hair spray had been turned into a blonde piled bun on my head with a quarter of the work. "Yes, it's always been a talent of mine. I like make-up and hair." Yes, that was it. Sell myself. That's what you were supposed to do. "I do my mom's and my friends' all the time."

"It looks... nice."

I hope I hadn't gone over on the make-up. I happened to like bright colors, and I had panicked preparing for the interview. "You have my portfolio."

He glanced at the thick binder on the desk, then nodded. "Yes. Very impressive."

I smiled and nodded myself. This was getting awkward. Were all interviews this bad? Well, this wasn't exactly the place I had envisioned for an interview. It was more like a... other job interview place. Drab brown office, cluttered with papers and bad photographs of beaches. Dull and reminiscent of Mr. Maser himself. Did his company, or whatever it was, even do hair?

He studied over my résumé another minute, then sighed. "All right, Miss Bryner, I guess I'll give you the job."

It was all I could do to not jump out of my chair screaming. I had a job. My first job! All wonderful with work and a paycheck so I could pay my rent and maybe go shopping. Fortunately, all I said was "Thank-you."

He muttered something under his breath. "I should tell you about the job's details, shouldn't I?"

I expected it would be the normal beauty stuff.

He continued. "This is not a regular salon, as I'm sure you've noticed. Our clients seek something more clandestine than the usual sort of walk-in-off-the-street boutique. Our customers are... often very difficult. They are lacking confidence and are always somewhat unsure of themselves. Oh, that was redundant, wasn't it? Anyway, your job will be to make all their dreams come true and win them the hearts of handsome princes."

I laughed. That sort of stuff didn't seem right coming out of someone as boring as Mr. Maser. "Well, if I have a brush and a make-up kit, that shouldn't be too difficult."

He raised an eyebrow. "So you accept the terms?"

"I sure do." Pause. "What's the dress code? Can I come like this?"

He took in my patched/frayed jeans and my bright orange shirt with the strawberries on it. Perhaps I should have worn something more professional. But at least I had the job. "We don't have a dress code. Usually the employee wears something more... flowy. But technically there is no dress code."

"Good enough for me. When do I start?"

He checked his watch. "Next Monday. How does that work for you?"

Considering I was out of school, had no boyfriend, and needed this job... "Works great."

"Then be here at 9 AM sharp," Mr. Maser replied. "Well, not here. But you saw the white door next to mine? Go in there."

"White door, nine AM," I repeated, and flashed him a thumbs-up.

He rolled his eyes. "Thank-you and goodbye, Miss Bryner. Or... " He glanced back down at the paper. "... Tansy. I guess that's your first name, Tansy Bryner. But now Tansy. We have a policy to call employees by their first names. Makes things more personal, and we have a very personal business. Though I think I prefer Miss Bryner."

I stood up, not wanting to argue about my name. "Tansy will be fine."

"Have a good day," he said with a yawn. Which ended mid. "Oh... Tansy. I have one more thing."

I stopped in the process of slipping my bag over my shoulder.

He reached under his desk and pulled out a long, skinny box. "You'll need this Monday. Standard equipment."

I took the box. "Thank-you." What was it? Some special curling iron?

"Hopefully you'll learn to use it." Another yawn. "You may leave now, Tansy."

I stuck the box into my bag and practically skipped out of the office. I was excited. Very excited. I had a job. A very weird job, but a job none the less. I entered the hall where Mr. Maser's office had been. A perfectly normal hall. Off-white walls with a flower border. Looked like something out of a medical office. But it worked.

And next to Mr. Maser's door was another white door. Not a salon. Just what had I gotten myself into? Television crews sort of make-up department. The place had better not be a mortuary. Well, I would be at that white door on Monday.

"How did it go?" the receptionist asked from her desk. Mary, her name plaque read. She seemed nice enough. Cute little girl barely out of high school, looking the size of the average 6th grader.

I grinned at her. "I got the job!"

She grinned back. Oh, but I would love to dump some make-up over those thin, elfin features. Do something with her hair. She was cute, like I said. Definite potential. And she did seem nice. "Then I hope you enjoy working here!"

"Yeah," I replied. "Though it doesn't seem like a normal salon."

"It isn't. Very high class."

I hoped so. After all, I had found the add in the back of the newspaper. And all that had said was "Wanted: Girl Talented in Beauty." Well, I could make people look good.

Amy punched something into her computer. "I just hope you can handle it. A lot of girls get hired and freak after the first day."

I shook my head. "I'm desperate for a job. I graduated a month ago, top of my class, and haven't found anything. So I think I'll be forced to stick around no matter what."

"You had better."

I really didn't like the way she had said that. Well, working at a place long enough made one cynical. I gave her a goodbye and headed out of the main door. Maybe there was a Wendy's nearby.