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by Louise Mangos

Amidst the acrid smell of chemical dyes and dusty elements of overheated hairdryers, I am looking forward to an hour of pampering. I lean back against the faux-leather headrest, and flick mindlessly through the magazines on my lap. Vogue. Good Housekeeping. I let the gossip of the girls lull me into a state of half sleep. Barbara comes and goes, flitting around my head like a mother bird bringing bugs and worms to her chick.

A screech of brakes outside the salon makes our heads turn in unison towards the window. Silence stretches inevitably, before a sickening crump ends a Saturday afternoon drive and a stroll along the High Street.

The accident has happened down the road out of sight. We all rush in horrified inquisitiveness to the window. Our heads bob like meerkats in an attempt to gawk around the pink cursive signage on Barbara’s shop-front glass. Our breath mists the glass and our soft lotioned hands grease the pane. Barbara tuts behind me, and I wonder if she’s cross about having to clean the window or whether she knows the victim.

A polka-dot shopping bag on wheels lies on its side, one wheel still spinning. Oranges have rolled out of the bag, escaping like confused convicts onto the road. A tube of ready-made dough rocks gently by a drain cover. A nylon-clad puffy ankle lies at a strange angle near the curb. Its swollen flesh looks like something from the butcher’s van. The van that hides the rest of the old lady’s body. Should we call an ambulance? The police? No one moves.

Someone whimpers, followed by a distressed sob.

When the others turn to me in surprised curiosity, I realise the sound came from my mouth.

The bleach paste Barbara spread on my upper lip has now been there fifteen minutes too long.

Louise Mangos is a compulsive writer and drinker of prosecco. She lives on a Swiss Alp with her Kiwi husband and two sons. You can find her on Facebook and Twitter @LouiseMangos or visit her website www.louisemangos.com for links to more of her stories.