Disclaimer: The X-Men, namely Cecilia Reyes
and Bobby Drake, do not belong to me. Almost everything else does,
however, so be kind and ask before making anything other than standard
use of this work. This is for Queen B, who prodded so very nicely,
(and who has me stuck in present tense for some reason :-D). This
could also answer the Growing Old challenge sent here some weeks ago.
"text"--translated from Spanish.
© K-Nice 1999
Beauty Comes to Those Who Wait
The fast tattoo of salsa music blares out of a large stereo. The
young man just inside the entryway of the shop is stomping quickly,
his swiveling hips tugged into motion by the swift drum beat.
Cecilia winces at the sharp trumpet sound from the boom box. She
let the weight of her age sink down on her. There was a time that
she could have joined in and pounded the floor to put Jennifer Lopez
to shame. Even now, she taps her soft-soled shoes on the linoleum
floor to the rhythm as she hauls her sagging body through the door,
causing the little bell the ring. Its sound is swallowed up by a crash
of cymbals and a final drumbeat. The bell tinkles again as her husband
steps up behind her.
Bobby places his head on the small of her back, as much to support
himself as to steady her. The drive from Westchester was exhausting
for him. There was a time he loved to dart in and out of cars, tailgate,
run tolls -- whatever held a momentary thrill. But the weary cant
of his head bespoke his agitation with bummer-to-backseat traffic,
blaring horns and the confusing road signs that plagued every trip
to the South Bronx, not to mention that it was murder trying to parallel
park a Lincoln through bifocal lenses.
"Señora, Señor Drake. Si' do'n." The young man finally notices them
as the radio plays the morning news report in rapid Spanish. He reaches
out an arm to guide the two gray-haired patrons to the most comfortable
chairs in the waiting area. Smiling all the way, he speaks excitedly
to them, his Dominican accent flowering his Spanish. "How are you
both? How's life in the suburbs? Can I offer you some coffee, tea,
Ensure?" He smiles even wider at the last. They're the healthiest
old folks he knows, but that's not too surprising seeing the Señora
is really the Médica.
"Everything is fine, Mataieu, but I'd like to get started soon."
Cece answered for them both, her accent flavored a bit differently.
Bobby had acquired fluency other the years of their marriage, but
he had trouble when the words became like chatter in his English ears.
Sitting in a car for over an hour had aggravated her arthritis. The
sooner this was over, the sooner she could convince Bobby to give
her a hot/cold rub down. If his hands didn't cramp up from gripping
the steering wheel so tightly on the Major Deagen.
"Alicia, Alica! Missus Drake eas 'ere! Rapido abuela!" Mataieu bustles
behind a greasy shower curtain, which separates the back of the shop
from the front area. Bobby can hear the rumblings of conversation
back there and levers himself up from the pleather chair.
"Milady, may I escort you to your throne." He bows as deeply as he
dares, his mischievous smile making his wrinkled skin shine radiantly.
Cecelia chuckles softly and takes his arm. They walk carefully, arm
in arm, to the chair in the center of the room. She leans on him heavily
as she sits, her right hip still weak since the slip and fall outside
the Salem Center Health Clinic. Her force-field saved her from a break,
but the ache still lingers. Settling herself in the high chair, Cecelia
lets her eyes follow Bobby as he makes his way back to his seat. His
taunt muscles have softened with time, a certain stoop has come to
rest in his shoulders, but his smile is the same, if not better. His
eyes hold years, but years full of good humor. He is not the tired
old man she saw in her old neighborhood, worn to dust by sadness and
struggle. Bobby has had more than his fair share of troubles, but
Cecelia sees beauty in the way his laughter has persevered.
"Cecelia, how are you!" Alicia shuffles out from her seclusion
behinds the curtain. Her round body is draped in a bright flowered
housecoat. Her feet, gone flat from decades of standing all day and
into the night, force her to wear the softest of fluffy slippers.
Cece beams at her childhood friend "Hey, 'Licia, what's doing?"
"I suppose you aren't gonna spare my wrists and just get a perm?"
Cecelia looks outraged, but Alicia continues undaunted as she gathers
up her supplies. "An Updo? A finger-wave, something? Please?" Eyes
narrowed to slits to match her friend's appearance, Alica suddenly
looks heavenward. "Lord Jesus save me from Satan and CeCe Reyes and
"Oh you hush up and get started." Cecelia sets back and grins into
the wall of mirrors before her. Suddenly, her chair is no longer under
her. Her force-field flickers on weakly as she bounces back into the
seat. "Aiiiieee!" Grasping her chest, Cecelia glares hard at Alicia,
whose foot still rested on the hydraulic pump that had brought the
chair crashing down. She glared even harder at Bobby and his quiet
Setting herself down on a stool, Alica pressing Cecelia, Mataieu
and Bobby into service to undo the salt and pepper braids that adorn
Mrs. Drake's head. With varying methods, but equal skill, they snip
and tug and unwind. Alicia sorts the bags of human hair, mingling
the black and gray in just the right proportions. Soon, Mataieu returns
to his music and Bobby sits down to wait.
Looking in the mirror, her can see his wife's light brown face. She
avoids his eyes, but her seeks hers. How can she know how much he
loves her, and yet not realize that she is beautiful to him, even
with her thinning gray locks exposed to the light of day? Bobby winks
into the reflective glass, giving her his most smoldering stare. Cecelia
bursts into delighted laughter, meeting his look with a spicy one
of her own, until Alicia puls her head back into place.
Cece and Alicia begin a spontaneous conversation, filling each other
in on the events of the past three months. Bobby listens, watching
Mataieu welcome a customer and set up his own chair. Bobby remembers
the first time he came to this beauty shop. There had been many more
women in the shop that day, and Bobby had been the palest, malest
thing around. At the time, his Spanish amounted to "Yo Quiero Taco
Bell." and the conversation had attacked from all around him. He was
newly married to the good Dr. Reyes, and never had he felt more alienated
form her. She was in her element, and he just wanted to sink under
the floor. He understood how she felt that day her brought her to
For over 40 years, she dragged him with her every three months to
refresh her trademark braids. Over the years, he began to see the
trip in a whole new light. The time together became valuable, first
away from the X-Men, then away from their two children. In all that
time, he was usually the only man sitting there idly watching his
wife be transformed. Only Cecelia let her man see her unpretty, while
other woman defended their glamorous front as reality. Waiting there,
watching Alicia attack her head with a hot comb and hair grease, he
was able to see her true, honest beauty.
The hours crawl along, the gossip beginning to carry a mournful tone
as deaths are related. Bobby listens, absorbing most of it, noting
the tears in CeCe's eyes. As if Hank's passing several months earlier
weren't enough to cope with, now she had lost someone else dear to
her. Bobby fights his memories until the growing dark outside provides
a respite. Alicia hustles them into the back for a dinner break.
Cecilia's drooping eyes perk up at the sight and smell of chicken,
beans and rice. Under her watchful eye, Bobby declines a Cerveza.
Momentarily tempted by his sudden melancholy over his lost friend,
he has no real desire to fall off the wagon. He was working on 20
years clean and sober and he wasn't about to louse it up, especially
with CeCe right there to give him vicarious satisfaction. She reveals
in the flavor, the youth that washes over her along with the rush
The rest of the even passes quickly. Always anxious, Bobby hovers
at her side as Alicia takes a cigarette lighter to the ends of close
to a hundred brads. One fist is cool as ice, but the other grips his
CeCe strokes his fingers, their comfort making the unnerving scent
of burning hair a little easier to bear. She runs her fingers over
two familiar marks on his hand -- the indentations and discolorations
from his pencil and the rough callous where his thumb invariably rubbed
both mouse pad and adding machine base -- battle scars of all those
years running an accounting business from home while she ran the Clinic
so that Juanita and Robert Jr. would have someone to come home to.
Walking out of the shop into the muggy New York night, Cecelia leans
against her husband as he draws her toward the car. His hand rest
on the ignition for several moments as he watches her with her head
laid back and her brown eyes closed.
She feels him watching her and her eyes open to slits. That wondrous
smile is all she needs to tell her what she has always known. "What?"
"It's just, I think you look more beautiful now than you ever did
before." His voice cracks huskily and he turns the key.
Leaning back again she smiles through tears. "So do you mi amante,
so do you."
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