The first day of spring arrived, rainy and full of thunder. Spring always sparked a strange excitement in the town of Haverston. The widow, Gloria, re-opened her shop today. She was open each year from the first day of spring through Halloween. Outside of Haverston, no one believed the hype, but the locals swore by her.
Rain streamed down the edges of Ava’s red umbrella, as she reached the storefront. The only indication that it was more than a house was the white sign on the lawn. It read, “SPRING CLEANING – Declutter your home, declutter your life.” As Ava opened the door, a bell sounded above her. It looked even less like a shop, on the inside.
“Hello.” Ava turned her head toward the voice. The woman was young. She couldn’t have been older than forty. Her face seemed to glow a bit, but that was probably only a trick of the light. Ava wasn’t sure what she’d expected.
“What can I do for you?”
Ava felt lost for words. She’d planned a speech, but it was gone. There was no way to recover it now. Gloria seemed to understand. Smiling quietly, she led Ava to a side room. A sturdy table held a china tea service. Ava hated tea.
“Don’t worry. I have coffee there too.”
Ava smiled gratefully as she settled into one of the over-sized armchairs. The silence drew out between them as Gloria filled their cups. Gloria smiled and glanced out the parlor window, as though they were only two friends, enjoying a quiet moment. Despite herself, Ava fell into the comfortable silence. Amidst that stillness, the courage became more substantial than her fear.
“I need to move on from my Ex.” Gloria smiled kindly but didn’t respond immediately. Ave continued, “One of my friends told me, that what you do…helps. She said that one visit from you, and her uncle never touched another drop of liquor. She told me about her parents and how you saved their marriage. Kayla said that they’re happier than ever, and they were about to divorce. She said that you can do anything. I need anything.”
Gloria looked at her for a long time. Ava started to open her mouth again, but an unusual peace fell around her. The way that Gloria looked at her was like being wrapped in a warm blanket on a cold day. All of her thoughts disappeared, and the quiet deepened, as Gloria sipped her tea.
“I didn’t save their marriage, you know. I just helped it along. I’ll tell you what to do to start the magic, but you’re the one that’s going to make it happen. That is if you really want to move on.”
Gloria seemed to consider the question. “However much you want to give. No more, no less.”
“Okay, what do I do?”
“I want you to go home and clean your house. When you’re finished, go get your hair cut.”
“Does it always work this way?”
“Nope.” Gloria chuckled.
Shrugging her shoulders, Ava paid her and walked toward the doorway. A man was waiting inside the foyer when she entered. She’d barely reached the front door when he said, “I need to get some vermin out of my flower beds.” By the time she’d crossed the street, he was back on the sidewalk.
When she arrived home, the heaviness and loneliness hit her like a brick. She didn’t waste any time. As she vacuumed and scrubbed, Ava thought about the life that she wanted to build in Haverston. She imagined herself washing all of that pain away.
Ava started to notice things in her house that she didn’t need or want anymore. As she packed up the items in a donation box, it felt like she was curating her life.
When she reached her bedroom, her eyes went straight to a single unpacked box by her bed. She didn’t have to ask what was in it, but she opened it all the same. A few things went into the donation box, and some went into the trash. Satisfied, she headed to the salon.
“We don’t take walk-ins. Would you like to make an appointment?” The older woman asked when she arrived.
“I guess I’d better.”
The woman looked at her curiously. “What do you mean?”
Ava didn’t know why the woman had bothered to ask or why she answered so honestly. “Gloria, from ‘Spring Cleaning,’ told me to.” Ava shrugged.
The woman’s entire face changed. “Well, then, I’ll make an exception.” A bell sounded, and two older ladies seated themselves. “Tonya,” A young girl with pale pink hair walked over to them.
“Will you take care of Ms. Lathum and Ms. Harris? This lady has a prescription from Gloria.” All three women perked up their ears, and Tonya nodded eagerly. “I’m Charity, by the way. Follow me.”
As Charity washed and massaged her scalp, Ava felt something heavy wash away with the dirt. Strangely this special treatment made her feel connected in a way that she hadn’t managed since she’d moved to Haverston.
“Are you new here?”
“Sort of. I moved here over the winter, but…” Her eyes welled up with tears that choked her throat.
“Hmm…say no more.” They didn’t speak again until Ava was in front of the mirror. “How do you want it?”
The thought came to her in an instant. “Cut it short. I want it all gone.”
Silently Charity cut away. Ava’s glasses sat on the counter. Although she couldn’t see, she felt it all drop off. It felt as though he was dropping away too.
Charity handed her glasses back to her. As they slid onto her face, her new image slid into focus and new feeling beside it. It was then that she decided that she was going back to “Spring Cleaning,” and she was going to give Gloria more money.