On top of my grandma’s dresser were three heads. Even though they had no eyes, I was sure they were watching me as I played with Grandma’s jewelry and sneaked peeks into her drawers. I named them Flora, Fiona, and Frances and made up elaborate stories about their elegant, glittering lives.
Every morning, one of the ladies would be hairless because Grandma would not step into her day without a wig. I felt sorry for whoever had to bare a Styrofoam scalp; after all, how attractive could a girl feel without her crowning glory? But Grandma had lost hers years before, and her dignity came first. She was a classy lady, and she looked fab whether she wore Flora, Fiona, or Frances. Frances was my favorite, though, because she had hair called “frosted.” My five-year-old self thought that made Grandma look like a movie star, especially when she added rouge and red lipstick.
Grandma didn’t seem bothered about having to borrow another lady’s hair, but as she approached ninety, she started to slip in her toilette. She’d come out of her room with Fiona leaning precariously to the left or Flora pitching dangerously to expose too much forehead. When she started wearing Frances backward, I worried that she’d soon lose her head altogether.
Fortunately, that didn’t happen, because when Grandpa called to say she’d died in her sleep, my first thought was of her hair—not a typical grief response, but I knew Grandma’s priorities. As soon as I got to the house, I hugged Grandpa and then beelined it to the bedroom to shore up her facade.
Lifting Frances from her Styrofoam neck, I tugged her securely onto Grandma’s head. Adding a touch of rouge and red lipstick, I knew she’d be proud when the funeral home came to get her. I kissed her cheek and whispered into her ear: “You look like a movie star.”
Traci Mullins, a non-fiction book editor by day, has been writing flash fiction since 2017. Her stories have been published in three anthologies, Panoply, Spelk, Fictive Dream, Flash Fiction Magazine, Flash Boulevard, Cabinet of Heed, Blink-Ink, Dime Show Review, Ellipsis Zine, and many others. She was a two-time finalist in the London Independent Story Prize competition.