Ada was an educated woman, so she knew how to pronounce the word “boudoir.” But because she was not excessively educated, she didn’t know exactly what it MEANT.
When she encountered the word in a novel in her youth, Ada assumed, reading for context, that a “boudoir” was a sort of pleasant, informal place where women lounged around with their hair down and gossiped about things. And so, in her middle age, when she’d leased the downtown building to start her hairstyling business, one of her first investments had been a large, yet stylish sign that read ADA’S BOUDOIR.
It said something about the town of Refuge that even ten years later, no one had corrected her. In fact, only one other person in miles knew the actual meaning of the word, and he saw little reason to stick his nose into other people’s business.
Mornings began early at Ada’s Boudoir, unlike most other boudoirs. Ada would open up, and her assistants, Mildred and young Nessie would set to work, building the fire, heating the water in the tank, and beginning the processes of the day.
They had it down to a fine routine. And among Mildred's tasks was, when the salon was presentable, opening the drapes at the big front window that was lettered ADA'S BOUDOIR. She did this every day. She delighted in the surprise that the drapes would reveal; sometimes there was a customer or two standing out front, awaiting the opening.
This morning did indeed reveal a surprise, a most unique and unprecedented one: an ogre sitting outside on the boardwalk.
When the drapes were pulled back, it caught the creature's attention; plainly, it was waiting for just this event, and it promptly leaned forward to see through the window.
Mildred shrieked, jumped back, staggered, and fell on her butt.
The ogre didn't notice. The creature goggled to see what was visible through the window, gawking in wonder at the chairs, fittings and decor of Ada's Boudoir.
Ada and Nessie spun to face the front upon hearing Mildred's shriek. Both froze upon seeing the ogre peering in the window. The creature was apparently sitting on the ground outside the storefront; all they could see was the creature's great head and bare shoulders, its great orangy moon face, mass of black hair, and great tusks, protruding from its mouth, each tusk somewhat larger than a big man's index finger. The ogre leaned further forward and tapped experimentally at the window with a sausage sized finger.
And Ada blanched. The window, a sheet of glass five feet by five feet, was the most expensive thing in the building. "STOP that!" cried Ada, before she realized what she was doing. "DON'T BREAK MY WINDOW!"
The ogre paused, and suddenly withdrew its finger, guiltily.
And for a moment, the ogre and the three women regarded each other through the window.
After a moment, the ogre made a face. The effect, with its great tusks, was not reassuring. Was the creature trying to smile? But it did nothing else. Finally, Ada strode to the front door and unlocked it, and opened it a few inches. "Can... I help you with something?" she said lamely. Looking through the door at the creature, she was able to see all of it for the first time, and came to two realizations: first, the creature was nearly naked, wearing only a scanty nether garment around its hips. The second, judging from the creature's substantial bustline and broad hips... was that it was female.
The ogre looked back at Ada and tried to smile again. It reached up and fluffed its great mop of black hair. "Hair?" it asked, in a deep bass voice.
Ada stared at the creature. Great gods above, was it asking to have its hair done? Ada glanced at her employees. Mildred still sat on the floor near the window, her mouth opening and closing like a beached fish. Nessie looked out the window at the ogre, and back at Ada, helplessly.
Ada looked back out the door at the ogre. "You ... want us to do your hair?" she asked.
The ogre reacted immediately. "Yes!" it said, with some excitement. And yes, it was indeed trying to smile, albeit in a distinctly ogrish way. "You do my hair. Make my hair pretty. I have money. I can pay." At the word money, Ada blinked twice. She looked up at the creature's great mane of tangled black hair.
And then she opened the door all the way and stepped outside. The ogre sat crosslegged on the ground. It made no hostile moves. Ada walked slowly around the great creature, who, even sitting on the ground, was still almost as tall as Ada was. And then, Ada strode briskly to the door. "We have a customer," she said purposefully. "Mildred, do get up. Nessie, did you light the fire under the cistern? Good girl, now go and get the big tub from the back, and bring it out front. And the cleaning buckets, I think; I believe we're going to want to clear the decks for this one."
When the washing began on the boardwalk out front of Ada’s Boudoir, a crowd did not gather to gawk at the near-naked ogre getting her hair washed. Not that they didn't WANT to, but no one wanted to be too close. The crowd settled for standing on the far side of the street, lined up in front of Galorn's Tavern and Megga's Bakery, observing the process from a safe distance.
Half an hour later, the three women stood out front of the storefront, combing the ogre's hair. Ada had been surprised to find that the monster's hair was cleaner than she had expected, but still quite tangled; apparently, despite popular conceit, ogres did bathe, but the concept of combs was not a thing among them. Its hair was considerably coarser than human hair, more like a horse's tail. Still, hair was hair and a customer was a customer.
After the washing and shampoo, Ada was pleased to see that the creature's great mop was considerably more tractable, and the three women carefully picked and combed and brushed the tangles free, though Mildred in particular was going rather slowly; she seemed to be terrified of pulling the creature's hair, or annoying it in any way. The ogre seemed to be trying to put her at ease by smiling at her, and occasionally complimenting her on her "pretty dress,” and “pretty hair," which didn't seem to be helping Mildred's composure.
Ada, on the other hand, was surprised but not displeased to notice the monster's patience with the combing and untangling process; she'd worked with five year olds who were far less patient or well behaved. And before long, they had the monster's mane combed out smooth and flowing, and it cascaded over its shoulders in a glossy black avalanche.
"That's better," said Ada, with satisfaction. "And now that we've got that done... what style? Mildred, go get the big hand mirror; she'll want to see." Mildred, grateful for the excuse, scuttled away and back into the store, returning later with a hand mirror the size of a frying pan and handed it to Ada, who turned it to face the creature.
The ogre, upon observing herself in the mirror, looked stunned. She promptly brought her hands to her hair, ran her fingers through it, and turned her head left and right, looking at herself, and then looked at Ada, openmouthed.
Ada smiled. "Now that it's clean and brushed out," she said, "what style were you thinking about?""
The ogre managed to look crestfallen. She looked at Ada, and back in the mirror, and back at Ada. "I... don't know. I... it never looked like this before. No tangles. It’s… all laying DOWN. So smooth...SHINY..."
"Braids," said Nessie.
Ada, Mildred, and the ogre all turned to look at Nessie.
"Braids," she repeated. "Medusa style. Her hair is long; it'd be perfect. We can even build it up on top, wrap it, give her a nice 'do. It'll show off the hair to best advantage, and it's low maintenance, and it won't let the hair get tangled again! It's PERFECT!"
The three women looked back to the ogre. "Braids?" the ogre asked.
Nessie stepped forward and took a length of the ogre's long black hair. "Like this," she said, and deftly braided the length, tripartite, and held it up for the ogre to see.
"Oh," said the ogre. "Okay. Like that. M'doosa style."
The three women looked at each other. This was a thing they knew how to do. "Mildred," said Ada, "run get that roll of red ribbon, and some scissors. And while you're in there, get the eye violet. And a kohl stick."
"Cosmetics?" asked Mildred, surprised.
"In for a penny, in for a mark," said Ada. "She's paying for it, after all. And as the Magician says, anything worth doing is worth overdoing"
Mildred nodded, and vanished into the store. And as one, Ada and Nessie stepped forward, and began mapping out areas of the ogre's scalp...
An hour later, Ada looked over their handiwork.
The ogre still sat on the boardwalk in front of Ada's Boudoir. Its hair was plaited into dozens of thick black braids; Ada hoped that the ogre's big fingers would be able to manage the ribbons better than standard hair ties. Four of the thick braids, two on each side, had been left to hang free over her shoulders; the rest were bound in a crown, atop her head, to spray outward and off the back of her head. In addition, Nessie had lined the ogre's eyes with a kohl stick and had brushed lavender shadow across her eyelids and above her eyes; for good measure, she'd got some radoberry juice and had brushed it liberally over the ogre's lips to stain them red, being careful to avoid the large white tusks that protruded upward from her lower lip.
Things were as good as they were apt to get. And the truth was, the ogre actually didn't look bad. The eye cosmetics, in particular, really brought out the creature's large brown eyes to her advantage, and the hairstyle, while a bit primitive, was certainly an improvement over what they'd started with. The three women stood back and examined the ogre... and Ada took up the hand mirror, to show the creature its new look.
The crowd across the street held its breath.
Ada presented the mirror, and the ogre peered into it. And its eyes grew wide, and its mouth dropped open wide.
The crowd gasped.
Mildred's eyes clenched shut, her facial expression indicating that she expected nothing more than a sudden, messy death.
"Oh," said the ogress, in its deep, bass, and yet distinctly female voice. "Oh. Oh! OH!"
The crowd across the street held its breath. A few of them braced to run for the hills.
The ogress stared at herself in the mirror.
"PRETTY!" she roared.
Ada flinched. Mildred collapsed in a dead faint. Two goblins in the crowd of townsfolk across the street bolted for cover.
The ogress lifted her hands to her great crown of hair, stroked the braids cascading down her front, touched her lips, stared in the mirror wonderingly. "I'm BEAUTIFUL!" she boomed again, loudly enough that Ada could hear the glass rattle in the nearby windowframe. Oblivious to any of this, the ogre stared wonderingly in the mirror.
Suddenly, she broke eye contact and looked at Ada. "Pay now?" she asked.
"Um... yes," said Ada. "If you're satisfied."
"Satisfied, YES!" burbled the ogress, hugging herself gleefully. Suddenly, with a sense of purpose, her thick fingers went prospecting at her hip, in the strap of her little garment, and fished out a leather pouch; opening it, she poked two fingers in and scraped out several gold coins, no larger than sequins against the ogre's great fingers. "One for YOU," she said, handing one to Ada. "One for YOU," she said again, handing one to Nessie. Turning to the unconscious Mildred, stretched out cold in the dirt, she seemed nonplussed for a moment, then shrugged, and gently placed a third gold coin on Mildred's middle. "And one for YOU!"
Nessie looked at the gold coin in her hand, and looked bewildered at Ada, who looked back at her. Normally, a wash and style cost five silver bits, perhaps with a tip of a few coppers. Neither woman had ever been paid in gold in her life; any of the three coins was as much as Ada's entire trade was likely to make in a week.
The ogress shuffled to her feet and her full height, towering well over nine feet, counting her new crown of braids. She straightened her legs and shook out her hair. And other things; her well-upholstered physique jiggled, hither, thither and yon, as she rose and stretched her limbs. And then she looked down at Ada and Nessie. "Is good?"
There was a pause.
"That's just fine, dear," said Ada with a smile. "As long as you're happy. We don't often get customers where it takes all three of us."
"Just fine," repeated the ogress with an enormous toothy smile. "Beautiful!" And with that, she tucked the pouch back into her girdle, and turned and sauntered away, with considerable sway to her substantial hips; plainly she was feeling rather attractive, and felt no need to downplay it. Ogres, as a rule, aren't a subtle bunch. Across the street, the crowd -- or at least the male members of it -- watched, fascinated, as the ogress sashayed her way down the street and out of the village.
Ada and Nessie stood there holding their coins. Mildred remained stretched out in the dirt. After a moment, Nessie dropped to her knees and began trying to bring Mildred around. Across the street, the crowd watched the ogress' great round swaying behind fade into the distance, and slowly began to disperse.
Ada glanced at the coin. After a moment, she slipped it into her pocket. Mildred opened her eyes and sat up, and noticed her own coin for the first time. "Well," said Ada. "That was a new one. And I thought the first goblin customer was a surprise."
"The goblins didn't bother me all that much," muttered Mildred. "It was the fact that they were mainly men."
"I don't know that this will end up all that well, though," said Nessie, rising to her feet. Mildred struggled upright next to her.
"How do you figure?" said Ada. "She didn't do us any harm, she's happy, we're paid, and I'll reckon you never got a tip like THAT before!"
"Well," said Nessie, "think about it. What's the first thing a woman does when she's really happy about a makeover?"
Ada thought for a moment, and her face fell. "She... usually... goes looking for someone to show off for..."
"And there you go," said Nessie. "She’ll go looking for someone to show off for. And then she’ll likely tell them where she had it done. What do we do when all the OTHER ogresses show up?"