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Our first customer had a wet nose and, as it turned out, major daddy issues.

“Now if I could only get you to stop tinkling in daddy’s shoes!” Sarah Applebaum gushed, as her chin got a tongue bath from her newly groomed Shih Tzu. “You just look so precious. He has to forgive you now, right Wizzy Wizzy Lizzy?”

Wow, Sarah could spew some serious baby talk. I censored a chuckle while I rang her up for the grooming; a pink, organic cotton PRINCESS t-shirt and seven gourmet, carob treats. Laughing at our very first grooming client wouldn’t be polite—or good business sense for that matter—especially a new customer with about five grand worth of diamonds in her bracelet alone.

Essa senhora é demente,” my friend, business partner and groomer, Sylvia, mumbled behind me. I didn’t speak Portuguese but, after spending the past month around her, I had started getting the gist of her remarks. I cleared my throat with a smile.

Sylvia was all dark passion, curves and confidence. In one word: exotic. I was a platinum-haired, milky-skinned twig just sticking my toe into society—outside my family—for the first time at twenty-eight. The Shih Tzu wasn’t the only one with daddy issues. Anyway, Sylvia and I worked on some level I didn’t quite understand but did appreciate.

“Lady Elizabeth giving y’all some problems?” I placed the receipt on the counter with a pen and reached out to stroke a silky brown ear. Sylvia had rocked the grooming, even topped it off with a jewel-encrusted bow holding the dog’s bangs out of her eyes. A tiny, pink tongue reached out and licked my hand.

Youch! As the tongue made contact, a prickly current traveled up my hand. With it came an image and the scent of cheap perfume. I felt my face flush, the hair on my arms stand up.

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