The first few weeks of a new university year are always exciting. They are filled with a dozen promises of all the new things you will try over the coming year; new societies and clubs you will definitely join after going to the first taster session; and new goals that you really should keep to in order to avoid being completely overwhelmed at the end of the year. Most promises we never get round to but those first weeks are always filled with hope.
I met Soraya for the first time during the start of my second year at university. We met during the taster session for the university Book Club. I actually stayed in the Book Club for most of the first semester but left when it started to feel like a weekly assignment on top of my coursework. Anyway Soraya and I got talking at this session and learnt that we were both in second year and had similar interests in films. Then the session ended and I thought no more about her until I bumped into her the followed week and we realised that every Tuesday we had lectures not far from each other in the same building. That was when we decided to be friends and hang out together.
It was not long after that that she confessed to me that back home her mother was a hairdresser and that she (Soraya) would help out in the salon during the holidays. Her mother had wanted her to work in the salon full time like her older sister but Soraya had desired to pursue art instead. We were nearly halfway through the first semester when Soraya offered to cut my hair.
“Go on Hannah, just a trim,” Soraya pleaded. “I promise I won’t do anything drastic.” Deciding it was less hassle than booking a salon appointment, I agreed.
Back in her shared apartment I sat down on the chair in front of her desk, while Soraya wrapped a clean towel around my shoulders. I felt myself relax as she rhythmically combed out my long, wavy, chocolate coloured hair. My hair just touched my bra strap and the ends were messy and ragged. With the amount of coursework we had been bombarded with I had not given much thought to my hair since the start of term.
“Tut tut,” Soraya said, shaking her head as she laid down the brush. Her own hair was a sleek black wave that reached her collarbone. Today it tied up in a ponytail out of the way.
“What?” I asked defensively although I suspected I already knew what she was already going to say.
“When was the last time you had your hair cut?”
“It’s not that bad is it?” I asked, deliberately avoiding the question. I examined the ends of my hair and grimaced.
“Well you’re just lucky I came along,” said Soraya brightly as she started pinning my hair into sections on top of my head.
“You’re still just gonna give me a trim right?” I asked starting to get a little anxious. I realised that I was now completely at her mercy.
“Of sorts,” she said producing a pair of wickedly sharp looking scissors from a box on the desk. “They’re part of the kit Mama gave me when I left for university,” Soraya explained. “She wanted me to be able to look after my own hair properly. Now stay still or you’ll lose more hair than you’d wish to.”
Without anymore warning than that I heard the shnick shnick of the scissors and knew that an unknown amount of my hair was now on Soraya’s bedroom floor. The haircut seemed to last for hours even though the rational part of my brain knew I could not possibly have sat in that chair for more than half an hour. Soraya took her time and gently unpinned each section of my hair and made careful, deliberate cuts. She would not let me see what she was doing or give me any hint as to how much hair I was losing. Until at last, with a flourish, she removed the towel from my shoulders.
“Alright Hannah, what do you think?” she asked happily.
Curiously I reached my hand behind me and brought my hair over my shoulder – I was immediately relieved that my hair was still long enough to do this. I stroked my fingers through my hair. I could tell it was noticeably shorter although I suspected no one else would pay much attention. My hair now stopped a few inches below my collarbone. Looking down at the floor I saw it was covered in three inches strands of dark brunette hair.
I stood up and scurried along to the bathroom to take a proper look at my new haircut. The girl reflected back at me smiled when she saw how healthy her hair now appeared without all those dead and split ends. I grinned when Soraya entered the bathroom after me and gave her a hug.
“Thank you!” I said, smiling delightedly at her.
And that’s how it started. Every so often Soraya would offer to ‘trim’ my hair and I would let her remove between one or two inches of my hair each time. As a result over the course of the first semester my hair became gradually shorter and shorter but I always got a nervous thrill whenever Soraya asked to cut my hair. It was not until we saw each other again for the first time after a long Christmas break that Soraya decided to casually relieve me of another three inches of my hair, taking it to shoulder length. That was when I demanded she ease back on my haircuts. Enjoyment had turned into a deep concern that I might be bald by the end of the academic year.
And Soraya kept her promise…until halfway through May when the temperature started to get warmer…