The second semester of my second year at university was well underway when the heat wave came. May felt like the middle of August and, like myself, many students were caught completely unawares by the sudden spike in temperature. Any time I left the house my silky dark brown hair would become sticky with sweat. Even tying my hair up into a ponytail or messy bun didn’t seem to help much.
I told all of this to one of my best friends – Soraya. We had met at the start of the year and quickly become friends. Annoyingly Soraya never seemed to be effected by the heat. At present her long black hair was braided neatly into an elegant knot on top of her head.
“Hey Hannah, I know what might cool you down. What if I gave you a haircut?” she suggested. Since the first semester I had allowed Soraya to practice her skills by cutting my hair every few weeks. After she had surprised me by chopping my hair to a shoulder length bob in January I had decided to grow my hair out for a bit. Today I was starting to regret that decision.
“Sure,” I said after I had thought about it, “why not? Like you say it might help.”
Back in Soraya’s apartment I sat in my usual seat in front of her desk. We went through our normal ritual of Soraya wrapping a fresh towel around my shoulders before she gently brushed my hair free of any knots. I always felt comfortable and relaxed as Soraya’s strong fingers stroked my hair. I had never said this out loud but I was certain Soraya had picked up on this fact because each time she took longer and longer to brush my hair even after any knots had been removed.
“So did you just want a trim or maybe something a little more?” asked Soraya slowly.
At present my hair just reached past my collarbone. I thought again of my previous shoulder-length cut. I had admittedly grown to love how the lighter style had caused my wavy hair to bounce and float around in the breeze as it framed my face. If anything it was the unexpected surprise of suddenly realising how short my hair had become over the first half of the academic year that had stopped me from allowing Soraya to experiment any further. Maybe the heat wave was a sign that it was time to put my doubts aside.
“This heat really has been unbearable,” I said eventually, “so perhaps something a little shorter this time.”
Soraya’s eyes lit up in delight. “How short were you thinking?” she asked. “I think you’d look cute with a pixie cut.”
“Not that short!” I spluttered aghast. I was definitely not ready to take that particular plunge today. “Maybe to my shoulders again?”
“Ok or how about slightly above your shoulders?” suggested Soraya after a pause. “Try something a little different.”
“Alright,” I agreed, instantly wondering if I’d just made a mistake. “So long as it’s only a little bit higher than my shoulders. I’m not ready for anything too drastic yet.”
“Yet?” Soraya repeated teasingly.
“No promises,” I said flashing her a quick grin.
Soraya proceeded to divide my hair into sections and pin them to the top of my head. A layer of hair at the back of my head was left loose. From the corner of my eye I saw Soraya reach for her scissors which were lying on top of a small black case on the desk in front of me. Then she moved behind me and my locks were once more at her mercy.
There was a pause and then – shnick, shnick, shnick. There was no sound as an unknown amount of my hair fell to the floor. Soraya released the first section of my hair she had carefully pinned out of the way. This was a thicker piece that what she had started with. It covered the back of my head and part of the right side of my face. Shnick, shnick. Soraya continued to cut my hair at the back. A pause. Shhhniiiick. A slow, deliberate cut. The sound of the scissors was loud in my ears. All I could hear were the scissors and Soraya’s breathing. Shnick. It definitely sounded louder than I remembered as though the noise was…closer to my ears!
“Soraya…” I began to say as I started to feel unease. Before I could utter another word I felt the cold steel of the scissors move along my jaw line and remove every piece of hair caught between the blades.
“Wha-! Oh my god! Soraya what have you done?” I leapt from the chair, banged my knee against the desk, and clawed at my hair. Within seconds my hands confirmed what my brain did not want to accept. The back and side of my hair had now been reduced to chin-length. “What the hell?”
“You said I could cut it shorter,” said Soraya defensively.
“I said a little bit shorter not short like this!”
Soraya put down the scissors and placed both of her hands on my shoulders. “Look Hannah, Hannah calm down, please? I’m sorry, I am but when you said I could cut your hair shorter than before…well…I knew you probably wouldn’t agree to it but seriously you are going to look so good with your hair like this.”
I moaned anxiously. “You promise?”
“I do promise,” Soraya said, looking me straight in the eye. “I know you won’t believe me when I say this but your face really would suit short hair. I said you’d look cute with a pixie and I meant it.”
I tugged at the remains of my hair. “I guess we can’t go back now anyway,” I said a little forlornly as nervous knots twisted in the pit of my stomach.
“It would look a bit odd if we stopped now,” Soraya admitted. “And you definitely couldn’t tie your hair up. Hey at the end, if you really do hate it, then I’ll let you cut my hair off as payback. Deal?”
“You’d really let me cut your hair?” I asked as I sat back down.
“I would because you’re my friend. But I’m confident that it won’t come to that,” said Soraya with a grin. She freed another of the sections she had pinned up, this time on the left side of my head. Now that the secret was out Soraya wasted no time and quickly sliced through my thick brunette locks reducing long collarbone-length waves to a blunt chin-length bob.
She was also no longer making the effort to hide my severed locks from me. As nearly 4 inch long chunks of hair slipped down onto my lap, a small vicious part of me toyed with the idea of declaring my dislike of the haircut no matter what my genuine reaction might be. I wondered how it would feel to remove all that silky black hair from Soraya’s head.
Shnick, Shnick. Oh god, I panicked, what if I really did hate it? Soraya unpinned the last two sections of my hair. I could feel every pass of the scissors as Soraya rested the cool steel blades against the back of my neck. Right at this exact moment in time I was not sure exactly how much I trusted Soraya. Would my face actually suit short hair? It would surely take weeks, if not months to grow it out again. Soraya made the final few passes with the scissors. I realised that while one part of my mind was panicking another part of me, the curious part, asked – what if I did like my new haircut? Would I keep the style or would I experiment? What would happen if I did decide to go shorter?
“There we go, all done,” said Soraya placing the scissors back onto the desk.
I realised that I’d been holding my breath for a past couple of minutes and hastily took a few short, rapid breaths before raising my hands to examine my hair. It is one of the strangest sensations, the first time you run your fingers through your hair after a major cut. There is an initial confusion as your brain and body realise that your hair ends at a much higher point than your memory thinks it should do. I confess I did silently freak out as it occurred to me that this was the shortest my hair had ever been. And that everyone in my life was definitely going to notice that this was a drastic change.
“Hannah you ok?” asked Soraya. There was a note of uncertainly in her voice that was no doubt due to my not yet uttering a single word. Or else she was worried that I was about to snatch up the scissors and start hacking away at her braided hair.
“I need to see how I look,” I said finally. I got up, my shoes sliding slightly on the mount of dark brown hair that covered the floor. I marvelled at the thought that all of that had been previously attached to my head. I darted into the bathroom and leaned towards the mirror. Soraya had done a good job. The bob was perfectly straight and lay close to the line of my jaw. I shook my head experimentally, then flicked the ends with my fingers before tucking my hair behind my right ear.
“I don’t hate it,” I said as I noticed in the mirror that Soraya was standing in the doorway. “I think in a few minutes I’m gonna like it. It’s just…a surprise seeing myself like this.”
“You pull it off,” said Soraya encouraging. “I like it and it shows off your neck.” She moved closer and lightly ran her fingertips down the back of my neck. Immediately I felt tingles shoot down my spine.
“Alright, your hair is safe for now,” I conceded.
Soraya beamed at me. “I knew you’d like it!”
“Yeah,” I said, still looking at my reflection, “I really think I do.”
One Month Later
Bzz, bzz. My phone rang. The screen informed me that Soraya requested my attention. Without hesitation, I swiped my thumb across the screen to answer.
“Hey what’s up?”
“Hey Hannah. You doing anything next weekend.”
“Nope. Why? What do you want to do?”
“My mum is coming to stay with me for a few days. She wanted to know if you fancied a hair cut?”
To be continued…