Jess walked cautiously down the street towards the shop. She didn’t feel hungover in the sense she could still function easily enough but an irritating throb behind her forehead was threatening to turn nasty. She always did feel a little delicate the next morning when she drank whiskey shots.
The bell chimed as she walked through the shop door and she gave Asha, who was taking down the last of the decorations, a little wave as she went to the back in search of a coffee. Mia, the owner, had decided they would do a Halloween promotion for “Quinn’s Clippers” and had decorated accordingly. For free they had offered to spray any female customers hair red and blue akin to Harley Quinn, the shop’s mascot theme, and offered the male customers green hair like the Joker. The coloured spray washed out easily and most of the customers were up for the fun. Jess had felt a pang of guilt for one mother who had brought her teenage son in for a trim with his little sister in tow. Jess’s sister Chrissy offered to spray the young girl’s hair so she didn’t feel left out. She suspected that that act would unlock an interest in creative hair colours that mother and daughter would war overall through her teenage years.
She found Mia in the back room having a coffee and proceeded to make her own.
“You look like you had fun last night.” Mia teased her. “Was it a good party?”
Jess started to nod but stopped as she was reminded of the potential headache.
“It was fun. I’ll show you the pics of all the costumes later, you can see how good my succubus wings were. I need to learn to stop trying to compete with freshman in beer pong though. They seem to get even better the more they drink.”
They shared a giggle as Jess stirred her coffee.
“So did the succubus take anyone home to her lair?” Mia asked with a knowing look.
“Noooo!.” Jess replied with faint annoyance at such a personal question. “There was a very hunky looking Deadpool but once I got the mask off I’m pretty he wasn’t even old enough to drink.”
“What about Chrissy?”
Jess took a sip of her coffee, stalling for a chance to think of the right answer. She knew exactly what happened with Chrissy. They’d been at the party for less than an hour before Jess had seen the snake wig from her sisters Medusa outfit peeking out from behind the shoulder pad of a Thor. No doubt she had gone home with him and everyone knew the only reason Chrissy was ever late for a Saturday morning start was because of whatever, or rather, whomever she had done the night before.
“We got split up early on,” Jess replied vaguely.
Chrissy still hadn’t turned up by opening time. Mia and Jess were well into the opening rush of clients when Jess noticed her sister sheepishly walk through the door. Mia had her back to the middle of the room so Chrissy made to try and sneak past her.
“Come in late again this year and Asha’a going to get a real life model to practice on instead of dummies,” Mia spoke sternly, not even looking up from her client.
Jess watched in the mirror as Chrissy thought about protesting innocence before slumping her shoulders and rushing to the back to get ready. She sniggered as she saw her mouth “Fuck!’ before disappearing behind the doorway.
They handled the Saturday morning surge of customers in the same controlled chaos as they always did. One of Mia’s pet peeves was to not have enough waiting seats and people just walking out. That never happened though as customers always made the effort to rearrange themselves and squeeze in. The brief encounters forcing the occasional conversation and giving people a reason to bear out the long queue.
It was just past lunch before the line was finally worked down. Jess and Mia took the chance to grab something to eat since Chrissy came in late she was left to handle the occasional customer.
“How’s Rachel doing with the undercut?” Jess asked, anxious to hear how her moment of mischief had worked out.
“Well, she’d never tell you of all people if you asked but absolutely loves it,” Mia replied with a smirk. “I do her hair most mornings and I always give it a little massage before I cover it. It’s sort of like our little secret. And she’s let me do little designs on it. Last week she even let me shave my name into it.”
They continued chatting over their food, Jess heard the door open and she glanced up to see a guy a with a fairly long straggly thatch of hair walk through the door with what was obviously his fiancee going by the way she held his arm, the ring on show for all to see.
“Someone will be right with you.” she heard Chrissy announce from the front as she made for the back. Once she was in the door she dived to one side, hiding behind the frame with a look of panic on her face.
“Uhm, Chrissy, there’s a customer waiting. You can get your lunch once we’ve finished.” Mia prompted, although she and Jess were a little alarmed at Chrissy’s expression.
“I can’t do him. Please, can’t one of you take him?” Chrissy pleaded as she stole a glance around the corner before pinning herself against the wall again.
“Wha!.why are acting all weird? What’s scaring you about him?” Jess nodded through the door.
“I wasn’t sure when I saw him across the street!.” Chrissy lowered her voice to barely above a whisper, “But when he came in, It’s definitely him, I’m sure of it.”
“What about “him”?” Mia asked, starting to get impatient.
“The guy you were with last night,” Jess said coldly, the fog of the hangover suddenly clearing and her mind catching up to the situation. She hadn’t recognized him immediately without an oversized plastic hammer and cape but she was certain that the guy sitting in the waiting chairs with his fiancee was the same guy Chrissy had slept with the night before.
“Did you know he was engaged?” her eyes snapped to her younger sister, her lunch now forgotten about.
“No. No I didn’t know” Chrissy shook her head vigorously.
“Chrissy!.” Jess fought to keep her voice low, her tone normal. “If you’ve started this whole thing about screwing guys just because they’ve got a girlfriend again!”
“No!.no no no! I had no idea!” Chrissy answered with fear in her voice. “We were in costume. He didn’t mention a fiancee or girlfriend or anything. He hasn’t recognized me without my wig on but if I’m the one to cut his hair, ugh I might be sick. I know I did that stuff before but I never ever broke up an engagement or a marriage. Please, you have to believe me!”. She was almost in hysterics and barely holding back tears.
Jess watched her sister. Having stood beside her and lied together to their parents so many times she knew when Chrissy was lying. This, she had to admit, wasn’t one of those times. She glanced back out at the shop floor again and wondered if the fiancee had any clue what her soon to be husband was really like. She guessed Mia wouldn’t be at all pleased to have a possibly violent domestic incident kick off in the shop but at the same time, she could hardly just let a sack of shit get away with using her sister for a one-nighter.
“I’ll take him, you’ve got the next one,” Jess said bluntly and got up. “What’s his name?”
“Thor!.oh I mean Rick,” Chrissy replied hastily.
Jess put on her best customer relations smile and went through to the shop.
“I’ll take you here.” she motioned as she lifted the cape from the chair at her station.
“Don’t go crazy honey.” she heard the fiancee squeak to him as he got up.
“Don’t worry, I’m just going to get it a bit easier to handle.” he smiled back before bending down to give her a peck on the cheek.
Jess turned away to roll her eyes as he approached. As he sat she started the now second nature process of taking a neck strip and caping him up. One of the regulars came in and with a nod of familiarity to Jess he went to Chrissy’s station and sat down. Jess could see her sister watching everything in the mirror across the room. She had never seen her sister in so many mixed emotions of fear, shame and anger altogether.
As she inspected his hair she was reminded strongly of Owen Wilson. Big strong blonde curls. He could see why Chrissy had fallen for him, he was very easy on the eye. If it wasn’t for the fiancee and what she knew he was like she might have tried to get a date out of him.
“I just want something a bit more stylish. Maybe something with a quiff.” He said with a throwaway tone.
Jess didn’t reply. Instead, she just kept combing out the unruly curls, giving herself time to think of a plan.
“Sorry, have we met before?” the man in her chair asked, “Your face looks sort of familiar.”
Jess grinned as she stepped around so her back was to the fiancee and lowered her voice.
“Oh, I doubt it. I’d remember a guy like you. Maybe it’s my sister you’re remembering?” she nodded her head towards Chrissy at the chair behind. He looked up in the mirror, Jess could see a recollection of something in his eyes but it hadn’t quite landed yet. “Just as well you’re looking at her in a mirror Rick, or you might have turned to stone.”
“How’d you know my!..”
And then she saw it, the moment the penny dropped in his head. Even with a cape and neckstrip, she could see the goose pimples rising up on his neck.
“Don’t move. Don’t even react.” Jess instructed quietly, continuing to comb through his hair as if nothing was amiss. “I don’t really want to tell your better half what I know happened last night.” she watched as his eyes flicked between herself and his fiancee, plainly relieved that Jess wasn’t going to divulge all.
“But we are going to play a little game” Jess purred as she moved behind him. “Do you see the clipper guards on the counter. The eight different coloured ones all in a row?” she asked him.
He nodded slightly as Jess rested a finger on his neck. She could feel his heart going like a train he was so scared.
“Well, I’m going to ask you some questions about my sister. If you get them right, we stay at the longer end of the row. If you get them wrong though, we go down the line. Getting shorter, and shorter!.” she leant in beside his ear “….and shorter!” she hissed. He winced as he stared ahead, the colour in his face much paler than when he sat down.
“Everything ok babe?” the fiancee called from the benches.
“Ahhh, yeah fine hun” Rick replied, his voice obviously an octave higher, “Just chatting about what we’re going for.”
Jess smiled as she walked around and continued combing.
“What’s her name? Your fiancee?” she asked.
“Naomi” he replied, keeping his voice low.
“Well, that’s a good that you can remember hers, now what’s my sister’s name?” Jess asked, staring intently at him in the mirror.
“Ahh…Uhmmm” she could see his brain working overtime. She could see it was in there somewhere, it was just a case of trying to get it out. “Clarissa.” he finally guessed.
“Close but no. It’s Chrissy, we move down to a number seven.” Jess purred in his ear. His eyes shot to the row of clipper guards laid out in front of him. His plight now all too real.
“Next question, what colour are her eyes?”. Jess double checked that Chrissy was turned in such a way you couldn’t see her eyes even in the mirror.
Again Rick thought back for an answer, this time clearly lost. He took a stab, knowing Jess was the sister.
“Green, the same as yours,” he said.
“Nope” Jess smiled “But nice try looking at mine.” she taunted as Chrissy moved around for a moment revealing her grey eyes. “It’s rare but siblings can have different eye colours. We’re down to a number six.” she raked her nails through his hair, revelling in his discomfort.
“How old is she?”
Rick stared, mouth agape.
“I don’t know!” he admitted with a downcast look.
“Down to a number five hun” Jess remarked. “She’s 22. Not doing very well so far.” She pretended to be inspecting his crown as she moved onto the next question.
“This next one’s fun. One question. Two parts to the answer. One guard length for each part.” she caught his eye to be sure he was paying attention. “Now Rick, I know she boasts about it because, well I know she boasts about it.” Jess watched him in the mirror, hypnotizing him with her gaze.
“What’s her bra size? One grade for the band size and one grade for the cup size” she added as she walked around, using the sound of her footsteps and the radio to mask the question from anyone else.
She saw Rick mouth “shit” as he heard the question. Jess knew intuitively Chrissy had boasted about it, for whatever reason she couldn’t help praising her natural assets whenever she had the chance.
“32!..” he started, desperately trying to dig back into his drunken evening and find the following letter. “….D” he finished cautiously.
“Nope!” Jess cut in happily. “She’s a 30E, same as me as it happens. Although I really wish she’d stop borrowing my bras.” she finished coyly. “Down to a number three and you haven’t got a single one right yet.”
Rick shifted in his chair, he wasn’t sure where to look. Any time he tried to steal a glance at Chrissy all he got in return was a thundering glare.
“Last one Ricky hunny. And you’ve got three answers to give me. Get them all wrong and I won’t even use a guard.” she taunted him as she twirled a lock of his hair around her pinky.
“My lovely sister has three animal tattoos, one on each shoulder and one on her lower back. What are the animals?”
She grinned as she watched on as, amazingly, Rick went even paler than he had been. Jess knew Chrissy’s tattoos, she had helped pick them out.
“A!..a butterfly” Rick started haltingly “A horse and a tiger” he finished, clearly guessing the second and third answers.
Jess screwed up her face a little in disgust.
“One out of three. She does have a butterfly on her lower back, but she has an owl and a wolf on her shoulders.” Jess knew that the butterfly was an easy guess since they were so commonplace. “Buuuut you got two wrong, so we drop two lengths to a number one. That’s the little baby one and the end there.” Jess pointed to it long enough to make sure both Chrissy and Naomi could see. Their reactions couldn’t have been more different. Chrissy had her usual casual smile back and Naomi looked like she was about to be sick.
“You’ve lost seven out of eight chances to save your hair Rick hunny. Maybe you shouldn’t screw around so much if you aren’t paying attention.” Jess jipped as she unhooked her clippers and snapped on the small attachment, the engraved “#1 – 1/8 INCH” catching the light.
Jess took position beside Rick and flicked the clippers on right in front of his face, she detected a slight flinch both from him and his fiancee. She placed her free hand at the back of his head and pushed him forward slightly as she placed the clippers on top of his head a couple of inches back from his fringe,
“Think of this next time you want to fool around with another girl,” she whispered just loud enough for him to hear before dragging the clippers back.
Blonde curls rolled up in the chattering blades and fell off the back of the chair as Jess brought the clippers all the way back to the crown, leaving behind a clearly visible landing strip of short stubble like someone had cut a runway into the forest. Jess made a point of running her fingers across this path before grasping a handful of hair and forcing Rick to look straight down. She started a new attack on his mane, beginning at the nape and driving the clippers up. Jess suspected she was the only one to hear it but she was convinced the bigger and more dramatic the haircut, the louder the clippers snarled. She rhythmically pushed the clippers up and flicked out, again and again. Jess had to kick a large chunk of blonde hair away that had landed on her shoes she stepped around.
She stole a glance in the mirror of her victim as she effortlessly removed one of his sideburns. Rick hadn’t said a word, hadn’t made any protest or resisted being moved around since the clippers had been turned on. She saw a man in shock, mouth agape and staring as he was steadily turned into someone far less familiar.
Jess deliberately didn’t follow the roll of the head with clippers forward of his ears. She was careful to always go straight up which gave her the beginnings of the blending she would be doing with the horseshoe-like ring of blonde curls that Rick had left. She noticed how warm the clippers felt when she finally flicked them off and placed them back on their hook. Rick had now been sheared to an eighth of an inch all the way around the back and sides with a path leading up to the top of his head getting the same treatment. From movie star to marine drill sergeant. Jess grabbed a roller brush and her water spray and started to wet the long hair that remained, using the roller brush to make it stand up as much as it could.
“Did you really need to go THAT short babe?” Naomi petitioned, plainly less than thrilled at seeing the skin of her soon to be husbands scalp for the first time.
“Keep her on side, or I might introduce her to Chrissy,” Jess said in a low, threatening voice as she hid behind Rick. She saw him swallow hard, his mouth almost dry from shock.
“I just thought I wanted something a bit neater for now hun. We’ve got plenty of time until the wedding.” Rick replied. His voice was shaky, but Naomi gave up on her protest, her fiancee’s hair plainly past the point of no return.
Having got just enough water into his hair Jess switched to the flattopper comb and picked out a smaller, lighter and more precise set of clippers than the ones she had started out with. She slid the flattopper in from back to front and checked the spirit level at the top of the handle. She made a slight adjustment before she flicked the clippers on and eased them slowly back across the teeth of the comb. Rick watched on in silent agony as Jess dumped the wet chunk of trimmings into his lap before she re-inserted the comb. Bending down slightly so the comb was at eye level as she cautiously buzzed off the hair that stuck out through the teeth. She took her time working the top down to the right was one flat surface from one side of the head, over the buzzed path in the middle all the way over to the other side of the head. She set the flattopper comb back on the counter, electing to do the finishing details of the cut free hand, no guides. Using a regular comb she flicked up the occasional hair that looked out of place and with robotic like precision cut it down with the bare clippers.
Rick tried to turn his head to look see himself better but Jess quickly pressed a firm finger into his temple, pushing his head back into position.
“Make me mess this up and I’ll just get even more nasty hun”, she warned in a low voice as she lifted the clipper cable over him. “And you really don’t to give me a reason to do that now do you?” She glanced at Chrissy in the mirror, who was still at the till from her last customer and shared a knowing wink. She approached the pair and placed her hand lightly on Rick’s shoulder to get his attention.
“Would you like your neck shaved to finish you off sir?” she asked with an innocent smile.
“I think that be great, thanks Chrissy,” Jess replied for Rick.
“My pleasure sis,” Chrissy replied as she dragged a lingering fingernail off Rick’s shoulder as she went to prepare a shaving brush. Naomi’s gazed flicked to Chrissy and Jess, clearly picking up the odd exchange between the two. She stared at her fiancee for a moment, her fingers ponderously taping on the side of her phone, before relenting and going back her timeline.
Chrissy returned and with a firm instruction of “Head down ” she stuck her thumbnail into the back of Rick’s head forcing him rather painfully forward. She let the boars bristle brush linger for a long time as she spread the lather across his neckline and playfully blew a stray hair off his ear.
She checked Naomi wasn’t looking before leaning in beside him and breathing “Fuck!..you!” and blowing a little kiss in his ear before slinking away.
Rick began shaking with emotion but Jess quickly stilled him by taking her straight razor from the counter and opening it with a little flourish. She squared off his neckline before taking a little wax and running it through the top, helping the flattop to hold a rigid shape. She undid the neckstrip and used it to wipe off the excess lather from the neck shave and undid the cape, finally releasing Rick from his torture.
Nothing was said as Rick paid for his haircut, he didn’t even wait for his change so Jess stuffed it in the tips box.
As the couple walked out Jess heard Naomi ask “Did you know either of those two?”