NOTE: A modern retelling of the fairy-tale of Rapunzel with a dark twist and HEA.
Rachel sat by the window in her room on the twentieth floor of the apartment. She hummed a tune, running her fingers through the long, auburn tresses. Her hair was a blessing showered from the heaven above.
It was long, reaching around her knees and naturally straight, silky and smooth. Rachel was born with beautiful features indeed but her hair was exquisite. It glistened naturally when the sun rays beamed through the windows.
The twenty-three old girl was definitely more than an adult to roam around and enjoy her life the fullest, than being locked inside her house.
Rachel’s stepmother, Olivia Knox, a businesswoman —and the only family she was left with— raised her alone. Rachel was always taught to be grateful for the roof above her head, the delicious food she received and every other amenity provided to her. She had everything—except freedom. She was homeschooled since she was a child and once in a year—on her birthday—she was allowed to go out but with several guards on her heels. She was carefully guarded and shielded from the entire world but she had no idea as to why. Rachel asked Olivia several times the reason behind her supposed captivity but every time she was rebuked for asking the question.
“I have told you several times, Rachel; you are not going to be allowed outside this apartment. You are a naïve girl and there are people who’d surely take advantage of that. So, do not think of stepping out.” Olivia snapped at her.
Defeated, Rachel retreated back to her room when her stepmother called out again.
“And Rachel, I have to go out for a business trip to Hong Kong for a week. Do not even think of peeping out of the door,” she warned.
At times, Rachel wondered about the whole fuss of ‘business trips’ that Olivia took. And what kind of business did she run?
However, she didn’t have to wait longer to find out.
On the third day after her stepmother left for Hong Kong, she was seated on her recliner sofa with a book, when she heard a loud commotion outside her door. Curious, Rachel walked up to the door, opened it ajar and peeped outside. Strangely, none of the servants were to be found.
A tingling apprehension coursed through her nerves as she boldly strode out of the bedroom. No sooner she did that, a large masculine hand wrapped around her mouth from behind, muffling her scream. The other hand draped around her hip, holding her against him.
“Shh…quiet, princess. Not a single word,” the rich voice whispered into her ears as his hot breath ignited her skin.
However, panic overtook her senses as she let out muffled screams.
The silky, rich voice tsked from behind in chastisement. The moment Rachel craned her neck to see his face, a sharp sting of a needle stung her neck, and darkness engulfed her.
The next time, she woke up—completely disoriented—and found herself cuffed to a metal chair with a tape across her lips. She looked around the small, but well-lit room—there was no window but only a single metal door. As the horror of being abducted slowly dawned upon her, she started whimpering and thrashing against her restraints.
A couple of minutes later, the door swung open and two men walked in. One with a dirty blond hair while the other one had dark brown hair. Both of them had a short-cropped military hairstyle with a toned muscled figure.
“She’s finally awake,” the blond one stated, his eyes raking over her features.
Rachel’s terrified eyes frantically darted between them as they approached closer, crowding her space. The dark haired guy reached out to take off the tape from her mouth with a jerk, causing her to yelp.
“Let me go, please…please…” Rachel pleaded in a hoarse voice, tears helplessly streaming down her eyes.
“Quiet, girl! Quiet! One little screamer you are.” The dark-haired guy chuckled lightly, brushing his thumb to wipe off the tears.
“Are y-you going to k-kill me?”
“No,” the blond guy answered. “We don’t kill little girls.”
“Enough!” a voice bellowed from the doorway. Both the men whirled around while Rachel shuddered in her chair.
A huge, masculine figure walked in, donned in a tailored black suit. Every step he took towards her felt menacing and exuded certain flair of power and dominance. As he stepped forward, the other men stepped aside.
“Beautiful,” he murmured, drawing his fingers over her quivering lips and jawline. But Rachel identified the voice quickly. “I wonder what she is doing with Olivia Knox.” The statement was directed to the men beside him.
“Olivia will return soon, hopefully.”
“What is going on?” Rachel asked in a trembling tone.
“I am Gabriel,” the man with the rich voice stated. “That’s Leo,” he said, pointing to the blond one, “and that’s Marco. They will make sure that you can’t escape from here. Not until we get hold of that wretched Olivia.”
Rachel’s forehead creased. “What do you want with my step-mother?”
“Let’s just say she has pissed off a lot of dangerous people and they want a pound of her flesh. And once she realizes you’re gone, I am sure she will return sooner than she intended.”
“I-I don’t understand.”
“You are her jackpot prize, after all,” Gabriel informed. “According to your father’s Will, once you turn twenty-five, you inherit your father’s empire. I am guessing Olivia wants a big chunk out of it.”
Rachel was clueless and looked dumbfounded. She had no idea what was he speaking about.
“I have no idea…I don’t know anything…please let me go…” She broke down, sobbing.
“Shh…even if I let you go, you’d end up dead. Either your beloved step-mother or her enemies will kill you. And you will be nothing but a collateral damage.”
“And you won’t kill…me?”
He shook his head. “No. I just have to keep you hidden in plain sight for some time. Now the question is, would you cooperate with us?”
Rachel had no idea what she was doing. Sure, they looked dangerous but cooperating with them seemed like a safe option for her. So she nodded meekly.
“Good,” Gabriel praised. He cocked his head to his left, “Prepare her then.”
Her eyes widened. “What do you mean by prepare?” Rachel asked.
“You would see. Very soon,” Leo answered with a smirk.
Rachel was blindfolded as her cuffs were taken off. After feeding her, Leo and Marco took her to another room with her eyes covered. They made her sit on a chair with high seating, leather cushion, and a footrest. It was a classic adjustable barber chair and Rachel had no idea about it. She had never been to a salon in her life, let alone a barbershop. Her hands and legs were tightly strapped, restricting her movements. Gabriel knew she would not be very compliant to what he had planned for her and hence, the precautionary measures.
Finally, the blindfold was taken off and Gabriel stood before her.
“Are you scared, Rachel?” he asked in his usual silky, rich voice. “I already told you, we are not going to hurt you. But, there will be some minor changes. Just to keep you hidden. A lot of people are looking for you.”
“What changes?” Rachel asked, puzzled.
He flashed a soft, warm smile comforting her. “You know, you are a beautiful girl, Rachel. Very pretty,” he drawled, feathering his fingers over her forehead. “And, you have such beautiful, long hair.”
“I bet you never visited a salon or had a haircut. Isn’t it, sweet girl?”
“N-No…Olivia never allowed me.”
He let out a frustrated sigh. “Of course she didn’t. But now things are going to change. Do you what this chair is called?”
Rachel looked around and met his gaze. “No.”
“This is a barbershop chair. You are going to have a haircut.”
She gaped at him, her face flashed a mask of shock. “No. No. No. No. No….please don’t do this to me.”
“Now, now. You are a big girl, Rachel,” he admonished. “Big girls don’t cry over haircuts. Surely, it will all grow back.
“Why…why ….me?” She choked on her own words.
“As I said, you are beautiful, Rachel. But this hair,”—he gently petted her head, “—it is your identity. And you can be easily recognized by the length and beauty of your hair. But don’t worry; you will still look beautiful with short hair.”
“How…short?” Horror laced her voice as her eyes widened.
“You will see. Now, sit like a good girl and let the barber do his job.” He motioned Leo to bring in the barber.
“John! Thank you for coming in such a short notice.”
“Not a problem at all,” John, the barber said. “So, what do we have here?” He looked at Rachel and then gathered the thick braid in his hand. “Such beautiful hair…my goodness. Shame I have cut it all off.”
No sooner Rachel heard that she started thrashing against her binds—sobbing and screaming.
“Rachel!” Gabriel bellowed. “What did I tell you? You will sit quietly and let John cut your hair. Or else, I will have to sedate you again and let him cut your hair. But mind you, if I have to do that, you will wake up with a bald head,” he growled in a dangerous tone.
Rachel immediately stopped moving under his hard stare but tears streamed down relentlessly from her brown eyes.
“John, let’s get this over with,” Gabriel ordered and John immediately walked behind Rachel’s chair.
She had no idea what haircut she was about to receive except that it was going to be short. a knot twisted in her stomach when she realized she was about to lose her precious hair.
“Let’s start by taking off the weight first,” John said, retrieving a clipper without a guard. As the clippers hummed to life, Rachel’s body stiffened in shock. She felt a small tug at the base of her neck as the metal bit into her hair. Within moments, she felt a certain weight being lifted. Over the years, she had grown used to the mass of her tresses that she never realized how heavy it was.
Until then. John took the heavy bulk of four-and-a-half feet long hair and draped over a stool in front of her. Her hair was reduced to a jagged long bob.
To say that she was shocked would be an understatement. She shook her head wildly—bawling her eyes out. Gabriel stood in front of her, cupping her cheeks with his large hands, and wiped off the tears.
“Your haircut hasn’t even begin, sweetheart. Sit tight,” John stated and disappeared behind the chair. He wrapped a white cape around her body and secured it properly.
John was a skilled, military barber who also ran his own barber shop. He had given numerous induction haircuts, ruthlessly plowing long tresses over the years. He was also experienced in doling out punishment haircut for bratty teenagers when their parents brought them to the barbershop for whatever reasons.
He sectioned Rachel’s hair into four parts—front, sides, and back. Retrieving his fine comb and scissors, he started working on her nape and slightly pushed her head down. He slid the comb and snipped off a chunk of hair with the scissors and repeated it once again—almost methodically. Rachel, through sniffles, saw a considerable chunk of hair sliding down her long neck to her lap and sometimes to the floor. This continued for some time until John was finally satisfied, reducing the back to a one-and-a-half-inch all over. Rachel had no option but to be shorn.
He picked up the clippers once again and without a warning, plunged into her neckline as Rachel jolted in terror. She almost pulled her head up but Gabriel’s strong hands pushed it down and held her firmly.
“Don’t move, girl,” John ordered.
The clippers worked its magic on her nape, reducing the hair to five-eighth of an inch.
John curled a finger under her chin and gently pulled her head up while Gabriel kept on wiping her tears. John moved to her right, tilted her head to the left, and combed out the section. This time he didn’t bother chopping of the chunk as he directly plunged the clipper with number 5 guard on it. John ran the clippers on her sides—from her temples to behind her ears. In no time, sides were reduced to five-eighth of an inch as well.
“Do you want me to keep like this or shave off the sides completely?” John asked Gabriel who reached out and gently ran his fingers over the stubble.
“No need to bare her sides. Just fade it later. Let’s not give her an induction haircut.”
“Alright, I’ll do the fading.”
John repeated the same on her left side as well.
“The sides and back are done,” John informed. “What about the front? Do you want me to give her a flattop, all-over buzz or short choppy layers?”
Gabriel ran his knuckles gently on her cheek and answered, “Short choppy layers would be good. But it should not be more than one-and-half-inches, John.”
“Oh, yes. Absolutely,” John confirmed.
Rachel ran out of tears by now and simply sat defeated. She looked around once—finding herself seated with long and short snippets of her own auburn hair which was the mark of beauty—and sighed.
At last, John took out the front section and combed it gently. When he stood in front of her, she eyed the devilish clippers in one hand and comb on the other. Once he got to work, he combed a section and shorn it off with the clipper—instead of the gentle scissor. Rachel closed her eyes, feeling the tingling snippets of hair all over her face and neck. She simply prayed this nightmare to be over as soon as possible.
Once John was done with the haircut, he pulled out another clipper and merged the back and sides. The nape was nothing but buzzed stubble and so were the sides, faded into nothing — just like Gabriel wanted.
“There, all done!” John announced while Rachel’s head drooped down in embarrassment and defeat. She felt like a little disobedient girl who had just received a punishment haircut.
“Thank you, John,” Gabriel said and ran his fingers over her shorn head. He placed a finger under her wobbling chin and titled her head up. “She is barely recognizable, my goodness! Exactly how I wanted. But still …so beautiful and so gorgeous… Isn’t it, John?”
“She is surely a stunning one, Gabriel. Hardly have I seen a woman who looked so feminine with such short hair. Her features are beautiful and should not be covered with long hair.”
“I couldn’t agree more. I am planning to keep her in this hairstyle. It suits her,” Gabriel said. Rachel’s heart skipped a beat. She realized she would never be able to experience the soft, long tresses as her eyes flitted over to the severed four-and-a-half feet long hair over the stool. She wanted to protest—scream, yell and curse—but could not utter a single sound.
Once John reached for the door, Gabriel called out. “John, you have to visit after a month to give her a trim. As I said, this particular hairstyle should be maintained.”
“Definitely, I will pay you a visit exactly a month later.”
John left, closing the door shut behind him, leaving Gabriel alone with Rachel in the room.
To be continued….