A Mother’s Fresh Start

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Hannah shivered in the front seat as the air conditioning blew directly on her fair, pale arms. She should have taken a sweater with her in the car, but they were all packed away in boxes, along with the rest of her life. She took the scrunchie off her wrist and swept her long, highlighted blonde hair back in a low ponytail, turning her head to look out the window at the forest they were passing by. So many trees – she wasn’t used to so much green space. She had spent her first eighteen years growing up in the city, only leaving her family’s luxurious penthouse apartment once per year to visit her grandmother at her house in a very small town out in the country. Except now everything had changed – her grandmother passed away last year, leaving the house to her mother, and then her father left her and her mother for a young model only a few years older than Hannah. So, Hannah’s mother had packed up all their belongings, and now she was driving herself and Hannah out to live the old house for a “fresh start”.

Hannah bent her head down to check her phone – no signal. Of course. She turned to look at her mother. Her tiny mother had lost even more weight since the separation – her bony hands were gripping the steering wheel tightly, watching the road. Her mother had always been a nervous driver. Her mousy brown hair hung limply just past her shoulders, and she looked exhausted – Hannah was worried about her. “Mom?” Hannah asked gently “Are we almost there?”

Hannah’s mom turned to look at Hannah and attempted a small smile “Yes honey, not long now” she replied.

Not five minutes later, they drove past the town sign “Welcome to Collingwood – Population 4000” Hannah had read those words a dozen times in her life – she could never believe a town so small existed, and now she would be living in it. She wondered what there was to do in such a small town. Hannah took out her scrunchie and finger-combed her wavy blonde hair that hung all the way town her back as her mother slowly drove into town.

“Main Street, right Mom?” Hannah double checked the address with her mom.

“Yes honey, 52 Main Street – and here we are” her mother replied, turning onto the street in question. Main Street in Collingwood always seemed strange to Hannah – one side was residential, lined with homes, while the other side was lined with small, local shops. They passed a grocery store, a butcher shop, an antiques store – and then her mother pulled up in front of a small white house – her grandmother’s old house. Their house now, Hannah thought. Hannah got out of the SUV – directly across the street from the house was an old-fashioned barbershop, complete with the spinning pole out front. Hannah stretched, the wind blowing her hair in front of her face. She walked back to the trunk of the car to grab some boxes – her mother had shipped their large belongings to the house a few weeks ago, but the smaller things were all packed tightly into the SUV.

As Hannah opened the trunk, she heard a low, husky voice call out “Lizzie is that you?” – Hannah poked her head around the SUV and saw a good-looking, tall, muscular man walking out of the barbershop and across the street – he was heading right to their SUV. His hair was cut into the shortest crewcut Hannah had ever seen – shaved to the skin at the sides and not much longer on top.

Was he talking to her mom? Hannah wondered. Hannah had never head anyone call her mom Lizzie before – she had always gone by Elizabeth when they lived in the city.

“Luke” Hannah’s mother cried out warmly, running to embrace the handsome stranger. Hannah’s mother immediately looked happier than Hannah had seen her look in years.

“Interesting” Hannah thought as she lifted a heavy box out of the SUV, lugging it into the house to give her mother some privacy with whoever this was. She sat down on the couch planning to wait to a few minutes before going back outside, and instead ended up falling asleep into an unexpected nap.

“Hannah… Hannah wake up” Hannah felt her mom shake her arm and groggily sat up, shaking out her long blonde hair. “You were asleep about an hour honey” her mom told her “I lost track of time talking to Luke”.

“Who’s Luke?” Hannah started to ask, and then she remembered – the handsome stranger. Right.

“He’s an old, childhood friend” her mother smiled. “Come on with me, across the street, he’s going to help us with our fresh start”.

“What?” Hannah did not understand. The only thing across the street was the barbershop, and it looked like Luke had just gotten his hair cut.

“Luke owns the barbershop honey… he’s closing up for the evening, but he’s offered to take us in to give us a couple of quick haircuts… I know I need it” Hannah’s mom explained, examining her own limp, brown split ends. “And I know you just got fresh highlights, honey, but you haven’t had it cut in ages… it’s really getting too long”.

Hannah self-consciously stroked her blonde mane “I guess a little cut wouldn’t hurt.” she admitted “Like you keep saying, we need a fresh start.”

“Exactly” her mother agreed “Come on, Luke’s going to take us in the shop now and then he’s going to help us finish unloading the boxes.”

Hannah followed her mother out of the house, across the street to the barbershop. “Closed” the sign on the door said as her mother pushed it open. Hannah stepped inside – she had never been inside a barbershop before, as she had always gone to expensive salons in the city. It smelled clean and masculine. There were two big, leather chairs facing mirrors on each side of the shop, and smaller chairs lined the front wall. Luke stood by one of the chairs, waving them in. “Welcome, welcome” he smiled “Glad you took me up on my offer Lizzie” he said to Hannah’s mother, looking directly into her eyes. “Now ladies, who’s first?”

Hannah immediately took a seat on one of the smaller chairs by the door. “I guess I am” Hannah’s mother laughed. She walked towards the big, leather, chair closest to Luke and sat down. Luke whipped out some tissue paper and closed it tightly around Hannah’s mother’s neck. “Is that okay?” He whispered hoarsely. Hannah’s mother nodded.

“Now Hannah, you can come closer you know” Luke turned to look at Hannah. “These chairs are way more comfortable.

“Oh – okay” Hannah slowly walked towards the identical chair next to her mother’s and sat down, watching as Luke ran a comb down her mother’s mousy brown hair.

“Now” Luke took command “Fresh start, right?”
“Yes, fresh start” responded Hannah’s mother “I need something brand new – any ideas?”

“Well…” Luke thought out loud “We could take it shorter in stages, or we could just take it all off right away”

“Take it all off” Hannah’s mother declared confidentially “I’m ready”.

“You got it Lizzie” Luke replied. To Hannah’s surprise, he picked up a pair of clippers. “I’ll start off with a number 8 to leave you with a little something” He teased, sliding an attachment on the clippers. The numbers meant nothing to Hannah, but her mother seemed to understand.

*Pop – hmmm* the clippers came to life, humming softly. Luke brought the clippers to the front of Hannah’s mother’s forehead, and then, without warning, moved them back across her scalp until they reached her crown. Her long mousy locks slipped down to the floor, leaving behind a wide path of fluffy cropped brown hair. “No going back now” Luke chuckled, as he brought the clippers forward again to mow off another row of hair.

Heather watched in shock as her mother’s hair rained to the floor. She could not believe it. They had not even been in this new town for one day and her mother was already cutting all her hair off. What was going on?!

Luke was moving quickly – he had now pushed Hannah’s mother’s head down to her chin and was shearing the back and sides of her head as efficiently as he had the hair on the top of her head. “And… there” Luke declared proudly. Hannah gazed at her mother’s head – she now sported a very short, one-length crop – it couldn’t be more than an inch long, Hannah thought.

Hannah thought Luke was done, but then she noticed he was just changing the attachments on the clipper.

“I’m just going to take the back and sides a little shorter” he said, as if reading Hannah’s mind “Clean it up a little – this is a number 4”.

Luke pushed Hannah’s mother’s head down again and ran the clippers up the back of her head until they reached her crown. Hannah thought there could not be more hair to cut, but sure enough, little pieces of brown hair were flying off, leaving nothing but a very short pelt of brown hair behind. Finally, Luke turned off the clippers. He ran a little bit of product through the top of Hannah’s mother’s hair to smooth it out, and then at last he removed the tissue paper from Hannah’s mother’s neck. Hannah’s mother was staring at herself in the mirror, beaming – she was left with a very short pixie cut, no more than an inch of hair left on top, with the back and sides buzzed down to a half inch. It was extreme, but Hannah had to admit that her mom looked years younger, and happier than she had in years.

“Luke its perfect” Hannah’s mother stood up, running her hands over her clippered nape. She reached up to give Luke a hug, holding on for just a few seconds too long in Hannah’s opinion.

“I’m glad you like it Lizzie” Luke hugged her back “You look amazing, and you can come in anytime to have it tidied up.”

“Now Hannah” Hannah’s mom turned to look at her daughter, still sitting in the leather chair under her long blanket of hair “Your turn” she smiled.

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