This is a month late. It’s also, possibly, the longest piece I’ve written here. I hope you enjoy…
Saturday, February 2, 9:45 a.m. (Day 1)
The soft, familiar click of the alarm clock flipping on, followed by the opening strains of Third Eye Blind’s 1997 hit, “Semi-Charmed Life.”
Darya groaned as she rolled over, pushing a few strands of her long, red hair out of her face. The song’s mix of upbeat harmonic vocals and its dark lyrics about drug addiction and dysfunctional relationships were too on-the-nose this morning.
Not that she had a drug problem. But that seemingly upbeat, yet mutually destructive relationship?
On the nose.
For the last eleven months, Darya had been in an on-again, off-again “situationship” with Mike, a bartender-slash-actor she met on set of a commercial she was, for lack of a better word, directing. The owner of the local used car dealership who had hired her agency to produce a series of commercials had apparently considered himself something of an auteur, and he wasn’t exactly letting Darya direct much. Mike, who her casting counterpart had hired to play a customer at the dealership, quick sized up the situation and gently, but deliberately, began to thwart the dealer, doing exactly the opposite of anything he was told to do unless the direction came from Darya. On a union-mandated break, she told Mike that she knew what he was doing and while she appreciated the assist, she really could handle the car dealer. Mike, ignoring her protestation, asked her what she was doing after the shoot.
The pair wound up back at her apartment for what Darya had assumed would be a one-time-only thing, except that the next night she found herself at the bar where Mike worked and ended up bringing him home again. And then again, a week later. And a week after that, when he was cast in another ad she was directing. In between hook-ups, they’d trade memes, song suggestions, and flirty, sometimes even explicit, texts and photos. They never had a talk about who they were or what they meant to each other. Darya knew that any attempt at a real relationship with Mike was sure to implode gloriously, and they had both been explicitly clear that their arrangement was not exclusive.
Still, she couldn’t help but feel jealous when she texted him one night for a booty call, and got a reply the next morning: “Sorry, I was out on a date.” And when the tables were turned, Darya knew Mike got jealous, too—once, after telling Mike she herself had a date and wouldn’t be available that night, she was awakened at 4am by an incessant buzzing at her front door. Mike had gotten off work, found an after-hours bar, and then, feeling emboldened by his good friend Jack Daniels, decided to “surprise” Darya, telling her he hoped he wasn’t interrupting her date. When Darya told Mike her date hadn’t stayed over, she noticed a look of satisfaction flash across his face.
They never went on proper dates. Never met each other’s friends. Conversation, when they had it, was pleasant enough, but they knew very little about each other. They had been sleeping together for two months before Darya learned Mike’s last name, and only then because she happened to glimpse at his phone when they were lying in bed one day and he said he’d text her a link to some video he was surprised she hadn’t seen.
“Darya Redhead, eh?” She teased.
“It’s just that the first time you gave me your number you didn’t tell me your last name, so I just put the feature I noticed first as a placeholder.”
“You could have asked.”
“You never asked me.”
“Of course I did!” Darya protested.
“Okay, then quick: what’s my last name?” Mike pulled her phone out of her hands and looked at her home screen, where the notification from the message he’d just sent her was clearly visible. “Mike 10? What, don’t tell me you’ve slept with nine other guys named Mike?”
“No. It’s like you said. I put the first feature I noticed as a placeholder.”
“Oh? Ohhhhh.” Mike put both phones down on the bedside table and placed a hand on the back of Darya’s head, entwining his fingers in her long, red hair. “How about we spend a little more time noticing each other’s features then?”
Mike was hardly the first person to take note of Darya’s long, thick hair. It was not naturally as vibrant as the shade that had apparently attracted him to her—red, yes, but her natural color was more carrot than copper. A few weeks before she met Mike, Darya had her bra strap-length hair cut into a heavily layered shag with thick bangs. The overall length still fell to her bra strap but the shortest layer, bangs aside, hit at her chin, and sometimes, when she’d sweep her hair up into a ponytail and observe how those chin-length layers hung loose, perfectly framing her face, she’d consider chopping all of her hair to that length.
She almost did it, too: she actually had a hair appointment scheduled for the morning after she and Mike finally exchanged last names, and when Darya got to the salon, she remembered their conversation and the sex that followed—during which Mike had seemed especially attentive to her hair—and instead of a dramatic change she asked her stylist for a trim and a color refresh. In spite of herself, she cared about what Mike thought; she didn’t want to chop all of her hair off and find he was no longer attracted to her.
But then when she left the salon that day, perfectly coiffured, Darya couldn’t help but feel disappointed in herself for not going for it. What did it matter what Mike thought, anyway? He wasn’t her boyfriend.
Over the next few months, Darya began to notice that Mike did seem to have a thing for her hair. When she went down on him, he’d bury his hands in it. When he entered her from behind, he’d bring one hand to her nape and tug her head back from her roots—not aggressively, but assertively. When she rode him, if she had her hair in a ponytail, he’d ask her to remove her scrunchie so her hair could hang over his face. And so even though Mike wasn’t her boyfriend, and even though every time she had a hair appointment coming up, Darya toyed with the idea of going shorter, her hair was actually longer now than it had been when she met Mike, stretching toward her waist with much more subtle layers and longer curtain bangs.
Darya pulled herself out of bed just as the radio played the final strains of “Semi-Charmed Life.” She walked to the bathroom, where she had left her phone to charge and saw that she had twelve texts from Mike.
The night before, Mike had come over after work. It was late, and he hadn’t eaten before his shift at the bar, so when he arrived at Darya’s apartment he asked if she would mind if he ordered something for delivery, and whether she had any recommendations for places that were still open. Darya told him that of course she didn’t mind and that there was a decent all-night pizza place a few blocks away. Mike asked if she wanted anything, she said she’d have a slice or two of whatever he got, and Darya opened a bottle of wine while Mike placed his order. The Friday night graveyard shift at the pizza place must have been busy because by the time the pizza arrived, Mike and Darya had already finished one bottle of wine and opened a second. Darya grabbed plates and Mike carried the pizza box to her coffee table, and the two dug into the pepper-pepperoni (that’s bell peppers, roasted peppers, hot peppers, and pepperoni) pie Mike had ordered.
“Oh damn, this is actually really good for an all-night place,” Mike said. “How did you discover these guys?”
“Oh, a guy I went on a few dates with a couple of months ago told me about it,” Darya answered honestly. “We ordered it a few times.”
“To your apartment? Late at night like this?”
Mike put his plate down. “Look, I know we aren’t exclusive but it would be really great if you just didn’t tell me about other guys you’re dating.”
“Not dating. Dated. He had great taste in pizza, but we didn’t have a lot of chemistry.”
“You had enough chemistry to bring him back to your place for late-night pizza and presumably other activities a few times,” Mike said, his voice rising ever so slightly.
“Are you upset about something?” Darya asked.
“You don’t have to rub it in my face, is all.”
“Rub what in your face?”
“You, sleeping with other people. It makes you seem slutty.”
“Excuse me?” Darya stood up.
“You know what I mean.”
“No. No I do not. We are not exclusive. We aren’t even dating. I date other people. You date other people. I sleep with other people. You, I presume, sleep with other people. I know you get jealous sometimes, and I’d be lying if I said I never got jealous. But this is the arrangement and somehow I’m a slut and you’re—”
“I think you need to leave,” Darya said. “Take the pizza with you.”
“Look, I’m sorry you’re upset,” Mike offered, also standing.
“That is not how apologies work.” Darya reached for the pizza box, closed the lid and handed it to him, then crossed to her door. “Bye, Mike.”
It had been six hours or so between when Mike left and Darya’s alarm went off. Darya hadn’t slept particularly well and would have set the alarm for later but she had a lot to get done that day. If the time stamps on his phone were any indication, Mike didn’t get much sleep when he got home, either:
3:07 a.m. Did you seriously just kick me out of your apartment? Like, did that actually happen?
3:46 a.m. Look, I’m sorry. I can’t help being jealous sometimes. It’s in my nature.
4:12 a.m. In hindsight, maybe drinking that much wine on an empty stomach after a long shift made me say some stupid shit.
4:28 a.m. You up? If you are, I’d like to come back over and apologize.
4:52 a.m. I guess that’s a no. I’m going to try to get some sleep.
7:14 a.m. I really am sorry.
7:23 a.m. I’m sorry.
7:44 a.m. It’s just that no guy wants to feel like some other guy (or girl, I know for you sometimes it’s a girl and that’s cool) is encroaching on his territory.
7:46 a.m. Not that you’re my territory.
8:09 a.m. I feel like I’m just making this worse. Am I making this worse?
9:31 a.m. Just… call me when you’re awake and let me know if I can come over. I’m much better at apologizing in person. And when I’m not drunk.
9:33 a.m. Not that being drunk is an excuse, either.
Darya got to the bottom of Mike’s messages and tapped out a reply: “I need some cooling-off time before I’m ready to see you again.” After hitting send, she muted notifications from Mike’s number.
In the other room, Darya could hear the radio DJ announcing the groundhog had predicted six more weeks of winter. She sighed loudly and looked at herself in the mirror, picking up a hairbrush and beginning to run it through her long hair. She let out a little yelp as her brush snagged a tangle. As if this morning wasn’t off to a bad enough start. Darya gently loosened the knot and finished brushing her hair. Her phone, on the bathroom counter beside her, started to vibrate. Her caller ID indicated it was her salon calling.
“Hi Darya, this is Janine at Locks & Loaded. Melissa was wondering if you could come in at 11 instead of at 2 today.”
“Janine! Hi! I don’t think I have an appointment with Melissa until next Saturday.”
“No, you’re definitely on the calendar today. Will you be able to make it in?”
“Uh…” Darya studied her hair in the mirror. The hair Mike liked so much. “You know what? Yeah. I can make it work. I guess I’ll see you in about an hour.”
“Thanks so much, Darya! I’ll let Melissa know.”
Just over an hour later, Darya found herself sitting in her stylist’s chair. “Sorry for the scheduling change,” Melissa said, “apparently my husband can’t pick the kids up from soccer practice this afternoon so at 2:00, I have to leave here, collect them, drop them off, and come back—all of which was going to take me more or less the exact length of your appointment.”
“No, really, I’m glad Janine called me. I thought I was seeing you next week!”
“So, what are we doing today? The usual clean-up and color refresh?”
“Actually…” Darya hesitated. She couldn’t bring herself to say it, to tell Melissa she wanted to go shorter. Darya knew that an impulsive haircut because she was mad at Mike might be something she’d live to regret—even if she had been thinking of going shorter for a while. But she needed to change something—and color, she realized, would be easier to undo than a big cut. “I’m thinking about going lighter,” she finally said.
“How light?” Melissa asked, her interest piqued.
“How light can you get me before your next client gets here?”
“Well that’s a fun challenge. I can definitely see what I can do there. What about length? Keep it as-is?”
Darya paused. She had another chance to tell Melissa she wanted to go shorter. “Uh…yeah, I think the color is going to be a big enough change. Let’s just tidy everything up.” There went that opportunity.
“Got it,” Melissa said. “Let’s get started.”
Two hours later, Darya stepped out of Locks & Loaded. She was sort of kicking herself for once again chickening out on getting a dramatic haircut, but at least the color change was dramatic. She was still a redhead, but barely. Her long hair was now strawberry blonde, emphasis on the blonde. She’d never gone this light and she wasn’t sure yet what she thought about it. She snapped a photo and shared it on her Instagram story with the caption: “Off to find out if blondes really have more fun.” And then she went home and took a nap.
Saturday, February 2, 9:45 a.m. (Day 2)
The soft, familiar click of the alarm clock flipping on, followed by the opening strains of Third Eye Blind’s 1997 hit, “Semi-Charmed Life.”
Darya groaned as she rolled over in bed. She’d just meant to take a nap—had she really slept all afternoon and all night? She was tired but not “sleep for 18 hours tired.” Was she getting sick? And what’s with the radio station playing “Semi-Charmed Life” at 9:45 two mornings in a row? Darya raised a hand to sweep a few strands out of her face and started. Red. They were deep, coppery red. But yesterday she had gone strawberry blonde. She jumped out of bed and ran to the bathroom.
Looking back in the mirror, Darya saw the same her she was used to seeing—long, copper-colored hair and all. There was no sign of yesterday’s rather expensive salon visit.
Darya looked down at her phone. The date on the screen said “Saturday, February 2.” And below it, she saw a dozen notifications from Mike. The same texts she could have sworn she read the morning before. “Having a weird morning,” she replied to him. “Not in a good place to talk about this.”
Darya heard the DJ on the radio in her bedroom talking about a groundhog. A few minutes later, her phone rang. It was the salon.
“Hi Darya, this is Janine at Locks & Loaded. Melissa was wondering if you could come in at 11 instead of at 2 today.”
“Janine! Didn’t we talk yesterday?”
“I wasn’t in yesterday but maybe Maggie called you to confirm 2:00? Melissa literally only just asked me about this change, though. Will it be okay?”
“Actually…no. Sorry. I’ve got a lot going on right now so I can’t make it. Can you rebook me for sometime in the next week or two?”
“Melissa’s calendar is pretty full through the end of the month, but I’ll check in with her and get back to you. Have a good day, Darya!”
“Uh…yeah. You too, Janine.”
Darya spent the next few hours trying to wake herself up from what had to be a dream. And the next few hours after that researching time loops. Outside of movies and TV, there was no evidence they existed. But she was clearly in one, and she didn’t know what to do. So she gave up and crawled back into bed.
Saturday, February 2, 9:45 a.m. (Day 3)
Darya was awake before the alarm clicked on; as soon as it did, she turned it off. She padded down the hall to the bathroom and looked at her phone. It was the same twelve texts from Mike. “I don’t want to hear it,” she typed back. She looked in the mirror. Unsurprisingly, it was the same old Darya she was used to seeing, long, coppery-red hair tumbling down her back, looking slightly dissheveled from being slept on.
When Janine from the salon called, Darya told her she could make the earlier appointment work. At the salon, she instructed Melissa to just do “the usual.” A slight trim, a color refresh, nothing more.
After leaving the salon, Darya ran the errands she’d originally been planning to run that day. When she got home, she made herself dinner and watched an episode of an earlier season of The Bachelor. It was a day like any other day. Quite literally.
Saturday, February 2, 9:45 a.m. (Day 8)
The alarm went off. Darya decided to stay in bed for the entirety of “Semi-Charmed Life,” singing it at the top of her lungs. She heard a thudding from the wall behind her bed. Clearly she had woken her neighbor with her singing. She did not care.
Darya went down the hall to her bathroom, saw the messages from Mike, chose to ignore them. Stared at herself in the mirror. Her long red hair. In the other room, the DJ announced the groundhog predicted six more weeks of winter. Janine from the salon called. Yes, Darya could come in earlier.
“I want to go back to the shag,” she told Melissa when she sat down.
“I love that for you,” Melissa said. “Color?”
“Just a refresh. Actually—” Darya hesitated. Why not? It’s not like she’d have to live with it. “How dark can you take me? Like Joan Jett black?”
“I can at least get you close.”
“Let’s do it.”
Darya watched impassively in the mirror as Melissa carefully applied her color to one section of her hair at a time, coating both sides with the dark dye.
“Can I ask, why the change?” Melissa asked as she worked.
Darya chose her words carefully. “I just got tired of waking up every morning looking exactly the same.”
“I hear you!” Melissa said. She continued applying the color, then told Darya she’d be back in about 20 minutes.
Normally, while Darya was waiting for her hair color to process, she’d scroll through her phone, or grab a nearby magazine to read. But instead, she spent the 20 minutes studying herself in the mirror—her soon-to-be dark hair looking wet and oily, slicked back across the top of her head, her fair skin, her green eyes, her freckles. “Come on,” she said quietly to her reflection. “What do I need to do to get out of this?”
Melissa returned and brought Darya to the shampoo basin, washing all of the excess dye out of the former redhead’s hair, and occasionally pausing to scrub a bit of skin on her forehead or cheek where the dye had dripped. Finally declaring herself done, Melissa wrapped Darya’s hair in a towel and escorted her back to the salon chair. “You ready to see this?” the stylist asked her client.
“Go for it,” Darya responded without much emotion.
“You don’t seem too excited,” Melissa observed.
“No, I’m—believe me, I’m ready for the change. I just don’t know if it’ll make much difference.”
“Change your hair, change your life,” the stylist quipped.
“I’m not so sure about that.”
“Well, let’s see.” Melissa whipped the towel off of Darya’s hair, which fell, wet and heavy and dark, around her shoulders and down her back.
“You’ll see when we’re finished.” Melissa proceeded to clip most of Darya’s hair to the top of her head, combing down only the bottommost layer. She trimmed a healthy inch off here, then let the next layer down. Each subsequent layer got shorter and choppier, Darya watched as strands of hair sometimes as long as six to eight inches fell. She wondered what Mike would say, then shook the question out of her mind. Mike was not her boyfriend and his opinion did not matter.
Soon the stylist arrived at the top layer, severing some locks level with Darya’s chin, some even shorter. Melissa could see Darya squinting at her in the mirror. “You said Joan Jett. We’re going shorter up top to make you look more rock ’n’ roll. That okay?”
“It’s probably too late to say no now, isn’t it?”
“Yep.” Melissa combed a long lock of Darya’s hair straight up and then cut it off about four inches from the top of her head. Darya watched as more than a foot and a half of hair came off in the stylist’s hand.
Soon, all that was left was Darya’s bangs. Melissa combed the curtain bangs Darya had been wearing for several months forward and placed her shears an inch above Darya’s eyebrows. “That feels short,” Darya observed.
“It is,” Melissa said, closing the blades, exposing her client’s right eye. Half a foot of hair fell into Darya’s lap. “Long bangs won’t look right with this cut, trust me. The stylist moved her comb and made another slice. On the third, Darya’s left eye was revealed. Then Melissa turned her scissors vertical and began to make small cuts at the tips of Darya’s short bangs, adding texture.
Satisfied with the cut, the stylist began to blow dry Darya’s hair, not using a round brush to dry it straight as Darya was accustomed; instead, Melissa used her fingers to scrunch and twist Darya’s hair, giving it texture and a whole lot of volume at the root. “Okay,” she finally said. “That should about do it. What do you think?”
Darya leaned forward in her chair and studied her new look. The cut was somewhere between the shag she had asked for and a mullet, with the layers disconnected and choppy and quite a bit of height at the crown. The color wasn’t black black, but it was close. Darya noticed that her fair skin looked fairer, almost vampiric. Her green eyes shone brightly. The look was not her at all, but she knew she’d just go back to looking like usual self when she woke up the next day anyway. “I think this is more Elvira, Mistress of the Dark than Joan Jett,” she finally said. “But it’s fun.”
“I think you’ll learn to love it within a few days,” Melissa said.
“No need,” Darya replied.
“Oh…” Darya paused. She couldn’t exactly tell Melissa what she meant. “I just mean…I already love it.” The stylist beamed.
That night, Darya put on a pair of ripped black jeans and a corset top she’d gotten once to wear as part of a Halloween costume, and went to a show at a local club. The lead singer of the band, an industrial rock trio, noticed Darya immediately. After his set, he approached her. His hair was dyed almost the same shade as hers, and an assortment of piercings studded his face. A neck tattoo peeped out from under the collar of his black denim jacket. Not Darya’s usual type. Not at all. “Oh what the hell?” she said to herself, and invited the singer back to her place.
It turned out the facial piercings weren’t his only ones—a first for Darya. After the two had several rounds of athletic sex on every imaginable surface in her apartment, the singer asked if he should leave, or if Darya wanted him to stay over. “It truly doesn’t matter,” she replied. She knew that no matter what, she’d be waking up alone in her bed.
Saturday, February 2, 9:45 a.m. (Day 9)
As expected, Darya woke up alone to the sound of her alarm. She waited for the chorus of “Semi-Charmed Life”: “I want something else/To get me through this life.” She picked up her alarm clock and threw it across the room. It shattered against the wall. When she walked into the bathroom a few minutes later, she saw that all signs of the previous day’s dramatic makeover, and the previous night’s equally dramatic sexcapades, were gone. She noticed Mike’s 12 texts on her phone did the same thing with it that she had just done with her alarm clock. Darya spent the rest of the day in bed, watching cooking shows on TV.
Eventually, she drifted back to sleep.
Saturday, February 2, 9:45 a.m. (Day 14)
Click. “Do do do, do do do do.” Third Eye Blind. Again. Darya got out of bed and walked into her bathroom. Messages from Mike. Her reply was three characters: “No.” Same announcement from the other room about the groundhog. Same buzzing in her hand. The salon.
“Hi Darya, this is Janine at Locked & Loaded—”
“Janine, hi. If Melissa needs to change anything today it’s fine. I have literally nothing else going on.”
“Oh! Uh, did someone else call you?” the salon receptionist asked, confused.
“No. I just have really good intuition.”
“Oh…okay. So, could you come in at 11 then?”
Darya studied herself in the mirror and observed her long red hair. Hair she tried twice to make less red in the recent past—but actually apparently actually an hour in the future. Hair she had been thinking of cutting shorter for months. That shag-mullet hybrid from a few days ago had had short sections but it was still, essentially, long. Then, she noticed a pair of scissors sitting on the counter from when she’d cut a tag out of a new dress and hadn’t put them back.
“Darya? Are you still there?”
“Sorry. Yeah. Yes. I can be there at 11. And tell Melissa that I’m going to need her to fix a little mishap I had.”
“Um…will do. See you at 11.”
Darya put her phone down and picked the scissors up. They were a cheap pair of household scissors, definitely not meant for cutting hair. It didn’t matter—the past few days had proven that much. She held up a lock of hair near her left temple, placed the scissors as close to her face as she could, and closed the blades. With some effort, a foot and a half of red hair came loose in her hands. Where it had been attached to her head, there was now an inch-long tuft of red.
“Well that was fun,” Darya said to herself. She grabbed another lock, this time at her crown. Bringing the scissors as close to her head as she dared, she opened and closed the blades until they chewed through the hair, which she now held aloft. This time, she didn’t even pause. She grabbed another lock, larger this time, really more like an entire handful of hair, on the left side of her head and began to haphazardly hack away at it with her scissors until she was left holding a fistful of severed long hair. Another handful followed, then another, the dull blades of her scissors working hard to get through her thick, healthy hair but eventually coming out victorious, until soon, there was nothing left to cut. Darya studied herself in the mirror again. Her head was now covered in a shaggy, uneven mess of red hair, no more than a few inches in length anywhere, and in some places quite close to her scalp. After a few minutes of dispassionate staring, she pulled a beanie over her head and left for the salon.
Twenty minutes later, sitting cloaked in Melissa’s chair, Darya removed the beanie. “Holy shit!” Melissa exclaimed. “When Janine said you’d had a mishap I figured you tried to trim your own bangs or something. What the hell did you do?”
“It doesn’t matter,” Darya said. “It will all be back when I wake up.”
“Uh, Darya? I don’t think you understand how hair grows.”
“It’s…whatever. I’ll sound crazy if I try to explain. What can you do to fix this?”
“Honestly, short of buzzing it all off, I don’t think I can.”
“Good,” Darya said. “Do that.”
“Darya,” Melissa said. “Are you okay?”
“No,” Darya replied. “Absolutely not. But I know you aren’t going to let me leave the salon looking like this. So, do your thing.”
Melissa picked up the clippers that were sitting on a shelf at her station. “Okay,” she said. “But only because there really isn’t another option.” The stylist fitted the clippers with a plastic guard and turned them on with a pop, which was followed by a low hum. “Here we go.” Melissa placed her clippers at Darya’s forehead and pushed them back. Tufts of hair of various lengths began to tumble down toward the redhead’s shoulders. She readied her second pass.
Darya sat, watching Melissa run the clippers over her head as if she were watching it happen to someone else. She was not having her head shaved. That was just some redhead who looked a lot like her. She would be falling asleep in a few hours, and waking up a few hours after that, and her hair would be the same as it ever was. Still, the sensation of Melissa’s clippers peeling off the last vestiges of her red hair, and the feel of Melissa’s hand gently directing Darya’s head this way and that, was actually pleasant. She’d have to remember that for some other future repeat day. She didn’t actually want to have hair this short, but if it was just going to grow back anyway, she might as well experience it.
More and more of Darya’s badly butchered hair landed on the cape and on the floor as Melissa’s clippers replaced it with a short, soft pelt—not stubble, per se, but fuzz, in Darya’s natural orangey color instead of the copper shade she’d been dying it for so long. After a few more passes, Melissa declared: “Well, I guess we’re finished with that part,” then she took the guard off the clippers and tidied Darya’s hairline. “Do you want a shampoo or anything? I’ve still got you scheduled for like another hour and a half.”
“Well in that case let’s make this count. Can you bleach what’s left?”
“Uh…yeah. That’s definitely doable. Is there a reason you’ve decided to go for the full Amber Rose today?”
“It’s honestly best I don’t tell you.”
At around 1 p.m., Darya emerged from the salon, her long red hair reduced to a quarter-inch platinum blonde buzzcut. She had to admit, she looked good—even if she thought she looked better with at least some hair framing her face, and so she was glad that by tomorrow she would have hair again.
Darya decided to take herself shopping—to the expensive stores. After all, anything she bought would be out of her closet and off of her credit card statement by the time she woke up, anyway.
A few hours later, loaded up with thousands of dollars’ worth of designer attire, Darya entered her apartment and looked at her phone. Mike again. “I don’t know what that ‘no’ meant but I’m working at the bar tonight if you want to swing by so we can talk. Or, you know, not. I really am sorry.”
Darya decided to snap a selfie of her new look and send it to him, without any further explanation. She knew it would be cruel. She didn’t care.
“Holy shit,” his reply came almost immediately. “Is that you? Is that real?”
She decided to leave Mike on read. It had been a long, weird day. It was time for a nap—and a literal reset.
Saturday, February 2, 9:45 a.m. (Day 17)
Same song. Same long hair. Same texts. This time she told Mike she needed some cooling-off time. Same call from the salon. Darya went to her appointment without first hacking off all of her hair. Sitting in her stylist’s chair, told Melissa to give her a bowl cut.
“Are…are you serious?” Melissa asked.
“Yep! Why not? It’s just hair, right?”
“I just don’t want you to regret this.”
“I can almost guarantee you I will…but also I won’t.”
“Don’t worry about it.”
Melissa asked one of the salon assistants to take Darya back for a shampoo. When the redhead returned, the stylist combed all of her hair out so it was evenly distributed around her head. Once satisfied, she held her comb at Darya’s left eyebrow and then raised her shears. Schnick! Five or so inches of Darya’s curtain bangs fell. The stylist moved her comb and scissors left, wrapping around the side of Darya’s head. Schnick! This time nearly two feet of hair came loose, dropping with a heavy thud on Darya’s shoulder. Another move. Another slice, starting to wrap around the back of Darya’s head. The severed hair fell to the floor behind the chair. Move, comb, schnick! The stylist continued around the back of Darya’s head. Move, comb, schnick! Moving toward the right side. Move, comb, schnick! A final cut at the level of Darya’s right eyebrow.
“Okay, that’s the weight line,” Melissa declared. “Now I have to get all the stuff underneath.” The stylist began to pin the shortened upper layers of Darya’s hair to the top of her head, leaving everything below eyebrow-level free. “Do you want me to use scissors or clippers?”
“Oh, uh,” Darya began, looking at the rather unflattering haircut in the mirror and remembering the feeling of the clippers on her head the day before. “Clippers?”
“You sure? That’s going to be really short.”
“Yeah, I know. I just kind of like how they feel.”
“When have you ever used clippers? I thought you’d always had long hair.”
“Yeah, except for that time I chopped all of my hair off with scissors and then my stylist had to give me a buzzcut to even it out.”
“When was that?” Melissa asked, picking up her clippers and fitting them with a guard. “Must have been way before I met you. Your hair was already long when you started seeing me.”
“More recent than you’d think,” Darya responded.
“You are full of surprises today,” the stylist said. She flicked her clippers on. “Head down, please.”
Melissa ran her clippers up the back of Darya’s head, leaving a strip of hair about half an inch in length where her already-shortened hair had previously been. Darya welcomed the vibrating blades, even though she already knew she hated this haircut. Melissa made another pass and the redhead felt a tingle down her spine. Another pass and another delicious tingle. The stylist continued around the right side of Darya’s head, clearing the hair that still covered her ear, the hungry blades of her clippers leaving soft fur where long lengths of hair had hung only moments ago. When she arrived at Darya’s temple, Melissa buzzed off her sideburn, and then returned to the back of her head, moving around to the left. And through it all, Darya found herself quite enjoying the experience, even if she was glad to know the haircut was not long for this world. Melissa finished buzzing the left side of Darya’s head and took the guard off her clippers, tidying the area around both ears before moving to Darya’s hairline, rounding it off in the back. Finally, she took her blow dryer and a round brush and smoothed Darya’s hair into a perfect cap all the way around her head.
“Okay,” Melissa said. “I guess we’re done?”
Darya looked at herself in the mirror and began to laugh. She laughed so hard and for so long that tears sprung to her eyes. “Oh god, it’s so awful!”
“Hey!” Melissa exclaimed. “It’s what you asked for.”
“I know,” Darya said. “And I’m prepared to live with the consequences.”
“If you hate it so much, I can take it down to a pixie, if you want? I can’t exactly put your hair back on your head.”
“Nah, I’m good. Thanks though.”
“Darya…” Melissa began. “I know I shouldn’t pry but…are you okay?”
“Nope!” Darya said cheerfully. “I really, truly am not.” And with that, she got up from Melissa’s chair and moved to the front desk to pay for her dated, unflattering haircut.
At home, Darya took several photos of her new look and posted them to Instagram. Dozens of comments like “Please tell me that’s a wig” and “Oh no! what did you do?” rolled in. Mike tried to call her—he must have seen her Instagram. She sent the call to voicemail.
Saturday, February 2, 9:45 a.m. (Day 18)
It was the first time in a while that Darya was glad to wake up with all signs of the previous day erased. The process of getting her bowl cut had been fun—thrilling, even—but she hated having the bowl cut. And that was only for a few hours. She couldn’t imagine actually going out in the world with it, or waiting for it to grow out. If Darya hadn’t’ve been absolutely certain she was going to wake up with her long hair again, she absolutely would have taken Melissa up on her offer of a pixie cut, even though she’d never even considered a pixie before.
“Oh yeah,” she said to herself. “But you also never considered a buzzcut before, until a few todays ago.”
Darya went through the familiar rigamarole of the morning, this time telling Mike to give her space and telling Janine she wouldn’t be able to make her new appointment time. Instead, she got in her car and drove to the mall, parking at the entrance nearest the cheap mall salon. She hadn’t gotten a cheap mall salon haircut since high school, and every single one she had gotten was pretty disappointing. Perfect.
The redhead walked up to the front desk and asked if anyone was available to take her. The receptionist nodded and gestured toward one of the chairs, and after a few minutes a young woman with bright purple hair was standing behind Darya. “Hi! I’m Becky.” From the looks of her, she couldn’t have been more than six months out of beauty school. “What are we doing today?”
“Oh—” Darya paused, considering how much she wanted to torture this poor young stylist. “I lost a bet to my friends and so now I have to get whatever haircut a stylist selects for me.”
“I don’t…I don’t know what I’m comfortable with that.”
“You’re a pretty recent cosmetology grad, right?”
“Yeah…How did you—”
“Just imagine that I’m one of those fake heads you use in school. I have no opinions here, and I’m not going to get mad at anything you do.”
“Cross my heart.”
“Um…okay. What about—”
“Know what, Becky? Don’t tell me what you’re thinking. Just do it.”
The young stylist took Becky back for a shampoo, then, returning to her chair, nervously sectioned off Darya’s hair, leaving the bottom layer hanging down. She raised her shears to Darya’s left ear lobe and closed the blades, sending a foot and a half of hair to the ground. “You’re sure this is okay?”
“What if I said it wasn’t?”
The young stylist froze. “Oh no…”
“I’m kidding. I’m absolutely positive that anything you do will be more than okay.”
Darya watched as Becky angled her shears downward and continued cutting her hair off at a steep diagonal, so that each lock of hair that fell to the ground was progressively shorter, inversely proportional to the amount of hair still attached to Darya’s head. By the time Becky got to Darya’s right side, her hair still fell below her shoulder, and the hair falling to the cape could be measured in inches, not feet. It was aggressively asymmetrical, exactly the type of cut Darya imagined a young stylist would have used to prove her skill in beauty school. It was also the type of cut she knew could telegraph some strong vibes about what she was looking for in a partner—or a bedmate.
Even before this whole time loop thing, it had been a few months since Darya had been on a date with another woman. A few months, that is, before she started this time loop. It felt like longer because, in her actual, lived experience, it had been. Darya watched as Becky released another layer and proceeded to repeat the same diagonal cut. She was not a fan of how this was shaping up, but it didn’t really matter, did it?
As the first 18-inch locks from this layer landed on her left shoulder, Darya thought again about her predicament. There had to be some way to get out of this time loop. Maybe it was the universe telling her that she needed to end things with Mike for good—not just Mike, but all men. Meet a nice girl and leave the guys behind for a while. If this haircut brought her a girlfriend and broke her out of the time loop, maybe it would be worth it. She’d still have to get Melissa to fix it for her, though. Becky’s skill was not yet up to her ambition, and even without seeing the back of her head, Darya could tell the diagonal from her left side to her right was not evenly graded.
The nervous young stylist continued her work, oblivious to Darya’s internal monologue. Becky repeated her work, layer after layer, until there was nothing left to cut. She dried Darya’s hair, then nervously stood back to get the redhead’s reaction.
Darya smiled kindly at her. “You did a great job, Becky. I think my friends will be pleased.” She paid, left the young stylist a large tip, and left.
That evening, Darya took herself to the Chick ’n’ Egg, a lesbian bar she knew of but had never patronized. In the dark, the unevenness of her new cut was less evident, but its asymmetry was still obvious. Almost immediately, she caught the attention of a cute soft butch named Stephanie, who sported a bleached blonde undercut pixie. “I like your hair!” Stephanie shouted over the music.
“Thanks! It’s new,” Darya replied. “Drink?”
Darya collected their drinks and led Stephanie to a dark corner of the bar. The blonde was sweet, but she was much younger than Darya, and they had little in common. Still, there was chemistry, and the two women went to Darya’s apartment after a few hours of flirting at the Chick ’n’ Egg. Darya discovered that despite Stephanie’s age, she was a gifted lover. But she also suspected that wouldn’t be enough to break the cycle.
Saturday, February 2, 9:45 a.m. (Day 19)
Darya woke up alone. Again. She was really getting tired of Third Eye Blind. She turned off the radio just before the chorus kicked on, walked down the hall to the bathroom, didn’t even look at the messages she knew were waiting on her phone. She put her long red hair into a high ponytail, and as she did, she remembered seeing a TikTok video somewhere about at-home wolf cuts. Something about cutting off a ponytail similar to the one she had just put her own hair into, to wind up with a cute, layered cut.
“Sure, why not?” Darya said out loud, grabbing the scissors that were still on her counter. She couldn’t remember whether she was supposed to cut above or below the hair tie, so she decided to split the difference and cut right at the level of the tie. The scissors were not sharp, not meant for hair—which she already knew—and cutting through her thick hair took some effort. Eventually, though, the two-foot-long bundle of red hair came loose in her hand, leaving just a tuft poking up above her hair tie. She put the long bundle of hair down, then slid the hair tie out of what remained of her hair.
She looked ridiculous. If she thought the Elvira look was too mullet-y, this was a whole new level. The hair on the top of her head was at most three inches in length, but the hair on the back and sides of her head stretched below her shoulders. Darya’s phone began to ring. She knew it was Janine at the salon, and she knew that if she went to see Melissa, like she was supposed to, the stylist could fix the mess Darya had just made, even if she had to cut the rest of Darya’s hair pretty short to do it. But she didn’t care enough to answer the phone.
Later that day, Darya bundled the hair she had chopped off into a packing envelope and called a bicycle courier service to drop the envelope off at Mike’s apartment. An hour later, her phone rang.
“Darya, what the fuck?” Mike asked.
“You always seemed to like my hair, so I thought you’d want something to remember me by.”
“You’re really cutting off your nose to spite your face, aren’t you?”
“Not really. Have a good night, Mike.”
Darya hung up the phone and walked back into her bathroom, evaluating the damage she had done to her hair earlier that day. “This had better not be the day I break the time loop,” she said to her reflection. Then she decided to lie down on her sofa for a nap, knowing there was a good chance she’d wake up to today, again.
Saturday, February 2, 9:45 a.m. (Day 23)
Darya woke up with long, red hair again—as she expected. She got through the morning routine that had been so familiar to her, then arrived at Locks & Loaded and asked Melissa to give her a perm. Melissa asked her what kind of perm. Darya said she did not care, but the bigger the better. A few hours later she left the salon with a head full of tiny corkscrew curls. Her hair looked a lot shorter, although she knew it wasn’t—it was just because of the curls. Her new hair was obnoxious, so thick and dense that she pitied any person unlucky enough to find themselves behind her and trying to see something up ahead. She didn’t care. It would be back to normal tomorrow.
Saturday, February 2, 9:45 a.m. (Day 28)
Same song. Same hair. Same messages from Mike. She sighed. Although Mike didn’t know it, in Darya’s lived experience, it had been weeks since she’d seen him. She actually kind of missed him. “Come over,” she typed back.
“Give me half an hour,” he replied.
When Janine called, Darya told her she wouldn’t be able to make it to Locks & Loaded for her appointment that day. A few minutes later, a knock at her door indicated Mike had walked more quickly than he had projected. On her way to the door, Darya removed the t-shirt she’d slept in and pushed her long red hair over her shoulders so it covered her breasts. This had the desired effect on Mike, who entered her apartment hungrily.
“I really am sorry you’re upset,” he said, again offering a non-apology.
“Don’t talk,” she told him, pulling Mike toward her bedroom.
They spent the rest of the morning, and part of the afternoon, rolling around in Darya’s bed. She took particular notice of how often Mike looked at or touched her hair. If only he’d known what it had been through since they last saw each other. After their fourth round or so, Mike fell asleep beside Darya, his face buried in her hair. It felt so familiar. So comfortable. And yet she knew their relationship was unhealthy. She had thought that maybe, having him over today after weeks of not having seen him, her anger at what he had said to her the last time she saw him would have dissipated, but in truth it hadn’t. No amount of good sex would make up for both his words and his seeming inability to actually apologize for them.
An hour later, when Mike woke up, he pushed Darya’s hair over her shoulder so he could kiss her collarbone. It was a spot he knew made her swoon, and she knew that’s why he was doing it. The realization annoyed her. “Actually, Mike, I have a bunch of errands to run today. You should get going.”
“Just one more?” he asked, running his fingers through her hair.
He dressed and made his way out. “I’ll text you later?” he asked as he reached the door.
“Uh, yeah. Sure.” She leaned in to give him a quick kiss on the cheek, and he caught a lock of her hair between his thumb and forefinger and tucked it behind her ear.
“You don’t have a date or anything tonight, do you?”
“Good.” He opened the door and slipped out into the hall, shooting a confident look over his shoulder at Darya as she watched him leave.
If she ever got out of this time loop, she was certain of two things: (1) she was ending things with Mike, and (2) she would be doing something about her hair—for real.
Saturday, February 2, 9:45 a.m. (Day 32)
Darya replied to Mike that she’d talk to him “tomorrow.” Whatever that meant.
At the salon, she asked Melissa to dye her hair a neon shade of green. Several hours of bleaching and color application later, Darya walked out of the salon with the color she requested. It gave her skin a sallow, yellow tint. She didn’t care. She’d be back to red by the time she woke up.
Saturday, February 2, 9:45 a.m. (Day 33)
Purple. Much more flattering.
Saturday, February 2, 9:45 a.m. (Day 39)
Full-on peroxide blonde.
Saturday, February 2, 9:45 a.m. (Day 42)
Saturday, February 2, 9:45 a.m. (Day 47)
Teal. As an afterthought, Darya asked Melissa to buzz off a large swath of hair on the right side of her head. The stylist looked at her skeptically but then shrugged, tracing an arc from her temple to her nape and buzzing off all the hair that hung below it. The feeling of the clippers was as delightful as it had been with the buzzcut and the bowl cut, but the result just didn’t feel like her. Still, knowing she’d probably only have to live with it till she woke up in the morning, she thought it was cute enough, so she posted a few photos to Instagram. Praise came rolling in—except for from Mike, who texted Darya about an hour after her post went up. “Darya, what the hell did you do?”
“Fancied a change,” she wrote back. “You don’t like it?”
This time, Mike left her on read.
Saturday, February 2, 9:45 a.m. (Day 53)
Same, same, same, at least at first. Darya woke up with her long, red hair restored, just like it had been every morning. She ignored Mike’s texts completely again—she’d been doing that more and more often lately. Instead of going to see Melissa at Locks & Loaded, Darya walked to a barbershop in her neighborhood.
“Can I help you, miss?” the barber, an older man with thick silver hair, asked as Darya entered. He wore a nametag with the name “Joe” on it.
“I’m here for a haircut.”
“We don’t do women’s haircuts here.”
“I’m not here for a woman’s haircut.”
“I’m over it. This hair. Every morning, more and more over it.”
“So what are you asking me for?”
“I don’t know. Short. That,” she said, pointing at a photo on the wall of a man sporting a short back-and-sides, his hair slightly longer on the top and pushed forward. “Think you can handle that?”
“You sure you want to get rid of all that hair?” Joe asked. “I can’t put it back after I cut it off, you know, and it’ll take you years to get back to where you are now.”
“You’d be surprised.”
“If you’re sure, have a seat.”
Darya strode purposefully to the barber’s chair. He wrapped a strip of paper around her neck and draped her with a cape. Gathering all of her hair into one hand, the barber picked up his clippers and flicked them on. “It’s going to be easier if we get rid of all of this first,” Joe explained. “That okay?” The redhead gave the barber a curt nod and he flipped the device on with a loud pop. His clippers were bigger than Melissa’s. Louder, too. Their pitch changed as the barber thrust them into Darya’s hair. She could feel a slight tugging, and then a release of that tension as more and more of her hair came loose in the older man’s hands. In no time at all, the clippers had done their work, and Darya’s hair was hanging unevenly above her shoulders. “Want to keep all of this?” Joe asked, the two feet of red hair he held in his hand aloft for Darya to see in the mirror.
“Doesn’t matter,” she replied.
Joe nodded and crossed to a nearby trash can, where he deposited Darya’s hair. In spite of herself, she felt a pang of sadness.
The barber returned to his client, grabbed a comb, and drew a part around Darya’s head about two inches above her ears. All of the hair above it was clipped up with a single alligator clip the redhead imagined Joe kept around for his one long-haired male client. The red hair below the line still hung down, not quite grazing Darya’s shoulders. In the mirror, she watched Joe affix a guard to his clippers and switch the machine back on. “Head down, hon,” the barber said, putting a heavy hand on top of her head and guiding her chin toward her chest.
Darya felt a familiar tingle run down her spine as Joe drove his clippers up her nape. The vibrating blades somehow felt cool and hot at the same time, and the plastic teeth on the guard scratched slightly at her newly shorn scalp. So far she hadn’t really liked any of the styles she’d wound up with when clippers were involved, but she sure as hell liked the way they felt as they ran along her head. Joe’s hand was heavy on Darya’s head as he pulled the clippers away and allowed Darya’s severed hair to tumble to the ground, then set himself up for a second pass, running the humming machine up her nape once more.
The barber did not try to make small talk, for which the redhead was glad. It allowed her to focus on the feeling of the clippers on her head and the tingling down her spine, and also to think about her predicament. While she had to admit that it had been kind of fun to switch up her hair so many times, and to see people’s reactions and create new experiences for herself when she left the salon, she wasn’t sure how much longer she could keep reliving the same day without going completely crazy. She felt Joe move around to her side and watched in the mirror as he reduced a swath of hair near her right side to a fraction of an inch in length, so short it hinted at her pale skin beneath. Five inches of copper-colored hair landed in her lap, thick and heavy and dead. The teeth of the barber’s clippers were now caressing the side of her skull, moving up and over her ears and toward the line Joe had drawn, preserving—for now—what length was left on the top of her head after his initial sharing of the bulk of her hair.
Darya continued to watch as Joe mowed down what hair was left on that side of her head, and then the other, the shape of her head slowly emerging as her hair was shorn away. Then the barber removed the clip that had been holding the hair on top of her head in place, but did not let the hair fall down. Instead, he held it aloft over Darya’s head. “Just like in the picture?” he asked.
Darya gave a nod, or as much of a nod as she could give while Joe was pulling all the hair on the top of her head straight up over her head. The barber reached for his shears and plunged them into the hair he was holding, haphazardly hacking it off no more than two inches from Darya’s scalp. The process was not, she realized, all that different from when she had hacked her own hair off in the bathroom however many todays ago that had been, only Joe was leaving her with more hair than she had left herself.
Once the last of the hair Joe had been holding up had been severed from Darya’s head, the barber walked back to his trash can and disposed of the large handful of red strands. Then he picked up his comb and, began to lift up locks of Darya’s hair starting at her crown, combing them forward and then reducing their length by about half of what he’d left after his rough cut. As he moved toward her face, Darya could see he was cutting a little less off of each lock he selected, so that by the time he reached her forehead, she had enough length left for a short fringe. After a few more refining cuts, Joe reached for a jar of pomade sitting at his station. When he opened it, the contents smelled woodsy and masculine, not the kind of product Darya would ever have chosen for herself, but she knew it would be gone soon enough, the hairstyle it was used on gone with it. The barber roughly rubbed some of the wax into Darya’s hair, combing it forward first and then to the side before declaring himself finished.
Darya studied Joe’s work in the mirror. Her hair was not as short as it had been when Melissa buzzed it all off, but it was close. The back and sides, in fact, may have been a little shorter. But the top was left comparatively long, with a strong part aligned with the outer corner of her left eye separating hair that was pushed to one side from hair that was pushed to the other. The haircut was objectively…fine. It further proved to Darya what she already knew: that she preferred it when she had enough length to frame her face a bit more. It didn’t look bad on her, but it also didn’t feel like her. And even though it was longer than that peroxide buzzcut but it was somehow less feminine all the same. It was another look that would go over well at the Chick ’n’ Egg, which was precisely where she headed that evening.
At the bar, Darya was approached by a woman named Amy. Her hair was as long as Darya’s had been that morning, only blonde and wavy. She was more age appropriate than Stephanie, Darya’s last Chick ’n’ Egg conquest, had been, and beautiful. Darya led Amy to the same booth she had claimed on another today with Stephanie, and soon the two women were making out, Amy running her hands up and down the buzzed parts of Darya’s head. It was the first time that she’d been with someone whose hair was longer than her own, and she had to admit she appreciated the sensation of the short hairs on the back and sides of her hair moving under the blonde’s hands. Still, she found herself missing having a bit of length of her own, for her counterpart to play with. Back at her place, as she went down on Amy, Darya appreciated that she wasn’t constantly having to brush her hair out of her face, but still found it odd that there wasn’t much for Amy to caress while Darya sucked and licked.
When Darya resurfaced, Amy said to her “I love the feeling of short hair rubbing between my thighs. That’s why I only ever date women with hair like yours—or shorter.” It made Darya relieved the night would soon be over and the day would be resetting shortly thereafter—if this were the real world, and not the bizarre time loop world in which she was stuck, Darya would have to explain to Amy that she had only just cut her hair, that she didn’t actually really like it, and that she’d be growing it back out as quickly as she could. Instead, knowing full well that in the morning she would wake up in her bed with her old long hair and without the blonde beside her, she gently guided Amy’s head down her torso and between her thighs.
Saturday, February 2, 9:45 a.m. (Day 60)
Darya stayed in bed for the entirety of “Semi-Charmed Life.” Then she stayed in bed through the next few songs, waiting until the DJ announced the groundhog’s forecast, before heading toward her bathroom. She made it just in time to answer Janine’s call and told the Locks & Loaded receptionist she could be there at 11. When she hung up, those same dozen familiar messages from Mike were on her screen.
She didn’t have to read them. Not again. She had them memorized by now. She sighed and took a deep breath. “Mike,” she began to type, “I appreciate that you’re apologizing but it doesn’t seem like you’re actually sorry for what you said, just for how the night ended. The truth is, I’m sorry about that, too. But not for kicking you out, or for telling you about someone I’d been dating. I’m sorry for not ending things with you sooner, when we both started to experience those pangs of jealousy when we found out the other was dating someone. This isn’t healthy or productive. It’s holding me back. It’s holding us both back. I deserve a real relationship, and so, I think, do you. Hopefully ending things now will allows us both to pursue fulfilling relationships in the future. With other people.”
Darya watched as three dots appeared on her screen, disappeared, then appeared again. “Are we breaking up?” Mike eventually replied.
“There was never anything to break,” she wrote back. “Good luck, Mike.”
Darya walked to the salon, softly singing “Semi-Charmed Life” to herself. “I want something else, to get me through this life, baby. I want something else, I’m not listening when you say goodbye.” Well, she didn’t care if Mike listened or not. She meant her goodbye. She just hated that she’d have to do it all over again the next day.
Seated in Melissa’s chair at the salon, her long red hair freshly washed, Darya thought about how she had been keeping her hair long—growing it longer, even—for this relationship that wasn’t. She knew it would be meaningless, she knew she’d wake up in the morning with all signs of this decision having disappeared, but she resolved to get the haircut she’d initially decided against when she and Mike started their…whatever it was.
“What are you thinking today?” Melissa asked Darya, standing behind her and studying the redhead in the mirror. “Same as usual?”
“Actually,” Darya began. “Remember when I had the shag, and there was that layer that fell to right here?” She indicated a point just below her chin. “Sometimes, when I’d put my hair up it kind of looked like I had a bob. I’d always thought I looked good like that. So I’ve decided to just go for it.”
Melissa cocked her head at Darya’s reflection. “That’s a big change. Can I ask where it’s coming from?”
“Just felt like the right time to start a new chapter in my life. That’s all.”
“Okay,” Melissa said, “we can definitely do that. But I should warn you, with as thick as your hair is, it’s not going to hang the same way you’re thinking. It might poof out a little bit. Unless…”
“Forget it, I know you won’t go for it.”
“You won’t know unless you ask.”
“Fair,” the stylist conceded. “Unless we do an undercut, where we’d buzz off all of the hair on your nape. Maybe, if we’re being daring, we’d take the undercut up as high as the tops of your ears. Then the bob would hang really smoothly, closer to your face. But I’d be using clippers for that, which seems like it might be too big of a change for today. Maybe we can decide on that next time?”
“Nah,” Darya said. “Just do it now. At the ears.”
“Are you sure? It isn’t fun to grow out an undercut like that.”
Convinced, Melissa took the end of her comb and traced a line from Darya’s temple, just barely above her left ear, all the way around the back of her head and then over her right ear to her right temple. The rest of Darya’s hair was piled on top of her head and clipped in place. “Your hair is still pretty wet, so I’m going to start with my shears and get the bulk of this off, then I’ll do a quick blow dry on what’s left before I get out the clippers. You ready?”
Darya nodded sagely.
“You’re awfully calm for such a big change,” the stylist observed.
“Let’s just say I’ve had a lot of practice.”
Melissa took up her shears and gathered a lock of Darya’s hair near her nape. “Last chance to change your mind,” she said.
“Not going to happen.”
No sooner had the words escaped her mouth than Darya felt Melissa’s shears at the base of her neck. There was some tension there at first, as the stylist pulled her hair taut, and then an equally noticeable loosening of that tightness as the familiar schnick of Melissa’s shears announced the lock was no longer attached to Darya’s head at all.
“Do you want to donate this?” Melissa asked, holding the severed strands aloft for Darya to see in the mirror.
“Can I, since it’s dyed?”
“Some places will take dyed hair, as long as it’s not bleached.”
“Well then sure.”
“Great. Put your hands out. I’m going to have you hold what I cut off.”
Darya did as she was told and received the two-foot lock of her hair, laid across both of her hands like some sort of sacred offering. How many times recently had she watched some or all of her hair being severed from her head? But she’d never been asked to hold it like this, intact despite being severed—thick, shiny, and no longer hers. She said a silent goodbye as Melissa lifted and then sliced through another lock, adding it to the first that was in Darya’s hands. Another lock followed that one, and Darya was surprised to note there was a definite weight to what she held, to what had been so recently (and for so long) attached to her head.
“Okay,” Melissa declared, putting her shears down and taking the severed hair out of Darya’s hands. “That’s about what I can cut off. It’s time for the clippers. I think you’re going to like this part.”
“I already know I do,” Darya replied.
Melissa paused as she fitted a guard on her clippers. “Oh?” she asked. “You’ve had clippers used on your hair before?”
“A couple of times, actually.”
“Well with as long as your hair is now, it’s clearly been years since the last time.”
“Yeah…” Darya said, still not wanting to explain her frankly unexplainable situation. “Years.”
“Well,” Melissa said, switching the device on, “now you’ll get to experience it again. Put your head down for me.”
Darya lowered her chin toward her chest as the familiar feeling of the buzzing machine touched down on her neck and traveled up her nape. The tingling sensation she’d felt every time clippers had been used on her before was back, and it was spreading. Goosebumps rose on her arms, which were back under the cape. As Melissa made another pass up Darya’s neck, the redhead felt a warm tightening in her abdomen, a quick flutter that she thought might have been something akin arousal. Interesting, she thought to herself. That’s certainly new. She closed her eyes and allowed herself to feel each pass of the clippers as they cleared the remaining hair off her nape, warm and welcome.
Melissa gently guided Darya’s left ear toward her shoulder and held down Darya’s right ear. She carefully ran the clippers along the line she had created previously. Because it ran just along the tops of Darya’s ears, Melissa worked slowly and deliberately, careful not to accidentally buzz off any of the still-long hair clipped above. The stylist did not know it, but as an inadvertent side effect of her caution, the enjoyment Darya was experiencing only increased. It was, she decided, definitely arousal. Perhaps for tomorrow’s today she’d pick up a set of clippers and experiment on her own. What was the worst thing that could happen, anyway? She’d get a little too into it and wind up with a buzzcut? Been there, done that, and she’d only have to live with it for a day.
Melissa repeated her cautious buzzing on Darya’s other side, up and over the redhead’s ear, then turned off the clippers and removed their guard. “I just want to outline this a bit to give you a sharper hairline and then we’ll take care of the rest of the length.” Starting on the side she had just finished, Melissa made slow, short strokes with her clippers, tracing over Darya’s left ear, down her neck, across her nape, and back up and over the right ear. The unguarded blades of the clippers gently scratched at Darya’s fair skin as they chewed away any hair that fell outside of the shape Melissa was creating. Darya decided she preferred the feel of the guarded clippers, but this was nice in its own way, too.
Once satisfied with her work, Melissa put her clippers down and removed the clips that were holding the top part of Darya’s hair in place. Two-plus feet of red hair tumbled around Darya’s shoulders and down her back, completely concealing the undercut Melissa had just so carefully crafted. Darya was momentarily tempted to tell the stylist to stop, to leave the rest of her hair long and to let the undercut be her little secret. But no, she thought. She had come this far. She was finally going to get that bob.
“Do you want it the same length the whole way around, or more of an a-line?” Darya realized Melissa was asking her.
“I don’t think I know what that means.”
“An a-line bob is shorter in the back than in the front. We can keep it a little longer than chin-length in the front and cut upward toward your hairline, or we can start right at your chin and cut at an angle and expose some of that cute little undercut you have now.”
Darya indicated the same spot just below her chin she had shown Melissa when she first came in. “I know I want it this long in the front,” she said. “I’ll let you decide what you think would be better from there.”
“Attagirl!” Melissa smiled at Darya in the mirror. “I like this adventurous Darya I’m seeing today. Shall we keep going?”
Darya nodded and the stylist doused the redhead’s hair with a spray bottle, then clipped most of it up to the top of her head, leaving a long layer still hanging down her back and over her shoulders. “I’ll need your hands again,” Melissa instructed Darya. The redhead freed her arms from her cape again and placed them out, ready to receive her hair as it was severed from her head. Then Melissa ran a comb through a lock on the left side of Darya’s face, stopping about an inch below her chin. She placed her shears perpendicular to the lock at first, and then appeared to change her mind, angling the tips up slightly toward the back of Darya’s head and closing the blades with a slow schnick. Two more feet of Darya’s hair fell onto her shoulder. Melissa picked the lock up and draped it over Darya’s hands. The stylist paused and looked over her shoulder, and then called out to Janine, the salon assistant who Darya had spoken to almost every today over however long it had been since the endless onslaught of todays had begun. The young assistant arrived and looked at Melissa expectantly. “Janine, I need an extra set of hands here. As I get ready to cut, I’ll need you to hold on to the bottom of the hair so it doesn’t fall on the floor. Then you can give it to Darya here. Sound good?”
The assistant eagerly nodded and became Melissa’s shadow, moving effortlessly behind her, ready to catch Darya’s hair as it was sliced off. Darya watched the two women in the mirror, their balletic performance as the bob she had so long desired began to take shape and the pile of hair in her arms got thicker. Of all the things she had put her hair through since she got stuck in this time loop, this was one of the most interesting to observe. She felt, but could not see, Melissa’s shears on her neck, slightly higher, she thought, than the hairline the stylist had only just created for her. The cool metal sent a jolt through her system as the shear’s blades closed and a few seconds later Janine laid the longest lock of hair yet across Darya’s arms.
Soon enough, Melissa had finished shaping the bob’s first layer. Darya could see that it took a clear angle upward from her chin, but had no idea how steep it went in the back. She couldn’t wait to find out. The stylist let down another layer of Darya’s hair and followed the template she had created for herself, combing Darya’s hair out and starting to cut just below the redhead’s chin, angling up toward the back of her head and back down around the other side, while the assistant followed behind and captured every severed lock before placing them with the others that lay lifeless and limp, but still beautiful, over Darya’s arms.
Darya found herself absorbed by the rhythm of the thing—not aroused as she had been before, but still intrigued by the choreography happening around her and for her. She didn’t know how much time passed. It could have been five minutes, or it could have been an hour. But soon Melissa was freeing the last long layer from the top of Darya’s head. It tumbled down, still enviably long, but now wispy, with little hair beneath it. And soon, it, too was cut to match the rest, and Darya officially had a bob—a chin-length, a-line bob, to be precise.
Melissa instructed Janine to relieve Darya of the bundle of hair that had collected in her arms and released her back to the front desk. Then the stylist combed a triangular-shaped section of Darya’s hair forward, covering her eyes. The redhead felt Melissa’s comb grazing her forehead, level with her eyebrows. The damp, freshly-cut ends of the hair that hung down ticked her chin, but not for long. Schnick! Darya was suddenly able to see from her left eye, and she felt a heavy plop in her lap as the hair Melissa had just freed from her head landed there. Schnick! Another heavy plop. Schnick! A third plop followed the freeing of Darya’s right eye. She couldn’t see much, with Melissa standing there in front of her, but she knew she had bangs again.
Melissa turned her shears vertical and made little point-cuts upward to add some texture to Darya’s bangs, and then turned the redhead’s chair around so her back was to the mirror. “Hey, no fair!” Darya protested.
“Relax,” Melissa assured her. “I’m just turning you around while I blow dry you. You’ll get to see the final look in like five minutes.” The stylist grabbed a round brush—a smaller one, Darya realized, than what Melissa usually used on her hair, because now there wasn’t as much hair to wrap around it—and her blow dryer, and proceeded to smooth Darya’s hair as she dried it. She took up her shears once more and made a few final refinements to the cut, then spun Darya’s chair back to face the mirror.
“Wow,” Darya said. Her hair was a perfectly smooth, shiny bob. It was exactly what she’d envisioned when she first began to think about cutting her hair. “If I had known I could look like this, I’d have asked you to chop my hair off ages ago.” How long ago, how many todays ago, had it been since she’d first thought about chopping her hair off, then decided against it? She had no idea. She already hated that it would be gone when she woke up, replaced again by the long red hair she’d gone to bed with after kicking Mike out of her apartment.
“You haven’t even seen the whole thing yet!” Melissa exclaimed. She held a mirror so Darya could see the reflection of the back of her head. Her bob angled upward just enough to hint at the buzzed undercut beneath it without truly revealing it. Her neck looked long and delicate. Darya freed up a hand from under her cape and ran a hand up the back of her head. She watched in the mirror as her undercut was revealed, and luxuriated in the feeling of her buzzed nape under her hand.
“It’s perfect,” she said. “I love it.”
“It looks great on you. But listen, when your hair is shorter, especially with an undercut, you’re going to have to come in more often. You can’t get away with twice-a-year haircuts anymore.”
Darya did not tell Melissa that she’d been in a hair salon almost every day for the last…she still wasn’t sure how long. Instead, she nodded her head. “I think I can handle that,” she said. She hugged Melissa as she stood, then went to the front desk and paid. On her way out, she heard Melissa’s voice behind her.
“Wait! Don’t you want to take your hair with you?” The stylist held out a bag that clearly had Darya’s severed hair in it. “To donate?”
“Oh,” the bobbed redhead said. “Right. To donate.” She took the bag but knew that the hair she carried would be back on her head the next day. Why research somewhere to donate it when she’d never actually be able to make the donation?
At home, Darya removed her clothes and stood before her bathroom mirror naked, running her left hand up and down her neck and buzzed nape while her right hand traveled downward. Finding herself already wet, Darya brought herself to the most powerful orgasm she’d had in ages, whether self-induced or with a partner. Still aroused after, she thought about texting Mike to come over and then decided firmly against it. She could always call him the next day, when today’s events—including her text to him breaking things off for good—were erased, and her hair was long again, just how Mike liked it.
Sunday, February 3, 9:45 a.m. (Day 61)
The alarm clicked on, but it wasn’t playing Third Eye Blind. Instead, the familiar bass line of Green Day’s “Longview” began to play through the speaker.
Darya sat bolt upright in bed, and brought a hand to her hair. Rather than finding her familiar long locks, her hand traveled upward to freshly-cut ends that hung to her chin, then wandered back and found the hair underneath her bob—on her nape and just over her ears—had been buzzed down to a fine, velvety pelt. She jumped out of bed and ran to her bathroom. There were no messages waiting for her from Mike, and the date no longer said February 2; it said February 3. She looked up in the mirror and saw the bob she had asked Melissa for, a little sleep rumpled but still very much there.
It was over. Darya was out of the time loop. She thought back to the day before. She had told Mike she was ending things. She had gotten the haircut she’d been considering since not long after she had met him. She hadn’t been cruel to Mike, hadn’t changed her hair out of spite or gotten a haircut she didn’t really want out of boredom or morbid curiosity. She hadn’t gone out the night before with the intention of bringing a meaningless fling back to her apartment. She had lived the day for herself and herself alone.
And she was free.
9 responses to “A Redhead’s Groundhog Day”
Magnificent story. You are one of the few authors on this site that I have seen capable of writing a good story involving a makeover and some sexual connotation without the need for the story to be morbid, explicit and uncomfortable to read.
Not every haircut story has to end with a girl tied to a barber chair and being given a headshave. Sometimes a good story involves a well-constructed narrative, endearing characters with motivations, and good descriptions of events. Your description of the final shaved nape bob is absolutely perfect.
Keep writing please, and hopefully other colleagues on this site will follow your example.
These types of stories help remove the stigma attached to those with a hair fetish.
Another great one. Thank you.
Thank you, Parzival! Several of my stories get pretty explicit, but I also firmly believe consent is important so that’s always going to be in my stories. Even if the subject is getting what Klaatu often refers to as (I think) an “unwanted wanted” cut, you’re never going to find someone in my stories being aggressively forced into a haircut. (That said, there are some writers here who really handle BDSM haircuts well and I think it’s important as a community to note that that kind of being tied up and receiving a headshave is perfectly valid as long as the sub being shaved has the option of using their safe word. Consent is extremely important to that community and I wouldn’t want to malign them, if that makes sense.)
Thank YOU for reading, Ginger!
I see sites like this one as spaces to freely explore our kink, while having of course the common sense of staying in a certain limit (the same as any other erotic fantasy). I think whatever stigma might be attached to hair fetish, would be better fought by educating people in the community on how to relate with others outside of it – as I think that’s where the major problems occur (see weird comments on social or videos directed to non-fetishist, for example).
But this space if for us, not for outsiders. Not much sense in bending it to people who might never even come across it.
p.s. sorry, didn’t want to hijack the comments further, but I think it’s a theme worth discussing and wanted to say mine. The story is VERY well written and a pleasure to read, indeed!
If you wanted to have a broader and more in depth discussion on this, you could start it in the forum.
This was awesome — everything about it was enjoyable, but your dialogue throughout was especially awesome and entertaining. Mike’s 12 texts are a masterpiece in second-guessing oneself and knowing you screwed up. I loved it.
And of course Darya’s cuts were great, especially the last one. Because I just happened to watch the trailer for “Ghosted” before reading this, I was picturing Ana DeArmas and Chris Evans as the main characters — fittingly enough, the bangs and bob Darya wound up with is, in my opinion, one of the styles that looked best on Ana in the past.
So glad you took the time to write this, and thank you for sharing it!
Glad you enjoyed the story, Razumichin. Happy to engage further in the forums if you’d like, as Ginger suggested.
Definitely not trying to bend anyone to anything. I’m not here to yuck anyone’s yum, with the possible exception of the stories (always in the past removed by admins) that go too far into violent or forcible acts. And I agree 100% that the comments from some in the community toward those who are not can get awfully creepy. Many years ago I edited a website that had an entertainment section. One of the writers did a round-up of celebrity news once a week and she noted that the actress Mena Suvari had “shaved” her head (it was a buzzcut) for a movie role. The writer got several comments, as well as private emails—many of which were explicit—telling her she should follow Suvari’s lead. That…is just not how to make people more welcoming/accepting of hair fetishists/fetishism.
Thanks as always for reading, Klaatu! And I love your casting here. 🙂