A Special Gift

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Kristin’s heart broke at the sound of the little voice. The phrase just now uttered hung in the air, almost tangible. She blushed and felt a lump creep into her throat.

“I’m sorry sweetie, what was that?”

The little girl stood on her tiptoes and whispered “Your hair is so beautiful! I wish mine looked like that.”
The lump in Kristin’s throat got bigger. She looked down at the little angel in front of her. Eyes wide, smile even wider. But one couldn’t help but notice the glaring absence of hair on her head. It wasn’t shaved or cut on purpose. It wasn’t out of choice that the little girl looked like this. Her name was Sophie and she was recovering from a brutal bout with leukaemia. The worst part was over, the cancer was in remission but there was still the harsh chemo and radiation ahead of her. She would have hair again one day but it wouldn’t be for a while.

That exchange haunted Kristin for weeks. She had thanked Sophie and given her a hug, telling her to stay strong and one day her own beautiful hair would come back. Although they had never met before, she couldn’t get the image out of her mind.

The hair Sophie had commented on was indeed beautiful. Sandy brown, it was rope thick and hung down almost past her butt. The complements were normal as was the attention of both men and women. Her eye-catching mane was only a part of the package. Her eyes were green, face blessed by the smooth skin and perfect bone structure that was her Icelandic heritage. Years of religious exercising had given her an incredible, perfectly proportioned figure. The hair though, the hair is what set her apart. She trimmed it regularly. Although a “dusting” might be a better definition. She hated to part with length and opted to cut just the very tips every 6-8 weeks as opposed to an actual cut a few times a year. She loved finding unique ways to wear it but also was content just letting it fall naturally down her back.
Today however, she hated it. Standing in front of her bathroom mirror, every brushstroke caused her to relive that moment. “Your hair is so beautiful! I wish mine looked like that.” Kristin normally took her time with her hair in the morning, it was a comfort to her. She couldn’t do it today. The little voice rang in her ears over and over again. She ran through a quick, rudimentary brushing and pulled it into a ponytail. Grabbing her phone and keys, she headed for the door.

She snapped off a quick text message before starting the car, then pulled out of the driveway and headed down the tree lined road. The sun was warm and Kristin rolled down her window letting the wind blow through the loose tendrils of hair that framed her face. Ten minutes and three crappy pop songs later, she pulled off the main road and into a small, quiet neighborhood. Turning on the first available street, she stopped in front of a light blue house. She didn’t get out right away but rather sat in the quiet for a minute.

She was hearing Sophie’s voice again. “My mommy said there’s a place that gives hair to people like me! She promised she would take me to see them soon and then I’ll have beautiful hair like you!”

Flipping her ponytail over her shoulder, she played with the hair almost absentmindedly. As she ran her fingers through the strands, her mind far afield, she came to a decision. It was time. She had held on to her hair long enough. If it meant bringing someone like Sophie a little bit of happiness than it was worth it. Her hair would grow back. In a way she had already made her decision when she got in the car just a short while ago. The house she stopped in front of was her friend Jenna’s. Jenna was a licensed hairstylist who had a salon in her basement and was currently waiting to give Kristin an afternoon she would remember for a long time.

The walk from the car to the front door seemed to last forever. She was full of mixed feelings. Joy and sadness, excitement and fear, they all swirled inside her in a maelstrom of emotions. She knocked on the door, heart pounding.

“Hey! You made it! I was almost sure I would get a text saying you changed your mind.” Jenna was a bubbly blonde in her late 20s, full of spunk and always ready to laugh. She had over 10 years of experience as a stylist and was one of the best kept secrets around. She always had a full book of clients but was more than willing to make room for her best friend. Especially today.

“I’m pretty nervous but I’m not changing my mind. Oh my god Jenna, as soon as I heard that little girl say she wished her hair was like mine, I knew I didn’t want it anymore.

Jenna laughed “Well I’m proud of you. Not many people with hair like yours would do this. Especially for someone they don’t know.”

Kristin followed her downstairs to the basement. Jenna had remodeled most of the area and turned it into a very sleek and modern looking mini salon. She always said starting her own business was the best decision she’d ever made and her packed appointment book supported her claim.

Kristin sat down in the chair in front of the sink and pulled the band out of her ponytail. The hair came tumbling down over one shoulder. She ran both hands through the length, finger combing it for the last time. Jenna moved in beside her, guided her head into the sink and turned on the water. The wash and massage took only a few minutes but Kristin enjoyed every second of it. Jenna wrapped a towel around Kristin’s dripping hair and led her over to the red leather chair standing in front of the single station.

Jenna flung a cape around Kristin’s neck, removed the towel and combed out the length of wet hair.
“Ok Braveheart, what exactly are you wanting to do today? I’m assuming you just want to take off the donation minimum?”

Kristin paused for a moment. “What do you think I’d look like with short hair? I may never do this again so I might as well take the full plunge right?”

Now it was Jenna’s turn to pause. “How short are you talking? Above the shoulders? A bob?”

“I think a bob would look good but maybe on the shorter side? Maybe chin length.”
Jenna nodded

“Well with your face structure and cheekbones, a chin length bob would look fantastic on you….but that’s a big change, we’re talking about cutting off nearly two feet of hair. You think you’re ready for that?”
“Yes, in this moment I am. If I wait any longer that may change though so just do it!” Kristin said laughing
“Alright, here we go then!”

Jenna finished combing out the wet hair and proceeded to put it up in a loose ponytail. She moved the band up the length of hair until it was an inch or so above Kristin’s shoulders.
“I’m going to make the big cut here so I have some room left to work with.” Extending a measuring tape she held it up to the ponytail and calculated the length from band to tips. “If I cut from here, the donation length will be 19 inches. Is that ok?”

Kristin reached behind and felt the position of the band with her fingertips. “Go up one more inch, make it an even 20. Will that give you enough left to cut properly?”

Jenna moved the band up and remeasured the length. “Yep that’ll work.”

She returned the tape to the station and picked up a pair of clippers. “Now before you freak out, I’m not going to secretly shave you. Your hair is just so thick that this will make it way easier to take the length off. Otherwise I might be here for an hour just sawing away.”

Kristin gave a nervous chuckle “If you say so. Just don’t slip!”

Jenna smiled and with a flick of her thumb the clippers hummed to life. Without hesitation she plunged the blade into the waiting mass. With a growl the clippers bit through the hair, sending tiny bits flying as it chewed towards its goal. Section by section the hair was cut in two until finally Kristin felt air on her bare neck. Her head felt like a weight had been lifted off, everything felt so light! She didn’t realize that her eyes had been closed and when she opened them she saw 20 inches of her pride and joy dangling in front of her. Jenna was grinning from ear to ear. “Well what do you think?”
Kristin reached forward and grasped the severed ponytail with one hand while the other felt shorn remainder at the back of her head. “I don’t know what to think honestly, I never thought I’d be in this position. It’s so much hair!!”
Jenna nodded. “Yep, it’ll be exactly what a little girl needs to feel beautiful again.”

Kristin placed the length on the station in front of her and inspected herself for the first time. Her hair was now in a jagged bob resting just above the base of her neck. She ran her fingers through it, combing and primping. “I keep expecting it to reach all the way down when I run my fingers through it. It stops too soon!” She laughed. “Feels so weird.”

“That’s what they all say.” Jenna agreed. “What do you think of the length though. Like it? Or do you want to continue with your original plan?”
“I really like it, but I want to see it through. Go shorter!”
“Atta girl!”

Jenna started the precision work. Gently pushing Kristin’s head down, she parted it down the middle and combed the hair into three sections. Aligning the bottom section, she moved the scissors up and began to cut the hair in an invisible line that would work around the the line of Kristin’s perfect jaw. The blades sliced through the section with ease, removing another 2 inches of length. Finishing, she unclipped the other two sections and combed down another length. She reclipped and repeated the process. Snip, comb down, snip and comb down. She fell into a rhythm as all experts do and soon the back was done. She let the sides fall and inspected her work. Two inch lengths of hair lay in clumps all over the cape and Kristin’s neck was covered in a fine layer of dark hair bits. Jenna combed her hair down into straight lines and angling the comb to line up with Kristin’s jaw, she cut the sides. More bits of hair rained down as the scissors slid through easily. After a minute she stepped back.

“Ok here’s the foundation. I have a bit of refining to do and I’ll style it for you but here’s your new length!”
The chair had been spun around to face away from the mirror as Jenna worked so this was Kristin’s first glimpse of the new her.

The bob was perfect. It ran along her jawline sharp and clean, angling slightly up as it reached the back. It emphasized her shapely neck and further enhanced her stunning facial features. She played with it, flipping back and forth and turning to look from all angles.

“Hmm.” She frowned
“What’s wrong?”
“I don’t know, it just doesn’t feel right.”
“It’s going to take a while to get used to. You just had a pretty major change.” Jenna replied
“No it’s the the cut, it looks amazing! I just think…can we go shorter?” Kristin looked up sheepishly
“Shorter? This is almost as short as we can go with a bob. I guess there’s lip length but I personally don’t think that’ll look as good.” Jenna said frowning
“No I mean a lot shorter. I want a pixie.”
“A pixie? Kris are you sure?” Jenna was a bit taken aback
“Like I said, this may be the only time I do this. It’ll grow fast if I don’t like it. But I want to try.” Kristin said confidently
“Ok well I’m game if you are. How short to do you want to go? There’s a lot of different pixie cuts.”
“What do you think would look best? You’re the expert.” Kristin said
“Well honestly, anything would work. The shape of your face is pretty forgiving. How do you feel about clippers?” Jenna said thoughtfully
“Well I know I would like some hair left, do you just mean around the sides and back?” Kristin was a bit wary now
“Yep. I’d actually shave the sides and back but leave the top long. It’s actually really versatile. You can comb it to the sides, straight back or even up like this.” Jenna demonstrated with the top layer of Kristin’s bob.
“Shave like all the way down? I dunno…”Kristin was wishing she had just left well enough alone.
“Either all the way down or with a #1 guard on the clippers. That’ll leave you a bit of fuzz. Let’s go with the #1, I think you’ll really like it!!” Apprehensive Jenna was gone, excited Jenna was back
“Ok, I trust you. Let’s do it!”

Jenna parted the hair and combed a section over from one side to the other. Then Kristin again heard the “snick” of the clippers and the sound of humming in her ear.

She flinched a little when the vibrating instrument touched the base of her hairline. Then her heart raced as they plunged up the freshly cut hair at the back of her head stopping just short of of her crown. With expert flicks of her wrist, Jenna shaved the hair off the back of Kristin’s head. The hair crunched incessantly as the clippers passed through. Six inch lengths of hair flew away from her head and with each stroke more and more of her scalp appeared. Jenna quickly polished off the back and moved on to the sides. She shaved the left side all the way up, leaving the top intact. The top was then pinned up and right side went the same as the left. Removing the pin, Jenna let the remaining length fall down Kristin’s face to her jawline. With Kristin’s head now bare, save for the fuzz and the top, Jenna picked the scissors up again. She picked a point on Kristin’s face, just above the cheekbone and bluntly removed all the hair below that point. The enormous pile of hair on the floor continued to grow and now Kristin could feel the cold air on her nearly bare skin. Jenna pulled the hair up straight and snipped vertically, creating layers. After a few minutes she stopped and combed the hair over. Adding some product to her hands she ran it through Kristin’s hair, creating a sideswept style. Then with a flourish, she spun the chair around.

“All done!” She exclaimed

Kristin didn’t recognize the figure staring at her in the mirror. The hair that was a part of her for so long was now almost gone. The sides and back were buzzed short, and the top hung perfectly layered over the right side of her face. When down, it fell just above her cheekbone and then tapered up slightly towards the crown. The top was still about 10 inches in length and stopped just above her ear, but because of the shaved part underneath it gave her hair an undercut feel.
“Do you like it?” Jenna was anxious to know

Kristin ran her hand all over the stubble that now covered most of her head.
“Jenna…I love it!! It’s so perfect! The top is long enough to make me feel feminine but I feel so empowered because it’s short. It’s going to make my morning routine so much quicker too.”
“I knew it would look great on you. If you need help figuring out different ways to wear it just let me know.” Jenna brushed the loose hair off of Kristin’s neck and unsnapped the cape.
Still rubbing her hair, she rose from the chair and picked up the 20 inch ponytail from the station.
“I’m going to send this off today, get it out of my hair.” She giggled at her own bad pun
“Thank you so much for this Jenna, I promise I love it.”

“Of course! I’m happy to help. If you decide to stay short for a while then you’ll have to come see me in a few weeks to touch up the back and sides.” She gave Kristin a hug and handed her a plastic bag to put the hair donation in.
“K, I’ll let you know. I’m enjoying it so much at the moment that I may just consider keeping it.” Kristin thanked Jenna one last time and left the house.

She sent off the donation that afternoon, feeling better about her decision with each passing minute. “It would be great if Sophie got this, but it doesn’t really matter I guess. As long as it makes them happy.” She felt like a new woman. “Maybe I’ll grow it all out and donate it again. Who knows?”

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