“Please pick up, just please pick up,” I muttered softly to myself as I listened to my cell phone’s ringtone.
My battery was only 5%. I had tried Maggie’s cell phone first, but only got her voicemail. Who knows how long it might be before she checked her voicemail, so I decided I needed to call the landline to be sure I reached her. I hated trying to get her when she was at work.
“Hello. Wind Song Spa and Salon. How can I help you?” The cheery voice I thought sounded like Jane, the owner, announced.
“Hi. It’s Rachel, Maggie’s wife. My battery is at only 5% and I really need to talk to Maggie.” I blurted out. “It’s an emergency, can you please get her.”
“She’s with a client, I can take her a message.” The cheeriness totally gone from her voice bringing out her annoying California accent.
“No! It’s extremely urgent and my battery is dying. I have to speak to her right now!”
“Fine, give me a second…” I could practically hear Jane roll her eyes.
I stood there praying my battery wasn’t going to die as I listened to the stupid new age meditation music that played while I was on hold.
“So, what is so extremely urgent it was worth dragging me away from a client?” Maggie sounded annoyed as she picked up.
“I had an accident while mixing up a batch of epoxy resin for that river table I’m working on. The bucket tipped while the drill with the mixer attachment was going full speed, it’s everywhere.” I explained quickly. “I am covered in it, and it’s going to harden soon.”
“So, clean it up.” Maggie said impatiently. “Why are you interrupting me at work?”
“I can’t clean it up. I need more isopropyl alcohol, rubbing alcohol.” I continued to explain. “I only had one and a quarter bottles of 70%, I haven’t been able to get the 97% pure stuff I normally clean epoxy with since the pandemic started, and the store will only let me buy 1 bottle of the 70% at a time. The 70% doesn’t work as well. I’ve used it all, and I’m still covered. I’m not even bothering to try to clean my clothes, just trying to get them off since it’s soaking through the fabric to my skin. My top priority was getting it cleaned up from around my eyes, I was wearing my glasses, so it didn’t actually hit my eye, but it still got pretty close to my eyes. I can barely see what I’m doing because I had to take off the glasses and my eyes are tearing from the fumes. It’s still on my face and in my hair. I even have some in my ear, and I think it’s starting to harden. I can feel it heating up. It’s an exothermic reaction. I’ve seen it melt plastic when it’s really thick.”
“Ok” Maggie said as the true urgency of the situation seemed to sink in. “What am I supposed to do though?”
“Get as much alcohol as you can, and try to get here as soon as you can. Try the CVS on the way home.” I said, trying to keep the panic out of my voice. “I’m out of shop towels too. Please hurry.”
When I didn’t hear a response, I looked down at my phone, it was dead. All I could do was pray that Maggie had heard enough and was coming.
I knew I didn’t have time to waste just waiting. I kept doing my best to get as much of the epoxy scraped off as I could. I cut off my t-shirt with scissors, figuring it was ruined anyway and that I would just smear more sticky epoxy on my face and hair if I tried to take it off the normal way. Then started trying to get my soaked bluejeans, which were starting to get uncomfortably warm, off. The buttons of the fly were completely covered in the still gooey resin, so I started trying to get the scissors into the relatively clean right side of the waistband without stabbing myself.
“I’m here.” I finally heard Maggie yell as she entered the house.
“Down here,” I yelled up the stairs, “in my workshop.”
“I could only get one bottle of 70% isopropyl, I had planned to beg the clerk at CVS to let me buy more, but this was literally the last one, in fact I had to convince another lady, who also wanted it, to let me have it.” Maggie said coming down the steps carrying a couple of bags and a package of paper towels. She was still wearing her jacket, and her black cloth mask hung loosely from one ear. “I picked up 4 bottles of vodka though.”
A couple of hours later we were out of cleaning supplies.
“I’ll go out and buy a few more bottles of the nail polish remover, while you keep trying to get the rest of it out of your hair,” Maggie offered while peeling off the last pair of latex gloves we owned. “More gloves and paper towels too.”
“It’s too late. It’s pretty much hardened,” I said sighing. Feeling the only a bit tacky solid bits in the damp smelly hair on the left side of my head with the hand that wasn’t clutching a towel around me for warmth.
“I thought you had to leave it overnight to fully harden?”
“Overnight to cure enough to sand before the next layer, but the working time is shorter,” I explained. “I think for some of it, it was already too late by the time you got home nevermind by the time you went and found our nail polish remover.”
“I’m sorry I didn’t get here faster.” Maggie said then sat down on the shop stool looking defeated. “Jane was not happy about finishing my client and cancelling my other appointments, it took me a bit to convince her. And I had to stop at both CVS and the liquor store. If I had known acetone would work I could have just brought some home from work.”
“It’s not your fault, I should have thought of the acetone sooner, I’m the one who uses epoxy regularly. There’s no reason you should have known about the acetone. You got here fast enough to keep me from having to go to the overwhelmed ER. We got the worst of it off my skin before it got really hot, we kept it out of my eyes.” I pointed out. “What’s left on my skin is small enough that it should just flake off in a week or two. It could have been a lot worse. Thank god I was wearing my glasses and not my contacts. I’m glad you got here when you did, I don’t think I could have cut the bluejeans off by myself before they hardened onto me. The resin was thick enough there it might even have gotten hot enough to third degree burn me, not just first or second.”
“I guess it could have been worse. This has been an expensive day, your clothes and glasses, my lost pay, 4 bottles of vodka, and isn’t that epoxy like $100 per gallon?” Maggie sighed looking around. “I wish I had skipped buying the vodka, it barely did anything. Please tell me you have enough of a profit margin on that table that it covers all this?”
“I don’t know. I think the glasses were around $200. The clothes were old, so I wouldn’t really count them. Yeah, it was around $100 worth of epoxy. I may have ruined a few tools too.” I answered while trying to do estimates in my head, $50 for cheap vodka, Maggie must have lost at least $100 probably more. That alone was already $450 or more, then there were any tools I might have to replace. I thought since the profit margin was only around $500, it was probably not enough to cover it, but I wasn’t totally sure. “Maybe.”
Maggie gave me a withering look, she knew me well enough to know that maybe meant probably not. “What are you going to do about what’s left in your hair? Is there something that will remove it or do I have to cut it out?”
“Well, you know how you wanted me to let you cut layers in my hair, instead of just always having it one length?” I joked even though it didn’t really seem terribly funny. “Congratulations. Today’s your lucky day.”
“Yipee.” Maggie said in a sad sarcastic tone.
“First though, I’m going to go take a hot shower.” I was freezing after having had to cut off my clothes and pour alcohol and acetone all over myself, plus my eyes were still tearing from the fumes. “And let’s have an early dinner, since we both skipped lunch. Can you order takeout, so I don’t have to cook tonight?”
“I could cook.” Maggie suggested as we climbed the stairs out of the basement.
“Food poisoning is not going to improve this day.”
“Yeah, yeah, very funny. I’ll order your usual from Bamboo Palace.”
Showered, dressed in pink pajama pants with a pattern of black cat silhouettes and a fresh t-shirt, and with a belly full of food, I was feeling just a little better. My skin was still raw from the scrubbing and irritated in general from the epoxy, heat, acetone, and alcohol, but at least I wasn’t freezing. It was time for me to face another one of the consequences of my carelessness.
Maggie didn’t have a full-on salon set up at the house, but she did have a corner of the den next to the desk with a mirror and extra sturdy adjustable chair that she used occasionally.
I sat in the chair looking at my face that had some very red splotches where we’d had to scrub hard to get the sticky resin off. I’d also lost a little over half of my left eyebrow, I didn’t think it was going to be too noticeable, since my brows are so pale I pencilled them in whenever I dressed up anyway. There were even more patches of raw skin on my neck.
Maggie was usually pretty eager to get me into that chair in the corner. When she did, she always tried to convince me to let her do more than just a minimal trim. She was always disappointed when I said “no.”
It wasn’t that I thought she was wrong about layers probably looking good on me, I just really hated anything fussy. I didn’t want to have to use barrettes to hold back the bits that might not go into a ponytail. I almost always had a couple of ponytail elastics on my wrist, like most women with long hair, barrettes aren’t as simple to keep track of. I also suspected layered hair would be more likely to get blown in my face on a windy day. I just liked easy.
Also, just trimming the ends was fast, and I wanted it over fast whenever I did get it cut. As an adult I barely tolerated haircuts, as a child they’d been torture. Always too short, and I would get spanked for not sitting perfectly still.
She complained that a hairdresser’s wife should really have hair that showed off the skills of her spouse. My straight blond blunt cut long hair didn’t really do that. I was not really the right person to marry a hairdresser, since I had always loathed getting my hair cut. Truth is though I love Maggie, I hate that she’s a hairdresser. If I had known she was a hairdresser ahead of time, I never would have started dating her. It’s just I fell so hard and so fast, that by the time I found out what she did for a living I was already completely infatuated. So while we were pretty happy, there was a certain tension on this particular subject.
I had a brief moment of considering giving in once, when she said if my hair had a more distinct style, maybe it would help stop everyone pushing us into a rigid butch/femme narative. I was always the one cast as the butch simply because I was a carpenter and Maggie was a hairdresser. When I wasn’t working and didn’t need to dress like a carpenter, I was happy to wear dresses. I hated everyone always assuming I was so butch just because of my profession. I couldn’t quite believe that having less hair would change people’s assumptions though.
Maggie was finally getting her way about layers, but did not look eager. Standing behind me looking down at me she frowned. I guess my giving in because of not really having many other options sucked any joy out of the project.
“Cheer up.” I said as I gently swivelled back and forth. “I promise I will only complain a little about the layers, even if they will be a bit annoying. I didn’t expect you to be so glum about finally getting your way.”
“It’s not going to be layers, Rachel.” Maggie stated. “To make this look good, I’m going to have to cut it short.”
“It’s ok if the layers aren’t the exact perfect vision you had in mind. I’d rather have choppy not great looking layers with long hair, than perfect short hair.”
“Almost everything that hangs in front of your left ear, plus quite a bit from behind it, is going to have to come up to around jaw length, and some is going to have to be even shorter. It’s a lot of hair.”
“Ok, so really heavy layers. You can still keep it long in the back.”
“Not heavy layers, all the hair on this side of the head. Long just in the back is going to look weird.” Maggie continued to explain. “I could show you a few pictures of some options that could work well.”
“I don’t need to look at pictures, I know I won’t like it. I haven’t ever liked having short hair.”
“When have you ever had short hair?”
“Nevermind.” I had never told Maggie about how mom had broken me of my hair chewing habit. It wasn’t that I was trying to hide it, but it was just hard to talk about some things. “It’s ok if the layers are a little overdone.”
“It is not just that the layers would be overdone, we’re talking about completely different haircuts in the front and back.” Maggie continued undaunted. “Listen, I was thinking I coul…”
“I’m sure you can create some kind of transition and blend it together with the long hair.” I interrupted, not really wanting to hear how she wanted to cut off my hair.
“We’re talking full on ‘80s mullet by the time the resin is gone. It really does have to be short to look nice. If your hair looks like crap it reflects poorly on me.” Maggie was obviously beginning to lose her patience with the swivelling as she clamped her hand around my arms stopping me.
“I’m not your billboard, I’m a person with feelings.”
“And I would like to think one of those feelings was trust in me, I’m just telling you what’s going to look good.” Maggie said, “You’ll like it when it’s done. You always say you want easy, short is easy.”
“Oh, come on.” I complained. “It won’t be that bad if you’re careful and take your time snipping around the resin.”
“IF I’m careful?” The insulted expression on Maggie’s face was like a knife. “You are the one who always asks me to just hurry up and finish.”
“I didn’t mean it like that,” I explained, “but it’s my hair, and I don’t want it short. I think I get a say in this particular matter. And if you just use the tips instead of slicing…”
“Right, because I wasn’t planning to take my time, I was just planning to hack it all off as quickly as possible.” Maggie grumbles. “Because I’m the one who does things carelessly while skipping basic safety measures like wearing goggles. Then has to drag her wife out of work making her have to cancel on three clients to help clean up my mess.”
“Nobody wears goggles for just mixing epoxy.” I refrain from rolling my eyes. “Do you wear goggles when you mix bleach?”
“Fine, whatever.” An edge of anger had creeped into Maggie’s voice. “I will be careful like I alway am, but it’s still going to only look good short at this point. I’ll cut it so it won’t be hard to grow out, it will only be short for a few months. Just six months or so and it should be past your shoulders.”
“Hair stylists always think everyone should have short hair. This is just the excuse you’ve been waiting for.”
“Do you really not want it to look decent?”
“Is this a punishment for dragging you out of work?”
“You know what, I’m done.” Maggie said emphatically, throwing up her hands in a gesture of defeat. “Just go ahead and borrow my shears, and see if you can get it out without giving yourself a mullet. If you cut off an ear, please call an ambulance, because I don’t feel like driving to an ER full of contagious people while you spurt blood all over my car’s upholstery.”
Maggie started walking away towards the livingroom. I followed her as she sat down on the sofa and picked up the remote, but stopped at the entrance.
“Really Maggie?” I waited for her to answer me, but she just ignored me and turned on the TV. “I hear mullets are coming back.”
“You’re too old to pull it off, but if you really want a fucking mullet, go give yourself a mullet.” Maggie flipped to another channel. “It’s your problem now, go take care of it. Go snip carefully like I wasn’t going to.”
“Fine.” I said as I gave up and walked back into the den.
An hour and a half later, a good 45 minutes of it spent with the punching bag in the garage, I was calm enough to be ready to talk to Maggie. I slipped quietly into the livingroom where Maggie was watching some nature documentary.
“I’m sorry.” I said loud enough to be heard over the TV as I sat down on the couch next to Maggie, carefully angled to keep the left side of my head out of her view. “I was a jerk. I didn’t mean the things I said, I was just upset and took it out on you unfairly. I’m sorry I didn’t act more grateful about you rushing here in the middle of the day. I’m sorry I was careless in the first place making it so that you had to cancel clients and rush here. I’m sorry I made things tense between you and Jane. I’m sorry I didn’t respect your professionalism.”
“Thanks for apologizing. I was kind of a jerk too. I was being bossy and then lost my temper really quickly. You don’t have to look a certain way for me.” Maggie said softly after muting the TV. “I’m sorry I was impatient on the phone when you called the salon, I know you wouldn’t have asked Jane to get me unless it was a serious emergency. Jane just said you were being rude and dramatic, and I took her word for it, I should have known better. I’m sorry I said I wouldn’t drive you to the ER if you cut your ear off.”
“We both had a really lousy day and were on edge.” Then I pulled my feet up onto the couch and wrapped my arms around my legs.
“Do you want to tell me about when you had short hair?” Maggie asked, I wasn’t sure if she suspected something in particular had happened, or if she just thought I’d gotten a haircut I didn’t like once.
I started thinking about the begging, the pleading, the promises, the bargaining, the crying. Getting punished for doing those things. And how in the end, none of it mattered. I shook my head no, as I hugged my legs more tightly.
“I don’t feel like talking about it.” I knew that just saying that wouldn’t end the conversation though, so I changed subjects. “Jane doesn’t like me, does she?”
“She uhm, just doesn’t appreciate you as much as I do.” Maggie hedged.
“She’s been happy I can’t come by the shop lately, hasn’t she.” I sighed, not sure why I cared. Maybe it was just a way to avoid talking about the earlier fight and why I’d ever had short hair. “She always looked so annoyed whenever I came there.”
“She would like it if when you stop in to see me, you weren’t wearing ripped and stained clothing.”
“Sorry I’m an embarrassment.” I grumbled.
“Oh come here,” Maggie said, pulling me into a hug. “You’re not an embarrassment.”
Almost as soon as the hug starts, I can tell that she’s noticed. Maggie is shifting and turning me to get a better look at the side of my head that I had carefully kept away from her. Then she’s pulling me all the way down into her lap.
“What did you do?” Maggie asked, her voice suddenly a full octave higher.
“You told me to.”
“I wasn’t being serious!” She said through gritted teeth. “I just needed some time to cool down. I didn’t think you were actually going to do anything, I just figured you’d go and take some time to cool down too.”
“Well I did spend some time cooling down after.” I responded as Maggie’s fingers ruffled through the short tufts of hair on the left side of my head.
“I’m also pretty sure I said ‘snip carefully’ not just hack away at it.”
“I started off snipping carefully.” I explained gloomily. “I just was in a mood and lost patience after a few minutes. I was upset and frustrated about the day. I was feeling guilty that I had been taking it out on you. And I guess, I just started taking it out on myself instead.”
“Oh Rachel,” Maggie sighed, while lifting up tufts and examining them.
“The crunch was really satisfying when I just started hacking it off.” I said remembering the sound filling my ear as I felt the resistance of the scissors in my hand. “It was kinda cathartic.”
“I hope you still think the catharsis was worth it, when I fix this.” Maggie warned.
“What does it matter that I hacked it? You were planning to cut it short anyway.”
“There’s short, and then there’s short.” She lifted up a tuft above my ear as she said it. “I’m going to have to go quite a bit shorter to make this look good than I would have had to before. When I said short before, I meant like a layered bob, this bit doesn’t even cover your ear now.”
“Is it really that bad?” I asked, I hadn’t done it in the mirror. I had started by pulling it forward so I could see it and snipping carefully. But when I got to bits that were too high up and far back to pull far enough forward for me to see them, I had lost patience, and just started slicing blindly, till I couldn’t feel any more solid bits. Then, I had gone straight to the garage, so I could punch the shit out of the sand filled bag.
“I can’t do a bob now,” Maggie said in a tone full of regret. “A bob would have been so easy for you to grow back out. This is going to go through all kinds of awkwardness while it grows out. I’ll try to cut it to minimise it when I fix it, but it’s not possible to have as easy a grow out as the bob would have been at this point.”
“You don’t have to fix it if you don’t want to.” I offered. “I can just go some place tomorrow. It’s my fault and my mess, you don’t have to fix it.”
“If you want me to fix it, I will.” Maggie said slowly. “I promise to listen to you, it’s your hair, you get to decide how long it is.”
Maggie gathered me into her arms and stretched out with me on the couch, holding me tightly. After a bit of a cuddle, Maggie shifted slightly as she stroked my hair.
“So, what is the deal with when you had short hair?”
It was obvious Maggie wasn’t going to let it go. I took a deep breath, and gave the short version of the story.
“I was a hair chewer when I was little, cutting it all off very short was my mother’s fix for that ‘problem.’”
“I’m sorry,” was all Maggie said as she continued stroking my hair.
Finally, we were ready to go back to the den.
Maggie looked down at the small pile of my resin covered hair on the edge of the desk and the pair of craft scissors next to it as we entered the room.
“You didn’t use my good shears.” Maggie noted in a tone I couldn’t quite place, but I thought might be relief.
“Yeah, well I was feeling a little self destructive, not full on suicidal,” I joked. “I figured you’d kill me if I damaged the blades on a hard chunk of resin. I’ve already ruined enough stuff for one day.”
“That was thoughtful, but I would have forgiven you.” Maggie said as she pulled me into another hug. “You know you are more important to me than any object in this house. Shears, clothing, glasses, whatever are replaceable, you’re not.”
“Besides, those are lefties and all your scissors are righties.” I added lightly because things suddenly felt way too serious.
She tenderly kissed me and continued. “Let’s get this started.”
I sat down in the chair, and faced the mirror. Since I hadn’t bothered to actually look in the mirror after I had hacked off all the hair with resin in it was a bit shocking finally facing it. Looking in the mirror, I could see I had really made a mess of my hair. As Maggie had noted, my ear was no longer fully covered by the uneven bits of hair that hung over it and stuck out around it.
“If you want to keep some of it long, I can give you a mullet. The teenagers on tik tok are bringing them back. You’re a little old for it, but at least not so old that most people will think you have just had the same haircut for the last 40 years. But, it’s going to be hard to get the updated shape with what’s missing. The short front shouldn’t go this far back behind your ear.” Maggie said behind me while fluffing the still long parts of my hair forward. “The other possibility for keeping it long would be a sidecut. It’s very 5 years ago, but not completely out of style. It’s going to have to go up really really high and far back though. And it will be absolutely awful to grow out.”
“So you are willing to give me a bad haircut to make me happy, but you think it’ll look better just short?”
“You said you want to keep it long.” Maggie said avoiding actually answering the question, as she pulled some of the short tufts up and examined them. “You’re right, you’re not my billboard.”
“Let’s say I’m just asking for your professional opinion because you’re good at your job and I respect that. How do you think it will look best?”
“Rachel, you don’t have to do this for me. Tell me what you want.”
“What I want is all my hair one length down to my waist again, but that’s not happening, so I might as well look decent. Were you lying to me earlier when you said the only way to make it look good was to cut it short?”
“You know I wouldn’t be dishonest with you. It wasn’t a lie, but it was just an opinion. I should have been willing to listen to your opinion.”
I leaned forwards and reached for the scissor on the desk. I picked them up and had them closing around a big chunk of the still long hair from the back of my head too quickly for Maggie to say anything.
Crunch, crunch, scrunch, snap.
I closed the scissors and then held them up by the cold blades so I was offering the plastic handles to Maggie.
“Go wild. Have fun. Do whatever you want with it.” I said looking up at Maggie still holding the scissors up for her. “Having short hair can be my penance for screwing up your day.”
“Geez’ Rachel,” Maggie muttered under her breath. “That just makes fixing it harder. Now I’m going to have to taper the back. And please stop with the penance and punishment stuff. Short hair isn’t a punishment, it’s just a style.”
“If you don’t take these and start, I’m going to cut more myself.” I threatened.
Maggie took the scissor from me finally. “Ok. I guess I’m cutting it short, but not with these. And you don’t get to complain about it.”
“I reserve the right to complain. Especially during the awkward growing out stages. It’s guaranteed in the first amendment.”
“Fine,” Maggie agreed while unsuccessfully trying to stifle a chuckle.
Maggie went over to the desk and put the scissors down, I noticed not within easy reach for me. She opened the drawer she kept her tools in and took them out. She spread them out on the desk, but held onto the empty spray bottle.
“I’ll be right back. I just need to fill this. Don’t touch anything!”
As I waited, I spun lazily back and forth in the chair while playing with the cut off long lock of bright blond hair I still held. It was soft as it brushed over my fingers. I occasionally glanced up at the mirror as I spun at the still long hair that hung over my right shoulder. I was going to miss it, I really did love having long hair to twirl in my fingers and hold against my lips.
With my free hand, I lifted up some of the long hair draped over my shoulder and lifted it to my mouth. The texture of the long strands pressing into my lips was so inexplicably comforting. I looked down at the severed lock clutched in my other hand, and realized I could keep it to press against my lips, but somehow for reasons I could only barely begin to fathom, the notion of putting hair that was no longer a part of me to my lips felt kinda icky.
Maggie came back and put the full bottle down on the desk blotter. I let the hair I was pressing against my lips down as discreetly as possible, hoping she wouldn’t catch me in the act. I didn’t actually think Maggie would care, I’m pretty sure she’d caught me doing it many times before and just ignored it, but the fear of getting caught was very deeply ingrained. Hiding it was just a habit.
She pulled the cape out of the drawer and unfolded it. She came over to the chair, and I stopped spinning and sat up straighter.
She shook out the cape, draped it over me and fastened it around my neck. The cold slick fabric covered me like a not very comforting blanket. She pulled my long hair free of the neckband, then resnapped the cape a little tighter. She gathered together all of my loose long hair like she was going to make a side ponytail, but then just held it as she reached over to the desk and picked up her largest shears.
“You’re sure about this?” Maggie asked, holding most of my hair bundled in one hand, and her shears in the other.
“Go for it.” I said trying to not sound as unhappy as I felt.
Maggie took me at my word and didn’t hesitate any further. She opened the sharp blades and started cutting.
Shrunch, shrunch, shrunch, shrunch…
The sharper blades of Maggies professional shears made a softer sound than the distinct crunch of the craft scissors I had used to hack away earlier. As I listened to them, hair started falling forward, brushing my cheek. I felt tears begin to burn slightly in my still irritated eyes.
Finally the scissors closed with a snap. I looked at the mirror and watched as the foot of hair dropped to the floor.
“There we go, worst part over.” Maggie reassured me, rubbing my back for a moment. “Now, I make it pretty. Ok?”
I gave her a half hearted smile, and nodded, even though I was sure that no matter how well she cut it, it wasn’t going to match my definition of pretty.
She picked up the spray bottle and started wetting my hair. The trigger squeaked as the blasts of mist hit my neck and ears, adding a slight chill to my misery. Maggie started combing through the short damp locks, then dividing them into sections that she clipped to my head. She left a fair amount down in the back.
Maggie started slicing the hair off against my neck, the sharp points of her scissors nibbling away just below my hairline. I could feel the cut off wet hair sticking to my neck. She ran the comb down through my hair and knocked the loose hairs off my neck. Then she snipped at it again. After a bit she combed the hair out and started cutting it against the comb. I heard the hair make a slight plop as it hit my caped shoulders.
I sat there, just listening and feeling as Maggie cut away at the hair on the back of my head. The snipping and little plops were a very quiet sound, but neither Maggie nor I felt like talking.
She kept working her way up the back of my head, slicing hair off right against the comb. I had watched Maggie cut people’s hair enough times to know that when she cut against the comb instead of against her fingers, it was being cut very short. I swallowed and tried not to think about it too much, but then a rather long lock of hair slid from my shoulder down to my lap and into my view. I tried to do a little mental math to figure out how much was left on my head, but I didn’t have enough information to really know what it meant.
Maggie kept slicing away in the back, combing it up over and over. It was taking much longer than when she just trimmed a bit off the bottom of my long hair. The damp snippets of loose hair that clung to my neck were beginning to itch.
It was getting hard to sit still. I’d never been great at sitting still in the best of times, this was very very far from the best of times. I was completely on edge and wanted what was happening to stop so badly. My feet started moving.
“Please don’t fidget.” Maggie said as she paused cutting, to squeeze my arms till I stilled myself. “How about a deep cleansing breath to let out a little tension.”
I took a deep breath as she suggested. I tensed my muscles with the inhale, and released them with the exhale. Except for the hand that still clutched that one long lock. I clutched it tighter as I nodded for her to continue, and tried harder to sit still for this.
When she started again, it sounded like she was going faster, sensing that I had limited patience left. I listened as the scissors kept removing more and more hair from the back of my head.
Sh-chomp, sh-chomp, sh-chomp…
My leg started jiggling up and down, but I managed to stay still otherwise, keeping the moment isolated to one leg. Maggie just ignored it.
The sharp shears followed the path of the comb snapping closed through my hair. The shearing process was gradually moving from the back to the left side of my head. Maggie released the clip holding the hair there forward when she reached it. I started to be able to see the hair being sliced off.
Because the hair there was so uneven, sometimes a pretty significant amount of length was being sliced off, other times it was just barely a dusting. Hair was landing on my shoulder, bright blond standing out against the black nylon. Some of it began to slide down the front and into my lap as she cut the hair above my ear, all to about the same length as I had hacked off the shortest bit.
Even more hair spilled forward over my shoulder as Maggie worked her way to the front of my ear. She cut the hair of my temples against the comb the same length as what surrounded my ear. I watched as the wispy side burn I had managed to save from the epoxy that had glued it to my cheek was combed up and sliced away. The slight hiss of the sharp blades going through the thin strands probably wouldn’t have been loud enough to hear, except that it was happening just a fraction of an inch from my ear.
Once it was a uniform length, Maggie began to comb the hair upward from the bottom, snipping against the comb. I could see she was giving it a slight taper, presumably to match the taper she complained she would have to do in the back after I sliced off the long lock that was still clutched in my hand. The sound of the scissors chomping was a little louder, since they were right by my ear.
Maggie was done with the left side of my head, and had started to slice away at the hair on the right. The pale locks that fell were longer than what had been on the left side where I’d hacked it.
The hair that slid forward into my lap, bouncing up and down in time with my knee. At first it was clumped with dampness, but as it bounced the clumps would start to break apart and dry. Then the loose hairs gradually rained down to the wood floor and my bare feet.
It wasn’t long before Maggie was trimming my right sideburn into the same shape as she had trimmed the left one.
Maggie, let down one of the sections from above where she had cropped the hair very short in the back. She sprayed it with more water, before combing a wedge of it out away from my head, and clamped it in her fingers. She cut off the hair against her fingers. Though I couldn’t see it, it felt like she was leaving this hair quite a bit longer than she had left the lower sections.
I just continued to sit there as I listened to the hair being snipped off. Maggie made quick work of slicing away the hair. Then she let down more sectioned hair from the top of my head. The damp hair slapped down onto my right ear. She sprayed the section again, getting it a little damper.
Maggie combed this section straight up, instead of back. I looked at the hair that stuck up above her fingers. Towards the right side of my head, there was several inches of hair that draped down over the tips of Maggie’s fingers. But towards the left, just barely a half inch stuck straight up above her knuckles. Maggie sliced straight across it, making them all the same length.
Maggie worked her way forward. The longer hair on the right, would fall to my shoulder, then slide to my lap to bounce around. The shorter hair from the left, often just stuck to the back of Maggie’s hand, though not always. The hair on the left varied in length a lot, though it was always shorter than the hair to the right. Some of it wasn’t even quite long enough to reach Maggie’s fingers, so it just stayed the length I had hacked it to.
She left a single small section still clipped up in the front, as she went back to the back and started recutting the sections she had previously cut, this time combing it out at an angle instead of straight up. This time, I was pretty sure she captured all the hair that had been missed when she’d first cut the hair. Again the snippets that fell on the right side were slightly longer than the ones from the left side.
Maggie released the final section at the front of my head. I guess it would have been the bangs section, if I had ever had bangs. It flopped down onto my face obscuring my view. She combed the curtain of hair up into her fingers, and started snipping away at it. Longish locks fell before my face. Then she combed it forward back on to my face again, and started slicing down through it here and there.
I watched the shiny blades gliding through my fine locks. Just a few strands fell with each pass. I assumed she was working on texture or how the hair was going to sit once dry, because she wasn’t really taking any more length off.
To my relief, Maggie combed my hair back with a sort of finality that made it feel like she was mostly done.
I looked at my damp hair. It looked like Maggie had cut it into the always popular with lesbians classic undercut pixie. It’s popularity might wax and wane amongst the straight girls, but it was a perpetual favorite amongst gay gals. I of course loved it on other women, just not myself.
I looked down at my still bouncing knee. I knew she was going to insist that she needed to make some little “adjustments” and beg me to sit still for a little longer, she always did after what felt like the end to me.
“I’d like to do a few adjustments, and I would really like to blow dry it, but I know I have already made you sit for way too long.” Maggie said to me for the first time ever. “So I leave it up to you, can I finish it now, or do I need to call it good enough for tonight, and maybe you’ll let me finish it tomorrow?”
“Thank you.” I said, truly appreciating that Maggie had figured out how extremely on edge I was. “How about this, you let me out of this stupid cape for 10 minutes, I will stretch, and then if you still want me to, I will sit for a little while longer.”
Maggie was almost immediately brushing loose hair from my neck and unfastening the snaps. Then she pulled the cape away.
“Ok, deal.” She said as she looked down at the long lock that I still clutched. “Rachel, do you want to keep that? I can put it in a rubber band for you.”
I looked down at the bright lock and stroked it. Then I held it up to Maggie and nodded. “Yes, please.”
I got up and stretched. It felt so good. After it was much easier to sit patiently while Maggie fussed and blow dried. The blow drying itself went much faster as Maggie pulled the short hair up and back around the big round brush.
The soft snipping went on for just a little while as very small amounts of pale hair drifted down around me. Maggie finished off the neck with her little humming trimmer.
I was again released from the cape. The dry hair floating into the air as the cape was whisked aside.
The undercut pixie looked better dry and styled. I ran my hand through the floppy top, and then down to the velvety sides. I was impressed at how Maggie had managed to achieve a length similar to a clipper cut, but with a softer feel and look to it.
“What do you think?” Maggie asked delicately.
“It’s very gay.” I answered truthfully.
Maggie snorted a slight laugh, before responding. “I guess it’s a good thing we’re lesbians then. Want me to dye it lavender or rainbow for you, and make it extra gay?”
“I’ll consider it.” I half joked while actually thinking it might make this cut I hated a little less loathsome.
I was still playing with my hair in the mirror, when I noticed Maggie take a small box out of her pocket. She held it out for me, it was dark blue velvet with a hinge.
“This was supposed to be for your birthday, but I thought it might help you feel a little prettier tonight.” Maggie bent down and kissed my cheek as she put the little box in my lap. “Go on, open it.”
I looked down at the box in my lap. I felt all choked up suddenly, and was too emotional to open it right away. Maggie waited patiently as I brushed a couple of tears off my cheeks. Finally I flipped up the soft lid.
The most girly pair of earrings I had ever seen caught the light. The tiny pink stones in the warm gold crawler earrings sparkled up at me. They were sculpted to look like vines with leaves, the stones placed like flowers on little branches off the main stem.
“They’re beautiful Maggie.” I managed to get out around the lump in my throat. “Thank you.”
“The jeweler usually makes them in yellow gold with rubies, but I commissioned her to make them in rose gold with pink sapphires because it seemed more you.” Maggie said. “They say every cloud has a silver lining, I guess this haircut’s silver lining is that it’s going to be not hiding your earrings. Why don’t you put them on.”
I nodded and started fumbling to take out my plain studs. I put in the new earring. The vines climbed halfway up my ears, following the curve. My hand instinctively went to push my hair behind my ear to see them. My fingers just brushed the soft bristles, reminding me how short it was now.
Maybe instead of getting her to dye it lavender or rainbow, I should ask her to dye it the same deep pink as the tiny sapphires.
“See, you don’t need hair down to your waist to be really girly.” Maggie said as she leaned down and embraced me from behind, resting her cheek against the top of my head.
Her warm hands rested on my bare arms. I put my hands over hers. I took a deep breath just enjoying the comfort of Maggie’s perfect arms around me, and the gentle pressure of her cheek.