Barber Le Femme Pt 1

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I had been on the train for what seemed like hours and hours, it was spring break and I was city bound. I’d just turned 18 after my mum, younger sister and I had moved interstate. Mum had accepted a new  job offer that was too good to refuse. The unfortunate part of the story is this… as mentioned, it was spring break and I had just had my 18th birthday. It was not even a week ago that mum had gotten news of a family member passing, no one I knew but not nice none the less. Therefore she was flying back to our home town for a few weeks to be with that side of the family. I really didn’t want go back there for 3 weeks and waste my break, not to mention that we probably couldn’t afford the airfares at that point for the 3 of us. Mum agreed that I didn’t have to go, however I wasn’t I allowed to stay at our new place by myself. I argued tirelessly but to no avail. Eventually a comprise was met, I would go and stay in the city with a high school friend of hers. Mum saw her every so often but I had never met her. I wasn’t overly happy about staying with someone I didn’t know, but thought it would be a good opportunity to explore a city I had never been to. Mum also mentioned that if I wanted to I could earn some money helping out in her shop. I wasn’t sure what she did for work, but just knew her has my mum’s high school friend Sonya.

So after about 5 hours on the train and a 40 minute taxi ride I was here. I paid the taxi driver and stepped onto the pavement. The driver pointed to me and told me the address I was looking for was just down a side street that was foot traffic only, I thanked him and closed the door. I didn’t realise in the taxi but the heat outside was sweltering, no idea what the temperature was but it was certainly hot. I could not wait to change out of my jeans into some shorts or a skirt. I checked a note on my phone which had the street number then proceeded to walk down the lane way.

From what I had seen, the city was absolutely beautiful. Old architecture with the most stunning high rises, nothing like I was used to. I walked slowly down the cobblestoned lane way when I pulled out my phone to check the address of Sonja’s, it was number 34. I continued to walk until I saw number 30, 32…then finally 34. I looked at the shop front which was recessed into the street like all the others with a small stairway down to the front door. There was a large front window however the blinds were down. Mounted on the wall next to the brass number 34 was a spinning pole. It was similar to the ones you would see at a men’s barbershop, but smaller and pink opposed to the traditional red you see. I checked my phone for the address that mum had messaged me again just to make sure it was definitely 34. I assumed it must have been the right address so I hesitantly made my one down the small flight of stairs to the front door. Next to the door was gold plaque that was engraved in script writing, ‘Barber Le Femme’. I started to get a little more unsure and walked back up the stairs to the street. Once again I pulled out my phone and rang mum. As soon as I dialled her number I remember she would be on a flight, it went straight to message bank. I sighed deeply and proceeded back down the stairs to the front door. ‘Should I knock? Or just enter??’ I thought.  ‘I suppose its a business so I can just walk in?? I turned the golden door handle and entered…

The bell above the door chimed and nervously crept in the front entrance. I stood like a deer in headlights and paused, it was a barbershop. There was a low hum of background music as my eyes made contact with the only other people in the shop. A younger girl was attending to a client and looked over to me. My mouth was completely dry, I went to speak but nothing came out. “Take a seat, I wont be long” she called out whilst motioning to the waiting area. I still stood there frozen unable to put 2 words together. Subconsciously I carried my bag and made my way over to a vacant waiting chair. A million thoughts were running through my mind. Surely I was in the wrong place?? Mum said nothing about Sonja being a hairdresser and the girl doing the cutting was far too young to be 40! My eyes darted around the room, there was so much to take in.

The shop was a rectangle shape which had the waiting area running along the front window. The floor was made from solid timber which adjoined the red exposed brick walls throughout the shop. There was the occasional piece of abstract art amongst various professional photographs. There was 3 chairs for clients and they all looked to be classical antique pieces, just like the ones you would see at a men’s barber. Large steel frames with ornate detail and what looked like the softest leather. All were similar in shape and size, but unique in colour. There was only 2 chairs exposed as one was occupied. The leather on one was red and purple on the other, truly like unlike anything I had seen. As my eyes continued to wander around the shop I noticed a name printed on the top of one of the mirrors, ‘Sonja’, I was somewhat relieved.

My attention was then brought back to the action in front of me. The hairdresser or barber, not sure what I should call her, worked meticulously with incredible focus. She also was unique to look at. At a guess I would say late 20s, she had a tanned complexion with tons of edgy style. Her hair was cut fairly short in one of those new bob type cuts. I say new because no one really has hair like that where I come from but i’ve seen them in magazines and on TV. It was like a normal bob to about her jaw length but was cut incredibly short in the back, I have to say it looked amazing on her. Her hair was dark with various chunks of red throughout the front bang area. My eyes kept going back to her neck line which was absolutely gorgeous. Never thought I would say that about short hair but it certainly suited her. Her neck was also tattooed with what looked like a pair of scissors half opened pointing downwards. She wore jeans that hugged her slender figure so tight I had no idea how she could possibly get them on. They had rips all through them and were accompanied by a pair of black pointed high heels. Her top half didn’t leave much to the imagination, my mum would never let me wear something like that, not even as a joke. One of her arms was also heavily tattooed with what looked like a japanese type symbols and images. As she moved around her client the heel of her shoes echoed on the wooden floor throughout the shop. She repositioned her self and continued to work. The air was filled with the sound of snipping scissors which became almost hypnotic.

The whole time I hadn’t even noticed it was a female sitting in the chair having her hair cut. The long black cape covered her whole body and the chair. All that was visible was the base, end of the foot rest and her head. Her hair had been cut soooo incredibly short. Judging by the hair on the floor I would say that it wasn’t much longer to begin with. It was literally a short boys haircut. When the hairdresser moved out of my line of site I saw the clients face, she too was beautiful, probably mid 30s. The hairdresser put her comb and scissor down before walking to the bench. It was then I looked up on her mirror to read her name, “Zoe” was written amongst a group of hand drawn love hearts. I must admit I was still a little shocked that firstly it was a women in the chair, secondly her hair was so short! I then noticed Zoe holding a pair of hair clippers! With a click she then positioned her self behind the client and gently tilted her head forward. I watched on in amazement as she proceeded to cut the outline of the lady’s hair. Zoe would occasionally look over and make eye contact with me, I would immediately look away to avoid awkwardness or seem like I was staring.

On the topic I should probably tell you about my own hair. Its pretty much been the same since I can ever remember. Long, blonde, dead straight to just past the middle of my back. All the girls where I came from were the same. No layers, no colour, just long naturally feminine hair. I couldn’t even tell you the last time I had a haircut. At our old house the lady next door used to trim it every few months. She would do our whole family and a large portion of the street as well. I hadn’t been to a salon in years and years., today it was just tied back and sat lifelessly as usual.

My attention was brought back to the the centre chair when I noticed the clippers were turned off, Zoe stood behind the chair. They were talking quietly whilst she ran her fingers through the clients hair. The client smiled and nodded. Zoe then reached for a large fluffy looking brush and began to dust off her neck and face. She undid the cape with a snap and pulled away what looked like a strip of tissue that had been around her neck. She used the tissue strip to clean up stray hairs around her neckline before throwing it on the floor amongst the hair. In one quick motion the cape was expertly peeled away and shaken off to the side whilst she lowered the chair. The client remained seated and fingered her freshly trimmed hair with a look of satisfaction. Zoe proceeded to fold the cape as the client stood up and and made her way to the cash register. She threw the cape over the chair and followed the client. The lady who occupied the chair was in full business attire. Zoe helped her ease her suit jacket on before the lady fetched her purse. I must admit she looked extremely striking in that suit with that haircut. What was happening around here?? I soon realized I wasn’t in a country town anymore.

It was then I noticed that the previously occupied centre chair had pink leather. Very retro looking, but beautiful all the same. I then heard the door chime and noticed the business woman had left. The sounds of high heels on floor boards grew louder as Zoe made her way back over to her chair. This was the part where I was supposed to stand up and introduce myself as Sonja’s friend’s daughter, I didn’t. I sat there lifeless, frozen. Zoe stopped at her chair, picked up that same black cape and let it fall open. She gave it a quick shake and then flicked it against her chair before looking directly at me. She paused whilst chewing her gum…’next’.

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