Sitting outside a small cafe, Kerri drank down the last of her iced coffee as she twirled a business card in her hand. One side simply said “Salon,” while the other side bore the name of her roommate’s girlfriend and the scribbled time and date of an appointment.
An appointment about ten minutes from now.
Kerri sighed. She couldn’t believe this had all started with a stupid joke. No, not a stupid joke, just a joke. A joke that should have had no impact on her life beyond her boyfriend rolling his eyes or maybe teasing her a bit in return.
Setting her mug and a few dollars down on the table, Kerri stood up and swung her purse over her shoulder to start the walk to the nearby Nameless Salon. A long lock of her soft auburn hair had escaped her clip, so she let it all loose, sending it spillng into the gentle breeze as she walked, swirling some strands around her shoulders and into her face while the rest fell nearly to her waist. Her fingers moved through its silken length so easily when she brushed it back, hesitating to savor the sensations he realized she may not be able to experience again for quite a while.
She wondered if she’d be here right now if she had worn her hair in a ponytail when she pulled her t-shirt on a couple of Tuesdays ago. Would she have just pulled it free from the collar and gone about her day, if so? It didn’t matter, really. The fact was she had her hair loose that day, and it wound up looking like her hair was bobbed after she pulled her shirt on. She thought that was funny – why would she ever consider cutting her hair, much less cutting it short? – and snapped a pic to send to Steve as a joke.
He did not take it well.
Maybe the relationship was doomed anyway, but, if so, his reaction to the simple possibility she’d cut her hair remotely short was enough to send the relationship to a far quicker death. And the gutting reactions of a few of her friends – those who actually defended Steven and insinuated that when it was a girl’s gorgeous hair that attracted the guys it was understandable for her to be expected to keep it – may have been what made her finally make the appointment for today.
The first time Kerri had met Cara’s girlfriend, Audrey, the brash woman had saved another roommate, Cho, from a disastrous haircut she’d received at a hairshow. The end result was that Cho’s ass-length mane was cropped brutally short. But it was cute on Cho, and after Kerri had said so Audrey tried to talk her into a similar fate. Kerri had escaped such a fate that day, but… now, as she walked up to the salon and opened its door, she felt Audrey was what she needed.
The salon had an industrial chic feel to it, colored in grey tones of blue and green or black. Stations were set up with floor-length mirrors and cabinets to provide a sense of coziness despite the lack of actual walls, and Kerri’s hopes of a good outcome were immediately lifted.
Sandi, a girl Kerri knew through Cara and a their mutual friend Denise, manned the front desk. Thick, black curls danced down to the middle of her back, with the sides clasped back and face-framing bangs tickling each of her sun-kissed, cinnamon cheeks. It was a definitive contrast to Audrey’s style, which seemed to be summed up as keeping her thick, red curls too short to curl, nearly in a buzzcut. Sandi’s style suited her bright smile and, from what Kerri knew, sweet personality, so she already found herself hoping Audrey didn’t make any efforts to influence the girl.
“Hi…. Kerri, right? Cara’s roommate?”
Kerri smiled, brushing her long hair back out of her face once again. She loved how it felt against her bare shoulders, she was glad the sundress she’d chosen that day allowed her that. She exchanged the usual pleasantries with Sandi, chatting a bit about their mutual acquaintances and plans for the summer, but then Sandi headed toward the back of the salon to find Audrey.
Sandi returned with another young woman with golden brown hair tidily pulled back, who introduced herself as Melinda. She noted that she’d be available to wash Kerri’s hair before Audrey saw her, if she’d like. She did take care to note, upon sight of Kerri, that it probably wasn’t needed, but Kerri wasn’t about to pass that up.
And so Kerri found herself already well-pampered, with her abundant mane washed and dried and a cup of tea in hand when Audrey approached the stylist chair she occupied. It’d only been a few months since Kerri saw her, but the severe red crewcut was already gone, supplanted by an adorable mess of springy red curls that resided somewhere between a pixiecut and a shag. The curls threatened to hide her ears completely, and Kerri guessed Audrey’s eyebrows would be overtaken before long.
“Kerri! I’m so glad you came!”
“Oh, wow! Your hair is so…” Kerri hesitated, not sure Audrey was the type of person who’d want to hear the next word, but it came out anyway – “cute!”
Audrey’s nose scrunched, but she gave a resigned nod. “I know. It’s a curse. Grows like a weed and looks amazing no matter what I do to it.” She smiled brightly, and then stepped behind Kerri. “Your hair, meanwhile, is absolutely gorgeous.”
Kerri looked to the mirror before her as Audrey slid her fingers through the long auburn locks, nudging them in front of her shoulders so they could spill over her breasts and almost into her lap. So soft but still so shiny, especially after Melinda’s attention. She’d be crazy to let the woman behind her loose on these precious locks, that much she knew. But then there was Steve, and the alleged friends who insisted Kerri’s hair was what brought boys to the yard.
The cloud that came over her mood was apparently noticeable, because Audrey’s brow furrowed and she stepped in front of the chair, leaning back against the counter and cabinets that formed her work area. “Listen, I should apologize for trying to bully you into a haircut back at the apartment. That was really unprofessional, and I was just in a specific kind of mood because of…”
Kerri couldn’t avoid having the image of Audrey pinning Cara against Cara’s bureau of drawers when she had burst into the room to ask for help for Cho. Her own cheeks started burning, and Audrey’s colored, as well.
“…uhm, yeah,” Audrey added hurriedly. “So, I’m sorry about that. I promise I won’t do anything beyond what you ask.” She seemed to think about it,then added, “You won’t be another Cho.”
Kerri smiled. Winding up like Cho could mean many things… it could mean getting a brutally short boy cut, sure, but it could also mean winding up with more modeling work than your agency could handle due to that haircut. Kerri had a feeling Audrey knew that, considering she’d been called in to cut Cho’s hair again three times in the two-and-a-half months since.
“Actually…” Kerri started. She looked at her reflection again, at all of the long, soft hair she adored braiding and brushing before her days started, and feeling caressed and tugged and pulled when her days ended. She took a deep breath, and met Audrey’s eyes again. “Actually, I think that’s what I want. It’s a long story, but I want to make sure my hair isn’t a factor in why a guy hits on me for a long while.”
Audrey looked a little sympathetic. “Oh, sweetie. Your hair is always going to be a factor in that, whether long or short. Everyone has their preferences, you know?”
“Well, then I guess I want to give the short-hair lovers their moment in the sun. I want you to chop it all off for me. As short as you dare.”
Audrey raised an eyebrow. “I’m gonna be honest with you – most stylists would refuse to cut it for you today. They’d say you needed to think about it for a while rather than making a rash decision.”
Kerri’s heart dropped a little, but she still held out a little hope…
“But me being me, I just want you to be sure.” Audrey stepped behind her, gathering the long, silken locks back into a tight ponytail pulled tight against her head. “You’ve seen how short I cut hair, even my own. You want all of this gone?” She wiggled the ponytail, letting the long locks dance around for a bit.
Kerri swallowed, wishing she had some idea of how long it would take her hair to grow back. Years, for certain. If ever… she’d graduate before it was this length again, and then the real-world jobs would probably look down on a professional woman striving for princess-length locks.
She nodded. “Yes, please.”
Audrey smiled brightly, maybe even like a predator. She nodded and let go of Kerrie’s locks, combing through them quickly with her fingers before she brushed the thick, heavy, straight locks forward in front of Kerri’s shoulders.
Kerri sighed softly, admiring her doomed locks as Audrey grabbed something from her workstation. “I’ll get you caped in a moment, but first…”
Kerri’s body tightened when she saw the scissors in Audrey’s hand. The stylist stood to her right and carefully twisted the fall of hair before Kerri’s shoulder once, then a second time
“Let’s just get rid of the bulk of this, shall we?”
She held the blades up to Kerri’s hair, level with her chin. “Are you ready?” she asked again.
Kerri stared at the finality of the blades. Was she really ready to do this because of a guy? Because of a bad joke?
No, she was ready to do it for her, to prove she didn’t need it. To prove to herself she was more than a walking expectation of beauty standards.
She nodded, and closed her eyes.
The crunching blades didn’t wait, working their way quickly and loudly through her long, beautiful hair. There wasn’t any tension or tugging, just sawing and chewing as a gradual tickle against her cheek and ear started and grew with every ensuing schnickt of Audrey’s shears.
She opened her eyes when the crunching stopped.
“That wasn’t so bad, right?” Audrey asked. She stood there, holding up the prize she had seized, almost two feet of gorgeous auburn tresses that had until a few seconds ago been attached to Kerri’s head.
Kerri looked at her reflection and reached up to touch the shorn ends of her hair, their ends now brushing lightly against her jaw and neck as Audrey fastened a band around the shorn ponytail. The edges of Kerri’s semi-bob looked so harsh and sudden compared to the flowing, shining fall lying against her right shoulder and breast. Her heart began pounding in her chest and her mouth went dry; she never would have thought she could have gone through with this if you asked her a few days ago. She’d always expected to back out of the appointment after making it, but… apparently not. And now years – years! – worth of her beautiful hair was being placed on the counter in front of Audrey’s mirror.
“As you might have guessed,” Audrey said, apparently unaware of Kerri’s existential crisis, “I’m going to spend about five percent of the time cutting off ninety-five percent of your hair.” She gathered the rest of Kerri’s long, glorious mane into another ponytail. “And about ninety-five percent of the time cutting off five percent of your hair.”
The shears were lifted again, but this time there wasn’t any inquiry as to whether Kerri was ready.
That probably was understandable, she realized, unless the goal was to have the most asymmetrical bob ever. The crunching and schnikting was no less loud the second time, but it did seem to go quicker. Suddenly Kerri was looking at a reflecting of herself, but it was one she didn’t recognize. She was bobbed, practically to her chin, with a mass of silken auburn locks slowly sliding forward to hide her deep blue eyes and sharp nose, too plentiful to remain brushed back out of her face, too short to stay tucked behind her ears or shoulders.
She was a short-haired girl now, and as the second ponytail was set aside and Audrey’s cape fluttered down around her shoulder, she tried to comprehend how a misfired joke about a shoulder-length lob had turned into this. Still, as the cape was fastened behind her, she shook her head from side to side, making her hair dance and bop, the ends tickling her nose and fanning against her eyelashes – that was definitely a new sensation.
When she finished, Audrey’s pixied reflection was looking at her. “Done now?” she asked with a smile.
Kerri laughed and nodded.
“Okay. You realize you aren’t going to be able to do that for a couple of years when I’m done, right?”
The realization splashed cold water on Kerri’s playfulness, and her heart started pounding again. Clearly Audrey was looking for the okay to move ahead, but also was providing an off-ramp at Bobville. But no. No off-ramps today.
“I know,” Kerri replied.
Audrey smiled at her, and then set back to work. Without a word, the stylist gathered up the thick locks that had been the all-star of flirtatious ear-tucks and sheared them away just a few inches from Kerri’s head, dropping the comparatively long, shorn length into Kerri’s lap. Again and again she lifted and chopped, seemingly without any aim or plan as Kerri watched, her breath almost stopping as she watched her hair, her beautiful, magnificent hair, get tossed almost carelessly into her lap. She thought of all the compliments she’d received for it, all the caresses as she kissed her boys, or how their hands felt buried in it as they gathered it back and tried to watch her pleasure them or tug on it as they fucked her from behind, and here she was, giving all of that up. Every thick, slow crunch stole away more of her crowning glory, bared more of her neck and her ears and her face.
The crunching and snipping filled her ears as the shorn locks filled her lap and Audrey’s nails tickled the crown of her head as she worked, lifting and chopping, lifting and chopping. Kerri gripped the arms of the chair beneath the cape in an effort to keep her hands from shaking as she watched the pile in her lap grow and grow, watched the woman in her reflection change and change. Already, she’d left the sweet little college girl look behind. She just didn’t know, as Audrey relieved her right ear of the silken locks that hid it, where she would end up.
Kerri’s heart was still racing as the last few locks with any noticeable length were shorn away, but she realized her breaths were coming short and quick, and her entire body was warmed by the rush of having ceded control to Audrey. She bit her lip as Audrey flittered around with some equipment with her back turned, and Kerri tried to distract herself from the sensations by examining what was left of her hair in the mirror.
If she walked out right now, people would have to assume she’d been assaulted by a scissor-wielding hoard of kindergartners who’d been hopped up on the best cocaine milk and cookies could buy, but there was a foundation of something cute there. She’d need product, lots of product, to give her otherwise stick-straight hair some life on the sides and back, but she could still look cute if she wanted. It wasn’t a boy-cut like Cho had wound up with, which, in all honesty, was a bit of a surprise…
But then Audrey turned around, clippers in hand. “Ready for stage two?” It was phrased like a question, but Kerri figured it was more of a statement. And apparently her expression betrayed the fear that chilled her heart, because Audrey insisted, “Trust me. I’m a professional.”
A firm hand nudged the crown of her head, forcing Kerri’s chin down until there was no way to avoid looking at the massive pile of hair in her lap. Even without the severed ponytails, that was just… a gargantuan amount of auburn silk sitting there, sheared and discarded without a second thought.
The realization was almost enough to distract her from jumping when the clippers roared to life – almost. When the clippers were pressed to her nape, their loud hum reverberated through her body, sending chills down her spine and between her thighs. Slowly they moved upward, changing pitch when they met the last of her cute length in the back. The hungry roar changed to a gluttonous chomping, and Kerri could feel the teeth nibbling close to her neck as the machine slid its way up into her hair, chewing away everything beneath the curve below her crown.
With a quick flick, a cloud of auburn inches were discarded into the apparently-still-growing pile in Kerri’s lap, and then the clippers went back for more…and more, and more… and then they moved higher and higher, almost up to and over the crown of her head. When Kerri’s was finally allowed to lift her chin, her head was guided to lean to the left, and she watched in the mirror as Audrey removed any possibility of cuteness from around her right ear, mowing the clippers through and over her hair again and again.
Where long, flowing locks were once weaved into waist-length braids, there was barely enough to hide her pale scalp. Kerri’s head was gently pushed to the right and her left ear was bared in the same manner, shorn of any covering or decoration.
Finally, Audrey set the clippers aside. “Done with those for the moment,” she told her, and then returned with a spray bottle to wet what remained of Kerri’s gorgeous hair.
It didn’t take many spritzes.
With scissors and comb, Audrey worked carefully, lifting and chopping, lifting and cutting, lifting and chipping what remained atop Kerri’s head. Her mane was no longer formidable, no longer even notable, though the sweat that was gathering in her palms certainly was. It was starting to seem like Cho might end the day being the long-haired one of the two.
The remaining locks, so much darker without the sun-kissed highlights their former length held, were being forced into a side parting, and it looked like Audrey was cutting it specifically to be worn that way.
Well, at least that’d be one less decision to make every morning.
The further the stylist worked back, the longer the discarded lengths were becoming, and soon she couldn’t use her fingers to gather the locks at all. She worked with her comb, sliding it forward and then back, rapidly clicking her shears over it to snip away miniscule length of hair Kerri couldn’t be sure existed, until the barely-there lengths at her crown remained at full attention. The same locks that used to get stuck in car doors now couldn’t even lay flat…
As she was taking calming breaths, Kerri heard the clippers come back to life. Her head was nudged downward again, and her har attacked once more. The blades did not creep as high as they first did, but Audrey worked with more care and attention, and then changed the clipperhead and attacked again, and then a third time. Kerri felt a bit of panic building each time, until she could see the worry written across her forehead in wrinkles as the bare blades of the clippers nibbled at her nape and above her ears.
Kerri had started the day wondering whether she’d be able to tuck her hair behind her ears by the end of it, and now she was wondering whether there’d be any hair around them at all. And when she finally looked at her reflection again, she realized the answer was… no.
“It’s called a bald fade,” Audrey said, working to get the edges of Kerri’s new hairline perfect, “and you have to be absolutely stunning to pull it off. So of course I knew it’d look great on you.” Her reflection smiled and winked, but Kerri took notice of how the stylist tucked her own adorable, shiny curls back behind her ears before picking up and actual razor blade and carefully defining the hard part she’d created.
Then she set the blade aside and picked up a mirror, showing off her work.
Kerri tried to calm her heart. This is exactly what she wanted. At its longest, where her side part rose and crested down to her forehead, her formerly long, flowing, silken mane was maybe an inch long. And from there, it only got shorter, becoming a buzz at her crown and, appropriately according to its name, fading down to nothing around her adorable little ears and well above her nape.
The style stood in such contrast to the girly sundress she wore and her carefully applied makeup… And her eyes — holy cow how her eyes popped now, completely free from any possibility of being hidden or having any attention stolen away by her lush mane.
“Well, I won’t have to worry about guys flirting with me for my hair.”
“Oh, you certainly will,” Audrey insisted as she set the mirror down and began to brush off Kerri’s neck and forehead. Each sweep of the soft brush sent more chills through her, and she found herself wondering how those brushes would feel against her… everything. “It’s just that the guys who do won’t mind when you make an appointment to keep it maintained. Which you should do every two to three weeks.”
Kerri couldn’t stop her eyes from widening. That was a heck of a lot more often than she was used to.
Audrey smiled as she pulled the cape away, dumping the hoard of shorn auburn locks to the floor in front of Kerri, exactly where it’d be impossible to avoid noticing how much of her beloved locks she’d cast aside.. “It’ll look good for a while longer than that, don’t worry. Just not as sharp. Just promise me one thing – no self-maintaining. And none of your roommates doing touch ups. If anything goes wrong when you’re cutting this style, it can go really, really wrong.”
Kerri nodded. “I promise.” She slid out of the stylist chair and stood, eyes widening again when she realized even that slight of a moment caused an unfamiliar chill to brush against her scalp. “Oh my god…”
“Yeah, that’ll take some getting used to. Thanks for trusting me, Kerri. You look amazing.”
Kerri nodded and ran her hand up and down her nape, unable to believe the sensations that were telling her there wasn’t anything there but skin and the slightest covering of fuzz until she reached the crown of her head. “Oh my god…” she whispered as she headed back to Sandi’s desk.
“Oh my god!” Sandi yelped when she saw Kerri. It had a good tone, though, so Kerri didn’t take it the wrong way.
“I just needed something different,” she explained. “Something that wasn’t asshole-approved.”
A look of recognition and understanding crossed Sandi’s face immediately as she took care of Kerri’s payment. Afterward, Kerri took the chance to look at her reflection in every storefront window she walked passed, every one offering a new set of thrills and chills when she saw herself.
She hadn’t thought she’d have the guts to do something like this. She certainly didn’t have them a couple of months ago when she panicked at Audrey’s mere suggestion of cutting her hair off… Obviously, there was a very real possibility she could be ugly-crying tears of regret someday, but for now, for today… she was glad.
Eying the reflection of a bar across the street, she pulled her phone from her purse. It’d be fun to round the girls up for a drink without telling them what she’d done – their reactions would probably be epic. And maybe she’d have a chance to learn about that breed of guy who wasn’t all about the Disney princess hair.
It might be fun to find out what they grabbed onto instead.
Thank you for reading! Please feel free to offer any thoughts, comments or suggestions you have. I love hearing them!