Benefits

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Without a doubt, Sandi was quick to admit, one of the most obvious benefits of an unexpected career as the business manager of an up-and-coming salon was the absolutely immaculate head of hair she wound up with. 

When she’d first started as a receptionist at the Nameless Salon, it was as a favor to her cousin Rebecca. It was supposed to be a short-term thing to help out while the business established itself and until Rebecca and her business partner Brad could hire someone else — but that was three years ago. Sandi had been scrapping her way through a Business Administration major and Marketing minor with somewhat wavy, black hair that could have best been described as cute, though nothing special. 

But now she was a 23-year-old woman with her own apartment, a sense of pride about the work she’d done as the Salon’s catch-all manager and minister of social media, and a magnificent fall of sleek, shiny midnight waves that fell almost to her waist with just the slightest hint of layers to provide movement and liveliness. It all worked well to frame her dark eyes and petite features, and complemented the beautiful skin tone her Dominican father had gifted her.

Looking in the mirror at one of the stylist stations in the salon, she reflected on how  she never really intended to let it get as long as it had, but the most recent-ex had begged her to let it grow as long as possible. He’d been gone for a while now, but her long hair remained, just because she had gotten used to it and received so much praise for it. But then Halloween happened, and she’d dressed as Cleopatra. The wig she used wasn’t the highest quality, but the compliments and come-ons she’d received at the party were, and now…

She grabbed her phone and pulled up a picture of herself wearing the black wig that reached a few inches past her shoulders and had thick, blunt bangs that teased her eyebrows. After glancing between  the photo and the mirror a few times, finally setting her phone down again and gathering her hair up and back to mimic the length.

She anxiously chewed her bottom lip, and then Audrey, whose station Sandi stood at, appeared in the mirror’s reflection. The redheaded stylist’s expression brightened immediately. 

“Whatchya thinking?” the stylist probed, her voice barely concealing unbridled hope.

Sandi let her hair fall free, shaking it out for maybe one of the last times as she reached for her phone and held the picture it displayed toward Audrey. “What do you think?”

Audrey’s smile widened. She grabbed a comb from her workstation and handed it to Sandi. “Comb it out and have a seat. Let me put my jacket and purse in my locker and I’ll be right back.”

“I was going to ask if you had free time some night next week.”

“Nope. Now.”

“But what about …”

“My first appointment isn’t for another hour,” the stylist assured her. She started toward the back room, calling over her shoulder as she did, “I came in early to cut my own hair, but finally chopping yours will be such a better start to the day.”

Sandi bit her lip again, slowly lifting the comb to begin running it through the long, heavy mass of her hair, working free any tangles that had formed during her playful pondering in the mirror. She paced back and forth as she did, and when she made one of the abrupt turns she found Rebecca smiling at her from her own workstation.

“You’re finally doing it?” Rebecca asked. Her own bronde hair, which had been cropped within an inch of no longer existing for a while, was in the midst of a wedding grow out, though there was still a long, long way to go. At most, it was maybe three or four inches in length, falling somewhere between a pixie and a shag, with bangs that teased the salon-co-owner’s doe-brown eyes.

Sandi hesitated, then nodded. “Looks like I am!” 

Rebecca grinned and flashed a thumbs up before stealing Sandi’s phone and getting ready to take some photos. Sandi obliged, posing quickly and flashing as much professional flirtatiousness as she could while letting her lush locks fall over her shoulders and down her back or gathering it up into a casual, playful ponytail. Once a couple dozen photos were collected, Rebecca wished her luck and disappeared back to her own work station. 

Sandi, once again, was left alone with Audrey’s mirror. She gathered her hair forward, where it fell past her breasts and about even with the bottom of her rib cage. She hadn’t had bangs since she was about six years old, and hadn’t been without a significant ponytail longer than that. 

But that wouldn’t be the case, soon.

Audrey approached from behind slowly, as if afraid of startling away a newborn lamb. She nudged Sandi to sit down, and then ran her fingers through the dark mane’s generous length. “You did a good job of combing,” she commented, smiling again as she twisted the dark locks upward and then placed Sandi’s hands atop them to hold them in place.

Sandi glanced up at the mass of auburn curls that had been gathered into a somehow casually messy yet perfect-looking bun atop Audrey’s head. When loose, they probably danced down to her shoulderblades.  “So how short were you thinking of cutting yours?”

Audrey smiled as she fluttered a white cape across Sandi’s lap. “No distractions.” The stylist moved Sandi’s hands and let the dark locks they had held in place fall free, forming twin waterfalls toward her lap. 

Sandi looked at her reflection again, and took a steadying breath. There was still time to back out and ask for a trim, she reminded herself.

At least until there wasn’t.

Audrey combed through the silky, ebony locks one more time, gathering them back into a loose ponytail. Sandi watched carefully, her brow furrowing as her eyes remained locked on the level of Audrey’s wrist. The fact that she could see it at all, hovering right around shoulder height, caused her heart to race, especially when the stylist pulled her shears from her shirt pocket. Without even double checking the length, Audrey set the blades just above the fingers holding Sandi’s beautiful ponytail prisoner and began drawing the blades together.

Sandi’s jaw dropped as a long, slow crunch sounded, followed by another and another. Each successive opening and closing of the shears picked up in speed and determination, freeing more and more of Sandi’s soft mane to slide forward past her ear to caress her cheek. Her eyes widened when she saw the new, blunt length that didn’t even reach her shoulders, shorter than the wig she had worn by a good three to four inches.

A curtain of hair fell forward on her left side as well, punctuated by the reflection of Audrey holding a long, silky, shiny ponytail. The redheaded stylist took a moment to hand it to Sandi, and the newly bobbed girl could only make an embarrassingly squeaky sound as she looked at the 14-inches of locks that weren’t attached to her head anymore. All of those beautiful, wild and wavy layers now dangled from her hand rather than her head.

Even in its rough cut, the new bob was pretty sharp, falling to one length that seemed to cry out to be swung and shaken about. Sandi did so, feeling the coolness of her hair brush against her cheeks and jawline and neck as she did, the shortened lengths falling perfectly back into place when she stopped.

“That’s shorter than I expected,” she whispered to herself. 

“I know,” Audrey said. She tilted Sandi’s chin up and combed a perfect middle parting into what remained of her hair. “But these gorgeous locks deserved a chance to show off, and now they’ll get to dance and play every time you turn your head.”

Sandi had to admit that Audrey may have been right. Though unexpected and unrequested, there was something different — something more energetic — about seeing the small gap that formed between her hair and her shoulders. 

At least, while she could see it. Within moments, the mirror and her reflection and that little gap above her shoulders she had been coming to admire all disappeared behind a thick curtain of dark locks. It was only for a moment, though, as Audrey quickly gathered them up and twisted them once or twice, and then pinched it all between her fingers close to the tip of Sandi’s nose. 

Sandi’s eyes crossed as Audrey’s scissors were lifted. A tiny, almost cute, series of eager crunches followed as the blades snipped and cut their way through the twisted and captured locks, and once the bulk of the length had been cut away, Sandi’s new bangs sprang free, and hung well into her eyes once Audrey had combed them into a reasonable semblance of how they should look.

That was when Sandi was ordered to close her eyes and Audrey’s shears went back to work. Snipping and clipping, they worked quickly but carefully, shearing away another inch or more of the sleek, thick curtain of hair that had threatened to hide Sandi’s eyes. Doing her best to avoid squirming nervously, Sandi directed her extra energy toward stroking her shorn ponytail as she held it in her lap.

When Sandi was finally able to look again, the bangs were sharp and blunt, just barely reaching past her eyebrows. The immediate difference in her appearance was incredible, shifting her entire style into a whole new category from her long, lush waves. Up until that moment, it could be said that an intended healthy trim had taken off more than expected, but now… No, it was a completely new style, a completely new her, especially as Audrey wet the dark, silky waves again and then began to style them into a perfectly straight, sleek bob that would need a month or two to acquaint itself with her slender shoulders again.

Sandi had a bob. Even though she had been considering chopping her hair for a couple of months, she still couldn’t quite believe she actually had a bob and bangs.

When Audrey set her round brush and dryer down, Sandi shook her head from side to side. “Oh my god,” she murmured. “It’s so short!” She ran her fingers back through the silken locks, gathering them into such a teeny, tiny ponytail compared to what she once had. 

Audrey grinned and took Sandi’s hands, gently pulling them away and letting the new bob fall free once more. “Before you get up, I think we should go shorter.”

“Shorter?”

Audrey nodded. “This is a fantastic change; don’t get me wrong. But you always look so amazing when you wear your hair up and show off your neck. Why not do that all the time?”

As she spoke, the stylist cupped and lifted Sandi’s hair until it was about level with the corner of her jaw, right in between ear- and chin-length. “What do you say? Two-and-a-half, three inches shorter?”

Sandi chewed her bottom lip. It had taken so much to convince herself to cut her hair up to her shoulders, and she certainly wouldn’t have gone above her shoulders if Audrey hadn’t taken matters into her own hands. Sandi had always — always — been a long-hair girl, and now Audrey wanted her to spontaneously leap even further into being a short-haired woman. At this point, she was barely able to wear a ponytail… if she cut off more, would she even be able to get pigtails?

“I’m not sure…” she finally murmured.

“That’s not a No.”

Sandi grinned, then bit her lip again. “I think it looks awesome,” she said, leaning forward and running her fingers through her mane’s abbreviated length as she looked in the mirror, “but it’s already shorter than I was thinking.”

A quarter appeared in Audrey’s hand in Sandi’s peripheral vision. “Let the quarter decide. Heads, we cut. Tails, we’re done.”

Sandi looked at Audrey with narrowed eyes. 

“It’s not a rigged coin!” Audrey insisted. “Do best of three if you’d like.”

Nervously, Sandi took the coin. “Tails, we cut,” she said, and then flicked it off the edge of her thumb. Audrey caught it and slapped it down on the back of her hand, and, with a smile, held it toward Sandi for her to see.

Tails.

“You’re gonna love it. Trust me,” Audrey assured her. 

Before the butterflies could settle in Sandi’s stomach, Audrey had sprayed her hair wet again and set to work at her nape. Again and again the stylist combed, lifted, and cut… combed, lifted, and cut. More and more of Sandi’s nape became covered by less and less of her hair, especially after Audrey arbitrarily decided to add some layers throughout Sandi’s crowning glory.

Sandi couldn’t be sure whether it was her imagination, but it certainly seemed like she could feel her head growing lighter with every cut. When Audrey began working on her left side, Sandi could finally watch her hair being shorn away and layered, with three and four and even five inches lengths of her shiny locks tumbling down onto her shoulder and then sliding down the cape into her lap with her severed ponytail. The pile grew and grew, but every time she tried to watch, Audrey would tilt her chin upward once more to allow a straight line to be cut. 

When Audrey finished and moved to the right side, Sandi was left to stare silently at how short her hair on the left side was, hanging just long enough to tease the corner of her jawline. The familiar sensation of swaths of hair hitting against the cape and sliding down continued, with the persistent crunching of Audrey’s blades sounding almost deafening in Sandi’s ears. 

How many styling options would she have with so little hair now? In all, she probably lost a foot and a half, at least. Surely Audrey and Rebecca would be able to show her a million or so ways to wear what she had left, but Sandi would have to learn all of that from scratch. All the different twists and updos she knew and had practiced for years… they were all pointless now.

They were for long-haired women.

And as Audrey’s shears finally fell silent again and the stylist — very quickly, mind you — dried what remained, Sandi was looking at the reflection of someone with short hair. Incredibly gorgeous, sexy, bobbed hair that shone spectacularly in the light and danced wildly when she shook her head, but short hair nonetheless. 

“What do you think?” Audrey asked.

Sandi lifted a hand to feel the new length, to caress her now completely naked neck and to tuck a few of the shortened locks behind her right ear. While it was yet to be seen whether she’d freak out later in the day, she had to admit that the much, much shorter length, when combined with her new, thick bangs, absolutely demanded her eyes and cheekbones and other features be noticed. Though it looked like a fairly simple, common style, Audrey had, as always, done a masterful job. “I… I can’t believe that’s me,” Sandi finally said.

Audrey just smiled, and held out the quarter again. “Three more inches to show off those adorable ears?”

Sandi stared at the quarter, frozen in place. She was maybe a year or a little more than that from her hair being as long as she originally wanted, but if she flipped the coin and went shorter, she’d basically be committing to a pixie cut and that would take years — years! — to grow out again. 

Her heart began to race. If she’s followed her instincts, though, she would never have let Audrey cut off as much as she had now, and it turned out that Sandi absolutely loved the look.

And hair always grew out.

Sandi reached out for the coin and swallowed the lump in her throat. “Heads, we go shorter,” she quietly said.

Letting the coin balance on the edge of her thumb for a moment, she flipped it and closed her eyes. She felt it land in the pile of shorn locks in her lap, and opened one eye. 

Tails.

The strangest mixture of relief and disappointment swarmed over her, but only the former found expression when Sandi released a long sigh.

Audrey made a disappointed sound. “Ah well. Probably for the best — my first client will be here soon.”

Once Sandi was released from the cape, spilling a cloud of her shiny, soft, shorn locks across the floor, she sprang to her feet and stepped close to the mirror. She shook her head, urging her face framing layers and short bangs to hide as much of her features as they could, and then buried both of her hands in the beautiful, lush bob and pushed it back behind her ears. The bangs stuck up momentarily before gravity coaxed them back into place, while the bulk of her hair hid her ears once more and restored her visage to one that could be compared to Cleopatra after a generous chop. 

Again, she shook her head from side to side, loving how lively and energetic the style was. What she wouldn’t give to have done this months ago, when, despite the eventual end of the relationship, she still had a boyfriend to toss her around in bed. She desperately wanted to rumple some bedsheets without fear of landing on her hair or having the boy lean an elbow on it. And the idea of someone running their hands through it, burying their fingers within the short layers and rumpling it rather than just gathering and pulling it…

Damn it, she needed to find another boyfriend.

Smiling at her reflection, she was open to the idea the new hairstyle could actually help with that.

“So I take it you like it?” Audrey asked as she finished sweeping up all the tresses that had adorned Sandi’s head a short while ago.

Sandi nodded. “I do. I really, really do.” She turned and hugged Audrey. “Thank you for being overzealous and not caring what I actually asked for.”

Audrey playfully pushed Sandi away. “Yeah yeah. Get to work.”

Laughing, Sandi quickly swung by Rebecca’s station to give the customer-preoccupied stylist a glimpse of her new style, resulting in a dropped jaw, wide eyes, and a thumbs-up. Then she made her way to the front desk. The young receptionist, Victoria, was settling in for the day with her coffee, some of which she almost spat out when Sandi leaned across the countertop and set her short bob to swinging much more freely than her long hair ever had.

“Oh my god! Your hair is gone!” Victoria chirped, carefully wiping coffee from her chin. 

“Yup. Much more than I planned to, too.”

“Audrey?” Victoria asked.

Sandi grinned, and nodded. “When you have a minute, can you take a few ‘after’ pics for me for the social accounts?”

“Sure.”

Sandi glanced at the impeccable, low chignon Victoria had styles her mid-back length blonde hair into. Shorter, face-framing layers complemented it perfectly, adding a comfortable casualness to the formal look.

“And you know, Audrey mentioned she was thinking of cutting her hair, too. Since that would leave you as the sole long-haired representative here, we should probably get a few pictures of you with your hair down. Just for posterity’s sake.”

Victoria paled a little, her green eyes suddenly more vibrant. “I’m not planning on having my hair cut short anytime soon.”

Sandi smiled. “Yeah. Neither was I.”

 

–End–

Thank you for reading, and I hope you enjoyed it. Any comments/observations/critiques are welcome and appreciated. You never know where inspiration will strike from!

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