Bourne Chronicles 2 – Six by Six

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Heather Richards stood confidently on the stage of the Great Hall in front of the assembled students and tutors of The Bourne Academy. As the new headmistress, the governors of the academy had given her challenging task of turning around the fortunes of the prestigious institution. Surveying the audience, her formal navy-blue skirt suit and crisp white blouse with a bow at the neck gave her an aura of authority and responsibility.

Miss Richards had chosen to announce her reign by introducing herself to the students and tutors in the Great Hall and outlining her plans. Their obvious disinterest had been shaken up by witnessing one of the students, Emma Andrews, having her knee-length hair cut into a severe bowlcut on stage in front of the whole academy. Heather stated that the style was the academy’s new regulation haircut that all students would be receiving in due course.

Hearing confirmation about the mandatory haircut policy and observing a tearful Emma return to her seat, had resulted in a hum of discontent permeating the Great Hall. Heather Richards could sense dissent amongst the students. She decided it was time to address the worrying situation head on.

‘Silence!’ the headmistress barked, her authoritative demeanour becoming increasingly stern. ‘For anyone wishing to challenge my methods, Ms Shearer has my authority to shave them bald!’

Brenda Shearer, the newly appointed academy barber, was standing confidently beside the headmistress. Brenda was a striking figure with her tight-fitting white nylon tunic, accentuating her voluptuous figure and her long legs. She kept her short black hair slicked down and clipped close to her head, giving her an intimidating appearance. Yet, her red lips always seemed ready to smirk, especially when she had a long-haired girl seated before her. Heather and Brenda presented themselves as a formidable team.

Having heard the words of their headmistress, the audience exchanged nervous glances, astonished and disbelieving, but no one dared to speak up. Miss Richards had made the students aware of the consequences of challenging her, and Ms Shearer’s smirking lips made everyone realise those words were no idle threat.

‘After this assembly, you will be called from your classes in groups of six,’ the headmistress continued, her voice filled with authority. ‘You will wait in line outside Ms Shearer’s study, where you will secure the hair of the student in front of you into a neat and tight ponytail.’

The headmistress paused for a moment, scanning the crowd to see if there was any dissent. Wisely, there was none.

‘Then, each of you will be called forward to have your ponytail removed by Ms Shearer and receive the academy’s regulation haircut,’ Heather said, a hint of sadistic pleasure in her tone. ‘The six students whose names I will read out now will be the first to make their way to Ms Shearer’s study.’

= * = * =

The six students duly obeyed, their hearts beating a million miles an hour as they walked towards their inevitable fate. Heather Richards, eager to witness their reactions, escorted them, while Brenda Shearer had gone ahead to prepare her study.

One of those long-haired girls was Abigail Robinson, who nervously waited outside Ms Shearer’s study with the five of her anxious students. Under Miss Richards’ watchful eye, they all remained silent.

Standing behind her friend, Bella secured Abigail’s waist-length auburn hair into a tight ponytail.

‘Ouch!’ Abigail wailed, as her friend tugged her hair.

‘Sorry,’ Bella apologised tetchily.

The tension in the air was palpable as the girls knew what was about to happen.

‘Come!’ boomed Ms Shearer in her deep seductive voice from inside her study, and the headmistress quickly stepped forward to open the door and encouraged Abigail to enter.

Inside, Miss Shearer had equipped her study to resemble a fully functional traditional barbershop. A single black leather and chrome traditional barber’s chair faced a large mirror, and an array of hairclippers hung from hooks next to it. On a shelf below were scissors, combs, and other haircutting equipment. And on a rail lining one wall, hung a single ponytail that Miss Shearer had attached to a hook. The hair was recognisable as that previously belonging to Emma Andrews that Miss Shearer had chopped off earlier that day. It looked lonely hanging by itself, but that situation was not destined to last for long.

Brenda smirked as Abigail stood shaking in the doorway. She beckoned the student forward with a curling finger. As Abigail listlessly advanced, Ms Shearer redirected her finger to indicate the chair where she should sit. The barber was a woman of few words.

Abigail obediently sat down, and then she flinched when the chair suddenly jerked upwards as Brenda pumped it up to her comfortable working height. The sensation added to Abigail’s feeling of vulnerability. The barber covered Abigail with a huge white cape that nearly touched the floor, and she secured it tightly around her neck leaving just her delicate little head peeking above, along with her auburn ponytail trailing down the back of the chair.

Brenda Shearer carefully selected the largest scissors from the array before her, pulled Abigail’s ponytail taut and mercilessly chopped it off. The headmistress took the cut hair from Brenda enthusiastically, briefly admired its length and condition, then smugly hung it on the rail next to Emma’s.

Abigail stared at her reflection with disbelieving eyes. She surveyed the uneven remnants of her hair that hung limply around her face, barely reaching her chin. But even that awful vision did not remain for long. Ms Shearer had unhooked her heavy duty red hairclippers and a loud insistent whine had filled the air of the study.

Brenda used the bare blade of the hairclippers to quickly fashion a distinct bowl shape around Abigail’s head. The barber cut it high above her ears and gave her an even shorter fringe. Abigail screwed up her eyes, trying to hold back her tears, as she felt the cool metal of the clippers against her skin, stripping away the hair that had been such a big part of her identity.

‘That’s coming along beautifully, Ms Shearer,’ Heather Richards praised, clasping her hands together in front of her as if about to applaud. ‘It’s nice and high.’

Despite preferring to work silently, Brenda smiled and nodded her thanks at the vote of confidence from the headmistress.

Apart from the few muffled words, the students waiting outside Ms Shearer’s study could only hear the relentless whine of the hairclippers and an occasional gasp from the latest trembling student in the chair.

By that stage, Abigail did not think matters could get any worse, but Ms Shearer employed her powerful hairclippers to efficiently buzz all the hair below the bowl. A grinning Heather Richards reacted by clapping once and then, a little self-consciously, checked her enthusiasm by clasping her hands behind her back as she continued to observe.

‘I do hope you will be using the foil shaver to remove all those unseemly bristles,’ the headmistress suggested.

‘But of course,’ replied Ms Shearer, indignant that her methods were under scrutiny by the headmistress but softening her admonishment with a sly wink.

Brenda exchanged her hairclippers with the box-like foil shaver. The barber firmly and precisely employed the purring device to efficiently skin Abigail’s neck, above her ears and along the back of her head.

‘Perfect!’ the headmistress remarked excitedly, keeping her hands firmly behind her back.

Ms Shearer, smiling to acknowledge her colleague’s praise, snatched away the large cape and lowered the chair. A forceful nudge by Brenda encouraged Abigail to stand and to leave her study.

As Abigail rose to her feet, she briefly stared at her unfamiliar reflection. She had a neat cap of hair perched on top of her head and nothing below it. A severe bowlcut, identical to the regulation haircut that her friend Emma had received on stage earlier. Abigail’s waist length auburn hair was now just a memory unless she dared look towards the rail along one wall of the study.

The freshly shorn student quickly departed, her head hung low as she passed her five disbelieving friends. Abigail could not bring herself to say anything as she knew precisely the fate that was in store for each of them.

‘Next!’ boomed Ms Shearer, smiling contentedly in the direction of a smug Heather Richards.

And so, it continued. Abigail’s five friends, starting with Bella, stepped into Ms Shearer’s study one at a time. Like a production line, the efficient barber churned out perfectly fashioned and geometrically identical bowlcuts on each of the students at disconcerting speed. Some students cried, some were silent, but all were in shock at the drastic change Ms Shearer forced upon them.

= * = * =

As the day progressed, the students in each of the academy’s classes stared in disbelief as friend after friend – six by six – returned to their lessons with an identical hairstyle.

It was a small step on the path to changing the fortunes of The Bourne Academy. However, Miss Richards was confident that her strict and authoritarian methods, aided by the trusted Brenda Shearer, was allowing them to take control of the situation, encourage uniformity, and work towards moulding the students into disciplined and responsible young ladies.

However, from that day on, the long ponytails that hung on the rail in Ms Brenda Shearer’s feared study remained a constant reminder of the power and authority that were being wielded.


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