All through lockdown, Chrissy had resolved to let her hair grow out rather than have it cut. Working from home, it didn’t particularly matter if her long, golden mane wasn’t the usual perfect standard that she set while she was in the office, and she was sceptical of letting anyone but her regular hairdresser tamper with her tresses. From the outside, it probably appeared odd considering that her long-term boyfriend Dan owned a salon of his own. But she was very much a creature of habit, and she firmly believed that the moment she changed her ritual was the same moment that everything would go wrong.
On top of the slightly unwarranted aspects of her scepticism, there was another more valid reason that she never let Dan cut her hair: although her hair fell to her hips, she knew that he was typically into girls who wore their hair short, and that he took particular enjoyment in clipping long-haired girls much, much shorter. Despite never being one to push his luck, he had a certain charm that was difficult to say no to. He had confessed to her that on a couple of occasions he had used his talents to crop a budding Rapunzel all the way up above her ears. Even though he claimed to love Chrissy’s hair the way it was, part of her suspected that if she were to sit in front of the mirror with a cape covering her clothes, she would find herself being talked into much more than just a trim.
However, when the time came to return to working in the office, Chrissy ran into a problem; the young woman that she had entrusted with her locks for the past four years had moved to a different city. The thought of finding another hairdresser on short notice made her anxious, but so did the idea of turning up to the office for the first time in months with her appearance sub-par. Out of desperation, she turned to Dan, and he agreed to tidy her up in his salon the next day after closing time.
She arrived there at eight-fifty in the evening, just as Dan swirled a red cape around his last client. He and the girl in the chair were the only people still in the shop, and he greeted Chrissy as she came in. At first, he directed her to the waiting area at the other end of the room, but then he changed his mind and got her to sit in the vacant chair next to the girl he was about to work on.
Dan swiped a set of scissors and a comb from the counter in front of the mirror, then stood behind the girl. “Nice and short, you said?”
She nodded. “Shaved on the back and sides.”
He acknowledged her request as he ran the comb through her hair a few times. It caught Chrissy off-guard, as she had lovely, glossy chocolate locks that fell around her shoulders. In an almost morbid sense, however, she was intrigued. She paid close attention from her perch next door as Dan scooped up a section of hair at the side of her head. The sharp blades clicked together loudly a few times to send the shiny brown crashing down to the red below. The pile split when it hit her shoulder, leaving half to slide down the cape to her lap while the rest dropped further to the pristine white floor.
More click-clacking followed, and more and more heavy hair thudded around the lady in the chair. She said next to nothing unless Dan aimed a question at her, and she stared at the mirror for the duration without risking a glance in Chrissy’s direction. Despite her lack of reaction, there was a hint of a satisfied smile on her face, so at least Chrissy knew that she was doing this of her own accord. Just as well, because it would be years until her hair grew back to its original length.
By the time Dan had sheared the bulk of her hair, there was an impressive array of brown around the circumference of the chair, as well as the collection in her lap. Within seconds of swapping out the scissors, a pair of clippers hummed to life, and there was a loud buzz as they drew up the far side of the girl’s head. Chrissy had never watched anyone have their hair clipped in person before, let alone from this spectator area, but something about the process fascinated her. Perhaps it was that the idea of having them used on her was so foreign, or it could simply have been the satisfying way the blades tidied up the messy remnants of her previously long locks. The sound was intrusive but not threatening, helped by the smooth manner in which Dan guided them around the perimeter of the girl’s head. The ever-growing collection of locks also piqued her interest. The tiny clippings left to cling around the collar of the red cape intrigued Chrissy just as much, and she wondered how they must have felt against her neck.
After the mowing was completed, the scissors made their return to style the top. This time, the cutting was more careful, reducing the density but keeping most of the length that was left. Regardless of that, this girl had such thick hair that the air was constantly filled with flying brown strands. Soon the top was perfect, and Dan went back in with the clippers to create a fade and then called it quits.
Before the other girl was freed, Chrissy found herself wrapped in a red cape of her own so that she couldn’t escape. She was made to wait in the chair while Dan was paid for his artwork, and he locked the door and pulled down the blinds once they were the only people in the salon. The delays continued as he swept up the sea of brown strewn across the shiny floor, which Chrissy was once more made to spectate. All the while, her heartbeat became faster and louder against her ribcage, and she started to contemplate if her boyfriend plotted to do the same thing to her as he had just done to that thick chocolate mane. Even more alarming was that she started to question if that was what she wanted to happen.
Finally, he was done teasing her with the build-up, and he appeared behind her with the same duo of scissors and comb. “So, am I cutting yours that short as well?” She tensed up, and he petted the top of her head. “Just kidding, don’t worry. A couple of inches, is that about right?”
She breathed in and out as she contemplated. “Umm…”
He raised an eyebrow, a lopsided smile on his face. “Reconsidering?”
“Let’s try a few inches shorter than usual.”
“We can start with that.”
For a moment he combed her lengthy locks, then sank to the floor to reach the end of the path.
She couldn’t see his work, so she shut her eyes and homed in on the sound to paint the picture for her. To start with, he tidied her up and nothing more, taking a neat inch and a half from the ends. His scissors were loud, even now that they closed very slowly against her locks. The strands crunched as they were trimmed, and the debris splatted against the floor like an escaping slice of toast.
After the tidying was done, the blades moved a few inches further up the chair. Two careful swipes of the comb, then three slow snips of the scissors. Two more swipes, another two snips. One swipe, three snips. One swipe, two snips.
When done with the trim, he swung her locks over either shoulder to drape them across the red cape. The ends still reached her waist. Still impressively long, but hopefully marginally easier to tame. Chrissy couldn’t help but wonder if another couple of inches would also be a positive trade, or whether that would be too short in comparison to where she had started.
“How do you think it would look if you cut another two inches?” she asked.
Dan leaned over her shoulder and marked out the length she specified. “Here?”
“I’d quite like to take it up to here,” he said, adding another couple of inches on top of her request. “About to your shoulder blades.”
After a few seconds of contemplation, she gave him the go-ahead. He tugged the silky blonde over the back of the chair again and combed through it once more. That same comb-snip pattern followed, repeating twice over as he took an extra inch from her at his own discretion.
As before, he swirled her locks around to show off his work. The length came as a bit of a shock, though to call it short would have been an exaggeration. Regardless, it looked good on her. Possibly better than waist-length had, even.
“I’d really like to take you to shoulder-length,” Dan said. “I think that’d look lovely on you.”
“You think so?”
“Yeah. Another few inches. Trust me.”
She did, though she already knew which trap she was falling into. However, right then, she didn’t particularly care. She was enjoying having her hair cut for the first time she could ever recall, and she started to question if she had needed a short haircut all along.
For the first time, strands of blonde decorated the cape rather than the floor. The sight intrigued Chrissy, and she willed as much as possible to spill down her front and slide towards her lap. Dan must have clocked her expression as he made sure to send it in that direction wherever he could. It only took a minute for him to finish, even when he went for a second roundtrip to nick another half an inch from her tresses.
“Do you want to keep going?” she asked.
“I do, but I don’t want to cut too much. I know you like it long, and I’ve already cut more than a foot.”
She spent a few seconds weighing up her options, trying to gauge how she would look based on her reflection. “I kind of want to go shorter than this. Maybe a lob?”
He was surprised, of course, but didn’t refuse the opportunity she presented to him. He started cutting again before she changed her mind. “Feeling bold today, aren’t you?”
“I am. And for once I’m actually enjoying being in a salon. Usually, I’m fretting the whole time that they’ll cut too much off, yet now I’m asking you to do that.”
“Good. I want you to enjoy it as much as me.”
Though this change was much more minimal than the last, blonde cuttings still rained over the cape. His snips remained measured and deliberate, assuring her that he knew exactly how much he was cutting. He must also have known that it wasn’t to be the last action that the blades saw, as he still didn’t attempt anything beyond a sharp blunt cut along the middle of her neck.
When he was done with the latest chop, he swiped the comb through her hair again. “Any chance I can persuade you to let me turn your lob into a bob?”
She spent longer contemplating this time. Her hair was no longer in the territory of long, and she did fear that she wouldn’t be able to do much to style it if she lost many more inches. This length suited her too, she felt. But she also wanted to prolong this fun evening, and every step shorter had looked better on her. Perhaps the next would be yet another in the right direction.
“Go on, do it.”
He cut straight across her chin without hesitation. Again, she watched the line of blonde drop to the red surface below. The impressive collection continued to expand as he moved the scissors around her head. Once again, he took a second go to remove some more of the remaining length, this time mostly towards the back of her head to angle the bob slightly. He tilted her head down while he did so, then pulled her back up when he finished.
This time, the style didn’t work as well as those before it. Perhaps she ought to have called it quits at the lob, before doing anything too drastic. She relayed her sentiments to Dan, who stood behind her and studied their reflection.
“I could make it choppier,” he suggested. “Or…”
He ran his fingers from her neck up to her crown. “You’ve still got plenty left to play with. We can keep it as a bob and still take off a little more. Or, if you’re feeling really brave, we could crop it above your ears. We could even do a pixie like the last girl.”
The thought of having her pointy ears on display brought the nerves back after they’d largely stayed away for the evening. She tensed a little and gripped the arms of the chair. “I don’t know if I’d like that.”
“Well, we don’t have to go that short. I do think it would look good on you, though.”
“Yeah. It’d emphasise your gorgeous face.” He brushed her hair behind either ear. “Plus, your ears are cute, and I’d like to show them off.”
Though she knew he wouldn’t lie to her, she struggled to see things from his perspective.
“Alright,” Dan said, “how about this: I’ll keep cutting your hair an inch at a time, and if it’s getting too short, you tell me to stop.”
She cocked her head at him in the mirror. “What if I don’t tell you to stop?”
“Then you’ll end up with that pixie cut I want to give you.”
Chrissy approved his proposal, and he returned to chopping what remained of her sleek blonde hair. As promised, he kept it as varying degrees of a bob to start with, though it then morphed into more of a shag. That still didn’t work for her, so Dan kept cutting. Now her ears had little to hide behind, and he lined up what was left to properly expose them. Chrissy considered telling him to stop, but she held her tongue. Though he clocked her moment of indecision, he snipped the cover away. For the first time that evening she winced, but Dan continued to chop.
She soon sported a messy crop. He moved to tidy it up, running the comb up the side of her head and cutting yet another inch from her head. By now the cape was more gold than red, covered with as much debris as the brunette girl who had been clipped prior to her. His scissor-over-comb technique left her with a short, neat coat across the back and sides of her head. He left the top long to start with but soon got around to cutting that as well, chopping it progressively shorter like the rest of her mane.
The scissors finally stopped, and he took half a step back. “I think that’s us done.”
Chrissy admired herself in the mirror, tilting her head in various directions. It looked good, even if it was a shock to have such short hair. And yet, there was still a nagging curiosity that she couldn’t ignore. “Aren’t you going to use the clippers?”
Once again, Dan raised an eyebrow. “Do you want me to?”
“Alright.” He put the scissors and comb to one side, picking up his clippers and a short guard in their place. “Let’s start with the number four.”
He clicked them on and tilted her head forward again. Their hum sounded more threatening now that she was their target, but she squeezed the arms of the chair and allowed her boyfriend to shave her. The plastic guard touched her neck, then slowly drifted up to the top of her head. It wasn’t entirely dissimilar to a comb being brushed the wrong way up her head, albeit each gentle stroke came with a shower of silky gold.
“I have to say, I never thought I’d be running a set of clippers up the back of your head. Much less having you ask me to.”
“I can’t say I did either.” She stayed silent for a couple of seconds, admiring the faint buzz that enveloped her. “Have you always wanted to, though?”
Dan wobbled his head. “Yes and no. I really did like your hair long, Chrissy; I always thought you had the most gorgeous head of hair I’d ever seen. But you’re right, I did dream of giving you a nice, short haircut. As taboo as the idea seemed, I knew I’d enjoy doing it to you, and I knew you’d look even more stunning with a pixie. Until you suggested cutting it shorter, though, I was only going to give you a trim. I knew I could persuade you to go all the way as soon as I got you to your shoulder blades.”
“What would you have done if I’d asked you for a pixie straight away?”
He smirked. “I know you well enough to figure out that was never going to happen. But if it had, I’d have cropped you the way I did the last girl. I’ve never gotten to do that with hip-length hair before.”
“Maybe I’ll grow it out again and let you do that next time.”
His smirk became that same lopsided grin again. “That could take a while.”
“I’ll book my next appointment for three years’ time, then.”
He sniggered, then turned the clippers off as he reached the end of his path. “What do you think, will we leave it there? Or shall I buzz the rest too?”
“I’ll keep it like this.”
“Good. I’ve cut enough already at any rate.”
He dusted the rest of the clippings from her shoulders into the mountain in the centre of the cape, then spun her chair around to show her the even bigger mess on the floor. Locks of varying lengths surrounded the spot she still occupied, which he soon swept into one big puddle.
“That was all mine?” she said.
“Yup.” He shook the cape’s contents onto the floor with the rest of it. “A hell of a collection, don’t you think?”
It certainly was. It hadn’t even occurred to her just how much hair she actually had until it sat discarded at her feet. To see such healthy, voluminous tresses lying as waste was undeniably a shame, but she had to admit that she’d enjoyed having it all chopped off. For the umpteenth time that evening, she decided that she should have let it happen sooner.
Dan finally undid the red cape and let her stand up to admire herself more closely in the mirror. Chrissy had already decided that the hairstyle suited her, but it looked even better now that she wasn’t held captive under the sheet.
He snuck up beside her to admire for himself. “You look stunning.”
“Thank you. I’m glad you talked me into this.”