Bye Bye Blondie

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“Aisha!” Fran greeted— with a tempered shock in her voice. “What’s… everything cool? Last I heard you were off on a long vacation, and now you’re back— and blonde!”

“It was one hell of a vacation, I’ll tell you that,” Aisha said, reaching forward to give her barber a tight hug after closing the door behind her. “Never thought I’d be overjoyed to be back in New York, but I will say it feels great to see you again.”

Aww, come, come, have a seat, and you can tell me all about it,” Fran nudged her faithful client and friend over to the chair that was further from the large window that was by the shop door.

Aisha obeyed without hesitation, excitedly climbing into that chair that always felt so welcoming, sinking herself into that comfortable padding with a sigh of relief. “So,” Aisha started, “when I left early last month, I went back to visit my family, actually.”

“Ah, and how did that go?” Fran asked, hovering behind the chair as her hands started trawling through that uncharacteristic mop of dyed blonde mixed with dark, growing roots.

“Couldn’t have been worse,” Aisha bluntly stated. “I mean, it started out fine. Those first few days after you get back, everyone’s still endearing enough cos they haven’t seen me in a while and everything. Not to mention, food’s always good back there. And then they start asking about life here and all, and they ask a lot about my future. One thing led to another and I started chatting about… potential marriage.”

Oh,” Fran paused, now all ears as her hands dropped to Aisha’s shoulders, “you mean…”

“Yes, with Danny. And don’t worry— I’m not some psycho partner obsessed with marriage, we’ve both actually had some serious conversations about it, and we’re both on the same page when it comes to the commitment. It’s part of the reason why I decided to bring it up to my family when I went back, since it might be a reality in the foreseeable future. But of course…” Aisha blew out a heavy sigh, “family being family, they obviously expressed their… discontent, at my choices.”

“They didn’t like that you were marrying someone outside the culture?”

“Not exactly. Like, I think they wouldn’t mind. The issue was… they would expect him to convert faith,” Aisha explained. “Essentially, they weren’t going to accept that it’ll be a civil marriage, where Danny and I are legally married, but we’ll still be practising our own faiths.”

Oh, well that’s not good,” Fran said.

“Yeah… but, I don’t know, in hindsight I guess it was pretty expected? People from my culture and religion, especially with the community back home, they tend to disagree with the concept of civil marriage. Religion’s a huge deal for them, and they wouldn’t really accept marriage if it’s not within the faith. You’re either leaving the faith to marry someone else, or you’re converting someone into it. Very all or nothing, which is…” Aisha just shrugged to end the sentence. “I mean, the ‘rejection’ itself wasn’t too bad. I think what really did it for me was how… nice, everyone was. Until that point. And then it actually felt like I was back home,” Aisha gave a cynical smile. “The belittling, the chiding, all that bullshit about not knowing what I want for my future, bringing shame to them, yada-yada, typical shit I had to deal with before I moved out and to New York.

“And so… that night, I kinda just spiralled a little. Felt like I’d lost a bit of control and just wanted some of it back. I crashed a couple friends’ place, and told them I needed to do something drastic. And well,” Aisha gestured with some jazz hands, “blonde Aisha was born.”

“Oh… you poor thing,” Fran said, reaching down to wrap her arms around Aisha, who accepted it wholeheartedly with a few pats on Fran’s arm. “I’m so sorry that had to happen.”

“Please, don’t. If anything, I’m sorry that I’ve broken the big salon rule of never dyeing at home with box colour— well, it was bleach, which I guess is worse?” Aisha grimaced playfully. “Although to be fair, it did look pretty good… for the first couple weeks. After visiting family, I flew out to Venice to meet up with Danny, where we were gonna have our vacation. We had some really good pictures there with me in all this blonde glory. He’s staying in Italy for about a week more to attend a conference, but when I flew back to New York last weekend… that’s when it really hit me that it’s starting to look really bad, especially with the outgrowth and everything.”

“Yeah, the colour’s starting to get uneven. Would be time for a root touch-up about now,” Fran commented as she inspected Aisha’s scalp closely. “But from the way it sounds… I’m guessing you’re not looking to stay blonde, are you?”

Aisha gently shook her head with pressed lips. “It felt right in the moment, and then after time went by I remembered how much damage bleach does to the hair and everything. Now I just want the blonde gone— I don’t wanna be a blondie anymore, I just want my dark hair back,” Aisha said. “I lay myself before you humbly, Fran. I have committed a grave sin to my hair, but I put myself fully in your hands to help me correct this.”

“All the blonde gone, huh?” Fran mused, now running the teeth of a comb through those overgrown locks that were clearly overdue for a trim. “And it’s gotten really long too. You missed a trim before even flying off didn’t you?”

“It was a really busy schedule before I flew off— just didn’t have the time,” Aisha confessed, met with that image of herself in the mirror with a soft mane on her head that even surpassed Fran’s longer, slicked pixie.  “I have spent the last few days mentally preparing myself for whatever could be done about this, and while a lot of the possibilities I thought of were scary, I think none of them were as bad as walking around with blotchy blonde,” Aisha added. “And besides, you’re Fran— whatever you decide to do to my hair, I think I’ll end up loving anyway. Even if it’s something really out of my comfort zone.”

“You may have committed a sin, but at least your faith is not misplaced,” Fran assured. “I have a pretty good idea of what I could do with this. And it’s exciting, cos I’ve been thinking of recommending something of this sort to you, but I never really found the right moment to convince you. And now, well,” Fran held Aisha’s head on either side so they both stared into each other’s eyes through the mirror, “seems you don’t have a choice in it.”

A small shudder reverberated through Aisha’s spine, realising that she’d sealed her fate already. And to think that Fran already had a clear idea of what it was to be, all while Aisha’s to be left in the dark till she sees it happen in front of her eyes. “What’s it gonna be?” Aisha dared the question— even though she could already tell Fran was going to be tight-lipped about something so… exciting.

Expectedly, Fran smirked in return with a chuckle. “You’ll see,” she simply said as she spun the chair around smoothly so Aisha was backfacing the mirror, “when I’m done with you. Consider this… part of the atonement.”

Well, so much for seeing it as it happened, Aisha thought. Now she was only going to see it once it was all over. Somewhat nerve-wracking, if she was being honest about how she felt. But also combined with a pinch of relief— the fact that the burden of seeing it all would come in one big hit at the end. Wouldn’t have to close her eyes to savour the moment, unlike her that very first time in Fran’s chair that she still held dearly. With that memory flashing through her mind, she couldn’t help but glance over to the back wall near the waiting area, where the whole array of Polaroids from in-house cuts were plastered. Aisha could remember exactly which one was hers— put up there beside the likes of cropped beauty Joanna and curly, spunky Miranda to “inspire others to go short”, as Fran put it.

Aisha was brought back to the moment when she felt Fran’s hands gently coaxing her shoulders into the backrest of the chair, giving those bare shoulders a brief, warm rub before unfurling the cape from her forearm. With a flick and flourish, the large, admiral blue cape enveloped all of Aisha’s not-too-petite figure.

“Congrats on your new addition to the family, by the way! I saw on Instagram while I was away,” Aisha brought up when a bit too much silence filled, as Fran pulled the ends of the cape over Aisha’s shoulders. “Rocco Rossi is a great name.”

“Well he’s technically Rocco Rossi-Jacobs, after both moms,” Fran corrected as she clipped the ends of the cape behind Aisha’s neck.

“How’s life as a new mom?” Aisha asked, feeling trapped yet secure as that familiarly tight clasp was fastened around her neck.

“Difficult, but magical. It’s something Miranda and I put a lot of thought into since it’s such a big commitment, but we felt ready. When I wake up to those big brown eyes next to me as he waits next to the bed for his morning walk, it makes picking up the poop and having to walk him in the rain worth it.” Aisha smiled as the cape was smoothed across her figure so that every inch of her body was covered, save for a small bit of her sneakers that dangled slightly over the footrest of the chair.

“He’s got some pitbull in him it seems?” Aisha asked.

“Yeah,” Fran confirmed. “Some pitbull, some boxer, hard to know what else is in there with mutts, but he’s 100% best boy, that’s for sure.” Fran then turned to her dresser, going straight to picking out her tools to carry out her work. And it drew a raised brow from Aisha, realising this didn’t follow the pattern of how her haircuts usually went with Fran. “No shampoo,” Fran said, as if reading Aisha’s mind. “For now, at least,” she quickly added before Aisha’s mood could be dampened by the prospect of missing out on a divine head massage from Fran’s sacred hands. “With what I have in mind, I think it’s better if we got the bulk of the cutting out of the way first before we wash it.”

“Mm,” Aisha hummed, keeping up a small smile as Fran returned to her side.

Ah, it’s your big day today,” Fran said as she reappeared by Aisha’s side. “We finally get to use these for real.”

Before Aisha could turn to look at what ‘these’ were, she heard it— that loud pop that rang through the room, followed by its menacing buzz.  Thoughts were flooding back of that time she’d watched Jo’s cut for the first time— the first time she’d seen that potent implement being used right in front of her yes. Her heart started racing as she recalled that very first part of the cut: the way Jo had sat so comfortably in the chair, head being moved around to Fran’s whims as her sides and back were mowed down to a soft, velvety fuzz. And Aisha was going to get all of that.

“Am I leaving here a baldy?” Aisha quipped— the humour turning into her little shield to hide the pinches of trepidation that were bubbling.

Fran chuckled, then said, “it won’t look bald, I promise. But it will be soft and fuzzy. Like velvet.”

Before Aisha could think of another line, Fran’s free hand gently got hold of Aisha’s head, tilting it to her left. The clippers were set on her cheekbone, and she held her breath. For so long, Fran had only used the clippers sparingly— keeping it in that inverted manner while she used the bare blades to shape the neckline and the sides. But now she was going to actually feel it all— the humming and whirring across her skin.

“Ready?” Fran asked, voice still clear above the humming.

“Mhm,” Aisha affirmed, readying herself for what came next.

Bzzzaaa.

She half-squinted as the clippers were brought up to her temples, hearing the blades shift in tone as it came into contact with her locks. Just as the blades almost reached the crown, Fran pulled them away, flicking it to the side along with the large lock that came loose with it. Dyed blonde locks came plunging down the side of her head and onto her caped shoulder, just within Aisha’s peripheral view while her head was kept steady. There was a hefty blonde in what was shorn, but also an ample amount of brown— her natural shade. She bit her lip, steeling herself as she recalled the length that was left behind on Jo’s head when she first saw the clippers in action. And how that was going to be on her head. Fran repositioned the clippers beside where she started, then continued her work.

Bzzaaa. Bzzaaa.

Soft, wavy locks were raining down the side of her head and onto the cape, where they slid down onto her lap. Fran made pass after pass across the right side of her head, folding down Aisha’s ear to manoeuvre around smoothly. Every once in a while Fran would dust the sections that were cut with her thumb, and Aisha had to stifle a shiver as she felt Fran’s skin so close to her own.

“Well that’s definitely getting rid of the blonde,” Aisha quipped, watching that pile of hair growing in her lap.

“Nervous already?” Fran teased as she tilted Aisha’s head forward to start on the back.

“Just observing. Didn’t take much for the clippers to get rid of all that,” Aisha said, left with only the sight of the cape in front of her as she felt the clippers crawling up the back of her head.

“And we’re only getting started,” Fran added as she continued pass after pass with the clippers. While she couldn’t see any of the hair falling at this part, Aisha could certainly feel it. With every couple passes, a trickle of hair slid down her neck, which Fran quickly swept off onto the floor. Before long, the back of Aisha’s head felt the coolest it’d been this summer. “Mm, you’re gonna love how it feels,” Fran said with a cheeky rub up at the back of Aisha’s nape that was now buzzed down to a soft pelt.

“I imagine it must feel super weird if it’s all over the head, huh?” Aisha poked at the subject curiously— a fate that she’s dodged for the time being, if Fran was telling the truth.

“It’s definitely a load of fun rubbing Lex’s buzz every time they get a fresh trim,” Fran shared as she tilted Aisha’s head back up then to the right so she could start on that last, hefty section on the left.

“But what about you?” Aisha targeted. “How did it feel when you’ve had it buzzed?”

Oh, me?” Fran was disoriented. “I, uh, wouldn’t know,” she simply dismissed it before starting a pass up Aisha’s left side.

“You’ve never had a buzzcut?” There was almost a dash of disappointment in Aisha’s voice— piquing her interest enough to help distract her from the munching clippers.

“No…” Fran sounded guilty. “And now you’re making me feel like I should have done it before.”

“No no, it’s just that- y’know, for someone like you, with your hair so short- uhm,” Aisha stammered, figuring out how to word something like lesbian without sounding so blatant, given her position as a straight woman.

Yes, I’m a masc lesbian with short hair, and I’ve never had it buzzed,” Aisha could hear the shrug that Fran gave. “I don’t know, I guess I’ve never really had the drive to do it, but I have thought about it. Jo’s done it a couple of times and every time she did it, she’d be telling me how amazing it is, and the itch grows slightly.”

“Surely giving her a buzzcut gave you a bit more than an itch to do it on yourself too?” Aisha asked.

Oh, that’s part of the problem, though,” Fran started to simmer. “Those two times she did it? Not by my hand.”

“Oooh, barber betrayal— the plot thickens,” Aisha relished in the drama as Fran started cleaning up the lower parts of the sides and back with a shorter guard.

“It’s mainly the first time that caught me off-guard, really. I was away on a short, impulsive vacation during the summer, and when she found out I wasn’t around to do her hair, apparently she just went to some random barbershop and told them to buzz it off,” Fran narrated, though keeping her little flicks with the clippers measured despite the pinch of frustration she had recounting the betrayal. “The second time, though, I can’t really fault her. She was in that last month before giving birth to little Ro, and she couldn’t really leave the house with all the exhaustion. And when you get pregnant, the hormones just mess with the body a lot, and her hair started growing much longer and was getting a little faded out in colour here and there, and she just couldn’t take it. Roxie grabbed the clippers, and they had their own home buzz.”

“That’s sweet,” Aisha couldn’t help but say, suddenly having the briefest thought imagining herself in a similar spot. The idea of her sat hunched on a stool in the bathroom, with Danny standing behind holding onto a pair of clippers aimed straight for her head. An odd thought, but somehow still warm. “She’s one hell of a badass mom, that’s for sure.”

“Badass, but ironically wouldn’t want her daughter to follow in those footsteps! At least just for now, we’ll hope,” Fran concluded as the humming shut off. She got out a mini brush to start dusting off the sides and back that the clippers had run over, which again Aisha had to steel herself to stop herself from shivering too much. It was much more tactile all around her head than she’d ever had it before. “Right, the sides are nice and tight,” Fran announced as her hands gently swept off the clippings on Aisha’s cape-covered shoulders. “Let’s get you shampooed up now, then I can start working on the fun part.”

“Okay,” Aisha cooed. “Are you gonna blindfold me?”

“We don’t need to be that extreme. Though I can trust you to not suddenly turn to look at the mirror while we’re walking over to the basin, right?” Fran asked, almost chidingly.

“Of course,” Aisha assured before getting to her feet, causing the shorn clippings on her lap to slide down to the floor in a heap. Fran carefully led Aisha towards the back of the shop in a rather awkward stride that kept her body facing away from the row of mirrors that were by the workstations.

Aisha gently lowered herself into the reclined seat, then closed her eyes as Fran’s hands guided her head into the basin. With a squeak of the tap the warm water started pouring in, and Aisha settled into that familiar peace.

“Not too hard, is it?” Fran asked on cue as she started massaging the shampoo into Aisha’s scalp.

“It’s just right,” she replied heartily, still impressed at how Fran could get the perfect pressure exactly right after that first time. It was a touch unnerving at first feeling Fran’s fingers much tighter and closer around the sides where the clippers had marked their territory, but Aisha settled into it comfortably as she always did.

But like always, the massaging always seemed to last too short a time as the gush of water poured out once more to wash away the suds. Once the shampoo had all been rinsed out, the water was turned off and Fran wrapped Aisha’s head snugly with a towel. With a pat on the shoulder, Aisha took her cue to get back up to her feet, still keeping herself faced away from the mirror as obediently as she could while they ambled back to the chair.

Fran lightly towel-dried the hair that was left on Aisha’s head— still a heavy mass of blonde waves on the crown, contrasted with the dark, shorn sides that was like an undercut. One that Aisha wasn’t going to see at all. Once the hair wasn’t dripping wet anymore, Fran tossed the towel into the laundry bin before collecting the apparatus for the next stage of the cut. It started with the comb— the sharp teeth raking through Aisha’s slick locks backwards and off her face. This went on for a while, and Aisha had to stifle a grimace to weather the discomfort. Then Fran finally raised a section near the forehead, clamping those locks with her forefingers that didn’t leave much room between them and Aisha’s head. “All the blonde gone, yes?” Fran asked once more, leaving those small locks aloft as they poked out between her forefingers.

“Yes,” Aisha sighed, biting her lip in nervousness. “Please.”

Snip snip snip.

A large tuft of blonde came plunging down past her face and onto the cape in front of her. Against the blue canvas that draped her, it looked stark— at least a couple inches just laying there, wet and lifelessly. She bowed her head slightly, trying to examine that severed chunk which was mostly blonde. It was all the visualisation she could get, seeing what was lost rather than what was left. But just as she could realise that hint of brown in that severed lock wasn’t insignificant in length, Fran forced her head back up before she could really confirm her suspicions. Fran’s hands kept a steel grip— not just to keep Aisha steady, but to lift up yet another section above her head. Fran’s palm may have felt warm and snug resting against Aisha’s scalp, but a part of her was starting to realise what that might mean for the length she was leaving behind on top. And without a mirror to see anything about the process, all she could do was stare right at ahead and listen to the shears.

Snip snip snip. Snip snip snip.

Fran kept a steady pace— immediately combing up the next section of locks near the forehead where she started and holding it close to the head, then unleashed the scissors. Aisha squinted as those hefty locks slipped down past her face and onto the cape, the beginnings of a blonde mess forming. “At least it’s not clippers on top,” Aisha wanted to say to soothe her worries, but with the more than generous length that was filling up her cape-covered lap, she had a hunch that clippers would’ve been hardly different.

Fran kept a focused silence as she worked, her fingers and shears slowly working their way from the forehead towards the back of the crown. With every set of snips she made, she quickly flicked off the loose hairs that dropped onto Aisha’s scalp, letting it fall off towards Aisha’s shoulders that were starting to litter with her impulsive yet regretful blonde— and that collateral tinge of brown. Fran slowly worked her way around the head— following the curves of Aisha’s skull as she dealt with the sections just above the clipped, fuzzy sides and back.

SNIP SNIP SNIP.

Aisha couldn’t help but squint at times, hearing those louder snips that were followed by more chunks of fallen locks. She took some small comfort in Fran’s gentle touch, even if the firm grip she had on those locks were still nerve-wracking. “If you can promise me you won’t look at your front camera,” Fran spoke up after a while, “I’ll allow you to take a quick photo to tease Danny with.”

“Cheeky,” Aisha mustered her wittiness. “I’ll take you up on that offer.”

“Go ahead— no cheating,” Fran playfully warned as Aisha took her phone out from under the cape.

She quickly tapped open the camera from her lock screen, her head still bending to Fran’s touch as the scissors did their work. Aisha snapped a photo in an artsy angle, trying to capture as much of those majorly blonde locks that lay so contrastingly against the blue cape that seemed to depress just dramatically enough from the weight of the hair. Her thumb was tempted to tap the button to switch her camera to the front, but her finger clicked the Lock button before she could even entertain the temptation. She’d played Fran’s games before— and seemed to always teeter on the brink of her own daringness— and she wasn’t going to break her rules so flippantly, even if Aisha knew she could get away with it.

“And… sent,” Aisha said aloud once the message was delivered, then slipped her hands back under the cape, the sudden movement on the fabric jostling a few stray locks off and onto the floor.

“Hmm,” Fran contemplated as the snipping stopped. She stood in front of Aisha to study her work closely— tilting Aisha’s head from side to side, ruffling through the length on top that seemed to elude the firm grasp of her fingers. “Maybe a little shorter.”

“At this rate, maybe I should’ve told him he was gonna get a baldy for a girlfriend when he comes home,” Aisha let a tinge of her nervousness slip, though she carefully worded it like a joke rather than a blatant plea to know what she was to expect. She may not have been able to see much, but the hefty sum of locks that littered around her left a vivid story for her imagination. If she couldn’t get to see or know what was in store for her, she was at least going to try and piece some clues together.

“Oh no— not quite that severe, even though I know you could pull off a buzz,” Fran corrected. “I’d say it’s closer to something like Joanna’s. Short and tight, but still with a brazenly chic and feminine charm.”

Please, I don’t think I could ever be as pretty as her,” Aisha played along, then started nibbling on her lower lip. Her eyes darted back to the polaroid wall, where that picture of Joanna and her wife Roxanne was. Aisha could still vividly remember that fateful day when she’d first set foot in the shop. She may not have sat in Fran’s chair on that day, but being an observer was enough to stir her adequately. And what better stirring than watching Joanna— this stunning, gamine woman with a short pelt of blonde hair— sit so confidently in that chair to get her already-short locks trimmed much tighter.

Darling, you can’t be that hard on yourself,” Fran was quick to reassure as she headed for her dresser of tools behind Aisha. “The both of you are absolutely gorgeous bombshells that rock short hair, both in your own ways.”

“How’s she been, by the way?” Aisha meandered the conversation away, lest her self-esteem get challenged by the thought of being compared to an ethereal beauty. “Oh, and little Rosemary too!” she added, a soft smile forming on her lips remembering that simply adorable child of Joanna and Roxanne that sported the most luscious head of ginger hair.

“They’ve been great! Jo came in for her trim last week. And Rosemary’s starting to walk already! Goodness me, they grow up so fast,” Fran wistfully said once she returned to Aisha’s side. Aisha stifled a shiver when she felt a cool mist spritzing on top of her head. Fran ran the comb through her surely-short locks once more, working through the dampness across the crown.

“Soon enough you might get little Rosemary in your chair!” Aisha said, humoured by the mental image of such a little child sitting in the gargantuan chair and draped in the large cape for a haircut.

Fran let out a considerable laugh before putting the spray bottle back down. “Maybe not so soon, I’d say. Funnily enough, Jo’s been a little protective of her little girl’s hair.”

“Really?” Aisha asked as she felt Fran combing up a section of hair near the back of her crown, her fingers clamping onto it ghastly tight near the scalp.

Really.” Snip snip snip. “It’s a little funny— you’d think one of the gayest moms in New York with her hair cut so short would be a bit more relenting on her child’s hair length, but she’s awfully fond of Ro’s red hair.” Snip snip snip. “Reveres it much more than her own, I’d say,” Fran explained. “A little hypocritical, perhaps, but it’s still funny to see.”

“Better a mom that keeps your hair long than forces you to cut it short, I guess,” Aisha said, lightly squinting with every section Fran seemed to be combing up as she worked from the back of the crown towards the front. Unlike that first round she had with the scissors, this time Fran’s fingers were practically laid flat against Aisha’s head as she held those locks aloft between her forefingers, priming them for the scissors to cut across.

“For sure. I mean,” Snip snip snip “knowing Jo, sooner rather than later she’ll warm up to the idea of letting her little girl get a haircut. After all,” Snip snip snip. “that little Rosemary is being brought up with so many short-haired women around her— she’s bound to wonder why she’s one of the few with such long tresses.”

“I see we’re both part of the problem, then,” Aisha joked. Fran could only chuckle in return. Soon enough, after a few more tight snips across the crown, Fran was back in front of Aisha. She tilted Aisha’s head up slightly to get the perfect angle, then slid the comb up towards the forehead.

Snip snip snip. Snip snip snip.

Aisha instinctively closed her eyes as the shortest tufts rained down past her eyes. Fran took her time, using a scissor-over-comb technique to sculpt that front portion that would adorn Aisha’s forehead as perfectly as she could.  

“You love wearing your hair in that parting, don’t you?” Fran probed as her fingers ruffled through that front bit of Aisha’s fringe— if it even was long enough to be called one anymore, thought Aisha.

“You could say that,” Aisha said, playing down her religious routine of combing it every morning and lightly blow drying it into place. For so long she hadn’t done anything with her hair in the way of “styling”, but after that fateful haircut she’d swore she’d put in the effort to have it always looking sharp if she was leaving the house— even on the laziest of work days when she’d rather not leave her bed. Her morning ritual to look perfect in at least one dimension.

“I think you’ve trained your hair to part naturally in that way— even when it’s so short that I can barely comb it, it just seems to flow that way. I love it.”

Barely comb it. That was a hell of a hint, and a disorienting one for sure. She knew she was getting something closer to Joanna’s tight crop, but was that actually how short it was? Not like she’d ever gotten the chance to touch Joanna’s hair to know exactly how it felt, but it definitely was enough to shake her.

Fran was none the wiser— oblivious to the effect of her comment that was kicking into Aisha as she simply went back to work. Once more with the scissors over the comb, she carefully blended in the sides into the top, which weren’t too different in length. The gentle snips continued and the soft clippings of hair rained down around Aisha’s head, slowly working around the perimeter as Fran sculpted the short locks into perfect shape.

The next few minutes passed by in a blur to Aisha. The deed was done— the damage was wrought, the blonde was gone, and the bulk of all her hair was practically off her head. All that she wanted to do was look in the mirror and finally take in the full reality of it, because she was quickly getting her fill of the little hints of the weight on her crown. And she wasn’t sure if this was a crown she was worthy to wear.

But even though she was so desperate to rip this band-aid off already, there were only tremors rippling through her heart when the scissors had stopped their symphony. The hairdryer was turned on suddenly, and the waves of warm heat blasted through her short crop of hair. And she could feel it all— the tiniest streams of warmth travelling across her naked ears and neck, and getting so close to the pores in her scalp where her hair offered meek protection now. Fran’s fingers ruffled through for the briefest moments, what with the minute length that could scarcely be styled at this point. If anything, the hairdryer simply offered an easier way of cleaning out the tiny clippings that still clung to Aisha’s scalp. So when that scream of the dryer was turned off and all that was left was the silence of impending the truth left ringing in Aisha’s ears, she blew out a soft sigh as she steeled her nerves.

“Ready to see it?” Fran asked, still cheerful as ever as she picked up the hand mirror.

“Mhm,” Aisha hummed— muted, but with a pinch of brightness to it. Her hand came out from under the cape, ready to accept the mirror, and her reality.

“Oh, wow.” Her head was still for what seemed like an eternity, drinking in the crown that Fran had deemed her worthy of.

There were parts that were still familiar, at least: her brown skin seemed so clear now that her face was on full display, and her eyes had the same sparkle they always had, though they seemed a little bigger with a lot less distraction from her hair. Her hair… that dark brown she’d been so desperate to see after those past few weeks of overpowering, impulsive blonde. But it wasn’t the thick, parted pixie that she had comfortably worn for the past year or so. There was a lot less now on her crown, with barely enough movement to be called a ‘part’ to the side that she was so used to.

“Well the blonde’s gone, that’s for sure,” were the next words that left Aisha’s lips, her head finally starting to turn to inspect herself much closer. The sides were just a little shorter than the top— which was already much shorter than she’d ever seen on her head— and were cut close with the clippers so that they were neatly off the ears. “And a lot of the natural brown didn’t survive too, I guess. Whoa,” her surprise only elevated once her fingers finally found their way into that pelt of hair. The sides and back were nice and fuzzy, and as she brought her palm up to her crown it only got slightly longer, but softer. She hazarded a few ruffles through the front, then bit her tongue when she realised she couldn’t even sweep it to the side like how she fussed about her parting. She had been thoroughly cropped.

“It’ll be much easier in the morning too— don’t even need to do anything with it, just air dry it and it’ll naturally follow the parting. But if you do want to do a little bit with it,” Fran continued as she opened a small tub, scooping a speck of product with her fingertips before rubbing it in her hands. She gently ruffled it into Aisha’s tight crop, focusing on the front where she carefully pushed forward a few micro pieces to adorn her forehead. “You can have it on the forehead a bit to do something different, or maybe even spiked up a bit. It’s not much, but there’s still enough you can do with it. A no hair-hair kinda look— very short, but very chic.”

Fran was always good at upselling her work, and the description did give Aisha a drop of confidence. But it was a mammoth of a well to fill— this heavy crown that had been forced onto Aisha’s head to wear till it grew back to its usual length. A few extra weeks may not be all that long, but it was still time she had to spend trying to own it.

“Very short indeed,” was all Aisha could really comment as she returned the mirror back to Fran.

Now, why don’t I get this off you,” Fran said as she undid the cape to reveal Aisha’s bare neck. Before the cape was taken off Aisha’s body, Fran made sure to give a thorough dusting with the neck brush— sweeping off those little hairs that stuck to the neck and around the ears, which Aisha felt so much more naked around. The cape was whisked off, and Fran gave it a good flick to the side where the shorn blonde locks fell to join their other brethren on the floor. “Picture time?” Fran asked, still brimming with excitement that she’d finally get to give Aisha the cut she’d been scheming to give her since the first big chop.

“Sure,” Aisha said neutrally, taking it as her cue to climb out of the seat. It may not have been the biggest chop like her first time, but the loss of weight on her head was still felt— and not to mention the cooler air that seemed to be breezing through those tinier locks that were left hugging her head. Fran fiddled with the Polaroid camera as Aisha took her time to amble to the wall near the back of the shop where all the headshots were taken. She kept doing double takes of the mirror— looking and staring at this stark version of herself that had such an uneasily poignant crop of hair.

“Ready?”

Aisha hadn’t even realised Fran was in front of her already— camera raised to her eye while the other was closed, ready to snap. “Uh- yeah,” Aisha stammered, shifting her body to face the camera, though her eyes were still unwittingly darting to the mirror to steal more glances. Fran held the camera steady, trying to find the perfect moment to capture. Then lowered it.

“Everything okay?” Fran asked, brows a little furrowed.

“Huh- oh, yeah,” Aisha stopped trying to look at her reflection, steeling herself to immortalise this crown into a picture on the wall. A picture she wasn’t even sure was going to be worth putting up.

But Fran stayed her hand for the moment, not raising the camera back up to her eye to snap a picture. Only realisation spread across her face. “You don’t like it.”

A pang struck through Aisha’s heart, hearing the accusation. But for some reason, she wasn’t compelled to immediately rebut it. She pondered over those pointed words in the air, then tried to counter. “No, why would you say that?” she said a little unconvincingly.

Fran forced out a tiny yet pained smile, walking up towards her unwitting casualty. “Aisha,” she whispered, rubbing the back of Aisha’s hand warmly. “It’s okay to say it,” Fran bit down on that bitter pill, accepting the disappointment as she realised she’d failed Aisha— the same woman who had proudly called herself “fucking hot” after putting her hair in Fran’s hands the first time. And it was by those same hands that now yielded a less-than-satisfied belle. “I’m not always going to get it right. I may do a lot of good ones, and I may boast about ‘doing magic’, but the truth is I also get ahead of myself sometimes.”

It was Aisha’s turn to push a small smile, partially in earnest at the level of honesty that Fran was showing. It’s not often you get to be vulnerable to your barber, and probably much less so to have it happen the other way around. “It’s fine,” AIsha spoke up, resigned to the outcome. What was done was done— the blonde was gone, and it was just a little bit of collateral to live with, but nothing that couldn’t be outgrown.

“No no, talk to me,” Fran insisted. “Tell me something about it. Is it too short? Were you not ready for something like this? Was it the clippers?” she sought to find out.

“It’s just…” Aisha started, then contemplated not saying at all. “It’s a bit much. I don’t know, maybe it was when you said it was going to be like Joanna’s that I just started spiralling a bit, cos I am nowhere close to being as pretty as her, and I just started feeling a bit… unworthy.” That word of insecurity rang in the air for a moment, and Aisha was quickly starting to regret saying anything.  “I’m sorry— I know I shouldn’t be insecure about it, it sounds so stupid.  I’m being such a fucking drama queen about this. It’s just hair- it’s gonna grow back,” Aisha dismissed, forcing out an even bigger smile than before to shake it off.

“I know it will, but it’s still totally fine to feel that way, Aisha,” Fran validated, still keeping that contact with Aisha’s arm to help comfort her. “For what it’s worth, you and Jo are both absolutely gorgeous women, and in your own perfect ways— to even begin to compare you two would be a disservice to both of you. But I understand where you’re coming from.”

Fran was always a sweet charmer, knowing the right words. Maybe it was her, maybe it was just all part of the job, but Aisha did at least feel herself becoming a bit more confident. Before she could try and fill the silence, the little bell on the salon door rang.

“Hey babe!” a familiar, bubbly voice called out as the door swung open.

“Mira!” Fran replied, caught a little off guard by the appearance of her wife.

Oh, hey Aisha!” Mira soon recognised the other figure in the shop.

“Hey, Mira,” Aisha greeted, brightening up her voice to make sure no evidence of her little spiralling was to be found.

“Oh…” Mira slowed down as she got closer to the two, her eyes finally adjusting to the dim light near the back of the shop. She could easily tell Aisha looked different, then darted her eyes back to Fran’s workstation to see that littering of blonde and brown on the floor, then beheld Aisha in all her glory. “I love the new hair,” Mira stressed emphatically. “It’s giving no-nonsense CEO vibes. Like, I’d work for you, just because you look like that— it’ll fill me with confidence knowing I work for a boss that looks that serious yet so hot. Yes, ma’am, all the way.”

Aisha blinked. The comment certainly came out of nowhere, but it wasn’t unwelcome. And it was the right few words that could at least jumpstart some semblance of her confidence back into gear. There was just something about Mira’s energy that always made her the best hype woman. “Thanks,” she found herself saying, though still feeling a bit fazed.

“Babe… you think my hair would look good that short?” Mira pulled herself closer to her wife, leaning her head on Fran’s shoulder as she twirled her beautiful mess of curls that sat around her ears.

Mira,” Fran stared back at her wife, always appalled yet enthralled by her brazenness. “Sorry, Aisha, she gets like this a lot of the time— ever since she went short she’s had an addiction to wanting to try every single short cut she sees me do on someone.”

“And why not? I’ve got the best short hair barber in New York for a wife— it’d be a crime not to try it all!” Mira protested.

“You’ll look fantastic,” Aisha chimed in. “Well, you always do. Don’t think there’s anything you can’t pull off.”

“Don’t encourage her,” Fran joked, clutching onto a fully beaming Mira. “Anyway,” Fran paused for a bit, looking back down at the camera that still hadn’t been used, then remembered why they’d stopped, “we were just about done weren’t we-“

“No no,” Aisha stopped her, “I think you still wanted to take one more, right?”

“Right,” Fran smiled, still heartened that Aisha was at least up for a photo.

“Give us that Vogue look, queen,” Mira said like a photoshoot director, and Aisha found it in herself to at least try.

*

Danny’s place always radiated so much comfort. And after that fateful day in Fran’s chair having a haircut she wasn’t the most thrilled about thrust upon her, Danny’s abode felt like the right salve to at least make her feel a little better— even if he himself wasn’t home. It was still going to be a few more days before he’d be back, but Aisha took it upon herself to ‘abuse’ their little shared keys arrangement to at least take some cosy shelter at his place rather than just wallowing at hers. After she’d get back from work, she’d put on one of his hoodies (which still smelled like him) and start cooking something in the kitchen, then lounge in his bed with some Netflix before lulling herself to sleep. With her neck, ears, and forehead so bare after her new haircut, it felt comforting to have his familiar-smelling hood pulled over her unfamiliarily shorn head.

You don’t have to sing it right, but who could call you wrong?” Aisha sang as she cooked one night, remembering those lovely nights she’d have with Danny when they’d be singing and sometimes even dancing as they made dinner. “To put your emptiness to melody, your awful heart to song,” she gave it her all, just like Danny always told her to— and wow, did it feel cathartic. “You don’t have to sing it nice, but honey sing it strong. At best you’ll find a little remedy-”

At worst, the world will sing along.” 

Aisha gasped, jumping in a turn to face the familiar voice that rang through the air melodiously. Before she could even say anything to him, Danny lifted his lover up from the waist as gently as he could, basking in the glory that she was. He sat her on the kitchen counter as he kissed her, pulling the hood of his oversized hoodie she wore down off her head, and ran the back of his fingers down her bare neck. “So honey, sing,” Danny continued the chorus, his voice filling the well that was Aisha’s heart with so much joy.

“Danny,” she could finally speak up, her eyes still not believing that he was there, that she was touching him, in the flesh. “I thought you were only going to be back this weekend.”

“I was,” Danny said, sounding rather breathless as he put her back down on her feet,
“but after you texted me ‘bye bye blondie’ with that photo the other day when you were at Fran’s and not wanting to elaborate on it at all, I couldn’t stop thinking about you. And it certainly didn’t help that you weren’t planning to send a photo of yourself after that. Made me miss you even more. So well, I pulled some strings and they pushed my presentation to the first day, then managed to switch my flight to that night too, and here I am. And my god,” his hands reached up to either side of Aisha’s precious face, then stopped a bit short of touching her hair, “I have absolutely zero regrets, because you look divine.”

Even her hesitation over how she looked couldn’t stop her from smiling at that. And almost on cue like the first time, he’d gotten down both his knees to look up in awe— at this sublime goddess that he had never regretted worshipping. “Will my goddess grace me to let me touch it?” he asked, face still adorned with a starstruck look.

Aisha was always amused when he did his little worship act, but she relented— bowing slightly so he could feel it. His touch was a welcome sensation on her head, and his fingers went far and wide to appreciate the new landscape that was her crown. “Whoa,” his wonder knew no bounds, taking every inch in with pure delight.  “You know how you usually wear it, it’s like long enough that you have to comb it into place every morning?” It was only the start of his little spiel, but something about that made Aisha smile. She only took the plunge to chop all her hair off about a year ago after wearing her long hair for about three decades, but the parted pixie had so quickly become “how she usually wears it”. As if it was how her hair ought to be all her life. It was now a little shorter than her ‘usual’, but she couldn’t lie that having it in that ballpark of a length just felt right. And it was clear that Danny felt exactly the same way. “Well now,” Danny’s fingers carefully brushed against those short tufts that adorned her forehead, as if pretending to push her hair off her face even when if weren’t at risk of getting in her eyes like it used to, “it seems like it’s going to stay in place permanently, like nothing could mess it up. Well, until it grows out, at least. If you want it grow out.”

“You’d be okay if I kept my hair this short?” Aisha only grew more surprised.

“Why wouldn’t I be? I’ve always loved that stern, parted style you do. Now it just seems like it’ll always be stern and serious with how I can’t even mess it up,” he gave a gentle ruffle of Aisha’s crop, which, true to his word, hadn’t even messed up a single bit— staying in that starkly short part that Fran herself had said was “trained into the scalp” by Aisha herself. “But… do you want to keep it this short?” Danny soon caught on to the hint.

Aisha shifted a bit, pulling her head back slightly to look at Danny, who now looked on with concern. Even if she did wanted to try and lie, she knew he’d already figured it out through his supreme awe. “I… don’t know,” she hedged, biting on her lower lip nervously.

Danny slowly got to his feet, his arms starting to slide up Aisha’s as he sought to comfort her. “I’m guessing… you don’t really like it?” Danny tried to connect the dots even more, pulling up the sleeves of the hoodie Aisha wore so he could gently rub her forearms like he always did to soothe her.

“Well… I don’t hate it,” Aisha pushed out a smile. “But it’s… a lot. Well, technically, it’s very little,” she tried to humour them both. “I mean, it’s really my fault— I told Fran I just wanted to get rid of all the blonde that was starting to look weird with the natural, and I gave her free reign. And well,” she shrugged, obliquely gesturing to her unwitting crown, “this is what came of it. And like, I get it— it’s like a really chic, elegant sort of look. But I just…” she trailed off for a bit, then settled on the words, “don’t know if I can pull it off.”

Danny lit up immediately— as predictably as ever whenever Aisha voiced some form of insecurity of hers— but quickly closed his mouth back down to assess the situation. Then he spoke, “I see.” “For what it’s worth, I think you look immaculate. It’s different from how you usually wear it, that’s for sure. But I think you wear it phenomenally. And that’s okay that you don’t feel that way about it— maybe it might take some time to get used to it, or maybe it’ll just never catch on. Either way, it’s about how you feel about it, and I want you to have it however you feel best in,” Danny said, his fingers inching up to those cute ears of Aisha’s that were much more exposed now. “At least the good thing about keeping it short is that it’s gonna grow back really quickly. Just a little while, and it’ll be back to normal.”

“It’s gonna be very weird not having to comb it at all the next few weeks,” Aisha added.

“And if it starts feeling really naked, you can pull up the hood any time you want— I’ll completely understand.”

“Okay, I don’t feel that insecure about it,” Aisha said.

“Why don’t I cut my hair short as you so you feel better abo-”

“NO,” Aisha protested.

Danny chuckled,  letting himself be pulled in by the waist from his most defensive girlfriend when it came to his hair. Her fingers went up the sides of his face, rustling through that gorgeous wavy mane of his that he took care of much more than Aisha ever did when she had hers long. His eyes were locked on hers, admiring the way she was always so entranced by his hair, which only made it much more precious to him. And just from staring at Aisha— at this immaculate entity in front of him that didn’t feel particularly confident about her new look, yet still radiated the moon’s extent of grace and splendour— it just clicked right in him to make the next move.

“Do you wanna move in together?”

She blinked. Her eyes refocused back on his, her hands sliding back down to lay them on his shoulders. Her breaths were deep, taking in those words that had left his lips, and were ringing in the air for a moment. But none of it shimmered in doubt. Everything glistened with clarity— and she knew what was right.

“You always know how to make me feel better,” she finally said, then pulled him in for a kiss.

 

*

 

“Hell week again?”

“You know it,” Aisha sighed, sinking into Fran’s chair after dropping her handbag on the little free space on the dresser.

“So I’m guessing it’s a haircut and an ice cold ginger ale?” Fran asked, already heading to the mini-fridge.

“You know all the right words,” Aisha said, settling herself comfortably.

“It’s all part of the job,” Fran passed Aisha the can of ginger ale. “The usual, then?”

Aisha popped the can, taking a full sip to gather her courage. “Uhm… actually,” she shuffled a bit, remembering what she’d decided that morning, trying to muster the guts to actually say it now. “You can cut it shorter.”

Fran paused after picking up the cape, turning to face Aisha. “You mean…”

“Yep,” Aisha nodded firmly.  “Just like that.”

“Are you sure?” Fran was hesitant, still remembering the bittersweet time they’d had when Aisha was determined to just get rid of some blonde.

“Totally,” Aisha was fully embracing it— and at least this time, she was the one explicitly asking for it. She was ready to own it. “I just… needed a bit of time to get used to it, and I think I’m ready to try it again. Besides, it’s a great type of cut for summer anyway— would be nice to have it easier while it’s hot out.”

Fran was never one to hide a smile, and this time was no different. She may have felt the sting of regret that one time before when she’d pushed Aisha down the deeper end, but she could at least feel comforted knowing she finally came into her own on it. “One tight crop, coming right up.”

 

 

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