Canice tossed his hair, admiring in the mirror how the ginger waves tumbled and bounced. He tilted his head this way and that, running his fingers through the silky locks and then letting them slowly slip from his grasp. He glanced in the direction of the barber, Augustine, and was pleased to see him quickly turn away. He’d been watching, just like Canice had intended. He smiled to himself and pulled his soft hair over his shoulder, where it cascaded like a waterfall to brush against his lower thighs.
He really should be attending the camera, which was focused on a girl getting brushed off after the buzzcut she had just received.
He hummed and looked into the mirror once more, fluttering his eyelashes and opening his mouth slightly to pose.
“Canice!” He was jolted out of his reverie by his boss’s angry call.
“Hm?” he asked innocently.
“Bring me that SD card so that we can give it to the editor.” Canice went to stop the camera and noticed something. He’d never even pressed play. His eyes widened, and he suddenly felt warm. What should he do?
Maybe he could pretend that someone else had deleted it. No, no… His boss would never buy that.
“What’s the matter?” His boss asked, suddenly at his side. His dark eyes were narrowed suspiciously, and he was close enough that Canice could smell his aftershave.
“Well, you see…” Canice stammered.
His boss took the camera and examined it.
“You never even pressed record, did you?” he asked, frighteningly cooly.
“I thought that I did, but I must have forgotten…” Canice trailed off, eyes averted.
“Again?” his boss thundered. “You didn’t forget, you were distracted!”
“Do you know how much money we lose if we can’t sell video downloads?”
“I’m sorry, it won’t happen again-” Canice tried.
“You’re damn right it won’t!”
It was then that the model who’d had her head shaved piped up.
“I’m still getting paid, right?”
“Yes, of course,” the boss quickly replied. “Don’t worry about that. You held up your end of the agreement.”
She nodded, satisfied, and stood. She was now uncaped, and Augustine led her to the side to give her payment. Canice felt a pang of jealousy.
“Look here, Canice!”
Canice’s head snapped around.
“It’s all that damn hair. You pay more attention to it than your job.”
Canice opened his mouth to argue, but was cut off.
“This stops now. You’re fired.”
“Huh?” Canice asked, shocked. He needed this job! He was a college student barely making ends meet in addition to paying for beauty supplies. “Please, please don’t fire me! I’ll work harder! I’ll put my hair up!”
His boss shook his head.
“Not good enough. I would need you to make up the money you lost.”
A sense of foreboding settled in Canice’s belly.
“How?” he ventured. They were talking about thousands of dollars.
His boss smirked and took a lock of Canice’s topaz mane in his fingers.
“I could think of a couple ways.”
Canice gaped. Cut his hair? It was unfathomable! He loved his pretty hair. Its lovely color, impressive length, silky softness…
“No way!” he exclaimed.
His boss shrugged.
“Have it your way. It’s either that, or you’re out of a job.”
Canice chewed his lip. Maybe it wouldn’t be too bad. They did a lot of hair-washing and playing videos, and those raked in cash. Possibly he could star in one of those.
“Fine,” he said, looking at his hair as he played with it nervously.
He saw his boss smile.
“Great! This will be mutually beneficial.” He turned. “Augustine!” he called.
Augustine came over, and Canice stared at his well-defined muscles with round eyes. He wanted to run his fingers over them…
“Can you cape up Canice and get started on washing his hair?”
Canice’s heart raced. He wanted to run away. This was so humiliating.
Augustine looked confused and a little concerned, but nodded. Canice dragged his feet as he followed after him, head bowed. He looked back to see his boss press a button on the camera.
Augustine patted the chair by the sink, and Canice sat down with tense muscles. Augustine then grabbed a black, thin, nylon cape and smoothly fastened it around Canice’s neck. After that, he carefully tugged Canice’s hair out from underneath it. Canice imagined it hanging like glorious curtain, shimmering under the lights.
“Lean back,” Augustine instructed, and Canice obeyed. Augustine piled all of that lengthy ginger hair into the sink and then turned on the faucet. He picked up the sprayer and ran cool water all over Canice’s hair until it was soaked. Canice saw him take down a bottle of the expensive shampoo. That was usually reserved for when they had professional hair models that they were paying a lot.
Canice closed his eyes and felt Augustine squirt some shampoo into his hair and then oh- His big, strong hands were lathering up suds. They massaged his scalp, rubbing the crown of his head, his nape, his temples… Canice felt like he could simply melt, and a sigh escaped his lips. But it felt like he’d hardly begun to enjoy himself when suddenly Augustine’s hands were gone. Embarrassingly, he let out a quiet mewl of protest. Suddenly, he felt the shock of freezing water and his eyes popped open. They were met by Augustine’s mirthful hazel ones.
“Cold water is better for your hair, you know,” he said. If it had been anybody else, or perhaps if Canice’s head was clear, he would have retorted with of course he knew that, but it didn’t need to be water that felt like it was from the arctic circle in winter! Augustine delicately washed out all of the bubbles. Canice heard the tap turn off, and his teeth started chattering. Godamnit, why was he so sensitive?
Augustine grabbed a bottle of conditioner, yet again a high-end brand, and then squeezed a generous amount onto his palm. He slathered it on the ends of Canice’s hair, his hands gliding down the length. Canice braced himself for the icy faucet water. He heard it turn on, but thankfully Augustine only moved the nozzle over the lower half of his hair and not the scalp. He could feel Augustine’s fingers slipping through the locks of hair as he rinsed away the excess product.
The tap was turned off for (hopefully) the last time, and Augustine tucked a towel around Canice’s neck before helping him sit up. He was shivering, goosebumps starting to pop up on his arms even though he was wearing an oversized hoodie. Augustine gently towel-dried his sopping wet hair. And Canice looked over his shoulder to see him plug in a hair dryer.
Augustine flipped the switch with a clack and it roared to life. The sound startled Canice a bit, and he felt the stream of air being moved back and forth across his hair. Some wet strands stuck to his cheek and he peeked his hand out from under the cape to move it out of the way.
The action was in vain, however, because the blow dryer just moved the strands back once more. Augustine used his hand to position Canice’s tresses for a better agle. Because he had the device on the “cool air” setting, it took longer to get the carotene hair fluffy and bright again.
Suddenly, Augustine flipped off the dryer and it took Canice a moment to adjust to the sudden silence. Canice heard the familiar sound of the cord being wrapped up neatly and the dryer being placed back on its rack.
Timidly, he reached his hand out and pulled his hair over his shoulder. The treatments Augustine had put in had made his hair unbelievably soft and voluminous. He ran his hands through and admired how the strands gleamed under the lights overhead and how it felt under his fingers. He parted his hair at the nape and slid half over onto each side so that it surrounded his frame, not really thinking about what he was doing and just enjoying the sensation.
Canice lifted his line of sight lazily and they fell onto his boss, who was watching him. His eyes widened, and his heart jump-started. His face grew hot, and he shrunk back in his chair.
“I think he needs a trim,” Canice’s boss decided, eyes twinkling in amusement. Canice’s pulse thumped in trepidation at the prospect.
“Oh, don’t worry, I got one not that long ago,” he stammered out in attempted nonchalance. He was ignored. He nervously ran his fingers through the tresses that draped over his thighs and groin. Augustine yanked the hair from his grasp and pulled all of it over his shoulders. The thick mass hit the cape with a heavy thwack and hung well below the hem of the cheap cape and seat of the chair.
Canice heard a click and gasped. He whirled around to see a comb and shiny scissors clutched in Augustine’s hand before his head was gently but firmly moved back into position. He felt light tugging as his hair was combed through, roots to ends in sweeping strokes. It started to feel a little nice, but the dread of his impending haircut loomed over him.
Suddenly, the combing stopped. Augustine gathered up the top half of the ridiculously long ginger mane and clipped it into two floppy buns on the top of Canice’s head, as was customary with very thick hair. Canice’s heart raced faster in fear, and he gripped the armrests tightly. He heard a snip and then hair softly falling to the floor.
“Oh!” he cried out, and squeezed his eyes shut. His muscles were tense in fight-or-flight. He waited in trepidation, not knowing how much was being cut off. It couldn’t be more than an inch, but even that was far too much. The dreadful sound of cruel shears slicing through thick hair continued. Blood rushed through his veins and his face felt warm. The slicing of the blades felt like it continued for hours, but it was probably only minutes.
And then Augustine released the two buns on the top of his head and hair spilled down, untwisting and swinging like it had a life of its own. It was only halfway over. The torture continued, with the snapping of the scissors and not being able to see what was happening.
Canice could feel Augustine tugging on the ends now, testing the lengths to see if it was even. But then Augustine parted his hair down the middle with his comb, gently pulling it through. He pulled half of his thick hair over one shoulder and half over the other, the silky strands sliding against the cape.
Canice breathed in sharply, and a lump formed in his throat. His beautiful hair looked considerably shorter, in his head. Panic rose inside of him, and he stuck his hands out from under the cape to pull on the blunt, harsh ends. He made a displeased sound, tears pricking in the corners of his eyes.
“It’s too short!” he complained. Augustine pulled the hair from Canice’s protective hold and compared the two sides to make sure that they were even.
“Stand up,” he told him. Canice shakily obeyed, and was horrified to find that his hair now only reached to the lower-middle of his thighs and not almost to his knees. Augustine combed Canice’s hair over his face. The right side was a little longer, and he positioned the scissors. Canice was trembling as he watched in the mirror.
“I really don’t mind if it’s even-” he tried, voice wobbling. In response, Augustine snipped off whole inch on the right side and then pulled the front locks to compare. “Oh-” Canice squeezed his eyes shut. Augustine ran his fingers back over Canice’s head and tossed his bouncy hair. Under normal circumstances, that would have been a fulfilled fantasy for our little redhead. More gently, Augustine slowly threaded a hand down the length.
“It’s beautiful,” he said, only loud enough for Canice to hear. Canice shivered, revelling in the compliment. But then he looked over his shoulder to see mounds of shining discarded hair.
“Oh my goodness!” he cried out, covering his mouth with widened eyes.
“It’s only four inches,” Augustine said gently, but there was a firm edge beneath.
“Four inches?!” Canice felt faint. Well, at least it was all over with. Right? Quickly, he reached with trembling fingers to undo his cape.
“Nuh-uh,” he heard his boss say, and he froze in place.
“What?” he asked fearfully.
“We’re not done yet. Sit down, Rapunzel.”
Canice did as he was told, staring at his pale face in the mirror.