It’s been a quiet day. Only a couple quick trims for customers, and only a few people down on the beach. It’s been getting cold out- pretty soon the beaches won’t be populated all.
I close up the shop, and take my hot tea out to the little table outside my shop.
As I sip it, a woman looking like she’s being chased by sea monsters comes running.
She stops in front of the door to my shop, looks it up and down, and exclaims, “Fuck it, I am too late!”
I wave at her, asking, “Did you need something?”
She looks like she needs a professional stylist and more- not only is her light auburn hair unevenly cut and ragged, but it’s limp and possibly unwashed. Her eyes have big dark circles around them, and her glasses don’t cover it. She stands with the posture of someone at least twice her age.
She walks up to my table, and asks, “Uh, yeah… I was hoping to find someone who could fix my hair before I go home, and your shop is the only one I can find in this backwat- small town.”
I raise an eyebrow at her, but she looks pitiable, so I brush off her insult.
“I’m technically closed right now, but I can take you for a special appointment.”
She sighs, and thanks me weakly.
I drink as much tea as I can before pulling out my keys and unlocking the shop- I hold the door for her, and she steps inside.
Indoors, I can smell her perfume- it’s not offensive, it’s quite sweet, but she is wearing too much of it. Choking a bit, I ask her if she would mind showering before I helped her.
She looks into my eyes, and I find it difficult to read her- she just looks tired. After a few long seconds, she tells me, “Yeah, that’d be nice. I didn’t get time to do it this morning.”
“Thank you goddess” I whisper under my breath, while showing her to my bathroom.
I show her a bathrobe she can use when she gets out, and tell her to take as long as she likes.
In the storefront, I draw the blinds, and flip the lights. One of the bulbs is burned out, but I haven’t gotten around to replacing it- everything is dim.
I hear the shower starting, and can’t help but think about the woman in it- my cheeks flush, but I work on setting up an incense burner through the fire in my mind.
This woman is obviously stressed out, and incense always calms me when I need it most. The faint smell of Lavender wafts about the room, and I sit in my chair allowing it to wash over me- my mind calms, and the rhythmic beating of water on tile lulls me…
Then it stops.
That was quick. She was barely in there for two minutes. When she comes out, she looks less immediately tired, but she doesn’t look as happy as I’d like.
I frown, but put on a smile for her, asking how she feels.
“A little cold, but that’s my fault..”
I hop up to take her arm, and she is colder than a stone, and just about as hard. I can barely tell if I have her bone, or if she’s just that tense…
I tug her along, asking, “Sweetie, you know there was hot water in there, right?”
“Of course, yes.. I just am in the habit of taking cold showers to wake me up, you know?”
I sigh, and sit her down in my chair. “Well, let me tell you something. I want you to be as relaxed as possible, even if it’s only for a short little while. I don’t know where you think you need to be, or what you need to do, but you can take some time for yourself.”
I put a hand on her shoulder- I can feel it through my robe. Hard as a rock, again.
She looks a bit uncomfortable, telling me, “I’m sorry, I know you’ve got relaxed islander culture going on here, but I can already feel this atmosphere making me sleepy, and I really have to-”
When she tries to get out of the chair, I push her shoulder back in.
I lean down and whisper in her ear, “It’s okay. Let yourself go for five minutes. And even if you don’t, you still need someone to fix your hair. Nobody else here can do that.”
That’s a blatant lie, my friend Chance across the island does beautiful work- he does my hair. But this girl needs more than just a good stylist.
She sits for a few moments, shivering, before she replies, “Alright.. alright. You can fix my hair.”
I smile warmly at her, and lower the chair’s back so that I can lean her head into the sink.
Starting the water, I turn it to a warmer temperature, and splash her head. “Is that alright?”
She struggles and squirms a bit before telling me in a hushed voice, “It’s fine.”
I put my hands on my hips, and ask her, “I know you’re a little bit uncomfortable, sweetie, but you’ve got to tell me what you want. If you just let me do whatever I want, then things might not.. Turn out the way you’d most like.”
I playfully kickstart my clippers, and she says, “Fine, fine, it’s too hot, I’m sorry!”
I chuckle at her, and tease her, “Did I hit a nerve? Is this a Freudian Slip? Do you secretly want these?”
I wiggle the clippers, still on, at her, but she says, “No, seriously. Turn those off.”
Spoilsport. But, I turn them off as she requests, and instead look for the right temperature of water.
Eventually, we settle on warm water, and I let it run over her hair. Her eyes close as it does, and I thank goodness that she’s finally relaxing. I tease her hair out so that all of it can be wetted, and grab a shampoo bottle with another hand. I press an ample amount into my hand, and massage it into the dark, soaked auburn. From root to tip, I try my best to make sure every hair is cleaned. As I wash some of her bangs, she lets out an adorable moan. I smile upon hearing it, but she closes her mouth, and opens her eyes, immediately, and tries to get up- I push her down, lightly, by the neck.
When she looks at me, I smile sweetly.
She seems a bit agitated, but when I begin to condition her hair, it does not take long for her eyes to close again. Her breathing steadies quickly, and I pull every few hairs apart to make sure they’re treated.
When I’m done, I wash all of the product out of her hair, and stop the sink.
When I get her a towel, I let her sit up, and rub her neck and nape gently. I move the towel up her head, over her ears and sides, and eventually let it down near the side of the chair. I’d normally put it in the hamper, but the lavender is hypnotic.
Turning her to face the mirror, I grab a comb and my scissors. Combing out her hair, I ask her, “What happened here? You didn’t pay someone to do this to you, did you?”
The hair on her right side is cut up to her nape, in a jagged fashion, and the hair on her left stretches to her shoulder. Her bangs are cut up above her eyebrows. Everything looks like it was done with a pair of rusty house scissors.
“Well, I got angry with someone I know, we got into a big argument. She said I was more keen on keeping my hair done than I was on actually working on cases.. So I cut it myself to prove a point.”
I continue to comb it out as I listened to the story. When she stops, I ask, “Well, then, I can see why it looks like this… what are we gonna do to fix it?”
She sighs, deeply, saying, “Well, I shouldn’t have called her bluff, because I actually did like having long hair.. Just save as much of it as you can, I guess.”
I grimace to myself- that wasn’t gonna be a lot. The lavender calms me, but I hate to tell her, “I think the best I can do is a long pixie.”
She nods. I grab a black cape I’d left on the counter, and snap it around her neck.
I begin quickly, holding up strands from the back of her head and clipping them off to her nape. Long, still moist strands of auburn fall off the scissors and onto the floor. A bit to the right, the strands clipped off are shorter. To her rightmost side, I do as little as possible to keep length but give the impression that a professional was involved.
I smile at her when I go to take my spray bottle, and she smiles at me. Wetting her hair again, I set about clipping short pieces off to style her correctly. When I stop to run my hands over the hair on the back of her head, she leans into me. I smile, and run both my hands over her nape, telling her, “You know, this hair is very fluffy, and so thick. It’s obvious that you usually take care of it. You’ve been having a bad couple of days, that’s all.”
She closes her eyes, and says, “Y-yeah… I’m under a lot of stress…”
I run my hand over her neck, and take her chin, whispering in her ear, “Am I helping at all?”
“Y-yes.. A lot, thank you..”
I smirk, and run my free hand through her bangs, and over the hair on the top of her head. She lets her mouth fall open, panting just a bit.
I move in front of her, not removing my hand from her chin, and climb sideways onto her lap. She pants harder, and I stick my tongue out at her. Grabbing my scissors, I clip a millimeter off her bangs on one side, and bring my face in close to look at her.
She looks deep into my eyes, and my eyes lull as I move in to kiss her.
She doesn’t pull away, so I have to after a few seconds. I smile at her, and she smiles at me dumbly. Her tired eyes sparkle in the light.
Pulling off her lap, I style the front of her head- luckily, it’s taken the least damage. Long auburn strands fall to her shoulders, and onto her cape. As I comb out what’s left, she leans her head back, enjoying my movements.
When I go to leave my scissors and comb on the bar, I grab a brush- as I walk to her, I know that being brushed now won’t be the same as it might have been before, but I am determined to give her something to love about her new cut.
I drag the brush down the side of her head slowly, avoiding her ears with the bristles, pulling her hair behind it. I drag it down the back of her head just a bit more slowly, and feel her shiver just slightly.
By the time I get to her other side, I notice something. I put her to sleep.
I smile, gently, and put my brush down quietly.
I silently pull the cape off, and let it flutter to the floor. When I put my arms underneath her, she’s not heavy at all, so I pick her up gently and carry her to my bed. I leave a spare blanket over her, and tiptoe out.
I take a soda from the kitchen and put out the burner and lights in the salon, and go to watch the ocean. The waves are always soothing to me- come, and recede. Come, and recede…
When I come to, it’s because my door jingles.
My customer comes out, fully clothed, and looking happy. She has possibly the cutest bedhead I’ve ever seen, and comes directly to me. I get a big hug, and she tells me, “You are amazing. That’s the best time I’ve had since.. Nevermind. Thank you so much for helping me.”
I smile at her, and ask gently, “You do know, that could be every day. I don’t want to nose in on your life, but when you came here, you looked like hell itself was after you. And I don’t like to imagine you going back to that.”
She smiles wider at me, saying, “I’d love to stay with you, but you’ve already done more than I deserve. And unfortunately, I’ve got the kind of life that you just can’t abandon. Or hell really will follow me.”
She kisses me on the forehead.
“If I’m ever around this area again, I’ll come back. I promise.”
I nod at her, and she stands up straight. She’s taller than I remember.
When she walks away, it’s with the presence of someone no longer haunted by angry spirits. I’m happy for her.
The waves mask her steps after a minute. I sigh, and look up to see the stars. I’d better go in, before it gets too very late.
In my shop, on the counter, I find a small bag. I nearly have a heart attack when I find fifty times my usual fee for a cut, and my heart stops for a moment when I find an instant-developed picture of her smiling face.
I will enjoy the money, greatly, but the photo will be by my beside from now on.