Employee Perks

Story Categories:

Story Tags:

Views: 2,743 | Likes: +46

“Enjoy your drink! See you again soon,” Katrina half-exclaimed as she handed the pink-faced businessman his iced latte.

She let out a little huff the moment he walked out of the cafe, peering up at the clock to count down the last 10 minutes of her shift before she could scurry off to band practice. Extra shifts had not been doing much good to her sleep schedule, but she was adamant to keep at it despite the workload from school piling on her.

How she would’ve loved to just collapse right there and then, lie down on that oh-so comfortable countertop and just nap—

“Trina?” her eyes shot open as she heard that familiar voice. She turned to face Celine, always clad in her prim and proper blouse with trousers. Being the boss, Celine was allowed to wear whatever she wanted, but it still befuddled Katrina why the woman decided on the most restrictive office attire whenever she did her shifts. Regardless, she still pulled off the outfits so well— even if it tended to feel out of place. “You alright?” Her voice was always firm, but had a hint of motherliness to it.

“Y-Yeah!” Katrina sprung up, thankful she didn’t miss any customers while she was on the brink of dozing off. “Just been some tiring days at school, that’s all,” she tried to brush it off.

“Mm,” Celine made her signature sound, the one everyone knew as the ‘don’t try to bullshit me’. “Are you in a rush after this?” her tone of concern grew.

“Uhh… somewhat, but I can delay-”

“No no, I won’t hold you back then. Let’s just use the last few minutes of your shift,” she briskly insisted before sticking her head through the service window of the kitchen. “Charlie? Come out here for a sec, just need you to watch the front while I have a short chat with Trina.”

“Got it, Boss,” Trina heard the echo from inside the kitchen before Celine stuck her head back out to face the younger woman.

“Come on, my office— I won’t take long,” Celine beckoned to Katrina before walking off. Katrina followed timidly from behind, and it didn’t help her nerves at all when Charlie gave her an inaudible “good luck” after popping out of the kitchen.

It had been a while since Katrina saw the little office of the cafe, and it always impressed her how neat Celine kept the entire space. But like most workplaces, it always gave off that eeriness to it— either you were getting promoted, or it was just plain harsh news. The former seemed ghastly unlikely.

“Have a seat, Trina,” Celine motioned to the chair in front of her as she sat herself on the edge of the desk.

Katrina slowly sat herself down, her heart in her mouth wondering what sort of news was going to come. “I saw you signed yourself up for shifts for this whole week,” Celine started, picking up the clipboard that listed the shift roster for the cafe.

“Yeah…” Katrina followed.

“And didn’t you mention it was your finals season around the corner?” She shot a quizzical look at Katrina. “Don’t you have to study? And your submissions and all?” Celine asked, the tone of concern evident.

“I do— but, it’s fine, really. I can juggle it, don’t worry,” she half-lied, knowing darn well she’d been struggling for a while now.

“Almost dozing off on your shift doesn’t look like a very comfortable juggle to me,” Celine chided, her lips forming a thin line as she regarded Katrina.

Katrina sighed, staring guiltily at her lap. The truth is, moving away from her family to study for uni hadn’t been the easiest life— her dorm rent was due soon, and she’d been hell-bent on living the independent life trying not to depend on her parents’ aid at all, which was going decently so far. Working part-time at the cafe was the best opportunity she saw, and she did everything she could to throw herself at every possible shift she could get just to make ends meet.

“Hey,” Celine gently placed a hand on Katrina’s shoulder, “you sure you’re okay, Trina?” She asked, this time with a genuine warmth to it.

“Uh— yeah, I just… even with finals I still need the money for rent, and I guess I’ve just been a bit overwhelmed this week. I’m sorry, I’ll make sure I’m at 100% tomorrow onwards, I promise,” Katrina pledged herself, looking up to face Celine whose wrinkles of sternness had been replaced by concern.

Celine paused for a moment, folding her arms as her face shifted into a sort of thinking trance. She picked up the shift roster again, staring at the current week’s schedule.

“You signed yourself for a full shift tomorrow, didn’t you? I’ll tell you what. No need to come to work tomorrow. I’ll cover your shift,” Celine started.

“What? No no, please, Celine, I swear I can do it-“

“Take the day off to get some rest and some studying done. I’ll cover your shift, but you’ll still get full pay for a full shift tomorrow,” Celine interrupted to continue herself.

Katrina raised a brow. “You… you’re paying me to take a day off?”

“On one condition,” Celine put down the clipboard, shifting her attention upwards— towards Katrina’s mousy, brown hair that was always down and a little disheveled. She glanced for a short while before reaching into her handbag on the table for something. She got out what seemed to be a name card before handing it to Katrina. “Promise me you’ll take the time to get a haircut.”

“Oh,” Katrina was even more dumbstruck now as she accepted the card, unsure how to approach such a proposition.

“Not that there’s anything ‘wrong’ with your hair, but I thought it’d be nice for you to have a chance to do something about it. I’m a firm believer that a good haircut helps to turn things around. That’s my wife’s name card, she owns a place not too far from here. No need to worry about payment— I’ll let her know you’re coming tomorrow and she’ll take care of you,” Celine instructed.

Katrina instinctively touched her hair which was tied up neatly into a ponytail. She couldn’t really remember the last time she had it cut— it was probably before she even moved away for Uni. While she’s never had it plenty long before, she was always comfy keeping it about shoulder-length and maybe even sometimes at chin-length. Now that she had been busy almost every day either at work or school, she realised she never really did have the time to get something done about it, and she wouldn’t disagree that it was starting to look a bit drab at times. And now she was being granted a perfect opportunity— a paid day-off with a free haircut included. She didn’t know what to think. “Thank you, Celine,” Katrina expressed, hazarding a small smile.

“Don’t thank me yet. You make sure you have a good rest tonight, then make the time to see my wife tomorrow. Then I want to see you energised with a fresh, neat haircut on Thursday. Okay?” Celine repeated the terms to Katrina.

“Okay,” Katrina affirmed with a nod.

“That’s my girl. You can go now. Don’t forget to clock out.”

*

Katrina had always looked forward to band practice, but that evening went by in an odd blur. It was typically the highlight of her week to be slamming the drum kit and releasing her pent up frustrations, but that night she felt more… cautious. She knew she should’ve been enjoying herself a lot more, especially with the news of a paid day off coming. Yet, she just couldn’t help a feeling of trepidation that crept up in her, feeling that it may not just be a “free” day off.

It definitely wasn’t an orthodox thing to have your boss give you a paid day off while also ‘scheduling’ a free haircut. When Katrina got back to her dorm room, she took out the little name card that Celine had given her earlier that day.

“Sam’s Cuts” was the name of the place, and she recognised the address being just a few streets down from the cafe. She probably walked through that street numerous times, but Katrina couldn’t recall ever seeing a salon of any sort around the area. Finding out that Celine’s wife was a stylist was definitely a curious revelation. Katrina always wondered how Celine was able to keep her short bob looking so sharp all the time. Having a wife that cuts hair probably helped— Katrina could only imagine the frequent trims Celine could be able to snag whenever she wanted.

Katrina eventually found herself in front of her little vanity in her dorm room, running a brush through her mousy mane that edged comfortably past her shoulders. While Celine was being tactful when commenting on Katrina’s hair, Katrina couldn’t help but agree on the sentiment— she looked rather ghastly. It had been at least a few months since her last haircut, and having it grow to proper-long with its uneven layers had been a slight thorn in her side that only became more annoying as time went on. This free haircut was going to be a boon— but why did she still feel nervous?

At the back of her mind Katrina was wondering how she was going to get it cut. Maybe just trim it to just above her shoulders? Or maybe get it to her previous chin-length? Though there was a gnawing thought lingering, wondering if this was all some sign to just get it cut short and make this free haircut worth it…

She kept the business card back in her wallet, trying to clear her mind as she prepared for bed. She was gonna worry about it all in the morning— now, she was going to take that good night’s rest that she’d been craving for so long.

*

Katrina awoke to her usual morning alarm for work days, only to remember that she practically didn’t have a shift that day. She cursed herself for not setting a later alarm as she turned it off, but by then her body had refused to go back to bed. She sat on her bedside with a huff, accepting that she was just going to start her day off early. She headed straight for the bathroom after making her bed, peering into the mirror nonchalantly just as the pang of nervousness returned.

Her hand instinctively went to her head of hair, remembering what she had to do that day. She tried to fight the jitters, going right into the shower to douse herself in warm water as the conversation she had with Celine was playing back in her head.

“I want to see you energised with a fresh, neat haircut…” the words rung as she shampooed her lengthy mane. There was just something about the way she said it that felt… stringent. Almost like Celine didn’t want to be disappointed by how Katrina was going to look when she came back to work on Thursday.

She tried to shake it off as she left the shower, towel drying herself as she took a glance at herself in the bathroom mirror. It probably would be best to just get the haircut over and done with— better than having the thought of it looming over her throughout the day. But why she was feeling so nervous about it was still perplexing. Surely, it was just going to be like any other time?

*

“Wait, what?” Katrina stopped in her tracks, squinting as she took a double take. She took another look at the business card Celine gave, cross-checking the address with the navigation app on her phone. “It’s supposed to be right here, but… no way, is this it?” She whispered to herself in disbelief.

Everything pointed to the place right in front of her, but it just didn’t seem… right. At least to her expectations. For one, the swirling barber pole near the door definitely threw her off.

She scrutinised the business card again, trying to see if she had missed any mention of it being a barbershop. Surely it would’ve specified the shop a little more, but she realised the card never mentioned anything about a barbershop or even a salon— just “haircuts for all” below its title.

Katrina sighed, pocketing the card in her jeans as she nervously inched forward to see if the inside could’ve yielded a bit more information. She hazarded a peek, looking through the huge window that spanned practically the entire width of the shop. It seemed like a cozy establishment to her— there were just two barber chairs with a workstation in front of each of them. Each workstation had a dresser attached to the wall with all sorts of tools on it, and just above it was a huge mirror. The inside was dim, and didn’t seem to have any customers— even the waiting bench against the opposite wall was empty. Then again, it was still about nine a.m. in the morning on an uneventful Wednesday.

Katrina turned to the door, realising that the sign was turned to “Open”. Just below it she could see the opening hours: “9am – 9pm daily”. “Hmm, but no one inside,” Katrina thought to herself, not knowing whether to come back later or to wait outside awkwardly till someone came. Or maybe should she just try and enter-

The backdoor of the shop that was beside the main counter opened, and out of the corner of Katrina’s eye she saw the figure enter the shop. She walked in with a confident strut, dressed in a black crop top and skinny jeans with a green flannel as a form of outerwear. But what really stood out was when Katrina looked a little more upwards. She had the most awesome undercut style that Katrina ever saw, with the sides and back shaved almost to the skin while her hair on top was in a wavy sort of quiff. Katrina tried to pull away, wanting to turn away and look nonchalant as if she was just passing by. But she found herself rooted by the window, awestruck and out of breath. Could this really be Celine’s wife? Celine, the strict, wants-everything-done-well boss, married to someone that seemed so… cool?

Almost as if she could sense it, the lady turned to face her observer. She gave a welcoming smile as she made eye contact with the dumbfounded girl. And that was it— Katrina couldn’t just back away now. No way she could turn and leave— even if she did she was going to have to come back eventually, and imagine the embarrassment when the person inside realised it was her yet again. She was going to have to do this now. So out her hand reached towards the door, pushing down the handle as she took a huge gulp.

“Hello! Someone’s up early for a haircut,” the woman in the store cheerily greeted, her smile never wavering.

“Hi,” Katrina timidly replied, her cheeks almost flushing now that she could truly appreciate the other woman’s beauty up close. “I- uhm, Celine uh, recommended me this place,” she bit her lower lip, cursing herself for stammering so much as she fished out the business card her boss gave her.

“Oh, you must be Katrina!” she seemed so excited. “I’m Sam. Celine told me you’d be coming, but I didn’t think you’d be here first thing in the morning. You must be quite the punctual employee, ay?” She tried to break the ice as she walked forward to extend a hand.

Katrina shook Sam’s hand weakly, feeling almost unworthy to be in the presence of such beauty. Being this close to Sam, she could really take in every bit of charm that the woman exuded. There was just something about her style that screamed so much confidence and power that Katrina envied— a level that Katrina could only have dreamed of reaching. While Celine had the elegance of propriety, Sam seemed to be the wildfire of allure that was like a foil to her wife. Katrina couldn’t help but feel inferior in their individual presences— imagine ever having to be in the same room as the both of them.

“Come come, have a seat,” Sam urged as she spun the chair that was closer to the window around, patting it on the back. “Let’s get you looking fresh and fabulous to start the day,” she excitedly said.

Katrina complied as she moved towards the barber chair, which definitely seemed so much more elaborate than the simple salon chairs she’d been used to. She placed a foot on the footrest, holding onto the armrests before lowering herself into the cushioned seat. “Ooh,” the delight escaped from her lips as she took in the unexpected comfort of the chair.

“I’ve heard quite a bit about you,” Sam started, turning the chair to let her customer face the mirror.

“Good things, I hope?” Katrina took a moment to regard herself, with her chestnut brown hair tied up off her face in a ponytail while she sat rather meekly in the big chair. Her eyes trailed to a mini photo frame that stood by the corner of the dresser. “No way,” she whispered under her breath when she realised who the two beaming women in the picture were. In between Celine and Sam was an adorable cat, and they were tightly embracing it together. Katrina chuckled— she never thought she’d ever see Celine smiling so brightly ever, but perhaps Sam was the key to all of that.

“You were the one that spilt lemonade on your first day, right?” Sam continued as she peered through the cupboard that was by the main counter.

“Y-yes, that was me,” Katrina’s cheeks coloured even more, realising Sam knew more about her than she thought. She wondered what other horror stories Celine must’ve let slip to her gorgeous wife. “I assume she’s told you all the awful things I’ve done?”

“Nah, just the funny ones. But don’t worry, she loves all her staff regardless. Never met a boss that cared for their employees as much as her,” Sam mused as she returned to the chair, with a pinstriped cape slung over her forearm.

“Really?” Katrina raised a brow skeptically.

“I know, I know, it’s probably hard to see that coming from someone that’s so strict and proper all the time. The office attire at work also doesn’t help, I’m sure. And don’t get me started on her hair,” Sam said as she tore off a strip of neck tissue from a roll on the workstation dresser. “Every few weeks she sits in this chair faithfully and gets me to trim it nicely above her jaw and shape her bangs perfectly above her brows” she continued.

“She must love having a barber for a wife,” Katrina commented as Sam wrapped the tissue securely around Katrina’s neck. This was a procedure she wasn’t used to.

“Tell me about it. In fact, now that I think about it, I’ve never actually seen her hair ever going past her chin or her eyebrows,” Sam observed as she unfolded the pin-striped cape. She flung it artfully above Katrina, letting it drape her entire body save for her feet before securing the ends behind her neck. “But underneath that guise of discipline and neatness is a heart of gold, and I wouldn’t have her any other way.”

Katrina couldn’t help but smile, her heart warming as she heard Sam speak so adoringly of her wife. It definitely seemed like a case of opposites attracting each other, and it was probably the sweetest story she’d ever heard in a while. She returned her attention to the mirror eventually, wondering what an odd sight it was in the grand scheme of things— to see herself all caped up and ready for a haircut in a barbershop.

Sam undid her customer’s ponytail, letting Katrina’s brown mane pour across her back. “Now, how would you like your hair cut today?” Sam eventually shot the fateful question as she warmly placed her hands on her customer’s shoulders.

“Uhm…” Katrina’s head raced, the thoughts from the previous night playing around her. “Just… something simple. I usually just get it cut to about my collarbone, sometimes to chin-length. Nothing all that fancy— don’t really enjoy having to style it much, y’know? I just leave it in a ponytail most of the time anyway,” Katrina requested rather vaguely, biting her lower lip.

“Ah, so you just want your hair easy to take care of, fuss-free kinda thing?” Sam asked.

Katrina replied with an agreeable “mm”. Sam picked up her comb from the dresser, running the teeth through Katrina’s brown locks. She combed out the natural part as she inspected her customer’s hair, glancing into the mirror to get a feel of it all. She ran a finger down from Katrina’s crown, curiously stopping just shy above the ear.

“Have you ever thought about cutting it short?” Sam enunciated the last word, almost trying to see if it could evoke a reaction out of Katrina.

“You mean like, a shorter bob?” Her eyes perked up.

“Shorter, actually,” Sam tried to keep her tone calm. “I mean, if you think about it, if you want something easier to manage you can always get rid of the bulk of it. Give you something lighter to carry that you don’t have to worry much about. You said it yourself, it’s in a ponytail most of the time anyway. Best type of simple is short, if you ask me.”

“Oh. Well, I never really thought of it that way,” Katrina half-lied. “But, I don’t know, I don’t think I have the face for short hair,” she confessed.

“Nonsense, dear. You’d look amazing with short hair. You’ve got features just dying to be shown off more,” Sam tried to convince Katrina, standing towards her front to look directly into her face.

“Y-you think so?” Katrina was cautious. All her life she’d never heard a single hairstylist suggest short hair to her, let alone discuss how it might look. It was a thought she never knew she had to face so suddenly.

“Absolutely. I guarantee you, it’ll look spectacular,” Sam promised. Katrina looked at herself in the mirror, turning her head from side to side. All her life she’d only ever known her face with ample hair, and now she was given the chance to change so much of that. Could she do it?

“I know it sounds scary, but all I’m saying is to trust me this one time. I make sure no one leaves my shop looking short of fabulous, and I don’t intend to make you the first— especially not one of Celine’s girls,” Sam continued, sporting a coaxing smile.

Katrina looked at Sam now, impressed at the woman’s persistence. Yet again that charm Sam gave off was just overpowering, and Katrina found herself slowly trusting her. Was it her speech? The way she carried herself? Her impeccable style? Maybe altogether, it all worked in such a powerful force. She couldn’t just turn down the tantalizing offer from someone she so quickly looked up to already.

Katrina sighed.

“Okay, I trust you.”

“Great! You won’t regret this,” Sam excitedly assured with a squeeze on her customer’s shoulder.

Almost on queue, Sam began gathering Katrina’s hair back into its ponytail. She tied the band a lot higher now, much closer to the scalp. “Are you ready?” Sam sparklingly asked as she raised a pair of scissors beside her customer’s head.

A semi-confident “mhm” was all that escaped the wide-eyed woman in the chair. Her eyes were glued to the mirror— watching as the scissored hands disappeared behind her head.

Shnick, shnick, shnick…

Katrina gripped the armrests, holding her breath as it all happened so quickly.

Shnick, shnick, SNIP

The tension at the back of her head was released, and locks of her hair brushed forward to hug her cheeks just above her chin. Katrina was faced with a foreign image of her in the mirror, with a rough bob that was the shortest her hair had ever been. There was no going back now.

What did I just do? Katrina thought to herself, the realisation hitting her like a truck.

“That’s the easy part done,” Sam announced, wiggling the severed ponytail in her hands. “Feels lighter already doesn’t it?” she gave a smirk as she set the limp, feathery stalk that was connected to Katrina’s head just a moment ago on the counter. Katrina wistfully regarded her severed hair— there lay so many years of washing and shampooing, with its ups and downs and frizzes and straightenings. All gone after a few simple snips. All it took was Sam to say the right words, and it all aligned to this path.

She snapped back to reality when she felt Sam’s fingers on her head. She’d returned with a bunch of clips, all neatly arranged on her shirt. She took out the clips one by one to hold the top section of Katrina’s hair in place while she combed the sides and the back flat down, with the division running a straight line around Katrina’s head about an inch above her ear.

“Now we get to the fun part,” Sam announced as she went over to the dresser to unhook an item. “Have you ever had these used on you before?” She asked as she excitedly waved the hair clippers. The wide-eyed Katrina shook her head. “Well you’re in for a real treat,” the older woman teased as she selected an attachment to fix onto the clippers’ head. “Don’t worry, they don’t hurt at all. They’ll just tickle a bit.” She flicked the switch, and with a pop it hummed to life.

Katrina eyed the droning clippers— this black, foreign implement that seemed so menacing with its teeth all jutting out. This entire visit has just been an escalating affair since she got in, and all she could do was sit quietly and hope her trust wasn’t misplaced. As soon as Sam had positioned the clippers right on her cheekbone, and she felt warm, vibrating blades on her skin, she knew that trust was going to be tested very soon.

“Ready?” Sam spared a look at Katrina in the mirror, who was still clearly in a state of nervousness.

“Mm” was all she could say as she mustered her courage, and then felt the clippers going up into her hair.

Bzzzaaaa

Katrina squinted as the blades chewed her hair and her scalp felt the tickle. When Sam reached the end of the section, she gave the clippers a firm flick as it sent the shorn hair plunging onto the cape with a plop. Katrina bit her tongue the moment she saw the length that fell, and it clamped down harder when she saw the length left behind. Was that her skin she could see under the really short hairs?

But Sam never gave her customer much time to ponder— she immediately repositioned and dove back in with the clippers.

Bzzzaaa bzzzaaa bzzzaaa

Katrina could only watch in silent apprehension as the clippers did their work, sending her locks in a free fall onto the cape as the right side was being shorn. While the clippers did tickle a fair bit, she had to admit there was an oddly warm comfort to it— almost like a massage. It didn’t take long for the right side to be done and Sam was moving onto the back section.

“Head down for me,” she instructed as Katrina relented to the older woman’s touch. She felt the clippers start at her lower neck as it swiftly moved up into her nape. It was even more ticklish here— her neck had always been more sensitive than most parts, and she had to bite down her lip to make sure she didn’t chuckle. It certainly didn’t help feeling her loose locks tumbling past her neck, but the little neck tissue definitely helped— and suddenly its purpose made a lot more sense to Katrina.

Sam worked with a calm efficiency, manoeuvring the clippers steadily without it ever catching uncomfortably into the long locks. It didn’t take long before the back was to her liking, and she tilted Katrina’s head back up. She moved to her left side now, starting right at the cheekbone like she did on the right.

Katrina observed as that last section was being mowed down, with the clippers going on its free reign all over her temple and side. She watched the last long lock being clipped right off as it went tumbling into the mound of hair that had been growing on the pinstriped cape— probably the largest bulk of loose hair she’d ever seen in her life. Soon enough Sam was just running the clippers over the sides and back once more to even it all out. Katrina could only sit and accept that image of herself in the mirror— this bohemian sight of her sides buzzed closely to her scalp while the rest of her on her crown still clung to her head, almost like an undercut. Dear god, she thought, is she cutting my hair like hers?

When the sides and back felt even enough, Sam went back to the dresser and fiddled the other clipper attachments. She fixed on a new one and flicked the clippers back on, restarting from Katrina’s right yet again. This time she aimed low with the clippers— starting from sideburns and stopping just about midway beside the ear. She made gentle strokes as she slowly made her way with the clippers around the head.

Katrina couldn’t really see much clippings of hair falling, though she could soon see the shorter length that was left behind. Sam seemed to be working a sort of taper that left the sides looking neat.

When the tapering was done all over, Sam replaced the big clippers with a mini, white one. She flicked them on as it’s high, whirring sound filled the room. While this one may have been smaller, it’s more menacing sound definitely didn’t help Katrina’s nerves.

Sam went back to work on the sideburns, cleaning up the stray hairs as she slowly moved around to shape the hair to her liking. While the sideburns took little time, she spent a considerable time at the back making sure it was lined up perfectly. Katrina could only wonder how straight it must look like— though she wouldn’t complain about how the buzzing comfortably felt on her skin.

Soon enough the whirring sound stopped, and Sam was dusting off her customer’s nape and sides with a hand. Katrina bit her lip when she realised how close she felt Sam’s fingers to her skin— all this time she could only see the damage, but she wasn’t prepared for how it was going to feel.

“How’re you holding up?” Sam broke the silence as she returned to the dresser to put back the clippers, sparing the woman in the chair a comforting smile.

“I’m alright,” Katrina tried to push out a smile.

“It’s always scary the first time, but once you go short it’s hard to go back,” Sam chuckled. “The sides and back feel cooler already?” She teased.

“I’ve never felt this much air on my head, it’s so weird,” Katrina admitted, turning her head slightly from side to side to take in the buzzed portions.

“Wait till you get in the shower— ooh, the first shower after you chop it all off is divine,” Sam reminisced as she returned to the chair, this time armed with a spray bottle and comb.

She unclipped the top section now, letting the much longer locks fall as she combed them all down. For a brief moment, it seemed like she still had a bob— the undercut couldn’t really be seen, and Katrina thought it looked kinda cool. Sam began misting the top sections as she combed through the hair. The little droplets of water that we’re sliding down Katrina’s head were definitely giving her the chills— was this a preview of the first shower after the cut?

When the hair was sufficiently damp, Sam replaced the bottle with a pair of scissors. She began combing Katrina’s hair away from her face, then started by picking out a small section on the right. She ran the comb up through the section of hair, then dove right in with the scissors. Snip snip snip. Large chunks of hair fell and fell fast, raining onto the cape as Sam combed back up for another bout. Snip snip snip.

Katrina sat in awe as Sam worked so expertly with the scissors— she’d never seen a stylist work that quickly yet so efficiently. Every time a section was done, she combed out another section and continued with the shears. It was hard to tell the length that it was being cut to, but Katrina knew it was way above the ears.

She moved all around the head as she worked quickly, using the scissor over comb technique to reduce most of the length. Katrina tried hard not to glance down at the ever-growing mound of hair, instead trying to mesmerise herself watching Sam. There was this vigour to her as she was cutting away— that meticulous look she had while practising her craft.

It wasn’t long before Sam was on the last long section— probably the most anticipated part of the haircut. She stood in front of Katrina as she combed out the bangs section, making sure she had a good angle to approach the crucial part. She started from the centre, carefully resting the scissors on the forehead as the cold steel sent chills through Katrina. Snip snip snip

Katrina shut her eyes as she felt the locks rain past her face. She could’ve sworn the scissors were somewhere in the middle of her forehead— way higher than any bangs she’d ever gotten. But Sam kept slicing away, and all Katrina could do was sit like a sheep.

“That’s more like it,” Sam remarked as she finished, combing down what was left of the younger woman’s fringe. Katrina opened her eyes, realising she could see right in front of her— free from all that hair that was just hanging there a minute ago. Oh god, what did I just do?

Sam ruffled through what was left of Katrina’s hair, flaring up her goosebumps as she felt how close her hand was to her scalp. A tinge of dissatisfaction still stirred on Sam’s face. She turned to pick up the thinning shears, but still staying rooted so that Katrina couldn’t catch a glimpse of the mirror. She methodically ran the shears through the hair on top, removing the excess bulk as mini tufts of hair rained around Katrina’s head.

After a few thorough snips, she placed the scissors back down and ruffled through the hair again. Weird as it was, Katrina rather enjoyed the feeling of someone just running their hand through her hair like that— she could tell it was drastically short, but at this point she was just trying to take in whatever comfort she could before having to face the final reveal. This time Katrina was all smiles, clearly proud of her handiwork.

“Excited to see the new you?” Sam gave a playful smirk, knowing darn well her customer was probably dying of anticipation.

“Does it look good?” she asked as she nervously peered into the eyes of her barberette.

“Darling, “good” isn’t even the half of it,” Sam reassured as she shimmied to the side.

Katrina spent a good few seconds just staring— registering that image in the mirror that looked absolutely nothing like her. The girl’s hair was really short on the sides but was cut in a beautiful taper that went upwards into her crown. Her hair on top was longer, but not too long— her fringe was comfortably cut past the middle of her forehead. Who was this girl that was staring back with such a short yet splendid haircut?

“No way that’s me,” she blurted out, turning from side to side as she tried to accept the reality.

“What did I tell you? You let me do my magic, and I make you look spectacular,” Sam boasted, looking very full of herself— rightfully so. “Let me show you the back,” she said as she picked up the hand mirror from the dresser. She held it up for Katrina, who took in the artful taper that was at the back of her head. “I didn’t want to make it too short, but I did give you a subtle V-line at the bottom here to make it really sleek,” she narrated as she traced the neckline. “I made sure the sideburns were a little pointed as well to add that extra edginess to the look,” she continued as she lightly fingered the sides.

“It’s really cool,” Katrina admitted, slowly accepting the image in front of her as she got a hand out to physically inspect the sides and back. “Oh wow,” she closed her eyes in delight, feeling the prickly locks brush her against her hand.

“Nothing beats the first time,” Sam mused as she put down the mirror. “Now, I cut the top short enough that it won’t get in your eyes, but I still left it long enough that you have options to style it with,” she continued to describe the cut, ruffling through the length on top now. “You can wake up in the morning and just part it to the side or leave it down, and you’re good to go,” she swept the textured fringe to the right. “Easy to look after and doesn’t get in your eyes at all— perfect low maintenance style for you.

“But if you ever wanna spice it up a bit,” she added as she opened a little tub of hair product, taking a dime size of the substance to rub in her palms. “A little pomade can go a long way to make it look really cute,” she said as she ran it through Katrina’s hair, leaving it up in a short quiff.

“Looks like I might have to get some pomade on the way back later,” Katrina quipped, admiring the slick look that was in the mirror.

“Y’know what? Don’t worry about it, I’ll sponsor you one.”

“Wait- what? No, no, you’re already giving me a free ha-”

“No no, I insist,” she interrupted as she fished out a fresh tub from the cabinet. “Of all of Celine’s girls, yours is probably the shortest I’ve cut. I think it’s only fair for the bravest one that gave me free control over her hair,” she complimented with a wink. “Now, let’s get this off of you,” she said as she undid the neck tissue and the cape. She gave Katrina’s neck and sides a good dusting with the neck brush before whooshing the cape off, dusting it to let all the hair tumble onto the floor.

Katrina slowly got to her feet, feeling so lightheaded from all that excess weight that disappeared. She kept her eyes glued to the mirror— still absorbing this foreign spectacle that she was probably going to take a lot of time to get used to. She couldn’t help but think of what Sam mentioned earlier that seemed to gnaw at the back of her head.

“What you said just now… were all the other employees from the cafe referred to you by Celine as well?” she had to ask.

“I think almost all of them, yeah,” Sam replied. “I mean, it’s a small way to help business I guess. First haircut for every employee is always free, every subsequent haircut’s at a discount as well. It’s not full price, but it’s a pretty steady stream of regulars that I’m more than happy to take.”

“Wait, most of them go here regularly?”

“You can ask them yourself. I won’t toot my horn too much, but I’d like to think they come back for me, and not just for the discount,” Sam gestured proudly to herself.

Suddenly it all made sense— everyone at work actually had really good haircuts. Not a single employee ever came to work with a terrible hairstyle, and perhaps it was because they all shared a fashionable barberette that knew how to take care of her clientele. And now Katrina was suddenly made the latest addition.

“Be flattered. Celine doesn’t give all the employees that come through the cafe the haircut perk. If she’s brought you my way, it means she’s committed. Don’t tell her I told you, but it means she likes you, and thinks you’re a good fit for the cafe. And she’s never been wrong,” Sam elaborated.

Katrina was stumped hearing such words. Going through university far away from everything so familiar had been such a rocky experience, and few things had really been keeping her grounded. But now hearing that her boss, one of the more intimidatingly powerful people she’d ever met in her life, trusted in her was such a surreal thought— one that she couldn’t help but take comfort in.

“So this was like… some kind of rite of passage for cafe staff?”

“You could say that. Celine and I prefer seeing it as employee perks,” she simply said as she handed Katrina the unopened tub of pomade. “If you look good, you feel good. Gives a better outlook on life, I feel.”

“A good haircut helps to turn things around,” Katrina found herself saying the words she heard the previous day.

“Exactly what Celine says,” Sam smiled. “Now, I’m not gonna be telling Celine how short I cut your hair. I’m at most just going to tease her about it— so have fun surprising her next time you got a shift with her.”

“I’ll try,” Katrina said. “Thank you so much for the haircut. I never thought I’d do anything as crazy as this, but god it looks really good,” she professed.

“Thank you for trusting me,” Sam placed a hand on her shoulder. “I’m here to make people look their best, and I promised that you would leave looking fabulous. Just remember: a simple hairstyle doesn’t mean it has to be long and boring— simple can be short and exciting.”

 

*

Katrina couldn’t remember the last time she actually felt good walking into work, but it just felt different after such a refreshing day. It was still about half an hour till the cafe opened, and the only lights that were on were coming from the kitchen.

“Morning,” she merrily popped her head through the service window to greet whoever it was.

“Morning Kat- whoa,” Charlie’s mouth went agape. “Love the new hair. Sam’s place?”

“Yep. She’s so good,” Katrina said as she popped her head back out to start setting up the cafe for the day.

She picked up the shift roster for the day, chuckling as she realised she was going to be doing her shift with Celine. Of course she’d be sharing a shift with her— why would Celine want to miss the biggest hair reveal? God knows what sort of teasers Sam gave her wife the night before.

When Katrina heard the backdoor of the cafe open, she deliberately kept her head down as she counted the cash in the register.

“Morning. How’re you to- oh my god, Trina?!” the shocked voice cut through the room.

“Morning, Celine!” Katrina nonchalantly replied, mouthing the cash tally as she counted.

Celine stopped right in front of the other girl, rooted in place as she took the new image in. “Trina, whoa, you look amazing,” her mouth went agape in awe.

“Thank you,” Katrina blushed, trying not to give it away.

“But my goodness, it’s so short. I’m so sorry Sam took off so much length. All she told me was that you let her have free reign, but I didn’t think she’d be that ruthless,” Celine sounded genuinely remorseful.

“Nah, don’t worry about it. I really like it,” Katrina could comfortably proclaim now. “It was a big shock at first, not gonna lie. But it quickly grew on me, y’know? It was drastic, but it felt like a really good change.”

“And I can feel it too— that upbeat energy from you. You already seem so much more… electric.”

“Oh yeah, I had the most productive study day after my haircut, it was like magic. Everything just felt so much better.”

“I told you a good haircut can turn things around,” Celine smirkingly said. “I’m just happy it helped you feel better.”

Katrina looked up, still feeling that tinge of inferiority as she beheld Celine who was clad in her black blouse and office pants. But she felt better having to face her boss now— whether it was the new outlook she had or Sam’s words from the day before, there was a newfound trust she had in the older woman. Under all those layers of propriety was a motherly warmth— a determined woman that just wanted to look out for her colleagues. Going through school and such a foreign experience all alone had been tough, but at least she knew there was still someone looking out for her.

“Thank you, Celine,” Katrina expressed. “Thank you for believing in me.”

 

 

 

 

 

2 responses to “Employee Perks

Leave a Reply