Enforced Motivation (Part 2)

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Been sitting on this unfinished for a while, but decided to throw something together, enjoy… Follow up to Part 1

 

The adrenaline rush waned as she turned the final corner. She held her blazer over her head, shielding her newly shorn appearance from view. Another wave of relief crashed through her, the corridor sitting lifeless. Ten hurried strides later, she reached the bathroom: Sanctuary. Jess opened the door with caution, hoping to keep undue attention to a minimum. A startling crash emitted from the adjacent men’s room as someone burst out.

He looked familiar, recognisable. But something was off. She could’ve sworn those features matched a boy sporting wavy curtains. Jess struggled not to stare. His head covered by grainy stubble, a pale outline suggesting its freshness. It was so short. They exchanged a glance, telling Jess of their mutual experience.

She flung herself inside before either spoke, her heart racing again. Seconds later she was locked in a stall, scrambling to align her thoughts. She instinctively reached up to stroke the absent hair, only to meet the tapered fuzz in its place. She forced in deep breaths, shakily messaging the group chat.

 

Not feeling so good. You 2 have lunch, I’ll catch you later

OMG, J, do you need anything? Where are you?’ Lily typed back.

No, no. Just need some time. Be ready for Ms. Mitchell

 

Sarah and Lily met for lunch, concerned and worried as they found a seat in the hall.

“What the hell is this about??” Sarah jabbed at no one in particular.

“I hope she’s OK. Maybe Ms. Mitchell was harsher than usual…” Lily tried to calm Sarah.

“… Still, I’ve never seen Jess rattled like that. She’s been in these meetings before.”

“Let’s give her some time, check in as lunch ends or something? These exams are important, Mitchell probably went hard trying to convince her…” Lily thought aloud.

“… Yeah. Yeah, no, true. I guess we get to see later anyway…” Sarah sighed.

Brief spurts of chatter erupted whilst they ate, only to fall apart with the bizarre mood. There were whispers around school. Unsubstantiated claims resembling a boot camp induction. Both girls listened with a healthy grain of salt, knowing how rumours often are.

“… Was… Was that Ryan?” Lily questioned.

“… I… Don’t know. Doesn’t he have that floppy centre-part thing going on?” Sarah shared Lily’s curiosity.

“Right… But, like, it does look like him?”

“Yeah… Just, without hair…”

“Shame, he looked cute with it all wavy…” Lily ended, sounding dampened by the sight.

First, an outlier, just odd enough to draw attention. It stunned them for a minute or two before they moved on. Second, then third, then a couple more had them theorising as the dining hall population thinned.

“Is this some new trend? Or am I seeing things?… You don’t think… Do you?” Sarah asked.

“… That this is by the school?” Lily wondered about Sarah’s sanity. “Nah, how would they justify it? They can’t just say you can’t have hair, much less actually cut it…”

“Weird, though. Never noticed this before today, and all at once… Makes you wonder…” Sarah began dipping into the rumour mill, the bell shocking her off course. “Ah shit, 1:25pm. Look, I’ve got my thing now so, uh, catch you in a bit…”

Sarah wandered the bland, seemingly endless, hallways. She had time, but not to dawdle, especially if Ms. Mitchells mood was as deduced from Jess’ texts. It almost felt like a movie set. The same, even lighting, door after door of offices that didn’t seem to lead anywhere. Until… Bingo, room 12. With a spare minute, she spied her reflection in the blocked window, straightening out her blunt lob and heavy fringe.

“In, please…” Ms. Mitchell caught Sarah by surprise, issuing command and opening door simultaneously.

Sarah gathered herself and marched in, taking the open seat as an invitation. Tense was the perception she got from the room, assuming Jess probably got the dressing-down of a lifetime here.

“I apologise, earlier slots overran, so we’ll speed along.” The headteacher began. “Collectively, you must do better… Be better. We – well, I – believe it starts with discipline and motivation.”

“… Mhmm.” Sarah nodded along nervously.

“I’m glad you agree. We’re implementing something a tad more strict in the dress code to help with that.” Her smile grew. “There’s a few points, but the biggest regards hair…”

“Oh… Like certain dyed colours?” Sarah felt her palms begin to sweat and her confidence dissolving.

“… Yes, though a touch more thorough.” She remarked. “We’re aiming for more ‘neat and tidy’, from everyone.”

“I, I don’t know… You mean?…”

“I’m afraid there will need to be ‘restyling’. I’m surprised your friend didn’t mention it.” Mitchell added sass to a diplomatic tone. “It’s the same for all the ladies, so let’s crack on.”

“Woah, wait up. You want me to cut my hair?” Sarah raised her voice in confusion.

“Not want. Demand, perhaps? Your parents gave permission electronically, so it’s decided…” She flashed the email across Sarah’s face.

“I don’t think so. I’ve followed the rules, I’ve studied. What about the cost and time for an appointment…”

“Exactly, you’re nearly at the end, then you can grow it back… Don’t worry, we’ll cover the logistics.” Ms. Mitchell shouted for the hairdresser to enter after deflecting Sarah’s concerns. “… Right then, Miss. Bowl or Pixie?”

Sarah remained stubbornly silent, staring Mitchell down. It wasn’t secret that she experimented with different looks, leaving her feeling hypocritical. It wasn’t like she hadn’t been short before. In fact, her current shoulder-length style was a result of growing out last years ‘bixie’.

“… Well, Sarah? Quick, else I’ll select an alternative…” Ms. Mitchell warned.

“… Bowl, OK. I swear, if this is a joke…” Sarah backed down, letting frustration leak out.

With a nod, it was confirmed most definitely not a joke. A wrinkled black cape was thrust toward her. An awful mess of scratching and rustling rang through the air. Sarah remained unmoving, unwilling to assist. Her face firmly scowled.

“Good choice, I was beginning to think no one would choose it…” Ms. Mitchell was met with a glare.

The whole ‘forced’ part really took the fun out for Sarah. Usually she’d be jumping at the chance for something fresh and exciting. In different circumstances, she’d admit a bowl-cut had her intrigued. She’d never tried it before, after all.

The hairdresser worked fast, no doubt under extreme pressure to fulfil her obligations. Nothing was said, not even ‘sorry’ as she overtightened the cape in her rush. Unlike Jess, Sarah wasn’t afforded a drawn-out farewell. Plastic teeth ripped through her lengths with a brief but forceful combing. Her stick-straight hair cooperated where she wouldn’t. The headteacher smiled, flaring her eyes in delight to foreshadow the imminent.

POP

Clippers, a powerful Wahl’s set, took immediate authority of the soundscape. Sarah flinched, just slightly, but enough to show distress. The hairdresser piped up, her only words the firm warning:

“Don’t move…”

Sarah complied. She was frozen in fear, losing hold of the situation. Before she could regather her thoughts, she felt the touch:
Direct. Back of the head. About half an inch above level with top of her ears. Blades pressed precisely towards scalp, chewing away everything in-between. Sarah was left wide-eyed as they went in again. Tones shifted from within the clippers, in tune with the demand for cutting power. A sudden uptick in intensity, followed by an equal drop once through.

Each discarded slice of dense tresses hauntingly smacked against her caped shoulders, before dropping to the beige carpet. The haircut continued with callous efficiency. Bare-bladed clippers stamped out the crude outline circling around her skull – borderline deafening as they passed over her ear. Freshly released locks tickled on their exit path. Barely over a minute in, and she was practically unrecognisable.

Now, with the border set, the bulk was up for rapid removal. A wave of pressure and noise scratched across her scalp. Violent strokes, first taking her sideburn before progressing backward. Humming clippers flew up from her neckline, flinging the noir tresses away as it reached the summit. A sharp tingling filled the void of each pass, the chilling A/C air introducing itself to Sarah’s shorn head.

She gasped, tensing up with a jolt, drawing a grumble from her barber. After some touch-ups, the Wahl’s snapped into silence. Sarah’s heart raced. All the power she took from bold, ever-changing styles, had been turned against her. Stripped of glossy locks, she fought back tears. More for her lost control than any attachment to the length she previously held. Noticing this, Ms. Mitchell gave her version of a reassuring pep talk to quell any emotions.

“Oh do get it together, young lady. You’ve hardly lost anything compared to some…” She rolled her eyes.

There was no love lost between the two. Sarah gritted her teeth whilst the hairdresser circled her once more. A comb directed the remaining top section into formation, where the initial choppiness was traded for a sharp edge. Comb, tension, snip. It was robotic. The schnicks of precision crafted steel rung out around her. Finally, the last standing remnant of Sarah’s lob was to be taken, her fringe.

Several swipes of the comb set the scene. She looked up through her brow, eager to actually see something. Schnick. Schnick. Schnick. The full length of the blades made short work of the bangs, taking them up to the prescribed length. Perfectly in line with the mushroom-top, leaving the ends sat awkwardly mid forehead.

Just as quick as it all began, taking the cape with them, the hairdresser stepped back. Sarah’s jaw dropped, hanging open as she investigated the masses littered around her feet. ‘Shit, that looks like three people’s worth…’, she thought to herself. Unconsciously caressing her nape, she jumped, surprised at the sensation of its bareness. For a moment she forgot how she got there, or what was happening.

“Ahem.” Mitchell cleared her throat. “Blazer on, young lady. You’ll get an email for a tidy-up in two weeks. Off you go, now…”

Sarah glared back, realising what went on, but knew fighting was futile. She gathered her things and made a quiet exit. She checked the group chat. No update from Jess, but Sarah now understood why. She looked up from her phone to find a pair of younger boys staring at her.

“… Got a problem?” She snapped, causing them to scurry away before messaging the group.

Hey Jess, it’ll be OK. See u soon…

 

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