“It’s just not working for me anymore.”
The words were like a knife in Erin’s gut. “What do you mean?” she stammered, her voice fluttering under the assault. She leaned over the counter, brushing her long bangs up off her forehead. She switched her phone to her other ear. “I-I-I thought we were happy! We always laugh so much together.”
“Well, we can still laugh together if you want. I just don’t think we should date anymore.” Justin’s voice was mellow, matter-of-fact. But they had been dating over a year. This wasn’t a mellow, matter-of-fact topic. Erin’s head spun.
“Why not? You’re supposed to come with me to Thanksgiving this year with my family! What the fuck, Justin!?” her voice was raising as reality set in.
“Look, you’re just not what I’m looking for in a girl. I don’t want to sound mean, but that’s really it.”
Erin looked at herself in the mirror. A tight graphic tee fit her slender torso perfectly, accentuating her ample chest in just the right way. Hot without trying to be. Her face was adorable, a fair, rosy light complexion dappled with freckles. He had gushed over them countless times. Adorable Erin. Her strawberry blonde hair was absolutely rockin, especially after the Ramona Flowers bob she had given herself last weekend, complete with two longer locks that dangled down in front of each ear. She was epitome of the manic pixie dream girl image.
She had been so proud of the job she’d done, she’d met Justin right after work to show it off. He was surprised to see her. So much so that he didn’t seem to jump for joy at her new do. Oh my god. “Justin, is this about my hair?” she asked nervously. She fidgeted with one of those awesome longer locks.
“Well, kinda, yeah,” came the hesitant response. “I’m just not into short hair on girls.”
“It grows back, you know.” Erin was getting angry. Was he really this shallow?
“Erin, honestly, it’d be years before yours grew back to the sort of thing that really gets me.”
“What the fuck, Justin? Do you want to go date Rapunzel or something? No one has hair that long.”
“Your friend Olivia does.” Realization suddenly dawned on her. It was searing. They’d been dating for over a year, but her old friend Olivia had been on a foreign exchange program in India until last month. Her thick brown hair was always long and luscious, but when she came back it was like it had been on steroids. “What are you feeding this thing?” Erin teased when she saw her friend take the soft mass down for a moment at a party. It fell in heavy golden brown waves, past her belt, past her bottom. The sunkissed ends tickled the girl’s thin, tanned legs past the end of her high, tight jean shorts. She remembered the look on Justin’s face when she luxuriantly lifted it up and let it spill out from her hands, trickling down in a soft flurry over her back and shoulders.
So first he saw Olivia’s epic mane, then Erin went and chopped her own hair off. Great. A one-two punch.
Justin spoke again. “Look, I never thought I was into a specific look until I saw her. Now I can’t get her out of my mind. It’s not fair to either of us if we keep going together now. You’ll find some great guy who loves your look. I know you will.”
“Oh fuck you Justin,” Erin wiped away a hot tear with the palm of her hand. She couldn’t believe any of this. “So what, you like Olivia now just because she has long hair? What if she cuts it?”
“I don’t think she would. I mean, she seemed pretty attached to it at the party.”
“But what if she did? Girls change their hair all the time, you know. Would you be leaving me if it weren’t for her hair? Is it really that simple??”
The voice on the phone hesitated. “I guess not, but it’s moot now, isn’t it? I’m sorry Erin. I really am. We did have fun together. Listen, I know this is probably the worst time to ask, but do you have Olivia’s number?”
Erin huffed. “You shitbag. She’d never go for you. NO ONE WOULD!” She screamed and threw her phone across the salon. It clattered against the drawer of her station and bounced off the ground. The heavy duty case she had bought for it proved a solid investment. She could hear Justin’s voice still speaking when she fetched it from the floor. Sniffling, she pushed ‘end’ on their conversation, and their relationship.
She was alone in the salon. It was a Tuesday afternoon, a typical slow time, and so she was working as the only stylist, the cashier, the hostess and the janitor for the little salon. She crumpled up on the counter, sobbing.
She and Justin had talked about their future together countless times. How they’d buy a tiny house and travel all over the continent in it, picking up work wherever the wind blew them. They were such a good fit. It was the perfect dream for her. And now it was nuked.
She slid off the counter and stared into the mirror. She wiped away her smeared mascara and ran her hands through her hair. Subconsciously she realized she was trying to pull it down longer. She sighed. It was no use. She’d be thirty before her hair grew to the length Justin wanted now. And he’d be long gone by then. That fucker.
She dried her eyes and let the cold of her newfound loneliness seep through her skin. Goosebumps raised on her arms. She shivered and shuddered, eventually pulling on an old sweater and pulling the sleeves down over her knuckles.
Just when she was about to call the salon owner and ask her to let her close up early, the bell attached to the door rang. She looked up from her counter. It was Olivia. Sweet, dainty, well traveled Olivia. Of course.
“Hey you,” she called sweetly and skipped over to Erin. Her long, thick carpet of hair bounced across her bottom as she moved. She tousled Erin’s hair. “Oh my gosh, I love this cut on you. It’s so cute! Bring it in, girl.” Without asking, she pulled Erin into a tight, loving hug. Erin’s face was thrust into a deep fold of that home-wrecking mane as it draped from Olivia’s head out back over her shoulder. It was rich and warm and soft, just like Erin knew it would be. It smelled of jasmine. How exotic. Erin lifted the section off her face and tossed it behind her friend’s back.
“Oh, sorry,” Olivia giggled. “Hair monster got ya, didn’t it?” she pulled back and fluffed the silken mass out behind her. The heavy ends audibly thumped over her bottom. Erin could see it flop down through the gap in Olivia’s thighs.
“It sure did,” Erin glumly replied. “So what brings you into my fine establishment?”
Olivia frowned. She took Erin’s hand and held it in her own. “Erin, is everything OK? You look sad.”
Erin feigned a smile. What was she supposed to say? No, everything sucks. The love of my life just kicked my heart into a trash can the moment he saw your crazy long hair. It wouldn’t be fair to put that on her. “I’m good. Just a little groggy from the slow day. I was actually about to close up shop early since there haven’t been any customers.”
Olivia flashed a bright smile. “Well, hopefully I bring good news. I was kind of hoping I could be your customer.” Erin’s face must have betrayed her dismay. Olivia’s brow knitted and her smile faltered. “I hope it’s not weird. I mean, I’ll pay and all. I just… remember how you used to style my hair during sleep overs as kids? We’d just chat and chat. I miss that. I miss you, Erin. I thought maybe we could catch up.” She pulled her long hair over her shoulder. It tumbled in a gorgeous chestnut riot down to her thigh. “I mean, by the time you’re finished with all this, it’ll be like I never left!”
Erin eyed the long brown cascade. “I don’t know, Olivia.”
Olivia took Erin’s hand again. “Oh, please? I really could use your help with it.”
“Well it has gotten quite long.”
Olivia’s doe-like brown eyes flashed with joy. “I know!” she giggled. She ran her hands down the lengths. “Isn’t it awesome?”
Erin’s eyes narrowed. “Ok.” She thumped her hand against the back of her salon chair. “Your funeral.”
Olivia squealed and threw her arms around her friend. “Thank you!”
“Don’t thank me just yet.” Erin said darkly. “Let’s talk about what we’re going to do with all that hair.”
Olivia daintily sat down in the chair and tossed her hair out over the back. It had grown so long, the ends flipped up and caressed Erin’s nose. It felt like the brush of an angel’s wings against her skin. Jasmine scents teased her nostrils again. “Well, when I was in India, they were big on oil treatments and my host family insisted on doing them to my hair. I think that’s how it got so long without losing volume. Erin, you should see some of the girls there. One of them, Bauna Prani was her name. She was so smart! She had a beautiful braid that reached the floor, and it was even thicker than mine!”
“Maybe Justin could meet her,” Erin muttered under her breath.
“Nothing. So then you want an oil treatment on all this?” Erin ran a hand through her friend’s long locks. Her eyes popped as her fingers slid through the strands. The tawny mass flowed like silk, never catching a snag, but offering just enough resistance to reaffirm it’s lush abundance. Her fingers raked through it again and again, savoring the the rich softness. It was in beautiful condition, right to her thick, perfectly even ends.
Olivia tilted her head back. “Mmmmm,” she blissfully sighed. “This is what I’ve been missing. Remember when we’d play with each other’s hair all night? You always said you wanted to be a hair stylist when you got older. How cool is it that you are now? Maybe you could just do this for a few hours.”
Erin laughed bitterly. Before her sat her best childhood friend, her beautiful soft hair blanketing down over the back and sides of the chair, nearly to the floor. It draped in a heavy curtain over the entire chair – nothing was visible beneath the heavy torrents. Staring at this vision. she suddenly felt so stupid for chopping her own hair off. So this is what Justin loves? “Well, I could, but I don’t think I’d be helping you out much.” She lifted the great mane back off the chair and pulled it gently out and down, continuing her survey. Truth be told, she didn’t think she could do much to improve Olivia’s hair at all. It already looked better than most women on their way out of her salon.
Olivia giggled. “Maybe you’re right. How about an organic mask or avocado treatment? Something to help keep it healthy and growing.”
“You… you want it even longer than this?”
Olivia smiled her sweet smile to her friend in the mirror. “I know, Erin, but I’m kind of addicted to it! I love feeling the ends when they hit my legs, and even brushing it all out is so soothing. It’s like, this is all me!” She took hold of two thick locks in either hand and beamed. “How cool is that? I’ve always loved my long hair, but now it’s like I’m on a deeper level. I don’t think I’ll never cut it again.” Her eyes met Erin’s and she blushed. “I’m sorry, I’m geeking out too much. I shouldn’t tell you what to do. You’re the expert after all.” She shook her head back and forth, causing her tresses to dance and sway. “Make me beautiful, darling!” she giggled.
Erin sighed and grabbed her brush. She gently worked through the divine masterpiece and somehow coaxed even more shine and volume from the object of her despair. This was torture. Of all the times she could have picked to show up. Of all the ways she could have picked to reconnect. Why couldn’t they just grab coffee? Over the phone. With hats on.
“So,” Olivia piped up amiably. She smiled innocently at Erin through the mirror. “Tell me about Justin,” she said coyly, arching a soft brown eyebrow. “He’s such a hottie, Erin. I met him at that party last week, and I have to admit, I was a little jealous. It’s not often you find funny, smart, nice and hot all in one package. You’re so lucky,” she sighed.
Really? Hot tears pricked her eyes and she turned around quickly.
“Oh my gosh, are you ok?” Olivia twisted in her seat, rife with concern. She stood up and took a step toward Erin.
Erin held out a hand behind her, warding her off. “I’m good!” she feigned in as chipper a tone as she could muster. “Just allergies. Crazy this time of year.” She dried her eyes with a tissue and turned to face her friend. The afternoon sun had set low enough that it’s light was coming in through the front windows. The sultry sunbeams played off the outer layers of Olivia’s hair, shining and almost glowing as it fell down all around her chest, back, arms hips and upper thighs. She looked like a brunette Aphrodite.
Olivia bit her lip in concern as she eyed her friend. She stepped closer. “Erin, if there’s anything I can do for you. Anything at all, just ask. I’m here for you.” She took Erin’s hand in hers again and clasped it tightly.
Erin wiped her nose. Her good nature and loyalty to an old friend could only withstand so much.
Ok, let’s do this.
“Hold still right there,” Erin said suddenly. She turned and grabbed a nylon cape. “Let’s focus on that beautiful hair of yours.”
“Are… are you sure now’s a good time after all?” Olivia seemed to sense something wasn’t right.
“Absolutely, Ollie,” her voice was taking on a decidedly ‘fuck it’ tone. “I just realized, hair as long as yours needs to be done while you’re standing up.” She pulled the cape around Olivia’s neck and fastened it, then pulled the incredible mass of hair out through the hole and let it spill down. It was longer than the nylon cape. She brushed it out quickly again to get it smooth and straight. “You asked me if there was anything you could do for me. Let me do your hair for you.”
“So what kind of treatments do you have for hair like mine?” Olivia turned her head, looking at the various products lining the shelves. “Jojoba oil? Almond oil? A coconut mask?”
Erin’s eyes caught the gleam of her scissors as the sunlight found them sitting at her station. “I’ve got just the thing.”