Expectations

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Anna hated feeling bad about something she doubted nine out of ten other people wouldn’t even notice, but here she was, feeling bad anyway. The fact was, by most standards, the soon-to-be-college-senior’s recent haircut would have been considered amazing – but not when compared to what she had started the week with.

Standing in front of the full-length mirror in her bedroom, she shook out her wealth of pale blonde hair, letting the abundant, carefully cultivated waves tumble around and past her shoulders in a glorious, thick fall that fell just short of her waist. Riotous layers started just below her shoulders, boosting her mane’s volume and liveliness, and thick bangs framed her crystal-like blue eyes to either side, cut bluntly to fall against her cheeks.

She knew the style in itself could be beautiful on someone who wanted it, but, for her, the layers were unwanted and the bangs were not what she had asked for. Rather, what she had asked for was a simple trim of the one-length locks that she often wore in an impressively thick, ass-tickling braid and to have some of the currently trendy curtain bangs styled into her abundant tresses.

But no. The stylist, someone she had trusted with her treasured lock for years, must have had a bad day or something. The curtain bangs Anna had expected were turned into a thick, one-length fringe that was too short for curtain bangs and too long to be traditional bangs, so she was stuck with a “growing out my bangs” look from the very first snip. Then maybe the woman had panicked and hoped some long layers would help hide her mistake, because a stormfall of gorgeous blonde locks started tumbling to the floor, and–before Anna could even squeak her disapproval–her Rapunzelesque mane had been reduced to a far more ordinary and common length, with even more of her tresses succumbing to the scissors to form the abundant layers.

There had been tears that day, though they didn’t last terribly long. But now she had to deal with a tiny voice inside that suggested this might have been a good thing, and that maybe now was the time she should start thinking of having a more professional presentation of herself on the eve of becoming an official adult and having to get a real job upon graduation.

Anna figured that was part of the reason the unwanted chop made her so sad – she had known her days of long, flowing princess locks were numbered, and the stylist had probably stolen Anna’s last days of having super-long hair for good.

Anna sighed, running her fingers back through her soft tresses, twisting and imprisoning them in her favorite scrunchy to form an immaculately messy bun. She forced the worries about the future of her hair out of her mind; the coming two weeks were reserved for having fun with her friends and enjoying what could be the last truly free summer of their lives. Sure, they might be able to steal an occasional weekend at the beach in the future, but there would always be work concerns, taxes, mortgages, and — maybe at some point for some – husbands or wives and kids.

She twisted this way and that, checking her reflection to make sure the pink surf shop tee and white shorts she wore were as cute as she thought (and they were), before glancing out her window. As if on cue, her friend and her ride to the shore showed up, bumping the front wheel of her Jeep against the curb as its brakes screeched.

She may be taking her life into her own hands to get there, but the beach beckoned.

 

***

 

Anna barely had her bags in the back of the jeep before Cara squealed in the driver’s seat. “You cut your bangs!”

Before hopping in the passenger side, Anna decided she might as well get the full reveal over with for at least one of her friends.

“That’s not the half of it.” She whisked the scrunchy free from her hair, letting the waves tumble free. She shook them out and then flipped them forward, letting them fall in front of her shoulders as Cara gasped.

“It’s all gone!” Cara yipped. There was unhidden delight in the blue-eyed blonde’s voice, matched only by the unavoidable irony that Cara would consider Ann’s hair to be ‘all gone.’

Cara, who up until last year had been known for the “golden fleece” of gorgeous hair that fell down her back.

Cara, who literally had most of it chopped off into a striking, stylish bob just last fall.

Cara, who, as she sat there in front of Anna, wore her shoulder-length bob in a high ponytail that bared her ear-high undercut in the same way her thick baby bangs bared almost half of her forehead.

Anna hopped into the seat, flushing as Cara continued to stare.

“Oh my god, I love the layers!” Cara insisted, her smile bright as she reached out to run her right hand through Anna’s waves, brushing them all back to tuck them behind her ear.

“Thanks, I hate them,” Anna replied.

Cara shifted the jeep into gear, and Anna re-tamed her voluminous locks into something resembling a topknot as she explained exactly how the new style had been forced upon her, and why she was so disenchanted with it.

When she was done, all Cara said was, “Yeah, those aren’t curtain bangs at all.”

“I know.”

“They look like you’re trying to grow out regular bangs.”

Anna sighed. “I know. Though I guess technically I am now.”

Save for the GPS’s occasional interruptions with updated directions to their friend’s family beach house, the conversation flowed freely as Cara drove. With the wind whipping through the cabin when they hit the highway, Anna couldn’t keep her eyes off her friend and how tidy her hair was somehow remaining. Not a single hair or wisp was out of play, with the short, thick ponytail bouncing and swaying so utterly cutely whenever the jeep hit a bump in the road.

And her bangs! Those super cute, short bangs that she insisted she hated but refused to let grow long enough to even possibly hide her perfect, gently arching eyebrows. Anna knew why Cara claimed to have such disdain for them – trimming them had also trimmed away several years from her appearance, taking her from looking like a serious, bobbed business intern to a perky high school kid, but when combined with her exposed undercut, it gave the girl an edge that lifted her from adorable and cute to almost irresistible and sexy as fuck.

Anna took a long drink from her water bottle as Cara kept talking about something, but she couldn’t resist reaching out with her free hand and caressing the barely-there fuzz that decorated Cara’s nape. The other girl saw it coming, though, and smiled.

“Sorry, I couldn’t resist. It feels so neat!” Anna insisted.

Cara just laughed. “You could always get one yourself, you know. You have plenty of hair to hide it with when you have to.”

Anna shook her head. “No way. Not with these layers. I’m never going to wear it down until they’re grown out.”

“We’ll see about that.” The wink Cara added to her words created a burst of nervous butterflies in Anna’s stomach, and she was suddenly real glad there wouldn’t be any clippers to find in the house.

 

***

 

When they arrived at the destination, their friends Kerri and Denise were waiting on the balcony overlooking the small courtyard in front of Denise’s family’s vacation home. Both looked beach-ready, wearing bikini tops coupled with colorful wraps around their waists.

Even though she had seen photos Kerri had posted of her new haircut since she got it last month, this was the first time Anna was seeing it in person. She smiled broadly as she approached her Kerri, and after a quick hug the giddy redhead twisted and turned, showing off the tightly clippered nape and sides that had once been home to flowing auburn locks that had not only hid her ears and neck, but most of her back as well. But it was all gone now – all of it – shorn into an adorable little boy cut, with a tight side part and locks that could only aspire to someday grow into bangs brushing across her forehead above her sharp blue eyes.

“It’s so short! It looks incredible!” Anna told her.

“You should have seen it when I first had it done,” Kerri replied as she rubbed her nape. “I was practically bald.”

Anna couldn’t resist silently asking for a feel by lifting her hand, and Kerri gracefully acquiesced by leaning forward and looking to the side. Her long, silky tresses were now a soft, velvety pelt, and little sparks ran up and down Anna’s spine as she rubbed her friend’s nape.

“You wouldn’t believe how much cooler it is,” Kerri noted.

“I can only imagine.”

Denise then insisted on receiving a hug in greeting, too. Her glorious, dark brown hair had once been a mane of legend, too, reaching to her waist in flowing waves almost every woman envied. But a conversation with Cara last fall had sealed their fate, and by the end of that day – and ever since – she’d kept her locks quite short. Sure the styles changed fairly often, but the beautiful tresses hadn’t even threatened getting into her eyes for months. Even now, it was obvious she’d had the clippers used on her nape within the past couple of weeks, despite her crown and bangs probably being a bit longer than usual – ‘probably’ being the key word since they had been permed into a sweep of immaculate curls.

“I love the curls!” she told Denise, fluffing them a bit with her fingertips, but doing her best not to muss the style itself.

“Thanks – they’re just a summer thing. Something fun I couldn’t bring myself to do when my hair was long. With it short, I can just wait a few months for it to grow an inch or two and then chop them all off.”

Anna sighed wistfully at the idea of being able to correct a hair mistake within a few months, or just being able do something like a perm on a whim without worrying about long-term damage. She was going to be dealing with her annoying, failed curtain bangs for much more than a few months, and the terrible layers for far longer than that.

As the girls gathered up Cara and Anna’s bags, Cara told the other, “Anna had her hair chopped, too. She’s just afraid to show it off.”

Denise looked back over her shoulder as she carried led the others toward the bedrooms on the other side of the impressively large house. They were located on the first floor, providing better views for the living room and dining areas above, and there were enough for each girl to have her own. “I thought I saw a hint of bangs! It can’t be as bad as you think.”

 

***

 

Anna was halfway into her first glass of wine when Denise reminded her to show off what had been done to her hair. With a gentle push, Anna slid her stool back from the breakfast bar and stood up.

“Mind you, it looks better than it really is because it’ll be wavy.” She reached up and pulled the scrunchy from her hair, bending over to shake the voluminous tresses out as the other girls watched; Cara from the stool she claimed next to Anna’s and the two pixies on the other side of the bar.

When she flipped her hair back and straightened up, both Kerri and Denise’s eyes widened.

“It so short for you!” Denise exclaimed. So maybe the cut wasn’t as unnoticeable to other people as Anna had thought…

“It doesn’t look terrible,” Kerri added, perhaps not as encouragingly as she intended.

When Anna turned around to show them the back, though, the resulting silence said a lot.

“Well, I mean…” Kerri quietly said, “not really terrible.”

“I know!” Anna sighed, grabbing her glass and finishing it. “Do you know how much of a pain it is to hide bad layers in straight hair? Beachy waves or curls used to be something fun I did for a change; now they’re something I have to do. And these!” She flicked the half-hearted bangs out of her eyes. “These! Ugh.”

“They’re supposed to be curtain bangs,” Cara helpfully explained. Her whiskey had barely been touched, perhaps out of fear of not being able to enjoy Anna’s pain if she had a buzz on. Even if that was her intention, she refilled Anna’s glass without being asked so Anna didn’t hold it against her.

“Well, if that’s what they’re supposed to be, whoever cut them missed,” Denise said sympathetically. “I do have some haircutting scissors if you want to try to fix them.”

Anna took another drink, and then raised an eyebrow.

“I’ve been cutting Derek’s hair when he visits,” she explained, referring to the boyfriend who notably made his move once she lopped off the mane that would have made Aphrodite jealous. “He just keeps it buzzed, so it’s pretty easy.”

“Now that would be a solution,” Anna thought as she sat back down on her stool.

Judging by the looks the other girls gave her – all of them expressions of bemused, but perhaps cautious, curiosity – she actually had said that thought out loud.

“No,” she insisted. “That’s not going to happen. I may hate the style, but I love the hair.”

Cara reached over, running her fingers through the soft tresses and tucking them behind Anna’s ear – at least all that would stay there, which did not include the blasted semi-bangs. “If you change your mind, I’ll be happy to help. About your bangs, I mean. Though, if we’re being honest, you are the only one of us who hasn’t had clippers used on her yet. I feel like that’s an oversight…”

“We’re going out tonight, right?” Anna asked. She knew full well they were, but she needed to say something to end Cara’s line of thought. “I should go start getting ready. Unlike you all, I actually have to put effort into making this mop look good.”

“Doesn’t have to be that way,” all three chimed as Anna retreated to her bedroom.

 

***

 

For the first night, Anna took the time – a generous amount of time, to say the least – to fashion her thick hair into a lively mass of curls that bounced and danced in time with the rest of her body on a local nightclub’s dance floor. The other girls insisted it looked gorgeous, and the men at the club seemed to agree.

On the second night, the curls became sunkissed surfergirl waves for the beachfront bar they visited, and again the men seemed to approve, with an unfortunate few taking liberties in touching and caressing her locks. Although she clearly was getting more attention, both direct and through distant looks, than the other girls, she began to realize there was a vast difference in the quality of guys she drew versus those the others did. While Cara seemed to attract the eccentrics or edgier types of men and women when her hair was up and all sorts of white knights when she let it loose, Kerri and Denise – despite the latter’s clear unavailability – received respectful, mature approaches. Anna, however, assumed all of hers graduated from the same DudeBro University, or at least took a correspondence course in how to wear a baseball cap backwards.

By the third night’s bar crawl, Anna’s hair was gathered back into a casually messy bun out of a desperate need to avoid having her neck and back coated in sweat during the strolls from bar to bar. Carefully placed bobby bins managed to keep her semi-bangs back, but there was a time or two when she wished the curtain bangs she’d asked for had been done well, just so there’d be something for the rare non-DudeBro to brush back as he flirted with her.

On the fourth day, as she stretched out on her beach towel, Anna finally began to admit that the other girls may have been on to something. She only had two weeks to hang out with her friends, and it felt like she was spending most of her time worrying about how her hair looked or whether she was somehow sending signals to the wrong type of people. Even here on the beach, she noticed the respectful desire Denise and Kerri garnered compared to the leering lust she did. They all had on variations of the same two piece suits, and all – at least in her opinion – had slamming bodies. And even Cara’s admirers clearly were more angled toward thoughts of what made her tick – was the girl as interesting as that funky hairstyle? – rather than just wanting to fuck her.

Sitting up and looking out over the ocean, Anna let her hair loose from its lazy bun. A gentle shake and a bit of rumpling with her fingers sent the resulting waves crashing down her back, and the ocean breeze wasted no time in splashing her bangs into her eyes and face. Not long ago, her hair would have spilled down onto the towel behind her, flowing softly in the breeze. She’d have been able to wear it in ridiculously straight, glossy, sunkissed ponytails or unbelievably thick, long braids that would have been the fodder of at least a dozen daydreams of what it looked like loose.

But now?

She sighed softly, watching Cara quietly read her book. While Anna felt her hair was damp with sweat, Cara’s ponytail was still immaculate. Those adorable bangs, too, were right where they were supposed to be, resting cutely above her shades. And the soft fuzz of her nape, just a shade or two darker than the rest of her golden locks, simultaneously begging to be nuzzled and mocking Anna for being so suffocatingly thick-maned.

Eventually, Cara noticed and raised an eyebrow.

Anna tried to get her bangs out of her eyes, but they refused to obey. Tonight was going to be dinner and a Schitt’s Creek marathon, so maybe it would be a good time to rid herself of one at least annoyance before another weekend was rendered more bothersome than it needed to be.

“Can I take you up on that offer of cutting my bangs?” she asked.

Now both of Cara’s eyebrows were raised. “Sure! Tonight?”

“Sounds like a plan. I think I’m gonna head back to the house now. It’s a bit too hot for me today.”

From under their respective ballcaps, Kerri and Denise grinned but were kind enough not to point out the obvious.

 

***

 

Anna didn’t even bother trying to do anything with her hair after her shower. She let its natural straightness take over as she combed it out, growing more and more dismayed as she couldn’t ignore how obvious the layers that had been cut into it were.

Gathering it all forward, she shimmied her shoulders back and forth just enough to feel the damp locks tease her nipples – at least the locks that were still long enough. She traced her fingers down their length to where they ended just short of her belly button, and then she flipped the longer layers back behind her shoulders. The shortest layers remained, hanging a bit past her collarbones and she had to admit it didn’t look terrible. Wearing braids might be a struggle, but she could still get some cute ponytails and updos, and wouldn’t have to worry about straggly wisps near the ends or escaping from the base.

Pulling on some gym shorts and a halter top, she wondered whether it was time for a serious cut. She already knew she wouldn’t have her ass-length mane back before entering the Real World next summer; maybe it was time to just lean into that fact.

She’d still have the longest hair in the beach house, if nothing else.

 

***

 

The setup for the marathon was in full swing just a few hours later, with the only two girls who had any culinary ability – namely, Denise and Kerri – putting together a few snacks and some food that could somewhat accurately be referred to as a healthy dinner. Anna scoped out the options being hinted at, hoping for Kerri’s famous buffalo chicken dip, but, alas, it was never mentioned.

Given she wasn’t lifting a finger to cook anything herself, Anna opted not to ask about it and instead sat on the barstool next to Cara’s and watched the other women work. It was nice to see everyone dressed for casual comfort for a change, and, literally in Cara’s case, letting their hair down. The former cheerleader’s golden locks rested lightly against her slender shoulders, creating a metaphorical and symbolic blanket of sweet innocence that hid the edgier seductress that sometimes hid beneath.

Soon Anna after took a seat, Cara slid a glass of wine in front of Anna and simply asked, “Ready?’

“For…?”

Cara held up a small white case, unzipping it as she answered, “I thought we already decided – I’m gonna bang you tonight.”

Anna flushed at the phrasing, but hoped it went unnoticed. “Now?”

Cara nodded. “It’ll let us avoid helping with the food.”

“Somehow I don’t think that’s quite fair,” Denise stage-whispered to Kerri.

Before Anna could answer, Cara had pulled the third stool away from the breakfast bar and patted it. “Come on. I’m in the zone and ready to work.”

Denise chuckled. “You know that sleeping with a hairstylist for a couple of months doesn’t make you one, right?”

Cara stuck her tongue out. “Doesn’t not make me one, either. And you have no idea what she taught me while we were together.”

“I do,” Kerri commented. “At least I heard what she tried to teach you. Literally.”

“Alright, alright. Anna, sit. Now.”

Anna did as she was told, taking a deep breath as she moved to the appointed seat. Another deep breath was required when she saw everything Cara was pulling from that small case, which somehow fit a couple different shears, a long comb, clips, and, with a spine-chilling presence, clippers and their associated guards.

She calmed a little as Cara began combing out her hair. It was somewhat unnecessary, but enjoyable nonetheless.

“How has your hair managed to get even lighter?” Cara asked somewhat rhetorically. “It was practically white to begin with.”

“Lucky, I guess?” Anna answered.

Cara made a thoughtful sound. Given how tall she was – almost modelesque – and how short Anna was, sitting on the stool left almost eye level with one another. As Cara combed the bulk of Anna’s hair back and the semi-bangs forward, she asked, “So how long do you want them? Above your eyebrows? Below?”

As cute as Cara’s short-short bangs looked, Anna didn’t think she could pull the look off herself. Plus, she didn’t want to look like a copycat. That said, she also didn’t want them getting in her eyes anytime soon, either.

“How about even with?”

Cara nodded. “Sure.”

Anna felt her nerves building, a physical manifestation of not knowing why she couldn’t be patient enough to grow the semi-bangs out. It’d only take a couple of years…

Ugh. Years. The realization reaffirmed her decision… assuming Cara knew what she was doing.

She removed her focus from her doubts and replaced it on what Cara was doing, noticing with unexpected amusement that the other girl’s tongue tip poked from between her pink lips as she twisted Anna’s bangs.

That focus was shattered when Kerri asked, “Hey, since you’re doing that to avoid helping us cook, shouldn’t we get a say in what happens?”

Cara’s tonguetip disappeared, and her brow furrowed. “Uhm, sure. What are you thinking?”

“Wait, what?” Anna asked. “Why do they get a say?”

“House rules,” Denise said as she stuck a tray of chicken fingers in the oven and grabbed a bag of salad. “People doing chores get a say in what happens to people avoiding them.”

“I think they’d look cute if they were thicker,” Kerri told Cara. “Like yours.”

“Wait…”

Cara shrugged helplessly. “House rules, Ma’am.” She started with the comb again, pulling forward long, silky locks of Anna’s light blonde hair. Anna kept waiting for her to deem the gathered tresses to be enough, but she just kept going and going until Anna couldn’t see through the thick curtain of hair anymore. Cara reappeared as she twisted the chosen tresses once again, leaning in close before she lifted the silver shears. She captured Anna’s silky locks between the blades just below her eyebrows and began to cut.

Anna closed her eyes when the shearing started, listening to the rasp of the blades chewing through her hair. Twenty seconds in to this endevor, and things were already going off the rails – she’d expected to end the evening with short, wispy bangs, but, as Cara’s scissors snapped shut with one final crunch, new, thick bangs sprang free across her forehead.

Cara smiled brightly as she straightened up, and Kerri squealed with delight in the kitchen.

“They already look amazing!” Denise assured her.

Cara set the shorn ponytail down on the nearby table – and it was, in fact, a ponytail that she had cut off. Maybe a small ponytail, but a ponytail nonetheless.

“I’m just going to take the a little shorter, like you asked,” Cara warned. Anna made sure to hold still as Cara worked, the silver blades crunching and snipping their way across Anna’s forehead about level with her eyebrows. When she was done, Cara stepped back and turned toward the kitchen. “Thoughts?”

Both of the cooks were smiling brightly.

“They look fantastic!” Denise said.

Kerri leaned against the breakfast bar, holding her phone out so Anna could see herself. The new bangs weren’t quite blunt-cut like Cara’s, but instead remained longer toward Anna’s temples to frame her eyes. They really did look kind of amazing, she realized.

“They really do look great,” Kerri told her. “They’re going to look so cool if you grow the rest to one length again.”

“Of course…” Cara said slowly, “no pressure, but you don’t necessarily have to grow it out to get it one length again.” Smiling, she snapped the scissors open and closed again.

A silence built in the room, slowly overwhelming everything else. Anna would have laughed at how ridiculous the other girls’ anticipation of her answer was, were she not almost terrified by it. She ran her fingers through her long, glorious locks a few more times, thinking of how beautiful and long and thick they used to be and probably never would be again. A shorter style was going to be unavoidable at some point. Why not accept that today?

She nodded. “Okay, go for it.”

Cara’s jaw dropped as her eyebrows almost hit the ceiling. “Seriously?”

Anna bit her bottom lip, closing her eyes as she nodded among the gleeful cheers from the kitchen. “Get rid of the layers, if you’d like,”she said.

Cara literally bounced in place as she set the scissors down on the table. “Don’t freak,” she warned Anna over her shoulder, “but I’m going to use the clippers and comb to get a nice straight line.”

Anna did, in fact, freak, her eyes widening as a chill overwhelmed her. Maybe it was actually the air conditioning kicking in, but she was pretty sure not even a parka would have warmed her up at that point.

While Anna tried to calm her nerves, Cara had disappeared behind her. The comb started running through Anna’s hair again, taking lovely, long, slow strokes from root to tip as the pale blonde mane was gathered back. Anna took deep breaths, closing her eyes and steeling herself against whatever outcome could result – whether it was the best or the worst, the simple fact was in a few minutes she was going to have shorter hair than she could ever remember.

Anna the Rapunzel would well and truly be gone for good, by any measure. She wondered what sort of attention she would get afterward – would she be seen as a target worthy of intellectual approaches, or would she still win the fascination of the DudeBros?

The roar of the clippers coming to life snapped her out of her thoughts.

“Okay, ready?” Cara asked.

Anna swallowed nervously, then nodded.

“Okay, sit up straight and stay still.”

Anna did as she was told. There was a moment where the clippers rumbled quietly, and then she felt the comb take position against her right shoulder – more specifically, near the top of her right shoulder. Before she could say anything, the pitch of the clippers changed, followed by the sound of vibrating metal running across plastic.

Kerri gasped while Denise smiled, and Anna squeezed her eyes shut. Again and again the pitch of the clippers changed, purring when free and rumbling against plastic when doing their appointed work, loosing years and years worth of Anna’s precious, beloved locks from her mane.

Her head became noticeably lighter as Cara worked, slowly moving the comb further and further to the left.

“Good gravy, you have so much hair,” Cara commented.

“Not anymore,” Anna replied in a terrified whisper.

Cara pinched her teasingly. “No, seriously, you do.” The clippers nipped and nibbled at a few different points along Anna’s shoulders in what she hoped was just an effort to even things up, and then they went quiet. Cara’s comb returned, guiding Anna’s remaining hair to flow forward even though it had started to on its own.

Encouragingly, although Kerri started off slack-jawed, both she and Denise wound up with bright smiles when they came close to examine Cara’s handiwork.

“How are you just getting hotter and hotter?” Denise asked as she ran her fingers through the snowy blonde locks.

“Holy cow… look at all this!” Kerri exclaimed as she toed the pile of shorn locks on the floor.

Anna opted not to look, afraid she would run from the house screaming if she did. She’d expected to have long hair when Cara was finished – not extremely long have or even very long hair, but she expected it to fall a bit past her collarbones, if not further.

But instead, as she looked at herself on Kerri’s phone again, she saw that her previously abundant mane didn’t even reach the aforementioned collarbones – it just barely grazed the base of her neck.

A neck, she also realized, that all of the sudden looked so much longer than it used to.

But even though her hair was much shorter – maybe relatively speaking, but, in her opinion, “much” was an appropriate qualification – than she expected, it was once again thick and full, without those awful layers stealing its body. She stood up and shook her head from side to side, loving the new length’s movement, and finally allowed herself a big smile.

“So you like it?” Cara asked. There was a nervous edge to the question, and the way she bit her bottom lip nervously and furrowed her brow in anticipation of the answer was just too adorable to bear.

“Yes, definitely!” Anna said as she hugged her friend. “Thank you!” After stepping back, she shook her hair again and gathered it back into a short ponytail. “I’ll be honest, though – if you told me this morning I was going to let you bob me tonight, I wouldn’t have believed you.”

Kerri tilted her head thoughtfully. “Is it really a bob, though?”

“Of course it is, isn’t it?” Anna asked, looking to Cara for confirmation.

Instead, Denise cut in. “I think it’s kind of borderline, to be honest. But since she mentioned it…”

“I didn’t mention anything,” Anna insisted as Denise stepped behind her.

The Queen Bee brunette took hold of Anna’s hair and folder it under with her hands, holding her palms level with Anna’s chin. “Don’t you think she’d look amazing with a genuine, chin-length bob?”

Both Kerri and Cara looked like children given reign over a candy store, and Anna was determined to put a stop to that. “No. No! It’s already shorter than I’ve ever had it!”

“All the more reason to keep going,” Cara suggested. “And it’d be so much cooler on the beach. Temperature-wise.”

“But also in general, too,” Kerri added.

Anna whimpered a little inside. She had nothing against bobs – they looked great on other people. They looked great on Cara when she had hers, and Denise had been stunning with her brief asymmetric bob. But… it just might be a step too far for one night.

Cara stepped forward, replacing Denise’s hands with her own so each of her pinkies teased the corners of Anna’s jaw. Her hands were held higher than Denise’s had been, but Anna couldn’t tell whether it was on purpose. “You really do have a neck worth showing off, you know.”

Resisting was not easy, but Anna managed to begin shaking her head no. Sure, a bob might be fun and maybe it would look great, but there was no reason to rush this, no reason to do it all in one night. The disappointment in Cara’s eyes almost made her change her mind.

Almost.

“If you let her cut it shorter, I’ll make my buffalo chicken dip tonight,” Kerri offered. Her tone suggested it was a weird, desperate attempt that she didn’t expect to work. “Everything I need is in the fridge. Could have it ready in almost no time…”

Anna blinked, and sighed as she settled back down on the stool. “I’m not saying your buffalo chicken dip convinced me to let her cut my hair even more, but… go make your buffalo chicken dip.”

Kerri giggled and bounced, while Denise just smiled to herself and refilled Anna’s wine.

Anna eagerly accepted the wine and took a long drink before straightening again at Cara’s whim. Dear gods, she was actually going to have short hair. Not shorter hair, not kind-of-short hair, but legitimately short hair.

She closed her eyes and took another calming breath as Cara’s comb played through the relatively long locks hiding her right ear. Her anxiety levels rose when the clippers roared to life again–she could still feel the comb resting against the bottom of her earlobe. Again, Cara paid no mind to what Anna had been expecting, and the hungry clippers raced across the face of the comb before Anna could do anything to stop them. The sound of them chewing through her soft, healthy hair was gut wrenching, as was the unmistakable feeling of the discarded, shorn locks landing heavily on her thigh.

It was the first lock of hair she actually felt fall away, and she couldn’t help but look down at it with a whimper. Another year’s worth, if not more, just gone… The remaining tresses swung forward against her cheek, bringing with them a boatload of doubts and second guesses.

“Oh god,” she whispered.

Cara smiled, tilting Anna’s chin back to the right angle and kissing her cheek softly. “It’s going to be so gorgeous, trust me. Very French.”

As if Anna had any other options but to trust her now… She sat as still as possible, listening to her long bob being ruthlessly turned into a really short bob that barely reached her earlobes. Cara worked wordlessly, lifting and clippering away the bulk of pale blonde tresses at Anna’s nape. She hummed thoughtfully for a moment before insisting she needed to revisit that, and then continued onward to completely bare the right side of Anna’s neck.

Anna’s eyes remained clenched shut the whole time, her very existence being battered with the noises and sensations of having her hair cut shorter than she had ever worn it – shorter than she ever expected to wear it. Not only did she have to deal with the roar of the clippers, but also the soft, silky feel of her beautiful hair resting against her shoulders before it fell away, knowing it’d be a year or more before she felt that again. Not even the most professional of styles she might have chosen before getting a real job would have been this short, yet… here she was. No more ponytails or anything of the like.

Her eyes finally did open when the clippers were turned off, only to see Cara fiddling with them some more and attaching one of the clipper guards to them.

“What’s that for?”

“Your hair is really thick in the back, so I want to give you an undercut. It probably would have been easier to do first, but… we can deal.”

Anna sighed. “In for a penny…”

Cara placed a gentle hand on her shoulder. “Just a little one. Barely noticeable. Promise. I just need you to hold some of your hair out of the way.”

“Can’t use just use the clips in the kit?” Denise asked as she worked in the kitchen.

“I think it’s too short.”

Hearing that phrase used in regard to her hair sent a chill down Anna’s spine.

She’d actually done it. She actually let someone chop off all of her beautiful hair. She couldn’t imagine what the comments on Snapchat and Instagram were going to be like…

“Gimme your hands, Anna.”

Anna did as she was told, feeling more shivers as the shortened lengths of her hair played between her fingers and against her palms. There was just so, so little of it… How much would she have at this moment had she never asked for those curtain bangs a week ago? It was a crazy butterfly effect… One small request, one butchered effort, and suddenly she actually asked someone to cut her hair short.

And was completely okay with it getting even shorter, apparently.

The clippers came to life again, touching skin for the first time. Anna’s eyes widened, and then closed tightly as Cara gently nudged her chin downward. The clippers slid upward slowly, cautiously, their pitch changing again, but differently than before, as they slipped into her hair. A pattern developed in the shifts of tone and the clippers’ caresses as Cara worked in rhythm, buzzing away the bottom inch or so of along Anna’s hairline, then another.

Anna had expected the noise of the clippers, had expected the sensations that came with being clippered, but she had not expected the delightful, delicious vibrations that were rocketing through her body. They straightened her back, tightened her fingers, and had to resist the urge to rub her thighs together.

She couldn’t believe how much she liked it – no, how much she loved it. Again and again the clippers moved up the back of her head. Anna knew what kind of destruction they were wreaking on her hair, she’d seen the results whenever she walked behind Cara, but she didn’t care. Anna began imagining the result if Cara just kept going. Would she be invisible to the DudeBros? Would she attract the same crowd as Kerri and Denise, or would it be more in line with Cara’s chorus of boys and girls?

“Just a little bit higher and we’ll be done,” Cara told her.

Anna licked her lips, feeling her cheeks flush. “Do we have to be?”

Cara leaned around to make eye contact, her jaw falling. “Are you serious?”

Anna nodded, a stifled giggle muting her reply. She couldn’t hold it though, and covered her mouth as she laughed, releasing her bobbed hair to frame her face and fall against her freshly shorn nape. She’d actually just said she wanted all of her hair – all of her gorgeous, soft, silky hair – gone. Then a thought occurred to her, and she lowered her hand to shyly ask, “Do you think it would look good?”

Cara looked like she’d just been asked the dumbest question ever. Without replying, Cara switched to a longer clipper guard and simple ran the back of her fingers against Anna’s cheek, slipping them up into the remaining lengths of hair above Anna’s right ear and gathering them up. She turned the clippers on again and raised an eyebrow in silent query.

Anna glanced down at the clippers, smiled, and nodded nervously.

The clippers were hungry and loud, digging into the thick, silken locks that had until now been spared, chewing and nibbling and nipping their way toward Anna’s temple before being pulled away. They dumped a massive hank of her soft, pale blonde hair to the floor and then attacked again, slowly and carefully working their way around what Anna hoped was an aesthetically acceptable ear – and if it wasn’t, there would certainly be no hiding it now.

“How much of an undercut are you givi—Holy Crap!” The bowl of chips Denise had been carrying hit the floor, and suddenly a horde of tortillas scattered amongst the blanket of Anna’s locks that covered the floor.

Anna struggled to keep from laughing, but it seemed Cara refused to be distracted. The clippers continued their journey, migrating from the base of Anna’s skull and following its curves to the crown of her head.

“Please tell me she asked for that,” Kerri pleaded as she looked in across the bar.

“She most certainly did,” Cara insisted with glee. “Surprised me, too!”

Anna smiled, loving the sense of being, at least for the moment, the brave one of the group. “I apparently decided to be in for more than a penny…”

“I’ll say,” Denise replied, still watching with an expression of disbelief even as she accepted a broom from Kerri to clean up the spilled chips. “Probably should have gotten a blanket or bedsheet or something, though.”

“Spur of the moment,” Anna and Cara both replied. In all honesty, Anna was glad she didn’t have anything covering her. Sure, she might have itchy regrets later, but in the moment she was enjoying each gentle caress of goodbye her falling hair gave her.

It was when the clippers finally made their way up the center of the back of Anna’s head and crested her thickly tressed crown that things became very real. She breathed in sharply, shifting in her seat as tingles traveled right from her nape to her more personal areas, multiplied and intensified by the glorious realization that there was absolutely no way to back out or hide or fix or change what was happened.

Not to mention the realization that she didn’t want to do any of that.

Timers started going off as the food finished cooking, and Denise continued to sweep up crumbs and discarded locks of snowy blonde hair. Anna couldn’t help but feel her friend was fighting a rising tide, though, because more and more and more of her hair just kept falling. Six and eight inch lengths tumbled down as the clippers did their work, completely freeing her left ear and sweeping from back to front again and again.

Her bangs remained, though, even as Cara changed to smaller and smaller guards and refined her work, carefully blending and shearing a simple brushcut into something more refined. Eventually the clippers quieted, and Cara stood in front of Anna, a thoughtful frown creasing her forehead.

“Okay, girls. Group decision,” Cara told anyone who was not Anna. “Bangs. Should they stay, or go?”

Anna quickly grabbed her phone to get a look at her hair as it currently was, but then stopped. No, she’d wait until it was completely done and there was no turning back.

Also, she didn’t want to break down crying in front of the others.

Kerri joined Cara after delivering a plate of goodies to the table in front of the television, and Denise joined her soon after. All three scrunched their lips to the right as they considered the question at hand.

None of them had said she looked hideous, Anna noted. That had to be good for something, right?

In the quiet moment, the air conditioning actually did kick on, rather than being a figment of Anna’s imagination, and blew a cool breeze along Anna’s nape. It created the sort of sensation she simply had never felt before. She could feel the new breeze right to the roots of her hair; whereas it would once have only stirred a few unruly wisps of her lush mane, it now tickled and chilled her scalp.

“Without,” Kerri finally said.

Denise nodded. “I agree.”

“Those-Who-Do-Chores have spoken.” Cara flicked off the guard she had been using and placed a longer one on the clippers.

With Cara’s fingers cupping her chin, Anna lifted her eyes to meet Cara’s, feeling little butterflies of warmth flutter around her gut when she saw her friend’s genuine smile. The rumbling, teasing teeth of the hungry little machine were placed against her left temple, and with a quick swipe to the right, Anna’s newly formed bangs were irreversibly erased.

Anna closed her eyes against the sudden rain of hair, scrunching her tickled nose as Cara swept the clippers from one side to the other and then from front to back again and again. Finally, for one last time, the clippers fell silent. Anna opened her eyes to find Cara looking right at her.

“Perfect,” she said softly.

A heat built in Anna’s cheeks, and she didn’t trust herself to say anything as she slid from the stool. Her hands couldn’t resist reaching up to feel her hair, and, despite knowing what to expect and despite knowing that Kerri was standing just a few feet away filming her, Anna looked at the other girls with wide eyes and a mouth agape.

“Oh. My. God!” she laughed, unable to believe she was feeling her own head. It felt so much more like feeling one of the other girls’ napes, only it was for her entire head. She actually forced herself to pull her hands away, instead relegating them to covering her mouth as she laughed and danced around a bit in disbelief. Tears pricked the corners of her eyes, and as concern dawned on the faces of the other women even Anna wasn’t sure whether they were happy or sad tears. Instead of trying to figure that out, she just decided to ignore them. “Okay, okay. Ready for some Schitt to go down?”

“You don’t even want to see yourself?” Cara asked, turning her phone camera on.

Anna hesitated – dare she ruin whatever fantasies she might have held for the next few hours? She could pretend she was still gorgeous, still beautiful while enjoying the feel of her buzzed hair, rather than thinking she’d made a terrible mistake and looked like a boy.

No, that was crazy. Denise and Kerri both had severe crops at times, and no one would have suggested they looked like a boy.

Anna took Cara’s camera and looked at the selfie screen. There was a stranger looking back at her; a stranger who looked remarkably like her but who was missing one key element – a long, beautiful mane of signature snowy blonde locks that let people pick Anna out of a crowd two or three blocks away.

But that wasn’t all – the stranger had blue eyes that were somewhat similar to Anna’s, but they were so much brighter, bluer, and bigger. Her features, unlike Anna-of-old’s, were striking, boldly standing out and demanding notice. Her cheekbones were prominent and perfect, her chin cute and small and nestled in a jawline that topped a naked, vulnerable neck begging to be kissed and nibbled.

Anna ran her hand over her hair, running it back like a strong wind running through a wheatfield. From her forehead to her crown, the formerly tumbling tresses were only a half inch or so long, but even that nearly insignificant length melted away to almost nothing as her fingers slipped down toward her nape. Like the ripples running through her hair in the wake of her fingers, tremors of delight and shuddering pleasure coursed through her body with every stroke. Each touch was a reminder of that silly, daring decision she made, the request she made without any forethought to sacrifice her gorgeous mane for a moment’s thrill.

She circled her one palm against the silky pelt covering the crown of her head. Just this morning she was lamenting how she’d have to cut her beautiful hair before going on job interviews; now she’d probably have to grow it out. And even if she started tomorrow, even if she never let a pair of scissors near her treasured locks again, how long would it be when she graduated next year? Maybe – just maybe — she’d have a bob that was almost as long as the one she briefly wore less than an hour ago?

It’d be years before she wore a ponytail again, if ever. Years. She couldn’t even comprehend what it was like to grow her hair out – she’d never had to.

Her eyes moved to Cara, catching the girl’s anxious gaze. She smiled and handed the phone back. Frankly, she just wasn’t sure what to say.

 

***

 

Schitt’s Creek night was a lovely affair, free from worries about anyone would think about their corny jokes or how much food they crammed into their faces. After a quick, somewhat surreal, cleanup of her shorn hair, Anna snuggled onto an overstuffed couch in front of the TV, soon to be joined by Cara to her right and the other girls to her left.

As the night wore on, Kerri was the first to head to bed. Then Cara disappeared for a bit, though she returned later with a refilled bowl of popcorn. With a cheery bounce, she reclaimed her cushion next to Anna, offering access to her quarry with a wordless tilt of the bowl. The popcorn was good, but there was something about the way Cara looked at her that made it even better. Anna still found herself exploring her shorn head with her left hand, though the need to do so ebbed after she felt the first tentative, almost shy touch of Cara’s fingertips. Motions that started as small, light circles gradually became full-palmed caresses that followed the curve from Anna’s crown to nape.

It was about that time when Denise stole away a bit of the popcorn and called it a night herself. Time to go call the boyfriend, she claimed. Ignore any noise you hear coming from her room, she warned.

Another episode passed; it was funny, but Anna didn’t laugh much. She was too focused on how she found herself leaning against Cara more and more, and how Cara let her do so. Her friend smelled wonderful, too – different than she had earlier. Flowery and sweet, a cute scent for an unbelievably cute girl. Anna leaned down, rubbing her cheek against Cara’s shoulder. Soft, wildflower-scented golden blonde hair brushed against her forehead, and she whispered, “I like how your hoodie feels.”

Cara smiled, her fingertips tracing unknown patterns above Anna’s left ear. “I like how your head feels.”

Anna giggled, then swallowed softly. She bit her bottom lip, lifting her head to look into Cara’s eyes. Had they always been that beautifully blue?

“I didn’t force you into this, did I?” Cara asked, her fingertips moving to tease Anna’s ear.

Anna swallowed, and slowly shook her head. “I asked you to. I wanted you to.”

Cara smiled. She glanced downward, then lifted her eyes to meet Anna’s again.

Anna didn’t understand why she wanted to, it wasn’t something she ever considered before, but the sight of Cara’s smiles, and the need to take a risk and do something she’d never done…

Yes, those thoughts applied to having her hair clippered away into a crop she never, ever would have expected herself to ask for, but moreso they applied to her scooting a little closer to her bashful friend and simply saying, “I want you to.”

Cara smiled, and then leaned in, brushing her lips against Anna’s. It was a soft and sweet embrace that gradually deepened as Anna cupped her hand to Cara’s nape. The kiss lifted and shone a light on emotions and feelings Anna hadn’t expected or felt before. She never expected to be kissing Cara, never expected to have her friend lead her to and then pin her against her own bed, and never expected to be lifting her hips so her gym shorts could be lowered just enough to necessitate muffling her moans with the closest pillow…

But here she was anyway. Not everything always needed to work out as expected.

 

________________________________________

Another one that ran much longer than expected – but I hope you liked it! Any comments, whether critiques or encouragement, are appreciated.

 

And if you want to do some background reading:

 

Denise’s first chop: https://www.hairstorynetwork.com/stories/denises-day/

Cara’s first cut: https://www.hairstorynetwork.com/stories/denise-and-cara-the-set-up/

Kerri’s initial clipping: https://www.hairstorynetwork.com/stories/because-of-a-joke/

12 responses to “Expectations

    1. I’m glad you liked it!

      I’m not sure whether there will be a direct part two to this one, but I’m sure the girls will show up again sometime (This is, I think, Cara’s fourth appearance in various stories, for example).

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