For Her Grandmother

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Danielle’s brown boot heels clacked against the pavement as the automatic sliding doors of the Caring Hearts nursing
home closed behind her. Brisk autumn air filled her lungs, it was held then released in final acceptance of an act she had
first contemplated over a year ago. She looked up at the old maple trees in peek foliage. They lined the oval driveway in
hundreds of shades of red. Each deeper, and more beautiful than the last. But, none could compare with the color of copper
swaying in loose curls a foot past her hips.

Her hair had been with her since she could remember. A source of pride, and of confidence when she was young that
as she progressed into her mid, then late twenties had become the only connection she had left to her aging grandmother.
Danielle wiped away tears remembering how her grandmother taught her how to put up her hair in protective styles. And how she
would always be there to stop her parents from even considering cutting it for the sake of convenience, or punishment.
Danielle loved her grandmother, and the bond they shared. A bond that was slowly lost over the last years.

At first her grandmother was forgetful. Late to Danielle’s high school graduation. Then, through college, she got lost on her
daily walk. Finding her way home after a kind neighbor showed her the way. But, never, not even after she was brought to the nursing
home did she fail to remember Danielle, and her hair. That was until two years ago, when she slipped into calling Danielle “Daniel”.
The turn was quick. Her memories fragmented, blurred, and betrayed her. Danielle became her grandson, and in a sick irony, that
became the one constant in their weekly visits.

Danielle’s car filled with strawberries as she brought her hair around her right side to drop it safely over her seat belt, and
into her lap. It had been decades since Danielle first had her hair washed in her grandmother’s sink with that pink bottle. The joy
that filled her after her grandmother told her how pretty it smelled convinced her that her hair should never smell like anything
else.

No tears she thought, surprised, as she drove into town. Down the hill, then maybe another half of a mile she traveled in silence.
The four way stop at the edge of town turned green. It was the only stoplight for miles. Which did not matter, because anyone that
traveled into town parked on the outskirts. It’s streets long since turned over to pedestrians from the city who were intent on
turning the town into another their revitalization projects. The kind that always managed to price the country folk out of their
own land.

Danielle parked in a small paved lot beside a railroad that had not seen a train since she was single digits in age. It
was down that track, near a large oak tree with a fort of dubious safety, that she had her first kiss. Her relationship
with that boy lasted only a month before it was blindingly obvious he was more in love with her hair than he would ever be
with her. Her heart was broken. She blamed her hair for ruining her life. And, if it was not for her grandmother hearing her
sobbing in the bathroom she would have surely shorn herself to the skin with her mother’s sewing shears.

Laughing at her over dramatic childhood emotions Danielle ordered a coffee from a rustic, yet exceedingly expensive, coffee shop’s
window. “Is there anything left?” she wondered. The quaint streets of her youth had been replaced with artisan this, and thats.
It was then she spotted the old salon hidden behind signs promoting some big town wide event.

She checked both ways before crossing the street. Her thick copper hair, glowing in the red of late afternoon sun, moved like a
blazing fire behind her. It’s loose curls drew stares from passer by that she had long since grown accustom to ignoring. Her boots
dug into a path of gravel, feet from the salon’s large window. Both chairs were free, ready for the next customer of the empty salon.
The city dwellers never did come to the country to get their hair done she thought opening the door.

“Danielle?” A familiar voice questioned. “OH MY– What brings you back to town?”

Danielle blinked herself back to reality. “Margret?”

“Yah! Come in, come in. We need to catch up!” Margret threw her arm around her old friend, guiding her to the couch.

Over a bottle of wine the two chatted about the past. Margret’s mother had retired from being a hair stylist. Leaving
the salon to her. There were a few boys, one she even considered a man. Her own grandparents had passed, leaving her a
small windfall. Though small it was enough to live comfortably in their completely paid for house. There was a bit more Margret
talked about before Danielle could get a word in. Not that she cared, the atmosphere was enough to bring her back in time
to when her grandmother was whole.

“Are you crying?” Margret put down her wine glass, ready to console her long lost friend.

“This place reminds me of my grandma,” Danielle sniffed.

“Oh, no. Did she pass?”

“No, she lives at Caring Hearts. She’s not doing well.”

“Dementia? That place doesn’t do much else, does it?”

“She thinks I’m her grandson. I don’t think there’s much of her left.”

“Your hair must throw her for a loop,” Margret winced at her own rudeness. “Sorry, that wasn’t kind.”

“It’s fine. She threw me out today because of it. Said no boy should ever have long hair.”

“No chance she’ll eventually remember you’re her granddaughter?”

“It’s been going on for over a year now. I think it’s safe to say it’s only going to get worse. Would you believe I came her to cut my
hair?

“Aww, that’s sweet. To make thing’s easier on her?”

“And myself,” Danielle expected Margret to scold her for thinking about herself.” I thought it would be a constant reminder of how she used to be.
But, now I want to spend what time left I have with my grandma in the happiest way possible for her,” she waited for her friend to push back. When no
objection was forthcoming she continued. “Would you do it for me?”

“Cut your hair?” Margret placed her empty wine glass on the table, ready to move like she had was about to collect on a winning lottery
ticket.

“Yes, while I have some liquid courage.” Danielle poured herself another glass.

“Are you sure?”

“Yes.” Danielle poured a bit more.

Wineglass in hand Danielle sat in the chair closest to the window. With her free hand she moved the length of her hair to avoid
sitting on it, letting Margret take it the rest of the way behind the chair. Multiple twists, and some finagling later, a mass of
copper was held by two giant black clips above Danielle’s head.

“How short did you want to go?”

“Daniel short.”

“I’m sorry?”

“As short as a boy named Daniel would get his haircut. It’s what my grandma calls me now, Daniel.”

“Oh… I can do that.”

The snap of the cape made Danielle take another gulp of her wine. The force of her hair being dropped from the clips pulled he
lips away from the glass prematurely, causing her to spill a few drops of red down the cape. With a single pass of her hair through
an elastic it was held fast in an enviably thick ponytail.

“Are you -”

“I’m ready. Do this before we run out of wine.”

“Aww… It’s sweet you think I would run out of wine.” Margret brought a pair of cordless clippers to life, then pushed them into
Danielle’s densely packed strands.

Surprised by buzzing where she expected snipping Danielle emptied the glass of wine well before her three foot ponytail was dangled
in front of her. She placed the empty wine glass on the counter then took her ponytail with both hands. Her thumb ran along brush like
nub created by the cut strands. “That’s so weird.”

“It’s about to get weirder, sweety.”

Danielle was still getting used to her new self in the mirror. Trying to make sense of her hair ending abruptly in the air above her
shoulder when Margret filled Danielle’s glass to almost the brim.

“If you need it, it’s there.”

Danielle smiled. She coiled her ponytail in her lap, stroking it as she prepared for whatever Margret had in store. Her
hands clenched when the clippers popped on, again. Memories of the boys at school getting their summer haircuts rushed back.
“Aren’t those for boys?”

“Yes, Daniel, they are.” Margret applied slight pressure to Danielle’s head.

Danielle’s stomach churned, realizing she was getting what she asked for. It can’t get much shorter than this she thought,
comparing the yard of curls in her lap to the bob she was now sporting. This notion was immediately dispelled when the clippers
plowed over her right ear, sending another half a foot of her soft copper curls, tightened from the lack of weight, raining down
over her firmly gripped ponytail. She was sure she needed out of the seat, but her body would not move. For her grandmother, she
stayed committed. Around, up and down, the clippers moved over the sides, and back of her head. She lifted her ponytail out of
the pile of hair, as if to protect her hair from her hair. “How short are you going?”

“As short as you asked me to.”

The cryptic response did nothing to settle Danielle’s nerves. She had barely stated to convinced herself that the weird undercut bob she
sported was some how fashionable when Margret started snipping the still bob length strands that covered the #1 stubble, reducing them to
just over an inch in length. “I’m going to look like a boy,” Danielle connected her earlier request with her current predicament. Her eye’s
squeezed shut.

“It’s easy enough to grow this out into a pixie, if you decide to.” Margret said matter-of-factly.

Danielle was not sure Margret was going to stop. She felt the comb rake over her scalp, accompanied by the snipping of scissors attacking
what little hair she had left.

Margret whispered into Danielle’s ear. “Not many people would do this for their grandparent. Less would make it look so good.”

Danielle forced her eyes open. Blue studded earrings shined back at her in the mirror, commanding attention that Danielle’s adorable
ears had never been afforded by her intense copper mane. Warm air from the hair dryer blew away tiny red hairs from Danielle’s neck. Margret
was right, as much as it pained her to see her long locks reduced to nothing, she rocked the look. When the cape was removed she got up, and
leaned her face into the mirror, turning her head to acquaint herself with her new reflection. “How much do I owe you?”

“It’s on the house,” Margret swept Danielle’s curls into a more orderly pile.

As Danielle turned she felt the multiple glasses of wine taking affect. “I should probably wait a bit before I drive home.”

“Good, I thought you were going to leave me alone again,” Margret searched for her long handled dust pan. “There’s so much more
for us to get caught up on.

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