Runaway

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They say all people are normal until put under non-normal circumstances. We’ve all done some things we aren’t proud of, and those sometimes lead to consequences we never expected. Sheryl was no new to this concept.

Being a 24 year old woman with no college degree and no help from her folks, working full time at a coffee shop, she barely had enough money to go by. Sure, she could just eat while at work, but her living expenses always came around chasing her, and she often found herself struggling to pay rent and stay with a positive bank balance.

One night, on the way back home from her night-shift, she saw an old woman walking by herself. She looked a bit shorter than her, and obviously carrying a bag with something worthwhile in it. From that moment on, Sheryl doesn’t remember anything, only that a few moments later she was running as fast as she could with that bag in her hands. She vaguely remembers seeing that old woman lying on the ground.

Upon her arrival at her apartment, she couldn’t breath properly, let alone open the bag. She stashed it under her closet and went to bed.

As soon as she turned her TV on the next morning, she heard a story on the morning news.

“Police are looking for a young woman who robbed an elderly old woman. While it is still unknown what exactly it is that she took, a few details about the thief have been made public. The thief is a young woman, presumed to be around 25 years of age, about 5’4, who wore her long blonde hair in a ponytail at 11 o’clock last night, near 19th avenue. The elderly lady is said to have been found by medics in a life-risking state, regaining consciousness only two hours ago.”

Sheryl’s blood froze. Could she have really put that poor woman in danger? Could that poor lady really die because of her?

Trying to not think about it, Sheryl just continued drinking her coffee and got ready for her shift.


 

“Hi Mrs. Singer, sorry I’m late!”

“Late? you’re…” Mrs. Singer said while looking at her watch “…about four minutes too early.”

“Oh, haha, guess I’m all good then.” Sheryl answered. “I’m sorry, it’s like my head isn’t completely here this morning.”

“It’s the same for me. Can’t get my mind off that robbery.”

“What robbery?” Sheryl asked, hoping her gut was just misleading her.

“Didn’t you hear? A young woman, about your age, robbed Mrs. Spiegel. Poor Mrs. Spiegel, she hasn’t been the same since her husband died.”

“Wow. It’s just terrifying how people can be the same age as yourself, yet being completely inhuman at times.”

“Kudos to that, Sheryl. When me and Mrs. Spiegel were young, people the same age as us were killing us for our ancestry! Oh, how times have changed.”

Oh shit, Sheryl thought to herself. Is that Mrs. Spiegel also a survivor?

“Anyway, did they catch the girl who did it?”

“Unfortunately no,” Mrs. Singer answered. “They did give out a bit of information on the suspect, though. About 5’4, long blonde hair. They said she wore it in a ponytail. Seen walking down 19th avenue at around 11 o’clock last night.”

“Oh god, that sounds an awful lot like me,” Sheryl said.

Mrs. Singer burst out laughing. “Oh dear, the day you could do such thing, I could walk the streets safely at night.”


 

A few days had past and Sheryl tried to forget it. In a perfect world, she would have. But then, in the morning news, she heard her details again.

“…in a blonde ponytail. If you happen to know anybody who may fit those details, please report to the police, who are now looking at a possible manslaughter charge given the recent news.”

Oh god. Did she die? Sheryl thought to herself.

Upon arriving at the coffee shop, She saw Mrs. Singer closing it. “What happened Mrs. Singer?”

“Oh, I have to go to a funeral. Poor Mrs. Spiegel. That damn thief. Anyway, I won’t be around until about 11 am, so you have that time off.”

“Oh, thanks. Um, I mean, sorry for your loss.”

“Oh dear, it’s okay. Certainly not the first friend I’ve lost. I just hope they catch that murderer and send them to prison for a very long time.”

Sheryl’s heart skipped a beat. Oh god. She really did kill that poor woman did she? But she never meant for it to happen. She was just desperate, like any other young person in the city, who could blame her? Besides, it’s not like she’s the first one to do something like that on accident. There are probably hundreds of young people who did the same. Hundreds of blonde women. Hundreds of 5’4’s.

Bingo, Sheryl thought. They have her appearance as their only lead. She just needs to change something about it and the police could never trace it back to her. But what could she do? It’s not like she could just shrink in size of suddenly grow an inch.

Oh no. Does she really have to do that?

Her hair was the only thing keeping her, well, herself in this city. She can’t just change it. That’s who she is. If she were to change it, a part of her would die. But she can’t go to prison now, can she?

While trying to keep her thoughts straight, she walked around the area. It was now 10:15, she didn’t have to go back to work for another 45 minutes.

Strolling around, she stumbled upon a hair salon. It was really old looking, and had a sign that said “Today only! Cut and color for 15$!” that looked like it’s hanged there for at least a decade.
Without really thinking, her legs took her there.

“Hello there young lady! What bring you here?” The older woman sweeping the floor asked. Without saying anything, Sheryl just pointed her finger at the sign. “Oh, that old deal! I think I haven’t had a new costumer ask for that in at least four years. Come on, take a seat.”

Sheryl walked up and sat at the creaking chair. “So,” the lady said while swinging the cape around Sheryl, “what are we looking at today? Trimming the ends?”

“No, I want a cut and color.” Sheryl answered dispassionately. “Well, you’re gonna have to be more specific than that. What cut? What color? You sure wouldn’t want to buzz it short and dye it black now, would you?”

“Well, actually, I’d like just that.”

“What?”

“Well, certainly not a buzz cut, I still want it to look feminine. But just really short. Shorter than a pixie. And I’m done with being blonde. Black seems like a good choice.”

“Wow, that was a lot. I think black would look good on you, given your blue eyes. But still, it’d be a shame to get rid of that natural blonde. As for the length… well I think you should decide on that only after we get the coloring done. Sounds good?”

“I’m actually running a bit low on time. How much time would the coloring take? I definitely want it short.”

“Well, if we color all of that, it would be about 40 minutes. I could take some of the length off now and then color it in 20 minutes, and style it for a bit later. Does that sound good?”

“Good.”

The lady sprayed a bit of water on Sheryl’s blonde hair, and started cutting it. Sheryl could barely feel it physically, but mentally it felt weird. She felt herself bit by bit. Ending up with a bit longer than shoulder length, the lady said “Okay, that seems like enough. Now let’s get to the coloring part.”

“I want it shorter.”

“Young lady, you still haven’t seen yourself black, are you sure?”

“I’m quite sure I said I need it short.”

“Okay, who am I to defy a customer. Just so you know, you’ll look 10 years older with┬áblack and short hair.”

This time, the scissors cut much closer to Sheryl’s neck, so she could feel each and every snip behind her. By the time the lady finished, Sheryl had a short, choppy bob. “Is this okay?” “Well, I guess. I still want it shorter after the coloring.”

Feeling her water run by her hair, the length was much more noticeable now. Maybe the lady was right and she did go too short. The color dragging across her scalp began to cause a slight tingle. “I’m done for now, you should sit outside for a few minutes before we can wash it and get the rest of the cut done.”

While walking outside, Sheryl caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror. She still looked the same. Granted, her hair was all up so it didn’t seem like much of a difference.

After a few minutes, she returned inside and the lady washed her hair and took her back to the chair. After drying her hair with a towel, Sheryl saw herself with black hair for the first time. Oh my god. I look so much different, she thought. But still, it didn’t feel safe enough. She need to go shorter.

“So? What do you think?”

“I really like it. I wonder why I ever was blonde.”

“I tend to agree. It does make you look older, but in a good way. Should we just leave it like that and call it a day?”

“No, I definitely need to go shorter.”

“Okay, but if you now look five years older, you’ll look then ten years older. How short are we talking? Scissors short or clippers short?”

“Clippers.”

“Okay, you pick your own poison I guess. So like, clippers on the sides and longer at the top?”

“You’re the stylist.”

As the lady turned the clippers on with a tick sound, Sheryl felt a huge relief. From there on, from the first moment those clippers touched the back of her head to the moment they reached behind her ears, to the slower graduation to the top, Sheryl felt reborn with every stroke.

“And… done!”

Sheryl looked in the mirror for the first time since the cut started. She could barely recognize herself. She looked like someone who has their life figured out. Has a good job, a good spouse. Maybe even a nice house.

“Thank you. You’re an absolute artist, you know that?”

“Well, I wouldn’t say so myself. Anyway, that’d be 15 dollars.”

Sheryl got up, handed her a 20$ note, and for the first time in her life, didn’t ask for the change.


 

“Oh my god, Sheryl, is that you?!” Mrs. Singer asked.

“The one and only, Mrs. Singer,” Sheryl answered.

“Wow! You look so much older! Why did you do that?”

“I guess I was bored. My body lead me there.”

“That’s great, dear. Anyway, I’ll open up the shop. You wouldn’t mind handling it alone for a few hours? I still have a few errands to make.”

“Not at all.”


 

A bit later, when Sheryl was alone in the shop, two police officers stepped in. One a man, looking to be in his 30’s, and the other a woman who seems to be around 40.

“Good afternoon, Ma’am. We’re here about that robbery case a few nights ago,” The man said.

“Good afternoon to you too.”

“So, let’s jump straight into it…” the officer took a look at Sheryl’s name tag “…Sheryl. Have you seen around a young lady, assumed to be about 25 years of age, with long blonde hair around this area a few nights back?”

“No sir.”

“Are you sure? The guy in the newspaper stand just down the street said he saw a woman who fits exactly those details work here.”

“Well, other than me it’s just Mrs. Singer who works here, so he must’ve been mistaken.”

“Ah, well, okay,” the officer said, and then asked jokingly, “And you’re sure it can’t be you, right?”

“Me? I haven’t had long hair since 2018, sir.”

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