This story is a bit of an experiment – I’m going to be drawing the cards from the deck for each of the girls as I write, so I don’t know where this will head. If you decide to read along, we’l find out together!
In The Cards
As much as Chrissy loved the social aspects of college in her second year, she had to admit that spending a night in with her friends had its benefits. Namely, there were no worried about getting carded, no concerns about someone calling the police on a loud party they were at, and there was no pressure to look her absolute best at every moment. Thus, it was a night for cold bottle of beer, warm, comfy sweatpants, and a messy bun that kept her mass of soft, baby blonde hair up off her neck and slender shoulders as she played gin rummy around a dining room table with the three other girls in her friend Neddie’s apartment.
She assumed the others felt the same way, given how Neddie wrapped her wealth of dark brown locks up in the same fashion, while Penny preferred waist-length pigtails for her mass of ginger waves and Clara kept her highlighted brunette locks in a loose ponytail.
As always, Neddie was crushing everyone, her light green eyes drinking in every bit of disgusted grumbling as her score climbed higher and higher. As if to distract everyone from whatever card she was about to put down, she asked, “Did you all see Dixie D’Amelio shaved her head?”
“Clippered it,” Penny corrected, her own hand of cards all but forgotten as she took another sip of her beer.
“Close enough,” Neddie insisted.
Penny didn’t seem convinced, but let it go.
“I did hear,” Chrissy said, more to cut off any building argument that would probably have had more to do with the beating being laid down by Neddie more than the semantics of her chosen words. “You have to respect her guts.”
“I could never do that,” Clara murmured. She seemed to believe she still had a chance to win, or that the game even mattered at this point. Neddie’s victory was just a formality, at least for this particular round.
“I don’t know,” Chrissy mused. She reached up to under her hair, letting it fall down her back. It just about reached her bottom, and she found herself constantly wondering whether to see how long it could grow or whether to see how short she’d be willing to cut it. Most of the time, her boyfriends pushed for the former, which left this rare moment of single-hood the perfect opportunity for her to show off what she personally thought was her best feature – her sky blue eyes – rather than the one thing everyone noticed first, her shampoo-commercial hair. She gathered up a thick lock and looked at its ends. “I feel like I could go either way.”
“What do you mean? Penny asked.
Chrissy dropped her chosen lock. “I need a trim, but I feel like I could just as easily get it all shaved – or clippered – off instead. I really can’t decide.”
“Yeah, right,” Neddie scoffed.
“You wouldn’t,” Clara, her dark eyes wide, gasped.
“Are you serious?” Penny asked.
Chrissy shrugged again. “Why not? It’s just hair. And college is the time to try new things, right? The only thing is that it would take forever to grow out again if I didn’t like it short.”
“But you might like it,” Penny offered.
Chrissy tilted her beer bottle toward the redhead. “That is true.”
Penny smiled deviously. “So how about we make a game of it.”
Chrissy’s brow furrowed. “Like a bet?”
“No. A game,” Penny insisted. Without even asking anyone else, she quickly gathered up the cards from around the table and shuffled the deck. “You said you don’t care whether you get a trim or get clippered, right?”
Chrissy felt like semantics were suddenly very important. “Is said I couldn’t decide between the two.”
“Fine, fine,” Penny acknowledged. “Well, let’s let the cards decide which you get, or whether it’s somewhere in between.”
“Out of morbid curiosity but without promise,” Chrissy said, “I’m listening.”
Penny smiled. “It’s simple. You draw a card, and that’s how many inches we cut. Faces are ten inches, aces are eleven, and the numbers are… the numbers. But the thing is, you then draw another card, and, if it’s the same color, you have that much more cut. And then again, and again, until you draw the opposite color card.”
She flipped a card from the deck, it was the Jack of spades. Black. “So that would be ten inches.”
She flipped another, nine of diamonds. Red. “So you’d be done. Just ten inches lost.” She reshuffled and drew again, a five of spades, eight of spades, and a eight of hearts. “Black, black, red. Boom. You just lost thirteen inches.”
“What about bangs?” Neddie asked.
Chrissy had never had bangs, but the idea that the other girls were getting into this amused her. “You draw again, and if it’s the same as your first color, you get bangs.”
“Once for curtain bangs, and if you get two of the same color in a row,” Neddie added, “you get short blunt bangs.”
“We,” Chrissy corrected her. “If you’re adding rules, you have to do it, too.” She looked to Penny. “And you absolutely are since it’s your idea.”
Penny thought about it for a moment, running her fingers down her long, long pigtails. “Deal.”
“What would we use to do the cutting, though?” Neddie asked, letting her hair down and shaking it out. The voluminous, shiny waves were almost as long as Chrissy and Penny’s, stopping just short of her waist. “I only have kitchen scissors, and I’m not letting them near my hair.”
“Isn’t your neighbor a stylist?” Clara asked. She was sitting back, not offering much else to the conversation – probably for fear of losing the silky locks she’d been growing out for while now. “Maybe he has a pair of scissors we could borrow?”
Chrissy and the others made happy, thoughtful sounds. Ken was, in fact, a stylist, and extremely pleasant on the eyes, too.
A slow grin spread across Neddie’s face. “I can’t believe we’re considering this. What’s to keep someone from chickening out?”
“Having to live in shame and humiliation?” Chrissy offered.
“If you chicken out, you have to pay the others who go through with it two hundred dollars.”
“Whoa!” Chrissy yelped, and she realized Neddie and Clara did, too.
“You don’t have to worry about it if you plan on going through with it, right?” Penny countered. “And we’ll cut it card by card so not only would you lose the money, but you’ll have had some cut anyway.”
“You put way too much thought into this,” Clara said.
Penny grinned. “That’s the thing, this is all stupidly spontaneous.” She turned to Neddie. “Go ask Ken?”
Neddie took a long drink from her bottle before rising form her seat. “Go get a blanket from my closet and drink however much you need to get your courage up. But if he doesn’t have the right tools to lend us, it’s off.”
As soon as the front door closing sounded, Penny turned to Chrissy. “You realize I’m going out and buying a haircutting set if he says no, right?”
Chrissy laughed as she stood up, stretching her back and shaking out all of her hair. So silky soft and perfectly straight, she’d always taken pride in it but ha never been obsessed with it. Cute, short hairstyles had always caught her eye, but she could never bring herself to take the leap into the pool of adorable pixie cuts.
Heading back to Neddie’s closet for the blanket, she stopped at a mirror and pulled her hair back. She’d always loved her eyes, and was rather proud of her beautiful cheekbones and little chin. Her jawline wasn’t anything to scoff at, either, so, like the other girls at the table, she didn’t think she had anything to truly fear from the deck of cards.
She’d find out for sure soon enough, though.
It took her a moment to find a light blue blanket in Neddie’s mess of a linen closet, and when she got back to the table she was surprised to see Neddie hadn’t just brought back Ken’s haircutting kit, but Ken, too.
Tall with dark brown eyes and golden blonde hair cropped close to his head, his smile demanded that Chrissy’s heart stop beating for a moment when he waved at her. A head taller than her, she was perfectly eye-level with his broad shoulders, though overall his form was that of someone who worked out without being obsessed over how musclebound he could be. A wiry stringbean, if you would. Even in a slightly ragged white tee and worn jeans, he looked great.
“Neddie explained your game, and I couldn’t in good conscience give you the tools without the skill.”
“So… you’re going to give us the skill?” Chrissy asked as she set the blanket down on the table next to her chair.
“No… I’m going to be the skill.” He held up a pair of scissors and snapped them open and closed.
Suddenly, the situation became very real, and Chrissy’s heart sped up.
“Ready?” Penny asked. “Who’s all in? Stake your claim now so we know how much money is on the line for chickening out.”
Chrissy raised her hand. Penny did as well, and Neddie. Clara, pointedly, kept hers down.
“No way,” she said. “I’m not nearly drunk enough.”
“Alright, then,” Penny said. “The stakes are set.” She giggled, kicking her feet a little as she pushed the deck of cards toward Chrissy and then rested her chin on her hands.
Chrissy took a deep breath. She looked to Ken, who seemed more bemused than anything by all of this. “You really don’t mind doing this for us?”
“Getting a chance to style hair like al of yours is why I became a stylist in the first place.”
“Okay then.” Chrissy started to sit in her chair as she reached for the deck, but Ken stopped her with a hand under her elbow.
“Stay standing. You’re hair is way too long for me to bend over for.”
Chrissy nodded and stood, though she wondered exactly how much longer her hair would qualify for that. She shook it all out dramatically one more time, throwing her head back to make it look even longer. Taking a deep breath, she reached for the deck and drew a card.
Five of clubs. Black.
She showed it to everyone, then felt Ken’s hands rest on her shoulders to turn her back to him. A squeeze bottle’s squeaky trigger sounded, misting her hair wet, and then a comb slipped through her poker-straight locks from root to tip.
“Five inches, right?” Ken asked.
“So far,” Penny answered.
Jen’s fingers rested on Chrissy’s head, setting her to look straight ahead at the giggling Penny and nervous Neddie. The comb kept moving slowly through her thick mane, through the soft locks that were so, so close to being ass length, and then the comb stopped. She felt Ken’s fingers brush lightly against her back through her thin t-shirt.
A heavy silence hung in the air, and Chrissy was just about to wonder whether anyone was still breathing when the first long, slow crunch sounded. Ken’s hand appeared to her left, carefully placing a thick, five-inch long lock of her hair down. He worked carefully, placing lock after lock on the pile of her blonde tresses.
The realization that the growing pile might only be the start of what was in store for her was not lost on Chrissy. The next card, and the one after, could lead to ponytail after ponytail being placed alongside the pile, and then maybe even in Ken running the oft-considered clippers up her nape and across her head, ravaging her beautiful mane until nothing of it remained. She couldn’t tell whether it was despair or excitement, but something was building inside of her as she felt each and every cut Kevin made, her eyes lingering on the deck that had already decided, but hadn’t revealed, her hair’s fate.
Ken didn’t work for long, moving around front to smile at her before gathering her hair in front of her shoulders so she could see the thick straight line he’d cut just a bit above the waistband of her sweatpants.
She cursed to herself when she was reminded that she was standing in front of this complete smokeshow in freaking sweatpants.
“All good?” he asked.
She nodded, smiling.
“Next card!” Penny reminded her.
Chrissy took another deep breath, and reached for the next card.
King of hearts. Red.
Penny made a disappointed sound, and, surprisingly, Chrissy didn’t completely disagree with her. She doubted anyone would even be able to tell her hair had been trimmed, and the idea of having Ken play with her hair at least a little longer wasn’t exactly terrible.
“Don’t forget to check for bangs,” Clara said, motioning toward the deck.
Oh, right! Bangs weren’t a style Chrissy had ever worn, but… at least nominally, they presented a chance to stay nicely up close and personal with Ken. She reached for the top card, and Neddie and Penny both leaned forward in their seats.
Ace of spades. Black.
“Curtain bangs!” the three other girls sang.
Ken laughed, stepping in front of Chrissy and carefully drawing a thick blanket of hair forward. “You have gorgeous eyes,” he said as he twisted the captured lock around a few times. “You’ll look great with these.”
Chrissy bit her bottom lip, feeling the heat rise in her cheeks. Then the scissors came into view, just above the tip of her nose, and she held her breath. With few small nibble and then one quick snap, feet – actual feet – of her hair was chopped off, with the shortened remnants spinning free and falling across her eyes. Ken quickly herded the newly shorn locks into place, and then worked to blend them into the long falls of blonde that fell before each of her shoulders. Suddenly, where she once had one-length tresses almost to her ass, she now had a layered style that was barely waist-length and had face-framing bangs.
“I knew you’d look gorgeous,” Ken said with a wink.
“One more,” Neddie reminded her.
Once she managed to get her heartbeat under control, Chrissy drew the next card.
King of spades. Black. Goodbye curtain bangs.
“Ooh! Draw again to see if they should be even thicker,” Penny insisted.
“That wasn’t a rule,” Chrissy said.
Penny shrugged. “Yeah, but could be fun.”
Chrissy reached forward again.
Ace of diamonds. Red. She scrunched her nose and flicked the card toward Penny, sticking her tongue out as she did.
“Blunt bangs, then?” Ken asked.
His comb went to work again, drawing more of Chrissy’s still-long locks forward, including a good bit of the face-framing layers he worked so ardently to form. Deep down, Chrissy knew she’d still have plenty of her long locks for her patented ear tuck, but lamented the loss of the strategic head tilt that would send a cascade of long locks tumbling in front of her eyes. The best ear tucks, even better than the flirty, come-hither ones she executed, were those done by whatever guy was about to kiss her, and, as the cool steel of Ken’s shears brushed against her forehead just above her left eyebrow, she knew she was about to lose that.
And with just a few long, slow crunches, Ken’s shears slid across Chrissy’s forehead, stealing away the curtain of silky locks he had coaxed forward, letting them spill down in a pile upon Chrissy’s naked toes. She never would have chosen short bangs for herself, never in a million years and especially not when she was of that age where being treated like and adult or a child all depended on someone else’s perception of your appearance, but here she was. Long, long hair and short, short bangs.
But Ken was smiling at her as his fingers fussed with her new fringe, and with a gentle, “Careful, now,” he used the very tips of his shears to make a few corrections.
“Okay, all done. Is there a mirror around here you can look in? If you freak out, we’ll call it a night.” He looked to the other women. “Otherwise, mind if I have a beer before we get started on whoever’s next?”
Chrissy did as Ken ordered, stealing away to check the mirror in Neddie and Clara’s bathroom. She couldn’t hide her gasp when she first saw herself; even though the overall length was pretty much the same, the shear volume of brief length of her new bangs gave her a completely different appearance. Sharply and evenly cut, her bangs just barely brushed the tops of her elegant arched eyebrows, immediately declaring there’d be no chance for her face – any of it – to be hidden at all; not for at least a year or more as she grew them out.
She gathered her long locks in front of each shoulder, her jaw dropping at her high school cheerleader appearance. Either that, or porn star. But her slender build didn’t lend itself to the porn star illusion. Gathering her hair back into a ponytail, exposing her ears and the elegant curves of her neck, she turned this way and that, deciding that, when worn up, it wasn’t so drastic a de-aging. And when she brushed the new bangs to the side, she almost looked like a cute business intern.
She could make this work, she decided. And, if not, well, there were other ways around it. Maybe it was time to start trying new things, rather than just keeping her hair long just because it already was.
Dropping her hair from the ponytail and shaking it out, she smiled to her reflection and then left the bathroom. It was time for Penny’s turn.
Well, Chrissy’s cut was a bit of a bust. The bangs were an ultra-cute change, sure, but Penny had been hoping to see her change-averse friend get a more dramatic look. And now her own hair was on the chopping block, so to speak, or else she’d be out $400. And that wasn’t any sort of money she just had lying around.
Undoing her pigtails, she borrowed Ken’s comb and bean running it through her thick tresses while he enjoyed his beer and chatted with the others. When tugged straight, her ginger locks were probably two and a half feet in length, so she doubted she’d lose too much, relatively speaking, but still. She enjoyed the compliments it always garnered her when out an about. She’d become known on campus as the girl with the lion’s mane, and hoped to keep that title until graduation in a few years.
That said, this was her idea. And it was usually the color people commented on, anyway; and that certainly wouldn’t be changing any time soon. Maybe a crop of cute little curls would work out well for her. She always enjoyed having her neck kissed and ears nibbled, so easier access to those for her boyfriend couldn’t be a bad thing.
When Chrissy returned, it was apparent she’d been playing with her hair a bit, though, even brushed to the side, the new bangs really did favor her bone structure. The other girl smiled and sat back in her chair, curling one foot under her as she sat to bring her closer to eye level with Neddie ad Clara’s tall neighbor.
Ken glanced toward Penny after she set his comb down and ran her fingers through her lion’s mane a few times, and he asked, “Ready?”
She nodded, reaching over to take the deck of cards from Chrissy. She shuffled them well, somehow both convinced that she could get the cards in an order that would risk a minimal amount of her abundant mane, but also knowing that she’d be leaving it completely to chance.
“Okay,” she sighed as she set the cards down. She bounced a bit and rolled her shoulders, as if preparing to take the final serve in a tennis match.
Ken was already behind her, his comb sliding through her hair again, as she reached for the top card.
Four of diamonds.
She held it up to show everyone.
“Copycat!” Chrissy teased.
Penny stuck her tongue out at her friend as Ken gathered her hair back.
It took him a good long while to become satisfied with his combing, and then he asked, “Are we measuring from its full length, or when its wavy?”
“Full length!” Penny shouted, surprised by the enthusiasm of her answer. “Sorry.”
Ken laughed, as did the others, and then set to work. Penny felt gentle tugs, then heard soft crunches, and watched as her own little pile of shorn locks, much like Chrissy’s began to grow on the table. She knew, despite having less cut, that her pile would be bigger simply because of how ridiculously voluminous her waves were, but that didn’t help the growing nibbles of panic within when Ken’s fingers brushed against her back just above her waist.
“Does it feel lighter?” Clara asked as she eyed the pile of red locks on the table.
“In all honesty, not even a little,” she answered.
“Draw another card and see if it stays that way,” Neddie prodded with a smile.
Nine of clubs.
Penny let out a deep sigh, one she was immediately embarrassed about. “I didn’t realize I was so attached to my hair!” Like a prisoner stayed execution, she smiled broadly, grateful that the length she’d lost would be back within a few months, given the crazy rate her hair grew.
She reached for the next card to decide whether her abundant mane would lose some volume to a new set of bangs, and flipped it over.
Jack of clubs.
Neddie shot Chrissy a conspiratorial look. “Why do I feel like if any of us wound up with short hair, it should be her?”
Penny laughed. “It’s the luck of the draw, that’s all. Come on, I believe you’re next?”
Neddie sighed softly, taking another long drink of her beer. She really couldn’t believe she had agreed to this. Her near-black hair had been long her whole life, never shorter than waist length, and here she was risking it all in the name of some stupid game that didn’t even have a name. She rose from her chair and let her thick, shiny locks loose from their casual bun, shaking her head this way and that to encourage them to become untangled as the fell to brush against her ass.
“You sure about this, Neddie?” Ken asked.
She nodded. “Yeah, why not? I’ll eventually wind up getting it cut some day anyway.”
“I can’t pretend I’m hoping you get a lot of high cards,” he admitted. Like with the other girls, he guided her head to look straight forward and then began combing, his strokes short and gentle, the teeth of his comb gradually working their way down the length of her soft waves.
“Are you sure you don’t want in on this, Clara?” she asked.
Her brunette roommate didn’t answer, instead sipping from her beer as her right hand played through her – relative to the other girls – short, mid-back length locks.
“It’s kind of exciting,” Chrissy admitted. “To gamble like that despite knowing Ken will make you look amazing.”
Ken chuckled behind Neddie, and, while she couldn’t say Chrissy was completely inept at flirting, Neddie did wish she was better at it. For Ken’s sake.
Clara’s lips scrunched to the side as her gaze darted between the piles of shorn hair and the deck of cards. Taking a deep breath as if jumping from a cliff, she reached for the deck of cards and blurted out, “If it’s black I will!”
Four of spades.
“Yes!” Penny cried, pumping a fist into the air.
Clara sank back into her seat, smiling nervously before catching her forehead in her palm. “Oh boy.”
“It’ll be fun!” Penny insisted.
“You won’t regret it,” Chrissy told her. “Probably.”
From behind, Ken patted Neddie’s shoulder. “Ready when you are.”
Neddie nodded, and started shuffling the deck. Before she set it down again, she took the top card.
Seven of diamonds. Red.
Another solid, healthy trim.
“Forgive my fingers,” Ken requested, though Neddie didn’t really mind the gentle, unintended caresses across her ass as he worked. She was used to cutting her own hair cut once or twice a year, so the seven-inch-long locks being set down on the table didn’t really phase her. She’d still have the longest hair of anyone she knew by far, and it’d be cut in a nice, straight line, to boot. Maybe there was something to be said for having a professional do it, rather than picking and nipping at split ends.
Ken took his time, but as he worked, Neddie started feeling the shears brushing against her waist, well above her bottom. She suddenly realized that, no, she might not have the longest hair of the group when she was finished, casting a look toward Chrissy’s impressive fall of light blonde hair.
But as long as no one pulled out a tape measure, Neddie could still pretend hers was longest.
“Okay,” Ken said behind her. “Next card?”
Neddie nodded and reached for the deck.
Four of hearts. Red, again.
“Finally!” Penny blurted.
Neddie grimaced – there’d be no pretending hers was longer than Chrissy’s now.
“Are you okay?” Ken asked.
Neddie nodded. She’d have to pay $600 now if she backed out; she didn’t think any amount of hair was worth that. “Oh yeah, I’m good. Go ahead.”
There was a little bit more combing, and then a bit of misting to wet her long, dark locks. Soft, slow, deliberate crunches followed, and Neddie’s pale green eyes widened as she watched her pile of shorn locks grow on the table. It didn’t take long for the collection of damp tresses to become the largest on the table, and the tell-tale caresses of Ken’s fingers and shears against her back let her know her locks were only two or three inches past her bra strap. Or they would be if she was wearing one under her tee.
Ken gave her a center parting as he worked, taking a bit longer than the initial chop and moving in front of her to make sure her glossy mane fell perfectly in place. The slightest bit of layering was added in front, and, for the first time, Neddie noticed a definite difference in the weight of her hair.
“That is looking amazing,” Chrissy said. “That length looks great on you.”
“Yeah,” Penny agreed. “A lot more volume to it already.”
Neddie rolled her eyes, not entirely believing that her friends weren’t just trying to make her feel better. She desperately wanted to run her fingers through the new length and toss it around, but the simple fact was Ken might not be finished yet and she didn’t want to set him back at all.
“Next card?” she asked.
She reached and flipped.
Three of Spades.
Relief swept through her, and she gave in to the desire to shake her head and shoulders and whole body wildly, letting her hair, now almost a foot shorter than she ever thought it would be when the evening started, dance and bounce about. That simple act, the simple way it bobbed and moved, made her suddenly fall in love with the new length.
Smiling at her, Chrissy reached across the table and tapped the deck. “Come on, green eyes. Bangs or no?”
Neddie remembered the last time she had bangs, or, more accurately, had given herself bangs. Sixth grade, and it was not good. But Ken clearly knew what he was doing, and even at its worst she doubted she’d wind up looking like she was late for sixth period study hall, like Chrissy. Nonetheless, she hoped she picked a red card to prevent any more cutting.
She reached again, and flipped.
Ace of spades.
“Damnit. Okay, let’s save some time…”
She reached again to determine whether Ken would give her blunt bangs like Chrissy’s.
Eight of hearts. Red.
Curtains it was.
Standing in front of her, Ken pushed her the bulk of her long locks back behind her shoulders, but then gathered some forward. Neddie had no experience with bangs since that middle-school endeavor, so she couldn’t be sure whether he was gathering forward a lot or a little.
It seemed like a lot, though.
Much like he had with Chrissy, Ken twisted the captured tresses a few times. Unlike with Chrissy, he used his shears like a razor blade, carefully slicing away the remaining impressive length of Neddie’s locks until a semi-see-through curtain fell in front of her eyes. With perfect professionalism, ken split them down the middle, and then continued to slice and shear away masses of her mane to sculpt more face-framing layers.
When he gave the go ahead, she retreated to the bathroom and looked at her reflection, jaw dropping at how fucking spectacular her new stye looked on her. The center of the light, wispy bangs teased her dark eyebrows, while the longer locks falling around either side, threatening to dance with her eyelashes whenever she blinked, cried out for her green eyes to be noticed.
The difference in length was noticeable, that was for sure, but Neddie’s mane still remained pretty impressive. She loved that she would be able to grow it all out so easily if she chose, with the bangs probably melting back into the bulk within a few months and the ends of her long waves teasing her bottom again within a couple years, but… maybe not. She kind of loved this look. She’d unwittingly shed her college tresses and now had a grown-up style, a sexy vixen’s mane that could slay in an office or a club.
No, there was no “kind of” about it. She did love it, and she was done trimming her own hair twice a year. She just hoped Ken had a regular opening she could grab before it was too late.
And speaking of too late, the evening was getting late, and she didn’t want to miss the final showing.
It would have been so easy to avoid this. She had avoided it, in fact. Chrissy and Penny were being silly, and Neddie decided to join in, and Clara could have just sat there and watched and continued growing her beautiful brunette locks out like she had planned.
Maybe there was some poetry to this, though – she’d only begun growing them out from her previously long lob because she was jealous of her friends’ crowning glories, so it made sense that she’d put her own on the chopping block when they did.
No, actually that made no sense at all. From over one thousand miles away, she could almost hear her mother asking about people jumping off of bridges and whether she’d follow suit.
But here she was, standing tall as Ken combed out her long locks, her head tilting back with every exaggerated stroke as his fingers followed suit. In any other circumstance, she’d have closed her dark blue eyes and begun purring by now…
But then the strokes stopped.
“Ready when you are,” Ken told her.
Clara reached for the reshuffled deck, pausing as Neddie cried out to wait a moment before reentering the room. Once Neddie reclaimed her seat, she gave the go ahead and Clara drew he first card.
Nine of spades. Black.
Clara heard herself gasp without realizing it. She’d pretty much be going back to square one since she started growing out her lush mane, and she’d just reached the point where she felt like her bouncy, curling ponytail was finally worth noticing.
After a few moments passed, she turned to find Ken looking at her with a raised eyebrow, silently asking whether she wanted him to do it. She tried to put on an air of confidence and turned forward again. “Ready when you are,” she said, feeding his catchphrase back to him.
His fingers brushed against her shoulders as he gathered her hair back, and rather than his comb sliding through the length like it had with the other girls, only his hands took part this time. Her soft, thick locks were gathered back, and, unlike anytime previously in the night, all of it was held prisoner in Ken’s left hand as his right hand slid his shears around the resulting ponytail. The battled between her thick mane and his sharp blades began in earnest, but it was a losing battle for Clara and, within a few moments, she let out a little whimper when she saw a nine-inch ponytail get dropped unceremoniously onto the table.
With a flick of his fingers, Ken let what remained of her crowning glory leap in front of Clara’s shoulders, falling just a few inches past her collarbones where, just a few short moments before, it would have caressed and hidden her breasts. Fingers pressed to her temples, Ken straightened her head and dipped her gaze downward a bit. Then he began cutting and snipping again, taking care to straighten what remained of her new lob without shortening it any more than he had to. Soon, he lifted her chin and was working in front of her, parting her down its center and making sure the length on either side were absolutely equal.
She still could wear a ponytail, she reminded herself. Still had flirty hair flips and ear tucks, still could style her favorite updos and twists. This wouldn’t be bad at all.
“Next card?” Penny asked.
Oh, shit. Right.
Clara reached and flipped.
Three of spades. Another black card.
Clara saw Neddie’s eye widen, and her own stomach tightened. She’d never had hair above her shoulders before, and there was a very good chance this would change that.
Was six hundred dollars all that much to lose?
To keep three inches of hair? Yes, yes it was.
She forced herself to appreciate the idea of trying something new.
“Okay, why don’t you have a seat,” Ken told her. “I think it’s time to break this out.”
Clara didn’t have a chance to ask what ‘this’ was; as soon as she sat down the blue blanket Chrissy had found earlier swirled around her, lazily fluttering across her lap and around her shoulders as Ken pulled it closed behind her neck.
Ken’s gentle combing began again, once more almost lulling Clara to sleep until he completely soaked her hair with his spray bottle, combed it again, ad then began gathering large swaths and clipping them upon top of her head.
“This is where it gets fun, trust me,” he said.
Clara doubted that was the case, but was too scared – and polite – to argue.
The stylist nudged her head downward, and Clara felt the teeth of his comb tease the nape of her neck. Then, right at its base and just above her shoulders, she felt the cold touch of steel and began to hear the insistent crunch of her lob being turned into something different, something shorter.
No conversations took place at the table as Ken worked, but whether that was because of shock or because they didn’t want to disturb the stylist, Clara couldn’t be sure. All she knew was that layer after layer of her beautiful, soft, thick hair was being let down and three more inches of each was being taken away from her, left to tumble freely to the floor or her shoulders of her blanketed lap, where she got to watch the collection of damp locks grow with every hungry crunch of Ken’s shears.
Eventually, he lifted her chin so he could work at her sides. Somehow, these three inch locks he kept shearing away seemed even longer than the nine-inch ponytail he took before. There wouldn’t be any hiding the fact that she lost both her long hair and her lob; what Ken was creating now, just barely long enough to catch the top of her shoulders when he turned her head this way and that, was definitely a straight-up bob.
Was she a short-haired girl for the first time in her life? Clara wasn’t sure; it probably would come own to whoever she asked at any particular moment.
“Okay,” Ken finally said. “All done.”
Clara loved hearing those words, but, as much as she wanted them to be true, she shook her head. “Not necessarily.” She wrangled her left hand free from the blanket that her shorn locks had rained down upon and set her fingers on the deck. She took a calming breath and reminded herself that no matter what she drew, she would not be bald.
It seemed important to keep that in mind right now. She waited, wondering whether any one else in the room was breathing. Finally, after several seconds, Penny blurted out, “Really?”
Clara laughed, and flipped the next card.
Six of hearts. Red.
She laughed with relief. No more loss of length.
She flipped the next…
Seven of clubs. Black, and it meant she’d be getting bangs.
And the next card…
Queen of clubs. Black again, so they’d be blunt bangs.
But how thick? She drew again…
Eight of diamonds. Red, so at least she wouldn’t get ridiculously thick bangs.
Ken stepped in front of her, curling a finger under her chin and lifting her gaze toward him. She closed her eyes against the spritzes of water that followed, and then waited patiently as he gathered a blanket of her dark hair forward, poising his shears to slice her hairstyle right out of the “one-length, easy to grow out bob” category and into the “bob ‘n’ banged” category.
And as her eyes crossed to focus on the sharp blades hovering in her line of sight, Clara watched as Ken made sure she could never again say she’d never had bangs. Tossing aside the long, wet lock her sheared away, he combed her new bangs into place and began cutting one long, solid line across, just beneath her dark eyebrows. He chipped away a few bits here and there with the tis of his shears to break up the line a little, but Clara was fairly certain she’d wound up with just a slightly longer version of what Chrissy had received.
“Alrighty, then,” Ken said. He fluffed Clara’s quickly drying hair a bit and tucked the sides back behind her ears before straightening up again and sweeping the makeshift cape off of Clara’s shoulders. “What’s next?”
“That, I believe, is it,” Neddie said.
“Unless you want to have a go?” Penny asked.
Ken laughed, running his hand over his short crop of hair. “No thanks. I like having at least a little for my girlfriends to play with.”
“Girlfriends?” every one else said at once.
Ken’s cheeks reddened brightly. “No, I mean, when I have one. One at a time. Which I don’t. I mean, I don’t have one now, not that I don’t have one at a time.” He paused, glancing at Chrissy. “Yeah, so, okay then, I’m just going to head out…”
“Leave a business card,” Neddie demanded.
“Several,” Chrissy added.
The request did not impede the embarrassed man’s progress toward the front door. “I’ll stop by with some in the morning.”
When the door closed behind him and the girls’ laughter died down, Clara found everyone else staring at her.
“Well?” Chrissy asked.
“Oh shit, I should go look at it!”
Clara burst out of her chair and ran into the bathroom, completely thrown off by the strange sensation of her hair bouncing up and down against her neck. Looking back at her from the mirror was a librarianesque girl, with a serious, business-like bob that just barely showed off the tops of her shoulders and heavy, solid bangs that showed off her stormy blue eyes. Most of her precious, sun-kissed blonde highlights were gone, darkening her rich color and increasing its shine overall. Maybe, just as a small critique, she’d have preferred some layers to ease the style’s severity, but there hadn’t been time to draw a card for that before Ken literally fled the scene.
As ken had proved, though, her flirty ear tucks were still possible, and maybe even enhanced, she realized. Trying it out in her reflection, she looked up at herself through her thick lashes, lightly licking her bottom lip as she tucked one side back behind a petite ear.
She smiled widely. Oh yeah, the way the deeper color and heavy bangs highlighted her eyes, the boys – no, the men she unleashed that move on would be putty in her hands.
When she turned to leave, she drew up short with a start as she found the other waiting outside the door.
“So?” Chrissy asked.
“I like it!” Clara answered. “I never would have picked it myself, but I like it.”
“I don’t know about you all, but I was kind of scared shitless,” Penny admitted. She gathered her hair in front of her right shoulder and stroked her long waves lovingly. “I didn’t realize how much I’d miss it.”
“I think I love mine,” Neddie offered. “Like Clara, I wouldn’t have done it myself, but I love it. Who knew this apartment building would have a benefit like Ken?”
“And you, Chrissy?” Clara asked. “Since you started this all.”
Chrissy lifted one hand and waggled it. “I’m glad nothing crazy happened, but…” She toyed with one of her still-long locks, twisting it around her fingers. “I dunno. You always said you were jealous of how long all of us grew our hair, but I think it might be the other way around. I might be jealous of how short yours is.”
“Well, I think Ken left his scissors,” Clara said.
Penny smiled at the insinuation, adding, “And there are plenty of cards left to be drawn…”
So that was just a little experiment I thought might be fun. My apologies if there was a lack of dramatics; I was slightly disappointed in that, too. But hopefully there was still enough here for you to enjoy anyhow.
That said, let me know what you think. Any critiques, advice for improvement, or reassurance that something worked is always appreciated.