My Sister, My Nemesis

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My Sister, My Nemesis

 

By Shorngirl

 

Julie was always envious of me. I guess it was because I was older and had more freedom than her, but there was more to it than that. Every time I got away with something, she was the one that ended up paying for it.

My mother’s speech to her was always, “I’m not going to make the same mistake with you that we did with Leah.” I would cringe when I heard it because I knew that it was just one more thing to drive a wedge between Julie and me.

She was only two years younger than me, finishing up her sophomore year, and I was set to graduate and planned on university in the fall. Unlike me, she was quite popular in school, having been blessed with a pretty face and a body that many a boy in school lusted after.

In contrast, although not ugly, I was rather plain in the looks department. My mousy brown hair, average face, and boyish body meant that I was always wanting for companionship. Julie, on the other hand, always seemed to be attached to one boy or another.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my little sister and I knew that deep down she loved me too. Only lately, had she started to lash out, and I sensed the hostility. So, today, when my mother told Julie that it was time for her summer haircut, she instantly rebelled.

“Every single year you cut off my hair, Mother, and I’m tired of it,” Julie screamed. It was a week away from school being out, and for whatever reason, my mother never waited until it was actually over. So, as a result, Julie had to go through the jeers and taunting that went along with an ultra-short haircut in school. “It’s my hair.”

“There will be no argument, young lady.” My mother insisted. “Besides, you’ll be so much more comfortable without that mop hanging down your back.”

My sister really did have lovely hair, and I knew how much she treasured it. A year had passed since her last haircut, and it had grown in nicely from the short blonde pixie my mother insisted upon her getting. It was well past her bra strap now, and I imagined how traumatic this was going to be for her.

“What about Leah. Why don’t you make her get a haircut?” Julie spat, vindictively.

My mother eyed my chestnut hair. At the time, it was pulled back in a pony, and I protectively ran my hand over its length, shaking my head. I had never been subjected to the ‘summer cut’ before and prayed she was not about to start now.

“Your sister is eighteen, Julie. I can’t very well make her do anything.” She looked to Julie, and then back at me. “Leah, be a dear and go with your sister. I can’t force you, but I think it would be so cute to have you both matching for the summer.”

I cringed, knowing that it was going to be difficult to say no. She would be paying my college tuition after all, and I didn’t want to disappoint her. I looked over at Julie, who seemed to see a chink in my defenses.

“Come on, Leah.” Julie sighed. “You could use a good chop.”

I knew that I couldn’t pull off the pixie as well as her, and she knew it too. Short hair with a pretty face was one thing, but cropped and plain was quite another. I imagined my friends, the few that I had, being as mean and chiding as Julie’s would be.

“I’ve got graduation next week, Mom.” I started.

“Well, a fresh look for a fresh start, right?” She said, almost insistently.

Defeated, I hung my head. “Fine.” I managed. “But, I’m not getting a pixie.”

“You’ll get exactly what your sister gets.” Suddenly in control.

“Thanks, Leah. You’re gonna love your new look.” Julie smiled. She made it sound as though she was excited for me, but I knew all too well that this was payback.

I stood in the mirror, having pulled out my ponytail, admiring my long brown tresses for the last time. I could see the tips of my ears poking through the jet-straight locks and I wondered just how they would look without my hair, which had hidden them all these years.

Frustrated by my own lack of a backbone, I turned away from the mirror. Why couldn’t I stand up to her? It was my hair, after all. Then again, Julie had made the same argument and lost.

“Say goodbye to all this, Sis,” Julie smirked as she walked by, flipping my hair with her wrist.

“I’m doing this for you, Julie.” I tried.

“No, Leah. I’m doing this to you.” My sister insisted, her frown morphing into a grin. “I can’t wait to see you put in your place for a change.”

“Is that what you think this is?” I asked.

“This time, my darling sister, I’m in control.” She snuck in and wrapped her arms about me from behind. “And, you’re going first.”

A chill ran through me, and for the first time, I really felt the anger this girl had in her heart. Did she really hate me that much?

“Come on, girls.” My mother called from downstairs. “I managed to get you both in at Betty’s.”

Betty’s Barbershop was the one place in town that guaranteed a good short cut. It was where my mother went, and although it catered mostly to men, it was considered unisex. I’d never been.

The spinning barber pole mounted on the wall above the entrance should have been my first clue that this was not going to be a feminine experience. It was so different than the salons I had been to in my young life. The sights and smells were entirely new to me.

Instead of a clutch of comfortable sofas at the front, there was only a row of plastic chairs that looked as though they may have been stolen from a classroom somewhere. My mother grabbed a couple of plastic tags from a rack that hung near the door. I only realized that they were numbers when I looked back to see the remainder still hanging there.

“Here you go, girls.” My mother said, distributing the numbered tags to each of us. I looked down and realized that my sister’s threat was coming to pass. She held onto her tag, so it was plainly visible to me; a stark ‘35’ upstaging my own ‘34’.  I would indeed be going first.

I watched as the barber used her clippers, rendering the man in her chair virtually bald with them. Was what he had asked for; to be bald, because that was exactly what he was getting.

At the end of it, he stood, running his hand over the stubbled surface. Looking back at the barber, he smiled. “Thanks, Betty.”

“That’ll certainly last the summer.” The woman chuckled.

After he paid, Betty made her way over to us. “Good afternoon, ladies.” The barber grinned. “And how are you doing, Mary.”

“I’m just fine, Betty. My daughters need a summer cut.” My mother indicated.

“And how about you?” Obviously familiar.

“No, I’m good for a few more weeks.” My mother had always sported short hair, and it was usually extra short in the summer.

“If you say so.” She glanced over at my sister and me, sitting restlessly beside one another. “Well, Rapunzel, looks like you’re low on the pole.” She kidded, taking the number from my sweaty fingers. “Up you go.”

“What are we doing, Mary.” The woman asked, not even considering anything I might have to say. “It’s supposed to be a hot one, this summer.” Betty reminded.

“Better give her something short then. She’s an adult, so you best give her what you usually give me.” My mother insisted, which elicited a giggle from my sister.

“Like mother, like daughter. You got it.” Betty blustered, wrapping my neck tightly in her all-enveloping cape.

Now, I was all too familiar with my mother’s summer cuts, and they were a whole lot shorter than anything Julie ever came home with. I remembered one particular summer, she came home with what could only be called a crewcut. I was shocked by how stark it made her look, but she seemed to love it. The sides and back had been shaved right to the skin, and the top, well, you couldn’t even pinch it between your fingers. I prayed that this was not what I had in store.

I looked over at my sister, who was gloating, the emotion plainly evident on her face. She had her phone out, pretending to text, but I knew by the way she was holding it, that she was recording.

“Okay, girlie, off it comes,” Betty said, as the same clippers she had used on the man before me, whirred to life. I desperately wanted to stop this, and for a moment I considered jumping from the chair, cape and all.

By the time I tensed my legs for the dash, it was too late. The cool metal blades had slipped under my hair and were running up my nape. The vibration was almost nauseating as I felt the hair slide off the back of my head, the cool breeze from the air conditioner caressing my scalp. “Oh, my god.” I gasped.

“Yes, darlin’, this is a real haircut.” Betty boasted, making another pass next to the first.

I looked over at Julie, who seemed mesmerized, her phone trained unswervingly in my direction. Humiliated, I looked over at my mother. When I was expecting a modicum of sympathy, there was only smug satisfaction on her face.

Satisfied with the back, Betty began working the same destruction on the left side of my head. Only then did I realize just how short the clippers were cutting. As the evil blades separated my hair from my head, there was only the slightest shadow of stubble.

When Betty had finished with the back and sides, my crown still clung to the only remaining hair I had left. It had been hacked into a tufted tassel that stuck out at all angles from my tonsured scalp.

Julie couldn’t help but laugh, which brought a glancing stare from the barber. “You’re next, little lady.” This effectively muffled her jubilation, for the moment. “Something to comb on top?” Her eyes shifting to my mother.

“Make it easy for her. It’s got to last until she leaves for college in the fall.” My mother mused, a slight smile at the corner of her mouth.

“You got it,” Betty answered, then she spun the chair, so I was facing her. “You ready for this, girlie?”

I wanted desperately to protest, but was so shell-shocked from the haircut so far, that I couldn’t even manage a nod. Betty shrugged as she slipped an attachment onto the clippers and proceeded to run them over the top of my head.

Every ounce of my being wanted to scream as I felt the last of my locks leave my tortured scalp. I was facing away from the mirror now, so the damage she was doing was unknown to me. By the smile on my sister’s face, I was certain it was going to be a disaster.

My scalp was almost unnaturally cold, and I knew before Betty spun me around, that precious little was left of my hair. My suspicions were rudely confirmed as the clippers fell silent and she turned me around to the mirror.

All I could think of as I stared at the stranger in the mirror was a marine boot and a male one at that. I’d been skinned down to almost nothing. The sides were shaved to the skin, and the top clung onto the shortest stubble imaginable.

Betty ran her hand over the top, looking over at my mother. “Short enough?”

My mother was about to nod her approval when there was the most horrendous crash from outside. To my mother’s horror, someone had run into her car, nearly driving it through the front window of the shop.

Everyone dashed to the front, Betty slipping through the door and out into the summer heat. I was left staring at myself in the mirror, my sister gloating from her chair behind me. She taunted me with her phone. “I got the whole thing, Sis.”

A wave of humiliation swept over me as I realized what I truly looked like under my long brown hair. As I feared, my ears only looked larger without their silky covering, pink clamshells in a sea of white scalp. My face, which was never all that feminine, looked decidedly masculine now, and I shuddered at how exposed I felt.

“Sorry, Julie.” My mother blurted out. “But your haircut will have to wait.” She followed Betty outside to survey the damage to her car.

Julie stood, slipping her hand under her blonde locks and primped them in the mirror beside me. “Looks like the tables have turned, Sis.”

A week went by, and as I suspected I was ridiculed relentlessly in school. Of course, my sister had posted the video of my destruction on social media, so all were prepared for my humiliating display. I never even attended my graduation, I was so ashamed. Not only that, but my mother had commandeered my car, while she waited for the check from the insurance company for her totaled Nissan.

Two weeks went by, and I had begun to warm up to the ease and even the feel of my new ‘head’. I felt strangely excited when I would run my fingertips over its stubbled surface, and I mean excited in the best sense.

Julie had taken the upper hand with me, feeling somewhat superior. Strangely, I didn’t mind as I was feeling rather submissive to her as well. Julie’s hair had never fallen victim to my mother’s whim that summer. That idea just sort of fell by the wayside. Perhaps I had satisfied whatever need my mother seemed to have in that regard. Even my mother had foregone her usual summer crop.

So, there I stood, looking at my reflection in the plate glass window, not quite sure what I was doing. It was the week before I was to leave for college. Julie had simply made the suggestion; one I had been powerless to resist. My legs seemed to move of their own accord as I entered, lifting another number from the rack near the door.

Betty smiled, seeming to know what was coursing through my mind. “Somethin’ a little shorter this time, girlie?” She smiled, as did the man that was sitting in her chair at the time. Feeling myself blush, I simply nodded and took a seat. I looked down at the number I held, remembering how I had reviled it the last time, my fingers damp with sweat. Things seemed the same, but different; a little déjà vu, perhaps? I smiled nervously, only this time, it wasn’t my fingers that were damp.

 

3 responses to “My Sister, My Nemesis

  1. Hi Claire,

    That was an incredible story! I loved reading about the dynamics between Julie and Leah. I also loved that they went to a barbershop that had a woman giving the haircuts. I thought the ending was also really nice!

    You are an amazing writer Claire, and as always I look forward to reading your work!

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