Neatly Out

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The first official day of being a Literature Major came, and boy was it nerve-wracking as I stepped into the lecture theatre. Having skipped an entire year’s worth of syllabus was definitely gonna bite me in the ass as I sit for second year modules (I was too hellbent on throwing myself in the deep end right after the little bridging course).

But what worried me the most was the whole year of connections I missed out on. Everyone knows university can hardly be a solo affair- everyone needed friends, or at the very least acquaintances that could look out for you here and there. And so there I was, early to lecture to perhaps find some lone souls that needed a pal, or at the very least just made sure I had a good seat. 

I sighed, realising my hopes were for naught. I resignedly took a seat somewhere near the middle, getting out my materials for the lecture as I waited.

More students eventually started streaming in, crowds of laughter and murmurs sitting in their cliques all over the theatre as I tried my best to mentally prepare myself for the morning’s lecture. 

The lecturer soon arrived, and as she started up her laptop to begin the slides for the day I realised there was almost absolutely no one in my row- just a lone dude by the corner that seemed more interested in Netflix on his laptop than the actual lesson. 

I got my pen out and started a little note-taking, trying to get into the groove when I heard the scurry of footsteps from atop the stairs. I briefly turned when I heard a little thud of a backpack, only to see a raven-haired girl setting herself down a couple seats away. She was dressed in a green plaid shirt and skinny jeans, but what really made me bite my lip was her hair. It was really short— barely touching her ears in a wavy pixie that was shorter on the sides and gradually longer towards the top.

I tried to snap out of the trance of staring, but couldn’t help but notice she was frantically getting stuff out of her bag, eventually reaching a point where it looked as if she was digging for something that wasn’t there. I wanted to say something- to ask if she needed help or anything, but the one seat gap really left a lot of awkward distance to really even try. I tried to casually return my attention to the front.


I turned to see her facing me a little worriedly, gesturing to the empty seat that had a folded piece of paper on it. I picked it up with a shy smile, unfolding it to read.

Could we share the Lit text we’re doing in lecture today? I forgot to bring it 🙁

“I have a photocopied set you can borrow!” I scribbled in a heartbeat before returning the paper to her. 

The gleam in her eyes when she read it made my heart flutter- an odd feeling I never knew if I’d felt before. Within a split second she had gotten up to sit directly beside me, her grace now within closer quarters.

“Charlie,” she introduced with a whisper as she extended a hand.

“Talia,” I shook her hand a little too excitedly, handing her my photocopied text. 

It was a relatively quiet lecture throughout, watching her just make little pencil scribbles on the notes here and there. More than anything I was just glad to have made a friend to make this first day a bit more bearable. 

“Haven’t seen you around before,” she started mid-lecture, giving a curious look. 

“I just transferred from Engineering actually,” I admitted. “Took me a full year of learning useful things to realise I didn’t want to be “useful” in society.”

Charlie stifled a laugh a little too loudly, attracting the attention of a few turning heads in front of her. She mouthed an apology, turning back at me with flushed cheeks.

“It’s only funny cos it’s kinda true,” I added, shrugging. 

“Don’t worry, we’ll both be useless Lit grads together,” she said. 

“Sounds like a plan.”

Lecture was over before I knew it, and as Charlie finished packing up she slid me another piece of paper.

“U can follow me if you have Insta,” it said, followed by her handle. I turned to see her walking away already, only stopping a moment to spare me a wink. 


My heart fluttered again. I bit down on my cheeks, trying to contain the blushing as I packed, excited for what the rest of the semester would hold.



As the weeks passed our little lecture friendship got tighter and tighter as the awkward ice between us slowly melted off. I’d always be sitting at the same spot whenever I knew we were going to be having the same lecture, and every lecture I’d always watch as she came in through the front door, scanning the crowd to find me before happily making her way to the seat beside me.

“You single?” she once broached the topic in lecture, not looking away from her notebook as she scribbled notes. 

“Isn’t it quite clear from my Instagram?” I quipped about my loneliness. 

“I mean,” she shrugged, “some people don’t enjoy publicising their relationship, and that’s okay. I just didn’t want to assume.” 

I scoffed lightly. “Yes, I’m single. Not entirely sure if ready to mingle though,” I admitted. 

“Hey, you do you sis. I’m sure when the time comes any lucky boy would be lucky to have you.” There was silence as I stared deadpan, pondering that b-word. “O-or girl, of course! Depending which way you swing,” Charlie added hurriedly. I could only chuckle. 

Our friendship as lecture partners soon turned into study buddies. We spent quite a number of afternoons during recess week just studying and hanging out a little here and there. I was thankful for the unexpected friendship made from that first fateful day of lecture- it’s amazing how much a little luck with kindness can really go far.

She was equally, if not even more, passionate about Literature as me, and it felt good to be able to nerd out with someone that had that same energy about the things you loved. There was just something about her that just clicked unlike a lot of the friends I made in the past. Not to say that my past friendships were bad- Charlie just seemed… special, in a sense. 



“Hey, I’ve been meaning to ask you…” I brought up during one of our study sessions. “Where do you, uh… get your hair done?” It was strange how tricky it was to voice out the question.

“My hair?” She looked up from her notes with a sort of quizzical look. 

“Y-Yeah… I mean, to be honest it’s always looking so sharp, y’know. Was just wondering which salon does it so well cos I haven’t had the most spectacular experiences lately,” I said, fingering my blonde ponytail.

“Aww, never knew you liked my hair that much,” Charlie blushed a little. “Oh, but no salon can do short hair this well- trust me. Took a leap of faith a year back and went to a barber, and it’s been the best decision I’ve had in a long time.”

“A… barber?” I dumbfoundedly asked. 

“Yeah… I used to have my hair around shoulder-length, and I got really bored and tired of it at the start of Uni so I really wanted to get something different. I stumbled across this place while just scouring my Instagram explore page. It’s two women running the shop, and it’s one of those open Barbers type things where they entertain anyone and charge the same price regardless. So I thought ‘why not?’,” Charlie elaborated. 

“Whoa…” was all I could say, staring at her short pixie as the pieces of the story came together. I remember stalking her Instagram a little after that first lecture, and I did remember coming across two photos posted within a week of each other- her hair was at a comfortable shoulder length in the first one, and a week later the next one was just her with her really short pixie. “That’s… pretty cool,” I didn’t really know how to react.

“Thinking of getting yours cut short?” She asked, resting her head in her palm as she gave me a smirk.

“M-me?!” I was caught off-guard when she deflected the topic back to me. “Uhh, well, I mean, I don’t know,” I said as I grabbed the back of my neck. “I mean, I guess I’ve always sort of had this look, and, yeah, maybe, I could use a change? But I dunno, I don’t think I could pull off something short,” I tried to be nonchalant about it, half-assing a shrug.

Her only smirk got bigger watching me rationalise my thoughts. “Let me help me with the convincing then. Give me your hand,” she instructed with an extended palm. 

I gave a cautious look before giving her my right hand. She took careful hold of my wrist, then proceeded to bring my palm into her crown of hair. “Have a feel of it.”

I stifled a gasp as I ran a hand through her short hair, getting a feel of the soft locks. It was hard to deny that it felt so good- how it was close to the scalp and so amazing to touch. 

“You like it?”

“Mm,” I was entranced.

“Now here comes the best part,” she preempted before grabbing hold of my wrist once more and bringing it down to the back of her head.

Oooh,” I couldn’t help but gasp out. As her hair got gradually shorter towards the back, the bottom part of her nape was rather… prickly, but felt so good. 

“Usually when I get my hair done I get that back part and some of the sides cut with the clippers, and I love the way it feels so fuzzy,” Charlie narrated as I simply enjoyed the touch of it. “Though it seems like I’m not the only one loving it.”

My cheeks coloured as I returned my hand back to myself, instinctively running my fingers through my ponytail. Charlie chuckled, clearly amused at me. “Why don’t I give you their Instagram so you can go have a look when you’re free and think about it,” she suggested before getting onto my phone’s Instagram to type in the handle. “I for one think you’d look stunning with short hair.” 

“You think so?”

“Definitely,” she gave an encouraging smile. “You’ve got beautiful features just dying to be highlighted more. Lose a bit of the hair and you’d be popping. Seriously, you should at least think about it.” She handed me my phone, with the barbershop’s Instagram page on the screen. “But don’t take too long cos I want a short hair buddy.” 


That night I lay awake in my dorm bed, the thoughts from the day racing endlessly through my head. I tossed and turned, but couldn’t shake off Charlie’s words- let alone her hair. Who knew a casual “think about it” would’ve kept me up at night.

If I wanted to be honest, it all came back to one of those early lectures with Charlie when she’d casually assumed I was straight. It wasn’t much of a big deal at the time, but in the grand scheme of things it really struck a little identity crisis in me. While I’m not the type of person who’d like to flamboyantly declare my sexuality through my appearance, I guess I at least wanted to make it a little more obvious that I wasn’t straight. And it sparked something that really made me start considering changing how I looked— and maybe it had to start with my hair. Long, blonde, and always in a ponytail maybe wasn’t giving off the right vibe most of the time.

I sighed, reaching for my phone from my nightstand. I tapped on the Instagram app, and it was still left on the page of the barbershop Charlie recommended. I casually took my time scrolling through their page, seeing and reading what it was all about. From what I could gather it was run by two sisters, Sonya and Natalya, and their clientele ranged from children to adults regardless of gender. They marketed themselves as just another barbershop, having pretty regular opening hours and taking walk-ins only while keeping a zero judgement and zero fuss stance on haircuts. For a barbershop it seemed pretty welcoming, which definitely helped ease a bit of anxiety.

“Fuck it,” I uttered to myself, heaving a big sigh. “I’m gonna go tomorrow.”


Biting the bullet and deciding definitely helped to ease myself to sleep, but it certainly didn’t help the dread that loomed the moment I woke up. I got out of bed with that omnipresent pang of fear in my chest as I slowly walked myself into the bathroom. 

I spent a good ten minutes just staring into the mirror, examining and playing with my hair- hair that I probably wasn’t going to see much of after today. In its full glory it reached my mid-back, and every few months or so I’d get it trimmed and touched up, maybe added in a few layers or so to keep things interesting. For a good two decades or so I’ve just kept it the way it was, and I was surprised that I’d never really thought of doing anything major with it. Until Charlie came around.

It was exciting- thinking about doing something different for once in my life. But it was also plain terrifying just thinking about all the things I would lose. Hair had always been a nice little safety blanket for me to grab onto whenever I could, or maybe something I could even wear down to hide some acne or marks during bad breakouts. Though to be fair, at least 90% of the time it was probably just up in a ponytail, left up there off my face and out of sight. Maybe getting rid of it wouldn’t make much of a difference anyway. 

I sighed before stepping into the shower, giving my thick, bountiful hair one last shampoo before I’d only have little to take care of. I never knew I could get so sentimental over something so lifeless on my head- truly, you’ll never know how much you love something till you’re on the verge of letting it go.

Once I was out of the shower I put my hair up in a towel turban to let it air dry a little while I scoured my wardrobe. What do people wear to the barbershop? Part of me was leaning towards the casual jeans and shirt path, but another part of me thought dressing up would make the experience a little more exciting. Do people wear dresses to the barbershop? God, who knew one trip to the barbershop was going to take so many decisions?

Eventually I decided on a cute spaghetti strap top with a red flannel over, coupled with a simple pair of jeans to go with a pair of flats. I wore my hair down, deciding it was maybe appropriate to have it displayed a little more proudly before it was coming off. I made sure I got all my things before heading out just a few minutes past 11 in the morning. 

The anxiety followed me through as I was navigating my way with Google maps— it was fortunately only a short 15-minute walk to the place, though it definitely felt like I was walking for hours on end. When I reached the street it was on, I could feel my heart in my mouth when I saw the notorious barber pole swirling just down the aisles of shops. 

I kept my phone back in my pocket and took a deep breath, beginning my march to a new me. I tried to distract myself with the different shops that were around— there was a florist that had beautiful daisies up for sale; a little off-brand convenience store probably owned by locals; a cozy brunch spot that I could probably stop by after for a good bite.

And then the barbershop. 

I steadied myself as I went for the handle of the door. I heaved a deep breath, taking in that last bit of confidence I could muster before pushing down the handle and stepping inside with the most courageous strides I could pull off. 

There was a little bell on the door that jingled to mark my entry, and there was a woman behind one of the barber chairs that turned to regard me. “Hiya!” She greeted gleefully. “Just one ahead of you,” she commented, gesturing to a girl that sat on the waiting bench. “You can have a seat first.”

“Cool,” was all I could muster out of my short breath before making it to the waiting bench. Once I had a seat I could properly make out the scene before me. There were two barber chairs with wall length-mirrors in front of each of them, though there was only one chair being operated at the time. A blonde woman was trimming a young man’s short hair with the chair facing the waiting area— almost like a show being run for an audience. Beside me in the waiting chair was a young woman with a cute chin-length bob that seemed a bit overgrown— probably why she was here today. If my presumptions were right based on the info I got out of the Instagram account, the barberette that was working currently was Sonya, while there was no sign of Natalya at all. 

Maybe it was good this way— just having one customer ahead of me so that I had some decent time to calm my nerves before I had to face my fate, and maybe if I was lucky enough it would’ve just been me and Sonya in the shop by the time it was my turn so I wouldn’t have to face anyone else while I was taking my plunge. Being in the shop was already nerve-wracking, but at least the hardest part of getting here was over. God, I could only imagine what Charlie would be saying if she knew where I was— though maybe a part of me wished she could’ve been here for the moral support. 

It didn’t take long before Sonya was already dusting off the man’s neck and undoing the cape and neck tissue. Maybe if I was a little more straight I could appreciate his style a bit more, but I guess he looked more decent with his trimmed hair. He paid as they bade farewell, and then Sonya turned to the chair to the girl beside me. “You’re next Izzy.”

I saw her smile as she got up from the bench and made her way to the barber chair. She sank in it comfortably before Sonya got out a fresh roll of tissue to wrap around Izzy’s neck, then proceeded to fling the ruby red cape over her bodice. She then turned the chair to let Izzy face the mirror

“What’re we doing today? Usual?” Sonya broached the topic as she got out her comb to inspect Izzy’s hair.

“Yep, just right to the earlobes,” I saw Izzy take out her hand from under the cape, gesturing to the bottom of her ear with her hand. “Oh- and I’d like some bangs too,” she cheerily announced, running a finger in a straight line across the top of her eyebrows. 

“No problemo,” Sonya simply assured before turning the chair to directly face the back of the shop, in clear sight for me. 

I watched a little attentively as Sonya got out the tools for the job. She started misting Izzy’s hair with a spray bottle, then combing out and sectioning off her customer’s black locks. I’ve always envied short-haired girls that maintained their look— the confidence to just sit in the chair and decide “short” was such a concept to me. It was hard to believe that today I was going to be one of them.

Then it suddenly hit me— I had almost no idea how short I was planning to go. After all those hours of laying in bed wondering whether to get a short haircut, I never really decided on what style I was going for— I simply decided I was coming here and taking a plunge. I started panicking, and my eyes began scanning all those photos of hair models plastered on the walls, desperate to maybe find a style I could even suggest or take as a guideline. Half of them were of men’s short styles, and the other half had a mix of hairstyles for women, though most were probably too long.

Before I could even find a decent photo as a reference I heard the back door of the barbershop open. I turned to see a rather familiar brunette face walk in, wiping her hands with a napkin before tossing it in a bin. 


I watched as she confidently strode to the other empty chair, fiddling around with some of her tools before casually turning the chair to face me. “You’re next, Miss,” she instructed in a silvery voice, giving a pat on the back of the chair.

The dread seeped right into me, and all I could do was rise to her voice. I tried my best to confidently walk forward with legs that were practically jelly already, while keeping my face as neutral as I could. After a march that seemed like an eternity, I finally got close enough to sink myself in the chair, and gosh that cushioning was really good. She turned the chair to face the mirror, letting me have a look at my blonde locks in all its ticking glory. 

“Haven’t seen you around before. I’m Natalya,” she extended a hand with a smile.

“T-Talia,” I cursed myself internally for stuttering, accepting her hand with a firm shake.

“It’s nice to meet you, Talia. How’d you get to know about us?” She asked as she went to pick up some of her apparatus from the cupboard beside the mirror. 

“Oh- uh, a friend recommended, and I thought why not change it up a bit, y’know?” I said, my mind still racing in the moment. 

“Word of mouth is powerful, innit?” Natalya casually remarked. She returned to my side, where she gathered up my hair into a large bundle and clipped it to the top of my head. She tore a piece of neck tissue and wrapped it around my neck snugly. She then dusted off a ruby red cape before artfully flinging it over me, letting it envelop all of my body save for my feet. “So what’re we doing today? Just a trim?” she jumped right into the fateful question as she undid the clip on my head, letting my bountiful blonde locks spill all over the red cape.

A huge part of me was tempted to just say “yes, please”, and just be done with it so simply. But I knew I couldn’t. 

“Uhh, I was actually planning to have it… short,” that last word was surprisingly hard to say. 

“Chin-length?” Natalya nonchalantly asked, raising her hands to the sides of my jaw. 

Again, the temptation was there— just take the halfway option and maybe I wouldn’t regret it as much as just a trim. But that little voice in the back of my head pleaded. I took a big gulp.

Shorter,” I started, “Like, short in the back and sides, type of thing with the clippers? I don’t really have a style in mind, but yeah, just something, like, boy-short I guess? Something easier to take care of,” I declared, my throat completely parched from having to summon all that confidence like I was doing a theatre monologue. 

Natalya made one of those impressed faces, as if she could tell this was a personal struggle I was bracing through. “So we’re talking… short short?” She asked rhetorically before running her fingers through my hair. “That won’t be a problem,” she assured before giving a smile through the mirror, and I knew I had signed my hair’s death certificate.

Without much ado she turned the chair away from the mirror. I had a brief moment to catch Sonya in action, watching her snip away at Izzy’s hair to form the chin-length bob. She gave an encouraging smile when she caught my gaze, almost as if she heard my conversation with Natalya. It didn’t take long for my hair to be gathered up once more, but this time Natalya secured it with an elastic band into a ponytail at the back of my head. I heard her opening and closing a pair of scissors in the air, and that’s when I knew she was not wasting a single moment. I felt her tug a little on the ponytail, then I felt the blades coming right into contact with my hair.

Shnick, shnick, shnick, shnick

My hands gripped the handle of the chairs as I heard the blades chew through my hair, the end of an era nigh. My heart pounded as I felt the tension at the back of my head, completely unprepared for any of this.

Shnick, shnick, SNIP.

I opened my eyes in horror, a gasp escaping me as I realised that tension at the back of my head was no more. I moved my head a little, and I could only feel those rough locks touching the back of my neck and my cheeks. There was no going back. 

“That’s the hard part done,” Natalya declared casually, coming into view as she dangled my severed ponytail off like a trophy before dropping it nonchalantly to the floor. I stared at that mass of locks that had hit the ground, petrified as I realised so many years of growth was just gone like that, lying on the cold floor. I bit my tongue, mustering up the courage to press on. This was what I wanted, and I was gonna go through with it. 

She soon returned to my side with a comb and some clips, where she began methodically sectioning off my hair. “Got tired taking care of all the hair?” She continued the conversation as she pinned what was left of my crown of hair on top. 

“Yeah,” I tried to remain neutral, though still very much shaken from the hair I had just lost so quickly. 

“Can see that. Your hair’s pretty thick. Can’t imagine the trouble to take care of it,” Natalya commented, and I couldn’t help but agree. In hindsight, my hair truly was a lot of work over the years— the countless hours of shampooing and conditioning, the styling and drying, the products I used to keep it luscious and bountiful. But it was all going to be over now.

Kachunk, kachunk, kachunk. 

I almost jumped out of my seat as I felt her pump up the chair, raising me higher so I was at a more comfortable height for her to work. “Don’t worry, Talia. I’ll fix you up nice. Something neat and short you don’t have to worry about too much,” she cheerily assured before returning to her workstation to get her equipment. Her confident words did help a bit— at least the person I was leaving my fate to seemed to know what they were doing.

When she came back around, she went straight back into business. “Head down for me,” Natalya instructed, to which I immediately obeyed without question. I felt her fingers go onto my crown to hold it still as my chin dug into my chest. I heard a pop that was followed by an unfamiliar droning sound. I swallowed a gasp as I felt it— that odd vibration of the clippers right on my neckline. There wasn’t much to savour as I felt Natalya run the clippers right up into my nape. 

There was a shift in the sound of the droning, and my hands returned to clasp on the handles as the clippers reached a menacingly higher pitch clashing through my hair. For about two decades of my life I’d lived on haircuts with just pure scissors, and today was the fateful day I was going to be shorn like a sheep by those clippers. 

There was something about those whirring blades that could really make you feel so much of your hair was being sheared off. But they felt… warm, on the back of my head, which was oddly pleasant. I gazed down at the ruby cape as Natalya went to town with the clippers, sparing a few moments here and there to sweep away the severed hairs raining on the back of my neck with a hand. 

When she was satisfied I felt a hand of hers brushing through my nape, and I couldn’t help but gasp realising how close her fingers were to my skin. I was really in it now. She soon tilted my head back up before proceeding to my right, her free hand retaking it’s position on top of my head to force it down to my left. My eyes glanced to the right, watching her so calmly place the clippers just above my cheekbones before running them into my roughly chin-length locks. 

For the first time I could truly see how much was coming off— sizeable blonde locks that were probably at least 6 inches in length just lifelessly falling onto my shoulder and onto the cape with every swipe she did. She folded my ear down, running the clippers all over my temple as the pile of blonde on the cape grew larger. It pained me that I wasn’t able to see any part of the progress in the moment, but maybe it was for the best just to see only see the final form rather than lose my mind watching it happen so quickly. 

Once Natalya was happy with the right she moved to my left, tilting my head down the other way and repeating the same process. I sat obediently as I came to enjoy the clippers, just buzzing away on the sides of my head so comfortably. There was something so odd about a machine cutting off so much that still felt so inviting. 

It didn’t take long before my sides and my back were completely sheared to Natalya’s liking. She ran them over a few spots here and there to be sure, then the droning sound soon stopped. As she went back to the cupboard to replace the clippers I took a moment to move my head around a little. It was such a peculiar feeling— having my head feel so much lighter while the air-conditioning washed all over my exposed ears and neck like that. Tying my hair up in a bun couldn’t come close to how this feels. 

Just then the bell by the shop door jingled, and the door opened for a woman who entered. “Hey Jenna! Will be right with you after this one,” I heard Sonya call from her workstation to the woman. 

“No worries,” Jenna replied with a smile, taking a seat by the bench. She was clad in a sharp grey suit jacket and pants, along with a sleek black dress shirt underneath. Her hair was black and was styled in a professional-looking pixie that was parted nicely to the right. Just as she managed to settle down she probably had the time to notice the scenes unfolding in front of her— I saw her eyes pop up a little when she saw the amount of hair littered around my chair.

I bit my lip, instinctively cocking my head down in the shyness of being watched. Natalya soon came back around, wielding a comb and spray bottle in her hands. She unclipped the top section, letting my still-long blonde locks spill forward all over my face. She combed them out of my eyes as she began misting the top with water, completely dousing my locks in preparation for the scissors as I squinted to make sure the water didn’t get too much into my eyes. Once satisfied, she replaced the spray bottle with a pair of scissors.

“Something easier to take care of, yeah? Nice n’ short on top?” Natalya broke the silence, still combing my hair this way and that as she was probably getting a feel of the hair.

“Y-yeah,” I affirmed, not exactly sure how short she was calculating that to be. 

“Did you want a longish fringe in front? Or just want it kinda evenly short all over?” Natalya asked.

“Uh…” I stammered, still feeling lightheaded by the whole ordeal. I instinctively looked up, and I saw that Jenna woman who was definitely watching my chair the whole time. Almost as if she could tell from my clueless eyes, she made eye contact to grab my attention while doing a sort of gesture over her head with both hands. “Short all over,” I could make out from her mouthing. 

“Short all over,” I immediately said to Natalya without a second thought.

“Alright, I‘ll keep it out of your eyes for you,” Natalya assured before taking her position behind me. 

I smiled nervously back at Jenna, to which she raised a thumbs-up with a grin to encourage my choice. I didn’t know what came over me in that split moment— how I easily left a potentially part of my haircut in the hands of some customer that just made the simplest suggestion. But for some reason I just trusted her. 

I felt Natalya running the comb straight through my crown from the back all the way to my forehead, pushing all my locks forward to completely block my vision. She was starting from the back now, combing up a section of my hair and holding it between her fingers.

Snip snip snip

I felt large locks of hair falling onto my shoulder, but I couldn’t see how much exactly was being lopped off. Natalya worked really quickly, just combing up a section and snipping right off. She truly embodied their no-fuss & no-judgement motto, going straight into business without hesitation.

Snip snip snip. Snip snip snip. 

I could feel the heavy locks start to join the others in my lap. Chills went down my spine when I could feel the air conditioning more prominently on the scalp of my crown as Natalya kept cutting, going at a steady pace. If I had to take a wild guess, she was only leaving a couple inches or even less behind with each snip, and it felt considerably lighter on top as she kept going. 

By the time she reached the front section my heart was already going bonkers in trying to accept that I was going to look like a shorn sheep. She slowly combed up the locks that would’ve probably been the “long fringe” she offered earlier. My eyes were now momentarily freed, and the first thing I saw was the gigantic mound of blonde that sat on the red cape. I never thought it was possible to have that much hair just lying lifelessly— and to think it was all comfortably on my head less than an hour ago. 

My eyes couldn’t help but glance up trying to see Natalya work on this last part, where she was gauging the perfect length. 

Snip snip snip snip.

I squinted as those long locks rained down past my face. And then when she let go of what remained of my fringe she combed up, it hit me that it wasn’t covering my face anymore. Fuck— I gasped quietly, realising she cut it so short it was way above my eyebrows. Natalya stepped forward in front of me, this time bending down a little to comb down what remained of my “fringe”. She aimed her scissors here and there, the cold steel chilling my forehead to the bone. After a few precision snips here and there that felt ghastly close to my hairline, she took a step back to fully appreciate her work with a smile. 

“Perfect,” Natalya announced proudly, taking a moment to ruffle through what was left of my hair. I bit my tongue as chills ran through me, realising it was almost just like the back— how I could feel the soft skin of her hand so close to my scalp. “Lemme get the mirror for you.” 

As she went back to the dresser to fetch the mirror I was left seated there, covered in the mounds of severed hair on that cape awkwardly waiting. Jenna seemed to be all smiles looking at me, and when I made eye contact with her she gave me another thumbs-up, though this time a lot more cheerful than before. Clearly she liked it, and soon enough I was going to find out if I did too. 

“Here you go— nice n’ neat,” Natalya announced as she offered me the hand mirror. I took a hand out from under the cape, accepting the mirror as I anxiously straightened it in front of me to meet the moment of truth.

My hand went a little weak as my jaw dropped. There was no way that was me— this girl with such neatly cropped blonde hair on top that somehow looked… good? It was so weird seeing myself without all that blonde hair framing most of my face. All that was really left to be seen were some short wispy locks that still decorated my forehead, though they were nowhere near my eyebrows. From the double reflection through the wall mirror I could see that the back was uniformly short, and I could even see the paleness from skin from it. Those clippers truly did some work. 

“A prim and proper haircut. Won’t have to comb or brush for at least a couple weeks. Give ya a good break from all that long hair you’ve been having. Your hair’ll behave and stay neat for a good while,” she added, almost as if she was teasing my lack of hair. She ruffled the hair on top of my head, almost as if she was trying to really mess it up. “See? Not even the wind can mess it over,” she demonstrated, and true enough the short hairs on my head easily went back into place as if nothing happened.

“Oh, wow,” I let out, stunned. It was really kicking in how little I was left with, and I didn’t really know how to process it.

I excitedly took out my other hand, going straight for my new head of hair to try how it felt myself. “Shit,” I silently muttered, realising how prickly it felt in the back and sides. It was definitely way shorter than how Charlie has hers— it felt so much weirder, but somehow so much better. As I slowly moved my hands up to the crown the hair was tapered up much to a slightly longer length. I ran my fingers the head of hair on top, biting my tongue as I realised just how truly short Natalya left it. There was probably just about enough hair to run my fingers through the locks, though it sort of naturally stood up real spiky. I excitedly ruffled it up like how Natalya did, and Lo and behold it never really got disheveled. 

“But don’t worry, you can still give it a little bit of style,” 

Natalya said as she went back to the dresser and picked up a small dollop of some hair product. “Just a little bit of gel or pomade helps,” advised just as she began running her gelled fingers through my short hair.

I watched through the hand mirror as she worked it through my hair. “You can either wear it down with a sort of a parting,” Natalya demonstrated as she directed my little wispy fringe to the side. “Or you can go for something spiky,” she said just as she pushed my fringe up together, forming a cute little peak with it. 

“I think I like spiky,” I confessed.

“Spiky definitely suits you,” I heard another voice call from in front of me. I moved the mirror a little to see that it was Izzy in the waiting area now, picking up her handbag just as she was probably about to leave. I smiled back at her to realise her bob was all freshened up— neatly cut to her earlobes along with a cute set of bangs that went right along her eyebrows as she requested.

“Someone really got a big change,” I heard Sonya call out from her workstation, where Jenna was already seated and caped up. 

“And it suits her a lot, doesn’t it?” Jenna added, a sort of smug look on her face that sort implied she had a hand in choosing the style.

“Tell me about it. Something fresh and simple without all the bulk— it’s perfection on her,” Natalya continued. 

“Thank you, you’re all too nice,” I couldn’t help but blush, taking in all the warm compliments just as Izzy left. “But— yeah, I really like it. It’s so… dyke,” I accidentally muttered, probably coming out a bit too prematurely to my barber. 

Natalya’s eyes widened for a split second, though it settled back down in realisation— almost as if this entire transformation of mine just made complete sense to her. “Well I’m glad you stopped by today. I’m always happy to help with a little makeover,” she continued, putting the final touches to my spiky look before taking the hand mirror back

She got out a neck brush and began dusting my scalp of any stray hairs that remained, then she slowly moved them down to clean the neck areas. I loved how it felt so ticklish against my now-bare neck, and I was really going to have to get used to the feeling of it. 

She undid the neck tissue before whisking off the cape. Natalya gave the ruby cape a grand flick sending all my severed blonde hair tumbling to the floor. My heart went into jolts looking at the checked floor— just looking all those years of growth, of maintenance, of warmth, of annoyance. All gone.

I slowly got up to my feet, taking my time as my knees were still wobbly about the entire journey I went through. I turned to face the wall mirror squarely, looking at myself fully for once. It was weird, looking at this cropped blonde girl in her flannel and white top. But it was a good weird— it was a new me.

I got out twenty five and paid Natalya, insisting she kept the change instead of the fixed twenty they charged for everyone. “Thank you. I really love it,” I said as I couldn’t stop touching and looking at it.

“My pleasure. Make sure you come back in a few weeks to keep it nice n’ short, yeah?” Natalya reminded.

“I will,” I promised, and a part of me knew I wasn’t going to break it. 

I waved goodbye to the 3 of them just as I left the shop, my eyes giving one last look at the tresses of my blonde on the floor that Natalya were sweeping away. 

The moment I got out of the shop I felt… cold. The autumn breeze was in full swing and my head felt like I just stuck it in a freezer. It felt good having such a cool head, and for the first time in my life I didn’t have to worry about my hair flying all over my face. Not even the wind could mess my hair up. 

After all the suspense of the haircut, I realised I hadn’t eaten anything the whole morning as I felt my stomach growl viciously. I headed straight for the brunch spot, nervously walking in almost as if I was debuting my look to new people for the first time.

Luckily it wasn’t too crowded, and I made my way straight for one of the empty booth seats. I ordered myself a nice flat white and a brunch platter just before taking out my phone. All that time in the chair I was so mesmerised by the haircut that I didn’t realise I actually got a text from someone— from her. 



so did you think about it? 😉


I sighed wistfully, typing out the reply.



Oh I did way more than just “think” about it 


I took a sip of my coffee after sending, wondering if she was still by the phone after all that time. And then I saw the little “typing” status on top.




pics or it didn’t happen


I chuckled, enjoying myself as I toyed with her. Just as I was about to turn on the camera on my phone, I realised maybe the longer game with her would’ve been more fun. 



nah, no pics. why don’t you come and see for yourself? or you could just wait and die in suspense till we meet in lecture again 



you’re gonna be the death of me talia

where do I find you



the little brunch spot beside the barbershop



I’ll be there in 5 



I look forward to it 😉


For the next few minutes my heart was thumping, anxiously waiting for Charlie to arrive. As I waited for her I tried to calm my nerves a little, using my phone camera to take a few cute selfies here and there— maybe something to finally post on Instagram after so long of being inactive. 

Just as a waiter served my brunch platter I heard the restaurant door open. There Charlie was in a cute maroon summer dress, scanning the place for me. The moment her eyes landed on my table, she dashed right for me. 

“Holy fuck,” where the first two words that escaped her mouth just as she toon a seat opposite me with her mouth agape.

“What do you think?” I shyly asked.

“It’s so short… and I love it,” Charlie commented, looking at me from different angles to see the full breadth of the look. I couldn’t but grin from ear to ear, feeling validated by the one that really encouraged me to take the step. “Oh my god, wait… Natalya did your hair, didn’t she?” she asked.

“Uhm, yeah… why?” I answered, curious to know if there was meant to be much of a difference from such a coin flip.

“Ahh that makes a bit more sense,” Charlie giggled. “She, uh, tends to be the more “scissor-happy” sister.”

“Ah,” was all I could say, all of Natalya’s haircutting habits slowly making more sense. “I can’t disagree much with you on that.”

“I can’t believe Natalya sheared you like a sheep— hell, it’s way shorter than mine,” Charlie said, instinctively running a hand through her hair. “But it looks really good though.” 

“Come, give me your hand,” I instructed her this time, happy to be the one returning the favour to her now.

She gave me a smug smile, knowing darn well what I was getting at before offering her outstretched hand. I started from my neck, letting her soft hand caress my buzzed back and sides as she enjoyed the pleasant feeling of it all over. And then I slowly moved it up to my crown, letting her get a feel of the cropped top and spiked up front. 

“Wow, that is short short,” she remarked as she explored the top. “But it feels so good.” 

“And, I won’t need to comb or brush it for at least a few weeks,” I said as if I was boasting.

She raised a brow. “Weird flex, but okay.” 

For the next half and hour or so we just enjoyed our brunch as I told her the story of it all, from walking into the shop with a head full of blonde to leaving with a lot less. It was nice being able to talk about such an odd sort of shared haircut experience with her, almost as if we both went through the same thought processes and ritual the first time we went to the barbershop respectively.

“Maybe we could go get it done together next time,” I nonchalantly suggested.

“I mean, I’m due in a couple weeks tho. And don’t you wanna grow it out a little more?” Charlie pointed out.

I shrugged as I shoved a few scrambled eggs into my mouth. “I dunno. Maybe I wanna keep it this short,” I said. I ruffled her hair a little, messing it up. “Maybe you should get something a little shorter and neater, hm?” I impishly teased.

Charlie’s cheeks coloured, almost as if she was agreeing with what I was suggesting. “I’ll tell you what. I’ll grow out my hair a little and bear with it. When you wanna get yours cleaned up, let me know. I’ll get the exact same style as you, no questions asked.”

I was taken aback. “And what’s the catch?”

Charlie took a sip of her coffee, giving a wry smile. “You’re not doing anything this afternoon, are you?”


5 responses to “Neatly Out

  1. Loved it! This is exactly the type of story I like. You did a GREAT job of building excitement and describing the Talia’s wonderful haircut from the jingling of the bell to the dusting on her neck. I hope you write more stories like this in the future! Don’t know if you’re planning a sequel or not but I would love to see it. Thanks a lot for sharing.

  2. Holy cow, this one was amazing. Just another reason you’ve become one of my favorite authors here — there’s no real surprise in the cut (I think we all knew where it was headed), but you manage to draw out the drama and anticipation of it perfectly, and the budding romance is just too damn cute.

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