Angela rarely saw so much activity in the campus square this early in the morning, but Spring Fling had a way of waking people up. At the moment, almost everyone in the square was focusing on setting up vendor tents and carnival game booths, but there were a few clusters of students that had already secured spots on the lawns for their picnics hacky sack games.
As she made her way to her Accounting class, one of the tents being set up caught her eye. Inside, there were a few bar stools and mirrors that looked like easels. Inside, one of the women bustling about set some tools out on a small table next to one of the chair; they looked to be different types of scissors and even clippers.
Dressed in very cute capris and a black haltertop, the short-haired blonde woman looked as though she could have been a student right alongside Angela, though she’d apparently chosen a different life path. She noticed Angela watching, and came over to her.
“Hi! Are you thinking of donating today?”
“Donating?” Angela asked.
The woman gestured to a sandwich sign nearby that identified the tent as belonging to a local beauty school that was collecting ponytails to make wigs for women and kids who needed them. The minimum was ten inches, and any donations included a free restyling (which really seemed like the least that could be offered).
Angela reached up to the messy bun she had thrown her long, thick chestnut locks into. “Oh, I..uh…”
“You certainly look like you could spare some,” the woman said with a smile.
“No, true, I mean… maybe. I have class, but it’s something I’ll think about.”
“I’m glad to hear that!”
Angela pulled out her phone and snapped a picture of the sign. “I’ll post something. Maybe some friends will be interested. You can imagine how poor we all are, so free haircuts might be tempting.”
“The more the merrier. Thanks!”
Angela started toward her class, walking a bit slower than she had been before. With a few clicks, she had posted a temporary pic of the sign to her Snapchat, captioned with the phrase Think I should?
Putting her phone away, she reached up and freed her hair as she walked. Her soft, silky curls tumbled free, spilling down to her waist as she strode, dark wisps floating in the breeze her pace created. Gathering some of her locks forward, she considered their length. Ten inches wasn’t asking much, and she could certainly deal with having her ends neatened up a bit. Getting it done for free would be a nice bonus, and the cost really wouldn’t be much more than a healthy trim.
It didn’t take long for the responses to come rolling in.
Do it! You have such beautiful hair and it’s a good cause, Denise said.
Not too much – you’ll miss it. Trust me, Kerri countered.
No! Long hair is the best! One of the guys from Trigonometry insisted.
You’d be hot bald, someone else unhelpfully contributed.
Angela didn’t respond to any of them, not wanting to tip her hand as to what she was thinking. Fact was, after spending the two classes she had that morning slowly stroking her treasured locks, she had decided she was going to do it. As much as she loved her hair, having less to take care of might be nice. And there was the added benefit of a potential boost in volume, with her dark waves taking on even more curl without any added effort. She’d probably wear it down a lot more often, too, letting it frame her petite features and complement her soft brown eyes. She really liked that idea.
Once her final class of the day had ended, Angela made her way back to her dorm room to dump off her books and brush out her Rapunzelesque locks one last time. Though she didn’t have a ruler handy, she took her best guess at imagining how long her hair would be after donating – she guessed her curls would lay against the curves of her breasts, just a bit too short to hide her nipples.
“That won’t be terrible.”
Her phone pinged.
Need emotional support?, her friend Cara asked.
Nah. But if you want to grab a late lunch after, I’d be down with that.
Works for me! I’ll head to the square in a bit.
“So you decided to do it?” the chirpy blonde woman asked.
“Yup,” Angela answered as she filled out a quick bit of paperwork. She wasn’t sure how busy she expected the tent to be, but however much that was, reality was a little moreso. Three of the four chairs were occupied by guys, though, and that’s when she realized cuts were being given for monetary donations, too. She wondered how many of those guys were actually paying for a chance to talk up the cute cosmetology students. “It’s only ten inches, right?”
“Correct – and your hair is even longer than I thought, so you should barely miss it.”
Angela crossed her fingers and smiled as she handed the woman her paperwork. In return, she received a plastic bag and a little card with her name on it. The blonde pointed toward the one empty chair. “Doris will be able to take you.”
Angela was surprised by that; it’d been the blonde’s friendly personality that had helped convince her to go through with this. As Angela walked toward the empty chair, she noted the heavy sigh the woman behind it gave out before she stomped out the small clove cigarette she had been smoking. Angela’s stomach started to knot up. “D-Doris?” she asked.
The woman, considerably older than the other students working in the tent, nodded. She had exceedingly black hair pulled back into a tight twist, with makeup that was just a bit too heavy for her complexion. She seemed ancient – maybe even thirty years old! Angela wondered whether it was too late to back out, but then thought maybe the extra years would mean she was an even better stylist than the others.
“Have a seat, Sweety,” Doris said, patting the back of the chair. “Have you used any product in your hair?”
Sitting, Angela shook her head. The waves of her shiny hair swayed in the mirror’s reflection. “Not today, no.”
“Perfect.” Her hands gathered up Angela’s hair and dumped it down in front of her right shoulder, and then they landed heavily on her shoulders to settle her back in the seat. Despite the lack of restraints, she suddenly felt trapped. Doris gathered her hair back again, letting it fall free down the back of the chair, and then snapped a cape open and fluttered it across Angela’s lap.
Angela considered how it would look if she bolted right now, racing through the square while still caped. That would not be an Snapchat update she’d be looking forward to giving.
Her hair was tossed over her shoulder again. As the cape was snapped closed around her neck, she admired her mane’s length and volume in the mirror. But just past the mirror, she saw a bit of a crowd gathering, something she hadn’t thought of when she decided to do this. Not that there was anything salacious about getting a haircut, but, sitting here all caped and such, she felt oddly vulnerable.
“You really aren’t lacking for hair, are you?” Doris asked as she gathered Angela’s tresses back and started running a comb through them. Another clove cigarette, unlit, sat in the corner of her mouth.
“No, I guess not,” Angela asked meekly.
“Does it grow fast?”
Angela nodded. “Pretty fast. Not like a weed, but fast.”
Doris nodded, her eyes narrowing in her reflection. “Well, it’s quite lovely. You’re doing a good deed. How much are you giving?”
Angela swallowed. “I was thinking ten inches.”
“Ah. The minimum?”
Angela’s brow wrinkled, and she found herself pouting without meaning to. “Yes,” she said, her voice suddenly tiny.
“It’s just funny how the girl’s with the longest, nicest hair always give as little as possible.” Doris set aside the comb, and picked up her scissors. Angela felt another lump growing in her throat. “You do have some split ends, though. Is it okay with you if I take off a little bit more to make sure they get a healthy ten inches?”
Angela’s heart started to race as her throat started to get dryer. “I mean…” She glanced toward the crowd watching, suddenly reluctant to cause a scene in the tent of a bunch of people just trying to help a charity for kids. “Okay, yeah. That’s fine.”
“Perfect. Very kind of you, Andrea.”
Angela started to correct Doris, but her voice died when she felt the stylist take hold of a thick lock of hair at the base of her neck. Angela couldn’t see the scissors, but she could see the angle of Doris’s arm and it was just so, so much higher than Angela expected.
Even with the surroundings noise of the celebrating crows, carnival games, and music, the harsh, hungry crunch of the scissors assaulted Angela’s ears. In the mirror, Doris held up at least eighteen inches of beautiful, shiny chestnut waves pinched between two fingers – eighteen inches that just a second ago were attached to Angela’s head and a part of her pride and joy.
Angela’s jaw dropped and some of the watchers gasped, but Doris took no notice. She set the long, shorn lock across Angela’s lap, letting her see what nearly perfect condition the ends of her hair were in. Not a split in sight. “Just hold this in your lap for now, and we’ll band it up when we’re done.”
Breath frozen in shock, Angela listened as another lock was hastily shorn away, and then another. Doris moved quickly, as if she were trying to get away with a bank robbery. She never even had to straighten he arms, never even bent over as she should have if she were only cutting ten inches off. No, she just stood behind Angela, chopping thick, heavy tress after thick, heavy tress and occasionally making eye contact in the mirror as a slight smile played at the corners of her lips.
Angela fought back tears as she watched the pile in her lap grow and grow, getting heavier and heavier with every passing moment. Why hadn’t she run? Why hadn’t she insisted the friendly blonde cut her hair instead of this beast of a smokestack?
Instead, she was trapped here, looking down into her lap. Angela could feel Doris’s efforts moved outward toward her shoulders. Soon enough the last of the long locks on her left side was stolen away, and what remained slid forward into Angela’s peripheral vision, too short to even stay tucked behind her shoulder. The same occurred on her right side, and after the last of her long, impressive curls were laid to rest across her lap, Doris stole them all away and snapped a tight band around the abruptly shorn ends.
“There we go,” she said as she stuffed the massive ponytail into the plastic bag Angela had been given. She held it out for Angela to get a closer look, whether she wanted it or not. “Doesn’t it feel good to be so generous?”
Angela felt the first tears streak down her cheeks when she turned away. She caught sight of her reflection, now just a little girl slumping, defeated, in a stylist chair, with thick, puffy hair that had been chopped away just below her slender shoulders. She tried to steady herself; in the end, she could still make it look good, she was sure. She’d still be able to do cute styles and make it look beautiful when she wanted to. Maybe she could even try a few femme fatale looks, coquettishly hiding one eye behind a blanket of sensual curls.
She could make this work, she promised.
A spritz of cold water snapped her out of her thoughts. Doris was circling behind her with a spray bottle, soaking the hair that remained atop Angela’s head.
“It’s all a little uneven,” the stylist said. She took her comb and ran it through Angela’s locks, which somehow looked even darker now. Straightening under the water weight, Angela was glad to see them reach a bit further past her shoulders. “I’ll just even it up for you.”
Angela was tempted to say she’d handle it herself later, but even if she were that assertive, time wasn’t on her side. The comb was set down and the shears were picked up. Doris’s rough fingers played with the length on the left side for a moment, and then suddenly held a thick lock captive. Angela’s view was blocked in the mirror, but she could feel Dori’s fingers against her jawline. Before she could say anything, there was another horrifying crunch, and she watched as several more inches of her dark hair fell away into her lap.
Angela made a squeaking sound she had never heard come from her throat before.
“Like I said, we have to even it up,” Doris said, making another harsh cut that filled Angela’s lap with more of her beautiful hair. We. She said we as if Angela had been given any choice.
More than one girl in the watching crowd held their hands over their mouths now, and some frat boys were even snickering. For that reason alone, Angela forced herself to hold back her tears as Doris massacred her crowning glory. The scissors were cold against Angela’s neck, sliding across with loud, sickening crunch after crunch.
With so little length left, the volume of Angela’s mane grew, becoming triangle-shaped before Doris had even finished her work.
“Don’t worry, Sweety,” Doris insisted as her fingers brushed against Angela’s right jawline, continuing to create a rainfal of chestnut tresses, “We can fix that floofiness issue.”
“I’m not sure I want you to,” Angela whimpered.
Doris chuckled, her smile disappearing as she gathered a thick curtain of Angela’s hair forward. “Don’t be silly. I don’t mind.”
Though she couldn’t see anything, the familiar coolness of the scissors revisited Angela’s skin just above her eyebrows. A long, slow crunch coupled with another rainfall, one that revealed Doris’s terrible grin and the aghast or amused faces of the crowd behind her. Angela couldn’t even fight it as two more slices cropped her bangs short for the first time in her life, baring flushed cheeks and reddening eyes in her reflection.
Doris moved behind her and changed instruments, reappearing in the reflection with another set of shears thats somehow looked even more frightening than the first. The stylist greedily gathered up a thick lock of relatively long hair at Angela’s crown.
“This should help it all lay flat,” she explained. Doris trapped the thick lock between the scissor blades and crunched them closed right at the roots once… then twice and a third time.
Angela squeaked again, but no locks fell free this time. At least not until Doris raked the captured tresses with her comb. The comb’s teeth confirmed all of Angela’s fears in the moment, herding a thick mass of her hair until it floated to the ground like an impressive dust bunny.
Angela closed her eyes, unable to watch as the evil scissors were set up the roots of her generous mane again and again, seizing even more of her hair than she ever could have imagined. Unlike the earlier stages, where Doris seemed to work as fast as possible, this stage seemed to take forever, as if the stylist, for some reason, was relishing her efforts to make sure Angela couldn’t possibly make the results look good.
When the scissors fell silent, the spritzing returned, followed by a round brush and a hairdryer. Angela refused to open her eyes for fear she would burst into tears.
Finally, the dryer stopped and the cape loosened around her neck. “There you go,” Doris said.
Against her better judgement, Angela opened her eyes. It was as if the girl with the beautiful, thick, riotous waves of chestnut hair had never existed. No, where there was once a thick fall of treasured tresses, now there was only a brutally cropped, limp chin-length bob with a comparatively ridiculously thick fringe chopped above her eyebrows.
Angela hesitantly reached up to tuck her hair back behind her right ear, something that was nearly impossible with her former volume. The thinness of the hair that remained almost made her sick – Doris may have left her with a chin-length style, but she stole so much more, took away so much of its full length that there’d be no way to style her way into making it look good. It was just a terrible haircut.
It was destroyed. Her beautiful hair everyone had always complimented was simply destroyed; there was no other way to look at it.
“It’s so nice of you to give up such gorgeous hair,” Doris said behind her. “Most girls wouldn’t be willing to lose so much.”
Angela didn’t reply. She was out of the chair as quickly as she could be, and charged out of the tent. Clutching her left hand to her mouth, she didn’t want anyone around to hear her crying even if it was completely obvious that the tears weren’t letting her see where she was going.
She didn’t know how far she’d gone when someone grabbed her arm, but as she spun to tear herself free she saw it was Cara. Concern etched wrinkled across the blonde girl’s forehead, and tears brimmed in her sympathetic blue eyes. Angela collapsed into an offered hug, feeling the tips of Cara’s fingers stroke the thin locks at the nape of her neck.
“It looks horrible!” Angela wailed. “I didn’t ask for this! I didn’t ask for anything like this!”
Cara comforted her, and eventually managed to convince Angela that while ice cream wouldn’t fix anything, it certainly couldn’t hurt. Twenty minutes later, the two girls were snacking on cones in Angela’s dorm room.
“I’m going to have to buy a wig,” Angela sniffled.
“It’s not that bad.”
Angela glared at Cara, wondering whether she’d be able to trust anything else her friend ever said. Cara seemed to pick up on that.
“I mean, it looks bad. Don’t get me wrong. But maybe not ‘buy a wig’ bad.”
“Look how limp it is! How am I supposed to do anything with this? It’d be better if I just shaved it all off like Denise did.”
Cara shook her head. “Let’s make that plan B, okay?”
“What’s plan A?”
Cara sighed softly, then pulled out her phone. Holding it to her ear, she got up from Angela’s bed and began to pace. After a brief bit of murmuring from the other end of the line, she said, “Hi, Audrey. It’s me, Cara. I know we haven’t spoken in a while, but I was wondering whether you could do me a really big favor. It’s a bit of an emergency.”
I don’t often do Part 1s and Part 2s, but I hope to have the direct follow-up written soon. In the meantime, any comments/tips/critiques are welcome and appreciated!
Thank you for reading!