Zoe’s home-time routine was an odd one, she knew it was. After clocking out at five every day, she walked ten minutes down the road to her bus stop, then kept walking another couple of minutes. Rather than wait at the bus stop for the next twenty minutes, she headed to a nearby bench that had become her spot. The reason for that was twofold: the public area she sat in was busier, making her feel more at ease, and the bench had the perfect view of her favourite shop. Not a shop she’d ever visited, but a small salon with a single chair and hairdresser.
To start with, she’d barely even noticed the shop. But seeing different women wrapped in the same black cape day after day piqued Zoe’s interest, and she soon started to spectate from a distance. She enjoyed watching the women have their hair cut, especially when they had a dramatic restyling. It happened frequently in that little salon, nearly every day in fact, and she loved watching big puddles of varying colours and textures form on the glossy white floor. She’d seen bobs turn into pixies, mid-back length cut to a bob, even waist length reduced to women’s shoulders.
But never had she witnessed a scene like today. As she took up her spot, a young woman walked into the hairdresser’s little shop at the same time. She must have been around the same age as Zoe, somewhere in her early twenties. Thin and with olive skin, she was a pretty little thing, but naturally it was her hair that caught Zoe’s attention, as it must have done with everyone else that set their eye on her. Glossy and straight, a perfect chocolaty brown that glinted under the low sun, oh-so thick and yet perfectly brushed with not a strand out of place. The ends were not entirely blunt, but they fell all the way to her flat bottom. Her mane swished as she walked, and it swung back and forth for a few seconds after the hairdresser dropped it down the back of the chair. Zoe had never seen hair long enough to sit on get chopped, let alone when it was in such impeccable condition.
Suddenly, the stylist’s eyes set on Zoe. Embarrassed at being caught staring, she looked away, but when she glanced back, the hairdresser still looked in her direction. Middle-aged and with short, unnaturally blonde hair, her gaze was authoritative albeit not hostile. Zoe could only offer a sheepish smile and a blush, but the woman grinned back at her. She grabbed a set of scissors from the counter, then brushed them down the sleek brown hair that hung over the back of the chair.
Short, she mouthed to Zoe.
Zoe could hardly believe it. Why would a woman with such beautiful hair want to cut it all off? Though she was pretty in every other aspect as well, her hair was easily the most eye-catching feature she owned. And yet, despite it being such a crying shame to witness a crime like that, Zoe’s heartrate doubled at the excitement of watching it happen.
The stylist beckoned her, pointing to a chair in the waiting area of the otherwise-empty shop.
Zoe shook her head. Setting foot in that shop meant she was next in line for a haircut, she was certain of that.
The hairdresser put her hands on her hips, then mimed the act of checking her watch. Her gorgeous brunette client turned her head to check for herself. She grinned at Zoe, calling her to come by flicking her head, leading to her tresses dancing from side-to-side across the back of the chair. The two women waited, eyes set on the uncertain young lady who watched from afar.
Finally, Zoe made up her mind. Though a haircut of her own wasn’t something she wanted, she needed to watch that chocolate mane be cut. Watching up close would provide a new, intriguing perspective, filled with the sound of scissors snipping effortlessly through silken strands. If a few inches of her hair was the admission fee, it would be worth paying up.
“I was wondering when you’d come in here,” the hairdresser said. “I’ve noticed you watching for a while now.”
Zoe apologised, quickly transforming into a tomato.
The woman merely chuckled. “No need to apologise, dear, I understand the intrigue. Especially when they have a head of hair like Maria’s here. What’s your name, sweetheart?”
“Nice to finally meet you, Zoe. I’m Barbara. Take a seat right there and enjoy the show. Lord knows you won’t get to see something like this again for a while.”
With her introduction done, Barbara swung that familiar black cape around the chair, ensuring her victim could no longer back out. Then she sized up the scale of her challenge by dragging a comb through the entire length of her client’s hair. As Zoe sat, she looked to the mirror to meet Maria’s eyes.
She smirked at her. “You were admiring me, no?” A subtle accent flavoured her words. Something Latin, perhaps Italian.
“Sorry,” Zoe said again. “It’s just that you have the most gorgeous hair I’ve ever seen.”
“You think so?” The smirk became a grin. “Are you excited to watch Barbara cut it all off?”
“I am, I have to admit. But I’m also very surprised that you’re getting anything more than a trim.”
Maria shrugged. “I’m fed up of it. It looks incredible, I’m well aware of that, but it takes far too much work. I saw a girl in this shop the other day having her hair cut into a short bob and I thought I could pull it off as well.”
She could, Zoe immediately decided. She could already see how it would look on Maria, how it would bring out her sharp bone structure and make those cat eyes smoulder. Zoe supposed that her incredible tresses may well have been a distraction from an undoubtedly stunning woman.
“Now, how am I doing this?” Barbara asked while she continued to comb. “All at once, straight across your chin? Or do you want me to go in stages?”
Maria looked to her spectator. “You can pick, Zoe.”
The suggestion caught her by surprise, and she felt herself turn red once more. “Oh, umm… A little at a time, then.”
“Thought you’d say that,” Barbara said. She finally stopped combing, then sank towards the floor, scissors in hand. “Ready?”
“Yes,” Zoe and Maria said together.
The Italian woman sniggered at her, but Zoe was too captivated by the first delicate snip of the scissors to care. Four inches of brown silk floated to the white floor, resting neatly in front of Barbara’s feet. Another scissor-wide section of the same length joined it, then another, then another, reducing butt-length hair to hip-length in only ten seconds.
Barbara stood up and preened her specimen again, running the brush from Maria’s roots all the way to her freshly cut ends. She did so for twenty seconds, then lined up the scissors to chop another four inches. The scissors positively sang as they worked, revelling in the privilege of cleaving through such lovely locks. Though her hair was dense and voluminous, it was visibly soft, and the shears walked through each strand effortlessly with the quietest crunch to add to their song.
Maria’s hair passed waist-length, then was reduced to the middle of her back. The clippings spread across the floor, claiming as much space as they could with each new tendril to add to the pile. For most women, such a huge volume of debris could only come from running a set of clippers down the middle of their head. Yet Maria’s hair was still in the territory of long, longer than Zoe’s currently was. Not for long, however, as Barbara cut away the next set of four inches, bringing her up to armpit-length.
Drip by drip by drip, snip by snip by snip, the puddle beneath the chair continued to grow, and Maria’s mane shrank in equal measure. Finally, it no longer touched her shoulders, and the cuttings spilled down the cape rather than reaching the floor, an inch at a time now rather than four. Zoe decided she liked this phase even more than watching it pool at Barbara’s feet. Maria’s eyes followed each new inch that dropped to the black cape and slid down to her lap, looping in a circle as the next lock arrived and departed.
At long last, Barbara’s scissors reached Maria’s chin, and they completed their final tour of her smooth chocolate hair, now short and neat but still impeccable. Just as Zoe thought the show was over, Barbara swapped the scissors for a similar set of thinning shears, then got back to cutting what was left of Maria’s mane. She spent a short while reducing the density, showering individual strands of brown across Maria’s shoulders and shaping her bob. It quickly piled up, but Barbara finalised the hairstyle in only a couple of minutes.
With the shears cast aside again, Barbara ventured through Maria’s hair with the comb one last time. “There we go. How’s that?”
Maria beamed. “Perfect.”
Barbara released her from under the cape, and the very first thing Maria did was run her fingers through her hair. While she admired herself, the hairdresser swept up the jaw-dropping amount of hair on the floor, so much that the white area was outnumbered by that which was coated in brown.
“Look at all of that, Zoe,” Maria said. “Incredible, no?”
It truly was a sight to behold, but so was the young woman that emerged from underneath all that hair. She knew it too, and she flashed Zoe another grin.
“You’re still admiring me, aren’t you? Does that mean you like my hair like this?”
Zoe nodded, though she couldn’t hold Maria’s intense brown stare.
“Good. Now I want to watch you get yours cut the same way.”
“Oh.” She’d forgotten this was coming, and she suddenly felt the need to pluck an excuse out of the air. “I… I don’t have any money on me.”
Maria smirked again. “Don’t worry, I’ll pay. You can pay me back by taking me on a date.”
That more than settled it. She climbed into the chair without further complaint as Maria claimed her spot in the spectating area. Barbara caped Zoe immediately, once again locking her subject in place before she could change her mind. Then she combed through her hair in exactly the same fashion as she had with Maria. Zoe’s hair was nowhere near as spectacular, but still silky and well-maintained. Her gold locks lay straight until her shoulders, where they began to wobble and form an inconsistent collection of waves and curls. The ends grazed her bra strap, but they wouldn’t for long.
“Am I cutting hers the same way?” Barbara asked Maria.
“Yes, a little at a time. I want to savour it the same way she did.”
Barbara brushed until the waves were suitably tamed, then brought her sharp scissors up to the middle of Zoe’s shoulder. She clicked them shut immediately, sending the first locks tumbling to the ground. Unlike with Maria’s impossibly soft hair, the scissors crunched as they bit, and the chopped hair splatted on the floor rather than floating elegantly to its resting place. Second, third, fourth, and fifth chomps followed, then Barbara paused to use the comb again. With another sequence of snips, the last of the imperfect curls were cut out of Zoe’s hair. The remaining straight locks dangled freely, no longer restrained behind her shoulders.
Zoe glanced in Maria’s direction every few seconds. She was unable to keep her eyes there for more than a second, but the Italian woman pinned hers in the same spot the entire time.
“I understand now why you enjoy watching,” she said.
Zoe didn’t reply, now too fixated on the mirror in front of her as blonde droplets began to decorate the sleek black cape. Half an inch at a time, the scissors climbed up her neck. Barbara took her time, and both onlookers revelled in the slow build-up of gold in Zoe’s lap. When the snips finally stopped, she almost felt deflated. She contemplated asking Barbara to go shorter, but the encore of the thinning shears beat any words she might have said. Unlike the greedy bites of the straight scissors, the textured blades merely nibbled, gently tugging as Barbara swiped them through the blonde bob. In only a few more minutes, Zoe’s hair merely grazed the bottom of her jaw, layered and shaped gorgeously around her head.
Barbara put the shears to one side, stroking through Zoe’s hair one final time. “All done. Two matching bobs.”
As Maria had done, Zoe spent a few moments admiring herself after the black cape was removed. She hadn’t expected the style to fit her, but it framed her face nicely and made her doe eyes that much bigger.
When she got to her feet, Maria also stood, still grinning at her. “Now I’m the one admiring you.”
Not for the first time, Zoe could only blush and look away.
Maria handed Zoe her phone. “Give me your number. We can sort out the details later.”
While Zoe did that, Maria paid for both haircuts.
Barbara returned to the task of sweeping up as the two women headed back outside. “Feel free to drop in if you ever fancy watching up close again, Zoe.”
Zoe thanked her but left it at that. Tomorrow, she’d be back to watching from afar.