One Week

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Bird chirps carried on the chilly breeze that made Haley pull her covers
up.

“Are you done yet?!” she called louder than she needed towards the bathroom
across the hall.

Her sister, Kaley, did not respond.

A chilly breeze billowed the white curtains, and Haley happily snuggled in.
She was nearly taken to visions of the next week when there was a knock on the
side of her bedroom doorway.

“Haley. You need to get up. We going to be late.” her mother now stood by
the side of her bed. “Haley.”

“But, mom… Kaley is taking forever in the shower.” Haley grumbled, and
turned away from her mother.

“Haley. You need to get up. Breakfast is on the table.”

“Kaley is taking forever.”

“I’ll get after your sister, but you need to get up.”

“Ok, fine. I’ll take a shower after breakfast.”

“We don’t have time. Get up, eat breakfast.”

Haley rolled back over, and sighed.

“Haley.”

She looked up at her mother, blinking slowly. “I’m up I’m up.”

“Good. I’ll go deal with your sister.”

Rubbing the crusties from her eyes Haley reminded herself she just needed
to get through the week.

Across the hall her mother knocked loudly against the bathroom
door. A wall of steam greeted her as she opened it.

While her sister failed to persuade her mother on why using so much of
the hot water was necessary Haley took her hair out of its braid. She had brought
the last section over her shoulder, and was thinking about just how much things
would change over the next year when her mother had gotten her sister out
of the shower.

“Haley!”

“Coming, mom.” she followed after putting her hair up into a ponytail.

***

Haley’s mother drove at the speed limit. Not above, not below. Her eyes
were fixed forward. “I’ll be getting the moving truck at 9 on Tuesday. That
will give us enough time to pack, and get you there by 2. We can stop on
the way for lunch. You’ve bought all your books? Do you have your schedule?”

“Yes mom.” Haley answered moving her head just enough side-to-side to
see her ponytail sway in the side view.

“Mom?” Kaley’s asked while watching the fields pass by. “Do I have to
get it cut so short this time?”

“It’s for the heat sweetie,” her mother’s voice offered no chance for
bargaining.

“But,” Kaley started.

Haley perked up.

“Mom,” Kaley continued. “You let Haley grow her hair out.”

“Haley graduated, and is not going to live under my roof anymore.”

For the rest of the trip Haley watched the side-view, happy to let the
silence continue. Two or three times her sister made a noise like she was
going to push the subject, but each time she seemed to mull it over and
let it go.

***

It would be the last time Haley would hear the chime of entering
this salon. In one week she would be in college, starting her degree,
away from this tiny little town.

“Martha!” Aunt Heather, as they called her, waddled across the salon.
She was a woman, who even when Haley was young seemed short. But it didn’t
matter how much Haley grew, Aunt Heather always found her cheeks.

“Haley” Aunt Heather turned from hugging Haley’s mother. Her knuckles
outreached.

Haley flinched at the pinch.

“God, you two have grown so much!” Aunt Heather pinched Kaley’s cheeks.
“And, My God, look at your hair!” She turned away from Kaley to run Haley’s
ponytail through her fingers. “Is this why I didn’t see you in so long? Your
mother must be losing her touch.”

“She graduated,” Haley’s mother spoke flatly. “She wants to have long
hair for college.”

“And what do we think about that?” Aunt Heather considered Haley’s hair
while looking at Haley’s mother.

“I think Kaley will be getting her usual haircut.”

And that was that. Kaley sat, begrudgingly, but without a sound in the
large black chair. Aunt Heather caped her in the same cape she had used
since forever ago was tomorrow, and chatted with Haley’s mother about
anything and everything that had gone on in the town since last fall.

Haley couldn’t help but feel sorry as she watched her sister’s hair,
barely below her chin was pinned up. There was talk between her mother
and aunt about someone doing something while drunk, then her aunt pressed
down on Kaley’s head so that her chin touched her chest.

The “pop” was something Haley was accustomed to. Something she and
her sister had more in common with the boys than the girls in school.
Clippers shaving her neck was just what happened twice a year. She smiled
at that thought. It was just scissors for her now. “A little off the
bottom,” was what she would say.

Aunt Heather ran that clippers up Kaley’s nape, flipping them over
after each pass to dump the overgrowth onto the floor. It wasn’t so bad
this time. Aunt Heather was stopping at a point that could still be
considered a bob.

Haley caught herself feeling at the ends of her hair. She swallowed.

“Your ends are looking dead.” her mother offered.

“I’m getting a little off the bottom.” Haley spoke the words in a
way that she was proud of.

A clip was taken out of Kaley’s hair, allowing what it was holding
to mostly cover what had been clippered. In a brief gossip about what
Joseph the electrician had been doing with Dorothy the house wife she
snipped snipped the free hair to her desired length.

Kaley would aware now that her hair would be above her chin. And
if she was a tad lucky it might even look passingly fashionable.

“What are we doing with you Haley?” Aunt Heather snipped away
while barely looking at what she was doing.

“Just a little off the bottom.” Haley felt a shot of pride at
how clear she was.

Aunt Heather continued to snip, nearly finishing with Kaley’s now
definitely not stylish bob. “Martha??”

“If I had my way. She’d be set for summer.” Haley’s mother got
up to check on Kaley’s hair. “Looks good Heather. Maybe a little long,”
she waited with a smirk, “I hope you’re not losing your touch.”

“We’re getting old Martha. Maybe we can’t help but get soft,”
Aunt Heather used a blow dryer to get rid of the bits of hair that
were around Kalye’s shoulder. Then, in one motion, took the cape
off and flicked it clean. “Haley. You’re up.”

Haley moved with as much confidence as she could muster, her
chest threatening to burst at the beat of her heart. “Just a little
off the bottom.” She took her seat.

Aunt Heather snapped the cape around Haley’s neck. “Ready for
College?” She ran her fingers through Haley’s ponytail.

“I can’t wait! I start classes on Friday. I’m studying to be
a Marine Biologist,” Haley chewed at the inside of her bottom lip,
waiting for Aunt Heather to say something.

“I’ve heard it can get quite warm there. Warmer than here, if
what Miss Malcom said is to be believed.” Aunt Heather stepped away for
a brief moment, and returned to running her fingers through Haleys
ponytail.

“It’s not going to be so bad …” Haley’s stomach dropped at
the pull of her ponytail. “Just a little off the bottom.”

It was a sound Haley had never heard, a crunch that destroyed
dreams. Words tried to form, only to harden in her throat. Her eyes
burned. “My hair…” is all she managed to squeak out as her aunt
considered Haley’s severed ponytail.

“Not long enough to donated,” Aunt Heather dryly declared like
she was answering a question on Haley’s mind, then tossed Haley’s
ponytail in the garbage. “Let’s get you ready for summer.”

Haley wanted to object, to say no to that “pop” behind her.
She wanted to argue. She wanted her ponytail back.

Tears filled her eyes, as she looked at her sister. Kaley looked back
blankly.

The clippers ran up her neck, and further. Their paths not
registering with a Haley who was floating somewhere else,
surrounded by college friends, her hair reaching to her waist.
They talked about something, laughed, and she kissed the boy
as he was consumed by a load buzzing.

It was the pressure on her right temple that brought her
back. The vibrations there not felt since she was very young,
and the weather very hot.

One week she would be in college. She would be…

The buzzing was gone. Her aunt had switched to parting her hair
straight down the middle. It looked kind of cool, in a rebellious
way. A way out if she made herself clear.

Aunt Heather continued without pause. Her scissors snipping
above Haley’s ears, and around the back.

Her mother walked over while Aunt Heather was finishing up,
and rubbed at the back of Haley’s neck. “I was wrong. You’re not
losing your touch.”

“Mom…” Haley’s voice started to return.

“Haley. You need to get up now. We’re need to get your stuff
ready to be moved.”

“But, mom…” Haley’s held her ball of emotions down as far
in her stomach as should could. “fine.”

“Girls.” Haley’s Mother paid Aunt Heather for her work. “Say
thank you.”

“Thank you, Aunt Heather,” Haley, and Kaley strained for a
happy sounding response in unison.

Haley, as much as she found it odd, was more sorry for her
sister than herself. Kaley had two more years until she graduated,
Haley was nearly out.

A week and she’d be in college. Her first class was on Friday.
Ben would be there. He liked her. He said her hair was beautiful.
She was going to leave this town. She was going to be a Marine
Biologist. A week, and she’d be in college. Ben would be there.
Haley’s eyes found another tear. What would he think of her with
no hair at all?

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