“Hm, I would look so cute with highlights”,Gem awed at her reflection in the cellphone screen that had a filter displayed. Her brunette hair was glistened by the streaks of artificial blonde. She was truly entranced with herself that she didn’t move from her room for many a hour.
When she did move downstairs, Gem planted herself firmly on the sofa and continued to watch beauty tutorials and cat videos for more than two hours. To pace herself, Gem’s eye shifted to the coffee table and that’s when she saw a book she had taken from the library on it. When the binge grew tiresome, she put away her phone and picked up the book.
Gem read the book, laughing at the annotations she wrote on stickies and had placed on every other page. When the story concluded, Gem asked herself,”I wonder when this is due?”
She turned to the date and her eyes widened. The book was way overdue! She would have to pay a fortune for the extra overnight stays. Gem quickly got up and put on her jacket, racing out of the house to return the book.
The library was at the school which was a mile away. Fortunately, Gem could use her bike to get there. It looked like Tokyo drift the way she was going. Her adrenaline had kicked in and her legs dare not stop. She was determined to return this book.
She reached the building at last, an olive, brick building that resembled Grecian architecture. Gem quickly hopped off her bike and sprinted up the steps to the door. When she pulled on the handle, it remained firmed. She pushed, the door would not budge.
The library was closed.
”Hey”,a voice sounded from behind,”Watch your language”
Gem wheeled around, there stood a stern lady with crossed arms. She wore a red blouse with puffed sleeves and a black skirt, her heels were an inch tall and her raven hair was pulled back and molded into a sleek bun on the back of her head. This was the Librarian.
”Miss Green”,the librarian raised her eyebrow,” It’s good to see you”
”You-you two”,Gem stuttered, coming to the woman,”I-I met to bring this book back but I forgot”
She handed the book to the librarian who was beginning to form a sly grin. Her pointed, painted pink fingernails danced on the novel’s front cover,”Oh, this. You finally decided to return it but I’m afraid it’s way overdue”
”I know”,Gem replied,”And I’ll have the money by Monday, I-“
She was cut off by the librarian giggling, laughing at her.
”Oh, honey. I don’t care about the money”,she smiled,”All I care about is that learned a lesson”
”I really did”,Gem returned a meek smile and prepared to walk away,”Gave a good day, ma’am-“
But before she could get away, Gem was caught by her librarian putting her arm around her shoulder as if to carrel her. She wanted to run home but the woman seemed to have put a hex over her, preventing her from leaving. The woman leaned into the girl and whispered,”I’ll make sure you learned that lesson well”
Gem gave her a nervous laugh, taking what she said as a joke, but the librarian was intent on making good on her own words. The librarian escorted the young lady down the street, past her house, and into the small town. As they walked, the librarian hummed a show tune that was probably meant to put Gem at ease but it only raised the girl’s anxiety.
The two went down Main Street and went left down Avery Street. A shop forced the road to split to ways, it was a barbershop by the look of it. Gem was scared, why was Mrs. Halibut taking her near a barbershop. She tricked herself into thinking that Mrs. Halibut wasn’t that malicious to take her into a barbershop.
As they came to the red, white, and blue pole, Mrs. Halibut reached for and opened the door to a bell tinkling over it. The sound attracted the attention of the boss woman who ran the place. An older, angular woman was she and she wore a pink blouse and black pants with a dark-green apron over it. She wore brown slippers and a smile on her face.
”Mrs. Halibut, who is this?”the barberette politely asked.
”Oh, someone who was careless enough to forget to return one of my books”,Halibut prodded the girl further inside the shop.
”I see”,the barberette put her pointer finger to her chin,”Well, come girly. I assume you need to be taught a lesson”
”Oh no”,Gem tried to wave away the punishment,”I already returned the book and I am full prepared to pay the cost of the fee”
”Very good”,the barberette replied with a smile,”I am glad you understand the consequences to your actions. Now, please have a seat”
Gem completely walked into that one and all her excuses were dashed. And Mrs. Halibut’s egging didn’t help her case either so the girl had no choice but to take the chair. She cautiously moved to it and took a seat. The barberette was all too happy to gather up her chocolate locks and mold it into a knot on top of her head, it took only one pin to secure. Looking like a fool, Gem watched herself as a shiny, bronze cape was streamlined across her chest and tightened around her neck. Cape secured, the stylist smoothed it out before she released the brown mass and let it fall down over the girl’s head and face. She brushed the hair off the girl’s face and kept on brushing the hair gingerly.
She walked around the chair and rotated the chair on its axis to get all points of view and when she was done inspecting, the hairdresser looked to Mrs. Halibut,”Do we have a particular style in mind, ma’am”
”If she was just late with the book”,the woman answered,”I would advise a bob. But look, she has vandalized it with these stick notes with little quips she created”
”I meant to remove those before I came to return the book, I swear”,Gem tried to exonerate herself from the chair,”I had to make those for English class”
”The fact still remains”,Mrs. Halibut was firm,”And for that, Ida, I would consider a shorter cut”
Gem was about to cry at this point, she didn’t want this to happen but here she was. Ida had her orders and she began her work. She grabbed her scissors and her comb, ready to cut. It was repetitive to comb out and cut but the effect was not lost on the girl. Long locks fell from her head and the head became lighter and light. Gem looked like a wreck when the barberette was finished removing the majority of her hair.
”Something short, something short”,Ida began to hum a melody to herself as she took the clippers off the wall. She opened a drawer full of clipper attachments,”Something short, something short for my honey”,she continued to sing. The guard she chose was one of the bigger ones.
She popped it onto the device and switched it on. It did not hum, rather, it gave off the effect that the blades were spinning in a circle like a power drill but Gem feared it all the same. As it moved up her nape, Gem felt the vibration and hated the sensation but she didn’t have the power to stop it. It continued to plow through the already short hair and cut it shorter. The back, left, and the right sides of her head got clippered and it was fast and it left a mess on Gem’s lap and shoulders. The whole scene was covered in brown hair. Ida cleaned it all up before continuing.
When the last of the cut hair was in the trash bin, Ida came back to the chair and felt up the sides of Gem’s head. Her face soon displayed discontentment and she said,”I should take down the sides more”
Gem didn’t want more vibration and less hair so she voiced,”Please, don’t. My sides are already almost completely bald”
Ida began to laugh,”Oh, sweetheart. I will do what I think is best. But, to put you at ease. I guess I can slow the-“
”Miss Green”,Mrs. Halibut’s cut in. The girl was frightened and terrified to look at the woman but she had no choice. She looked to see Mrs. Halibut holding up the book, the book’s 460th page had a gaping rip on it. Gem didn’t if it was a product of her own doing, an accident, or a case of mistaken identity.
”I-It was there before I checked the book out”,Gem blurted.
”You’re really testing me here, Miss Green”, Mrs. Halibut came closer to the chair. She looked at the hairdresser and nodded,”As you were”,before backing away from the chair.
Gem’s heart pounded in her chest after that exchange, she tried to calm herself which seemed to work until Ida attached the second guard to the clippers. This piece was smaller, smaller than half an inch. With a flick, the clippers went live and Ida used one hand to tilt Gem’s head down. With the mower, the barberette buzzed the hair on the sides of the girl’s head down further.
When the clippers died down, Ida again felt the shortness of the hair and it apparently satisfied her. Gem wasn’t sure about her forming look. She looked much like a boy but her femininity was somehow brought out by the traumatic experience, but that still doesn’t make it right.
The hairdresser took up her scissors and comb, spiking up the hair with comb and trimming it some. Mrs. Halibut’s anger seemed to have subsided and she was becoming fond of the new cut. As for Gem, she was just hoping this was the last step.
To her relief, after Ida cleaned up her neckline, the cape was loosened and the bits of shorn hair were taken off. Gem breathed as Mrs. Halibut ran her fingers through through the short, brown hair,”This will do nicely”,she smiled,”How much do I owe you, Ida?”
”Don’t worry about it”,Ida replied while sweeping,”Making sure the young lady is on the straight and narrow is enough”
”Right”,Mrs. Halibut nodded, helping Gem out of the chair and escorting to the door,”I’ll bring her back to you if she needs a cut”
”Alright”,Ida waved them off.
Mrs. Halibut held on to Gem’s shoulder to her annoyance. She already cut her hair, what else could she want?