Paying Tuition Part 2
Grace had been working in her It’s All About You photography studio for several hours and was now waiting between clients. She looked at her appointment calendar and saw she had a 3:30 consultation from a student at the college. She received inquiries like this almost every week. All were from students looking to make a few dollars. Most decided against cutting their hair when they found the haircuts involved them being videoed or that the cuts required parting with more length than they were willing to cut off.
Grace’s main business was doing graduation and wedding pictures for high school and college graduates and newlyweds. Quite a few were for family portraits and baby pictures all of which made for the mainstay of her work and it earned her enough to have a nice living here in the college town. But a few years ago, while looking online for other photo opportunities she stumbled on haircutting videos. Trying to expand her business Grace had never thought about specialty videos of any kind. She continued with her research and found there was a small but definitely devoted market for hair cutting videos. Many of the videos she watched had serious quality issues. Those issues could be overcome easily with high quality equipment. She determined if she was getting into this business, she needed to ensure the highest quality video possible.
She already had the photography and videography equipment so that was no problem. Getting the necessary props to make one of her studios look like a barber shop presented no challenge at all. She posted a need for an art student to do some scene work and voila, the background panels were done in no time at all. Finding a barber chair took a little searching but she finally found one on a web site dedicated to barbers. Then she needed to get quality sound engineers to help. Again, that was no problem with the college directly across the street. Graduate Electrical Engineering students looking for a few extra bucks were readily available. Grace could do the video editing herself and one of her staff could do the videography while she acted as the director. The final piece of the puzzle was finding a stylist who could make her potential models look their best and if they could also do some makeup while they were at it that would be a definite plus. But finding such a person was proving difficult.
A regular women’s stylist was probably out of the question as they would more than likely try and talk the models out of cutting their hair and were not as adept at doing the very short cuts her intended clientele wanted to view. But a barber didn’t really do the longer cuts some of the models would eventually stop at plus the makeup aspect of the videos needed a person of multiple talents. Grace had a problem until one day a family entered the shop for a portrait sitting.
While the family was getting settled, they had a chat about what the family wanted in their portraits and what they did for a living and so on. The wife mentioned she was a hair stylist with a beautician’s and a barber’s license. Grace’s ears perked up immediately. She had introduced herself as Sandy and now Grace began steering the conversation to what kind of stylist Sandy was and where she worked. Sandy told her she had been working in one of the more upper end salons in town, but the clients were demanding and simply hard to work on. Grace understood completely and asked if she were still there. Sandy told her she had left that shop and now worked as a barber in one of the local shops only a mile or so away from It’s All About You. The men were much less demanding and more fun to work on.
After the portrait shoot Grace pulled Sandy aside and told her about her upcoming business venture and asked if Sandy might be available to do a little moonlighting on her own. Sandy thought it might be a great idea. On the one hand she could continue practicing her skills on the women’s cuts and also do some makeup on the models for their videos and the before and after still shots. It was a match that would work for the two of them.
Getting women to cut their hair wasn’t really a problem. She didn’t expect to have a flood of women knocking down her doors and that didn’t happen. She posted on a few student bulletin boards at the college and got a fairly regular number of students interested in what they might earn. Determining what to pay the women was something she had to learn by herself. After selling a few videos she had the routine down on how much to pay and what the clientele was interested in viewing.
Grace had sold a number of videos of models with a few selling quite well. She had expected the videos of a model shaving her head would sell the most. However, in one case a model walked in and had asked about a different style that was quite unique and that video had been her best seller.
When the door opened for Grace’s 3:30 she saw a statuesque blonde beauty standing in front of her. One look and Grace was positive this woman had no idea of her own beauty nor how she may be able to profit from it. She looked at Shannon again thinking what a video of this drop-dead gorgeous blonde might bring. She’d paid a lot of money in the past to other models and found the shaved look didn’t bring in the kind of money most people would have thought. Grace wanted this girl to model for her badly. She knew her clientele would pay handsomely for this girl getting what many of them yearned to watch. But getting her to agree to the kind of cut her clientele wanted might prove difficult.
When Shannon had asked what her best deal was Grace understood two things. One was that this woman had no idea of the value of her assets. And two, she was no negotiator, she was desperate for cash. Grace replied, “Our best deal would be $4,000 but we choose the haircut,” she said. Shannon was stunned. $4,000 was more than she’d ever thought possible. It would pay for tuition and leave her with $500 in her pocket. But what kind of “style” was being talked about here she wondered. “That’s a good offer but what style are you thinking of?” she asked afraid she would have to shave her head and very determined that wasn’t happening.
Grace let her breath out slowly. This kind of model had only fallen into her lap once before and the video had been her best seller. She was sure this girl would do even better. She answered, “I’m thinking very short and it’s called a flattop.”
Shannon felt as if an electric current had been run through her body. A flattop? She had only seen them on guys around campus. She’d look like a man! No way! But then the tuition bill went through her mind once more. She needed the money, a degree and a job in that order. She could always grow her hair. “But what would I look like while it’s growing back”, she anguished. “Can I think it over a little?” she asked. Grace was elated. Shannon had not come back with a counteroffer asking for more money or a different style. She was positive she would make a lot of money on her video and if Shannon had pushed it, she’d have gone higher.
Grace replied, “sure thing, I know this isn’t something to do on the fly. How about you take the weekend and get back with me Monday?” “That sounds fine,” Shannon said as she rose from her chair on wobbly legs and shook hands and left the studio.
The entire walk back to her apartment was a dream and she had no memory of entering her door. She texted Casey “I went to It’s All About You” “Really? What’d they say” “They want to give me a really short haircut” She couldn’t bring herself to mention the word flattop in a text. “You must need cash badly” “Tuition is due by Friday in 2 weeks and I need to pay it or there is no point in interviewing” “Do you need a shoulder to cry on?” “No thanks, I’m good”.
Shannon now needed to close the loop with Grace. All weekend long she teetered back and forth on a decision. What would she look like, what would people say and what would Nebula or any other company say if she showed up to an interview with a flattop? Saying “no” was winning by a huge factor every time she looked into a mirror. Getting a flattop was out of the question.
Practicality finally won. She was fixated on that $4,000 and never gave a thought to asking for more money. In her nervousness she had also never gone online to determine what getting a flattop might entail. All she knew about that style was from looking at male students on campus with a flattop and assumed all were about the same. She was about to find out exactly what getting a flattop would mean on a very personal basis.
On Monday morning between classes she called It’s All About You and told Grace she was going to go ahead with the flattop. Grace told her they were ready to do the video the following week on Thursday evening if that worked with her schedule. Knowing she had to have the money in the hands of the Registrar by the following day Shannon said that would be fine and she would be at the studio at 6. Grace asked her to wear something fairly sexy if she had it as they wanted a nice before and after photo shoot. Shannon thought she had just the dress from a dinner the engineering department held last fall.
The week and weekend were a mess. Finals week was over, and she was in the middle of a short break between terms. Most of her requirements for graduation were completed. All she needed to finish was Part 2 of her two term Practicum and even this early in the term that was all but finished. She gave a quick thought to Nebula and any follow-on interviews but the need to pay tuition was her most immediate need.
The new term had started and her tuition bill was due by Friday the day after her haircut. She met Casey after their Machine Dynamics II class and gave her the news. “A flattop!”, Casey cried out. “How much are they paying you for that?” Shannon began to cry and brushed her hair out of her face and said they were paying $4,000. Casey looked at her friend with sympathy and said, “Shannon I understand completely. I needed money too and know where you’re coming from. They must think they can make a lot of money on your video because that’s a lot of money. Obviously more than they offered me.” Always the optimist, Casey said, “Look at it this way. We’ll be two of the shortest haired women in the school when you’re done. I think you’ll look fabulous with or without your hair. Look at me, I found Jeff and he loves the short haired version of me. You’ll find someone too.”
The week flew by in a blur and Thursday was a day she would never remember. At least until 5:30 arrived. Shannon had washed and conditioned her hair the way she did for her high school prom. As she walked across the campus to the studio in the strip mall, she felt like eyes were on her the entire way. The reality was that she was just one of the hundreds of long-haired blondes on campus and was just another coed out for a stroll. At least one of hundreds for the next hour or so.
As she opened the door to It’s All About You the receptionist was gone for the day. She called out “hello” and a door opened, and Grace appeared. She welcomed Shannon warmly and brought her back to a photographic studio. This studio was brightly lit and included a red barber chair, rows of lights and artistic backdrop announcing it was a barbershop to the nonexistent passersby. A single mirror on the wall behind what was an equipment shelf completed the barbershop atmosphere.
A cameraman and sound man were working on their equipment while Grace prepared her for her video. The barber turned out to be a lady which surprised Shannon and left her more relaxed. She had feared some behemoth of a man would be leering over her hair as it was severed from her head. Having a woman stylist calmed her down significantly but the terror of losing her hair left a volcano rumbling in her stomach. She introduced herself as Sandy and she said she was more than capable of giving her the ultimate flattop as she worked at one of the local barbershops and this was not an unusual cut for her to do.
Grace went over the format. Shannon would walk into the barber shop and ask if they could cut her hair. The barber would act confused and say it was rare for a woman to come into the shop for a haircut. Shannon would then tell her she wanted a short haircut and felt it best to come here where they would know what she wanted. They would cut her hair in stages and that would give Shannon an opportunity to stop the filming at any point. Grace would act as the director for the entire event.
What Shannon did not know was what kind of flattop she was getting and in her nervousness she had never asked. Grace had told Sandy she needed this video to sell well and to take the sides and back as short as possible while leaving some length on the top but no more than 2 inches.
Sandy sat Shannon on a stool to do her makeup. Realizing Shannon probably didn’t use much to begin with, Sandy used her tools sparingly while trying to focus attention on her eyes. Using the adage that less is more she outlined her eyes so that when they were done with Shannon’s hair the attention would be drawn to both the hair and the eyes, enhancing her femininity. When she was finished, she asked Shannon how she felt. Looking at herself in the big wall mirror Shannon stared at her reflection. She had no idea she could look this good and was almost speechless. But her wide smile gave her away. “You look like you’re ready for a runway,” Sandy said. “I don’t get a chance to work on someone as pretty as you very often.” “Thank You, I’ve never seen this side of myself,” Shannon replied. Sandy gave Shannon a card and told her she could do some free pointers any time she wanted.
Grace had Shannon sit for a few before haircut photos. Letting her long blonde hair flow around her Grace took a lot of photots. Grace was sure these would be the bait she needed for marketing this video. For Shannon, the photo shoot ended all too soon as that meant the hour of her hair’s demise was upon her. Once they were done, she would have the shortest of haircuts she could imagine.
Now was the time Shannon dreaded the most. She took one last look at her new face and soon to be lost hair and announced she was ready. When everyone else standing by was ready Grace called “Action” and Shannon appeared in the doorway of the “barbershop” and asked if she could get a haircut. Sandy extended her hand and in full character said “Sure, no problem. We just don’t see too many women in here getting their hair cut.” She sat Shannon down in the huge red chair and turned her to the camera saying, “so what are we going to do today?” Shannon had been practicing for hours but barely managed to squeak out “I’d like to go short.” “That’s what we do here, sweetie. How short were you thinking of going?” “I need it really short. I was thinking of a flattop.” Sandy, still in character, said “are you sure about this? That’s a pretty short haircut even for a guy.” Shannon replied in her character “Yes, but can you do it in stages so I can see what it’ll look like while I’m growing it out? I’ve never had short hair before.” She got a big thumbs up from Grace at her ad lib here. “Yeah, we can do several cuts in between what you have now and the flattop. Are you ready?” Shannon stammered, “I think so. I may cry a bit.” Sandy told her she wouldn’t be the first to cry and not to worry.
“This first cut is usually the worst for women with long hair” Sandy said. “I’ll cut it in a long bob.” Shannon just nodded her head wondering what she’d look like. Sandy wet her hair and combed it out and grabbing a pair of scissors inserted them just at shoulder length. Closing the scissors, she easily cut 15 inches of hair which fell to the cape and onto the floor. Shannon looked at the hair on the floor and felt her eyes get watery but refrained from crying. Sandy worked quickly all around her head until she was satisfied she had the length all right and picked up a blow dryer and dried her hair. When she was done, she asked “so how does that feel?” Shannon thought it looked great but, needing to stay in character, she said “I like it, but I want to go shorter.”
Sandy brushed off the cape and said “OK, next cut we’ll take it pretty short. It’s what we call a little boy cut. Are you ready?” Shannon nodded her head again and Sandy proceeded to grab her scissors again. Beginning on the right-side Sandy combed Shannon’s hair away from her head and slipped the scissors in and cut 8 inches or so from the right side of her head. Working quickly she moved around Shannon’s head until everything was at a length of no more than an inch.
By now Shannon was an emotional wreck. She had watched as Sandy calmly reduced her once very long blonde hair to what she considered to be almost bald. The horror in her eyes said volumes as she watched Sandy cut away the last remnants of her crowning glory. And she realized this was just an intermediate step on the way to the final haircut!
But Sandy was far from finished with the little boy cut. She grabbed a set of clippers from her work shelf. She put something on them that Shannon didn’t recognize but looked like they had steel teeth. Flicking the switch, the clippers came to life with a whirring sound and Sandy asked Shannon to put her head down. Feeling the clippers on her neck sent a jolt of adrenaline through her like she’d never felt before as she realized for the first time that there was no turning back at all from this point. Looking in the mirror Shannon couldn’t see any of the results of Sandy’s haircutting. All she felt was the clippers going up to the occipital of her head and back again in a path next to the last swipe. Finally satisfied with the back Sandy switched to the sides and ran the clippers again and again up her head.
As Sandy went from the back to the sides of Shannon’s head Shannon could see in the wall mirror the ravages the clippers had done to her hair. It was so short! The sides were clipped close while the top still had a lot of length. She knew this wasn’t close to the end of her ordeal as this was another in-between style. She wondered, “what have I done to myself.”
Finally, the clippers were switched off and Sandy began wetting Shannon’s hair again. After spraying her hair completely Sandy went back to her shelf and grabbed a smaller pair of scissors than those she used earlier. She grabbed a length of hair on the top of Shannon’s head and cut 8 inches off in a single swipe. By this time Shannon was paralyzed. She was terrified of what was happening to her hair but powerless to stop it. Only the knowledge that her tuition payment was due tomorrow kept her in the chair. The cutting of her hair seemed to take forever. The bits of hair went from 8 inches to smaller and smaller amounts with each closing of the scissors sealing the doom on Shannon’s once beautiful blonde hair. Finally, Sandy seemed satisfied with the little boys cut and grabbed the blow dryer once again drying Shannon’s hair. When she turned off the blow dryer, she whisked the cape from Shannon’s shoulders, handed her a mirror and asked her what she thought.
Shannon took one close up look at the ravaged hair that only 30 minutes before had been almost to her waist and wanted to cry for real. But then she took another look and noticed something she never saw before. While other people had told her she was either good looking or maybe even beautiful she saw her eyes and ears without the curtain of hair hiding her features. She saw someone who was daring the world to see the real Shannon.
“So, what do you think?” Sandy asked. “Is it what you were looking for?” Shannon couldn’t take her eyes off the person now staring back at her in the mirror. “Like it? I do. This is so much better than I ever thought I’d look.” Sandy grinned back at her and said, “I’ve done a lot of these haircuts and sweetie you look great.” At this Grace called “Cut” and came up to Shannon. “Shannon, you were spectacular. One of the best we’ve ever had for these videos.” Feeling she had to give Shannon the benefit of a halt and with more than a little fear that she might stop now Grace continued, “You can stop now and collect $2,000 or we can continue for the full payout. It’s your choice. What do you want to do?” With the tuition bill of $3,500 staring her in the face and the knowledge that Nebula or any other potential employer needed her to have a degree Shannon felt she was left with no other options.
“Let’s go ahead with the final haircut,” she announced. With everyone in position Grace called “Action” once again and Sandy motioned Shannon to the awaiting chair. Still warm from the little boys cut Shannon sat for the final time and Sandy placed a tissue around her neck, flew the cape over her shoulders and tightened the cape for the last time. “You ready?” she asked. Shannon found her voice for the first time all evening and said “Yes, one flattop please.”
Sandy needed no further orders. She picked up another steel toothed attachment and opened up the clippers to remove the attachment from the little boys cut. Inserting the new blades in the clippers she flicked the switch and the clippers whirred to life and Sandy announced “OK, head down please.” Shannon bowed her chin to her chest and Sandy placed the clippers at her neck and ran them all the way up her head. Much higher than they had gone for the little boys cut and Shannon could only imagine what damage was being done now. She thought the little boy cut left the sides suitably short. She was finding out in real time that was not to be the case.
Again, and again Sandy ran the clippers up the back of Shannon’s head before moving to the sides. Taking a comb from her shelf she ran the clippers along the comb inserted near the top of Shannon’s head taking the remaining hair down to almost nothing as far as Shannon was concerned, which scared her even more. While she liked the little boys cut, she knew the flattop was a much more radically short haircut and wondered just how short Grace was asking Sandy to cut. Ensuring she was creating a wall of hair that would support the flattop Sandy finally approved the new length of the right-side and then moved to the left making it an exact copy of the right.
Turning off the clippers Sandy returned them to the shelf making Shannon believe her ordeal was over and thought the length wasn’t so bad although the look wasn’t one she liked at all. But then Sandy grabbed a jar of butch wax from her work shelf and placed a small amount in her hands and rubbed them together. Returning to Shannon she rubbed the wax into Shannon’s hair. Hair that rarely if ever saw any product in it at all. Now she was having a wax applied to her hair that would ensure it stood straight up. What else could happen to my hair she wondered.
Shannon didn’t have long to find out what was next. Picking up a brush Sandy brushed Shannon’s pale blonde hair until it all stood straight up from her head. Looking at herself in the mirror all Shannon saw was her reflection with very little hair on the side of her head and sprouts of hair 4 or 5 inches long standing straight up. She felt she looked hideous. This couldn’t be the end result. It was even worse than she had imagined.
Turning around Sandy exchanged the brush for a long-handled paddle of a comb. Before she inserted this into Shannon’s hair Sandy said “now sweetie you need to sit absolutely still. If you move at all this cut doesn’t turn out right. You understand?” Shannon said “yes” and drew a large breath. Sandy laughed and said, “you don’t have to hold it sweetie, just don’t move.”
Inserting the flattop comb at Shannon’s forehead Sandy pushed the clippers across the comb removing 3 inches of hair which fell down across Shannon’s nose to the cape. She did this again and again until she had the length she wanted. Sandy then took the brush to her hair getting the blonde locks to stand straight up again. When everything was as stiff and straight as she could make them, Sandy grabbed the clippers again and ran them across the top taking mere millimeters off with each pass. Finally, she turned the clippers off. Reaching for her balding attachment, Sandy inserted them in the clippers and told Shannon to once again put her head down. Shannon had thought her agony was over once Sandy was satisfied with the top. Again, Shannon wondered what more could be done to her hair at this point. She had seen herself in the mirror and saw her hair could now balance a plate. How much more would she have to endure?
As Sandy placed the clippers on her neck and moved them up Shannon felt tiny hairs raining down. Running the clippers up to the top of her head several more times only intensified the fear. As Sandy moved to the right side she continued removing more of Shannon’s hair and now Shannon could see exactly how much hair was being removed. She had thought her hair was gone before but the balding attachment completely severed all the remaining hair from her sides.
Moving her head so she could see more of the right-side Sandy was working on she could clearly see skin now. “Look straight ahead,” Sandy said. Clearly, there was no turning back now. Her skin would be visible for a long time to come. When Sandy moved to the left Shannon was incapable of further emotion. Going through the last hour had taken everything from her.
Grabbing a smaller set of clippers, Sandy turned them on and made small passes along Shannon’s neck and ears outlining the hairs there (as if there were any left Shannon thought). Finally, Sandy turned off the clippers, used a soft brush to wipe away any stray hairs from her face and neck and undid the cape pulling it off along with the tissue. She handed Shannon the hand mirror again and asked “OK, this is it. The new you. How’s it look to you?”
If Shannon had thought the little boys cut was short before she had another thought about it now. She was looking at her hair that had been reduced to just 2 inches on top and she could now confirm the sides were devoid of hair. But what captured her eye again was the look that this woman was not a girl at all any longer. This woman was in charge. Shannon had no idea what she was in charge of but the look shouted “this woman is someone to take seriously.” Handing the mirror to Sandy she said “this is something I never ever thought I’d do. Sandy, you did a great job. Now I just have to get used to it.” At this point Grace announced, “Cut and Wrap.”
Shannon got out of the chair. There were still photos to take of the after haircut which she posed for like she’d been doing this her entire life. Finally, Grace announced she was done and said “Shannon, you were by far our best model yet. Here’s your check for the full $4,000. I hope you use it well.” Thanking Grace and Sandy she looked around for her jacket pulled it on and walked out the studio door.
On her way to her apartment in the mid spring twilight she knew people were staring at her now. The sight of a woman with a flattop was not a common sight. No longer was she just another long-haired blonde walking on campus. She was one of a kind and a beautiful one at that. As she walked along her confidence grew. “Let them look” she thought “this is the new me. At least the me that’s going to have this look for a while.” She entered the engineering building and ran into Casey on the first floor. Casey’s jaw dropped. “You did it. You really did it!” she exclaimed. Shannon wasn’t sure if this was high praise or just shock until Casey said “it looks great on you. They wanted to give me that haircut, but I didn’t have the nerve. I am so proud of you.” Shannon smiled back and said “I just needed the money more than I needed my hair to be honest. Now I wonder what that recruiter will say the next time he’s on campus.” “Hey, if Nebula Space doesn’t want you now there’s always another company” Casey replied. Shannon took another look at Casey and said “wait a second, did you get your hair cut again? It looks a little shorter.” Casey beamed and said “yes, I found I really like this look and I know now Jeff certainly does.”
Friday morning arrived and Shannon took the check to the bank to deposit it. She then made her way to the Registrar’s Office to pay her tuition before time ran out. The recruiter from Nebula Space was back on campus and texted that he had brought the head of engineering to meet her and that they wanted to interview her again on Monday morning. Shannon agreed and when she entered the small conference room the recruiter gave her a second look before introducing her to Mike Williams the head of engineering at Nebula Space. They chatted briefly with Mike asking what her best classes were and what she liked and disliked about them and what her aspirations were. She gave answers she hoped were appropriate. At this point Mike asked for a quick recess and if Shannon could leave them for a minute.
Shannon was a nervous wreck waiting outside the interview room wondering if she had done something wrong and she was now positive that her new hairstyle presented a bad image. Finally, the recruiter and Mike opened the door and beckoned her in. Mike looked at her once again before stating. “Shannon, we are a small company right now. We have a few new contracts we’ve signed with major firms. So, all our people need to be multiple things. We’re interested in people for our structures area but that doesn’t mean they won’t be doing other things. We also expect them to be a face for our company and we need to project a professional image.” In that moment Shannon’s hopes were dashed. Her flattop haircut was going to be the undoing of 4 years of hard work. She didn’t project the image Nebula Space needed for one of its junior engineers. She wanted to run and hide until her hair grew out.
Mike continued. “You have just the look of an up and coming person that is going to project an image that we as a company know our business and we do not care about conventional methods of doing things. As we move forward in space, we need new ideas, not the stale things that don’t move us forward.” Shannon sat numb to what Mike had just said. “As a result, we want to extend an offer of employment to you contingent on your graduation in 5 weeks and it will include a nice signing bonus along with a relocation package.” In seconds, her fears had been erased and Shannon could only sit with a huge smile on her face as she said “yes, thank you so much.”
Several hours later she ran into Casey in the Common area. Casey had just finished her follow up interview and she was all smiles. “I got a job offer” she cried. “It seems they want to project an image out of the ordinary. Do you think they hired us because we look different from all the other women candidates?” “I wondered that too” said Shannon. They would never know that was exactly the case.
Graduation came and Casey and Shannon were ready to leave for their new jobs. Casey’s boyfriend Jeff was also offered a job with Nebula. So, the three of them would be able to be together knowing at least each other with this new company.
Upon starting their new jobs several guys approached Shannon to get to know her. One thing she had decided was she wanted to grow out the flattop haircut. She felt it had done its job, but she would be a little more comfortable with a longer hairstyle. One of the guys that approached her early on at Nebula was a very good-looking tall engineer named Brad who was the lead Systems Engineer on her project. After several weeks he finally asked her out and they were almost instantly a couple. Shannon’s life seemed complete.
End Part 2