Pick a Number

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“Did you wanna tag along?”

“To where?” Aisha replied with a raised brow.

“My haircut appointment. It’s in about half an hour, just a couple blocks down from here, actually,” Danny said.

“Damn, which stage of the relationship is ‘accompany for a haircut’ in? Are we there yet?” Aisha cracked, putting on a wry smirk.

“I’d say it’s around the same level as ‘doing errands with each other’, which we’ve done for about a couple months now,” Danny answered. “Y’know: doing mundane, boring things but with the company of each other.”

“You’re not chopping off your hair, are you?” Aisha blurted out one of the little worries that plagued her mind.

“No no, nothing like that,” he brushed it off, instinctively running a hand through his parted mane that reached his collar. “Just getting the ends trimmed, nothing special. Like I said— mundane, routine.”

“Would be a stab in the gut if you’re inviting me to a haircut out of the blue only for me to sit there and watch all your hair get cut off,” she sneered, leaning against the armrest of the couch.

Danny chuckled. “Don’t worry, I don’t think even my barber would have the heart to do it. She’s been very protective of my hair as well.”

“Wait, she?” Aisha perked up.

“Yeah, my barber’s a woman— I never told you?” Danny’s face turned to one of concern. “That’s… okay with you, right?”

“No, yeah, I don’t care who cuts your hair. I’m more interested in the fact that she’s a woman barber,” Aisha rested her face in a hand. “Don’t think I’ve ever heard of that.”

“They’re more common than you’d think, especially in a city like this,” Danny’s tone lifted, suddenly sounding like an expert. “Though for mine, the labels she uses don’t really matter to her, y’know? I mean, she just does hair, full stop. And well, I’m a regular client.”

“Been with her long?” Aisha asked cheekily, being deliberate about the phrasing.

“Why yes, we’ve had a very fulfilling barber-client relationship for a while now. Started a few years back when she was still at some other place, now she’s got her own shop, and I’m still a faithful customer,” Danny played along as he spun the story.

“Sounds like a lovely thing you two have going on,” Aisha said. “Must be nice having someone you trust to do your hair. I’ve never really had that my whole life.”

“Not even back home?” Danny leaned closer into Aisha on the couch, gently caressing some of the ends of her brown tresses with his fingers

“Nah, was just jumping from salon to salon,” she confessed.

“That’s a shame,” he remarked. He half-opened his mouth to suggest something, then immediately clamped it down.

“What?” Aisha probed, recognising the look on his face.

“Nothing,” Danny simply smiled before giving those locks of hers a soft kiss. “So did you want to come?” he redirected back to the task at hand.

Aisha studied him for a moment, wondering what little schemes he had in his mind. “Let’s go,” she accepted.

*

The barbershop was not at all what Aisha had in mind. For starters, there was a bright harmony of colours that seemed out of character for a barbershop. Rebel Rebel was the name of the place— a Bowie reference which she got when she finally got the chance to lay eyes on Danny’s barber. With her leather pants and loose-fitting shirt paired with her short, slicked back pixie, she looked like she was plucked from the Station to Station era. And it was a vibe Aisha digged.

“Danny! So good to see you. Oh, and you,” the barber’s attention was drawn to Aisha the moment the couple stepped into the shop, “must be the lucky Aisha I’ve heard all about.”

Aisha was briefly taken aback by her sudden fame of being so well-known by someone she had only heard about that day. “Fran, this is Aisha— my sun and stars. Aisha, this is my barber, Fran,” Danny made the introductions.

“Pleasure to meet you,” Aisha shook Fran’s hand, still a little stunned.

“Likewise. It’s great to finally meet the woman I hear so many wonderful things about,” Fran complimented.

Aisha bit down on her tongue, trying hard to suppress the blush that was coming. “Well, don’t believe any of it— Danny’s lied to you. I just got lucky to pull a pretty boy like him,” she quipped in return.

Danny chuckled— always appreciating Aisha’s humour. “What do you mean? You’re the pretty one. I’m just some guy,” he said.

“As far as couples go, you two are definitely in the pretty category. A more than fitting couple to go up on my wall someday, if I’m being honest,” Fran remarked, gesturing to the wall that her workstation was set against. “But don’t worry, Aisha, I’ll make him prettier for you. Why don’t you have a seat at the couch— I won’t be too long with him.”

Aisha headed over to the couch while the other two went straight for the barber chair closer to the back of the shop.

There were two main workstations in the shop— each with its own barber chair and mirror mounted on the wall directly in front of it. Just below the mirror was a dresser, where all sorts of tools were organised neatly. The other workstation seemed to be empty for the time being, and Aisha could only wonder what sort of character this other barber might be to complement Fran’s slick grunginess.

Danny slipped comfortably into the barber chair, easing himself in as Fran unhooked the violet cape from the wall. With a flourish, she flung it over him– enveloping his entire figure up till his ankles that were on the footrest. “Just the usual trim today, yeah?” Fran asked as she clipped the ends behind his neck, laying out his collarbone-length hair nicely across the purple fabric.

“Same as always,” Danny proclaimed, then glanced at Aisha through the reflection in the mirror. “Unless you think I should go shorter, babe?”

“I think the day you cut it short is the day we break up,” Aisha retorted with her snarky smile.

“It’s nice to know that there are women who love their men keeping their hair long,” Fran commented, clearly amused by the energy from the two lovebirds.

“Tell me about it– I think she actually loves my hair more than she loves me,” Danny quipped. “I bet she’s more likely to want to chop her own hair than ever let me chop mine.”

“I wouldn’t be surprised,” Fran chuckled, sparing the stunned Aisha a cheeky glance before continuing. “Alright, let’s get you shampooed up first.”

Danny got to his feet, walking over to the wash station that was tucked near the back of the shop, just partially in view of Aisha from the waiting couch. He gently lowered himself into the seat, leaning all the way back before Fran tucked a towel into the collar of the cape.

As the sound of flowing water filled the room, Aisha’s gaze started wandering around— taking in the little details of such a charming establishment. The pride flags hung proudly up on the walls of the store. The sleek chandelier that lit up the shop so elegantly without harshness. The neon purple signage lit up near the front window with the shop’s name.

And the pictures. Lots and lots of pictures scattered in a mosaic all over the walls. Some were professional headshots of models, others were as personal as Polaroids that looked to have been snapped from in the store. The styles ranged from bohemian to refined, and every single one added that little bit of colour and character that gave the shop its identity. Aisha’s head was pivoting all around— admiring the gallery of hairdos that she didn’t expect to be so intrigued by.

“Like what you see?”

Aisha was snapped back by Fran’s question, oblivious to the fact that Danny was already back in the chair with a towel enveloping his head of hair. “Just having a look around. I think your shop’s gorgeous. Really love the vibe it’s got,” Aisha complimented, trying to play off the snooping around she did.

“Aw, thank you. It’s been a work-in-progress since I started the place with a good friend. The polaroids are all the cuts that’re done in-house. The rest I just took from magazines and lookbooks,” Fran replied as she unwrapped the towel from Danny’s head, letting his damp, black hair spill all over. “Don’t be shy— let me know if any of them really catches your eye,” Fran winked.

“Don’t worry, I was just browsing,” Aisha said, though the offer did stir her inside.

She wasn’t quite sure if Fran was actually being serious or if she was just being nice, but the idea of getting a cut from her was… something. Fran was starting to section off Danny’s hair now, using barrette clips to keep them all neatly in place while the bottom sections were left hanging.

The scissors were pulled out, and suddenly Aisha found herself at the edge of her seat. Fran started at the back, tilting Danny’s head down slightly as she combed out the locks by his nape. Her fingers slid down a section of the hair, stopping about an inch near the ends of the hair before the blades of the shears were opened.

Snip snip snip.

Gentle tufts of his black hair littered onto the floor behind the chair. With every click of the shears, a little part of Aisha stirred. The length that was coming off wasn’t dramatic, but the tiny fear gnawed on her— one accidental snip and his gorgeous hair could’ve been shorn too short and potentially ruined. Not that she didn’t trust Fran— Aisha knew that Danny’s hair was in the greatest of hands with this barber of his that he’d gone to faithfully these past few years. But just seeing those shears be so close to that precious hair Aisha adored. It was almost a nail biter— like a thriller where the tragedy’s perpetually looming, but never comes.

As Fran made her sparing snips, she slowly unclipped more of Danny’s hair as she went along, using each previous section as a guide for how much she was going to cut. There was a flair and confidence in the way Fran worked, effortlessly gliding around the chair as she trimmed away at Danny’s mane. Aisha came into this genuinely thinking she was going to be bored watching something so ‘mundane’ as Danny put it, but somehow she found herself rather occupied— both in admiration of the way Fran worked, yet also with that pinch of trepidation watching his hair be at the mercy of the scissors. Danny, on the other hand, lived up to his words. His eyes had been closed for the most part, not even bothered to watch a cut that’s probably played out the same way as it did every time, with full trust that it’d turn out the best way it could.

Even as she started snipping away at the layers towards the front, his eyelids remained shut with the calmest expression on his face that Aisha cherished. She didn’t quite mind this little excursion— maybe she could see herself accompanying Danny every few months or so for his trim. Surely, she’d get over the eeriness of the clicking scissors taking the meagre length off of Danny’’s mane.

“You know,” Fran spoke up as she was making some precision snips here and there, “I’d offer to do your hair the moment I’m done with Danny, but unfortunately I’m booked after this with one of my longtime regulars.” Aisha’s nerves started flaring up once she heard that more direct ‘invitation’ even though it was for naught. She blew out a small sigh, realising she’d dodged a bullet. Or did she really? Just when Aisha was starting to think about following him for his haircut, she now had to consider that she might just be right after him the next time she came along.

Getting into Fran’s chair was an idea she certainly didn’t have when she first walked into the shop with Danny, but now that it was rather tangibly realised in her head… she didn’t quite know how to feel about it. Although, she couldn’t lie: a couple’s haircut day sounded cute.

“Ah, speak of the devil,” Fran continued, her attention drawn to the large window near the entrance of the shop.

Aisha’s head turned when the little bell on the door rang as it swung open. Two ladies strutted in with their hands interlocked. One of them had an infant strapped to her chest in a baby carrier, who seemed to have the most luscious head of ginger hair ever possible on a baby. “Fran! How’ve you been?” the one carrying the child greeted, whose long, mermaid-like red mane that almost reached her butt definitely caught Aisha’s attention.

“Never better, Roxie,” Fran stopped working on Danny for the moment, walking up eagerly to embrace the redhead, carefully maneuvering around the baby strapped to her chest, and exchanged a few cheek kisses. “And you brought little Rosemary! My god, she’s growing so fast,” she said before planting a gentle kiss on the little child’s wreath of ginger.

“Tell me about it! She’s starting to crawl all around the house now: our little explorer. Oh, remind me to show you the video of her trying to chase Oscar on all fours!” the other woman— taller and gamine in her style, with a short crop of blonde hair— spoke up this time.

“And soon enough she’ll be in the Forrester stables riding horses like her Mommy! She truly is your daughter, Jo,” Fran said as she gave the blonde a hug.

The entrance of the two moms may have interrupted Danny’s cut, but the energy that emanated from their presence warmed Aisha. These didn’t just seem like ‘longtime regulars’— these were friends. The type that was practically family.

Aisha was starting to wonder which of the two were actually here to get their hair done. Or was it a couples haircut day for them? Aisha didn’t quite think that someone like Jo would be here for a haircut, what with her hair already being so tightly cropped that it was only gently touching her ears.

Oh, you’re not done yet,” Jo noted when she saw that Fran’s chair was still occupied. “Good, cos I actually need to take a quick call before we start.”

“Take your time! You know I’d be here all the way till midnight for you if I had to,” Fran remarked earnestly before returning to Danny, picking her tools back up to get back to work.

As Jo stepped out of the shop, the redhead made her way to the couch, carefully setting herself down right beside Aisha. “Hi, I’m Roxanne,” she introduced herself to the other woman with a charming smile and an outstretched hand.

“Aisha,” she replied, accepting the hand.

“Ro, say hello to Aisha,” Roxie gently lifted little Rosemary’s hand, who was wide-eyed and in good spirits.

“Hello you,” Aisha played along, softly shaking the little child’s mittened hand. “Her hair is such a pretty colour. Did she get it from you?”

“Oh, you’re too sweet, but no,” Roxie confessed. “Fran dyes my hair every few months. Although, I am a natural redhead in spirit. Biology be damned. Go on, you can touch her hair if you want. I see that look in your eyes that everyone gets when they want to.”

Aisha cautiously ran a few fingers through those marvellously red strands of hair that graced Rosemary’s head so abundantly, which made the baby smile at her. “It’s so thick, too.”

“That I’m sure she got from her Mommy Jo,” Roxie said, softly rubbing Ro’s chubby arms. “How long have you been going to Fran’s?” Roxie soon asked, directing the attention to Aisha.

“First time here, actually. My boyfriend’s the regular,” Aisha pointed out, gesturing to the workstation in front of them.

“Ooh, couples haircut day, is it? Are you up next?” a glimmer appeared in Roxie’s eyes.

“No no, just accompanying him,” Aisha corrected, feeling a little flushed.

“Aww,” Roxie said, sounding almost disappointed. “Well, I guess that makes two of us. Jo loves to keep her hair really short and neat, so she gets it trimmed about every month or so. I just tag along for the fun of it.”

“That sounds really nice,” Aisha remarked with a smile, that warmth she’d felt from earlier only growing.

“Your boyfriend’s got amazing hair, by the way,” Roxie commented.

“Tell me about it,” Aisha replied. “When he first mentioned he was getting a haircut today I got so scared. I’m so relieved it’s just a trim.”

Roxanne continued to stroke her baby girl’s cap of abundant hair as she nodded. “Don’t I know that feeling! My hair is so precious to Jo, if I cut it short it might be grounds for divorce. All her hair could fall out and she’d find a way to cope, but if I lost more than a few inches she’d have a meltdown,” Roxie laughed.

“And you’re okay with that?” Aisha asked with a raised brow, thinking it sounded a bit controlling.

Roxie bounced her chest a bit to soothe the infant resting on it, and Aisha noticed how Roxie was just about able to sit on her silky blanket of crimson tresses. “Oh, it’s very mutual. I like hers short. So I’ll tease her about chopping mine off to get a rise out of her and she’ll tease me about growing hers long again, but I’d never feel like myself with shorter hair. And she wouldn’t feel like herself with hers long.”

Aisha peeked out the window to get another look at Jo, so striking in her blazer and black skinny jeans with Doc Marten Chelsea boots, paired with such a bold cut. “She used to have long hair? I can’t even imagine that,”  Aisha asked, trying yet failing to imagine the blonde woman with much longer tresses. The short crop just seemed like such a perfect fit for her.

“When we first started dating, yeah, it’d been long forever but she never did anything with it or took care of it. Always wore a ponytail. Now she always has to have it sharp,” Roxie blushed, “So a lot can change. What about you? Have you ever had yours short?”

“N—no,” Aisha stammered, and Roxie smiled as baby Rosemary lifted her wide-eyed gaze towards Aisha.

“Well, it’d suit you, I think. And if there’s anyone to take you short, it’s Fran. She’s done Jo’s hair from the first big chop onwards, and I’m sure you can see for yourself that she does a phenomenal job,” Roxie boasted.

“Well, that’s definitely something to think about,” Aisha gracefully said, her fingers instinctively pulling a lock behind her ear. Her gaze absentmindedly turned to the set of pictures above the other workstation that was empty.

“Or you could go with Lex!” Roxie followed up as she followed Aisha’s eyes. “Lex is the other barber here, but they’re very clipper-happy. So sit in Lex’s chair at your own discretion.”

“Roxie, please, she hasn’t even decided to sit in the chair and you’re already scaring her!” Fran playfully called out, her hands finally free of the scissors as she picked up the hairdryer.

“Oh, I’m just messing with her, don’t worry,” Roxie half-lied. “Although I will say: most short-haired women do start off long-haired. You never know when you’ll be next— Jo definitely didn’t see her change coming.”

As if her name was a spell invoking her, the bells jingled as Jo returned. “I’m just about done, Jo,” Fran announced as the hairdryer screamed, blasting its hot air through Danny’s mane that fluttered about.

Aisha wasn’t sure if Danny had been paying attention to all the chatter that’d been going on, and if he did he was doing a great job of looking oblivious to it all. Jo, on the other hand, had already slunk down onto the couch beside her wife, doting on her daughter in the most adorable way.

The hairdryer was soon shut off, and Fran started combing Danny’s hair out into its natural part like how he always had it. “Looks good?” she asked.

“Perfect as always,” Danny finally spoke up after some time, a pleasant smile on his face. “Or is it still too long, babe?” he turned to face Aisha through the mirror to tease her one more time.

“And what if I said yes?” Aisha played along, a cheeky smile forming on her lips.

“You do know your wish is always my command,” Danny countered, toying with a little bit of fire. Aisha could only scoff in return.

“You two are just made for each other. Now why don’t I get this off you and you can go running into your queen’s arms,” Fran concluded as she undid the cape.

As the violet cloth was whisked off— sending little locks of Danny’s hair raining to the floor— Aisha felt a weight leave a chest. He was freed from the chair, and his hair was no longer under any risk. Although some length had been removed, it was looking much more majestic than it was when they’d both entered the shop.

Danny stood up energetically, taking a brief side-to-side look at his reflection before turning to Fran. “Thank you so much,” he said as he paid her.

“Anytime, Danny. Maybe next time there’d be more hair on the floor, hm?” Fran flashed a wink at Aisha’s direction. “Jo, I’m ready for you.”

The blonde woman stood up, marching over towards the chair as Danny walked up to Aisha. Just as Aisha stood up, ready to leave with him in her arms, Danny’s phone started ringing. “Ah, shit, not this,” he sighed when he looked at the phone screen. “Babe, I got to take this, it’s work. I’ll just be a few minutes, I promise. You can just wait here, I’ll be outside.”

Before Aisha could even agree, Danny was already slipping out the door, saying his “hello” to the caller with the phone to his ear. Aisha shyly sat herself back down, realising she’d seemed so eager to leave already.

Roxie was smiling away, though— perhaps it was fated that Aisha could sit a while longer to be an audience for part of a show she never signed up for. Aisha’s eyes were naturally drawn to the chair in front of her, where Jo was already seated so comfortably with the cape snugly wrapped around her.

“Has it actually been that long since the last trim?” Fran started, running her fingers through Jo’s hair that was parted to the side.

“Almost two months, since at this point I can part it again. I swear, I’ve been losing track of time ever since Ro came along. She’s an absolute angel, but she’s on our minds all the time,” Jo lamented.

“Don’t worry, I’ll get you all nice and cleaned up. Short as always, yeah?” Fran asked.

“Yes, please. Short enough that I can’t even mess it up… and so that my two redheads can’t mess it up either,” Jo added, eyeing Roxie and Rosemary. There was certainly no way she’d let her hair get even remotely possible for baby Ro to tug on while she breastfed—and Jo was left endlessly amused by Roxie’s complaints about their baby’s grabby hands attacking her long red mane when she held her. “Then you’ll just have to chop all yours off and get a mom cut if you want it to stop,” she once teased Roxie when she complained, pleased that she never had to deal with the pain of being a mermaid mom.

Aisha was certainly struck hearing the conversation. Jo’s hair was already so short, and somehow it still seemed excessively long for Jo’s liking? It was such a wild thing to hear. But Aisha was in pure awe of that confidence.

Before she could even begin to imagine what short enough that she couldn’t “mess it up” even meant, a loud pop cut through the room followed by a low humming. Fran took her position beside the chair, but this time armed with a more ruthless implement than she’d used on Danny. Without delay, Aisha’s eyes followed those roaring clippers as they sunk into Jo’s sides.

Bzzaaa. Bzzzaaa. 

Soft, golden clippings peppered onto the cape with each swipe of the clippers, where the longer, golden tufts of hair that lingered around Jo’s ear gave way to short and tight fuzz. While the humming of clippers was leaving Aisha a little on edge, it somehow seemed to be relaxing the grinning Jo completely— even though it was her own hair that was being mowed off.

Fran worked efficiently as ever, finishing up the side before tilting Jo’s head down straightforward so she could clean up the nape. Within minutes, the loose blonde hair that had gathered all over the cape and the floor already seemed so much more abundant than the shorn, dark locks that were left behind from Danny’s cut. Yet again, Aisha was simply mesmerised. This time, though, she could actually watch and appreciate it much more knowing it wasn’t Danny’s hair on the line, but someone else’s being shorn so effortlessly into a much shorter pelt of hair.

While the spectacle was a delectable treat for Roxie, she couldn’t help but glance at the woman beside her from time to time— amused at how enthralled Aisha was by Jo’s cut. It may have been wishful thinking hoping that her words could spur Aisha to try for a plunge, but maybe all it took was a live demonstration. One that Aisha was getting in full view at the time.

“Ready to go?”

Aisha snapped out of her little trance when she heard Danny call out to her— not even realising that he’d stepped back into the shop. “Y-yeah!” She quickly got up, scurrying to his side as their hands interlocked.

“I’ll see you soon, Danny! And it was great to meet you, Aisha!” Fran bade farewell as the couple was by the door.

“Take care! I’ll see if I convince her to come again next time,” he said as they waved goodbye, leaving the threshold of the shop. “Did you want to touch it?” Danny asked after the door closed behind them.

“I thought you’d never ask,” Aisha said, her hands already creeping up his neck. She made a satisfied noise, loving how soft and full it felt between her fingers. “I forgot how much sexier you look when you get it all nice and blow-dried.”

“If only it could stay looking like this without having to do all the work,” he lamented. “Anyway, still up for dinner?”

“Yes, please, I’m starving.”

Hand-in-hand, they starting walking off towards the train station. But while Danny was already looking ahead, Aisha’s head was still spun around, stealing glances of the shop they’d just left. The butterflies fluttered in Aisha’s tummy as she caught those last few glimpses of Fran working— with her fingers flat on Jo’s skull, snipping away at any locks that poked out between her fingers. Oblivious to Aisha was that Roxie, too, was stealing her own glances— a sinister smile on her face realising Jo’s cut had garnered far more attention out of Aisha than she’d ever expected.

*

“Hope you weren’t too bored just now,” Danny remarked before taking another bite of his burger.

“It was alright. Wasn’t quite expecting to meet new people though, but that was nice,” Aisha said as she gobbled down a few fries.

“Oh yeah, you made some friends, didn’t you? What did y’all talk about? I couldn’t really hear that well through all the snipping,” Danny asked.

“Nothing much— she just asked if I was a regular and I said I was accompanying you. You met them before?” Aisha turned the question to him.

“Yeah, seen them a few times when I’m getting a cut. Roxanne and Joanna, was it? Fran tells me they’re like, practically family to her— been regulars since all the way from the beginning, when Fran was just starting out at some other queer barbershop. But yeah, those two always come together, and I guess it’s pretty sweet,” Danny said with a smile.

“Is this you implying you want me to keep coming for your haircuts?” Aisha pointed it back at him.

“Only if you want to,” he shrugged nonchalantly. “For what it’s worth, it felt cosy knowing you were there,”

“I’m sure Fran would be thrilled to see me again.”

Danny laughed. “I have a feeling the next time I book an appointment with her, she might purposely leave the appointment slot after mine empty,” he gave her a cheeky eyebrow raise.

Oh, was she actually serious about doing my hair? I thought she was just being friendly,” Aisha hedged.

“I mean, yeah, she was being friendly, but I think she genuinely wouldn’t have minded. She’s mentioned that many of her clientele are actually couples, and I guess she felt it didn’t hurt to offer.”

“Does she want to add the Aisha-Danny ship to her little collection of couples?” Aisha joked.

“I mean, it could be fun, right? Couples haircut day is a kinda cute idea,” Danny was leaning into the topic.

“Damn, we went from ‘accompanying for a haircut’ to ‘couples haircut day’— we’re jumping a lot of stages here,” Aisha commented impishly.

“I’m serious, though— consider this a proper invitation.” Danny sat up straight, acting all cordial. “Aisha, would you like to accompany me for my next haircut, and at the same time, get your hair done too?”

Aisha may have loved being snarky with Danny from time to time, but when he actually tries to be genuine, he’s such an adorable charmer that it’s hard to deny him. “Fine, only cos you asked nicely. I’ll follow you again next time, and I guess I’ll ask Fran to give me a trim.”

A pinch of disappointment flashed across Danny’s face. “Just a trim?” he tried not to sound too surprised.

“What? Were you hoping for something else?” Aisha harped on it, intrigued by his expectations.

“Someone new’s doing your hair— thought you’d be thinking of something a bit more than just a trim,” Danny tried to play it off.

“Like what? Cutting it short?” Those words were meant to be pointed against Danny, but even vocalising them sent a few shivers down Aisha’s spine.

“I don’t know,” Danny shrugged, weaselling his way out of any culpability.

“Do you think I’d even look good with my hair short?” Aisha pushed down the same line of inquiry— trying to get a rise out of Danny, but also out of pure curiosity.

He paused for a moment, leaning back in his chair as if to picture it. “I think it’d look sexy.”

“Alright there, Mr Pretty Boy. What would your mother think, calling a woman ‘sexy’ so bluntly?” Aisha toyed with him.

“I think she’d agree, actually,” Danny played along.

“What are you even imagining, though? Cos I sure as hell can’t picture it.”

“It’s not so much a specific style, but more of a vibe, y’know? It’s like, a range of short hairstyles are just flashing through, and you’re killing it in every single one,” Danny rambled.

“You’re really good at this convincing thing,” Aisha sarcastically said, popping another fry into her mouth.

“But hey, it’s just a harmless idea, isn’t it? Something to think about. It’ll be a couple months or so before I get my next trim, anyway. A lot can change. It’s just like Roxanne said just now: most short-haired women started off with long hair,” Danny concluded.

“So you were listening!” Aisha shot back with an incredulous look.

“Maybe I overheard just a little bit,” Danny said before switching the topic. “Anyway, what’s your schedule like for next week?”

“Hell,” Aisha sharply stated. “It’s literally hell weeks to come. Very foreseeable overtime, and I can’t do much in the way of avoiding it. It’s an inevitable period of time that no one in the department can avoid.”

*

And a hell of a week of a week it was. The department had gotten an almost hour-long pep talk the week before— one to prepare them for the dreaded few weeks in the lead-up to the end of the financial year. It was just document after document landing on her desk, piling up with no end in sight as they endeavoured to hit their planned daily quotas. By the time they’d left the office each day, the sun had fully set, with only twilight to grace the sky on Aisha’s route home.

Through the long hours stuck behind her desk, Aisha found herself stealing a few moments just thinking about Danny. The last time she saw him was that day of his haircut, and suddenly she started reminiscing about that day. Being in Fran’s shop may have been a rather foreign feeling at first, but she felt she’d warmed up to it by the time they’d left. Her head was still swimming with the words she heard— not just Danny’s, but from the others that she’d gotten herself acquainted with that day. Harmless, friendly suggestions, but also little ideas that found themselves planted in her mind. And then the most absurd thought flashed through: imagining some sort of genie wish that meant she could escape work for these few weeks, but at the cost of Fran cutting off her hair. What a funny thing to think. But she knew her choice would be clear.

Friday came around eventually, and even then it wasn’t much cause of celebration. More a sigh of relief that there was to be a brief respite before the chaos started all over again. Aisha could only think of crashing once she’d left the office building— already dreaming of sleeping in, which partially eclipsed her excitement of seeing Danny the next day for brunch after such a torturous week. He’d been a sweetheart, sending all manner of uplifting messages from time to time, knowing how much Aisha had been loathing her time at work. She wished she could just collapse in his arms for the night, letting his touch wash away all the stress she’d built up in her system. But she’d have to wait.

“Aisha!”

Aisha was snapped out of her autopilot when she heard her name being called while walking to the subway. She turned to see that familiar face, seated outside the shop with a beer bottle in hand. “Fran,” Aisha regarded, stopping in her tracks as she realised where she was. She’d completely forgotten that Fran’s shop was along the way from her office to the subway— she probably didn’t even register it with it being closed after leaving the office so late.

“Love the fit,” Fran complimented.

“Thanks,” Aisha felt a little blush coming, suddenly remembering the outfit she’d put on for the day: her favourite long-sleeved black blouse with subtle red floral prints, paired with her dark grey pencil skirt. Even on the worst weeks, she still endeavoured to put in the effort to dress for work— it just felt right to at least try to look nice for herself.

“Just got off work?” Fran asked, a tone of concern evident in her voice.

“Yeah… it’s been quite the week.” Aisha confessed, somewhat comforted by the presence of someone familiar.

“Sheesh. Come, have a seat,” Fran patted the other chair beside her outside the shop. She didn’t know what took over her in the moment, but Aisha just felt so exhausted that she thought ‘why not?’. Surely, it wouldn’t hurt to relax for a bit and have a little chat with Fran after such a draining day. There was a smile on Fran’s face when she saw Aisha relenting, sitting herself down on the chair beside hers. “What’s been going on at work?” she shifted herself to face her guest.

“It’s coming up to the end of the financial year— that’s when all the bullshit, last minute things pop up, and I’m part of the department that has to clean things up, unfortunately. Been a hellish week,” Aisha poured out.

“Ah, that sucks. But hey, weekend’s here, isn’t it? Oh, wait, don’t tell me they make you work weekends too?” there was a clear worry in Fran’s voice.

“Thankfully not. They’re at least humane enough to make sure we only blow the few weekdays,” Aisha assured. “Thank god it pays me well, though. The suffering’s at least somewhat worth it, or so I tell myself.”

“That’s good. Oh hey, would you like a drink?” Fran offered, realising she’d been the only one with a beverage in hand.

“Oh, no, I don’t drink,” Aisha said.

“Soda maybe? I think I’ve got some ginger ale too,” Fran started to get up, still offering.

“Ah, yeah, that sounds great,” Aisha couldn’t resist. Fran quickly disappeared into the shop, the bells on the door jingling as she entered and exited within a minute.

“Not gonna spend the rest of your Friday night with Danny?” Fran asked as she handed Aisha the can.

“Nah,” she answered while opening the can with a spritz. “The game’s on tonight, and he usually gets his friends over and everything. Besides, he knew I was gonna finish real late anyway, so no harm. We’re seeing each other tomorrow, though.”

“You mean that game?” Fran gestured to the pub across the road. There was a large screen TV outside with plenty of people seated around, drinking merrily as they watched athletes shooting hoops.  “I think it’s gonna end in about an hour max, you could drop by his place.”

Aisha sighed with a shrug. “I don’t know.”

“Everything alright?” Fran’s concern only grew, definitely not used to seeing Aisha so.. deflated.

“Just really tired. I’m glad the week’s over, but I’m gonna have to do this same thing for another week or two to wrap so much stuff up. Just hoping I have it in me,” Aisha said. “What about you, though? Nothing to do on a Friday night?” she tried to pick up the energy, not wanting to be too much of a downer as Fran’s guest.

“Nah. The missus has a show on tonight, so she’ll be back pretty late too. I thought I’d just take it easy. Not in a rush to get back home or anything, so maybe I’d just sit here and watch the game from across the street— take in the cosy, Friday night vibes,” Fran expressed, leaning back a bit into her chair to take in the landscape of the bustling street, with everyone scurrying about to their merriment and business for the end of the week.

“Honestly? Sounds like an amazing night. I feel like I could just sit here and laze away— it’s actually a really comfy spot with a nice view of the street.” It may have been a random encounter to find Fran inviting her for a drink after a late day at work, but the more she sat there in peace, the more the vibes were something she could get behind.

Fran chuckled. “Tough week really got to you, huh?”

“I don’t even wanna think about it anymore— just want to drink some good ginger ale and turn into mush in this chair,” Aisha leaned back as well, fully embracing the sloth in her. It wasn’t her bed, but for now it’d do to just have some simple company to enjoy the part of the night with.

Fran hadn’t expected company for the night, but Aisha’s presence was more than welcomed. They may have only just met the weekend before, but Fran was only growing more impressed and amused by this woman who she’d heard so much about from Danny. Aisha was by all accounts a tough woman, but even the strong are bound to falter when facing mountains in their hardest weeks. Fran knew Aisha would pull through, but she also wished she could do something more. And perhaps she could.

“How about a haircut?”

The question rang in the air for a solid moment. Only after a few seconds did Aisha turn to Fran, who was only chipper as ever with the offer. “What? I thought you were closed for the day.”

“Yeah, but I do own the place, and I can open it up if I want to,” Fran replied, happy to invoke her authority.

“And why would you?” It sounded almost pointed, but Aisha was rather bemused by the suddenness.

“Well, I did promise you a cut the other time you came with Danny, and well, I’ve got nothing on for the night. Come on, it’ll be on the house,” Fran nudged her head towards the shop.

“You wanna cut my hair for free?” The offer only grew more bizarre to Aisha.

“Why not? You look like you could use a pick-me-up, and I’d be damned if I didn’t try to help you feel better. And lucky for you, haircuts are just the thing I’m good at.” There was immense pride in the way Fran said it— one that Aisha respected.

Ever since her conversation with Danny over dinner last weekend, that idea of a haircut by Fran had been quietly ruminating in her mind. Danny may have been tiptoeing around the idea for a bit, but Aisha couldn’t help but go along with his earnestly harmless idea. Although, she’d only really planned of having a proper think about it when they’d gotten closer to the date— she barely had any idea of what to ask of Fran. But somehow, that seemed to be the least of her worries in the moment. Aisha took a swig of her drink, then made her decision.

“Okay.”

Fran’s eyes widened— not entirely believing the words she was hearing. “Whoa, really?”

“Yeah, fuck it, why not?” Those last two words seemed to be floating around her head a lot more often that night. Maybe it was the exhaustion from work talking, but at that point Aisha was fully sold on that mentality. Why not get a free haircut to end a painful week? It wasn’t like it was gonna be a hack job from someone she didn’t know— this was someone she had a modicum of trust in, especially after having the privilege to see her work.

“Well, alright then!” Fran was energised as ever now, getting to her feet. “Come on, let’s turn this Friday around for you,” she rallied, pushing the door of the shop open for Aisha.

Aisha certainly wasn’t expecting to walk into the shop so soon after that first visit last weekend. Setting foot into dimly lit space felt different when she knew she was actually in there for herself— and not just to accompany someone else. Fran flicked on a switch at the side, turning on the light on the further end of the shop which illuminated just her workstation. She walked up to her barber chair, swivelling it around to face Aisha who was still standing near the door, giving the cushion a good few pats. “Have a seat, Aisha.”

Wow, this was actually happening. Aisha knew she had the power to just turn around, walk away and pretend none of this ever happened. But somehow, running away seemed like the furthest thing from what she wanted to do. Her eyes absentmindedly stole a glance of the wall she’d been staring at the last time she was here— then her legs picked themselves up, marching towards Fran’s chair to take her place.

Fran’s smile only grew as she watched Aisha slowly lowered herself into her chair, still in a pinch of disbelief that her harmless offer had worked. Once Aisha had settled herself, Fran spun the chair around so it faced the mirror. Aisha set her drink and handbag on the counter, then Fran picked up a large claw clip before starting to gather up Aisha’s hair carefully. She twisted it gracefully atop Aisha’s head, using the clip to secure it all in place on her crown and off her neck. Fran sifted through the cupboard near the back of the shop, picking out a fresh, teal cape before flicking it out. With a flourish, she flung it over Aisha’s body, letting it fully drape her figure save for her pumps on the footrest. Fran pulled the ends together behind Aisha’s free neck, securing it snugly before smoothening out the cape over the chair.

“So, what’s the story here?” Fran asked as she undid the claw clip, letting Aisha’s chocolate brown tresses spill onto the teal cape.

“Well, it’s brownish, it’s kinda long,” Aisha gave a light shrug. “Not much of a story, I’d say.”

“Is that a little waviness going on as well?” Fran inquired, running a comb through those bountiful tresses that perhaps had seen better days.

“Yeah, but it’s not much though,” Aisha played it down.

“Wait a minute… is that,” Fran started with an excited tone as the comb pulled back the locks behind Aisha’s right ear, “some ink I see?”

Oh, yeah,” Aisha bit down on her tongue, almost forgetting about that little rosy secret of hers she’d harboured for so long. “I got it when I was still back home and living with my parents. Some friends were getting inked, and I got really tempted, but I also needed to make sure it was pretty well-hidden. At least with it there I can just,” Aisha got a hand out from under the cape, tucking a lock of hair behind her ear, “do that, and it’s probably never in sight. I could still play the good Muslim girl to mom and dad.”

“Ah, a subtle little bit of rebellion. That makes it even prettier,” Fran complimented. “But you don’t live with them anymore, so… why don’t we show it off more?”

“Like what, wear my hair up more?” Aisha toyed, even though she knew what Fran was trying to hint at.

“I was thinking a bit more magic than that,” Fran eased it in.

“What kind of magic?”

“Well… that’s up to you. How much magic are you willing to let me play with?” Fran put the ball in Aisha’s court.

“However much you want,” Aisha dared.

“Wow, really? You’d give me carte blanche, just like that?” Fran was growing more astounded. “Just put it in my hands? Don’t you want to do something that you want?”

“I don’t even know what that is,” Aisha confessed.

“Are you sure? You were staring an awful lot at some of the pictures. And don’t think I didn’t see you stealing some glances when you walked in just now,” Fran teased as she set the brush down on the counter. “Your eyes were very clearly somewhere over…” she walked over to the other workstation, gesturing above its mirror, “here. Something you really like?”

Aisha’s heart skipped a beat. “I mean,” her mouth grew a little dry, but she still mustered the courage to challenge, “even if it was something I’m staring at, doesn’t necessarily mean I might want it for me. I could just think it’s cool.”

“Maybe. Or maybe secretly… you’re hoping it looks good on you, and you’re staring at it over and over again— imagining what it could look like on you, and wondering if you could ever pull it off,” Fran’s sly smirk was on full display, fully trying to get a rise out of Aisha. “Tell you what: let’s play a game.”

Aisha blinked. “I’m listening,”

Fran took her time, making sure to savour the moments as the fun was only going to begin. “If I can guess correctly which picture it is you’ve been most enamoured by, then that’s the haircut we’re doing for you.”

Aisha was taken aback. “You want to take a wild guess out of like, what— twelve pictures?” That wasn’t even a ten percent chance, according to her math. And her math was always correct.

“That depends how many guesses you’re going to give me,” Fran laid out the bait, making sure it was also fun.

Aisha could’ve just said ‘one’, but she knew she’d be a bit of a buzzkill making it too easy for Fran to miss it. ‘Three’, however, felt a bit too generous. That brought the chances up to about twenty five percent, and that felt a little too scary. “Two,” she settled on a number.

“Very generous of you. I really like my odds then. So here’s what I’ll do,” Fran turned around to look at the pictures. “We’ll number them out one to twelve from left to right. So that’s one,” she said as she pointed to the picture on the far left, “and that’s twelve,” she pointed to the one on the opposite end on the right. “And to make sure I know you’re not cheating,” she continued as she got her phone out from her pocket to unlock it. She opened up the notepad app, then handed it Aisha. “You gotta type out the one you’ve been thinking about, and then leave it on the counter, face down. That way I know you’re not just changing your mind. Deal?”

The thrill was suddenly kicking in. Aisha carefully accepted the phone, realising this was actually happening. It was such a slim chance— it was not like Fran was telepathic or something. “Okay,” Aisha simply said. “Turn around,” she instructed Fran.

“Won’t be peeking,” Fran obeyed, turning around and shutting her eyes. “Just let me know when the phone’s face down on the counter.”

Carefully, Aisha typed out the corresponding number, being silent as ever to make sure Fran couldn’t even hear how many taps she made on the screen. She then reached forward to set it down on the counter. “Done.”

“Great, let’s play,” Fran turned back around, looking up to the row of pictures with the most excited smile she had in a while. “If you’re feeling it, you can feel free to slip a clue or two,” Fran winked through the reflection of the mirror.

“No no, I think you got it,” Aisha confidently said, even if her insides were rumbling about worrying about the astronomical odds.

“Let’s see…. Is it…” Fran’s fingers wagged around the air, then pointed to the one near the far right. “This one? Number eleven.”

Number Eleven

Hayley Williams for Bust Magazine

 

Wow, what a blast from the past. “Hayley Williams is an absolute vibe, but no,” Aisha shook her head, her arrogant smile forming on her lips. That’s one guess wasted, and her odds were looking a lot more in Fran’s favour now. One of out eleven, almost ten percent.

“Yeah, I thought so. It’s way too safe, isn’t it?” Fran asked, still sounding bold as ever as if the game was still in her hands.

“You could say that,” Aisha said, feeling confident enough to feed her that miniscule clue.

Ah, a nice hint. Wasting a guess didn’t hurt then— now I know you really mean business,” Fran turned around. “I’d say it’s safe to eliminate most of the longer ones then: and that leaves us with a much smaller pool to work with.”

Fuck, Aisha uttered under her breath. Her clue was generous— too generous. When she’d properly considered the rest of the photos, she finally understood how grave her error might be. Fran’s chances just shot up, and it was a much higher likelihood now than when they first started. Aisha was still favoured, definitely, but she gave one hell of a leg up to Fran. As she watched Fran ponder, the little pit in her stomach started to grow. What if she actually got it? Aisha’s mind was racing, already starting to imagine what it could be like if things actually went down that route. It would’ve been a hell of a haircut, that was for sure. But somehow… some way… a small part of her was going to be content if Fran did manage to get it.

“This one.” Aisha wasn’t looking, but there was pang in her heart when she heard Fran’s audacious guess. As she slowly looked up to where her finger pointed, the terror started to seep in. “Number four.”

Number Four

 

Aisha didn’t even have to look up anymore. Her eyes went blank, looking at Fran who was still staring at the photo. When the silence became deafening, Fran turned around to look at Aisha, who only had the most lost expression on her face. “Oh my god,” Fran started to realise, stepping over to the countertop in front of Aisha to pick up the phone. Her mouth went agape. “Number 4,” she said once more, coming to terms with her own luck.

“Well, fuck.” There was no hesitation to blurt it out. Somehow, some way, Fran did it. And for a wild guess, Aisha was genuinely impressed.

“Now,” Fran started, calming down a little as she leaned against the counter, “are we sure we’re doing this? I didn’t even give you a chance to back out.”

Fran may have been giving Aisha a way out, but Aisha was too far down the path mentally. “I went along with the game. And you won. Fair and square,” she firmly said, her heart still beating so fast from the adrenaline of her ‘loss’.

“But it’s still your hair. The last thing I want is you regretting this just cos we were messing around,” Fran took her place behind Aisha, running her fingers through those chocolate brown locks wistfully.

But there was no regret anymore. The moment Aisha had played along, she’d tacitly agreed to everything. Every possibility. Even if it meant losing her not-too-luscious locks. From the moment she typed in the numbered photo, it was already locked in. Somehow the idea of chickening out here was so much worse than chopping off all her hair. “And there are no regrets,” Aisha affirmed, sitting up straight, trying to own it with a soft smile. As she cherished those last few moments of being able to regard herself with that length, head of hair, she steeled herself before saying those last few words. “Let’s do it.”

Without another word, Fran fished out a hairtie from the drawer below her counter. With the brush back in her hand, she began pulling back Aisha’s hair, this time off her face to gather it into a ponytail. Her free hand began tying the ponytail, pushing it closer and closer to the back of Aisha’s head.

Once secured, Fran set the brush back down on the counter, then picked up her trusty shears. “One last chance to turn back,” she said, opening and closing the scissors teasingly for Aisha to see.

Aisha regarded that image of herself in the mirror— with her hair all cleanly off her face and tied up, leaving nothing to distract anymore. Almost like a preview of what was to come. But there was no hesitation in her when she gave the order. “Do it.”

Within a heartbeat, the scissors disappeared from Aisha’s sight towards the back of her head, where the blades found themselves connecting with her locks.

Shnick, shnick

When Aisha felt that tension of the shears sawing through, her hands instinctively grabbed onto the armrests. She steadied her breaths, staring blankly ahead as Fran snipped away. While there was a little pit in her tummy, it still didn’t feel as scary as she thought it’d be. Hell, watching Danny’s hair being at the mercy of Fran was more terrifying. And for now, nothing was out of control, and everything was still as it seemed.

Shnick, shnick, SNIP

The moment she heard the blades of scissors snap together, the illusion shattered. Her brown locks swept forward immediately, the ends tickling around her jaw now as it framed her face in the most novel way she hadn’t ever seen before. Right behind her Fran was standing tall, raising that severed ponytail with a dangle. All those years of growth and length— now left in that hand.

“No turning back now,” Fran announced cheerily. “Wanna keep it?”

“Nah,” Aisha found herself refusing.

Oh,” the reply was a surprise to Fran, but then she just shrugged. “Well, in that case,” she slipped off the hair tie, then opened the palm of her hand.

Aisha let out a small gasp when those soft, brown locks slipped out of Fran’s hand, falling in a torrent onto the floor, where it spilled into a beautiful mess across the floor tiles. It was finally kicking in.

“Still no regrets?” Fran asked teasingly, running her fingers through that rough bob that Aisha was left with.

“None,” Aisha replied firmly, forcing out a smile. Fran may have been trying to get a bit of a rise out of her, but she was still holding up well. “I’ve got Danny’s hair now,” she casually commented, tossing her head around a little, attempting to own it— even if it was such a foreign feeling.

“And by the time we’re done, it’ll be much shorter than Danny’s!” Fran added, her hands gesturing closer to Aisha’s head as if to show her what it’s gonna be like.

Fuck. She’d anticipated so much about how it was gonna go, but that one specific fact she hadn’t even considered. Danny had no idea she was doing any of this, and he was going to meet her the next morning realising her hair was leagues shorter than his. What an absolute heart attack he was going to get. But god, she’d be lying if she said she wasn’t excited to see how much his eyes were gonna bulge out of their sockets when he finally saw it. The thought of it was actually almost comforting— and she hoped it’d be a fitting distraction while she watched much more of her hair getting snipped off these next few minutes.

“Come on,” Fran rubbed Aisha’s shoulders, “let’s get you shampooed up.” Aisha quickly got to her feet— then almost stumbled, hanging onto the armrest of the chair. “Careful now,” Fran advised, holding Aisha’s arm steady. “Don’t have all that weight on your head anymore.”

“I’m good,” Aisha patted Fran’s hand as she straightened herself, still holding herself strong.

As they walked over to the back of the shop, Aisha couldn’t help but steal a few glances of the floor— where her locks were unceremoniously scattered. To think that so many years of growth were gone in a few minutes, and were now just going to be left on the floor of Fran’s shop, and eventually tossed into a bin. And to think, in the next half hour or so, her hair was only going to get shorter.

But for now, she took comfort in the shampoo station— gently lowering herself into the reclined seat with the cape still on her. Fran guided Aisha’s head down slowly, letting what was left of her hair spill neatly into the basin. With a squeak the tap switched on, pouring out the warm water onto Aisha’s scalp.

Aisha settled herself comfortably, taking this brief respite to close her eyes and enjoy that sensation of having her hair washed. It had been a while since her last salon visit, and she remembered that these things were typically meant to be enjoyed. Once her hair was sufficiently wet, Fran squeaked off the tap before lathering a few pumps of shampoo into Aisha’s brown locks. She went slow and steady, massaging Aisha’s scalp as she worked the shampoo in.

“That’s not too hard, is it?” Fran checked in on Aisha.

“You could go a little harder,” Aisha suggested casually.

“Can do,” Fran affirmed as she added a bit more pressure to her fingers.

“Mmm, there you go,” Aisha fully embraced Fran’s magical hands, melting into its firm grip.

She surrendered herself, letting all that tension from the week bleed away slowly. At least if there was one good thing she was gonna get out of this daring foray, it was a hell of a good head massage. One of, if not the best she’s ever gotten.

But the fun was over a little too soon when the water came pouring back out. The shampoo was rinsed off, then her head was wrapped neatly with a hair towel. When she felt Fran’s hand on her shoulder, she took it as her cue to get back up on her feet, this remembering to steady herself. They walked back to Fran’s chair, and Aisha settled herself back into the comfort of its cushioning as Fran smoothed out the cape.

“For the record,” Fran said as she started sectioning out Aisha’s hair— twisting and clipping the top sections while the sides and back were left laid out, “Loane Normand? Impeccable choice. You even got the same hair texture as her.”

“My hair’s not that wavy,” Aisha corrected.

“For now, yeah, cos it’s still long and a little flat from the length. But once we snip snip all of this,” Fran mimicked a pair of scissors sliding across Aisha’s temples— giving her a few goosebumps, “the waves are gonna start being more defined. And it’ll only grow back out healthier and fuller.”

“Still such a hard thing to imagine, honestly,” Aisha added.

Aw, don’t worry,” Fran assured as she got her comb and shears out. “Before you know it, you won’t even have to imagine it. You’ll be staring right at it!”

Again, Aisha’s heart skipped a beat just hearing Fran tease away at what was going to be. And all she could was steel herself. This was her gambit, and she had to follow through. And she wouldn’t have it any other way— but it still didn’t change the fact how dramatic so much change was going to be. That image of her in the mirror with the wet, rough bob was suddenly comforting. That modicum of length that remained for the time being, but only moments away from severance.

“Wait, now that I remember it…” Fran continued as she began combing through the section on Aisha’s right, looking for her entry point, “Loane actually had hers kinda long before, early in her modelling career.”

“As long as mine?” Aisha asked, hoping the conversation would help to ease her nerves.

Well, similar to how long you used to have it, yeah,” Fran sneaked in the tease with a naughty glance to the pile of hair already on the floor. “But it’s just like Roxie said the other day, huh? Almost every short-haired woman started off long,” Fran recited the saying as her comb lifted up a row of Aisha’s locks almost horizontally, with her scissors opened right beside it, “and sometimes, they never really see it coming when they’re gonna lose it all.”

Snip snip snip

Time stood still for Aisha when those opening snips were made. Watching those chunks of hair become loose so easily as they fell in almost slow motion, marking the start of this second phase of the little game she’d been too stubborn to back down from.

But it all resumed in a flash. Fran combed down the locks that were left from that little section she snipped at, where its ends were roughly aligned to the top of the ears, if Aisha was gauging it right. And before she could even understand the gravity of it, Fran combed up the section right beside it, her scissors eager as ever.

Snip snip snip. Snip snip snip.

Chocolate brown locks continued to rain down onto Aisha’s cape-covered shoulder, with some of them slowly sliding down onto her lap. Before she knew it, the entire right side of Aisha’s head was chopped short, with the longest strands softly touching the top of her ear. The bob may have already seemed like such a short style for Aisha, but now she was going further into the deep end. Staring at those long inches of hair on the cape that once graced her head, she was about to become truly acquainted with the definition of ‘short’.

Fran’s scissor and comb slowly transitioned to the back of Aisha’s head, where she gently tilted her head forward ever so slightly. Like clockwork, Fran continued her motion— sweeping up a generous section of Aisha’s locks between the teeth of the comb, then diving in with the scissors.

Snip snip snip. Snip snip snip.

While she couldn’t see this part of the cut, Aisha could certainly feel it. The comb was sliding up her nape, pulling her hair just a short distance away from her scalp before the shears were unleashed. Some of the locks landed on the back of her neck, tickling her briefly before Fran swept some of them off onto the floor.

“Holding up okay?” Fran chimed in after a while as she happily snipped away.

“Yeah. I mean it’s just a haircut, right?” Aisha piped up, still projecting her apparent confidence.

“I mean, sure, but you don’t cut this much off every other haircut,” Fran stated.

“I think watching Danny get his haircut was scarier,” Aisha blurted.

Really?” Fran looked up for a moment to regard Aisha.

“Yeah,” Aisha found herself agreeing with the bold comparison she’d made out of the blue. While there was that little fear floating inside her while watching her hair being lopped off so easily, somehow it was nowhere close to the fear of losing Danny’s luscious locks. There wasn’t that looming fear around her— more of a nervous thrill.

“You would sooner cut off all your hair than even have a pair of scissors close to his?” Fran observed as she worked. “What an intriguing dynamic. You two really are perfect for each other.”

“What about you, though?” Aisha took control of the conversation. “I’d imagine the wife of a barber like yourself must have some interesting hair stories too. Does she keep hers long and flowy while you have yours super short?”

Oh, not at all— her hair is my little blank slate to play around with. We’ve probably tried millions of short styles by now, but I think she loves it best in a sort of short bob, to about here,” Fran paused to gesture at the bottom of her earlobes. “But like most women who’ve been in my chair, the first time I’d met her she was almost rapunzel-esque.”

“There seems to be a correlation between long-haired women meeting you and cutting off all their hair,” Aisha pointed out.

Fran chuckled. “Well, there are some like Roxie who you met the other day that’re exceptions to that. Just the mention of cutting her hair is almost sacrilege— kind of like Danny’s hair to you,” Fran stated as she tilted Aisha’s head back up, then started combing out the last, lengthy section on the left side of her head. “But hey, I don’t think of myself as the ‘cause’ of women wanting to cut off all their hair. I’d prefer to see myself as a ‘catalyst’. Some women have thoughts of cutting their hair off, and I’m just there to speed the process along.”

The thought stuck with Aisha for a bit— then came the realisation that she technically was falling into that camp. That somewhere, deep inside her, there was the gnawing idea of cutting her hair off. It may not have necessarily spawned solely from her first visit to Fran the weekend before, but it definitely showed itself a lot more clearly. It would be hysterical to blame that picture of Loane Normand, but she couldn’t let go of the fact that that photo was so embedded in her mind from the first time she laid eyes on it. And it didn’t help that she decided to tempt fate when Fran had laid out the bait so perfectly for her. Truly, this was a reality of her own making. Fran was just the catalyst.

With a few more large snips, the last of the longer sections left on Aisha’s head were made victim to the scissors, save for that bountiful section still pinned to the crown of her head. She was left with that Bohemian sight of herself in the mirror, with the sides roughly cut that she could see her ears more clearly than ever before. Just the sensation of the ends touching the top of her ears was so peculiar— her hair had never been this short, and it was a feast for the senses as she slowly tried to grasp this surreal state of her hair.

But Fran was far from done on the sides. With the bulk out of the way, she restarted herself back on Aisha’s right, taking that same position that she’d begun with. The comb found its way to the bottom of where her sideburns would be, starting low as the scissors were poised to continue.

Snip snip snip. Snip snip snip.

Fran gradually slid the comb up, keeping the scissors firmly over the comb with every snip she made. With every snip, she took the length just that little bit shorter with each pass, turning it into a softer pelt of hair that was almost hugging Aisha’s skin now.

“Y’know, usually if I’m cutting it this short, I’d prefer to just use the clippers— much easier to buzz it down nice and tight,” Fran commented as she continued the scissor-over-comb motion with her hands. “But I think if we’d like to keep it true to the picture, it needs a softer, more textured edge to it with the scissors.”

Aisha was reminded again of that scene— the one that her eyes couldn’t quite pry away from as she’d walked away from the shop hand-in-hand with Danny last weekend. “Clippers? Like the machine thing?” Aisha played it coy, even if she was already making the right assumptions.

“Yeah— was using it on Jo last weekend, if you remember?” Fran confirmed Aisha’s suspicions. “Makes the job a lot easier, but you give up a bit of finer detail with it. Jo likes hers short and simple, anyway, but for you, I think a softer look could work out better. But hey, maybe next time, huh?”

“Maybe,” Aisha softly replied, amazed at Fran’s confidence that she was already thinking of the ‘next time’ Aisha would be in the chair— even when the first cut wasn’t even done.

“Wouldn’t that be something for Danny to watch? His gorgeous muse getting her sides and back shorn with the clippers. Hell, I wonder how he’d even react to all this hair you’ve cut off already!” Fran pointed out.

“He’ll be fine,” Aisha dismissed. “Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure he loves my hair, but I think he’s a little ambivalent about what I do with it. He doesn’t worship it the same way I worship his,” Aisha stated plainly.

“You poor thing,” Fran said with a pout.

“Oh, it’s nothing— it’s not something I’m super insecure about or anything. I mean, you’ve seen the state of my hair,” Aisha got a hand out from under the cape, picking up a clump of stray locks that gathered on her lap before sprinkling it onto the ground beside her. “I’m no Rapunzel— definitely not right now,” she added before Fran could try and tease on that, “and it wasn’t much different when I’d walked in just now.”

Fran listened earnestly as she continued her snips, already finishing up the soft taper on the left of Aisha’s head. “Well, don’t you worry,” she eventually spoke up, “by the time I’m done, you’ll have hair to die for— and that won’t be an exaggeration,” Fran assured.

“How does that even work?” Aisha was befuddled, wondering how short hair could ever be irresistible on her.

“Just trust me,” Fran stated, holding either side of Aisha’s head while surveying the sides and back— making sure the taper was as perfect as could be. “I do magic, remember?” Fran added a little playfully.

“And I’m curious to see how powerful that can be,” Aisha challenged, though genuinely intrigued by how it was all going to turn out. For now, she was only left with that halfway image of herself in the mirror: the hair on her sides were no longer close enough to even touching her ears, where it was left much closer to the skin towards the bottom, then gradually got longer as it went up to above the ears in a soft taper.

Once the sides and back were to Fran’s liking, she removed the clips from the top section, letting them scatter around Aisha’s head as that image of her with a bob returned— at least for the time being.

“Now, remind me: you part your hair this way, right?” Fran asked as she combed out the way Aisha’s hair fell naturally.

“Yeah, a little to the left,” Aisha replied.

“Great. We can just follow it for the final look then— much easier,” Fran stated while the comb raked through what was left of Aisha’s long locks into place. Once the parting was made clearly, Fran combed up one side of it— holding it in place with her forefingers that were just a couple inches or so above Aisha’s head.

SNIP SNIP SNIP.

Large chunks of hair rained down past Aisha’s face with each gigantic snip, forcing Aisha to squint. But Fran never faltered— she simply combed up the next section, then dove back in with the scissors.

SNIP SNIP SNIP. SNIP SNIP SNIP. 

Once one side of the part was complete, Fran repeated the same motion on the other side of it— easily getting rid of the bulk on the crown as Aisha’s chocolate brown locks fell in torrents. With each snip that was made, that still-plentiful image on Aisha’s head began shrinking. The illusion of the bob was peeled away so quickly, leaving behind only cute tufts that decorated her scalp.

“Look at that, you can start seeing that waviness a bit more now,” Fran pointed out as she pulled up a few of Aisha’s now-short locks, with that hint of curl now much more evident than when it was dragged down by its length. “I’ll even this all out, and it’s gonna look amazing.”

With that, Fran started combing out those roughly chopped sections on top, holding smaller pieces between her forefingers before snipping away at the residual length above her knuckles. She was a lot more careful at this stage— making sure every bit she combed up followed the previous sections as a guide before the shears clicked.

Smaller locks of hair were raining all around now, and Aisha gently shut her eyes— not only to stop those bits of hair from irritating her eyes, but also to control her nerves. It may not have been the most dramatic part, but the thrill was building up in intensely realising the end was nigh. She’d been rid of almost all of her length in the blink of an eye, and soon enough she was going to see the true result of her little gamble. The least she could do was make it a big reveal for herself rather than risk having it be too gradual a build-up.

Fran then operated in a scissor-over-comb manner once more— at first blending in the sides and the top sections smoothly, then making a few more pointed snips for some added texture on top. She ruffled through Aisha’s short crop of hair every once in a while, paying close attention to the way it moved before making her precision snips to shape it into her ideal vision. Aisha could only steel herself while all of it happened— eyes still firmly shut, but having to weather through a few shivers feeling Fran’s bare hand so close to her scalp like that. A bizarre sensation she didn’t find unpleasant.

“Now,” Fran spoke up eventually, setting her scissors down on the counter with a tink, “I know I said I wasn’t going to use the clippers, but I think I want to use it just a little bit to clean up the edges— is that okay?”

“Sure,” Aisha agreed. “I mean, how much shorter can it go, really?” she joked, already accepting that lack of hair she was going to have.

“Oh, we could still go much shorter, actually,” Fran played along as she unhooked the clippers. “You’ve still got plenty of length that you can play around with it,” she continued as she swept a hand through Aisha’s locks, messing it up a little. “If we wanted short short, we could do something like Jo’s. Not even the wind could mess that up.”

The shivers reverberated through Aisha— not only from that sensation of Fran’s hand being so close to her head again, but also the thought of being shorn short like Jo. It was a gripping idea, that was for sure, especially with the way Fran described it so vividly. But her tongue never managed to realise it, for she heard that same loud pop that filled the room, followed by the constant humming of the clippers that were moving close to her head.

Bzzaa. Bzzaa.

Aisha held back a silly smile as she felt those little blades chewing at the lower parts of her sides, not at all used to the almost ticklish sensation of the clippers. It wasn’t as a hefty job as that time she saw it being used on Jo— Fran was making the smallest of flicks along Aisha’s hairline to shape it up neatly. She worked her way around Aisha’s head with ease, and just as Aisha was starting to get used to the way it felt, they were turned off.

“Hey, at least now you can tell Danny you’ve felt my clippers on you before he ever does,” Fran remarked, briefly dusting the mini clippings off Aisha’s neck with a hand.

“And we’re going to make sure he never feels it too,” Aisha affirmed.

“I can get behind that,” Fran giggled. “Feeling a little nervous, are we?” She placed her hands on Aisha’s shoulder, realising her eyes were still shut.

“Just savouring the surprise,” Aisha half-lied, eyes still firmly shut.

“Well, you won’t have to wait long,” Fran assured as she pinched away at a few locks on Aisha’s crop, making sure it all fell perfectly. “I’d say it’s done already.”

Aisha blew out a small breath, realising the moment of truth was here.”Am I gonna open my eyes and see Loane Normand?” she tried to ease in a bit of humour.

“Nope,” Fran said before her hands found either side of Aisha’s head, holding it dearly and proudly. “It’s much better than that.” Aisha couldn’t help but smile. It was cheesy, but somehow believable— believable enough that her eyelids found themselves opening.

Whoa,” was the first word that left Aisha’s lips the moment she laid eyes on that image in the mirror— a far cry from the reflection she’d been looking at since the start of the haircut. What a bizarre silhouette this ravishing woman had: a neck so bare and slender without a single lock of hair long enough to distract from it. No, her chocolate brown hair clung close to her crown, with its clear parting that was somehow so familiar despite its lack of length. “My god, who is she?” Aisha blurted, her head now lightly turning from side to side, as if seeing it move at her command would make it more real.

“It’s all you, Aisha,” Fran proudly presented. “All it took was a bit of magic, and look at you now.”

“‘A bit of magic’? You full on transformed me, is what you did,” Aisha stated incredulously, her smile never wavering. “Oh my god, I’m actually so fucking hot.”

Fran blinked, taking a bit of a double take when she’d heard that surge of confidence. “I’ve been doing hair for close to a decade now, and that was the first time I’ve ever heard that reaction,” she stated. “But hey, I love that energy, and you have every right to feel that way about yourself— you’re looking like an absolute bombshell now!”

“Tell me about it,” Aisha rode that hype, letting her god complex manifest a bit too clearly. She brought her hands out from under the cape, eager to feel it with her own fingers. “Oh, now that’s a feeling.” Her eyes gently dropped when her fingers finally came into contact with those short locks that graced her head, an almost heavenly sensation she didn’t even think was possible on her own skull. “And you’re so right, I can feel that waviness a lot now,” she concurred, pulling out those locks above her head to appreciate the texture of her hair.

“And it’ll only grow out a lot healthier from now on,” Fran added. “Well, if you are thinking of growing out, that is,” she teased with a giggle, seeing how much Aisha was enjoying this new version of her. “Come on, lemme show you some ways you can style it, and then I’ll blow dry it and it’ll look even better.”

Bzz bzz bzz 

Aisha knew what that vibration meant, and her eyes were torn to her bag, where the screen of her phone that was slightly jutting out from the side compartment was lit up with a person’s name on it. Danny 

Oh, you should take that,” Fran said, an excited smile sprawled across her face.

“Yeah,” Aisha said before leaning forward to pick up the phone. “Hey babe.”

“Hey babe. You got off work yet?” Danny’s voice sounded like a soothing tune.

“Uhh, actually,” she looked Fran in the eyes, “I was just about to get off.”

“Oh, that’s nice timing. The game finished about 10 minutes ago, and the guys’ve left the night. I don’t know if you’re feeling tired or anything, but did you wanna spend the night over? I can get some food too if you’re hungry.”

Suddenly the timetable was moving forward yet again— first her haircut with Fran that was a couple months earlier than what she’d envisioned, and now she was going to see Danny the night before they were meant to meet. But that exhaustion from earlier in the night had somehow evaporated. There was a new life that was breathed into her, and seeing him sounded like the best way to round out the week. Well, after what was the most dramatic haircut of her life, that is. “That sounds great. I’ll see you at your place,” she replied, still not even breathing a word about where she was at.

“Sweet, I’ll see you soon, babe.”

“See you.” Beep, and the phone was put back in her handbag.

“Oh my god, he’s gonna get to see it tonight!” Fran was already celebrating.

“I thought I’d have an entire night to prepare, but well,” Aisha shrugged, “I guess he’ll get to have the shock of his life tonight. Poor boy doesn’t even know what’s gonna hit him.”

“He’s going to love it— I know it for a fact,” Fran assured, rubbing Aisha’s arms warmly. “You cut off all your hair and you’re about to go surprise someone out of nowhere… you know, I’ve been in this position before!”

“How so?”

“This was a long time ago, though— back when I just started out at the old shop I worked at. Way before Danny was even my regular. It was one random day I’d decided to just chop it all off, and later that night I actually had a date. You’d never guess with who though,” Fran stated.

“I’m guessing not your current wife?” Aisha hedged.

“Nope— it was Roxie,” Fran dropped the bomb.

Huh,” Aisha’s face was filled with genuine befuddlement. “And how did that happen?”

“I mean, it’s just how queer dating is: you date someone, things don’t quite work out, and then you’re still best friends afterwards. At least sometimes,” Fran shrugged it off.

“How long did you have your hair back then?” Aisha had to ask.

“About as long as what you had, or maybe a bit longer. But ever since then, I’ve never gone back to long,” Fran proudly proclaimed as she ruffled a hand through her slicked-back pixie, almost trying to hint that Aisha might just follow down that path as well like many others Fran had ‘converted’ before. “But enough about me, we gotta style yours for the big reveal to Danny!”

Fran stepped forward to the counter, picking up her comb and a spray bottle. “Now, I’m not gonna use any product for you, cos I don’t know what you two are gonna get up to— and I don’t need to know— but one thing I do know is that it’s never fun to have icky, product-filled hair for certain activities,” she stated as she began spritzing some water into Aisha’s hair that was almost drying out already while combing it gently. “I’ll just water style it and then blow dry, but on other days you can slap in a bit of product in it and it’ll hold for even longer, especially if you’ve got a long day. A bit of gel or pomade does the trick, or you could even steal a bit of Danny’s sea salt spray— that one’s pretty light but gives a really nice texture.”

Once it was damp enough, she set the spray bottle back down, then went to town styling with her comb and fingers. “So, like I said, we’ve got plenty of options. We could do it in a sort of effortless, textured way where you just have to finger comb it with the parting— you get some of that piecey bits in front that can be very sexy,” Fran demonstrated as she pulled down a few locks over Aisha’s forehead, framing her face in a really chic manner. “If you want something with a bit more shape,  you can sweep it up a bit, almost like a quiff and it’s nicely off the forehead,” she pushed up a bit of Aisha’s fringe, with the water helping to keep it up nicely without falling forward onto her face. “And then if you want something professional for work maybe,” Fran started as she started raking the comb through Aisha’s crop, “you can really pull it back with the comb, make sure not even a single hair is left in front. Super tidy and slicked off the face. Won’t have to think about it at all on a busy day,” she described as she gently pushed back Aisha’s hair with a palm, showing how easy it was to just keep it in place. “This one would be a lot closer to the picture, but maybe we don’t need to make it look too formal for Danny, huh?”

“No no, I think this one’s perfect,” Aisha admitted, turning her head from side to side to admire how elegant it was. “Danny’s kind of into the whole bossy women thing, and I think he’s going to melt when he sees me in my work clothes and my hair looking this slick and neat.”

“Okay, I’ll start blow drying then.” Fran said before unhooking the hairdryer. It quickly whooshed to life, and Fran kept it on a low setting to set the neatly parted style perfectly in place. It didn’t take long for her short locks to dry up— a feeling Aisha was not upset at all about having to get used to given the ease— and soon enough Fran was using the hairdryer to help blow off any of the little stray hairs that were still stuck around Aisha’s neck. The hairdryer was soon turned off and placed back on its hook, and Aisha was just about done with her transformation.

“Now, let’s get this off of you,” Fran said as she began unclipping the cape from the back of Aisha’s neck, sparing a few moments to dust off the neckline and sides with a neck brush. The cape was whisked off in a flash and flicked to the side, sending those long, chocolate brown locks down onto the floor with the rest of its lost denizens.

Aisha could finally see her haircut in all its glory with her outfit— and she felt amazing. There was something about that short, immaculate style that was so exquisitely her. She was staring down the face of a new woman, but she was still so familiar in so many ways. A haircut that was truly hers.

Oh, I almost forgot to show you the back!” Fran said.. She spun the chair around so Aisha was backfacing the large mirror, then handed her a hand mirror for her to inspect it. “I cut it as short as I could with the scissors, but it gently tapers up to the length on top so it’s nice and sleek,” Fran described as Aisha examined the double reflection, with her hand creeping up to the back of her neck to touch it.

“It’s really lovely,” Aisha complimented before handing the mirror back. “Thank you so much.”

“It’s all my pleasure, Aisha,” Fran replied humbly as she helped Aisha out of the chair, who now had even less weight on her head to carry. ‘Lightheaded’ didn’t even begin to describe the weightlessness she felt. It was like she floating on a cloud. “Come on— picture time,” Fran announced, half-dragging Aisha over to the blank wall that was the typical ‘photo booth’ of the store. “We’ll do one for the gram, and another one with the Polaroid.”

“Wait, Polaroid?” Aisha asked, grasping the implication.

“Yeah, you’re going up on the wall!” Fran seemed overly excited to say. “It’s your turn now to inspire someone else to get all their hair cut off. That cool with you?”

“Y-yeah,” Aisha arms were a little huddled now, suddenly put on the spot to have her new cut be showcased for anyone that was gonna set foot in the shop after her. Out of habit, her hand reached up to tuck a lock behind ear. Only for her to remember it wasn’t there anymore, to which she had to awkwardly plant her hand on her face to play it off. This was going to take some getting used to, she thought.

“And then next time, when you come with Danny,” Fran stressed that word, knowing it was eventual rather than just a possibility, “we can do a picture with both of you, then I can put you two on the couples’ wall. I think you can sit nicely beside Jo and Roxie.”

“Okay,” Aisha simply agreed, still a little overwhelmed.

“Now,” Fran resumed as she turned on her phone’s camera, “don’t give me a smile. That’s not really your vibe, is it? Be a model for me and give me your meanest, most powerful look.”

It was an odd instruction for a photo, but Aisha didn’t quite mind it— she never really thought she smiled well in photos, anyway. And so she obeyed, trying her most modelesque impression with a strong stare just slightly away from the camera’s lens. Fran snapped away with her phone, then followed suit with the Polaroid camera.

“Excellent,” Fran commented, waving the Polaroid film that slid out of the camera with her fingers to let it develop. “Now— I don’t know whether you want to keep it this short, and honestly? Don’t even think about it yet. Just enjoy it for now. But what I will say is: you know where my shop is, and you can get my number from Danny. Whatever you decide you want to do with your hair, whether long or short, or something different entirely, you just let me know. We’ll make it happen, okay?”

“Okay,” Aisha said, pushing out a soft smile. It may have been the wildest ride of a Friday night, but she knew she was leaving Fran’s shop without a single shred of regret. “Thank you so much for the cut.”

“It’s my absolute pleasure,” Fran said as she embraced the other woman, giving her a good rub on the back to warm her up. “And thank you for trusting me. Now go on! Give that pretty boy the biggest surprise of his life.”

*

Cold. Aisha remembered how cold New York was when she first moved over— and it didn’t help that she came from the hottest region in the world. She’d spent the last year or so getting used it, and she thought she’d succeeded. But the breeze that swept through her more exposed skin shook her. Although this time, it wasn’t a biting chill. It was almost refreshing— invigorating her very bones in the most novel way. A new start, but this time she was in control.

Danny’s apartment was a short walk from the station, and she’d been bubbling with nervousness wondering how he was going to react. Despite all the confidence she had, she was still a bit apprehensive to know how he actually felt about it. She knew she loved it, and she had a good feeling about his reaction too. But that little worry still lingered. She hadn’t mentioned a single word to him about what she’d been up to that night, and even Fran herself promised she wouldn’t spoil the surprise for him.

“You can just walk in when you’re here, door’s unlocked <3” was the last text he’d sent about ten minutes ago. By the time she reached his door, all those butterflies fluttered even stronger than before. But she held firm, knowing this was going to be biggest debut she’d ever do in her whole life. She took a brief moment to look at her reflection in the phone camera— giving herself that tiny jumpscare when she saw her short pixie that she was still getting used to. But like Fran said, this was the style that was sublimely neat. Even through that journey in the wind, not a single lock was out of place. Aisha was loving her hair even more by the minute. And now it was time for Danny to see it.

She carefully pushed down the handle, then strutted in with the most courageous strides. “I’m here, babe,” she called out as she closed the door behind her, looking at the empty living space that was spick and span.

“Coming,” she heard the voice call out from the bedroom, and her heart went into overdrive realising the moment of truth was here.

Danny casually strolled out of the bedroom, turning to face his lover by the door. And then he froze.

“How was the game, babe?” Aisha asked, giving her slyest smile as if pretending that everything was as it seems.

“Aisha…” Danny was going breathless, blinking harder than ever as if trying to wake up from a dream.

“The Knicks won, didn’t they?” She continued the conversation nonchalantly, walking forward to drop her handbag on the coffee table.

“Aisha… you…” Danny was just grasping at words now, his feet slowly dragging themselves forward to her.

“I what?” Aisha continued playing dumb, raising a brow.

Danny was finally up close to her, his hands firmly on either side of her arms. His eyes were completely glued to Aisha’s head, where her chocolate brown locks didn’t flow freely down her back anymore, but were left close to her scalp, pulled back in the tidiest parting. “Your hair,” he finally materialised the words on his tongue, still out of breath.

Oh, that,” Aisha said before running the palm of her hand across that flat parting on her head, “Fran hooked me up. Completely forgot that my office was just a few minutes away from her shop. I think she did a great job.” Aisha gave a seductive wink. “Do you like it?”

Like it?” Danny still had the most incredulous look on his face. “Aisha… you’re a fucking goddess.” And all that power she had in her chest just grew. She fought the urge to smile like an idiot hearing those words from Danny himself, but even she wasn’t immune to divine flattery from her pretty boy. “Oh my god, Aisha.” Danny crashed down onto his knees, arms holding her thighs for dear life as he looked up to his deity.

Whoa there, you good?” Aisha was amazed, her hands gently grasping onto his precious face before running her fingers through his soft mane— a head of hair that was now more abundant than hers.

“A woman like you deserves to be worshipped,” Danny gently shut his eyes, now in prayer to his almighty.

Daniel Gideon Shaw, what has gotten into you?” Aisha only grew more bemused, never seeing this absolutely vulnerable side to him— almost prostrating towards her. He reopened his eyes, catching another glimpse of that portrait-worthy face his lover towering above him with eminent grace.

“Y’know,” his voice got down to a slight whisper, “you did leave the strap-on here from last weekend.”

Aisha blinked. Now that took a quick jump. There was a lot she was gonna have to unpack with Danny regarding this worshipping business. But for now… she was just gonna ride that ecstatic power she controlled. She gently lifted his chin with a few fingers, looking down into his gorgeous hazel eyes. “Was that your best attempt at begging?”

Danny’s eyes widened. And then a smile appeared on his face.

*

The night was long, but it was merry. When Danny wasn’t getting royally pegged, they were tumbling around, their hands all over each other. It was an entirely new experience for both of them— a whole new world for them to explore together. It took a bit of time for Aisha to get used to the lack of her flowing locks.  It was one of her favourite tools to tease Danny with, caressing him all over with that blanket of hair. Instead, it was now Danny that was the one caressing— and there was lots of touching all over that short head of hair.

By the time Danny’s alarm rang, he was already wide awake— lying comfortably on his side to watch his queen who was still sleeping so soundly till the blaring sound awoke her. “Mmm,” she groaned herself awake, eyes gently opening to see her gorgeous man staring so dearly. “Morning.”

“Good morning, my queen,” he greeted, inching forward to give a kiss on her forehead.

She held back a chuckle, suddenly remembering how submissive he’d turned the previous night. “And does the queen get to sleep in a little bit more?” She asked through her groggy voice.

“Well, the brunch menu ends at around one, but whether we’ll get a seat or not is another thing,” Danny replied.

Aisha sighed. “Fine, I’ll get up.” She slowly sat up in bed, hand reaching up to her long mane. Which wasn’t there anymore. She instead reached up to those short locks that still adorned her scalp, realising it was still pretty well-maintained from the night before. Fran really styled it well.

“Have I told you how amazing your hair looks?” Danny snuck in the compliment, still leaning against his pillow with the dreamiest eyes.

“About a million times while you were getting railed last night, yeah,” Aisha gave a sly smile, “but thank you. I really like it too, and I was a little afraid you might have been angry at me or something for cutting my hair.”

“Why would I?” Danny raised a brow.

“I mean, I would get kinda upset if you cut your hair,” Aisha said. “Okay, well, maybe not totally upset. I think I’d give you a really cold shoulder for a while, especially if you didn’t even tell me you were doing it.”

“Oh? Well that’s a stark improvement from ‘I think it’s the end of us’ if I cut my hair,” Danny echoed her words from last weekend. “That haircut must’ve really changed something within you.”

“But are you really just cool with it? Like, I lost so much of it,” Aisha timidly said, ruffling a hand through her hair. “Don’t you miss it or anything?”

“I do, and I will admit, it was a massive fucking shocker seeing you out of the blue last night without all of your hair,” Danny began as his hand trailed up Aisha’s face, carefully fingering through those locks that were now leagues shorter than his. “But you look ravishing no matter how long your hair is. And more than anything, I just want you to wear it however you feel most comfortable with.”

He was an angel, that was for sure. Aisha knew a lot of guys who probably would’ve made complaints or even threatened things if their girlfriends had suddenly cut off all their hair without any warning. And she was immensely relieved to know he wasn’t one of them. Granted, a heads-up wouldn’t have hurt. But deep down, she perhaps knew he would be more thrilled than furious at the surprise. And her gamble paid off.

“Well, I’ve only had this for less than a day, but I can safely say it’s really growing on me,” Aisha affirmed. “I love the way it looks, and I think I can see myself wearing it like this for a bit.”

“Did you like the way the pillow feels on your head without all that hair in the way?” Danny asked.

Yes, oh my god,” she agreed. “I could feel all that cold fabric on my skin, it was heaven.” Of all the things to come out of her big haircut, she wasn’t quite expecting the chance to bond with Danny over the feeling of short hair. He may have had his long for most of his adult life, but he still had his experience to share.

Oh, wait till you get in the shower— you’re going to love how easy it is,” Danny said as she started sitting up, ready to leave the bed and start the day.

And what a marvellous feeling it was. Having all that water trickling through her scalp so easily was so bizarre, but was a very welcome experience. Not to mention the drying too— only having to give her head of hair a few scrunches with the towel and most of the moisture was out. No more squeezing out water from her tresses.

“Can I use some of this?” Aisha asked Danny after rummaging his bathroom cupboard, waving the bottle of sea salt spray in his face.

“S-sure,” he said, still drying out his luscious locks gently.

She spritzed a few pumps into her palm, then rubbed her hands before working it through her lightly damp hair. She followed the natural parting her hair had, doing her best to shape it in the way Fran showed on her yesterday for a simple, more effortless look that added a bit of movement to her hair. She then pulled down a few of those piecey bits like how Fran did it, and smiled when she realised how easy it was to reconstruct the look.

“How does that look? Good?” She turned to ask Danny, who was frozen in place— staring the whole time.

“That was the hottest thing I’ve ever seen,” Danny said, slowly unpetrifying himself to continue drying his hair.

Again, the barrage of compliments was never ending— but Aisha would be lying if she said it wasn’t fuelling her confidence even more. She already got such a huge hit of it after leaving Fran’s chair, and Danny’s support only made it bigger. “Clearly you need to look in the mirror more,” Aisha shot back as she started putting on her button-down shirt over her crop top.

“Oh, I do,” he turned to look into the large bathroom mirror— but focused on her reflection instead of his. “And it’s gorgeous.”

“Well gawking’s only going to make us late, pretty boy. Didn’t you say it’s gonna get crowded?”

“I’d happily be late if it meant staring at you do that forever,” Danny cheekily retorted.

“Well I’m starving. Being a queen is hungry work. So hurry up and get changed,” she ordered with a squish of his cheek.  “I’ll be waiting outside for you.”

“Yes, your Majesty,” he bowed his head as she left.

 

*

It was thankfully only a short walk from Danny’s apartment, and by the time they’d reached it they were lucky enough to get one of the last few empty seats as the brunch crowd filled the cafe. “It’s all vegetarian, by the way— no meat or anything, so you don’t have to worry,” Danny preempted as they pored over the menu.

“Lovely. Everything looks good,” Aisha said.

A waiter took their order and served some water, then in the little waiting time they had, Aisha pulled out her phone to start telling Danny the whole story of the evening before— about the haircut that rocked Danny’s world.

“Like, look at all that,” she showed the picture of all the hair that was on the barbershop floor which she snapped quietly after the cut. “I still can’t believe all of that was on my head. And now it’s just all gone.”

“Well, you had to make space for your crown, my queen,” Danny said, giving her bare neck a kiss. “Could you imagine if that was my hair on the floor?”

“Nope. And I won’t even try to,” Aisha playfully rolled her eyes away. Then her gaze caught a familiar sight. A couple seated in the corner— one with crimson mermaid hair, and another with a short pelt of blonde. And a baby chair, with a chubby infant that had the most amazing full head of ginger hair. “Wait a minute… is that?”

“Oh my god, it’s them,” Danny said after he followed her gaze. “Wow, what’re the odds? It’s like you’ve come full circle.”

“What do you mean?” she asked, eyes still staring at that gorgeous couple that always emanated so much warmth. The kind of cozy family Aisha dreamt of having herself one day.

“Wasn’t it exactly last Saturday when you met them for the first time? And that was when Roxanne sort of… hinted, at this,” he said, stroking the back of Aisha’s head. “I think she’d be pleasantly surprised to know her influence worked out.”

It wasn’t just Roxanne, Aisha wanted to say as her eyes lingered on the cropped blonde. It was more of a joint effort, if Aisha had to be honest. While Roxanne’s words definitely left a mark on her, it was also the spectacle of Joanna sitting so confidently in that chair, getting her short and gamine cut trimmed so neatly.

Just as Aisha was about to contemplate looking away, the crimson head—which Aisha noticed now was adorned with a set of bangs and layers that hadn’t been present last week (inspiration: https://www.instagram.com/p/CIV0RO7B9zZ/?igshid=YmMyMTA2M2Y=)—turned. Her face tilted, eyes searching for a moment— as if she’d seen something so familiar, but quite couldn’t put her finger on. Then her eyes widened.

“Aaaand I think she’s finally seen us,” Aisha pushed out a smile, giving a small wave. “Food’s probably gonna take a while. Let’s go say hi.” As they walked over, Roxie was still completely entranced— eyes never leaving Aisha’s head for even a moment. “Fancy seeing you two here,” Aisha greeted.

“Oh, hey Aisha- whoa,” Jo said, registering the drastically different woman that stood so confidently before her. “Now, that’s a haircut. When did this happen?” Jo continued, asking the important questions.

“Just yesterday, actually. Was on the way home from work, bumped into Fran outside her shop, and she offered me a cut. I thought ‘what the hell?’, and well,” Aisha ruffled a hand through her pixie, “things happened.”

“Well I think it looks phenomenal, doesn’t, Roxie?” Jo had a snarky look on her face as she turned to her wife, knowing her wife with a short hair fetish was internally going crazy from witnessing Aisha’s new look.

“I think it’s perfect on you,” Roxie said, finally recovering from her little bout of gawking. “I see you took my words a little too seriously, then?” she asked smugly. “Bet you woke up yesterday without the slightest idea something like that was going to happen.”

“Never saw it coming,” Aisha concurred, remembering Roxie’s words from the weekend before. “And neither did he,” she nudged Danny.

“It’s funny— last weekend I had to convince her to even consider getting a trim with Fran on my next appointment. Then she goes behind my back and does this,” he ruffled through Aisha’s crop— a feeling she absolutely loved. “And she looks amazing.”

“I think Ro agrees with that,” Jo noted as everyone turned to regard the little redhead that was looking up at Aisha with wide, glittering eyes. Her chubby hands started reaching up, as if trying to touch something out of reach. “Aww, does she want to touch Aunt Aisha’s hair?”

Aunt Aisha. They’d barely gotten acquainted, and she was already being considered for the role of aunt? Her heart couldn’t get any warmer in the presence of this family. “Go on,” Aisha happily relented, lowering her head for Ro to have a feel.

Her tiny hands grasped on those short locks clumsily, but the delight on her face was immense as she laughed. Aisha hadn’t heard anything purer before, and there was no resisting this adorable child. “I think somebody likes it,” Aisha said with a smile firmly on her face as she stood back up. “Maybe one day she’ll grow up to join the pixie club.”

Shh, don’t let her hear that!” Jo playfully covered Ro’s ears with her hands. “Let her at least grow up to have some gorgeous mermaid hair like her Mama Roxie first.”

“It’s hopeless, Jo. I think she’s already converted. Just look at how amazed she is,” Roxie observed. “What else can we expect when raising her around so many short-haired beauties?”

“You have a new look, too” Aisha pointed out to Roxie, who blushed and then explained. “After talking to you about the idea of a couple’s haircut, I got inspired. Ended up spontaneously jumping into Fran’s chair when Jo was done after you left. But that’s a story for another day.” Jo ran her fingers through Roxie’s newly-layered mane and pushed it behind her ear to give her a kiss on the cheek. “Guess we all got an upgrade in the last week,” Jo added.

Danny’s head turned back to their table that was left vacant. “Oh, I think our food’s here,” he said with a nudge to Aisha.

“Go on, you two! It was lovely bumping into each other,” Roxie said. “And it shouldn’t be too long before we see each other again, I hope? Something that sharp needs maintenance, and I guess that means I’ll be seeing you at Fran’s next month when Jo and I get trims? Now I’ll be joining you for the haircut party because of these bangs,” which she brushed off to the side.

Aisha chuckled as she took Danny’s hand, ready to return to their seats. “We’ll see.”

 

 

 

3 responses to “Pick a Number

  1. Oh my, what a nice reunion of Fran and friends… I envy the way you’ve written this story! How pleasant to be re-united with your characters from long ago. A very good re-introduction of them, they’re almost real (so it feels because I “know” them from before).

    I really love this one, so realistic. And the reaction of Danny is so good… so natural.

    I used this link https://duckduckgo.com/?t=ffab&q=Loane+Normand&atb=v219-1&iax=images&ia=images to see what Aisha would look like. Gorgeous!

    And yes, many Muslim girls do have gorgeous long dark brown locks… How nice of you to introduce one here! I like to watch them passing by and fantasizing about al those lengths cut. What a waste it would be… and that all for pleasure.

  2. I absolutely loved this one — amazing transformation with great details throughout, and a splendid build up throughout. And the bonus change to Roxie was fantastic — subtle, but really, really hot. And I’m a huge fan of Aisha’s end result. Just fantastic.

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