Lilli was breathing heavily as she swung one leg over the saddle of her bike and jumped off. The road up to the university campus was a steep and sometimes annoying ride, but it sure helped to get the blood pumping when she left the house still half asleep in the morning. The only problem right now was, that morning was long past. The sun was already close to the horizon and covered the university building in an intense orange glow of an approaching sunset. Students where swarming out alone or in small groups, likely striking off on their way home.
Lilli was grunting angrily at the sight as she locked her bike to a nearby streetlight and entered the main building in a quick pace, still an angry scowl on her face. While her fellow students were already heading home, she was only beginning her day’s work. Or rather more like her night’s work. Once again, she would have no other choice but to take a night shift and get her assignments done while the rest of the wold was sleeping.
While she made her way through the foyer and through emptying hallways towards the learning rooms in the library, dark thoughts were crossing her mind. Damn procrastination. She really had to get this under control, or…
She exhaled sharply as she tripped and stumbled forward. Dull pain shot through her left foot and Lilli quietly muttered a few curses while she awkwardly rubbed her lower leg. As she turned, her eyes fell on a worn fold-up sign made from pained wood, that had been placed right in the middle of the hallway. In her rush she had run right into it without even noticing.
Who would do something so stupid?
She was already about to turn as her eyes brushed the sign for a second look. The frame was made of old wood painted in white that was already starting to chip off in some places. . The black plate of the sign said in arching chalk letters: “Student haircuts. Cheap, fast and right here on campus.”, written in beautifully curved handwriting. At the bottom there was also the number of a seminar room right around the corner and a time. “Today until 5PM.”
For a moment longer Lilli stared at the sign without really comprehending its contents, then her eyes instinctively jumped down to the watch on her wrist. It was 4:57 PM. May this actually be worth a look? She had been planning to drop by her trusted hairdresser for weeks now but had not gotten around to. Between her side job, university and that god dammed procrastinating, a lot of these little chores and errands got lost on the wayside. Her originally longish pixie cut had thus mutated into a long shaggy bob over time that lacked any real style or cut. One more time she looked at the sign. She knew there had been a similar service provided by a small old guy last semester. Friends had told her that he had neither been particularly nice nor skilled. But judging from the colourful chalk writing on this sign, this most likely was not the same one. So maybe…
Lilli forced herself to just make a decision and go for it. She already had lost enough time today and this hairdresser was about to close down. This meant now or never. After all, she could simply take a quick look And should the line turn out to be too long, she could back off at any time-.
When she rounded the corner, she immediately noticed the open seminar room a few meters down the hall. A sign similar to the first one was placed next to the door and invited students in for cheap and fast haircuts. Slowly, Lilli approached the room. Although she was only here for a quick look, her heart started beating faster. She really disliked these kinds of situation, where she had no idea what to expect. When she finally reached the door, Lilli had to almost force herself to commit and make the last step into the room.
It was one of the smaller seminar rooms with seats for only about 15 or 20 people. The desks and chairs had been pushed to the far end of the room which left the main part of the room free. Orange evening light was flooding the room through high windows. One of the rather generic university chairs had been placed in front of a large, portable mirror at the wall. A series of other seats had been arranged behind it as a makeshift waiting area. The latter one was completely empty.
Right as she stepped in, a young woman in her early twenties was pulling a cape from the shoulders of her current customer. Lilli flashed a quick smile in their direction and muttered a greeting before hastily crossing the room to the waiting area. Still nervous she sat on the first chair in the row. Only then she noticed that the young hairdresser was glancing over to her with a friendly smile. The girl had an angular but pretty face and wore her reddish hair in a rather radical bowl-cut type hairstyle.
As their eyes met Lilli returned the smile though she cursed inwardly. Now it would be a hundred times harder to just walk away from this if she decided back out after all.
Lilli quietly waited with her foot feverishly tapping on the ground. The tall young man stood up from the main seat and handed the hairdresser a few coins.
For the first time Lilli wandered what “cheap” actually meant here. A few Euros? She let her hand slide inside her backpack and began to fumble for her purse. She had not even checked how much money she had with. When her fingers did not immediately meet he black leader etui, Lilli suddenly realized: The day before she had been using a different bag. Afterwards she had forgotten to switch the purse around. With an annoyed sigh, she stood up to leave to room. No money meant no haircut and not even dinner in the canteen. What else could have gone wrong today?
Just as she wanted to step out the room the young hairdresser’s voice snapped her out of her thoughts. Only now she realized that the other guy had already left and only the two of them remained in the room. With a sorry smile she turned to the other girl.
“I am sorry, what did you say? I guess I was in thoughts.”
The hairdresser was just about to sweep together the severed hair on the ground and stopped to regard Lilli. With a light but cheeky grin she leaned herself on the broomstick as she looked Lilli up and down. Now that she got better look at the girl, Lilli was pretty sure that she had seen her around the university before.
“I was just wondering what you were up to. You’ve barely been in here for a minute and you’re already leaving. Aren’t you here for a haircut?”
“Yes, actually I was. But I just realized that I forgot my purse at home. Sorry. That means all I have is this.”
Lilli reached into the back pocket of her jeans and pulled out three One-Euro coins and some smaller change. She had just remembered that they had been in there from a night out a few days ago, when she had not been able to find her purse either.
Before she could react or say anything else, the hairdresser had already made two quick steps forward and snatched the small pile of coins out of her open hand. With a content smile she strolled back to her register and put them in. Still confused about what had just happened, Lilli could not immediately think of a reasonable thing to say. What was this girl doing?
“Don’t just stand there. Sit down. Strictly speaking I am already closed so let’s get this over with.”
Still not sure what to say, Lilli dropped her jacked and bag on the closest chair and went over to the seat in front of the mirror. Was this girl really about to cut her hair for only 3€? While it was sure nice to get a cheap offer like that, this was not exactly an encouraging sign she could trust this young woman with her hair.
“Are you sure this is fine? 3€ seems like kind of a bad deal for you.”
“Sure. In here I have a strict “pay what you got” policy.”
The young hairdresser was pointing towards the sign by the door. Only now Lilli noticed that there was a different slogan written on the back side, saying “No fix prices. Pay what you got!”.
“Or in your case more like “get what you payed for”, the young woman added, laughing. When Lilli gave her a worried look she answered with a cheeky wink that did not really make her feel any better. More than ever she had doubts if this was the right thing to do.
“Well, whatever you say. My name is Lilli, by the way.”
“Nice to meet you. So how come you are doing this?”
The hairdresser answered while she was tossing a black nylon cape over Lilli that she then fixed in the back with a pin.
“Actually, I just began to study here, too. Before that, I already finished a training as hairdresser here in town. I since realised that its actually quite a nice trait to make some quick and easy money on the side. But really nothing that earns you an enough money to do it all your life. But I asked and got a room from the university to give haircuts for students once a week.”
Knowing that this girl actually had received professional training lifted an enormous weight of Lilli’s shoulders. Maybe this was a just a lucky chance to get a good and exceptionally cheap haircut after all.
“So, what are we going to do with you?” the hairdresser asked with her hands lightly resting on her customer’s shoulders.
Lilli did not answer right away. Instead she let her eyes glider over her mirror image and tried to take in the status quo. The glass of the mirror was old and warped in some places, but the picture was sill clear enough to see herself in detail. Her hair was of a dark blond colour that sometimes seemed to have a reddish tint in the right light. She had it cut quite short during the summer she had finished high school. Since then it had grown out quite a bit. Despite her initial determination to maintain the pixie cut and the occasional trims she gave herself afterwards, it now reached well below her jaws and almost down on her back. Her hair had naturally had a wild texture that tended to become rather hard to manage once it got too damaged or too long. With her last major haircut over half a year in the past, Lilli’s hair currently was a shaggy mess that she opted to wear in ponytail most days.
Only then she realized, that coming in here had been such a rash decision, that she did not even take the time to think of what exactly she was looking for.
“Well, good question I guess. What do you think?”
The young women first stroked her longish bangs behind her ears and then began to comb back the long strands with her fingers. Finally, she gathered Lilli’s whole hair together and held it in a tight ponytail behind her back, so that the longish main was almost entirely hidden on her image in the mirror.
“Did you ever try short hair?”
“Yes, about two years back. After we passed the final examines at high school, a few girlfriends and I all went for pixie cuts together.”
“Did you like it?”
“At the time it was cool as a common thing we did in our group. But when I moved here I just did not manage to properly care for the cut and it grew out. Pixie cuts are super cute but really a hustle to maintain. I’ve cut it short once since then, but eventually the same thing happened. But yea, I guess I actually like short hair quite a lot.”
The hairdresser nodded and let go off the ponytail. Once again, Lilli’s blonde locks fell loosely around her face.
“Ok then I do have a special idea for you. Or let’s call it a suggestion. How do you feel about just plainly cropping your hair to an even length? A buzzcut.”
Lilli needed an endless moment to understand what this meant. Shaving all her hair off? That was not really what she had had in mind when she came in here.
“Well, … Why would I ever do that?”
Once again, the young woman drove her fingers through Lilli’s hair, combing it backwards.
“Just think about it. Short buzzed hair actually looks really sexy on women with a face structure as nice as yours. And at the same time, it has all the advantages of short hair but with the simple difference that you can maintain your haircut by yourself with just electric clippers. And you can easily cut it with minimal effort every few days, so you will never deal with hair any longer than you actually want. It would always be like coming directly from the hairdresser.”
Lilli did not answer immediately but moved her head around, trying to imagine herself with a head of buzzed hair. The mere idea placed a stone in the pit of her stomach. This would be a big change. But… Maybe, it would actually look quite good on her. She could actually picture it. And it was hard to argue with what her hairdresser had said. Was she ready to just give up her long-haired look on a whim though?
“Is that a yes?”
Lilli nervously licked her lips. Her eyes darted between her own reflection in the mirror and Janna’s questioning eyes. This was a huge thing to decide without any contemplation. What if she did not like the result? But still, something about the idea was just intriguing. And she had liked the pixie cuts she had had so far. Her stomach hurt of excitement and she felt dizzy as she answered.
“Yes. That is a yes.”
“Amazing! Just wait a second.”
With that Janna grabbed a sleek, wireless electric razor from the desk next to her. The machine looked reasonably modern with a black outer finish and a flashing green light likely indicating a full battery. With a few quick movements, Janna exchanged the plastic guard she had used on the young man earlier with a different one. Then she turned back to Lilli, a plainly excited look on her face.
“Ready?” Before Lilli could answer, the machine popped to life with a pleasant low humming sound.
“Well, … I guess. But hold on a second. How short will it be?”
The hairdresser lowered the machine once more and turned it off again as she started explaining.
“This is a number two guard, but I’m sure that won’t tell you much if you have never really seen any clippers in action. Maybe take a look at my hair for reference. My shaved sections have grown out a bit since the last tough-up, but it was originally the same length as yours would be.”
Lilli turned on her chair to look at what Janna was talking about. Indeed, the longer upper part of Janna’s bowl cut ended roughly on a level with her eyebrows all around her head. Everything below was clipped to short stubble that just had started to grow out a little. Her whole hair would be that short?! That was crass.
“Wow, that’s short. Are you sure that look would work for me? If this sucks in the end, I’ll just be bald and would not exactly be able to do much about it.”
Janna just shook her head as she leaned down with a calming smile and gently tugged the front strands of Lilli’s hair behind her ears.
“Yes, its short but to be honest, I have never met any woman who was not pleased with the result afterwards. Everyone I ever talked into this was super happy with it. I shaved off my sister’s bob just last week and she loves it! Hers I even did without any guard at all.”
Lilli nervously chewed on the inside of her jowl. Janna seemed honest about this. And if she would even recommend this to her own sister, it could not be all that bad of an idea.
“Ok, I’m convinced. Do it, before I chicken out.”
Janna gave her a satisfied smile and turned her back towards the mirror with a gentle touch of her hand.
“Perfect. Are you ready?”
Lilli nodded, forcing herself to sound confident.
With a snapping sound the switch on the clipper was flipped and the machine once more started to emit a monotonous humming sound. Slowly as if to give her one last chance to call out and stop the whole procedure, Janna faced the tool backwards and moved it towards the front edge of Lilli’s hair.
Shivering slightly, Lilli closed her eyes tightly and swallowed hard. There was a lump of dread in her chest, but she also felt a subtle anticipation as the guard finally touched her forehead just shy of the hairline. Then the pressure grew stronger and she could feel he rapid vibration of the device on her scalp. An unexpected sensation of nervous excitement flooded through her body and she gasped silently. So, this was what clippers felt like on your skin. Strange. Then, finally, the clippers started moving and the humming sound changed into a buzzing crackle as the twitching blades glided through her first long strands of hair. As the first severed locks settled down onto her cheek and nose, Lilli had to bite her lip to not started giggling loudly. This was awesome. She was actually doing it. And it felt great too.
The fist stroke came to a stop at the back of her crown and Janna quickly drove her hands through Lilli’s hair to get rid of all the severed hair. Moments later the clippers touched her scalp again a little to the right and moved backwards in a second, then a third, then a fourth stroke.
Lilli still had her eyes closed and completely gave into the hypnotising sensation of the electric razor cropping her wild mess of hair to short stubbles.
Finally, Janna started to switch angles and ran the machine up the left side of Lilli’s head and over her temple. Lilli’s shorter bangs finally to disappeared completely and she could feel the last chunk drop onto the cape on her chest. With each stroke more of the hair that had covered up her ears for years at this point followed and left them exposed to the cool air of the seminar room. Lilli trembled with a mixture of thrill and nervousness. She had to clasp her hands tightly and press them down onto her lab to prevent herself from immediately reaching out running her fingers through the shorts stubble that was now the only hair covering her left temple. Eventually Janna switched to the right side and shaved her hair down to the same short stubble with smooth and deliberate passes of the clippers. Cool air now enveloped both ears and Lilli could not keep a wide grin from her face. For the first time in a while she felt the one-of-a-kind sensation of having really short hair. Finally, Janna turned to the nape of Lilli’s head and ran the clipper up her neck. Long strands were severed just above the skin and tumbled down her back as the last sections of her formally shaggy bob were cropped off.
For a few more minutes Janna ran the electric razor over Lilli’s head in long smooth passes to even out the close-cropped head of stubble. Then the sensation changed as Lilli felt the now bare blades of the clippers glide up her nape and along the outer hairline.
Lilli tried to summon the patience to let the hairdresser finish her work and to instead focused on the calming, monotonous sensation of the clippers on her skin. Finally, the vibrating sensation on her scalp stopped, and the buzzing sound seized.
For a moment the room was utterly silent, while Lilli still held her eyes shut tightly. In her head raged a fight between whether she wanted to open her eyes and see or not. It would be great. I had to. No, it would look terrible…
“That’s it, you can look now.”
For another moment Lilli struggled, then she forced herself to open one of her eyes just a tiny bit and peek. Immediately as her gaze fell on her mirror image the nervousness was forgotten and she stared with an open mouth at the girl looking back at her from behind the reflective surface.
Her pixie cut from after school had been short, but not shot like this. And it surely had not had the same effect. Maybe it was the extra few inches missing or the fact that her face had since lost its childish roundness and had turned more angular and defined. With both changes combined, the cut framed the natural shape of her head and neck almost perfectly. Her eyes and lips somehow seemed bigger than she remembered. She looked good. Really good. Kind of like a movie star. Or some super eccentric artist. Or maybe one of these super tough boxer girls.
“Wow Janna, this looks so great!”
The hairdresser playfully rubbed her hand over the short stubble covering her head.
“And now? I just get clipper and go over my head now and then?”
Janna nodded and handed Lilli the clippers, who proceeded to eye them with a mixture of awe and caution as if they could suddenly come to live and bite her.
“Basically, yes. What we just did was the hardest part. The rest is literally just putting on the right guard and running the thing over your head. And even if you happen to use the wrong one, with hair this short any mistake will grow out in just a few days. Just make sure you get every sport and clean up the neck once in a while, but that’s something you’ll figure out quickly enough – I’m sure. If you want to keep it looking about this way, I would wait no longer than maybe a week or ten days before shaving it again.”
Lilli nodded absently. Her eyes had left the clippers in her hand and had instead jumped back to her mirror image. Slowly and deliberately she ran her fingers through the stubble on her head. The individual strands where so short that she could not even grip them between her fingers. It felt more like bristly fur than the flowy feel she had been used to form her longer hair. Again, she had to grin. She would keep this. This was cool. Quite literally even.
“Ok, will do. I think I’ll go get one right tomorrow morning. Thank you for all the tips!” Lilli paused for a second before adding with a smirk: “And for the haircut, of course.”
Janna nodded with another content smile. While explain the shaving routine she had already removed the cape from around Lilli’s neck. Now she gripped the broom again and began to finally gather up the mounds of severed hair of different lengths and colours that still lay spread out on the floor around the chair – probably the spoils of multiple different customers.
“As I said, you are welcome!” the hairdresser answered, again causally leaning on the broomstick and meeting Lilli’s gaze trough the mirror. “And should ever want someone else doing your hair after all, feel free to give me a call. I don’t do this professionally any more, but I help out my friends with hair stuff all the time. So don’t be shy. My card is on the table over there.”
Lilli returned the smile and nodded briefly. A glance over to the table by the register indeed revealed a small pile of business cards that had been knocked over and spread over the whole table.
“That’s so nice of you. Thanks!”
Without waiting for any further permission, Lilli got up and skipped over to the table, grabbed one of the cardboard cards and slid it into her back pocked. She still could hardly stop grinning when she turned back to Janna.
“I’ll make sure to get in touch when I need some more advice about my hair. And who knows, maybe we’ll even bump into each other on campus some time. I’m around all the time. Mostly at night though…”
Janna arched an eyebrow at her, while cleaning her equipment off remaining hairs: “Why is that?”
“Well… I am not the greatest if it comes to doing stuff on time. You’ve seen my hair. In fact, I’ll have to wright almost an entire essay until tomorrow around noon.”
Janna laughed out loud and almost dropped the clippers witch she was just about to store away in its casing. “I know the feeling. I’ll also have to put in a few more hours tonight. Will you go over to the study rooms in the library?”
Lilli nodded. She had propped herself up on one of the tables and was unconsciously running her hands over her now tightly cropped head of hair. She had noticed that some of the hair on the ground was of considerable length, making her wonder if she might not have been the only lady who Janna had talked into a rather severe makeover today.
“Then what do you think, do we want to go get a cup of coffee beforehand?”, Janna suddenly asked. “It doesn’t sound like you plan to sleep any time soon and I could really use a little kick too. I stood here cutting hair without a break almost all day.”
Lilli hesitated. This girl seemed really nice and she would have liked to get to know her some more. But she just knew that if she went to get coffee now, she would end up not doing anything productive for yet another hour. At least. Coffee sounded good though. And Janna was nice. She would just regret it if she no to this. And in fact, she had a fair bit of notes for the essay already anyway. It would be fine.
“Sounds great, I wold love to. Could you lend me some money though? I just spent my last few Euro to get my hair cut…” Lilli met Janna’s amused look with a smirk and had to bite her lip to supress bursting out in laughter.
“Ha. Ha. Yea sure, fine.”, Janna answered in mock irritation while also hiding a smirk.
Finally, the hairdresser closed the large backpack in which she had now stored away most of her equipment. She lifted it on her back, turned off the lights and gestured for Lilli to leave the room before her. Lilli obeyed and after storing away the two signs from the hallway inside the room, Janna locked the door behind them.
Lilli nodded and began to make her way down the hall towards the campus café when she suddenly noticed that Janna had not moved, her eyes instead still lingering on Lilli.
“What is it?”, she inquired a little awkwardly.
Janna shot her a sly smile while catching up.
“Oh, nothing. I was just admiring my work. Truth be told, while most women are super happy with their buzzcuts, the look does not always end up working for everyone. It’s still worth the experience though, I think. But you pull this off great I have to say. You were just made for short hair it seems.”
Lilli could feel her hart leap a little and she quickened her step to hide her blushing face from Janna, who was still trailing behind her.
Janna really was nice.