(Although the stories are unrelated, these characters also appeared in In the Cards
And, again, I used a random number generator/coin flips to see what happens)
Sitting on the grassy hill just outside of the university’s library, Chrissy took in all of the Spring Fling mayhem happening around her. With vendor and game tents and tables set up throughout the campus, not to mention stages for musical acts among the usual food trucks, she wondered whether any students were actually showing up at their classes.
The month of April’s usual finickiness had blessed the school with a gorgeous day, and so sitting out in the sun in shorts and tank tops among friends held more priority than the usual economics class ever could. And so she found herself in the company of her usual crew, with Penelope lounging on a thin blanket and Neddie eyeing the passersby from behind her opaque shades.
Chrissy’s attention, however, was focused on the tent that had been set up for the nearby cosmetology school’s fundraiser. Donations could be made in one of two ways – either by paying their normal low-fee for a haircut with the money going to a children’s cancer charity, or by cutting at least ten inches of healthy hair, which could then go to provide wigs for the kids.
Running her fingers down the length of her thick, waist-length blonde braid, Chrissy was tempted. It’d been about seven months since her last haircut, when she and the other girls took part in a card game to determine how to change up each of their hairstyles. She and Penelope only lost 4 or 5 inches or so, and although Neddie wound up getting about a foot and a half of her hair cut, the end result still left her abundant, nearly-black mane hanging past her shoulders and since then it had grown to reach bra-strap length.
“Have either of you had your hair cut since we played Penny’s card game last September?” she asked.
Penny languidly ran her fingers through the heavy ponytail formed from her long, ginger waves and shook her head. “Can’t say I have.”
Neddie lowered her sunglasses and shook her head. What had once been face-framing curtain bangs that highlighted her gorgeous green eyes had long-since grown past chin-length. “I haven’t. Why?”
Chrissy brushed some loose wisps of her baby-blonde hair back. Once a short, thick curtain that his only her forehead, they’d grown to a length that often fell into her eyes and could even tickle her nose. To say she had a love-hate relationship with them would be an understatement; more than once she found herself in front of a mirror ready to chop them into complete insignificance only to talk herself off the ledge at the last moment.
“How about we all be good people and donate?” she asked, nodding toward the tent across the square.
“You want me to trust my hair to someone who hasn’t even gotten their license yet?” Penny asked.
Chrissy shrugged. “You were pretty close to trusting us to do it last time. Those guys have a lot more training than we do.”
Neddie stuck her lower lip out in thought. She shook her hair forward, pinching a lock between two fingers as if trying to judge how much ten inches would be. “Just a straight up ten-inch cut? No games or bets or anything?”
Chrissy laughed. “I mean, not unless you’re suggesting one.”
Neddie shook her head, grinning a little mischievously anyway. “No, But I like the idea. It doesn’t look like there’s a wait.”
“You two are nuts,” Penny insisted.
“Come on,” Chrissy goaded. “You have plenty to spare.”
Sitting up, Penny held her ponytail protectively. It probably would have reached her wait, were it not for the sheer intensity of the waves that seemed to desperately want to be curls. “But I like my hair.”
“And so will the child who gets to wear a wig made from it,” Neddie said softly.
Chrissy smirked. Talk about going in for the kill…
“Goddamnit. Fine. Let’s go.”
Maybe Neddie was right, but, man, that guilt-trip was out of bounds. Cruel, almost.
But it had worked.
As she followed the other girls toward the tent, Penny kept stretching her hair out to its full length, trying to determine where it would fall against her back with ten inches take off of its length. She’d always felt she was daring with her hair, but the card game last fall had proven otherwise. She’d only lost five inches – most of which had already grown back – be before she knew she wouldn’t lose more, she came to the hard realization that she loved her hair and the lion’s mane appearance it could take on.
And while the risk of losing it wasn’t as great today, she’d still be trusting it to someone who hadn’t been licensed yet.
With a sigh, she wished she had enough money to regularly visit a real stylist, so the whole “free” aspect wouldn’t be a prime reason to do this.
With a bunch of cosmetology students buzzing around looking for some quick practice and to do their good deeds for the day, there wasn’t much of a wait at all. Once the required paperwork was filled out, in fact, Penny barely had time to reconsider what she was doing before she, and then Neddie and Chrissy, were beckoned toward different chairs.
“Hi, I’m Dana,” the young woman waiting behind the chair said. She was cute, with dark blonde ringlets that tickled her shoulders and friendly brown eyes that matched her smile. If nothing else, the girl seemed to have a good sense of fashion and make-up, so that helped ease Penny’s nerves.
Penny introduced herself as she approached, gently undoing her ponytail but keeping it in fornt of her right shoulder as she sat down.
“This is my lucky day!” Dana commented, her fingers barely waiting for the white cape to settle around Penny’s shoulders before they dove into her soft, voluminous waves as began playing with the length. “Are you donating your hair, or did you just to make a cash donation and get a trim?”
Penny took a deep breath to steady herself, and then replied, “Donating length. It has to be ten inches, right?”
“Yup!” Dana chirped. “Oh, this is so nice of you.”
Penny nodded as Dana began carefully combing the long tresses, closing her eyes as she tried to pretend she wasn’t about to lose a good amount of her treasured mane at the edge of a public plaza.
“Do you let your full curls out often?” Dana asked.
“No, my hair’s never been curly. It’s just wavy.”
Dana giggled as she gathered Penny’s waves back and slipped a small rubberband around them. “Oh, sweety. Trust me, it’s dying to be curly. It just seems like you have a bit too much length and weight for them to really have fun.” Appearing at Penny’s side from behind, the stylist raised an eyebrow. “If you’d be willing to donate a bit more than ten inches, we could let them loose.”
“I… I really like my lion’s mane, though.”
“Oh, you’d still have a lion’s mane,” Dana insisted. She gestured to her ringlets. “Trust me.”
Penny squirmed a little in the chair. This whole thing was supposed to be nice and straightforward, so to speak, but it seemed to be going off the rails. Still, she managed to nod. “Okay. I trust you.”
She was in trouble. Sitting in a chair in fornt of an objectively stunning man as he ran his fingers through her long, dark hair over and over, taking in ever detail of its length and shape and how it fell – basically studying and observing her as if she were her reason for existing – Neddie almost immediately felt herself becoming putty in Daniel’s hands.
“You have an absolutely amazing hairline,” he said as he traced her nape with a fingertip.
Neddie felt like she should acknowledge the compliment, but opening her mouth could result in either a pledge of undying love or a request to take her right then and there, so instead she smiled meekly, made an affirmative sound, and nodded.
He stepped around in front of her, focusing his warm, brown eyes on hers and asked, “So what are we up to today?”
“Oh, uhm… just donating,” she finally answered, glad to have grasped the truth before something from her imagination escaped her lips.
“Okay. And you want to keep the layers going, afterward?”
“Perfect.” He stepped behind her again, gathering all of her hair – aside from the layers that were too short to be ponytailed – back. “And how much are you giving today?”
This was where she was supposed to say ten inches, taking it form her bra-strap to just about shoulder-length.
“What would you suggest?” she asked.
He chuckled softly. “I would suggest you let me surprise you.”
Neddie was in so much trouble. But she nodded anyway.
“You have so much hair!”
It was an observation Chrissy was used to hearing whenever she sat down to have her hair done, and while it was always intended as a compliment, she was pretty sure she could continue living a happy life without hearing it every time.
As the stylist-to-be undid Chrissy’s braid and ran her comb through the full length of the impressive mane, she continued to rave about how pretty it was and what a lovely donation it would make.
In all honesty, Chrissy didn’t completely understand the fascination – all she did was let it grow. It’s not like she had to go out and hunt the strands down individually.
“Have you always had it this long?” the stylist asked.
Chrissy nodded. “Pretty much, give or take a few inches.”
“I don’t blame you for keeping it as long as possible. I couldn’t imagine cutting hair like this off.”
“Oh, I think about it constantly. The planets just haven’t aligned yet. But I’ll give it a try eventually.”
“I guess that’s fair.” The stylist formed Chrissy’s mane into a hefty ponytail and looped a band around it, sliding it up close to her nape.
She looped a second band around the ponytail, and this one was left much closer to the midpoint. “The first one is just to keep things neat,” the stylist explained. “The second one is at the ten inch point, and I’ll make the cut there, and then we can even it all out.”
Chrissy sighed and nodded.
“It’s crazy how much you’re giving, even though it’s only ten inches.”
Before Chrissy could reply, the stylist’s phone started chirping.
“Oh, crap. I completely lost track of time. I’m sorry, I’m going to have to pass you off to someone else.”
“Not a problem,” Chrissy assured her.
“Just wait here a second.” She turned and darted off, tapping another of the cosmetology students on his shoulder and gesturing toward Chrissy. “Bill! I need to run. Can you take care of that blonde girl over there? I already set her up for her donation. Just cut above the second band. Thank you!”
Bill made his way over, carrying himself with a friendly, relaxed manner.
“How are we doing today, my dear?” he asked.
“Great. Looks like everything I set here. Just let me grab my scissors…”
A light touch on each side of Chrissy’s head turned her to face forward, and then Bill’s hand traced down the length of her ponytail. “You know, I think I’ve seen you walking around campus a few times. Impossible to miss a head of hair like this, especially when you’re going to school for what I’m studying.”
“Yeah, I guess you would notice stuff like that.”
“Well, don’t you worry. When we’re done here, people will still be noticing your hair a-plenty.” He paused for a moment. “So we’re cutting above the second band, right?”
Chrissy nodded. “Yep.”
“This is gonna be a heck of a change for you…”
Biting her lip, Penny closed her eyes and waited for the incessant crunching to stop. When it, as well as the gentle tugs on one of the four ponytails her hair had been divided into, stopped, she opened her eyes again and looked to her left to see Dana holding aloft the prize – fifteen inches of beautiful, ginger waves.
“Oh my god,” Penny whispered.
“Yeah, it’s a pretty big change,” Dana admitted. She set the severed ponytail down and took hold of the next, and then the next, and then the final one after that, severing them all in turn with her trusty shears.
She then handed Penny a mirror, and the extent of the damage that had been done so far became evident when Dana fluffed what was still on her head. Barely enough of her treasured mane remained to hide her shoulders.
“What do you think?” the stylist asked. “Do you like it, or should we go shorter?”
“No!” Penny blurted. She motioned an apology. “This is fine, please.”
Dana smiled and patted Penny’s shoulder. “Sure thing. Just let me neaten up the ends and introduce you to the wonders of a diffuser and then you can be on your way.”
Penny quickly became glad for the warmth of the day when Dana started wetting her hair, spraying water from a bottle as she ran her comb through the slowly-soaked locks. When weighed down, the ginger tresses reached a bit further toward her breasts, which she found somewhat comforting. Though a lion’s mane might be a bit out of reach, at least she knew straightening her hair could make it look a bit longer.
Neatening up the ends involved a lot more cutting than Penny expected – again and again, wet locks of her hair were gathered up and lifted, only to have anywhere from one to several inches snipped away and sent plummeting into her lap or to the ground around her. She tried to ignore the pile growing in her lap, tried to ignore that despite its size, it was only a part of the overall amount being shorn from her mane. But she was asking the impossible of herself, especially when Dana stepped in front of her and began sectioning off a curtain of waves that fell in front of Penny’s face.
In almost no time, the locks that had been able to lay against her collarbones could no longer tickle Penny’s nose when pulled straight, and without their accustomed weight Penny’s new bangs sprang up into impressive curls that didn’t reach her eyebrows.
“See? I told you,” Dana said as she continued cutting more and more of Penny’s hair away. “Curls!”
Penny nodded, feeling what remained of her hair dance without brushing against her shoulders. Sure, she had curls. But how many would she have left at the end?
The schnickt sounded loudly in Neddie’s ear as Daniel’s shears came together again, shearing away yet another ponytail within an inch of her scalp. The handsome stylist set it down with the other three in Neddie’s lap. If he heard the thumping of her heart or saw her rising panic in her eyes, he gave either no attention.
The long, glossy near-black locks that once flowed past her left shoulder were completely gone, whittled down to short tufts that barely brushed against her ear and neck. Neddie blinked a lot as Daniel worked, begging the tears building in her eyes not to fall down her cheeks as ponytail after ponytail was shorn away from the sides and back of her head and added to the collection building in her lap. The familiar, always-present weight on her head gradually lessened, bit by bit being taken away until even the locks that had hidden her right ear and shoulder were relegated to the harvest.
As she stared down at the pile, with nothing but her outgrown curtain bangs framing her face, Daniel fetched and held a bag open for her, waiting to collect the donation that might eventually brighten a child’s day as much as it had destroyed her own.
Once he sealed the bag, Daniel moved behind her and fluffed what remained of Neddie’s former crowning glory, a collection of wild locks that served as small reminders of the glossy, silky tresses that once teased her hips as she walked.
This had been a bad idea, and Neddie was absolutely sure of that… until Daniel’s fingers brushed against her ears as he played with the remains of her hair. His fingertips trailed down to her neck, tickling her nape before they lifted up into her dark locks again. “You already look amazing,” he said, his voice a low rumble among the noise of the festivities around them. “Your boyfriend is going to be thrilled.”
Smooth. And the probing question immediately lifted Neddie’s spirits.
Don’t have one,” she replied.
She smiled, feeling gentle tugs at her nape as he began to razor the harshly chopped tresses into something resembling an actual style. “Nah.”
“Plans this weekend?”
“Not at the moment.”
He went quiet then, gathering and slicing and choosing and trimming miniature locks of her hair, peppering the cape with the shearings as he worked. Though silent, the smile she saw form the corner of her eye spoke volumes.
She tried to stop him, but Chrissy could only manage a small squeak as Bill took hold of her ponytail just below the first band that had gathered her thick locks together and began to cut just above it, the blades of his shears moving rapidly and without mercy as they began to saw through her soft, silky hair so close to her nape that she could feel the metal brush against her skin.
Soon, a curtain of hair began to slide forward against her right cheek, barely reaching past her chin as the shears continued to chomp and chew. She made another little squeak of a sound as her hands clutched the arms of the chair, but even in her wide-eyed state she knew managing to speak would only be a formality – the damage was far too great to undo now.
“I think this might be the biggest donation I’ve ever seen in person,” Bill told her. “Though, honestly, if you wanted it this short, terry should have tied it into a few ponytails rather than just one. It was a good idea of hers to use more than one band, though, to keep it neat.”
Chrissy squeaked again, her head bobbing with every crunching closure of Bill’s scissors. After what seemed like an eternity, another curtain of her silky, cool hair slid forward to lay against her left cheek, just in time to brush away the tear that had slipped from the corner of her eye.
“Oh my god,” she finally managed to stammer.
“Seriously!” Bill exclaimed, holding forth the absolutely massive ponytail that had been shorn from her head. He shook it a bit, and even with the second band halfway down its length, the slightly curling ends danced and bounced with life.
With a shaking hand, she pointed to the second band as she looked up at Bill’s face. “You were supposed to cut it there. The second band,” she whispered, not wanted to draw attention.
His eyes widened, and his expression dropped. “Seriously?” He pointed to the band that had been at her nape. “This was the second band.”
Chrissy shook her head, her new, ragged bob of blonde locks swaying so much easier than they would have just a few minutes before. She pointed to the lower band again. “That one was.”
Bill paled. “Oh, fuck.”
She shook her head again, and reached out to place her hand on his forearm that pointed to the wriong band. “It’s okay,” she managed to say in a still-stunned whisper. “I…I probably would have cut it short some day anyway.”
At least, that’s what she’d always thought. But now that it was done, now that there’d be no more ponytails or updos for who knew how long… maybe she wouldn’t have?
Bill disappeared behind the chair, setting down Chrissy’s ponytail – no, not hers… not anymore.
He then returned his attention to her hair, his fingers lifting the ends and letting them fall free. Chrissy was grateful there were no mirrors to be seen, not wanting to see how terrible her thick hair probably looked without any significant length to weigh it down. Odds were, it was poof city on top of her head.
“Okay, so… what now? Want me to just get the ends even?”
She shrugged. “Just make it look good, please. I’m used to having really pretty hair.”
“Sure. That shouldn’t be hard–” somehow, his laid-back confidence was returning “–especially considering the materials you’re giving me to work with.”
Eventually, to her relief, the cutting stopped. And just about since that moment, Penny was hanging her head upside down as Dana used a diffuser on her remaining waves, her fingers wildly shaking and ruffling them as she did.
When Penny was finally allowed to sit up again, her stomach almost turned at how easy it was to toss her hair back; how light her beloved lion’s mane had become and just how little resistance there was when she did so. She tried to brace herself, to brace herself against the realization that she was a short-haired girl now, with locks that once reached her waist now no longer reaching her shoulders.
She’d probably be well out of college by the time she grew it all back.
But a little kid wouldn’t be made fun of in school; that was what she had to keep reminding herself.
Despite losing so much more hair than she wanted…
“Holy shit!” she yelped when Dan held a mirror in front of her. “I’m a curly girl!”
The frizzy waves were a thing of the past, replaced by a riotous collection of huge, thick curls exploding from her head, bouncing and bobbing with every move she made before they finally turned downward. They almost looked like a ginger halo as they reached for, but fell just short of, her shoulders.
“Oh my god,” Penny whispered, suddenly quite aware of the attention her cries had drawn, “this looks amazing. How are you not a pro already?”
Dana shrugged. “Just a few months shy.”
“Well, I know who I’m going to be going to when you graduate!”
“So, you like it?”
Penny nodded, looking up to see the curly bangs she never knew she wanted bouncing in the periphery of her vision. She then paid studious attention as Dana told her how to maintain and care for her curls, eventually resorting to taking notes on the recommended scalp treatments and such.
Deep breaths helped Neddie stay calm as Daniel stood in front of her, his busy fingers carefully selecting locks of her hair from her crown to her hairline to be sliced away with his razor. Much like it had when Daniel had chopped off her ponytails, her lap was filling with discarded locks of her once-abundant mane.
After every few rasps of his razor, Daniel would ruffle the locks that remained, leaving the very ends of some to tickle Neddie’s lashes when she blinked, but he never seemed to take a moment to cut those back. And he never parted her hair either, always lifting it straight up or forward before perfecting his vision.
His gentle caresses and charming presence had long since brought her away from the brink of tears, but she still harbored the terrible fear that she would begin wailing once she saw the final results. There was no doubting she was a pixie girl now, or some closely-related neighbor, which was something she couldn’t imagine considering, much less doing, before now.
When Daniel set his tools down, he spread some styling wax on his hands and set about ensuring each and every tress remaining on Neddie’s head was perfectly placed. It took a while, but getting the chance to look up into his eyes as he worked wasn’t exactly a horrible punishment. When he finlly finsihed with that, he picked up a hand mirror and turned it away form her.
She swallowed and nodded.
“Think you’ll hate me?”
“Yet to be determined,” she teased.
He smiled, and then turned the mirror.
She couldn’t stop her gasp, but was glad to realize there’d be no tears. The long, flowing collection of shiny, shimmering near-black tresses she had since she first learned to walk were all gone, but in there place was a perfectly funky, cute, sexy pixie cut formed of wild spires and waves. The longest bit up front threatened to spill into her eyes but stopped just short of her brows. The contrast between the soft green of her irises and the dark color of her hair was startling, with her eyes – maybe for the first time ever – winning that battle for demanded attention.
She turned her head from side to side, her fingers of each hand rising to feel how the short, shorn remnants of her mane left her ears and nape completely naked and open. Their paleness only paid testament to how long she had hidden them with her hair, but that would not be possible for a good long time now.
“So, what do you think?” Daniel asked.
“I think the school you go to is really good… and I think I might be in a bit of shock, but at the moment I love it.”
He made a thoughtful sound.
“What?” she asked.
“Well, if there’s a chance you think your opinion might change, I should probably get your number. You know, so I can text you and ask what you think in a few days. Maybe take you out for a drink to discuss any concerns you have? Show you the benefits of short hair?”
She raised an eyebrow at his implication.
“But only if you want!” he quickly added.
She smiled, and gave him a moment to pull out his phone.
Maybe Chrissy should have been relieved that her hair was still long enough for some of it to be clipped atop her head, but any comfort that may have provided was negated by the feel of Bill’s comb slipping up and down her nape before each pass of the scissors. Each stop the comb made rested higher and higher on her neck, and each pass the comb made initially met more and more resistance before the scissors weighed in and rendered any remaining length of note nonexistant.
Layering would make her thick hair less poofy, Bill had explained. At this point, it was way too late to do anything but hope he was right.
Finally, when it felt like anything too short to be clipped up had been chopped off, Bill released the first layer of her soft blonde hair. Somehow, just having her ears hidden again was a relief and helped calm her nerves. But as Bill gathered up and clicked his scissors along each vertical collection of silky locks, she could see several more inches of hair falling away to pool in her lap.
Soon, she felt the breeze against her right earlobe again. But just her earlobe, thankfully. Bill then moved away from that ear, circling and chopping his way around her head until her left earlobe felt just as exposed as the right one. Then more hair was released, and more was chopped off, with minimal resistance offered to the sharp, eager blades of the stylist Chrissy considered to be overmatched.
She couldn’t remember the first stylist’s name, but with every rasping cut she found herself wishing the girl’s phone alarm had never gone off. Especially as her shoulders began to collect four and five inch lengths being shorn from the top of her head after the last of the gathered layers had been freed from the last of the clips. As his attention moved toward the front of her hair, he brushed what were once her bangs forward, though they’d already lost about half of the length she’d regrown in the seven months since they were first cut. She looked him dead in the eye and simply said, “No.”
To his credit, he said nothing, and changed his design for her hair to include a high side-part, sweeping the former bangs back and to the right so they stayed out of her face. But then he started snipping around her left ear again, well past the point at which she hoped he’d stop. The locks of her hair just kept falling even as she felt herself being pushed to the brink of tears, and then he finally put his scissors down.
Without a word, he held up his mirror and she saw her face, her eyes sad and her pink lips frowning. What she thought might end up being a chin-length bob, and then an ear-length bob, had been layered into a long, sideswept pixie that was taped down to almost nothing around her left ear and at her nape, exposing, for the first time in her life, natural roots that hadn’t been yet kissed by the sun. It made he hair as a whole look so much darker, more forlorn than it ever had before. She was supposed to be the girl with beautiful, baby-blonde hair, but now she looked like a soccer mom who was a few weeks late for her highlights appointment.
Rubbing her nape with one hand, her hair now bristly against her palm, she pulled the cape away with her other hand and walked away without saying anything.
Despite still teasing Neddie’s nape with her hand, Penny’s jaw dropped when she finally saw Chrissy heading their way. The blonde girl smiled as she approached, but there was no missing the fact that she wasn’t happy – not even a little bit.
“Oh my god,” Neddie said as Chrissy plopped down on the blanket next to them, her elbows on her knees and her face in her hands.
“You both looks so amazing,” Chrissy’s muffled voice assured them.
Penny, meanwhile, reached out to feel Chrissy’s sideswept locks, unable to believe just how short they were now. “What happened?”
Chrissy sighed. “Exactly what I should have expected, probably.”
“Did you want it short?” Neddie asked.
“I asked them to cut ten inches. But there was a misunderstanding.” Lowering her hands, she looked at the other two. “How about you two?”
“Talked into it,” Penny said, trying not to look especially pleased with her results.
“Hot guy saying I’d look cute,” Neddie admitted.
“Did you get his number?” Chrissy asked.
“He got mine.”
Chrissy gave a small, half-hearted cheer.
Rubbing her friend’s back, Penny leaned in to give Chrissy a nuzzle. “It doesn’t look bad.”
“Not at all,” Neddie agreed. “It looks cute, in a corporate girl kind of way. You’ll probably have MBAs crawling all over you once you do it yourself and get all made up.”
“Or,” Penny redirected, “You could take this as a sign that we should pick up some clippers of our own and maybe you could finally give that Dixie D’Amelio look a try.”
Chrissy chuckled, and sniffled. “Let’s consider that plan b. I’d like to give the make-up a shot first.”
“Fair enough. But I have to head to the store anyway. My new stylist gave me, like, twenty-five products to buy to keep these curls going, and I’m not taking any chances.”
“I’ll come along. Make-up is one thing, but having the clippers ready to go might not be a bad idea.”
I genuinely felt bad for Chrissy while writing this one — nothing seemed to work out for her. But at least she didn’t get stuck with bangs again.
As always, I hope you enjoyed it, and any comments or critiques are welcome and appreciated. I love hearing what works for people, and what might be best avoided in the future.