A heavy thud brought Skylar to an abrupt halt. Startled, she looked up. Only to find she’d marched directly into the previously spotless glass door of ‘Casa de la Chic’, leaving a distinct outline of lipstick at the point of contact. Her head was buried in her phone, answering a torrent of emails and texts. Without the regular clack of heels she’d lost track of her purposeful strides. She re-gathered herself within a second, shaking off any embarrassment before it could be pinned to her. Shoving aside the heavy door, she stepped inside.
“Managed to land one on the door, eh?” The owner greeted her with tongue-in-cheek smirk.
“It never saw it coming.” Skylar snarked back, matching the light-hearted tone. “Anyways, how’s life, Lola?”
“Oh, you know, I’m sure not as exciting as yours. Pop those down and meet me at the sinks…” Her hands motioned as the two strolled through the room.
Without delay, Skylar dropped off her bag and jacket. She always enjoyed these visits. Her and Lola had developed a good relationship over the years, Skylar admired her as a self-made business owner. Immigrating from Spain, Lola’s salon became a quick hit with locals. It was hardly a mystery as to why: Veteran hairdressing expertise along with a splash of Mediterranean sizzle. A colourful surprise hidden away in an otherwise rustic and subdued locale.
For Skylar, it played like a mini holiday. A wander through Madrid localised into a single room. With how much time she spent working these days, it was as close as she’d get. Reclined, Skylar ridded herself of tension as a blast of warm water engulfed her senses. Lola expertly worked the shampoo and conditioner, providing Skylar with a much-needed scalp massage.
Almost dozing off, her eyes closed as she fully submitted to the re-invigorating service. It felt earned. A reward for securing her biggest contract yet. After a hard-fought battle, the finance director finally claims her prize.
Ahh. A moment without that bloody phone, she thought.
At 31, Skylar possessed a sharp mind and deceptively youthful looks. Most notable, however, were her eye-catching tresses. A stunning head of hair. At least it seemed to have that effect. It reliably drew attention when worn free, plunging a few inches past bra-strap length. Even garnering a few catty swipes about ‘office appropriateness’ from her female co-workers.
Straight, densely packed cinnamon-brown locks that fell over her shoulders. It swayed majestically with the rhythm of her footsteps, radiating the fresh, fruity scent of her conditioner throughout the room. It pulled the collective gaze of meeting attendees without fail.
Skylar paid her dues, though, building an expansive portfolio of success. Her excellence rapidly inflating her reputation way beyond boardroom eye-candy. The delicately tended tresses, however, were forgotten in the whirlwind. A high-pressure corporate career occupied her priorities.
Updo’s, specifically tight and sleek became a habit, and old habits die hard. Another day, another tightly wound hairdo. Days turned into weeks, now well into years. Skylar firmly dismissed those who advocated for ‘more conservative styles’, scoffing at the notion of changing for the sake of ease. Lola often joked about it, prophesising her stubbornness would soon catch up to her.
God… It’s what? 8, 9 months since last time… Crossed Skylar’s mind
Skylar’s brain filed through memories, trying to recall a few of the big stories for when Lola asks, when she was startled. The waterfall had stopped, and a gentle hand nudged her back to alertness, guiding her towards the chairs.
‘Casa de la Chic’ was a boutique setup. Littered with quirky European knickknacks and restored vintage furniture. A real clash of classic and contemporary. The underlying facility was shiny and modern. Dazzling spotlights illuminated the polished, ivory tinted floor.
Equipping the salon were a trio of sleek, minimalist chairs. Each station featured a tall, full-length mirror, providing an undisturbed view from hairdresser’s head to floor. Opposite, the waiting area consisted of a small sofa with a brightly designed cotton throw – likely from Lola’s native Madrid – whilst framed paintings crowded the wall.
“So, why don’t you visit anymore, huh?” Lola quizzed the customer lowering into the chair.
“Oh, c’mon, I’m here now… Busy, you know work. Always, especially recently…” Skylar defended; a touch annoyed by the accusation.
The hairdresser rifled through a set of drawers, returning with cape in hand. Skylar settled in as Lola whisked the shimmering sheet over her. Vivid, scarlet-red nylon swished across her vision like a stage curtain before being wrapped around her neck. Lola completed the caping, pulling it suitably snug, sealing Skylar under via the Velcro strips.
“So, Señorita Skylar, what will it be today?” Lola asked, switching attention to the damp strands.
“Well, seeing as I ‘don’t visit anymore’, a thorough trim is in order.” She smirked with a raise of her brows. “Two, three inches? Whatever you think to get rid of the dead ends.”
“Ah-ha, I can do that. Looks to me more like three or four, but we’ll see. Light layering, curtain bangs like before?”
“Mhmm, if that’s what it needs, and please…” Skylar shrugged, acknowledging her blame for the lack of maintenance.
Lola examined the ends in detail, taking and re-taking a segment with her comb. Shaking her head, the scissors were placed. A rapid-fire series of ‘schnicks’ sent roughly four inches to the ground. Each close of the blades against the thick wet tresses was noticeably crisp until the two began chatting.
“Anything exciting at work, Sky? I thought I saw in the paper something about your company?” Lola commenced chit-chat.
“Oh, yeah, took forever that – biggest contract so far. Glad it’s done, though, hopefully we quieten down for the foreseeable…” Skylar figured it wasn’t worth covering the gritty details.
“Oh, good. I’ll expect you here more often, then…” The two chuckled as Skylar nodded back. “Oooh, I meant to ask, how’s that fella of yours? Jon? Or was it Josh?”
“Jack… He’s a friend and, crucially, a colleague. So that is all he will be.” Just as Skylar began to squirm, her phone rattled about her bag. “Ugh… And that’ll be work. I, sorry, can I? Just quickly?” She apologised, excusing herself.
Lola had come to expect this after the first few occasions. She waved the blushing Skylar on to pick up.
“It’s Jack. How quick can you be here?” He said with a rushed voice.
“Oh, no, Jack, I’m out. Remember, ‘me time’, like we agreed…” She groaned at the inconvenience.
“It’s an emergency. That German deal a few months ago, the one that fell through…”
“… Go on?” Skylar hurried him with a sigh.
“They’ve come back to re-negotiate. Last chance. Meeting here, 45 minutes.” Jack clarified.
“You’ve got it handled, right?” She hinted.
“Sky, please. You’re our best negotiator, our rockstar… My rockstar. Look, I know you haven’t had a break but… that’s business…” The handful of silent seconds felt like eternity for both sides.
“… Fine, Jack, yes… Have my notes ready, please.” Skylar conceded.
“I will… I promise, two weeks leave after this, no calls…” He made a point of sweetening the deal.
Hanging up, Skylar looked back at the idle Lola to explain.
“Look, they need me in, basically now… We’ll re-schedule, I’m so sorry.” She sighed sincerely.
“Oh, but I’ve already started…” Lola started, pointing out a hefty swirl of brunette hair on the floor. “It’s missing a big chunk; it, it won’t look right…”
Knowing it was a concern Skylar would want raised, she continued. “How much time do you have? Ugh, they really work you to the bone…” Her frustration overflowing.
“That’s business, I’m afraid… I’ve got, 15 minutes, MAX. How bad is it?” Skylar set the time limit. “I just need tidy, nothing complicated.”
“Eh, the layers will be all sorts of wonky if I blunt slice across the bottom… Hmm, ‘Just tidy’. I, I could do something very fast if that’s all that matters.”
“Absolutely, yes. Please, just make it clean and even. Oh thank God, Lola, you are a saint!” She impulsively squeezed the Spaniard.
Skylar once more perched herself in the chair, texts distracting her from clicks and clacks coming from Lola’s direction. Finding the relic she was searching for, Lola unwound the cable and plugged it in. She grabbed a spare towel, drying as much excess water as she could in a few scrunches, hoping some prep would pay-off by streamlining the haircut process.
“OK… Clean and even, yes?” Lola wanted confirmation.
“Yes, yes. GO!” Skylar’s urgency was apparent, even without eye contact.
“… Alright…” Lola muttered to herself before starting.
She flicked the switch. A steady hum swallowed any ambient noise. With her mind busy, Skylar didn’t even realise. Until an unfamiliar tugging. A strange enough sensation to compel a split-second glance before exploding.
“WH… LOLA, THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING??” Skylar shrieked, the penny dropping.
Lola didn’t pause, nor ease the intensity, dragging the clippers first up her sideburn. They protested, screaming furiously against a rainforest of locks. Barely damp tresses – a few inches shy of two feet – came hurtling down the cape as the blades followed along the boundary of hair.
“What? I’ll be, not even 10 minutes.” Lola answered bluntly.
“But… Like, a blunt bob or lob or…?” Skylar spluttered out sans her usual confidence.
“Too long… Timewise, I mean.” She began shearing around her ear. Skylar resisted arguing her case. “You should’ve been clearer. ‘Clean and even’, huh? Too late now…”
Skylar’s heart sunk. 20 gorgeous inches wasted. Lola’s clippers seemed to purr in delight as they dispatched heaps of the glossy strands. Each pass brought a tsunami crashing down, flooding her lap and the floor with pools of silk. She watched on, horrified. Little relief could be taken as she saw she, technically, still had something leftover.
The #2 guard slid across Skylar’s scalp. Over and over. Each new section met with ruthlessness. Untouched locks slowed progress with their density, but the buzzing remained unwavering. Skylar’s jaw clenched repeatedly as the machine dug in, fierce swipes necessary to complete the shearing.
The hairdresser held an eagle-eyed focus, manhandling her client’s head for the sake of efficiency, now scraping away at her nape. At first, the clippers struggled to execute the extreme change. Then, as more fell, the tide turned. Bulk – excessive bulk – continued to land around the chair’s base at quickening pace.
Skylar had no words. She sat, verging on tears, feeling like a freshly violated military recruit. Subjected to chocolate avalanches of her tresses tumbling, perfectly synced with the modulating groan of the clippers. Spectating through a spotless mirror made for tough viewing. Worse still, she had no chance of acclimatising, knowing a high-profile meeting awaited her upon completion.
“Nearly done, Sky.” Lola absently reassured, too concerned with meeting her deadline to truly comfort.
So far the businesswoman was reduced to an all-around undercut. Lola’s sights were set up top. There wasn’t time to spare, no opportunity to make a gentle transition. The clippers slammed back from her forehead. Skylar grimaced, as did Lola. It was a brutally severe shearing in both length lost and delivery. Whirring blades still strained to slice cleanly. Skylar’s gaze became permanently fixed on her hairline as a rapidly clearing path emerged.
As vibrations rattled her crown, reality took hold. She was holding up well, perhaps helped by the shock, but this was testing her Granite inner strength. Sailing across, the clippers spat out a wake of disturbed strands, flinging surges of reddish caramel downwards. Freshly cut ends tickled her nose as they passed, distracting her from the enormities hitting her shoulders. The collective locks heavy enough to create a thud when landing on the cape, instantly followed by the nylon whoosh towards the pile over her thighs.
No hiding it like an undercut, she grasped she’d have to bear whatever she keeps – by the look of it, she assessed close to four years of re-growth.
The hell do I even say when I get there?… A stupid misunderstanding – from our top negotiator…
Lola ran her guarded clippers in all directions, ensuring a finish of absolute evenness. Time was up, and Skylar sensed it, watching as nothing more was yielded by the buzzing machine. Operating with peak efficiency, Lola promptly tidied her neckline, practically throwing her tool away as she finished.
“OK, all finished.” She announced, tearing away the cape and standing back.
Skylar sat for a second, perplexed by the hypnotic figure staring back. Her phone buzzed, snapping her out of it and reminding her to get going. Airflow across her scalp felt alien, almost halting her as she swiftly rose from the chair. She felt like as if she looked alien. Barely a quarter inch of fuzz adorned her head, displaying her features like she’d never seen. So short, it’s colour seemed to shift under the lights.
“… I, what do I…” She started, hoping to figure out a plausible excuse before she got to the office.
“Go, don’t be late after all this…” Lola interjected waving at Skylar’s prickly topped head.
“Right, yes…” Skylar shook her head, shivering once more from the feeling, and launched towards the exit. She shouted back as she stepped outside. “Be back in a few hours to pay… And discuss what on Earth just happened…”
“Good luck, Señorita. Let me know what they think…” Lola waved as she saw Skylar off.
She was visibly rattled. Her pace was quick but stuttered. Entering her car, she almost jumped out of her skin seeing herself in the rear-view mirror. Before driving, she sent a final text to Jack pre-empting a chaotic arrival:
‘OMW now. When I’m there, not a word about it, OK?’