The Darker Side of Town

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Madame Fontaine always worked with such poise and flair.

Leaning against the window, I watched as she artfully shaped the woman’s shoulder-length hair into a sleek, chic bob. One snip at a time she took the woman’s length, and slowly but surely gave her the more facially-accentuating look she deserved. A smile played on my face with every lock of hair that fell, watching the cut come together as I couldn’t help but feel a tad bit envious.

To put it frankly, this isn’t the part of town I should be in. Every witch knows spending time in this more vampire-populated part of town could only spell trouble for you. Vampires are natural seducers- famed for luring people in with the silveriest of words and simplest of suggestions. Any mortal- whether plain human or witch- who dared to look a vampire in the eyes would only subject themselves to their compulsion. So many of my mentors and elders have warned me of the trouble I’d be inviting into my life trying to mingle with most of these at least century-old “creatures parading as humans”. But I never liked seeing them in such an awful light.

I wasn’t the most ‘obedient’ witch- well, at least to the standards of my community. I wanted to see this side of town the moment the first ‘horror story’ was shared to scare us away. While I wasn’t particularly fond of an early death, I was still curious to know who and what they were; to observe them. To learn. The first time my mentors had taught me the cantrip of invisibility, I practised my heart out.

While it started off with basically shrouding myself while keeping still, I slowly practised to move around while concealed. I endeavoured, honing my focus to make sure the spell didn’t break with movement. And once I was confident enough, I began my stealthy escapades after dusk to observe the beings of the night.

It was eye-opening to say the least, observing a community on its own without actually participating. I observed every little thing I could, from their nightlife entertainment to mingling habits and even tried to piece social circles together while making mental notes of their profiles. They truly were just like humans, only that they enjoyed a much different diet and couldn’t stop talking about experiences from centuries gone by.

The first time I came across Madame Fontaine’s shop was probably the closest encounter I had to having my stealth blown. I remember casually walking towards the end of Blair Street when I saw that white light coming from her shop. It was an odd sight at first- only a swirling barber pole to signal its trade, yet no sign to truly mark itself as a barber or salon. There was simply “Madame Fontaine’s” printed on the glass window, and I peeped in to see a modest and clean establishment for grooming.

In the chair, however, was a woman- vampire, presumably- who was draped in a clean white cape. I remembered watching in awe as her mid-back length hair was simply pulled back into a ponytail and simply lopped off without much warning. I remembered the huge gasp I made as I almost tripped, momentarily breaking my invisibility. I leapt to the side of the store where thankfully an alleyway was, ducking down immediately as I panted the incantation. My heart almost stopped when I heard the door of the shop open to see Madame Fontaine jutting her head around, thankfully glossing over my concealed figure wondering what apparition she might’ve just seen.

After she went back inside I slowly but surely got back up on my feet, making sure I was completely level before going back to continue my little show. It was marvellous watching her work, and I remember having to bite my lip when I’d realise how much shorter she was taking the woman’s hair- cutting it close to the scalp in a sort of spiky pixie. It was way more than a drastic change, and I had to admit it did look a lot better on the woman as compared to the much longer hair she had on her head earlier.

And from that day the urge to see the darker side of town only grew. Every night I carefully cloaked myself to go visit (or rather, observe) this most talented vampire, where not a single soul left her shop looking drab.

*

I couldn’t help but sigh as I watched through the window of the shop, admiring the woman’s bob that was so precisely designed by Madame Fontaine. She was using a hand mirror to show the back of the hair, how it slightly arched upwards to almost see the neckline smoothly. Soon enough the cape was whisked off along with the loose hairs on it, and hugs and kisses were exchanged before the woman from the chair made her exit.

I regarded her as she walked away so confidently, watching the way her hair swung so gracefully with the night breeze, that same feeling of envy creeping up once more.

I turned back to see Madame Fontaine sweeping up, a wistful smile playing on her face as she tidied her work station. I wonder what it was like to be these lucky vampires in this town- having a wonderful ‘barberette’ of sorts that took care of all of their hair and made sure no one walked around town looking mediocre. Maybe that was the secret to vampires looking so good all the time- one lady that had such passion.

I absentmindedly stroked through my hair- chestnut brown tresses that reached my mid-back. The witch community wasn’t exactly blessed with a great stylist, so I’d usually gone out of my way to more human-inhabited places just for a decent cut. I’d never done anything too special with my hair- maybe there was once it was close to shoulder-length but that was probably the most “exciting” thing that had happened for the longest time. If there was one thing my nightly escapades have done, it was to sprout the possible desire for change.

“Fuck,” I mouthed as I felt it- my stomach convulsing slightly. Mother was out for the day, and my brother had taken it upon himself to be the chef of the house. Dumb me had actually went along with the idea rather than just phoning in pizza for dinner, and now my brother’s awful gastronomical decisions were doing harm.

I shut my eyes as I grimaced through the pain. I took deep breaths, slowly calming myself as I leant against the window. I gradually got back upright, mustering through the inconvenient churning before looking back into the shop.

My heart stopped when I saw Madame Fontaine looking right at my direction, as I eventually came to realise she was gleaming right into my eyes. How could I be so dumb- pain could interrupt the focus of my invisibility spell, and now my cloak had been broken. Part of me thought I could escape again- to leap to the side once more like I did the first time and recloak.

But with the way her guise faced towards me, I sort of knew this was the end of the road; the end of my escapades. With a soft nudge of her head she beckoned me in, and I couldn’t resist. I went straight for the door handle, pushing down as I let myself into her lair.

The air-conditioning was chillier than outside, and my eyes slowly adjusted to the bright white light that lit the room. In front of me was just Madam Fontaine herself in all her glory, standing comfortably behind her one barber chair awaiting her next customer.

For once I could finally regard her up close, the vampiric beauty of an immortal being. Her features were sharp- not a single wrinkle to be seen on that pale yet glowing face. Her ebon hair was pulled back in a neat chignon, with a soft and textured set of bangs framing her face just above the eyebrows. While her demeanour gave off a youthful vibe, there was a hint of her features that felt rather motherly and mature.

“You’re next, Miss,” she casually instructed as she patted the chair, the hint of her silvery French accent coming through which added to the irresistibility.

I obeyed, making my way into the chair to have a seat in its padded cushion. I stared at myself in the mirror, looking at the reflection to truly take in this mess I had gotten myself into- one I couldn’t convince myself to get out of.

She picked up her hair brush that was hung beside the mirror and began running the bristles through my tresses while her other hand held my precious locks. Her hands were surprisingly delicate, and I watched in a soft anxiousness as she simply brushed through my hair while I tried to relax under her touch. Madame Fontaine seemed like she was simply studying my head of hair, a determined look almost engraved on her face.

“How long have you been watching me for?” Madame Fontaine broke the silence, placing a cold hand on my shoulder. Her question wasn’t exactly interrogative- but more of an impressed curiosity.

“Close to 3 months now,” I admitted, biting my lower lip.

She raised an eyebrow in fascination. “You’re a Brodeur, aren’t you?”

Chills went down my spine when she uttered my clan name with its French pronunciation. “H-how did you know?”

“There is no other witch bloodline that can conceal themselves so well from a vampire, let alone survive sneaking around our part of town without getting caught,” she plainly said, sparing a smile through the mirror. “How may I address you?”

“Genevieve. And you’re Madame Fontaine, aren’t you?”

“Oh please- call me Anaïs,” she insisted warmly, lightly squeezing a shoulder. “So tell me, Genevieve, should I punish you for sneaking up on my store so regularly, or should I reward you for successfully slipping my sight for so long?” she delivered the question sternly.

A pang of fear rang through my chest. This was probably one of those games of words that vampires were known for- tricks in verbatim that will make you think you were going for the best choice, but somehow bites you in the back in the end. So, I tried to be smart.

“B-both,” I answered.

Again she raised her brow in fascination, my visit in her shop clearly giving her more surprises than she’d expected. “Are you sure?” I nodded solidly, looking her in her blue eyes through the mirror..

She put down the brush, while her left hand held my full head of hair in a ponytail. “As my reward to you, I’ll give you a haircut on the house. Not a single piece of payment required,” Madam Fontaine began to explain the deal, returning my gaze through the mirror. I watched from the corner of my eye as she retrieved something from her apron pocket before she continued. “Your punishment, however, is that this haircut will be completely up to me.”

She flashed a devilish grin before I realised she had brought a pair of scissors to the back of my head, blades opened. I couldn’t even spare a gasp when she dove in with the scissors, snipping away at my ponytail. Shnick, shnick, shnick, SNIP.

My eyes widened in terror as I saw the ponytail come loose, as what remained of my hair swung forward onto my face, ending just below my chin. There Madame Fontaine stood, holding out my silky ponytail proudly like a trophy. “Don’t be too alarmed dear- no one ever leaves my shop looking drab,” she assured before unceremoniously dropping my ponytail to the floor. “Now we start the real fun.”

I stared blankly into the mirror as I tried to digest everything that just transpired. My gaze slowly travelled to the floor, looking at my severed brown hair that lay dormant on the floor. So many years of having such full tresses just gone like that, and I could only imagine what more was going to be lost.

Madame Fontaine returned to the chair after picking up her apparatus from the nearby cupboard. Her soft hands went to my cheeks, tilting my head to face straightforward. I watched as she wrapped the neck strip around my throat snugly, and with a whisk she draped my body with a pinstriped cape, securing it a little too tightly behind my neck as I realised I was truly trapped in her web now.

“Do you trust me?” Madame Fontaine soon asked, probably realising the anxiousness my face hinted.

It was an odd question for a captor of sorts to ask. Yet, part of me knew this wasn’t all her doing to have me in the chair. This was my ultimatum- my escapade of sorts to watch and to envy, only to have slipped down the spiral into her lair. As the shock fell off me I realised- maybe this was what I truly wanted.

I sighed. “Yes,” I firmly said.

“Good. Because we’re going to go very short.” She got out her hair clips and started sectioning off my hair, clipping the top section in a knot above my head while the sides and back were left loose. “It is a shame that you’ve had so much hair covering your face for so long. But no more. You will leave my shop looking like la belle du bal.”

Oddly, a big part of me somehow trusted the words she said. Whether it was her seductive guise or simply a blind faith, I was doubtless about how well this was going to turn out. Maybe it was just the leagues of vampires I had watched every night leave the shop looking like their best selves all thanks to Madame Fontaine’s handiwork. She was an artist, and tonight I was forced into her lair, putting that faith to her talent to the test as I eased myself in her chair.

Madame Fontaine soon began misting the sections she had left down with a spray bottle. It left a nice cooling sensation on my skin as she combed through the tangles as I slowly calmed myself, remembering that haircuts were meant to be enjoyable. Once she felt my hair was sufficiently wet she replaced the spray bottle with her trusty scissors that had taken my ponytail not too long ago.

She began combing down the section on the right neatly, tilting my head to my left. I obeyed the touch of her hand as her eyes began settling into her focused gaze, mentally envisioning the end result. She raised her scissors, opening them as she aimed them right where my cheekbones were. I held a breath, patiently waiting for her to begin.

Snip. Snip. Snip.

I watched as inches of my brown hair fell onto the cape as she combed down the remaining hair that fell perfectly on my cheekbones.

Snip. Snip. Snip.

She didn’t take more than a moment to stop, going all the way through towards the middle of my earlobes.

Snip. Snip. Snip.

With a hand she firmly held my head and with the other she artfully cut away. I saw as those soft locks were severed, featherly sliding down my face onto the cape where a little pile began to grow.

Snip. Snip.

She tilted my head back to its original position, and I could begin to make out the length I was going to be left with. It didn’t take long before the right section was all in an even length, hugging my cheekbone and covering about half of my ear. She made some precision snips here and there, making sure the line was as even as her near-perfect sight could judge.

“Head down for me,” Madame Fontaine instructed before tilting my head downwards, where I relented wholly to her touch. She began combing out the back that still covered the majority of my neck while I was left to stare at locks of hair that were littered on the cape. I felt the cold steel of the scissors position themselves up my neck, ghastly high on my nape.

Snip. Snip. Snip.

Madame Fontaine never stopped to hesitate as I felt loose clippings of my hair falling onto my neck. Every few snips or so she’d comb the cut hairs aside, some of them sliding forward for me to add to my viewing pleasure.

Snip. Snip. Snip.

My goosebumps flared for a moment as I felt a gust of the air-conditioning travel up my probably now-bare neck, a not unpleasant feeling I hadn’t felt before. This was probably going to be the shortest my hair has ever been, and I truly didn’t know what to expect. My shoulder-length hair from a couple years back couldn’t come close to the shearing I was getting from Madame Fontaine. It was bizarre to think that I came into the store with hair to my mid-back, and now probably barely covering my face.

She soon transitioned to my left where she tilted my head to the right. Again, she started by combing down the hair that was left exposed before aiming the scissors right on my cheekbones. Away she snipped as I watched my locks rain down, the short bob slowly taking its shape. With a few more precision snips here and there she soon released the top section, letting the bulk of the top cover the cut sections.

For a moment it seemed like I was back to that chin-length bob I had after she abruptly snipped off my ponytail, but I knew she wasn’t going to leave it at that for long. She picked up her spray bottle once more, going to town just moistening what was left of my hair till it felt wet enough to her. She sectioned it as per usual, with the sides and back exposed, only now she distinctly made a section for the front which she clipped a little to the side of my forehead so I could still see.

Once more she started on my right, and I instinctively tilted my head to the left before she even put her hand on my head. I saw a smile on her lips, her non-scissoring hand taking its place on my head to hold it in place. She brought her scissors back up and began snipping on the longer section that was brought down, using the lower sections as her guide. I sat completely docile as she happily snipped away, watching my soft locks falling onto the pinstriped cape as my hair was left hanging to just my cheekbones.

As she transitioned to my back I followed along, tilting my head down for her as she shaped up the back, and eventually towards my left side as well. It didn’t take long before I could see the full bob being shaped, and it ghastly reminded me of the 1920’s Gatsby bob. Given that the front was still untouched, my heart ached in anxiousness wondering if she was saving it for a pair of short bangs.

Madame Fontaine was about to unclip the front when she stopped in her tracks. She looked at the back of my head, quirking her lip as if she was unimpressed. She then went to the dresser in front to unhook something.

“Head down for me again, dear,” she instructed.

I slowly tilted my head down again, glancing to her hands to see what she had reached out for. My heart almost stopped when I saw it- the hair clippers. Throughout the 3 months I’ve watched, this was probably the first time I had seen them being handled by Madame Fontaine. I heard a pop followed by a humming sound, the sound of the clippers being turned on.

I felt the blades being set on my neck, vibrating against my skin. Without much ado I felt her bringing them up into my nape. I gasped as I heard its sound change, clashing against my hair as it cut through my locks. She made several passes as I felt locks rain onto the back of my neck, inviting a cool breeze on the much more exposed neck that was left behind. I could only imagine how it looked like right now, but I could feel the humming clippers biting off a good chunk of my hair. It was such an odd sensation- almost like a warm massage on my nape as the clippers cut through my hair so easily.

She was soon done with the clippers, and she spared a moment to brush off any stray hairs with a hand. I gasped, realising how close I could feel her fingers to my scalp. While seeing the sides was already a big enough shock, I was dying to know how short the back could possibly be now.

After replacing the clippers Madame Fontaine unclipped my front section, letting my brown locks spill in front of my face all the way down to my chin. She combed it all straight down as my heart raced, meeting the final moment of truth. Slowly, she inserted the scissors right above my eyebrows. I gripped the handles of the chair, shutting my eyes tightly as she began the final touches.

Snip. Snip. Snip. Snip.

I could feel those loose locks of hair just sliding down my face relentlessly, and there was no going back.

Snip. Snip. SNIP

I opened my eyes slowly in horror to see Madame Fontaine right in front of me, a huge grin on her face as I realised my hair didn’t cover my face anymore. Madame Fontaine simply stared for a moment, her free hand running their fingers through my new head of hair as she was probably admiring her work. “Magnifique!” she exclaimed cheerily, clearly impressed. “Voila,” she said as she presented myself to the mirror.

There it was, my reflection staring back at me. I looked so alien with such a short bob adorning my head, let alone with a short set of blunt bangs to frame face. I turned my head from side to side, truly registering how short it was and how little was left hugging my head. It was a lot to get used to… but I loved it.

“So much better, isn’t it? Without all that hair covering your face. Such a sad thing to have so much pretty features but never showing it off properly,” she chided like a mother as she ran her fingers through the sides..

I smiled at her words, finding it hard to disagree. “Thank you, Madame Fontaine,” I wholeheartedly said, not a shred of regret in my body.

“Oh, don’t thank me until I’ve shown you the best part,” she added, unhooking her hand mirror from the wall. “You have such a beautiful neck, and it would be a crime to not show it off,” she complimented, raising the hand mirror for me to see the back.

My mouth went agape, seeing how exposed my neck was through the reflection. The bottom of my nape was clippered really short, and I could almost see my skin through how short the hairs were.

“Oh don’t just look at it darling- touch it!” Madame Fontaine encouraged.

I excitedly took out my hands from underneath the cape, bringing them up to the back of my neck. “Oh my god,” I gasped, feeling those prickly hairs against the palm of my hand. It felt weird, but in a pretty good way. My hands soon reached out to touch the rest of my hair, feeling how much less of my hair I had left. It was so foreign feeling it just ending after my ears, but I knew I’d get used to it soon enough.

I looked back at myself in the mirror, seeing this image of myself in a Great Gatsby bob still draped in that striped barber cape where a mound of my hair was collected. Never in my life did I think I’d ever do something this drastic, and each day of life only surprised me even more.

Madame Fontaine soon undid the neck strip and the cape, whisking it off swiftly as I watched my severed hair tumble to the floor. I slowly got to my feet, completely lightheaded at how light my head felt now. I looked down to see the remnants of my hair- all those years of growth just gone like that. It was thrilling, getting a new start, right in the darkest corner of town.

“Come, Genevieve, I have a gift for you,” Madame Fontaine beckoned me over to the counter. I made my way over, and she pulled out a beautiful set of silver hoops. She carefully reached up to my face, adorning my ear with her hoops. I watched her intently fix the earrings, almost like a mother dolling her child up.

“Have a look,” she invited me back to the mirror to see myself. The hoops were gorgeous- the way they complemented the cut was simply beautiful, and I wondered how many other earrings I could pull off now.

“For as long as you’re wearing them, you’re under my protection in this part of town,” she assured me with a hand on my shoulder. “No need to sneak around hiding anymore- when a vampire sees you with these hoops, they wouldn’t dare lay a finger on you.”

I blushed, not knowing how to feel about being under a vampire’s protection. “Thank you, Madame Fontaine.”

“But of course- they need to actually see it,” she added. “Make sure your hair doesn’t get too long that it blocks the earrings off, dear,” she gave a smirk to me in the mirror.

“I’ll keep it short, Madame Fontaine,” I promised.

“Très bien. Go home now. Have a good rest- it must’ve been ghastly terrifying going through such a haircut,” she instructed. “But if you want, you can come back tomorrow night, same time. I’ll show you around town with my wife.”

“Yes, Madame Fontaine,” I agreed, already excited for the next day.

She walked me to the door, watching me dearly as I left the store. “Au revoir, Genevieve,” she waved as I walked on, and I waved back.

I treaded back down Blair street, this time in plain sight of every vampire that lurked the night. I could tell every one of them had looked at me for a good few moments before realising my hoops, then averting their gaze completely. It was … powerful, being the special witch that no vampire would dare even look at.

I swung my head, absolutely thrilled at the way my short bob bounced back and forth against my face. I grinned, enjoying my walk back home through the darker side of town.

3 responses to “The Darker Side of Town

  1. Loved it!!! I wonder what new haircut she will get next time … and maybe she will get new jewelry on the top of her ear (one or both) … so she would really need a new shorter haircut to get through all the vampires running amok in the streets this time of year… Thanks for sharing!

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