Maddie knew she had the sort of hair scissor-happy stylists hated. Thick and silky, it fell almost to her waist in gorgeous, lazy, fairytale princess curls. It was the sort of mane that inspired women to grow their hair as long as possible rather than cut it, which, Maddie figured, made it kind of ironic that she was spending her Saturday working a merchant table at a convention for stylists and suppliers.
It wasn’t completely by choice; her boss’s son needed someone to help run his booth and it was no secret around the office that Maddie could always use a few extra bucks for hanging out with her friends on the weekend. Entry level Marketing positions just didn’t pay that much, you know?
So here she was, doing a nice deed for her boss by shilling shampoos and conditions and even shears and clippers. She’d been doing it for seven hours already, while LaMont chatted up his colleagues and contacts in the business. A stylist of decent renown, it was impressive to watch him schmooze, and Maddie had been taking mental notes over the course of the day in an attempt to improve her own game.
She’d made sure to couple her tight jeans with a black tee specifically so her light blonde locks would stand out. Though LaMont had taken a moment to fashion about half of her locks into elegant twin braids that linked up behind her crown, the rest of her mane was left to fell free in constant temptation for the masses. More than one customer asked to feel the soft curls, which wasn’t the most comfortable interaction, but Maddie did what she could to close a sale when needed. With luck, she wouldn’t get many more requests like that since there was just an hour left to go.
A happy son could lead to a happy boss, and hopefully Mrs. Turling would start taking her seriously if LaMont put in a good word for her.
“Working for a stylist must really have its benefits, right?” one middle-aged woman who was perusing the various organic hair oils and shampoos asked. Even though LaMont hadn’t had any part in how beautiful her hair was, Maddie nodded. She glanced toward him; his dark brows were furrowed in concentration as he spoke with one of his more important contacts.
“It does,” Maddie replied. “Especially when it gets me a discount on his own line of hair products, like this wild flower-scented shampoo.”
“Is that the one you use?”
“I swear by it.” Did that count as a lie? Probably not. It was just an evasion. There was a difference.
After Maddie packed up the woman’s purchase and cashed her out, she strolled toward Lamont and the other fellow to eavesdrop a bit. The contact – his attendee badge said his name was Ted – wasn’t a bad looking fellow. While LaMont’s dark hair was slicked back and bare on the sides, Ted’s was light and fluffy, a bit of a Prince Charming look to complement Maddie’s own blue-eyed, blonde-haired Goldilocks appearance.
LaMont suddenly turned to her, holding out a comb. “Would you mind using this? I’m going to need your help in a moment.”
“Uhm, sure,” she said, taking the wide-toothed comb from him.
“Should I take the braids out?”
“No need,” he said curtly, then he turned back to Ted, their words drowned out by the murmur of the crowd moving through the convention center.
Doing what LaMont asked, Maddie gathered her long curls over her left shoulder and started running the comb through them. She felt awkward as Ted watched, to say the least. Was she supposed to be looking as though she was enjoying herself? Was she supposed to look ecstatic? Or serious and focused? She wasn’t a model or anything like that, and she never felt more ridiculous in her life than she did for the few brief seconds she decided to emulate the women from Price is Right.
He hadn’t even said anything about for how long she should do it. Was she demonstrating for Ted, or for the passers-by? Ugh, this was awful.
Finally, LaMont smiled at her and beckoned her closer. “Thank you, darling.”
A little rougher than necessary, he put his hand on her shoulders and spun her around, edging her closer to the display table. “See how soft her hair is? And not a single knot or catch in it,” he said. With one hand still on her right shoulder, she felt his left hand running through the length of her loose curls again and again, eventually joined by the tentative caresses of Ted’s fingers as well.
Weird chills tickled her spine, and she began to wonder how much of this she was expected to put up with before stepping away. She’d agreed to help sell combs and shampoo, not to have her hair man-handled.
“Can you believe she’s not even a professional model? She’s from my mother’s office and agreed to help me make a few sales.” He finally recognized that Maddie was a human being, and leaned back just enough to meet her gaze. “Isn’t that right, Sweetie?”
Maddie smiled and nodded. Sweetie? He was, like, ten years older than her, at most. Where did he get off acting like she was some kid?
“So can I see these in action?” Ted asked. “A thousand dollars is a bit much to pay without knowing what they can do.”
Maddie had no idea what Ted was referring to, but the steady hand LaMont kept on her shoulder suggested she should stay in place. “Of course!”
There was some shuffling behind her, and then LaMont turned Maddie to stand perpendicular to the table. “Just stay still, Sweety.”
She was in the middle of rolling her eyes when she heard him say, “You can see how thick and healthy her hair is right?” as his fingers played with the ends of her locks at her waist. He ruffled them lightly, tugging some away to show the depth of her mane before letting the captured curls fall free. He did it for a while, his fingers fluttering the final few inches of her tumbling curls.
After a few moments of awkward silence, he said, “And you can see how easily they snip right through it all.”
Maddie’s heart froze. How easily they…?
With her breath frozen and the convention around her seeming to go silent, she could suddenly hear the horrible sound of scissor blades coming together — a sound she heard literally hundreds of times that day, but never with the accompanying crunch as they closed upon soft, pampered tresses.
“You are really amazing,” Ted said in awe. “You can’t even tell the ends have been cut.”
“It’s the scissors, trust me,” LaMont replied. “Like, obviously since I was cutting straight up and down, the locks being taken off were pretty small so of course they’d be well blended. But look, even when I take off bigger chunks…”
His words faded away as Maddie suddenly felt the tips of the scissors sliding against her back moving up and down at a slight angle in time with their horrid chops. Stopping just shy of her shoulder blades, the rising and falling seemed to go on forever. Enough time passed for a crowd to start forming, with professionals and amateurs alike looking on. More than one young woman about Maddie’s age stared with wide eyes, and Maddie could feel tears stinging her own before she closed them.
He is my boss’s son. He is my boss’s son.
She just kept telling herself that again and again as LaMont rambled on behind her, his scissors barely ever slowing as he explained what he was doing.
“But how are they for thinning and layering?”
“Amazing, that’s how they are,” LaMont insisted.
No longer shy, he began gathering up thick hanks of Maddie’s hair, lifting it away from her shoulders as he chopped into the ends or pecked away little bits and strands as he slid his hand down the remaining length.
“Huh,” LaMont sighed. His cutting paused long enough for him to slip his fingers through her hair a few times. Each unwelcome stroke, she realized, barely continued past her shoulders. “This is getting rather short, isn’t it?”
Short. Someone had just described her hair as short. That had ever, ever happened in her near quarter-century of life. Why didn’t she run away before he even took the first snip?
“Well, it’s just hair anyway,” he told the crowd, eliciting several chuckles.
Just hair? It was her hair! She bit her bottom lip. Was.
There was a tug where her twin braids came together just above her nape.
“And you can see, these shears are durable – very durable, and able to take on even the healthiest and tightest of braids.”
And that was when the sawing started. Horrible, terrible sawing that forced Maddie’s head back with every brutal, insistent tug. It pushed a tear from the corner of her right eye, which fortunately was facing away from the crowd and easily wiped away before anyone noticed. When the blades finally snapped together, the soft blonde hair that remained began to unravel against her cheeks, the brutalized ends falling just past her chin. There was a small plop as LaMont dropped the unified braid to the floor, and in the moment he took to show the crowd the expensive shears he had just butchered her fairytale hair with, Maddie was able to glance down and see the horrifying piled of beautiful, shiny, pale blonde curls that had formed behind her sneakers.
It was massive. Just completely massive to the point she couldn’t even take it all in before LaMont took hold of her chin and crown and straightened her head again, forcing her to look forward as a blood-thirsty — or hair-thirsty, she supposed – crowd looked on.
“And of course, we’ll just take a minute to neaten this beautiful girl up, and, at the same time, I’ll be able to show you all how perfectly precise these gorgeous blades can be.”
Moving to stand at her right side, LaMont was smiling gleefully as he ran a comb through the curls barely reaching past her shoulders. Then, apparently making sure the crowd could see, he started gathering the thick, silky locks at her nape and slicing them away. A brutal, unfamiliar chill grew at the back of her neck as he worked, gathering and sacrificing thick, heavy locks of her hair again and again at a speed she couldn’t believe would leave anything remotely resembling a decent style behind.
But he just kept going, and the crowd kept watching right up to the point the fingers of his left hand were laying flat against the curve of her skull, the horrible scissors sliding across their backs to harvest any length that dared show itself beyond them. LaMont lorded over her as he worked, easily tall enough to look down at the crown of her head as his ravenous appetite raised his herding hand higher and higher against her head with every merciless cut.
There was barely any respite when he finally pulled his hand away, for his fingers soon appeared in her peripheral vision when clutched the shoulder-length locks that still framed her face and sheared them into modest waves that barely fell past her chin. He then took her shoulders and forced her to face the crowd, a mass of anonymous faces that were studying everything about her hair, and couldn’t care less about the person who was in the midst of losing so much of it. LaMont then began chopping at her left side, shortening it all until, for the first time in her life, Maddie’s neck was naked.
Just completely naked and exposed.
She tried to take calming breaths as LaMont explained how he’d add some layering to provide height and volume and get rid of the horrible thickness of Maddie’s mane – the thickness and weight she’d always been so proud of, the thickness and weight that weren’t an issue when she used to have literal feet of hair to keep her waves and curls under control.
Now, she didn’t want to think about what she had left.
When the last of her long locks had been properly butchered to LaMont’s satisfaction, he roughly turned her to face him again. Somewhat numb by this point, she just stood there, hating herself and the stylist before her, as he raked a curtain of her hair forward over her eyes. His fingers gathered the locks together and twisted them; his scissors moved with exaggerated speed as they nipped and pecked at the treasured tresses. Slowly, deliberately, the blades chewed through the selected locks until Maddie was left with a set of thick, blunt bangs.
And despite Maddie’s anguish, the crowd applauded. LaMont turned hr to face the crowd, his hands rumpling what little bit of hair he decided to leave her with. The stylist then stepped to the side and actually bowed before asking who was interested in purchasing the same kind of shears he had just used to so effortlessly, “turn a plain Jane, Disney princess wannabe into a New York fashion model.”
Maddie resisted the urge to reach up and feel her hair. She refused to burst into tears in front of all these people, and solidifying in her mind’s eye what had just happened to her by touching what remained of her crowning glory would only guarantee soul-racking sobs.
So no, she just posed for the people as they took pictures, turning when they requested so their appetite for a full 360-degree view could be sated. Then she took people’s money and sold them the shears and haircutting kits and whatever else they wanted, knowing full well they wouldn’t remember her any more than they would remember a lump of clay shaped by a potter if that had been what they had seen.
As the show closed and the crowd thinned, she began to pack up, freezing only when LaMont appeared from nowhere to stand next to her and run his hand up her nape, his fingers barely able to slide through, rather than over, the brutally short hair there. “It’s a shame we didn’t have a convenient electric socket here. I’d have loved to give you a proper undercut. Maybe all the way around, you know?”
Maddie knew she could either speak, or she could hold back her tears, but not both. So she stayed quietly, simply smiling and nodding.
LaMont stood in silence for a long moment, and then shrugged. “You’re welcome,” he finally said, rather snarkily. “You realize that’s a four-hundred dollar haircut, right? And you got it for free?” He rolled his eyes, shaking his head as he started walking away. “Just do me a favor and sweep up. I’ll venmo you your pay.”
As Maddie looked down at the massive pile of her hair she’d just been asked to clean up, she heard him muttering, “You try to do something nice for somebody…”
Maddie managed to hold back her tears until she got back to her apartment, and it took more than a half an hour and half a bottle of wine for them to finally stop. Soon after they did, she finally steadied herself enough to go into her bedroom, sweep the wealth of hair ties and clips into a drawer of her dresser, and then take a long look in the mirror.
Just that morning, she’d stood in the same spot, combing out a seemingly endless fall of long, blonde curls. She’d almost been late to the convention because she couldn’t decide whether to wear it up in a twist, in a ponytail, or down loose.
But as she looked at her reflection now, she realized such decisions wouldn’t need to be made for a long, long time. From the front, her graceful, elegant locks looked to have been cut into a stylish, if far too short, bob, accompanied by a curtain of Taylor Swift-like bangs. But once she turned to the side, once the brutality of the angle became as obvious as her exposed earlobes, it was clear that she hadn’t simply cut her beloved hair into an uncharacteristic bob. No, this was a style, though, as LaMont had insinuated, one you would only see on a New York runway.
Raising her hand to her nape, Maddie shuddered at the sensation of the short, bristly hair that remained. From her nape to her crown, it was as short as a little boy’s back-to-school cut, barely gaining any length at all as it crested her crown and finally, mercifully, blended into the longer layers that framed her face.
She couldn’t imagine anyone ever asking for a haircut like this. But, even as she sadly tucked the few long locks she had left behind her ears, she had to admit the cut was done well. It showed off her gorgeous eyes and worked well with the bone structure of her cheeks and delicate jawline. People would assume she did it on purpose, at least until it grew out a bit, and then she could probably go through a series of short bobs and lobs until she finally had a reasonable amount of hair again.
“Years,” she told herself. “It’s going to take years.”
She’d be close to thirty years old by the time her hair returned to the length it was this morning.
And that jerk had actually thought he’d done her a favor. He stole almost all of her beautiful long hair, left it on a dirty convention hall floor, and thought he’d done her a favor.
She had to take a steadying breath to keep from crying again, though she was surprised she had any tears left to threaten to fall down her cheeks. Her dive into melancholy was interrupted, though, when her phone chirped. Picking it up, she saw she had a text from her boss.
LaMont told me you let him cut off that silly long hair of yours. That’s fantastic! So glad you’re finally taking yourself seriously. He said he’d be happy to fit you in once a month, as a favor to me. You’re so lucky!
Setting her phone down, Maddie closed her eyes and concentrated on breathing. The timeline she had established in her head to regain her ponytail grew even longer… And so she opened up her dresser drawer and, one by one, began to place her hair ties and clips into the wastebasket nearby.
This one felt kind of quick, but I hope you liked it. Do you prefer long buildups, or would you rather things cut right to the chase (so to speak)?
Any comments or critiques are always welcome and appreciated!