The Influencer and the Donation, Part 5

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Selfishly, Anya had set the week’s fundraising goal at $12,500. She had quickly learned to like her latest style—thanks in large part to Jack’s attention—and she didn’t want to part with it too easily. Still, on Wednesday afternoon, she posted of her new style, as well as the two prospective style inspiration photos Beth had picked out, to her Instagram account, encouraging her followers once again to vote on a style—either the current look or one of the others—by donating. And now, it was Tuesday again and Anya had no idea whether her followers had donated enough to trigger a haircut, let alone which style she’d have by the end of the night if they had.

She rolled over in bed and faced Jack, whose wavy hair had fallen across his forehead while he slept. This week had been a whirlwind; the pair had hardly been apart. The combination of a years-old-but-unspoken attraction to one another and the better part of a year spent without any kind of intimate physical contact had made for an explosive few days. Anya wasn’t sure if there was a single surface in her house they hadn’t had sex on or up against. The same was probably true of Jack’s condo, even though they hadn’t spent nearly as much time there, mostly just returning a few times so Jack could get a change of clothes.

And yet part of her was worried it could all come crashing down. Jack had dated actual, literal supermodels in the past, and here she was, a blogger and social media influencer who was probably about to get rid of even more of what she considered her most attractive feature—her curly red hair. Sure, Jack seemed to like her current style, and sure, he kept telling her that he was sure no matter what happened this evening she’d still be gorgeous, but what if he changed his mind once he saw the final result?

Jack must have sensed Anya’s anxiety. He blinked his eyes open and smiled at Anya. “Good morning, beautiful,” he said.

“Jack?”

“Yeah?”

“What if it’s the second option?”

“Sorry?” he yawned, clearly still waking up and struggling to follow.

“My hair. What if we raised enough money and the voters chose the second option Beth picked? And what if she’s right and the haircut doesn’t work well if she just does one side so she winds up shaving both sides?”

Jack propped himself on his right elbow and used his left hand to brush his hair off his forehead. “Are you afraid to have short hair?”

“No. I showed you the pictures from when I had it short when I was a teenager. I love my hair but it’s not having it cut off that scares me, per se. It’s…”

“What?”

“I never liked how I looked with short hair. And I’m afraid you won’t, either.”

Jack laughed and then saw the stricken look on her face. “Oh, you’re serious.” She nodded. “Hand me my phone, would you?” he asked.

Anya handed Jack his phone and peered at it as he launched Facebook.

“I guess I never told you about my college girlfriend, did I?” he asked her. Anya shook her head. “Jenny. Smart girl,” he continued. “Pretty, too. Gorgeous hair. Ah, here she is.” Jack handed his phone to Anya. She was looking at a photo of a much younger Jack, his arm wrapped around a tall, slender girl with a curtain of stick-straight blonde hair hanging down to her butt.

“She used to ask me to brush her hair, sometimes. If you were to add it up, I probably spent hours brushing her hair.”

“Jack…” Anya began.

“Hold on, I’m not finished,” Jack cut her off. “The summer before our junior year, a girl from our school was brutally attacked, and the school administration released a statement that basically said women need to do a better job of not making themselves targets. Included in their list of so-called helpful tips was that women should avoid wearing their hair in high ponytails—you’ll remember they were very much in style around then—because I guess the girl’s attacker used hers to grab her and pull her down. So a lot of the female students took issue with the administration’s statement…”

“As they well should have! Victim blaming is not cool.”

“Exactly. So there were demonstrations for the first several weeks of the semester where a lot of students—mostly women, but some men, too—were demanding the university president or various other administrators apologize or take action or step down. But the administration just…ignored them. So one day Jenny and a bunch of her friends decided to do something that would force the administration to notice them, or at least get the attention of the board of directors and a lot of our bigger donors, plus the media. On homecoming weekend, they were going to walk right to the center of a big alumni event that was going to be filled with VIPs. They were going to wear the kind of outfits the administration had told girls not to wear…right down to the high ponytails. And then…” Jack paused for dramatic effect. “They were going to shave their heads.”

Amy gasped. “Did they actually do it?”

“Yeah. About two dozen girls.”

“You’re kidding!”

“Not at all. They all marched up to where the president was supposed to be, shouting their demands. I think someone even had a megaphone. And then, they reached into their purses, and…” Jack swiped through a few more photos on his phone until he found the one he was looking for. It was a close up of Jenny’s face, tilted up toward the sun. Her left hand held her ponytail taught. Her right hand held an unguarded set of clippers at her widow’s peak.

Jack swiped to the next photo, which had clearly been taken only a few seconds later. Jenny still held her ponytail in one hand and the clippers in the other, but now they had been pulled back toward her crown, and a pale strip of skin was revealed in the middle of her slicked-back blonde hair. Jack swiped again. This photo was taken from farther away, but Jenny was still in focus. The entire top of her head was denuded, the ponytail she still gripped a mess of severed ends where it had been separated from her scalp. From this angle, you could see Jenny was wearing a short red dress and spiky black heels. Other girls were visible in this photo, too, all wearing short or tight dresses, all holding unguarded clippers to their hair while they peeled their ponytails from their scalps. There were more photos, too, mostly featuring Jenny’s compatriots as they became increasingly bald by their own hands. A few photos of the girls helping one another to get rid of the hair they couldn’t reach themselves. A photo of a victorious Jenny, holding her severed ponytail in both hands over her newly denuded head, as if it were a trophy. And then a photo of twenty or so ponytails of varying lengths, colors, and textures piled at the feet of a terrified-looking man Anya could only assume was the university president.

Anya didn’t know what to say. She questioningly at Jack.

“I was covering it for the school newspaper. That’s why I have so many pictures. But I wasn’t the only press there that day. A bunch of the local news stations picked it up. So did a couple big blogs.”

“So what happened?”

“The board was embarrassed. A few of the big donors—at least one of whom had a daughter who participated in the demonstration, by the way—threatened to suspend their annual giving unless and until the university administration took decisive action. The president resigned in disgrace and the university eventually hired a woman in his place. She implemented a lot of consent-based education and shut down any hint of victim blaming whenever there was an incident on campus. It was really kind of ahead of its time, when you consider that a lot of schools only started having these conversations in the last couple of years.”

“And what about Jenny?”

“Are you asking if I broke up with my girlfriend because she shaved her head?” Jack took his phone back and swiped through a few more photos before handing it back to Anya. “I hope you’d think better of me than that.”

Anya found herself looking at another photo of Jack and Jenny. Jenny is sitting on the floor in front of Jack, clearly talking to someone off camera and laughing. It looks as if her hair had grown about an inch since the last photo Anya saw, but it was hard for her to tell for sure because behind her, Jack is perched on a bed with a joint hanging out of the corner of his mouth. Jack has one hand resting near the top of Jenny’s head, and in the other, he is holding a set of guarded clippers. He is squinting thoughtfully at the back of Jenny’s head and it’s hard to tell if he’s about to start his work, or if he’s just finished it. Anya looked to Jack—not the one in the photo, but the one sitting there in her bed. “So, after Jenny shaved her head…she kept it? You had her keep it?”

“I didn’t have her do anything. Jenny wore her hair the way she wanted to wear her hair. This was a few months after the demonstration. She’d been trying to grow her hair out, but one night we were hanging out with one of her friends who had participated in the demonstration with her, who had been keeping her hair buzzed—not as short as it was after the demonstration, but still pretty short. We were all a little high and Jenny asked her friend if she thought she’d grow her hair out at some point and the friend said probably, but for now she liked the way it felt too much and Jenny acknowledged that she kind of missed it and the next thing I know the friend had her clippers out and Jenny handed them to me and sat down at my feet.” Jack swiped one more time, to a photo of Jenny and another girl, presumably taken that same evening. Both have been buzzed down to a light dusting of peach fuzz, and they are smiling and touching each other’s heads as they look into the camera.

“She really pulled it off,” Anya said, looking from the phone to Jack. “How long did she keep it like that?”

“I don’t know. She had me buzz it a few more times, but it was always with a guard after the demonstration—she never went back down to the skin. The buzzing took the place of the hair brushing I used to do for her, I think. Like a ritual that we could share. But I think her parents were pretty unhappy when they saw her over winter break that year, so after she got back to campus she started growing it out in earnest. It was below her chin by graduation.”

“And you liked it? I mean, you liked the way she looked without any hair?”

“I liked her. I liked her with long hair and I liked her with no hair and I liked her with whatever length she had in between.”

“I thought you only dated women with long hair.”

“Guess you thought wrong, then.”

“So why’d you two break up?”

“She joined the peace corps after college. I got a job as a photographer’s assistant in New York. We wanted different things. And right now,” Jack said, placing a hand under Anya’s chin and leaning in for a kiss. “The thing that I want is you.”

“Promise you’ll still want me no matter what Beth does with my hair tonight? Or next week?”

“I promise,” Jack said, wrapping his arms around Anya and pulling her on top of him. She wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him as he buried his hands in her red curls, just above her clippered nape.

***

Somehow, Beth had kept her new hair a secret from Anya over the past week. Their interaction since the previous Wednesday morning had been limited to phone calls and texts, and everything Beth posted to Instagram that week either used old photos and video or didn’t show her face. So when Anya opened the door and saw her longtime best friend standing there, not with the silver-blonde lob she’d had the previous week but with a tousled blue-and-green inverted bob and peekaboo, indigo-dyed 360 undercut, her jaw nearly hit the floor. She was speechless.

“What, no ‘Oh my god, YOUR HAIR’?” Beth teased in a poor imitation of her friend’s oft-repeated line, stepping inside. “Hi Jack,” she shouted and waved toward where he was unloading his camera equipment. He seemed similarly surprised by Beth’s transformation.

“Sorry,” Anya recovered herself. “I just thought you said you were going to have your undercut cleaned up. This…is very much more than a clean-up.”

Beth shrugged. “I was bored and Danny was feeling creative. Besides, I couldn’t possibly risk you having shorter hair than me by the end of the night. We have a precedent to maintain.”

“Does that mean…” Anya began.

“Shhh. I’m not saying another word until we go live.”

“Can you at least tell me our fundraising total?”

“A little over thirteen grand.”

Anya sighed. “So that means…”

“Sorry, babe,” Beth nodded. “Your hair is once again in your followers’ hands.”

Anya glanced toward Jack. He smiled and gave her a thumbs-up. She placed her hand at her nape and gave it a quick rub. “About how long, do you think, before I can get back to this style?”

“That depends on how much we wind up cutting off before your fundraiser is over,” Beth replied glibly.

Jack had taken several photos of Anya that week—although she sincerely hoped that some would never be seen by anyone but the two of them—so there wasn’t much need for a pre-cut photoshoot. Beth did Anya’s hair and makeup while Jack snapped a few candids and Anya thought how ridiculous it was that she was having her hair styled before she got it cut, but anyway this whole thing was slightly ridiculous. Soon, Beth was holding up a mirror and Anya took in her mass of red curls, falling just past her shoulders. It was hard to believe that just two weeks ago, her hair had cascaded all the way to her hips. At least the bangs would be more or less untouched this week, she thought to herself. She’d rather grown to like them.

Beth instructed Anya to change clothes and had Jack snap a few “before” photos. In his favorite, Anya had her back to the camera and was using her right hand to hold up her hair and reveal her undercut, while she looked playfully over her left shoulder. In another, she faced forward, one hand on the back of her head and a mock look of surprise on her face, as if she had only just noticed her buzzed nape.

Beth dismissed Jack shortly thereafter so he could finish setting up for their livestream. Once she was confident he was out of earshot, she turned to her best friend. “So…I take it from the fact that Jack is still here things are going well? Haven’t I been telling you for ages there was something there?”

“Yes, Beth, you were right,” Anya replied with a little annoyance.

“God, I love to hear you say that,” Beth teased.

“Jack is…well, he’s great but you already knew that. You’ve known him almost as long as I have.”

“And?” Beth asked, clearly fishing for details.

“And if you must know, we’ve fucked in every room in this house and most of the rooms in his condo,” Anya answered bluntly, hoping to silence her friend.

“Well that was more direct of an answer than I was expecting.”

“Maybe, but it’s the answer you were looking for, right?”

“I’m so proud of you,” Beth beamed.

“Shut up,” Anya said, playfully batting her friend in the arm. “Onto the other elephant in the room…your hair?”

“You like?” Beth asked, drawing her forearm up the back of her head so the full height of her undercut was temporarily exposed.

“It looks awesome. It’s just not what I was expecting when I opened the door today. Is there a story here, or…?”

“Not really, beyond what I said when I came in.”

“You know I know you better than that.”

Beth sighed. Anya was right. “I told Danny I wanted to take the undercut higher. He asked if there was anything more than that and I…kinda gave him carte blanche.”

“I see he took full advantage.”

“I mean, I could have stopped him.”

“But you didn’t,” Anya asserted.

“But I didn’t,” Beth agreed. “It was kind of…I don’t know, exciting? To let someone I trusted just take total control?”

“Exciting like thrilling, or exciting like…”

“At first I thought it was mostly the first kind, but Danny said a few things that made me wonder if it was more…the other kind.”

Anya nodded. She was about to say something more when she heard Jack calling them in from the kitchen. “You’re live in ten minutes, ladies. You’d probably ought to get set up.”

***

As Beth laid out her cutting and styling tools, Jack came over to talk to Anya. He placed one hand at the back of her head, gliding his fingers up and down her nape.

“Mmm,” she sighed. “I’m going to miss that.”

“There won’t be anything to miss. Whatever happens tonight you’ll still have that undercut.”

“Yeah, but will I still have you?”

Jack looked at her for a moment. “Did I not just tell you all about my girlfriend who shaved her head in college? I’m not going anywhere just because you might get a haircut.” He kissed Anya on the forehead, and then on the mouth. “Except for right now. I have a job to do, remember?” Jack retreated back behind the lights and cameras. “Everyone ready?” Beth and Anya both nodded. “Then you’re live in five, four, three…”

***

“Hello, everyone! It’s Tuesday evening, and you know what that means: I’m probably about to get a haircut,” Anya began as the cameras rolled. “But before we talk about my hair, I think we ought to talk about my bestie Beth Golden over here—that’s @bgoldenstylesyou if you don’t already follow her—because if you’ve been watching the last few weeks then you’ve probably noticed that she also went through quite the hair transformation this week. Beth, give the people a little spin, won’t you?”

Beth dutifully spun in a circle, tucking her hair behind both ears and holding up the back of her bob to demonstrate her high undercut, before letting it drop back into place. “I was feeling like a change,” she said unapologetically into the camera.

“And do you maybe want to give a shout-out to anyone who helped you make that change?”

“Oh yeah, uh, this look is courtesy of my friend Danny Mendez. We went to cosmetology school together and he’s an absolutely genius stylist and colorist, as you can see. You can find him @dmendezcutandcolor on most social media platforms, and if you’re in the area and looking for a change he’s your man. But anyway, we’re not here to talk about my hair, are we, Anya?”

Anya sighed. “No, Beth, I guess we’re not.” She looked directly at the camera. “Just to recap what we’re doing tonight for anyone who’s new here, I’m still raising money for cancer research. And to inspire you to donate even more money, I’m putting my hair in your hands—kind of. Every week until I say stop, Beth is choosing two potential hairstyles for me, and I’m setting a fundraising goal. If you want to vote, either on one of the new styles or on me keeping my hair as-is, you have to make a donation to a webpage specifically linked to that haircut. If we don’t meet the minimum threshold, the fundraiser stops. Beth has been tracking your votes and donations and she informed me before we started shooting this evening that we surpassed this week’s fundraising goal of $12,500…”

“Yep, we raised $13,272,” Beth chimed in.

“…Which means that tonight, once again, my hair is in your hands. Because Beth was monitoring votes, I have no idea what you picked. I’m about to be surprised as you are.”

As she had the week before, Beth procured a large poster board and held it in front of Anya, facing the cameras. “Here’s your winner, folks!” She then turned and handed the blown-up image to Anya. The model with the small over-the-ear sidecut looked back at her. Anya gulped, nodded, and handed the poster to Beth, who tucked it away somewhere behind Anya’s chair.

“Before we get started,” Beth said, “I want to mention two things. First is that the hairstyles in the photos you voted on are inspiration and what Anya winds up with might be slightly different from what you see in this photo, so I don’t want to see any complaints in the comments if she doesn’t get up from that stool looking exactly like the inspiration photo. Second,” she looked at her friend, “I want to reiterate that consent is important and that if Anya has changed her mind about getting this haircut, we need to respect that.” The monitor facing Beth filled with a combination of sad and heart-eye emoji. “Anya, I want to remind you that on our voter/donation forms, we asked people if they were still willing to donate if either the minimum threshold was not met, or if you decided to decline a haircut. And I can tell you, like last week, that most of our voters checked that box.”

Anya looked back at her friend. “What would the total be if we stopped here?”

“Just over nine thousand dollars.”

Anya sighed deeply. She really had been hoping her fans would swoop in and preserve her hair. But she couldn’t leave four thousand dollars sitting on the table—not when it was for such an important cause. “I’m not backing out,” Anya said to Beth. Then, she looked at the camera. “Let’s do this.”

Beth wrapped a strip of neck paper around Anya and shook her cape open with a flourish, letting it settle over her friend and conceal the dress they had so painstakingly chosen only an hour before. Beth turned Anya so that her left side was facing the camera, and then, grabbing a teasing comb, she used the long handle to trace a curved line starting about an inch above Anya’s ear, then continuing diagonally down the side of her head toward her nape. The rest of Anya’s hair was clipped up, out of the way.

Beth took a step back to evaluate the path she had created. Then she turned Anya’s chair a bit so part of her nape faced the camera. “So what I’m trying to figure out,” she said aloud—partly to herself, partly to Anya, and partly to the viewers at home—”is how to tie the sidecut into your undercut. Because your undercut is higher at the center than at the sides, the way I’ve traced the sidecut kind of leaves you with a checkmark at the back of your head.”

Beth had warned Anya that this might be an issue, but still, she wasn’t thrilled by it. She suspected she was going to be losing even more hair than she’d bargained for tonight. “So what do you suggest?”

“We could do a couple of things,” Beth answered. She handed Anya a hand mirror and instructed her to hold it up, then she unclipped her friend’s hair, the section she had just separated blending back in with the bulk. “First,” she said, grabbing her comb again to demonstrate, “we could start the sidecut higher over here.” She held the end of her comb level with Anya’s left eye. “Then we could trace it diagonally across the side and back of your head so that it ends level with the far side of your nape undercut.” Beth traced her comb along the line she indicated and pulled the rest of Anya’s hair over to the right to illustrate for Anya what she was suggesting.

A thousand hand-clapping emojis appeared on the monitor, but Anya shook her head. “I don’t think I’m ready to go there yet.” The emojis changed to sad faces, but Anya was undeterred. “What else?”

“I can stick with the original starting point over your ear but take it to a steeper angle as we move further back and then bring your overall undercut up higher, so it’s just under your occipital lobe.” Here again, Beth used her comb to indicate the hair that would fall victim to her clippers in this iteration.

“That’s not as bad, I guess. But I take it there’s a third option?”

“Yeah. We’d do the sidecut as originally planned, but on both sides instead of just on your left. They’d meet in the middle and we’d take your undercut up just enough so that it’s a straight line across your nape instead of the triangle.” Beth did not trace the full shape of the cut this time, but instead used her comb to indicate on the back of Anya’s head how high her undercut would stop, just below the occipital bone.

Anya wasn’t entirely thrilled by this option, either, but she trusted Beth. “Assuming we do another cut next week, which option is going to be easiest for you to work with or around?”

“Do you want me to tell you, or do you just want me to start?”

Anya looked toward Jack for reassurance. But because of the lights trained on her, she could only see his silhouette behind the cameras. At least it didn’t seem like he was running away. Finally, she looked back to her friend. “As long as it’s not option one, just go ahead and get started.”

Beth returned to Anya’s left and once again began tracing a curve over her ear and toward her nape, then pinned up all the remaining hair on the left side of her head. Her plans became clear when she rotated Anya’s chair so her right cheek faced the camera and she began to trace a second line over her ear and down toward her nape, finally pinning up the hair on the right side of Anya’s head. Then, turning Anya’s chair so her back faced the cameras and carefully positioning herself at an angle that would only minimally block the cameras’ view, she connected the two lines together at the back of Anya’s head, drawing a straight part just above the high point of her current undercut. Any last curls from above these three lines were secured tightly to the top of Anya’s head, the hair still hanging down falling past her shoulders. Although Anya couldn’t see anything, she knew more or less what was happening and she felt her heart pounding in her throat.

Beth turned Anya again so her left profile faced the cameras. This time, she did not start with scissors. Instead, she topped her clippers with a number two guard and instructed Anya to tilt her head toward her right shoulder. Holding a comb in her left hand so she could push Anya’s separated hair out of the way, Beth flicked her clippers on and placed them right at Anya’s temple. The humming machine changed pitch when it met the long red curls, and as Beth pushed the clippers the half inch or so up toward her comb and then pulled them away, a lock of hair nearly a foot in length coming away with them. Beth dropped it on Anya’s cape. The redhead showed a flicker of emotion but didn’t dare move or react, lest the stylist should accidentally take too much hair on her second pass. But Anya needn’t have worried about that. Beth was, after all a professional.

For her next pass, Beth asked Anya to help by folding her ear down, so the stylist could get any long hairs determined to hide there. The long hair that rained down from the clippers fell over Anya’s arm and tickled slightly. After another pass of the clippers, Beth told Anya she could let go of her ear, but before Anya could return her hand to rest under her cape, Beth caught it and held Anya’s fingers to the shortened patch of velvet that had appeared on the side of her head. The redhead let out a moan—small, but surely picked up by the microphones meant to capture every sound of the cut. “Feels good, right?” Beth asked. “I haven’t been able to stop touching mine all week.” She let go of Anya’s hand and returned to her work, placing her comb into the bulk of Anya’s hair and lifting up slightly so it was kept away from the clippers as they made their next pass. More red curls came down, this time on the floor rather than on Anya’s cape. Soon enough, the left side of Anya’s head bore a short, curved path from her ear to her nape, and a collection of foot-long red curls littered the floor.

Beth turned Anya’s chair so her right side faced the cameras and instructed her friend to tilt her head in the opposite direction. Then, she once again placed her comb in the bulk of Anya’s hair and her clippers at Anya’s temple, and peeled another curly red lock from Anya’s head. Anya’s help was enlisted again, and she held her ear down as Beth completed the trickier work of buzzing around the redhead’s ear. Once Anya’s ear was free, Beth again guided Anya’s hand to the soft patch of red fuzz that remained before continuing on. Soon, she only had Anya’s nape left. Beth leaned in to make sure the two sides of Anya’s haircut met at roughly the same height at the back of Anya’s head and, once satisfied, took her clippers up again. “Chin down, please,” she said to Anya, who dutifully obeyed. Beth placed her clippers at the base of Anya’s neck, where her previous undercut began. Then she drove them up over that area and into the longer hair she had separated above it, ending slightly above the cut’s previous high point. Because there was so little hair here owing to Anya’s last haircut, the work of removing the rest of the red locks from the back of Anya’s head went quickly, and soon, Beth was able to trade the clippers in her hand to a smaller edging set. She carefully carved around Anya’s hairline, perhaps taking it slightly higher than it had been before, but it was hard to say. Then she continued up and around Anya’s ears and even gave a slight shape to the very front of her cut, where her sideburns had hung only a few moments before.

Beth spun Anya’s stool around slowly so their viewing audience could appreciate her work so far, stopping when her friend was facing forward. Then, she unpinned the top sections of Anya’s hair, and the buzzed sections practically disappeared. “Anya has been a very brave girl so far today,” she said toward the cameras. “And because she wasn’t expecting to lose hair on both sides of her head, I’m not going to cut the rest of her hair quite as sort as in the inspiration photo she posted.” A few sad emojis popped up on the screen. “Oh, don’t worry,” she said to the viewers. “I’m still cutting it. Just, instead of taking it to here,” she explained, holding her hands an inch and a half above Anya’s shoulders, “I’m taking it to here,” she continued, lowering her hands so they were resting on Anya’s shoulders.

Quickly, Beth sectioned Anya’s hair, leaving the bottom layer—or at least, the hair that now composed her bottommost layer, with the true bottom layer now laying on the floor—hanging down. Then she picked up a lock of hair near the center of Anya’s back, grabbed her shears, and snipped a four-inch lock of red hair, letting it fall to the floor. Using that cut as a guide, Beth freehanded the rest of the layer, focusing on cutting at the appropriate place on each curl rather than getting every hair exactly the same length, then released the next layer and continued her process. Because the longest layer of the new cut was almost as short as Anya’s shortest layer had previously been, Beth needed to take up quite a bit of hair from the topmost layers, and soon the four-inch curls laying on Anya’s cape and on the floor were joined by locks that were closer to six inches in length. Beth kept Anya’s thick, curly bangs long, point cutting into them ever so slightly to account for a few weeks’ growth but nothing more. Once she seemed satisfied with the cut, she grabbed her spray bottle and misted Anya’s hair lightly, explaining once again to the audience that because Anya already had some product in her hair she was only worried about reactivating what was there to revive Anya’s curls. Finally, she warned the home audience to turn down their volume and she picked up her blow dryer and diffuser, scrunching and tousling Anya’s hair as she blew it dry.

Soon enough, the shape and style of Anya’s final cut emerged. The redhead’s hair had been shortened to a layered lob, just resting on her shoulders, with heavy, curly bangs. Her newly-extended 360 degree undercut wasn’t even visible, until Beth tucked some of Anya’s hair behind each year. Even then, the effect was far more subtle than Anya had expected—or at least it looked subtle in the monitors she was now facing. She’d be able to tell for sure when she got to a mirror.

Anya seemed ready to complete the filming for the evening, but Beth stopped her. “Now, I know those of you who voted for this style didn’t do so just for the undercut to be hidden by the rest of Anya’s hair,” the stylist said, placing a hand on her friend’s shoulder to discourage her from standing. “So just like last week, I’m going to put Anya’s hair up in a quick updo that really highlights the new cut.”

Beth proceeded to separate Anya’s hair into three horizontal sections, shaping each one into a loose bun that allowed some of her curls to spring loose. The final look, which took less than ten minutes to complete, was a so-called “bun-hawk” that looked at once sophisticated and edgy. It highlighted Anya’s classical features but also gave her a modern edge, with the thinly buzzed strips of red hair that curved over her ears and toward her nape, as well as the higher nape undercut where they met. Her curly bangs helped soften the look and drew attention to her eyes.

Anya wished she could see Jack’s reaction to this new style but he was still impossible to see behind the lights. Hoping for the best, she drew her broadcast to a close. “Okay, my friends, I think that’s about it for tonight. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for your generous contributions. If I had to lose a little hair to be able to give so much more to cancer research, I think it was worth it. So now I’m going to go get used to not having any hair around my ears and figure out what non-hair-related content I want to post this week, so be sure to message me if there are any recipes or kitchen tips you want to see soon. In the meanwhile, remember that I’ll have next week’s haircut options from Beth on my Instagram by tomorrow, and that in order to vote you’ll need to contribute to the cause.”

“And not to give anything away, folks,” Beth chimed in, “but after tonight I can safely say to expect some shorter looks in the mix for next week.”

Anya grimaced. “I guess we’ll see about that,” she said. “But for now, we’re saying goodnight. See you soon!” She smiled into the cameras until Jack signaled the feed had stopped, but as soon as the cameras stopped her expression turned to one of nervousness. Beth removed the cape and neck paper from around Anya’s neck. Red hair rained down into the floor, and Anya immediately stood, placing one hand on the side of her head and moving toward Jack.

“I do want to get some after photos tonight,” Beth said. “But something tells me you two might need a couple minutes. So I’ll just clean up in here and you two can rejoin me when you’re ready. Oh, and Jack? Try not to mess her hair up yet.”

Anya reached Jack and pulled him by the hand into her bathroom. He stood behind her as she leaned over the sink, peering toward the mirror and rubbing her hands along the sides and back of her head.

“So?” Jack asked.

“I don’t know,” Anya answered. She opened a drawer and reached for a hand mirror, giving it to Jack. “Can you just hold this for me?” Anya turned toward the mirror Jack held, with her back to her sink. She tilted her head a few times and asked Jack to change the angle of the mirror until finally she had a full view of the back of her head. Where a curtain of red curls had hung mere hours ago, there was nothing but a soft red fuzz, ending slightly below her occipital bone. Two angled lines of similarly shorn hair curved outward from this spot, heading on their path toward her temples. “I don’t…I mean, I don’t hate it,” she finally said, taking the mirror from Jack and returning it to its drawer. “But I can’t tell yet if I like it. At the very least, it will take some getting used to. What do you think?” She looked pointedly at him in the mirror.

Jack wrapped his arms around Anya and gave a comforting squeeze. “Not that it matters at all what I think, but I kind of like it. It’s different, but that’s not a bad thing. Plus, it shows off your very cute ears.” Those last four words were punctuated with small nibbles on both of Anya’s earlobes.

Anya giggled and raised her right hand to her temple, then ran it backward toward her nape. “It does feel nice, at least,” she said.

Jack met Anya’s eyes in the mirror and traced the same path along her head she just had, softly running the very tips of his fingers along her buzzed sides, toward her nape. He kissed her at the spot where his hands stopped. Anya seemed for a moment to melt into his embrace. “So I take it it feels even better when I’m the one doing that?”

In lieu of an answer, Anya spun to face Jack, wrapping her arms around his neck and kissing him deeply. She felt him begin to harden through his jeans as she pushed her body into his. Anya might not have been sure yet about how her new style looked, but she certainly didn’t mind Jack’s reaction to it.

“How long do you think it’s going to take Beth to finish cleaning up?” Jack asked Anya, picking her up and placing her on the bathroom counter.

“I think she’ll be able to wait for a little bit,” came Anya’s reply as she reached for Jack’s belt, unbuckling it in one fluid motion before opening his fly. She felt his cock harden further in her hands as she pushed his jeans and underwear down so they pooled at his ankles. “After all, she has a lot of hair to clean up in there.”

Jack placed one hand on the side of Anya’s face. She kissed his palm briefly, and then he used that hand to begin guiding Anya backward on the counter toward the mirror. “Wait!” she stopped him. “Beth said not to disturb the hair.”

“You’re right,” Jack said. He helped Anya sit upright again, and then placed one hand on each of her hips and slid her toward the edge of the counter. Then, he reached under her dress and slipped one thumb under the waistband of her panties, sliding them down her legs as she shifted her hips slightly to facilitate. Jack’s other hand crept between Anya’s thighs. She was warm and wet and he wanted nothing more than to put his head under her skirt and stay there until she told him to stop, but before he could assume the position, Anya wrapped her legs around his waist.

“Later,” she said. “I need you inside me now.” Anya used the strength of her legs to pull Jack closer, and then once again wrapped her arms around his neck, kissing him passionately. Jack kicked his pants and underwear the rest of the way off and then reached for Anya’s bare buttocks under her skirt, scooping her off the counter so he supported her weight completely. He spun so he could press Anya’s back against the wall as he entered her with ease. Anya buried her hands in Jack’s thick, wavy hair while Jack kept his hands supporting Anya’s full weight. But his face was nuzzled into the crook of her neck, and he could feel the soft, newly shorn hair on the side of Anya’s head tickling his cheek and chin. He tried not to push the back of her head against the wall so as to preserve Beth’s updo.

The pair tried to be as quiet as possible, but when they returned to the kitchen a few minutes later, it was clear that Beth knew what Jack and Anya had been up to. “I’m glad to know you’re both happy with my work,” the stylist said, casting her friends a knowing smile. “And I appreciate that you didn’t mess it up too much. Let’s take some pictures, shall we? I figure you two are going to want some more time alone.”

To be continued…

2 responses to “The Influencer and the Donation, Part 5

  1. Another great addition — If I could make one suggestion, since there are some expanses of time between each time you post an update for this story — maybe have a bit of a catch-up on Anya’s style closer to the start of the story? Kind of a rehash of how it looks after the previous chapter’s style change? It’ll just help with the visuals 🙂

    (One technique I try to use — though it’s up to others to decide whether I’m successful — is to make each story — even a second part — read as if it’s the only one involving the characters. That way if a reader is new, they don’t get lost.)

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