The Influencer and the Donation, Part 6

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Anya woke up before Jack, which wasn’t unusual—even though an “early” morning for her meant she getting out of bed before 8, whereas Jack had years of early call times for photoshoots under his belt. But, such was the life of two self-employed creators in the midst of a pandemic. What was time, anyway? She tried not to wake Jack as she grabbed a robe and made her way to the bathroom.

As she approached the sink, Anya’s immediate instinct was grab the hair elastic that always lived in her robe pocket, in order to to pile her hair into its usual morning topknot so she could wash her face and brush her teeth without getting her red curls in the way, but she found herself unable to gather all her hair that high. The night before, her best friend, Beth, had cut four inches of length off Anya’s hair, so it now just grazed her shoulders. That reduced length and shorter layers apparently meant her topknot days were behind her—for a while, at any rate.

She tried to pull her hair into a ponytail next, and as she ran one hand up the back of her neck to pull the hair on the back of her head up, she had a moment of brief shock as she found far less hair to scoop up than expected. In addition to reducing the length of Anya’s hair overall, Beth had also taken her undercut higher and added a subtle v-shaped side cut extending from ear to ear and meeting at her nape. All of which meant that even though Anya’s hair didn’t look that different when she walked into the bathroom, there was actually significantly less hair on her head than there had been the morning before, when Anya’s hair had fallen to her shoulder blades with the tiniest of nape undercuts hidden beneath. With some effort, Anya managed to get most of her hair into the ponytail. She pushed her bangs back with a headband, but those she had had for a few weeks by this point so she’d gotten used to that part of the ritual.

Anya brushed her teeth and washed her face, and then took off the headband and tousled her bangs, leaving the rest of her hair up. She turned her head side to side, running her hands along the freshly buzzed sections on the back and sides of her head as she did. She wasn’t really sure yet how she felt about this style. It just seemed so edgy compared to her usual image. And sure, when she let the rest of her hair down those edgier details were hidden…unless she tucked a lock of hair behind her ear or happened upon a stiff breeze, in which case the buzzed areas would be highly visible.

Anya was just beginning to regret putting her hair’s fate in her Instagram followers’ hands as a gimmick to raise more money for cancer research, when Jack walked into the bathroom, still nude from the previous evening’s activities. He wrapped his arms around her waist and nuzzled his face into the back of her neck, right where her undercut began. “Good morning,” he cooed into her ear. “How are you feeling?”

“A little regretful, if I’m being honest. This just doesn’t feel like me.”

Jack kissed Anya’s nape and continued kissing her along the buzzed path that led to her right ear. “Funny,” he said, “you feel like you to me.”

“You know what I mean.” Though they had only been sleeping together for a week, they had been good friends for several years, and Anya wasn’t going to play coy with Jack. “I’m a food blogger who’s known for her long, red curls. I wear aprons and shirt dresses in my videos. This style…”

“You’re worried it’s not on brand for you?”

Anya nodded.

“You do realize, don’t you, that your brand is you?” He turned Anya to face him. “You can do whatever the fuck you want with your hair and people are going to keep engaging with your content and clicking your sponsored links because they like following you.”

“But some of that sponsored content…”

“…Incorporated your hair. That doesn’t mean your sponsors are going to flee because you got a haircut. You might even get a few new ones who didn’t know about you till you did this fundraiser. Trust me on this. Do you know how many models I’ve worked with who totally changed their look for a shoot or a show and were terrified about what it would mean for their careers, only it wound up being the best decision they ever made? Don’t worry about any of that right now. You’ve already sold your next cookbook. Your career is going to be fine. You’re going to be fine. What matters is, what do you think about your haircut?”

Anya giggled slightly, then cleared her throat to try to recover.

“What?” Jack asked.

“It’s just that I’ve never had a naked man give me career advice before.”

Jack smiled and reached a hand forward to untie Anya’s robe. “Well, for whatever it’s worth, this naked man also happens to think you are very beautiful.” He slid her robe off her shoulders and onto the floor. “And it just so happens I’m an expert when it comes to beautiful women.” He ran a thumb along the soft short hairs that ran from Anya’s temple to the nape of her neck and stroked upward toward the longer hair that was still gathered in a ponytail, then leaned in close and whispered in her ear. “Come on, let’s take a bath.”

Anya nodded and started to kiss him, then stopped. “Okay, but can you please brush your teeth first?”

***

Jack sat with his back leaning against the tub, his legs spread wide so Anya could sit between them, leaning against his chest. He grabbed a bath sponge from the edge of the tub and immersed it in the warm, soapy water of the bath, then tilted Anya slightly forward so he could let the water drip down her back and arms, making small circles with the sponge as he went. He then turned his attention to the front of her torso, lowering his mouth to her neck as he ran the sponge around each breast and then down to her abdomen.

He buried his face into her freshly buzzed nape, breathing heavily, then reached one hand up and released elastic band that had been holding the longer sections of Anya’s hair in place. “I know you aren’t sure that you like the way this haircut looks on you,” he breathed, more than spoke, into her ear. “But I want you to focus on how it feels.” He grabbed an empty soap dish from the edge of the tub and used it to catch the water that was still streaming out of the bathtub faucet, then pour it over Anya’s head. He repeated this action again and again until her hair was thoroughly wet, then found a bottle of shampoo and squeezed a small amount into his left hand and rubbed both hands together and before working them through Anya’s hair, massaging her scalp in firm yet gentle circles from her forehead to her crown, then downward toward her temples and finally moving toward the back of her head. When he’d worked the shampoo through her bangs and longer layers, he then slipped his hands under her hair and began to massage the buzzed sides from her temples toward her nape, stroking the soft pelt so Anya could feel the subtle changes of direction in each hair—something she wouldn’t’ve noticed when her hair was longer.

Anya reached one hand behind her back, between Jack’s legs, and began to tug gently at his shaft, knowing the water would create too much friction for her to make a proper go of pleasuring him but also wanting him to know his efforts were appreciated. She felt him stiffen as he continued her scalp massage.

Jack used the empty soap dish again to rinse the shampoo out of Anya’s hair and began to reach for her conditioner. She stopped him. “Let me do that part. It’s hard to use too much shampoo but too much conditioner and I’ll look like a greaseball the rest of the day. You can comb it through, though.” She worked a small amount of conditioner upward from her newly-shortened ends and then handed Jack a wide-toothed comb.

After a few passes, Jack hit a tangle. “You have a few knots back here,” he observed.

“Hmm, I wonder who I have to thank for those?” she teased, taking the comb from him and slowly working through the tangles before handing it back so he could get back to running it through her hair.  She could tell he was enjoying his work, making a few slow, additional passes before pronouncing the work to be done. He took up the soap dish one more time and began to rinse the conditioner out of Anya’s hair.

When he finished, she flipped herself around so she could straddle him, then ran her wet hands through his thick hair, kissing him deeply. “Your turn,” she announced. She pulled away, reaching behind him for the soap dish he had used to wet and rinse her hair, filling it with water, and pouring it over his head.

***

It was almost an hour before Anya and Jack finally got out of the bathtub, their hair wet and their fingers and toes pruny. They had kept rewarming the water by turning the hot tap all the way on as some of the cooler water drained out and were feeling a little delirious from the heat and humidity. Jack wrapped a towel around his waist and opened the bathroom door so the steam could start to clear. “Breakfast?” he asked, standing at the doorway and looking admiringly at Anya, who was standing nude by the side of the tub, towel-drying her hair.

She nodded. “I didn’t realize how hungry I was until you said something, but yeah. I would love breakfast.”

“I’ll run out and get bagels at that place down the street while you finish up in here.”

“Bagels sound perfect,” Anya said to Jack, sounding relieved. “I don’t think I have it in me to make anything right now.”

Jack nodded and walked into her bedroom, pulling on his clothes and heading out on his errand. When he returned 15 minutes later, bagels and cream cheese in hand, he expected Anya would at least be out of the bathroom, but she was still there, staring in the mirror and playing with her hair. “Everything okay?”

“Yeah. No? I don’t know. I just can’t figure out how to style my hair. It’s been so long since it was this short and I didn’t have bangs then, plus this undercut situation is really throwing me.”

“Leave it for a few minutes,” he said, putting the bag of bagels on the bathroom counter and wrapping his arms around her waist. “Just let it air dry while we eat breakfast and if you’re not happy with it then, you can Facetime with Beth and she’ll give you some ideas.”

Anya nodded, leaning a bit into Jack. “Okay. Shall we head to the kitchen?”

“Yeah,” he replied. “Go ahead and take the bagels in. I just need to use the bathroom really quick, but I’m right behind you.” Jack handed Anya the bag he had previously put down on the counter and she walked out of the room, closing the door behind herself to give Jack some privacy. Jack leaned against the counter. He didn’t actually need to use the bathroom, but he did need to send a message.

Beth, you haven’t already sent next week’s possible donation cuts to Anya yet, have you? She’s…struggling a bit with last night’s cut and I was hoping you could maybe make the options a little less scary this week, if that makes sense?

He waited for Beth’s reply, which came quickly. Not yet, was debating between a few styles, but if she’s freaking out about her hair already she’s definitely not going to be into anything I’m looking at right now. Let me go back to the drawing board and see if I can come up with something, I don’t know, kinder and gentler?

Jack sighed with relief. You’re a good friend, Beth. He slipped his phone back into his pocket and exited the bathroom, heading toward the kitchen, his lover, and their breakfast.

***

Half an hour later, Anya’s phone buzzed. She glanced quickly at the screen as she loaded the dishwasher with their breakfast dishes. “Beth,” she said.

“Next week’s styles?” Jack asked, not letting on that he and Beth had connected that morning.

“Probably,” she sighed. “I don’t even know if I’m going to get used to this one by then.”

Anya’s hair had mostly dried into a curly, shoulder-grazing lob with thick bangs. Her buzzed sides and nape were completely concealed, except for when she would absentmindedly tuck a curl behind one year…and even then, you’d really have to be paying attention to notice the buzzed hair peeking out from underneath.

Jack thought she looked fantastic, but he also knew it was a lot for her to have gone from the hip-length cascade of curls she’d worn only a few weeks ago to this style—especially the buzzed parts. He crossed the kitchen and put a full cup of coffee in front of her, then brushed her hair away from one side of her neck and kissed her behind her ear. “Are you sure?” he asked. “Because I could sure get used to having easier access to those adorable ears of yours.” He continued his kisses in a path from her ear to her nape, pushing more hair out of the way. “And this lovely neck.” He inhaled the scent of her freshly washed hair and then righted himself, letting Anya’s longer hair fall back into place.

“You do make a strong case,” she conceded, sighing with a hint of pleasure.

“So what did Beth send you?” he asked, curious about whether their stylist friend had taken his request to heart.

Anya unlocked her phone and handed it to Jack without even looking at Beth’s messages. “Here,” she said. “You look.”

Jack opened up Anya’s messaging app and read Beth’s message. I know last night was a big change for you. I’m so proud of you and you look like a fucking rockstar, but I thought we’d do something a little different this week. Slow it down a bit, give you a break, but also leave ’em wanting more and all of that. The message was followed by two photos, both of which Jack found surprising, even in light of his earlier texts with Beth.

While the previous weeks’ prospective haircut photos—the ones he’d seen, at least—were all rather contemporary, the first photo he saw looked like it was almost a hundred years old. He recognized the woman in it as the silent film star and 1920s “it girl” Clara Bow. In this particular photo, Bow rested her chin in her hands, looking not at the camera but somewhere up high and to the left of it. Her heavy bangs sat above her eyebrows and sloped up slightly at the sides. It wasn’t exactly clear how long the rest of her hair was because of the position of her hands, but Jack knew from having seen Bow in other photos that she usually wore her hair in a rounded bob that sat somewhere between her jaw and her chin. The second photo featured the actress Elizabeth Taylor, wearing a chunky sweater and presumably squinting into the sun. Her hair was cut into a style that was neither pixie nor bob, but framed her face in layers that curled slightly outward, and her bangs were cut short, at least an inch and a half above her eyebrows.

Jack was about to slide Anya’s phone back to her, when another message came through from Beth. You haven’t responded yet, and I don’t know if that means you’re pondering or if you’re still/back in bed with Jack, so let me just explain what you’re looking at here. I don’t want you to look dated so I wouldn’t be replicating either of these styles exactly, but they’re good for inspiration. Either way, you’re losing maybe four inches in length overall, which sounds like a lot now but it’s nothing compared to what we’ve cut already—and hey! No clippers involved in either cut, this time around. My thinking is, both of these cuts can easily be done over your sidecut and undercut, so they can still be hidden as much as you want them to be, and if you decide this is your last cut before the fundraiser is over it will take a lot less time for the buzzed parts to grow out to this length than it will for it to reach your shoulders. We’d be working with your natural curls, not setting the styles, so that’ll make a difference in terms of how modern these cuts look, and also I’m not planning on cutting your bangs like in either of these photos, because if you do decide to keep going after next week, the longer bangs leave us with a few more options. But anyway call me when you’re done fucking if you want to talk through any of this. XO

Jack chuckled and handed Anya her phone. “I think you’re going to be pleasantly surprised,” he said, a she scrolled between the photos.

Anya took the phone back and scrolled through the messages, studying both images. “Oh god, I thought the next options were going to be pretty extreme,” Anya said, sounding relieved. “These are definitely short, but not nearly as short as I was expecting. And, I mean, she did choose two absolute icons.”

“So no vetoes?” Jack asked, glad he had messaged Beth that morning.

“No vetoes,” Anya confirmed. She began to type out a reply to her best friend. On a little break from fucking, thanks very much. You might be surprised to hear this, but I’m good with both of these options. No further questions. She did not turn her screen off as she set her phone back on the counter, and Jack could see what she had sent.

“A little break?” he asked, raising an eyebrow at her.

Anya giggled and wrapped her arms around Jack’s neck, kissing him. “Just a little one,” she confirmed, hopping slightly so Jack could catch her under her buttocks and place her on the kitchen counter. He didn’t know why, but it had become his favorite place to fuck her.

***

Tuesday again. Beth was coming over earlier today because she had some styling ideas she wanted to try with Anya’s hair at its current length before she cut any more of it off. And she would be cutting more. Anya didn’t know it yet, but her followers had once again met her fundraising goal.

Jack opened the door to let Beth in. “You’re just always here now, aren’t you?” she asked jokingly as she breezed into the house, her sea-colored bob reflecting the sunlight entering through the windows in the living room. He shrugged, pushing his thick hair off his forehead and giving Beth a knowing smile, but didn’t say anything. “You know, Jack,” Beth continued, looking at the photographer who had long been her friend and was now her best friend’s lover. “I could help you with that.”

“Help me with what?” he asked.

“Your hair. The way it keeps getting in your face. When was the last time you…”

“Don’t you touch his hair,” Anya interrupted, entering the room. “At least, not without checking in with me first.”

“Okay, but spoiler warning: a few hours from now it’s going to be a toss-up as to which of you has longer hair.”

“Do I get a say in this?” Jack chimed in.

Both women looked at him. “No,” they said in unison. He looked stricken, until they laughed.

Anya approached Jack, wrapping her arms around him. “Like you’ve been saying to me this whole time, babe,” she said. “I’m sure you’ll still be gorgeous no matter how you cut your hair. But I do kind of love it how it is.” She then turned to her friend. “I take it from that spoiler warning that the fundraising went well this week?”

“You seem awfully sanguine about this compared to last week,” Beth observed.

Anya shrugged. “Yeah, I don’t know. For some reason I wasn’t nearly as intimidated by these options as I was by last week’s winner. So how much did we raise?”

“Well, you didn’t set the goal this week as high as you did last week, so that probably helps…”

“Right. Less intimidating. So I set it at…$6,000, I think? I figured we might get fewer donations since there wasn’t a promise of clipper action tonight.”

“Yeah, well, you still raised close to $9,000, so…”

Anya laughed. “So, like, are hair fetishists really rich? Or are there just that many of them?”

Beth shrugged. “I could go back and see how many donations were made and the average donation amount each week if you want?”

“Nah,” Anya said. “Doesn’t really matter.”

“Glad to hear you say that,” Beth said. “I left that finance job for a reason. So…ready for our next photo shoot?”

Beth spent the next few hours playing with Anya’s hair and makeup, styling her first as everything from a pompadoured greaser to a post-apocalyptic Zombie slayer to a viking warrior. (“Didn’t we already do this one?” Anya had asked as Beth announced that particular vision. “Yeah, but that was viking warrior-princess,” Beth had responded drolly.) Jack was more than happy to photograph Anya according to Beth’s vision, mostly shooting her in front of a white backdrop because there weren’t exactly places in or around her house that telegraphed a 1950s drag race or a formerly urban wasteland or medieval Norway. With about an hour and a half to spare before their scheduled livestream, Beth instructed Anya to go wash her hair (she had used a lot of hairspray over the course of the afternoon), and then, when she heard the shower shut off, she quickly dried and styled her friend’s hair and did her makeup so she’d be camera ready. “I already put an outfit on your bed for you,” Beth said as she left Anya’s bathroom and went to confirm Jack was all ready for the broadcast. It was almost showtime.

***

“Hi again,” Anya said cheerily into the cameras that were livestreaming that night’s events. “Welcome to week four of this absolutely wild fundraiser-slash-social experiment we’ve all decided to be part of.” The monitors facing Anya lit up with hearts and laughing emoji. “For those of you who follow me for food stuff, don’t worry, there’s still plenty of that—in fact, I just posted a recipe for my grandmother’s sausage gravy this morning. Trust me, you don’t want to miss it. But for those of you who are more interested in the fate of my hair, well, I think Beth over here—”

“That’s @bgoldenstylesyou on every social platform,” Beth interrupted.

“Anyway, Beth has an update for you.”

“Right. So. First, let’s recap. Anya, can you please stand up and turn your back to the cameras?” Beth’s friend did as she requested. “Four weeks ago, when we first started this, Anya’s hair fell to about right here,” Beth said, holding her hand level with Anya’s hips. “The plan was to donate fourteen inches of hair to Wigs for Kids, which took her hair to about here.” Beth slid her hand up Anya’s back to her shoulder blades. “Then, we announced the structure of the fundraiser you’re all participating in now—Anya posts a couple of hair options, you vote by making a contribution to the donation page linked to that style, and the following week Anya gets that haircut, assuming she still consents to the change. Because if I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: consent is important, kids.”

Anya turned toward Beth, her profile facing the cameras. “Don’t forget, I also got bangs that night.”

“Right. While Anya was explaining the extended fundraiser, she also promised that if you fine folks could donate an additional $5,000 to cancer research before she was finished talking, she was going to let me give her bangs. That took all of, what, ten minutes, to reach?”

Anya nodded, then turned her head back to face the wall. “Yeah, something like that. You all were very eager that night.”

“So then the next day, Anya posted her two potential styles and the fundraising minimum. You exceeded the minimum, which meant Anya wound up with a cute little nape undercut the following week, but we didn’t do too much with the length of the rest of her hair. And Anya kind of liked that look so she set what she thought would be too high of a fundraising goal for the next cut but then last week, you somehow managed to exceed that goal, too, so we brought Anya’s undercut up higher on her nape and also gave her a little mini sidecut on both sides, and cut the rest of her hair to the length it is now.”

Anya took both hands behind her head and pushed her layered lob upward, then turned her head from side to side to show off Beth’s handiwork. Once she felt the audience had had enough time to appreciate it, she let her hair fall back down to cover the buzzed sections. “Can I turn back around now?”

“Yep. And have a seat in your stool.”

“I’m not going to lie,” Anya said to the cameras as she sat. “Last week’s haircut was harder on me. Overall it’s the shortest my hair has been since high school, but it wasn’t just that. With the sidecut and raised undercut and I just…wasn’t quite feeling like myself. But I think I’ve kind of gotten used to it now.” She quickly glanced toward where she knew Jack was standing, though she couldn’t see him with all the lights that sat between them, and smiled coyly.

“That’s too bad, because it’s changing again tonight.” Beth shook out a cape and draped it over Anya, saying to the cameras: “You folks donated enough money for another haircut. You sure are a generous lot. Or else, I dunno, you just really liked the idea of Anya getting a haircut.” She winked at the camera, then fastened Anya’s cape and continued. “I knew last week’s cut was a bit of a challenge for Anya so I decided to go a little easier on her this week and chose a couple of styles that were more classic, but would still work within the constraints we had to deal with—the undercut and the bangs.”

“I was really happy to see that Beth had picked two absolutely classic looks. They’re still a big departure from how I’ve worn my hair the last several years, but they somehow feel more ‘me’ than last week’s cut,” Anya added. “Of course, I know that some of you, at least, have come to expect more, uh, dramatic haircuts, so I also set the fundraising goal a little lower as an acknowledgement that some of the donors might not have been quite so eager this week.”

“Of course, we’ll see what I choose for you next week,” Beth winked at her friend.

“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.”

“So yeah, Anya set a goal of $6,000 this week, which was less than half what she set out to raise last week because she was worried you might not be so eager to donate…but you surprised us, and exceeded the goal by a good margin. We were at almost $9,000 when I closed the polls this afternoon.”

“And I’m assuming ‘Keep Anya’s hair how it is’ didn’t win?” Anya said, pushing her arms up under the cape so it puffed up temporarily, then fell back over her.

“Nope!” Beth reached behind her for a large piece of poster board she had carefully turned toward the wall. She held it over Anya’s head and turned it to face the cameras, then handed the blown-up photo to her seated friend.

Anya found herself face to face with Clara Bow, nodded, and handed the poster back to her friend. “Let’s do this,” she said, as applause and hands-up emoji filled the monitors.

Consent having been given, Beth nodded and spun Anya’s stool so her back faced the camera, then began sectioning her friend’s red curls. She spoke as she worked. “Just so our viewers at home know—and I think this was in Anya’s Instagram post last week with the potential styles, but I want to reiterate it—I’m not giving Anya this exact haircut. I’m going to keep her bangs long and work with her natural curl pattern, so it won’t look ‘set’ like Ms. Bow’s did, but this cut is still going to evoke ‘flapper,’ for sure.”

Beth set about sectioning Anya’s hair, leaving the bottommost layer of her hair—that is, the bottommost layer that hadn’t already been buzzed down to a red pelt—hanging down, just brushing Anya’s shoulders. After running a comb through the hanging hair a few times, Beth positioned herself strategically so she wouldn’t be blocking the audience’s view of the first cut of the evening, then used her comb to hold out a lock of hair right at the center of Anya’s head, carefully looked at the redhead’s curl pattern, and snipped it about an inch and a half from Anya’s head, leaving the remaining three or so inches to float down to the floor and exposing the very bottom of her nape undercut. Beth turned Anya’s stool so that her left profile faced the camera and repeated the process with the next lock of hair, and the next, combing and cutting each piece just slightly longer than the one before it, so that while you could barely tell the difference from one snip to the next, by the time she finished cropping the left side of Anya’s head, a clear angled line sloped along Anya’s jaw, with the longest locks hitting just above her chin. Red curls ranging from two to four inches in length littered the floor and rested on Anya’s caped shoulder and lap.

“Oh my god!” Anya exclaimed. “I can actually feel my hair tickling my cheeks!”

“Gonna be a while before you can wear a ponytail again,” Beth replied, spinning Anya’s stool so that her opposite side faced the camera. She proceeded to crop Anya’s right side as she had the left: comb, snip, comb, snip, making sure each cut landed at exactly the right place on a curl and also that the sloping angle toward Anya’s chin was cut with precision.

Beth spun Anya’s stool again so her back faced the camera. “Feel,” she instructed her seated friend.

Anya’s right hand emerged from under her cape and went to the back of her neck, then crept upward. She let out a little gasp. “I wasn’t expecting the undercut to be exposed! And the hair back here is so short!”

“I wanted to modernize the cut a little bit. But when it’s finished you’re really only going to get a peek at the undercut, and most of the hair on the back of your head will be longer than what you’re feeling right now.”

“Okay…” Anya seemed to be less enthusiastic than she had been before the cut began.

“Trust me?”

“Do I have a choice?”

“Not particularly, no.”

Beth let the next section of Anya’s hair down, then resectioned it to make her work more manageable. While it was true that the hair on the back of her head would mostly be longer than the weight line Beth had just cut, that’s because the pieces of hair higher on Anya’s head just had a longer distance to travel to reach her neck. She would still be losing several inches of hair.

This time, Beth began at the left side of Anya’s head, combing her hair down into vertical sections this time and cutting it on a diagonal so it hit slightly higher than the first layer did. Although Anya’s curls were quite combed out by this point, they still sprung back after Beth’s shears completed each snip.

Lengths of curls varying from less than two to nearly five inches continued to pile up on Anya’s shoulder and lap, falling to the ground beneath her as Beth turned her stool to face the opposite direction. “I somehow didn’t realize I’d be losing this much hair,” Anya said to her friend, who had already begun cutting the hair on Anya’s right side.

“I promise, it’s really not going to look any shorter than the picture. The longer hairs you’re seeing are also the hairs that were longer on your head to begin with. It’s all proportional, with the layering.”

“Promise you’re not going Felicity on me?” Anya asked, referring to the cut she had gotten right before her freshman year of high school when she didn’t want Beth, newly declared cancer-free, to be the only short-haired girl in the school.

“I would never!” Beth exclaimed in mock offense. “That was bad enough the first time around.” In a few minutes, she had finished the right side of that section and once again turned Anya’s back to the cameras. Like she did on the sides, Beth cut Anya’s hair vertically in this section, careful to always slice at the right point in the curl but also angling her shears slightly in small, fluttering cuts. With each slice, another curl sprang away from her hands. The haircut was taking a clear shape now, slightly rounded but not old-fashioned, with layers designed to accentuate both the shape and Anya’s natural curls.

Beth let down the top section of Anya’s hair. For a moment, red curls fell to brush her shoulders, before Beth began to resection the hair again. She repeated the method she had used in the previous layer, with vertical sections cut downward at a slight angle, moving quickly through each section. And then, when the last of Anya’s previous length had been snipped away, Beth began to lift individual locks up with her comb, snipping some of them much shorter than the others around them and leaving others intact. Most of her efforts at this point were concentrated at the crown and on the back of Anya’s head.

Although Anya’s overall haircut was only about four inches shorter than it had been earlier in the evening, there were mountains of red curls everywhere. Beth spun Anya to face the cameras and used a foot to swipe some of the hair on the floor out of the way so she could stand behind the stool without worrying that she might slip. Then she grabbed a nearby spray bottle and misted Anya’s hair until her curls fell, wet and heavy, across her forehead and to her chin. “You still have product in your hair from before, right?” Beth asked.

Anya shrugged beneath her cape. “I don’t know, you’re the one who did my hair before we started filming.”

“Right. Right. So I’m not going to add any product now, and we’ll see where we are once you’re dry.” Then, she looked at the cameras. “Sorry, pals, but you know the deal by now. You probably want to turn your sound off for this part.” Beth picked up her blowdryer and diffuser and began to dry Anya’s hair, cupping small sections in her opposite hand so that individual curls began to form rather than Anya’s usual wilder waves. As she got closer to Anya’s face, she made sure to direct the curls slightly forward, so the buzzed areas near her temples would be concealed. Then, when she reached Anya’s bangs, she pushed some of the hair toward the sides in order to evoke the U-shape of Clara Bow’s bangs without sacrificing length or thickness. Finally satisfied with the finished look, she picked up a can of hairspray. “I know you hate hairspray…” she began.

“I sure do,” interrupted Anya.

“But we’re going to use it tonight to give your hair more of that vintage style. You can wash it out as soon as we’re done, if you want.” Beth proceeded to liberally spray Anya’s curly red bob, occasionally fluffing a section and then spraying again, then swept Anya’s cape off and stood back and let the audience get a full view of Anya’s newest look, slowly spinning the stool to show off front, back, and sides. Then she handed Anya a mirror.

“Freakin’ finally!” Anya exclaimed, taking it from her best friend’s hands and holding it up so she could see her new look. She studied herself, turning her head from side to side. She looked every inch the flapper. Her red curls, all now shorter than they’d been for twenty years, framed her face like a halo. There was a stiffness to her hair that she didn’t love, but she knew that was Beth’s hairspray and it would wash out easily enough, and she found the overall look very flattering. Beth was right. Her hair wasn’t really that much shorter than it had been earlier, but she’d still lost a lot of hair because the shape had changed so much. Anya raised a hand to the back of her head and Beth held up a second mirror, so Anya could see what she was feeling. The cut seemed more modern in the back, with that little hint of her buzzed nape, and the hair cut a bit closer to her head, less like a flapper bob and more like… Anya laughed.

Beth noticed what Anya was noticing. “I may have snuck in a little bit of a shag technique in the back there. It’s partly because your hair is so thick and I didn’t want to overdo it with the thinning shears, and partly because, well, you know I’ve been dying to give you a shag haircut since this all started.” She looked to the cameras. “I figured our viewers wouldn’t mind.” Applause and heart emoji erupted from the screen.

“You’re very sneaky,” Anya said.

“Mad at me?”

“Nope. It’s cute. I mean, I’ll have to get used to it. But it’s definitely cute.” She paused, putting the mirror down. “I guess I officially have shorter hair than you again?”

Beth ran a hand through her own blue-green bob, which had seemed so short last week when she cut it but which now was noticeably longer than her friend’s. “Yeah. When was the last time that happened?”

“Freshman or sophomore year of high school?”

“Right. Well, I think I probably still have less hair on my head than you do,” Beth said, gathering her hair up to show off her high 360° undercut, “but I do have more length, so I guess we’ll see how long that lasts.”

“Jealous?”

“We’ll see,” Beth responded, then winked at the cameras. The monitors exploded with expressive emoji, meant to register emotions ranging from shock to excitement. She looked back to her friend. “So what’s next?”

“Well, you’ve got your second COVID shot next week, right?”

“Yup. So I’m not sure I’m going to feel up for…” Beth gestured broadly at the cameras, “all of this.”

“Okay. So. We’re at least going to take next week off.”

“At least?”

“I have to think about whether this is the end of the road for the fundraiser.” The monitors lit up just as quickly as they had before, but now with sad and angry faces.

“Hey,” Beth said into the cameras. “What have I been telling you this whole time? Consent is important. Anya has already cut off a lot of hair. And she’s raised more than $140,000 for cancer research in the process. If she wants to stop she gets to stop.” She paused for a minute and noticed the word “sorry” pop up a few times in the comments. “But,” she continued, “I do have a few more awesome styles in mind if Anya is up for them.” The monitor began to fill with exclamation marks. “I said ‘if’!” Beth repeated.

Anya stood and patted her best friend’s arm. “Thank you for standing up for me,” she said to her friend. Then she turned to the cameras. “So yeah. Because we’re definitely not going to do a broadcast next week, I want to live with this hair a few days before I decide whether to go forward. Which means there won’t be voting/fundraising pages up tomorrow. But stay tuned, and I’ll post an update in a couple of days. In the meanwhile, I just want to say thanks again to everyone who contributed to this fundraiser, even if you really only did it so you could watch someone get her haircut live on social media. I’m going to go wash this hairspray out of my hair and I’ll see you all soon.”

Jack signaled that the cameras had stopped rolling, and Beth started to sweep up all Anya’s hair on the floor.

Anya began to walk toward her bathroom. “You guys okay if I go wash this stuff out of my hair now? That way I can also try styling it while Beth is still here to give me some pointers”

Without looking at her friend, Beth replied: “You’re not washing your hair yet.”

“Oh?”

“Jack and I lined up something fun for tonight.”

“During a pandemic?”

Beth stopped sweeping and looked at Anya. “Fun and safe. Just the three of us, plus Lulu.”

“Your designer friend?”

“Yup.”

Anya looked skeptically between her lover and her best friend. “What did you two do?”

“You know that speakeasy-style bar downtown? They’re still not allowed to operate other than doing takeout cocktails because they don’t serve food and the governor isn’t letting any bars operate without dining service, so they’re looking for any way they can bring in some extra money right now. We rented it out for the evening and we are going to meet Lulu there right now for a Jazz age-styled photo shoot.”

Anya’s eyes lit up. How many times had she and Beth read The Great Gatsby when they were younger, afterward pouring over the movies and music of the roaring twenties? It wasn’t an aesthetic she had pursued into adulthood, but it was still a weakness. “You guys…” she began, looking from her best friend to her lover and back again.

“It was all Beth’s idea,” Jack chimed in. “I’m just the guy behind the camera.”

“About that,” Beth said. “I’ve asked Lulu to bring some men’s outfits to the speakeasy, too. I think Anya’s going to need a handsome bartender or a piano player or something in some of these photos. Only…”

Anya and Jack turned to look at her simultaneously. They knew what was coming next.

“Only your hair isn’t quite right.”

“Beth!” Anya exclaimed. Jack said nothing, but his cheeks flushed slightly.

“What?” the stylist said in mock innocence.

“Did I not literally tell you earlier tonight to leave his hair alone? I like it just the way it is. He likes it just the way it is.”

“Actually…” Jack chimed in. The women looked at him. “It is beginning to get maybe a little too long?” His voice went up at the end as if he were asking a question, but it was more because he was trying to plead his case with Anya.

She sighed with exasperation. “It’s your hair,” she said to Jack. Then Anya turned to Beth. “Please not too much?”

Beth gestured to the empty stool and looked at Jack. “My chair’s open.”

Jack walked toward the stool, pausing to give Anya a little peck on the cheek. “Don’t worry,” he whispered in her ear. “It grows back.” He squeezed her hand and sat.

Beth wrapped a tissue strip around Jack’s neck, then shook out her cape dramatically and let it fall across Jack’s broad shoulders. “Let’s get started, shall we?”

To be continued…


Hi everyone! Thanks again for reading and for the positive comments you’ve left on previous installments. I’m currently planning on two more parts, but then I was originally only planning on this being four parts total, so time will tell.

Also. because I know folks around here have very strong feelings about the inclusion of men’s haircuts on HSN stories (in that they’re either super interested in them or super uninterested in them), I do want to address where this installment left off: I do not plan to begin the next part with Jack’s haircut. I don’t know as much about men’s haircutting and frankly I’m not all that interested in writing about it.

3 responses to “The Influencer and the Donation, Part 6

  1. Another great installment — thank you for continuing to share this story. I always love bits like “Gonna be a while before you can wear a ponytail again…” Really brings home the extent of the change happening.

    1. So grateful for your continued support and enthusiasm. And yeah, I like to be able to emphasize the difference across cuts. It’s been a while since I went through any sort of “drastic” hair change but the sudden shock of “I can’t put my hair up in a ponytail anymore” is a feeling I’ve experienced more than once and it’s exciting in its own way.

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