Mariane entered the hair salon, apprehensive about what lay ahead. Her long dark brown hair needed a light trim, but she’d moved recently and wasn’t familiar in the area.
The stylist that greeted her was strikingly beautiful, his face perfect in its high cheekboned androgyny. He introduced himself as Ivan.
“So what are we doing today?” he asked, flicking his long fair hair back over his shoulder, “Something dramatic? Short?”
“I’m really not sure about a shorter cut,” Marianne said, brushing her fingers through her long mane of hair. “I’m pretty attached to it and besides it’s so thick and healthy.”
“You’re right,” Ivan replied, “but that would just make the shorter cut look better.”
“Please, just a trim,” said Marianne and Ivan shrugged but acquiesced, trimming an inch off the ends of her cocoa-colored locks.
“If you reconsider,” said Ivan, his green eyes seeming to burn into her, “come back and I’ll really turn you into something special.”
Marianne smiled nervously and nodded, thinking how exquisite he was. The thought of returning for a more drastic change intrigued her, but she shook it away.
She left the salon feeling happy with the results and went home to take care of some chores around the house, but the thought wouldn’t leave her head. What were his plans? What did Ivan have in mind for her? Eventually, she couldn’t help returning to the little salon on the high street, the curiosity was just too much. He turned when the bell jingled over the door and smiled when he saw her.
“Ready to give something shorter a try?” he asked snapping his scissors teasingly.
Marianne bit her lip.
“I– I’m just curious, what kind of style did you have in mind?” she asked and he gave her a wicked grin.
“Now that would be telling,” he replied, “if you decide to let me do it, it’s just going to have to be a surprise.”
Much to Marianne’s shock, she found herself saying, “Alright, well if you won’t tell me there’s only one way to find out.”
“Good girl,” he said and motioned for her to sit in the chair. She sat looking down at her own hair, which hung loose about her in thick masses of dark waves. He lifted the heavy tresses expertly as he swept a cape around her before setting about dampening and sectioning her mane. He did his work with the efficiency of long practice and she knew she was in good hands even as he turned her away from the mirror.
“Hmm,” he said, “let’s get rid of the length and see where we are then.”
He began to snip. Great swaths of dark hair fell with a swish to the floor and she felt the strange sensation of the breeze from the air conditioning tickling the back of her neck as he cut. Her stomach twisted into knots of anxiety, but there was no turning back now. Her hair would be short and there was no getting around it.
Once the length was gone, she could feel the ends of her hair brushing against her jaw. It was terrifying and yet the vulnerability under his graceful hands was strangely erotic. He let down the top section and her hair again touched the floor as she sat. Her tresses were so thick that it probably looked as if nothing had happened but then came the metallic “snick” of the scissors and that sensation of tension and release as the blades closed and several feet of hair fell onto the tiled floor, gone, irretrievable.
He resectioned her hair and continued to cut, shorter locks falling now, measuring in inches or even millimetres rather than feet. Still, her hair was already so short! He layered her hair expertly, cutting it to shape before he put the scissors down and went to mix the bleach.
She didn’t dare peep. It felt as if he’d know somehow. She clung white-knuckled to the chair. What had she done? She had loved her hair. She had cared dutifully for it every day, brushing and conditioning, braiding it carefully before bed every night. How would she look without it. She knew the smell when he came back.
“Bleach?” she thought, “he’s going to change the color? How light is he going to go?”
He chatted to her about nothing, about the weather, about the music she liked, the music he liked as he applied the creamy concoction that would strip the pigment from her hair. So it was not merely length she would lose today, but the very molecules of melanin that had given her hair its rich black coffee shade as well.
“I can’t believe I’m doing this!” she thought, “and all because I was curious about what he wanted to do.”
She felt as if she were in a dream as she waited under the heat lamp to process. Next came the rinse, toner, deep conditioner, and then little metal clips and a perfumed solution.
“A perm?” she asked, anxiously, looking up at him appealingly and he laughed.
“No, cheri, a set,” he explained, “this is unfortunately not a wash and wear style, but don’t worry, I’ll teach you, but first let me work my magic.”
And so she let him, his fingers shaping the curls and pinning them in place on her head. Then it was off to the old-fashioned bonnet dryer that roared as she tried desperately to read a magazine even as she burned with curiosity as to what he had done. Her head was so light now without the weight of all that hair. When it was dry he carefully removed the clips and brushed out the resulting tight curls, shaping them with his graceful hands until they formed soft gleaming waves. When he’d finished with that he asked her if it was alright if he did her makeup.
She shrugged and acquiesced. A cotton pad swiped away what little makeup she had worn before, a little tinted moisturizer, mascara and lipgloss had been the extent of her cosmetics, but he painted her face, foundation, powder, brow pencil, rouge, scarlet lipstick, the whole nine yards until she was quite certain she looked no more like herself than she looked like a ballpoint pen. When he’d finished with that he smirked, and turned her towards the mirror.
She gasped, she hardly recognized herself. Mariane found she had been transformed into a vision, the soft halo of carefully coiffed platinum blonde hair framed a bedroom-eyed face with a full sensuous mouth. She looked like no one so much as Marilyn Monroe herself, glamorous, unearthly. Her skin almost seemed to glow subtly golden under the shop lights. Her hair was short, just as Marilyn’s had been, at the front not even quite reaching her chin. The plain linen tunic dress and flat sandals looked utterly out of place on the radiant vision of that long-dead screen siren she had become. It was almost eerie. She found her eyes welling with tears.
“What do you think?” he asked. She was speechless, catching sight of the massive pile of dark hair on the floor. It seemed practically a mountain to her. “All that was mine?” she thought in shock. She felt as if she were floating away from her body, or as if this were some strange dream. That face in the mirror simply couldn’t be hers. It was a trick. He was showing an old movie. He had to be.
But he wasn’t.
“Oh my God, it’s beautiful!” she exclaimed, “but… but I don’t look like me anymore.”
“You look like Marilyn,” he said, “but you should look like Marilyn, it’s right for you somehow.”
“But…” she said, her voice trailing off, “I feel so different.”
She had never thought herself this kind of beautiful. Before she had been more real and yet less carnal somehow. She’d been a natural beauty, and now she was… glamorous, a figure from a movie screen, unearthly and yet seductive, sexual in way she’d never allowed herself to be, never thought she *could* be.
“I don’t know how to feel,” she said, looking to him as if he could tell her.
“I can’t tell you how to feel about it, but I think you were meant to end up here, to be made into this.”
She nodded helplessly, entranced by her own reflection. It startled her every time she caught sight of herself, as if the mirror held a ghost, some face that didn’t belong to her.
He showed her how to apply the makeup, how to use the curlers and pins, how to brush her hair so that it took on the graceful waves of the style he had given her. The way the brush strokes just… ended now made her cry more. He put a hand on her shoulder, and she felt better. The makeup stayed in place through her tears, her skin kept its almost strange luminosity.
When he’d finished she looked at him.
“This dress doesn’t work anymore, does it?” she said.
“No,” he agreed, “but the boutique next door may have something.”
“Are they still open?” she asked. It had gotten late during the hours-long transformation.
“I have the keys,” he said without explanation and so she followed him out onto the dark street outside the salon door. It was past ten and the boutique was dark, the door locked but he pulled a ring of large heavy old fashioned keys from somewhere and put one into the lock.
The shop floor was full of strange shadows cast by the dim light from the street, the shapes of clothes racks and mannequins alien and unfamiliar. To her surprise, he didn’t turn on the lights instead walking in the dark towards the counter. She heard the strike of a match and light flared. He lit a candle held in a silver candelabra and then lit the rest from that first. The soft light did little to make the scene before her less strange. It was a luxurious place, crystal chandeliers, Persian carpets on the floor, and white painted wood panelling on the walls on which hung odd surreal paintings and antique taxidermy. All this was rendered stranger by the dim flickering light of the candles. The clothes in the place were in various styles, but all were glamorous, many were beaded or stoned or otherwise embellished, one had feather trim at the hem and neckline.
“Whatever you like,” he said with a wave of his hand, and she found herself drawn to a dramatically low-cut pink silk gown, and its matching pumps. He found her a rhinestoned evening bag and mink evening wrap to go with it. The stones glittered as if they were real in the flickering candlelight. They almost seemed alive.
“Oh that’s too much!” she protested, “I haven’t even paid you yet.”
She made good money but impulsively dropping the kind of money one spent on mink seemed madness.
“Oh, this? This is on the house,” he said.
She looked at him stunned.
“But that’s way too much, you hardly know me.”
“It doesn’t cost me anything,” he replied, and her brows knit.