The New Neighbour – Nikki M
I was folding my clothes whilst gazing out the window of our new house. We’d just moved upstate, as my mom had separated from my Dad and also relocated for a new job. My brother and I were anxious about the new change, but both knew a fresh start was best for mom. He was 14, I was 18, I’d just finished high school and was about to do a gap year pre-college. I had all kinds of overseas travel plans, but that was now on hold due to Covid, worst! I probably felt for my brother Tim more, he was the one attending a new school and having to make new friends etc. He was a bit of a computer nerd at the best of times, so I feared he may struggle to make friends quickly.
As mentioned I was looking out the window and noticed mom conversing with the neighbour over the white picket fence. She looked to be slightly younger than mum, definitely more fashionable lol. She had a dark bob haircut with straight fringe and thick red glasses, very trendy for someone in her early 50s I would guess? Mom was super friendly, always chatting to everyone, so it was no surprise that she’d already met the neighbour. They seemed to be getting on well.
That night whilst we sat at the dinner table mom brought up her conversation with the neighbour. We all twirled our pasta and ate in silence. “So I met our neighbour today…, she’s lovely” she exclaimed and paused. “Her name is Sophia….she’s a barber, Tim….”. My brother looked up out of his pasta bowl looking like he literally couldn’t care less. “You’re going over there tomorrow for a haircut..”.
“What, why?” he protested. “I don’t need one”
As I said earlier, my brother was a video game/computer nerd. His hair was actually gross, long, greasy, just gross. Him and his mates all looked the same and seemed to have low regard for basic hygiene. I chewed slowly with a smirk and watched the conversation unfold.
“You look like a slob, Timothy. And besides, you start your new school on Monday and it’s far more strict than you’re used to! Sophia apparently knows the principle and does all the boys in the neighbourhood to the school standard”.
One thing I will say about Dad, he definitely looked after us financially and had sent my brother to the best boys school in the state. I think Tim was in for a bit of shock.
“But Mooomm! I’ll look like an idiot, I’m trying to fit in!” he protested.
“..and if you don’t get a haircut you certainly wont fit in and certainly won’t be welcome at that school! Your father is paying a fortune to send you there! ” she hissed. She was angry now as he sulked. “This is not up for debate, you’re going in the morning, don’t be so rude and ungrateful!’
That had set the tone for the night, I cleared the dishes whilst you could cut the tension in the air with a knife. After I’d cleaned up I went up stairs to sit on my computer and Skype with some friends back home. I could hear muffled yelling down stairs of them still arguing. Tomorrow morning would be interesting.
I woke up pretty refreshed and could hear my brother in the shower next door. This was rare, so I suspect Mom had won the battle. I made my way down stairs to breakfast where Mom sat reading the newspaper and drinking coffee. She looked up at me, “morning, love” she smiled as she sipped from her mug. “Now I’m going down town to get a bunch of things this morning, are you ok to take Tim next door..??” she posed.
My eyes rolled, “Really mom?? He’s 15, surely he can walk 50yards and get a haircut without supervision??” I queried.
Mum looked over her glasses, “It’s more making sure he actually goes, they’ll send him home on Monday if he shows up looking like that”.
“Fine, you owe me..” I mumbled
“Thank you, love. You should get a quick trim too whilst you’re there, it’s been awhile…” she chirped.
I looked at her with a confused look whilst fingering the ends of my long brunette hair. It was dead straight and fell just past the middle of my back. I’d never really done anything with it other than a trim a few times a year. “..uh, I think i’ll wait until I find a salon in town…”, I said as a walked up stairs to get ready.
After doing my makeup and wrapping my hair in a long messy bun I threw on some jeans, white t-shirt and made my way down stairs. Tim was sullen, slumped at the kitchen table. “Ready to go, recruit?” I said teasingly with a laugh.
“Samantha…” Mom looked at my disapprovingly. ” You two should head over now, it’s polite to be early. Now no bullshit from you Tim or else there will be no Fortnite for a month” she threatened. “There’s money on the front bench, I’ll be back at lunch”.
“Lets march” I said with a giggle. Tim rolled his eyes as we left with Mom out the front door and made our way to the neighbours front door. It was a beautiful large colonial style home, husband must have had a good job I thought. We knocked on the door and shortly a lady appeared, it was Sophia.
“Welcome Tim & Sam, my, that is some head of hair young man… let’s sort that out quick smart” she said peering over her glasses. As mentioned, she was quite stylish, lots of jewellery and a black short bob that looked like it was cut with a laser. She was quite tall too, wore leather leggings and a black high heel, maybe Louboutins even. Mum would never be that daring or trendy, neither would I! “Follow me down stairs kids, shop is setup in the basement”.
We followed her down the creaky stairs, her heels echoed on the timber. The overbearing note of her perfume had an expensive and mature sent to it. Sure enough the basement had been fully transformed into a barbershop. 2 shining red chairs with adjoining stations, maroon capes were draped over the armrests. Timber walls clad in photo-frames that looked to be images from the military? The bench-tops adorned with various barbering implements, I could tell Tim was very anxious. He’d never been the barber type, always went to the salon with Mom for the slightest of trims.
Sophia strode to what must have been her station. With a flourish she whipped the cape of the armrest and spun the huge chair to face Tim. “Come have a seat young man, let’s make a man out of you and get you school ready” she posed rustling the silky nylon wrap. Gingerly he made his way over to her and slowly sat down with trepidation. “There’s a good lad” She said in a slightly condescending tone taping him on the shoulder. The cape then billowed over him and the chair as he was facing away from the mirror.
“Your Mom said he starts at St.Johns on Monday?” she directed the question at me as she tore a long strip of tissue from a roll.
I nodded, “Yes, first day”.
“A fine school, I’ve known the principle, Cassandra, there since I was a young girl, we go way back. Since I left barbering at the military base, she sends all the boys here. She likes to maintain a certain standard…” she said as she reached forward and wrapped the tissue tightly around his neck. Tim fidgeted a little as she button the cape closed. “Not used to the barber’s chair I see young man?” She quizzed rhetorically., kind of looking at me. “Well, sit still and it’ll be over before you know it and you’ll be on your way”. There didn’t appear to be a consultation coming, just a ‘back to school cut’.
Still facing away from the mirror he looked at me to interject. I looked down at my phone whilst Sophia rummaged over tools, her bangles jingled. “Head down young man”, she quipped as she motioned with her hand. He looked at his maroon clad lap and no doubt gripped the armrests under the cape. Even I felt a little nervous and sorry for him.
A pop followed by a hum filled the basement. Her gloss patent leather heels pumped the pedal which caused him to ascend slightly. The clippers were placed at the base of his neck and she bag to make smooth passes upwards. With an expert flick of the wrist, dark hair began to tumble to a pile at Sophia’s feet.
Occasionally I looked up from my phone to assess the damage, skin was now starting to appear as she folded his ear back and made light work of the sides. She lightly chewed her gum as she expertly peeled him, there was no other word for it. I suspected he was so angry, but almost looked past that point, defeated even. She sternly adjusted his head to suit whichever area she was working, he cowered as the shearing continued. Not being able to see his reflection, his eyes were focused on the tufts that rained down on the silky maroon fabric and tumbled before him.
I shifted my gaze to the photographs that adorned the walls, mostly of her in what looked liked an army barbershop posing with various soldiers etc. Made sense after he comment about the barracks earlier and light work she was making of my brother. My attention was then averted as I heard some more footsteps coming down the timber stairs. Another client I assumed?
“Morning love” said Sophia without taking her eyes off her work.
I looked up from my phone and was slightly taken aback. There was a female standing there, perhaps late twenties, early thirties. Black leather ankle high boots with buckles and a cuban heel, extremely short denim cut-offs which virtually exposed her cheeks. She then had a white tank top that was tied in a knot to the side slightly exposing her mid-drift.
Aside from her athletic figure, her hair was the most striking feature. A shock of platinum blonde locks styled back in a high quiff juxtaposed against a severe skin fade on her back and sides. A full face of heavy but perfect makeup was capped off with huge gold hoop earrings in each ear. She wore a smokey eye and deep red lip. I could never do makeup as well as that, and certainly would never have the confidence for that haircut! She was incredible.
“Chari, this is the new neighours Tim and Sam” said Sophia whilst she continued clipping
“hey neighbourinos” she said confidently whilst standing in front of her mothers chair assessing the damage. Tim was too embarrassed to look up at her. “Back to school huh?” she smirked.
I looked down at my phone briefly until I heard a shuffle. Charli pulled the cape off the other chair and whipped it to get my attention. “I believe you’re next, miss?” she directed to me whilst spinning her chair to face me.
I went immediately clammy and my stomach lurched. With no confidence I managed to force a smile and stutter, “Oh…um I’m ok thank you, just waiting for him, thank you though”.
Sophia looked over at me over her glasses, “Your Mom said yesterday you were having a haircut, love… up you get, don’t be shy”
Assertive was one thing I was not… “Common, I wont bite…” said Charli biting her teeth together in a seductive manner whils chewing gum.
Still not sure what possessed me to do it, but I placed my bag down and submitted to the cape wielding beauty. She stood there bopping to the music that played on the radio whilst twirling the gown whilst waiting for me to be seated. I stepped onto the chair and eased my way back into the red leather cushion, now facing away from the mirror. With a flash I was enveloped in the oversized maroon cape. I looked over to Tim who was now having the top cut extremely short with a longer guard.
It was quite unnerving not being able to see anything. I sat patiently with my hands in my lap whilst I heard a paper tear. She stood behind me now, I was engulfed in her sweet feminine aroma. A band of tissue unexpectedly then swathed around my neck causing me to instinctively lift my chin whilst I still sat staring straight ahead. The cape was then fastened rather tightly and the chair began to jolt and rise as she pumped the pedal. There was a slight tug at my bun until it spilled free settling over the cape and the back of the chair
The jingle of jewellery was pronounced as she prepared her tools. I was waiting for the intro and discussion…but it never came. She began combing my hair out with a wide tooth comb. I’d washed my hair the night before so it wasn’t too knotty or anything. “Should I say something” I pondered whilst still trying to work out how I ended up in this chair. My foot nervously tapped on the foot-rest, hands so sweaty now clawed the studded arm rests and the lump in my throat pressed against the cape and tissue.
To be continued…..