Gwen was grateful to finally get back to her apartment. The day had been long and stinking hot, a proper New York summer day.
She dropped her keys on her kitchen counter before sitting herself down on the couch.
“Melanie?” she called out.
The silence that followed confirmed her suspicion that her roommate was out.
She flicked on her TV and scrolled through Netflix, looking for something to distract her mind. Today hadn’t been a great success. Gwen was a model, and had been for the last 2 years. She had just returned from a casting and she already had that feeling she wasn’t going to get a call back. She sighed at the memory of the casting agent saying “We’ll let your agent know by tomorrow” in a highly unenthusiastic tone, almost implying she would yet again be overlooked.
Her career had started with so many bookings she thought to herself. Her beautiful auburn hair and pale angelic like complexion had attracted many organisations and companies to reach out to her for shootings. Now they seemed to be coming thin and few between.
She turned off the TV and threw the remote down on the coffee table, annoyed at her fortunes. She decided a nice shower would cool her down and maybe clear her mind a bit.
She walked to the bathroom, turned on the water and undressed before stepping into the shower. The cool water was refreshing. She reached for her shampoo and began washing her thick head of hair. Conditioner followed and afterwards her hair was left feeling silky and clean. She left the shower, wrapped a towel around her and examined herself in the mirror. She had beautiful green eyes but the thing people noticed about her first had to be hair. It was a deep auburn, thick with a slight wave when dry and fell well past her bra strap. Gwen loved it. It had been this length or similar for 8 years, ever since an ill advised shoulder length cut when she was 13. Using another towel she gathered up her hair and pulled it into a wrap on top of her head.
She walked into the kitchen to see what there was to eat, it was already 8:30 and she was starving. The leftover thai takeout she found in the fridge would suffice. She sat on a stool at the kitchen bench and pulled out her phone. As she went to unlock it it began to ring.
Ben Kerr popped up on her screen, her agent.
A slight twang of hope sprung up inside her. Maybe she did get that booking after all?
“Gwen! How you doing?” he replied enthusiastically
“I’m good, trying not to melt right now I guess”
“Ahah same here, and my AC is officially broken. So that’s great”
“At least you had AC” she replied with a bit of resentment as she looked at the cheap fan she bought at the beginning of summer
“Anyways how did that casting go?”
“Ummmm, I don’t think too great if I’m honest” She realised with this question that he hadn’t received a message from the casters
“Shame, shame. Those people are assholes most of the time trust me.”
“Yeah I wasn’t loving their vibe” she admitted
“Look I’m calling because i’m wondering if your free at all tomorrow? I know you normally have work on Fridays.”
“Well I’m off at 3. Why?”
“I’ve actually received a request for you”
This was unusual as normally Ben would be the one sending out requests trying to find Gwen companies to work with.
“Really?” she replied excitedly
“Yup and guess who with?” he didn’t wait for her reply “Bobbi Brown”
Gwen has surprised. Bobbi Brown was one of largest makeup companies out there, you could see their adds in Vogue magazine or on the subway. She had shooting with similarly large companies back when she first started but not one of this stature for at least 9 months or so.
“Wow” she replied with a chuckle. “I mean that’s a real good surprise”
“Yes I’m seriously excited about this. They were hoping to see you at 5 so I think that works out perfectly right?”
“Yeah I can definitely make that”
“But there is something I should tell you”
“Okay?” She was slightly confused.
“They want to know if your okay with them giving you a haircut”
She was taken by surprise. Normally she would have hair and makeup before a shoot but her hair had never actually been cut
“A haircut?” She began unwinding her hair from the towel upon her head.
“I mean what sorta haircut?”
“They didn’t really specify, they just said something shorter. Maybe it’ll be to your shoulders or something.”
She instinctively grabbed her now loose hair. To her shoulders would be a whole foot of hair. How could Ben say that so casually she thought.
“I don’t know Ben, you know I really like my hair how it is”
“Cmon Gwen this is such a great opportunity. Seriously this could do wonders for your career. Who cares what they do to your hair it’s gonna look good no matter what.”
Gwen wasn’t so sure.
“Look Ben can you maybe give me a bit of time to think about it? I’ll text you later tonight?”
“Sure, think it over”
“Okay thanks so much, I’ll text you later tonight if I want to do this”
“Sounds good, talk to you later”
She hung up and set down her phone. She didn’t know what to think. She was amazed that Bobbi Brown had reached out specifically for her. But the request for them to cut her hair scared her. She loved her hair and it was a sort of security blanket to her. She ran her fingers through it as she pondered her dilemma. She walked into the bathroom again and folded her hair so it ended just past her collarbone. She shuddered at the thought of her hair ending there.
She heard keys jangling and the front door swing open. Melanie was home. Gwen wandered back into the kitchen and saw here roommate setting down a grocery bags on the counter.
“Hey” Melanie called out
“Hi” she replied and walked over. “What you get at the store?”
“Got some tortillas and other stuff for mexican, some more fruit, that’s pretty much it” Melanie was dressed smart in a white blouse with a grey skirt.
“And how was your day at the office then?” Gwen asked. Melanie has recently begun an internship at a well respected law firm.
“Pretty good” she replied as she unpacked her shopping “I’m still everyone’s bitch, running around printing stuff, getting coffees. But that’s to be expected you know”
Gwen nodded back
“How about you? You had a casting right?”
“Yeahhhh… really didn’t go too well unfortunately”
“Ahh” Melanie looked up giving an understanding look to Gwen. “Sorry to hear about that”
“But I actually got another call just a few minutes ago from Ben”
“Oh yeah?” Melanie tucked one of her hairs back behind her ear as she looked up interested. Her dad was Chinese which gave her dark and thick hair. It was cut reasonably short for Gwens standard, just off her shoulders in a stylish and professional looking bob.
“Well I’m not too sure about it. They want to cut my hair.”
Melanie’s eyebrows raised in surprise.
“Hmmm, thats different. Do you know what sorta style?”
“Ben doesn’t know. They just said shorter, he said maybe to my shoulders”
Melanie’s lips went in an O shape, knowing that would be a big change for her roommate.
“Do you know who the shootings for?”
“Like the makeup company?”
“Holy shit, that’s sick. I mean they’re massive.”
“I know I know. But I mean I’m just not sure.”
“No Gwen c’mon this could be massive”
Exactly what Ben said Gwen noted.
“I know but…” she trailed off
Melanie came to her side.
“It’s just hair Gwen remember. This is gonna be so big for you”
She was hoping her roommate would back up her apprehension towards the idea but so far it was the complete opposite.
“Just last week you were saying how one day you would change up your hair”
“When did I say that?”
“Remember when Maggie and Sam came over?”
Gwens mind went back to a hazy memory of a girls wine night a week or so ago. She remembered saying something along those lines.
“I mean I was drunk”
“They say you speak the truth when your drunk” Melanie added playfully. “Seriously Gwen I don’t want you to regret this. Hair grows back, this sorta chance might not come back again.”
Gwen knew she was right. How could she be so attached to hair to consider turning down an offer like this.
Gwen sighed. “You’re right.”
“I almost always am” she replied cheekily
She opened her phone and went to her messages
*I’m in for tomorrow* she texted Ben
Gwens alarm rang at 6. She worked part-time at a nearby cafe and her shift started in an hour. She pulled herself out of her bed and made her way down the corridor to the shower. While washing her hair she had the realisation that she might not get to wash her hair at its current length for a while. She pushed that thought to the back of her head. ‘I’m overthinking it’ she said to herself. They had just said something shorter. It could mean a couple or inches off or maybe just some layering. Ben probably said shoulder length as the worst case scenario. For some reason however she couldn’t calm her nerves. She hopped out of the shower and began towel drying her auburn mane before combing it out. After she was pleased with her hair she applied her makeup before heading back to her room. She picked out a simple white top and a dark denim skirt. She checked the time: 6:40. She made her way to the kitchen and grabbed a banana. She sat at the counter eating while scrolling through her Instagram feed.
Just as she was about to leave she heard movement up the corridor. Melanie was heading to the shower herself.
She poked her head around the corner
“I got that shoot at 5 so I’ll probably be coming home late”
“Sounds good. Lemme know how it all goes” as she turned back to the bathroom.
Gwen left and made her away around the block. It was only a couple minute walk to her cafe.
The day went by fast, Gwen was busy making coffees, taking orders and wiping down tables. Before she knew it her shift was already over.
She had 2 hours before her shoot time so went home to change. She had been so busy she had almost forgotten her upcoming haircut. She told herself not to get worked up. Countless people in the modelling industry had complimented here on her luxurious locks, they would probably just cut a few inches. She looked down at her ends. ‘I actually need a trim’ she remarked.
She entered her apartment and changed into a navy blue dress that went to her mid thigh and put on her black Doc Martens. She looked in the mirror, satisfied with how she looked and then lounged on the couch with her phone. The studio was about 30 minutes away so Gwen grabbed her bag and left at 4:15, not wanting to risk being late. She hailed a cab and was grateful for the cool air conditioning inside. She looked outside absentmindedly as her driver snaked through the traffic.
“Here you go” the cabbie announced as he pulled to the side of the road.
“Thank you” Gwen said as she paid and stepping out onto the sidewalk.
The studio was directly in front of her. The door was large and she swung it open and was greeted by the cool gush of air conditioning. Ahead of her was a reception desk with a stylish looking waiting area to both sides. There were large overhanging lamps and one side had a wall forest.
Gwen walked towards the desk. A sharp looking women in a fashionable suit was typing at her laptop and looked up as she arrived.
“Good afternoon, how can I help you?” she asked politely.
“Hi, my name’s Gwen Levine, I’m here for the Bobbi Brown shoot?” She felt quite proud to say that
“Ah yes perfect” she motioned to the hallway to her left. “If you head through that you’ll see stairs. The shoot is happening in the upstairs studio.”
Gwen smiled back “Great thank you”
She walked through the hallway and up the wide stairs. The whole inside had exposed brick, something Gwen thought was very trendy. She reached the top and pushed through the double glass doors. She was now in the studio. She looked around.
To one side she saw where most of the shoot would take place she assumed. Plenty of cameras were set up with a white canvas hung up. She noticed one girl was already having pictures taken. Scanning her eyes she saw a makeup chair where an artist was busy with the makeup for another model. Then she saw a large mirror on wheels. In front of it a salon chair and against the wall next to it a washing basin. Gwen swallowed. She couldn’t deny she was nervous.
A young man with a clipboard hurried over to her.
“Gwen?” he said looking up from his clipboard.
“Great follow me” he lead her towards the group of people milling around the shoot set.
“I got Gwen Levine here for you Scott”
A middle aged man with salt and paper hair turned around.
“Ah amazing” He flashed a smile at Gwen. and extended a hand “Great to meet you, I’m Scott Wilmers head of today’s shoot”
“Great to meet you too” Gwen said as she shook his hand
“I’m first gonna send you to hair and makeup okay? Then I’ll explain to the general idea behind today’s shoot.”
“Ok no problem” she replied
The man with the clipboard motioned her to follow him as he walked towards the other side of the room.
“I’ll take you to the stylist”
“Gerard” he called out to a man who was in a conversation with another women.
He turned around. He was younger than Gwen would’ve expect maybe in his late 20s not much more than 7 or 8 years older than her. He had a slight stubble and dark curly hair.
“Hi Gwen, it’s a pleasure to meet you” he too extended his hand
Gwen shook it as she said “Likewise”
“Im Gerard I’m the stylist here. How are you doing today?”
“All good” Gwen smiled back
“Why don’t you come take a seat and we can start discussing what the plan with your hair is”
Gwen nodded. The nerves were starting to kick in. Gerard walked to the salon chair and turned it towards her. She followed and sat herself down into the chair which he then turned towards the mirror. He then moved her hair from behind her so it fell over her shoulders down the front of her chest. When she was siting it almost fell to her thighs.
“Well I gotta say I’m so happy you are okay with us cutting your hair short”
Gwen thought he misheard him. The word short almost stung her. She could feel she was about to panic.
“You mean shorter” she tried to correct him
“Well shorter yes” he said implying that she was technically correct “Just quite a bit shorter” He smirked.
She tried not freak out. She clearly was not going going to be losing just a couple inches. Short probably meant to her shoulders she assured herself. It would be dramatic but she would survive she told herself.
“So what sorta style are we going for?” she dared to ask. Her mouth went dry as the words came out of her mouth.
“Well It’s gonna to be dramatic okay? But you trust us right?” he put his arms on her shoulders.
Gwen could feel her body beginning to lock up. She barely managed a nod
“Well you know Mia Farrow?”
Gwen felt as though she was gonna be sick. ‘No, no, no, no’ she thought to herself. He must be kidding.
Gerard took her silence as a no. He pulled her hair away behind her head in a sorta pony tail mimicking what the style would look like. “Well it’s gonna be only a couple inches all over” he stated matter of factly. “The sides a bit shorter actually, with some short sorta bangs”
Gwen couldn’t believe her ears. This could not be happening. It was her worst nightmare coming true. She tried to plot her escape. She could simply say no and walk right out of the door she came in. She knew wouldn’t be stopped, they couldn’t force her to do anything. But she felt trapped. ‘How embarrassing it would be if I stormed out’ she thought. Not to mention what she would say to Ben and Melanie. This was too important of a opportunity. She couldn’t simply leave.
“You’re okay with this?” Gerard asked, breaking her train of thought
“Yep” she managed with a slight nod. She couldn’t believe she had just signed away her hair to this stranger so easily.
He let go of her hair and let it fall down her back.
“Amazing. You’re gonna look stunning trust me Gwen” he said looking at her through the mirror. “I’ll get my assistant to wash you first then I’ll see you back at the chair, alright?”
Gwen nodded silently. A young man similar to her age appeared next to her and she stood up and followed him to the basin. Gwen was at least thankful that her cropping would be delayed for a few moments.
“I’m Thomas by the way” the assistant said as she sat down. He put a small towel around her shoulders.
“Gwen” she managed a smile back
“So you’re the one getting the super short cut?” he asked as he gathered up her hair and placed it in the basin.
“That’s me” she managed. Her throat was so dry the words would barely come out.
“Well I gotta say this is tons of hair” he said as he turned on the water.
She didn’t reply. It was almost as if he was trying to scare her even more. She began to wonder if Ben had tricked her. ‘Perhaps he knew exactly what cut I would be getting’ she pondered, ‘And knew I would be too scared to go through with it’. She dismissed the thought. ‘I trust him’ she thought.
Thomas began working in shampoo. Normally Gwen loves this feeling at the salon, but with the knowledge all but a couple inches of her hair is gonna be left on her head in an hour, she struggled to enjoy it.
Thomas didn’t say anything else as he rinsed away the shampoo before applying conditioner. He massaged her head some more before rinsing away the conditioner and turning the water off. Gwen shuddered, her haircut was only moments away now.
“Alrighty all done, you can head back over to the chair”
Gwen stood up slowly. The chair was only 20 feet away, no matter how slowly she moved she couldn’t delay this anymore.
Gerard was standing next to the chair, fiddling with his tools on a small wheeled trolley. He smiled as he saw her approaching. It almost felt as though her legs would give way as she made the short walk to the chair. Her heart was beating unbelievably fast, it felt as if she could pass out. She reached the chair after what felt like an eternity and slowly lowered herself into it.
He grabbed her hair and clipped it on top of her head. He then produced a white cape which he unfolded and shook out. He then swung it over her body and clipped it around her neck. He released the hair, some of it falling across her shoulder, the dark red of her hair contrasting the white. He walked to her side and reached into his trolley, producing a comb. She felt her hair being pulled back and she could feel him combing from root to tip.
“It really is lovely hair” he noted “But you’ll look even better without it” He looked at her in the mirror giving a reassuring smile. Gwen didn’t feel anymore reassured.
Gwen didn’t appreciate his attempt at a compliment and didn’t reply. She was busy trying not to burst out crying. He continued combing out her hair, getting out every little tangle. After another minute or so he stopped.
“I’m going to section off your hair ok?”
he announced as he went to reach for an elastic band. Using his comb he then made a section with the top of her hair, tying it into a small bun, letting the rest of her hair hang down around the cape.
She saw him move back to the trolley and reach for his scissors. Gwen gulped, it was gonna happen any moment.
“You ready for this?” Gerard asked with the scissors in his hand.
“Yes” she just about managed to say through gritted teeth. Underneath the cape her hands were gripping the armrest tightly.
He went to her right side, Gwen watching intensely through the mirror. He used his comb to pull aside a large section of hair. He then held this section with his left hand before placing the scissors at about ear length . Gwen took a deep breath. The scissors closed.
Snip, Snip, Snip
The scissors slid through her hair easily. Her hair was now in his hand. He held up the at least 20 inch long mass of red hair before dropping it to the floor. Gwen watched as the wet hair made a gentle slap noise as it hit the hard ground. She was in complete shock, this time yesterday she would’ve never imagined her treasured hair would be snipped off her head so ruthlessly.
She surveyed the damage. Her hair now barely covered her ears and it spiked out awkwardly. She felt the want to cry but held it together not wanting to embarrass herself.
Gerard now moved behind her. Her head was pulled back slightly as he combed another section. She could feel him pulling her hair together into what felt like a loose pony tail. Then she heard the scissors slicing through her hair again. After a few snips her head moved forward slightly. Again she could see him hold up another section of her hair, this one it was significantly more hair than the first, before nonchalantly dropping it next to the first section. She peered over to her right looking at the pile of her former mane, now laying lifeless on the floor.
He moved to her left side, where she only had a small amount of hair left. He quickly snipped away this last section too, letting it slide down the cape. Most fell to the floor but a few locks slipped down into her lap.
“Ok the bulk is cut off now” Gerard said as he went back to his trolley.
‘No shit’ thought Gwen. She looked at her reflection. Where only a few minutes ago her hair had streamed down the cape in abundance, it was now cropped horribly short.
She watched in shock as he pulled out a pair of clippers. She’d never seen these used on anyone expect boys at a barbershop she thought.
“Now I’m gonna crop the sides short”
She could only nod meekly in reply.
He came to his left side He used his comb to lift up a section of her hair, put the comb about an inch away for her scalp before running the clipper across the comb. Another 4 inches of hair fell into her lap. She could barely believe how more hair could be coming off her head still. Another section was sheared off, adding to the small pile growing on her lap. He continued and made his way to the back of her head. The same technique was used as her hair was cropped tight to her head.
He was now by her left and quickly sheared away the hair to the length his wanted. He put down the comb and attached an attachment to the clippers. He moved her head with his left hand at he ran the clippers around the edges of her head. The clippers on skin was a new feeling for Gwen and she flinched at the loud machine. He finally flicked it off.
Gwen took a deep breath. Her sides were now unbelievably short, not even long enough to grab it with her fingers she guessed.
He returned the clippers to the trolley. ‘At least that part was done’ she noted.
He then started undoing her hair on top of her head. He kept it in his hands and pulled it upwards in a ponytail. It was still at its original length. Gerard reached for his scissors again and wasted no time slicing through her remaining long her. It came free and he casually dropped the mass of hair on her lap. It made a soft thud as the wet hair landed on the cape.
Gwen looked down at her lap. Shorter clippings were now mixed with the makeshift ponytail. ‘How do I have so much hair’ she remarked ‘Had’ she corrected herself.
Using his fingers Gerard began pulling upwards sections of about 6 inches in length before cutting them in half. More hair fell down into her lap. He worked quickly pulling up sections of hair before snipping away everything above his fingers. The top wasn’t gonna be much longer than the sides Gwen realised in horror. She had hoped to at least have something to play within top. The last section he reached was her bangs which after he snipped away didn’t quite reach halfway to her eyebrows. Her bangs plopped down onto lap. She couldn’t believe the amount of hair just laying on her lap. Then she thought about how much more was scattered around the floor.
“Think we’re just about done” Gerard announced as he tousled the top of her hair.
Gwen turned her head. The sides were cut impossibly short, with no more than an inch left, and the top was only 3 inches or so long. She felt sick. How had she let this man cut away so much of her beautiful she thought to herself.
“What do you think Gwen?”
“It’s a big change” She said continuing to turn her head surveying the damage.
“Really brings out those eyes” he continued “and trust me it’s gonna be so much easier for you to maintain.”
He reached and unclipped her cape. He shook it off her sending the rest of her hair flying to the floor. Gwen uneasily stood up. She looked at the floor. Her hair was spread out around the chair, evidence of the dramatic shearing she had just endured. Some were close to 2 feet long, others just a couple inches.
She put her hands up to her head. The feeling took her breath away. If it looked short it felt even shorter. She couldn’t even grab any of the hair on the sides. She reached back to her nape, to find it was prickly.
“Woah” she muttered under her breath
The rest of the shoot went by in the blur, with Gwen for the most part still in shock from her cropping. The reactions from everyone at the shoot was positive in regards to her haircut which at least lifted her spirits. The representative from Bobbi Brown was especially impressed, calling her haircut a brave sacrifice.
She didn’t leave the studio until just after 9. She walked outside, the cool breeze feeling incredible on her now bare nape.
She checked her phone to see a text from Melanie
how did it go??
She gave a slight smirk as she texted her response
you’re not gonna believe your eyes
Gwen was grateful to finally get back to her apartment. The day had been long and stinking hot, a proper New York summer day.