The jittering in Beth’s hands had returned. It was worse in the left than in the right: some quirk of evolution no doubt. The left half of her body was always more emotional than the right. But it was uncomfortably moist in the room; dampness covered the seat on which she was tensely perching.
Beth hoped that the layer of wet that had congealed on the leather was just that – damp – and not lingering sweat. The saccharine sickly pop tunes that were buzzed into the room were the cherry of the top of the potent cupcake. This was not where she belonged, and she was sure that everyone knew it.
Facing the mirror, she analysed the face in front of her. A nose just slightly too large for her face, a mass of uncontrollable hair that tangled around her shoulders, and a downward facing slit of a mouth that usually resulted in a permanent resting bitch face.
This scrutiny was interrupted by the hairdresser, Tina. Time to relocate to the sinks and embrace the dreaded small talk which was stilted and awkward, as expected. Two words that summed up the majority of her social interactions.
“So have you got a busy day ahead of you then?”
“Just going into university for a bit.”
“Oh, uni? What is it that you study?”
“Oh, that must be interesting.”
Not soon enough, the first challenge of the ordeal was over. Now for the main event. She moved back over to the mirror to inspect herself – trying neither to look narcissistic or overly nosy.
“So which way does your parting lie then?”
How could she never remember this? The number of times she walked out of the salon with weirdly flipped hair was ridiculous. Surely she should know this by now? She pointed vaguely and trusted that Tina’s instincts would kick in and prevent her from looking like a fanny.
“Is it just a trim for you today?”
This was make or break time. A decision had to be made.
“Erm no actually. I want a bit of a change.”
“Ah. Okay then. How much would you like off?”
Tina pointed just beneath Beth shoulder. “Here?”
Beth shook her head.
“A long bob?”
“Do you know Emma Watson’s hair post-Harry Potter? The pixie bob?”
Tina looked puzzled. Eyed up the mane.
Beth had a moment of embarrassment. Was she making sense? Was she getting actresses mixed up again? Surely every professional in the beauty industry would know Emma Watson’s hair transformation. It was a huge fucking deal.
“Are you sure? Your hair is so lovely and thick.”
Of course. For her whole life Beth had been getting compliments on her hair, compliments that usually came with a ridiculous request. “Your hair is beautiful, never dye it!” “Don’t ever change it.” “Please grow it out!” Her own grandmother even threatened to haunt her from beyond the grave were she ever to experiment with colouring.
“Yes. I need a change.”
It was clear that Tina was still reluctant, but the scissors were ready and poised to snip the first slice.
A strand of hair as long as Beth’s forearm cascaded across the floor. Panic hit. Good God, what had she done? This wasn’t like the time when she cut off part of her fringe because it just wouldn’t sit right, or tried to dye her hair bright red for charity only to discover, rather humiliatingly, that there was no difference. She was going to have to live with the consequences of this decision for years.
The curtain of hair was still being scythed; half of it was now on the floor.
Another girl was sweeping the hair into a corner – there was so much of the stuff that Tina was finding it difficult to manoeuvre around. And then, finally: the snipping of the last strand. There was only a second to take stock of it all, before the razor began to whir. A bizarre ticklish buzz ran up the back of her neck. Tiny specks of hair trickled down her spine and made her squirm.
But Beth’s head felt… light. Never before had she realised quite how heavy all the hair had been. Her neck was suddenly exposed to all and sundry, and rather than make her feel naked, it was kind of liberating. And she could see. For once, there was no hair to restrict her peripheral vision.
The hairdresser brushed away some stray hairs; dusted away the spikes of red, as if she were a fossil. The final look was laid out in front of her.
It was even better than she had imagined. The girl in the mirror staring back at her didn’t look even a little bit like Emma Watson circa 2011, but she did look pretty cool. Without the heavy encumbrance of all that tress, she felt … free.