THE HAIRDRESSER’S GIRL
Content Warnings: Mention of death
The shop is quiet and still. My reflection flickers in the tall mirrors on the sides of the room, even though the lights are off. The floor is bare, the place uninhabited. The hairdresser left to be buried underground four years ago, and no one has shown willing to own the building since.
I reach for the light switch, but the wall is flat and smooth where it used to be. Something skitters across the hardwood floors – either a mouse or her shoes. The hairdresser always did like to wear high-heeled boots and let the flat parts of her soles scrape against the ground.
Her silhouette steps out from behind the shadows. She looks the same as before, and wetness catches at the top of my throat. Without noticing, her absence had brought upon me a drought. I hadn’t thought I minded when she first passed from this town and left me behind. She could not have cared for me forever. I, too, could not grieve her forever and so had promised myself not to begin.
I wave; she pulls out a chair for me to sit down. On the desk before me is another mirror, in which I see myself and the mirrors on the walls. The hairdresser thought customers would trust her more if they could watch her hands. I trust her regardless, though. I do.
I tell her she doesn’t need to put on gloves; I’m not here for a touch-up. I just want to see her, just miss her, just want to see how she’s doing.
She combs through my hair with her fingers, slow and gentle, the way she does to tell me how soft it feels. The first time she told me that, I was six, and my feet couldn’t touch the floor when seated. I didn’t get what she meant and had to be told it was a compliment. I like hearing those words now.
Her nails scrape against my scalp. It’s not on purpose. Metal clangs against the counter; she’s fumbling for scissors. With her empty hand, she tugs at a few strands right at the base of my head. It’s a silent question: Will you let me? I can’t see their colour, not in this dark, but I know what she’s referring to. My little grey hairs.
The first time she found them, I must’ve been sixteen, seventeen. She asked if she could pull them out. Her own hair was dyed; she hid her grey hairs like they were something to fear. I thought the notion ridiculous and declined her offer.
Now, I don’t tell her to stop. She snips away, rhythm inconsistent. Once done, she sets the scissors back down on the counter and smooths my hair. The blade, barely kept afloat by the handle’s plastic, teeters. She ruffles my hair, messing up her work, and pulls the chair back so I can leave, almost as if saying, ‘Go on now, you’ve spent your time here.’
S.L.W. is a biracial teen writer from Ontario, Canada. Her work has been previously published in Southchild Lit and Ice Lolly Review. You can find her on Twitter @slwwrites.