Bullied Bald by Cliptomaniac
“Look, this just can’t go on!” Robert was furious. “They’ve been doing this for ages and it’s making you worse and worse. Do you want me to talk to them?”
“Don’t be ridiculous. That’d make me look a right idiot!” countered Sarah. “You’re half the reason they’re doing it anyway.”
“But if they threatened to strip you, I mean, come on. That’s hardly just girly name calling, is it?”
“Oh they wouldn’t do that. That would be sexual assault.”
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“Well, I wouldn’t put it past them,” Robert snapped, then saw his girlfriend was upset. He sat down beside her and gently stroked the curtain of jet-black hair from her face, revealing beautiful but timid eyes. He continued: “You know I’ll always be there and so will Trisha. If this happens again we’ll make a fuss even if you don’t. Stop being so proud, Sarah. You know you’ve got nothing to prove to us.”
“Oh, I can deal with it. I’m sixteen, not six. Whoever heard of a sixteen-year-old girl complaining about being bullied? They’ll get fed up if I ignore them long enough. Anyway, once I’ve got my GCSEs I’ll get out of that place.”
“Well I hope for your sake you’re right.” He stopped stroking her hair and turned his attention to the gash on her leg. “I don’t want to be kissing one of these better again.”
The bullying problem had seemed to come out of almost nowhere for Sarah. She had always been quiet, shy and fairly studious at her school, but for most of the time had not attracted the spiteful scorn of other girls. She had been very lucky in making friends with Trisha, a confident, bubbly and popular blonde in her year and also with Robert. He was a couple of years older than her and, strong and handsome, he could have had the pick out of most girls in the upper years. He and Sarah had become an item just before he left school to go to college. He knew she lacked confidence, but thought she was a sweet, thoughtful and beautiful person and he wanted to give her the confidence she needed to get what she so deserved in the world.
He had made his mistakes before. Before he met Sarah he’d become involved with a girl called Sonja with long brown hair who was loud, aggressive and egocentric. She was involved in a gang called the Sangbourne Sistaz, who dealt in drugs and protection on the local estate and even in the school. At the time, Robert thought this was pretty cool. Then he found out that Sonja had only been dating him to increase her standing with the other gang members. He left her and fell for Sarah, then left school, but Sonja could not get over him. Not that she loved him, she just felt gutted to lose one of her trophies, especially to a nerd like Sarah. This resulted in Sarah getting a little verbal abuse, but things didn’t stop there.
One day Sarah saw Sonja and her cohorts Sharon and Trina demanding money from a little year 8 girl. She preferred not to get involved, but someone else reported the incident. The girls were punished, but Trina had noticed that Sarah had been present. Fuelled by Sonja’s continuing resentment, they came to the conclusion that she must have grassed them. The abuse stepped up a gear, and now involved hair pulling.
Sarah’s best friend Trisha would often protect her verbally. They wouldn’t pick on Trisha because she was too confident and there were far too many other people willing to protect her. Then, when Trisha invited Sarah to a lavish, boozy party (she was quite rich) they tried to gatecrash. Sarah saw them coming, panicked and called the bouncer, Trisha’s burly cousin who was already quite drunk. He grabbed the girls in half nelsons and told them to “fuck off back to the gutter you ugly scumbag slappers!” This made the girls hate Sarah and her friendship with Trisha even more. Now the bullying was physical with threats of further violence or humiliation.
And so it was she’d sustained the kick in the shin and had the conversation with her boyfriend.
The next day she went to school with her friend Trisha, who assured her that she would protect her whenever possible and that if things got worse, she knew a couple of “handy guys” who owed her a favour. This made Sarah giggle. Trisha really was a girl about town. The two sat together in biology (Sarah’s favourite subject – she wanted to become a doctor or vet) and generally enjoyed each other’s company. Then the beeps went for them to go their separate ways, Sarah to English Lit and Trisha to chemistry. They parted company.
Sarah was walking towards the huts at the far end of the school when a boy from a lower year approached her. He looked a bit rough but was very polite.
“Excuse me, I’m new here. Do you know where the toilets are?”
“Err yeah. They’re in that building there.”
“I couldn’t get the door open.” Sarah knew the door was awkward, so with a bit of a condescending huff, she said, “Come on then,” and showed him how to open the door.
“There!” she said, “the boys’ room is second on the righ.…” There was an almighty shove from behind. Sarah fell forward and could vaguely hear the boy laughing. Then a hand cupped her mouth before she could scream and she was bundled into the nearby female toilets. Sonja and Sharon were waiting there and she realised it was Trina who had pushed her. Sonja had a red cloth in her hands that went straight into Sarah’s mouth once Trina had released her grip. Sarah was still trying to pretend to herself that this wasn’t happening and that at least, if the worst was going to happen then it might not be as bad as she thought.
She briefly surveyed her surroundings as Sonja fastened the cloth around the mouth. She saw a chair by the hand drying machine, then she saw that the hand drying machine was unplugged. Then she wondered why Sonja was taking so much care tying the gag around her mouth and not wrapping it round her hair. Then she saw what was plugged in at the hand dryer socket. Electric clippers, the type her mother had used to trim her brother’s hair. Oh, God no, surely not!
She became hysterical, and tears started to form in her eyes but the only sound she could make was a whimper. Her hands were still pinned behind her back by Trina. Sarah could hear Sharon scraping a heavy metal sign across the floor. It was the sign that said the toilets were being cleaned. They’d worked this out perfectly.
“Come in boys!” shouted Trina and then came back in with two younger lads, one of whom was the little ratbag who’d asked Sarah the way.
“Now!” announced Sonja when she was sure they would be undisturbed. “I think it’s time we taught this stuck-up little bitch a lesson once and for all.” She glared at Sarah and pointed to the chair. Sarah sobbed and tried to struggle. SLAP! The sound of laughter.
“Get in the chair you slut!” Sarah knew that any further resistance was useless. With more than a little encouragement from Trina she made her way to the chair and found her shocked, shivering body forced down and tied at the wrists and ankles by the three girls while the boys looked on grinning.
“By the way, meet my little brothers. They think you’re a whore too,” gloated Sonja.
“Right,” she went on. “We were thinking of debagging you, but you can always put your clothes back on. Besides you’re pretty used to being naked I should think.” (More giggles.) “No, we thought perhaps we should take away the one thing you can’t put back.”
Sonja picked up the dead clippers with one hand and stroked Sarah’s shoulder-length hair with the other. “Oh, your lovely hair Sarah. I wish I had soft black hair like that. I bet Robert loves stroking it. Well, we’re gonna make a few changes to your love life, baby.”
More laughter. Sarah could feel her whole face burning with tears and terror. She was almost becoming numb with her misery.
“Alright, sshhh. Not too loud,” Sonja admonished. “Now perhaps we could just leave her with a bit of hair. What do you think girls?”
“Not after what she did to us at that party,” snarled Sharon.
“And grassing us,” went on Trina.
“And stealing my boyfriend.” Sonja stared a dagger straight at Sarah’s now swollen eyes when she said this. “So lads, what do you think the punishment should be?”
“Shave it all off!” one laughed. The words caused another slow trickle of tears from Sarah’s exhausted eyes. Only now did she realise her nightmare was really going to come true. “And don’t forget to take the guard off!” said the other.
“Oops, nearly forgot!” said Sonja, taking off the comb that might have spared some of Sarah’s hair. Sarah knew all too well what this meant. There was a pop and the clippers hummed into action. “Right, Trina, do you want to do the first honours?”
“Yeah!” Trina couldn’t wait to take the clippers.
“Hold them at her forehead,” Sonja ordered. Trina did so and Sarah felt the hum of the dreaded machine poised at her hairline. The boys got excited.
“Right, quiet now!” Sonja went on, then stared at Sarah again and half-whispered, “Time to say goodbye to your beautiful hair, Sarah.” She then made an eye gesture at Trina. Sarah closed her eyes, so as to try not to betray yet more emotion… and then felt the humming passing over her head, crackling as it sheared away her hair to nothing.
“Yessss!” She could hear the assembled company rejoice under their breath once the first pass was made. There was also a rush of cold air to the now exposed part of her scalp. But she kept her eyes closed as pass after pass was made across her skull, trying to block everything off and stay in her own dark, tearful world. She was forced to open her eyes when she was slapped by Sonja and ordered to “wake up”, then something soft and black hit her. It was her hair, thrown back by Trina. “Thought you might like some of it back,” she sneered. The shorn hair caked itself to Sarah’s tearstained face. This sight made the boys laugh even more. “There, there,” said Sonja, “it’ll only take another year or so to grow back.” She started to stroke the exposed part of Sarah’s scalp and Sarah realised how hairless she was.
“Oy, Sharon, give us a go, you slag!” Trina snarled and a satisfied Sharon dutifully handed over the clippers. Trina was even more merciless, ploughing through Sarah’s locks without discretion or finesse. She carried on until there was only about an eighth of Sarah’s head left with hair, then Sonja took over, manhandling Sarah’s head violently to get the best contact. The gag came off to be replaced again by Trina’s hand as Sonja pushed Sarah’s head forward to clean up the nape. Sarah could now see the mass of her crowning glory lying on the floor and loose tears dripped onto her lap.
Finally Sonja was satisfied. She ran her hands over Sarah’s bald head, a job well done.
“Okay,” she gestured to Trina who took her hand from Sarah’s mouth. They knew now that Sarah was too beaten, too humiliated to try to scream. She stared straight ahead, trying to avoid the gaze. Suddenly a vanity mirror was in front of her. She could see her red eyes like saucers and the dome where just a shadow remained of the beautiful, glossy black hair that she had so often hidden behind. She let out an audible sob.
“Oh you poor lamb,” teased Sonja, rubbing the tiny stubble so that it made a rasping sound. “I can’t see Robert loving you any more when you look like this.”
“Glad we got this bitch before we left,” piped in Trina smugly.
“Yeah. Goodbye Sarah, it’s been nice knowing you. Such a shame it had to end like this,” added Sharon.
“And if we get expelled,” said Sonja, “we don’t give a shit. We want to get out of this shithole anyway.”
There was a noise outside. It seemed some girls were getting impatient for the cleaner to finish. “Shit let’s get a move on!” said Trina. Sonja grabbed the clippers and they all made a run for it, one of the boys sarcastically blowing Sarah a kiss as he left. For a few seconds, only the sound of her own sobbing kept Sarah company. Then there was a face at the door. A girl of about 13 came in, she stared at Sarah, bald and tied up in the chair and the pile of hair on the floor, disbelieving for a few seconds. Sarah was overcome with the worst kind of embarrassment.
“Shit, get a teacher Trace! I knew something was going on. Quick!”
Sarah heard the sounds of running outside then a murmur. She dreaded the thought of her misfortune becoming a spectacle for other girls yet somehow the little thirteen-year-old seemed understanding. She went to the door and told the other girls not to come in until a teacher came, then returned to Sarah.
“What happened to you?” she said.
“What do you think?” was all Sarah could reply. The girl seemed speechless but started trying to untie the binds on Sarah’s wrists and ankles. A teacher soon turned up and was shocked by what he saw. He worked on untying Sarah, then shooed other people away and called for yet another teacher. Then one girl came whose frantic voice Sarah knew.
“What did I tell you, get out of here!” yelled the teacher.
“Sarah, oh my God!” The girl’s face filled with tears. It was Trisha. She went up to the chair and put her arm round Sarah who again started crying. The mortified teacher carried on with his job releasing her.
Sarah was treated well in the next couple of hours, given hugs, medication, a bandana to cover her bald head and offered counselling. Trisha was also allowed to skip her next lessons and comfort her friend. Many witnesses had seen the Sistaz running from the toilets and Sarah was informed that they would almost certainly be expelled and charges could be pressed against them for GBH. This was little comfort to her, though.
When she got home, driven by a sympathetic teacher, her mother also cried. Her father promised retribution and her grandmother ranted about how those girls would’ve had the life thrashed out of them if they’d tried that in her day. But generally they rallied round and, through consultation with the school, agreed that Sarah should be given some time off to help her through her trauma. Trisha rang and informed Sarah that she’d told Robert what had happened. He had gotten really upset and said he’d like to press every charge possible against those scum. He however, added that he loved Sarah however she looked and would always support what she wanted. He said he would be round the following (Friday evening) at 8pm if that was OK.
This gave Sarah some time to recover, but when the time came she was more terrified than ever that he would no longer love her. She was sitting up in her darkened bedroom sobbing and sulking when 8pm came. Robert was just as nervous. He knew he would still love Sarah, but what if he showed physical shock at the way Sarah looked, or couldn’t help treating her differently. These were the main thoughts as he pressed the doorbell. Her mother answered the door, ashen faced. “She’s upstairs. I think you’d better knock on the door first,” was all she said.
Robert went upstairs and knocked on the door.
His stomach twisted with tension, he opened the door. Sarah was sitting there, her head covered in a colourful bandana, her huge eyes beseeching some response. Wordlessly he closed the door and took his place beside her on the bed and gently encircling her waist with his arm.
“I’m so sorry I couldn’t do anything. I let you down,” he said.
“I didn’t want you to do anything.”
“Let me see what those bastards did to you.” He reached for the bandana.
“No, Robert, please,” Sarah pleaded, her voice quaking with emotion and her hand grasping the thing that covered her bald shame for dear life.
“Then you do it. I will always think you’re beautiful, Sarah. If you can’t show it to me who can you show it to?”
This seemed to register with Sarah. Slowly and shakily, avoiding eye contact with Robert, she unhinged the bandana and let it slip to the floor.
First Robert touched her head. He felt anger that this had happened and yet privileged that Sarah had deigned to share it with him. After stroking and inspecting the back of Sarah’s scalp for about a minute he spoke:
“Look at me Sarah.”
Sarah looked up, her liberated eyes huge and wet, her ears small and pixie-like. “You don’t have to pretend you like it,” she said.
“I won’t,” he went on, “mind you, you look a bit like Robin Tunney in that film, only nicer of course.”
Sarah started back in horror. “You think I look good do you? You think they did me a favour?”
“Sarah,” his voice was quaking now, “the intent was there to destroy your beauty. That’s what I hate, the intent. But they failed and I still love you. Look at yourself in the mirror, go on.”
Reluctantly Sarah went and viewed herself in the mirror.
“Just look at yourself. Take away all the prejudice and shit in the world and look at how you really look,” he went on. “You’ve nothing to be afraid of.”
Sarah turned back to him. “I don’t believe you, but thanks anyway.”
They then enjoyed each other’s company as much as they could without Sarah’s parents hearing. Robert wanted to kiss and stroke her head, but Sarah still felt ashamed of it. When Robert left, she put her bandana back on, not even wanting her family to see the result of her misfortune.
That night Robert pondered over the Robin Tunney remark. He felt better now he’d seen Sarah but actually guilty that he didn’t think she looked that bad after what those evil girls had done. Needing someone to confide in, he rang Trisha, who was as close to Sarah as him but without the baggage.
“You know what, I didn’t think she looked that bad either,” he was amazed to hear her say.
“Yeah but you sort of feel she ought to look bad, because of how it was done,” he said.
“I understand how you feel. Look, those girls were expelled today but they’re allowed back on Tuesday for that careers thing. The teachers reckon it’s the only hope of stopping them becoming criminals. Look, Robert, I know this is crazy, but I think there’s a way we could really help out Sarah’s confidence and humiliate those girls.”
“Yeah. I was at school today and everyone wants to see them get their come-uppance. There was a lecture on bullying and everyone’s now saying they want to help Sarah and look after her, but I don’t think she’d want it like that.”
“So I want you to help me out, Robert. It’s a really crazy thing that I’m going to do. My boyfriend knows about it but he can’t do it because he’s away at the weekend.
“Alright then Trisha. What is it?”
Tuesday came. The school hall was crowded with almost all the older pupils of the school perusing various stands at the annual careers conference. The Sistaz were there, sitting together in arrogant solidarity, waiting for the careers officers to call their names. A lot of people gave them scornful looks, which were quickly returned as daggers. Then all of a sudden, the murmur in parts of the hall seemed to subside. Trisha’s latest boyfriend Kelvin was walking into the hall accompanied by Sarah, in her bandana, and Trisha, whose blonde hair looked a little dishevelled. Kelvin walked to a small podium, usually used for demonstrations, in the middle of the hall.
“Ladies and Gentlemen. Your attention please.” The hall went silent. The teachers and careers officers looked bemused but didn’t say anything. Everyone stared at Kelvin but most of all Sarah. “I think Sarah here would like to have a word with you,” he continued.
Sarah stood on the stage, slightly nervous. “Well,” she said, “I’m really here to speak to those three over there.” The crowd gasped as she gestured to the Sistaz. The Sistaz glared at her in incredulity and were even more affronted to have their glare returned.
Sarah went on: “I’d just like to thank you for the free makeover.” She whipped the bandana off to a gasp from the crowd. “By the way, my boyfriend said it makes me look like Robin Tunney.” There was a mixture of laughter and amazement from the crowd. Sonja started up from her chair, at which point Trisha came on the podium and deliriously shouted:
“And I liked it so much, I got it done myself!” She whipped the blonde wig off revealing her naked scalp, shorn of its golden locks by Robert on Saturday. First there was a gasp, then clapping, then laughter. Trina and Sharon stormed out, shouting expletives in disgust, leaving Sonja completely isolated. Sonja stared at the baying throng, then at Trisha and Sarah. For all the contempt around them, the look on their faces was almost kindly. She knew that all her power was gone and that she was now nothing but a pathetic pariah, yet somehow she might be given another chance. Then Kelvin held out a pair of clippers and shouted, “Time for a change, Sonja?” The crowd cheered and bayed all the more and the chant of “Off, off, off!” reverberated throughout the hall. Hardly knowing what she was doing Sonja walked to the podium. The crowd went silent.
She turned to Sarah, stroking her own long brown hair for the last time. “OK,” she said, her eyes filling with tears. “I’m starting over. You do the honours. Oh, and don’t forget to take the guard off.”
Sarah smiled at Sonja and popped on the clippers. The appreciative applause of the crowd gave Sonja a greater feeling of satisfaction than any of her desperate actions in the past, and as the clippers roared over her scalp and her locks fell limply to the floor, she knew that she’d been saved.