A Certain Injustice – SpikeThru4
There was a soft rustling as a credit card searched between the door and frame, then a click as it found its mark. The door eased open soundlessly – a miracle! – and a figure stood in its place, all but obscuring the soft night light from the hallway. The figure waited a moment while her eyes accustomed themselves to the darkness inside the room, then surveyed her sleeping target. She was on her side with her back to the door, but a gentle snore told the intruder all she needed to know. In three strides she was beside the bed, bare feet padding silently on the carpet. She stopped again, and withdrew from the back pocket of her jeans a large pair of dressmaking shears. Opening the blades, she reached over the bed and took hold of a thick rope of hair with her left hand.
Suddenly, the sleeping girl stirred! Her would-be assailant let the hair go and stood absolutely still, hardly daring to breathe. But the girl just muttered something unintelligible and continued snoring. The intruder let out a sigh of relief and went back for another try. She held the silky hair loosely in her left hand, brought the shears over to the girl’s ear, and gently squeezed them shut. There was an audible crunch – too audible, she thought – as the sharp blades bit through the braid of hair, but the girl did not wake. Holding her breath once more, the unseen hairdresser clamped the scissors shut again, and a long, golden plait separated itself from the sleeping girl’s head. She gave herself a silent cheer and, realising that there was no chance of taking its twin from underneath, left the room as quickly as she dared.
Julie’s alarm clock beeped impatiently at her. Fumbling around in semi-conciousness, she slapped it on top, and it shut up. She yawned, then slowly opened her eyes, squinting them shut again as the bright sunlight forced its way through her thin curtains. She felt strange. Her head felt weird, almost lop-sided. As her eyes won the battle against the sun, she caught her reflection in the dressing-table mirror opposite her bed. Julie sat bolt upright, and screamed.
Julie’s best friend, Helen, was first on the scene. With a dressing-gown wrapped hastily around her, she stumbled into Julie’s room, saying, “What on earth is the ma… Oh my God!” She stopped dead as she saw her friend. Julie was sitting on the bed, staring straight ahead into the mirror. Her right hand clutched a thick braid of golden-blonde hair that hung from her right ear all the way down to her stomach. Her left hand covered a stump of hair that stuck out about an inch from the side of her head, held in place by an elastic band.
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“What happened to your hair?” Helen asked pointlessly as she rushed over to the other side of the bed to comfort her friend. “Who did this to you?”
“I… I don’t know,” sobbed Julie. “Someone cut off my hair. My beautiful hair,” she wailed.
By now, a small group of students had gathered around Julie’s bedroom door, all standing aghast at the sight they were witnessing. All, that is, except one, who allowed herself a little smirk.
“Bitch,” she thought. “She had it coming, the little tramp. I just wish I’d done it.”
The not-so-well-wisher was Jenny, the captain of St. Hilda’s College’s rowing team. She had just been dumped by Julie’s new boyfriend, and was more than a little bitter towards the now distraught girl on the bed.
“Oi! You lot!” Helen’s voice cut through the murmurs that had started up. “Bugger off! Can’t you see she’s upset? Just cut her some slack and leave her in peace!
“Unless,” she added as an afterthought, “any of you know anything about this…?”
There was a collective shaking of heads as the party of onlookers shuffled off to resume their morning, mumbling their commiserations. Jenny poked her head round the door and said sarcastically, “I’m sooo sorry, Julie. Who would do something like this?”
“Piss off!” spat Helen. Jenny promptly disappeared and shut the door behind her.
“Cow,” sniffed Julie, who was all cried out by now. “I bet she did this.”
“I think that’s what she wants you to think. But she doesn’t have the guts. Now, let’s take a look at the damage.”
Helen flicked the elastic band from the stump of hair. The short locks fell into place, leaving a bristly patch sticking out from behind Julie’s ear, which became much longer, almost shoulder length, towards the back of her head. The rest of Julie’s hair was still twisted into a long plait on the other side of her head.
“Yeuch,” said Helen as she took in this sight. Julie found some more tears from somewhere. “We’re going to have to cut the rest of this off.”
Deep down, Julie knew this, but the reality of it still hit her hard. “No way!” she cried.
“Oh, come on, Jules,” said Helen. “You can’t go round looking like this. How about some sort of asymmetric bob, then you can keep it quite long on the other side?”
“But it’s Sunday,” she wailed. “All the hairdressers’ in town are closed!”
“I’ll do it,” offered Helen, a little too quickly. “My mum taught me the basics,” she added. While Helen was genuinely concerned for her friend, she was secretly dying to sink a pair of scissors into what remained of Julie’s glorious mane. “Tell you what,” she said impulsively, seeing that Julie was still not convinced. “You can cut mine, too. We’ll go short together!”
Julie turned to look at her friend, and saw the mussed auburn locks reaching down to touch Helen’s breasts. For a moment, she was speechless.
“Would you do that?” she asked finally. “Would you really do that for me?”
“Oh shit,” thought Helen. She hadn’t expected Julie to take her up on this. Still, she couldn’t back down now. “Of course I would,” she said, in what she hoped was a reassuring voice.
Julie looked at her again for what seemed like an eternity. Finally, she said, “That’s really sweet of you, Hel. Thankyou. But I couldn’t ask you to do that. Besides, I wouldn’t want to mess your beautiful hair up as well.” Helen inwardly sighed with relief. “So I guess you’re right. There’s some scissors in the drawer there.”
Julie got up off the bed to sit down by her dressing table, unbraiding her remaining hair as she did so. Helen almost dived into the drawer Julie had indicated and rummaged around for the scissors, barely able to contain her excitement. Julie was now brushing her long hair out, trying not to look at the carnage on the other side. It felt weird, having hair on only half of her head, and she kept expecting to have to sweep it around from her left side. Finally she stopped brushing and looked for the last time at the shimmering golden mane that reached to her waist. She looked up in the mirror at Helen, who was standing over her with, as far as Julie was concerned, the instruments of death in her hands.
“Ready?” asked Helen.
“No,” thought Julie. Swallowing hard, she said, “Ready.”
Helen didn’t need a second invitation. She gathered Julie’s long hair in her left hand, just below the shoulder, and crunched the scissors across in an almost straight line just above the shoulder. The sharp blades sliced easily through the thick locks and in a few snips, Helen was holding up twenty inches of glorious straight hair. She almost fainted. Julie just sat, looking stunned. It was almost as if she had lost her hair twice in the last hour. She stared at her reflection, seeing the thick curtain of a shoulder-length bob on one side, and, well, a complete mess on the other. It was difficult to see how it was going to look any better.
Helen regained her composure and carefully laid the thick bunch of hair on the dressing table in front of Julie, and then set to work trying to make Julie’s remaining hair look respectable. She had been cutting hair for eight years or so: her mother was a hairdresser and had taught Helen basic trimming techniques when she was about ten, allowing her to practice on her little sister. Over the years, she had become, she thought, quite good at it, but this was certainly going to be her biggest challenge! For some reason, she enjoyed cutting other girls’ hair, and had formed a small ‘client base’ from her friends at school. Since coming up to University, however, she hadn’t mentioned her talent – somehow Helen the Hairdresser didn’t fit with Helen the Engineer. More strange to her was that although she clearly relished the opportunity to cut her friends’ hair, she was fiercely protective, even obsessive, of her own hair, and had been growing her flaming locks for as long as she’d been cutting others. Quite why she had offered to let Julie give her a short haircut as well, she didn’t know, but she was extremely glad she had refused. Helen felt she now owed it to Julie to make this her best work ever.
She worked from the ravaged left side, trying to even out the ragged ends into some sort of layers. Because the hair was so short behind the ear, she had to cut the longer hair below it even shorter, almost to the scalp, to maintain the line she was working on. Gradually, it came together, and she started scissoring away at the back, sending several inches more of Julie’s golden tresses floating to the floor. Eventually, she merged the short hair on the left with the still fairly long hair on the right, and with a few final snips created a near-perfect line sloping from Julie’s occipital bone at the back to below her jawline on the right.
“Well, what do you think?” asked Helen. “You look absolutely stunning, even if I do say so myself.”
It was true enough, Julie did look gorgeous with shorter hair. But it was understandably going to take some time for her to get used to it. The long hair on the dresser served as an untimely reminder as she surveyed her new look in the mirror.
“I… I don’t know,” sobbed Julie. “I don’t know if I’ll ever get used to it. But thankyou, Helen. Thankyou. You’re a real friend, fixing me up like this.”
News of Julie’s ordeal had spread quickly round the campus. The Junior Dean, Geraldine, had hastily put together a notice to remind students of the security precautions they should be taking at night. The only useful piece of advice on the lengthy document was to engage the latch on the lock, rendering the credit card useless as a key. With the College staff not resident on Sundays, the attack had not been formally reported, although Geraldine had listened sympathetically to Julie’s story and promised to take it up with the Dean first thing on Monday. She had questioned Jenny as the only obvious suspect, but her alibi was safe: she had been at a rowing club bash all night and, by all accounts, was in no condition to do anything that didn’t involve sleeping or vomiting by the time she returned home.
St. Hilda’s College is one of the more idyllic locations at Oxford University, and the babbling brook on a sunny autumn afternoon soon lulled the majority of students back into the false sense of security to which they had become accustomed. That very night, another supposedly locked bedroom door opened to reveal a familiar figure struggling to control her excitement as she noted the long luxurious hair of her next victim fanned out on the pillow.
The second attack woke the College up to the reality of the situation: a serial hairdresser was on the loose! The Dean had become involved, as Geraldine had promised, and the College President, and they had issued strong warnings about personal security. Although the College authorities had been unwilling to involve the police at this stage, they had conducted their own enquiries, interviewing the students and staff. But, they had drawn only blanks. No-one had seen anything, no-one knew anything, in short, they were without a suspect, or even a motive for the attacks. The College decided on a wait-and-see policy, basically hoping that if the students remained vigilant about their own security, the problem would go away.
And indeed, that seemed to work. Over the next few days, no more girls awoke to unwanted haircuts, and college life gradually returned to normal, with the antics of the Government proving a more popular talking point. On person who was unable to forget, though, was Julie. Things had gone from bad to worse for her. Her boyfriend, James, had not taken well to her new short haircut, and had been studiously avoiding her. When Julie finally cornered him and pressed him for an explanation, he had told her that her long hair had initially attracted him to her, but that she had lost that attraction to him. This had led a tearful Julie to seek the comfort of her best friend, and a bottle of vodka.
“The bastard!” Helen exclaimed when she heard the news. “Well listen, love, if your hair was all he liked about you, then you’re much better off without him.”
“I guesh sho,” said Julie before necking her fifth shot of vodka. “But let me tell you thish. If I shee him again, I’m gonna… I’m gonna…” Julie passed out.
“Oh Lord,” thought Helen. “C’mon Jules, wake up!” She gently slapped her friend round the face a few times, then gave up and threw a blanket over the sleeping form sprawled untidily on her couch.
Julie regained consciousness some hours later with a pounding head and an empty stomach. “Need… food…” she croaked.
“It’s gone midnight,” said Helen, who had stayed in and done some much-needed studying while Julie had been asleep. Waste of a Friday night, she thought, but she couldn’t leave her in that state. “The only thing open will be the kebab van.”
“Sounds good. Let’s go,” said Julie, staggering to her feet. Helen sighed and pulled on her jacket, then the two girls lumbered arm-in-arm out into the night.
As they crossed the road to the kebab van, they heard a shout. “Hey, Jules!” Julie looked up. It was Jenny, and to add insult to injury, she was back in the arms of James. Jenny flipped her long black hair provocatively and kissed James passionately. Julie just stood and stared, lost for words. Helen pulled her on, telling her to just ignore them. This was made even more difficult as Jenny started to sing.
“Julie Bryce, Julie Bryce, Julie, Julie Bryce. She’s got no hair, but we don’t care. Julie, Julie Bryce…”
“Leave it,” hissed Helen, pulling Julie away. “She’s not worth it.” The girls continued their quest for food and returned to college.
Later that night, Jenny awoke with a start when she thought she heard a click at her door. She lay very still and opened one eye to see a crack of dim light gradually increase as the door opened. A figure stood in the opening. The night light from the hallway reflected off something shiny by the figure’s side. Jenny held her breath. Surely this was the mysterious St. Hilda’s barber paying her a visit. She squinted her open eye and pretended to be asleep as the figure approached her bed. She was unable to make out the identity of her guest because of the dark, but she could watch her (she assumed it was female) move around to the other side of the bed where Jenny’s long, black ponytail poked out invitingly above the duvet. A few seconds passed, that seemed an eternity, then Jenny felt a slight pull on the back of her head.
Quick as a flash, Jenny spun round and lunged out of her bed, grabbing the intruder’s arm with one hand and slamming on the light with the other. The intruder stood stock still, as if frozen by the light, and the two stared at each other.
“You!” Jenny gasped when her eyes adjusted to the light. “Well, well, this is a turn-up. I shall enjoy this.”
“No!” squealed the other. “I… I can explain. This isn’t what you think…”
“Really?” asked Jenny as she yanked the girl onto her bed. “I don’t think there’s any need to explain anything. Not to me, anyway.” With that, she climbed astride the girl and sat on her back. The girl struggled a little, but she was no match for the strong rower. Jenny was able to reach across to her dressing-gown cord and pull it free whilst still astride the girl’s back. She tied the girl’s hands together, then pulled her up off the bed and ordered her to sit down on her desk chair and be quiet. The girl obviously had no intention of screaming for help since she was unlikely to get any sympathy from anyone who found her having broken into another girl’s room with a pair of scissors. She sat as directed. The dressing-gown cord was long enough to pass underneath the chair and to secure her feet as well. Just for insurance, Jenny rummaged around in a drawer and found some tights, which she used to bind and gag her prisoner more securely. Then, she threw on some clothes and left the room, saying, “I’ve got big plans for you. Don’t go away, now!”
Jenny’s mind was racing as she fairly sprinted off to the computer room at the college. It was after 3am, so its only occupants were a couple of geekettes playing on a MUD. They didn’t even look up as Jenny entered and installed herself at a vacant Apple Mac. She powered it up, loaded Word, and started bashing out a simple leaflet.
“The Mystery Barber has been caught.
“Payback time is High Noon, in the JCR.
“Bring your own scissors!”
Jenny printed off several copies of the page, then dashed out of the computer room to start posting them under doors. She was particularly careful to include the two girls who had fallen foul of the so-called mystery barber, Julie and Nicki, not because she cared much for either of them, but she certainly didn’t want to miss their reactions when she unveiled their assailant.
A large crowd had gathered by five to twelve when a smug Jenny steered her captive, covered with a blanket, into the Junior Common Room to meet her fate. Jeers and boos greeted them as they jostled through the crowd to the front. Jenny sat the hapless girl down on a straight-backed chair, then addressed the masses.
“Ladies, ladies…” The noise gradually subsided. “Last night I was visited by our mystery barber. As you can see…” she shook down her long black hair, “she did not succeed in cutting my hair, but rather foolishly allowed herself to be caught. I thought you all might have something to say to her…” More jeers. “Julie, Nicki, I guess you should have first call on her punishment.”
“Cut her hair… Shave her head…” the crowd chanted as Julie and Nicki made their way to the front, each clutching a large pair of shears.
“Ladies,” announced Jenny, milking the occasion for all it was worth. “I give you… the Mystery Barber of St. Hilda’s!” She whisked away the blanket. The crowd gasped. Julie shrieked.
“Helen!” cried Julie as she stared at her friend, bound in the chair, wearing just her underwear, her auburn locks neatly brushed and falling gently down to touch her breasts. “You did this to me? How could you?”
“Mmmmpf…” was all Helen could say, as her mouth was still full of Jenny’s tights. Julie snatched the gag away. “It wasn’t me Jules, I swear I didn’t… Noooooo!” Helen let out an anguished cry as Nicki, who had not been interested in hearing any explanations, had grabbed a fistful of her hair and sliced it off. The crowd cheered and chanted as Nicki held the trophy aloft then dropped it in Helen’s lap.
“Cut her hair… shave her head… make her bald…”
Nicki went back for more. She hacked away a great clump of long auburn hair from the left side of Helen’s head and tickled her face with it before fairly throwing it into Helen’s bare lap. Helen was crying hard now, as she pictured herself nearly naked and with her hair being butchered in this way. The throng had crowded around the wretched girl now, with those at the front snipping off whatever they could lay their hands on. Jenny just stood back and watched smugly, then her heart leapt as she saw what she had been hoping for.
Julie, who had not previously been a party to the gang rape of Helen’s locks, suddenly stepped forward towards Helen and seized a thick handful of hair on the crown of her head. The crowd stepped back a little and fell silent as Julie placed her shears against Helen’s scalp and sawed through the mass of hair, crying, “You bitch! I hate you! I hate you!”
“No, Jules… not you too!” sobbed Helen as the scissors crunched through her beloved hair. “You have to believe me…”
“I don’t believe you,” snapped Julie as another thick swatch of hair parted company with Helen’s head. She flung it in Helen’s face then, to everyone’s amazement, grasped a handful of her own hair. “I hate you!” she repeated. “And what’s more, I hate this!” With that, she brought the scissors up and snipped off a huge chunk of the asymmetric bob that Helen had so carefully sculpted a few days before.
Jenny couldn’t believe it – this was far better than she had hoped for. The crowd roared and carried on hacking away at Helen’s head. Julie dropped her scissors and sank to her knees, feeling utterly betrayed by her so-called best friend. Helen just cried as her beautiful hair rained down around her, piling up on the floor and in her lap, long strands sticking to her bare skin.
Geraldine, the Junior Dean, stood outside the JCR window and watched the scene unfold with interest. She reached into a pocket of her overcoat and stroked the twenty-inch blonde braid that nestled there, then thrust her other hand into another pocket to feel the silky brown ponytail that had once adorned Nicki’s head. As she saw Jenny brandish a set of clippers above Helen’s short, ragged hair, she turned away and, laughing quietly to herself, returned to her room.
“Jules,” whispered Helen.
Julie looked up. The JCR was deserted, save for those two. Helen was still sat on the chair, semi-naked and trussed up like a Christmas turkey. Her hair had been clipped off to the scalp – Jenny had mercilessly ploughed the clippers across her head without a guard, so that all that remained was a soft orange fuzz. Heaps of reddish-gold hair lay on the floor, with one tuft of blonde, about five inches long, that Julie had sliced off her own coiffure. She looked into Helen’s eyes with pure anger.
“Jules,” Helen repeated. “Just listen to me. I don’t blame you for thinking what you did, but please believe me when I say that it wasn’t me who cut your hair – or Nicki’s. I wanted to pay Jenny back for the way she treated you, about James, everything, so I snuck into her room last night to chop her hair off. I thought it would just look like another attack by the mystery barber – only, she caught me in the act. I swear I didn’t cut yours or Nicki’s. You believe me, don’t you?”
Julie just remained kneeling on the floor, looking into Helen’s eyes. They seemed so much larger now that there was no hair for them to hide behind. Helen looked back, pleading with her. Slowly, Julie’s anger turned to pity as she realised her friend was telling the truth and she sympathised with her as one forced haircut victim to another.
“I’m sorry,” she said finally. “I’m sorry I doubted you, Helen, and I’m sorry I cut your hair.”
Helen gave a wry smile and raised her eyes towards her bald head. “In the scheme of things, that doesn’t matter too much now. Now, would you mind untying me?” “What? Oh yes,” said Julie, picking herself up off the floor. She went over and released Helen from the bonds that had held her for the best part of twelve hours. Helen gingerly stood up as circulation slowly rediscovered her limbs. A pile of hair slid down her legs to land at her feet. She felt a pang of sadness as her toes felt the silky warmth of the auburn tresses. She bent down and picked up a handful, bringing it to her face and nuzzling in it, smelling her shampoo and reflecting that it would be a long time before she felt the like of it on her head again. She dropped the hair, then clasped Julie to her. The two girls hugged each other, then Julie’s hand wandered involuntarily to feel Helen’s head. It was weird. Helen’s hand slowly found its way up to join it, and the two of them stood rubbing her head for a few moments.
“How does it look?” asked Helen, nervously. “Be honest.” Julie stepped back to get a good look. “Actually,” she said after a while, “it doesn’t look bad at all. It really brings out your eyes, and you have a beautiful long neck. I think it suits you.” “Really? You’re not just saying that?” “No. You look… great.”
“Well, that’s more than I can say for you,” said Helen, reaching out to touch what was left of Julie’s asymmetric bob. The curtain of hair ended abruptly halfway down her right ear. “What on earth did you do that for?”
Julie looked sheepishly at the floor. “God knows,” she said. “I just lost it there for a while. Do you think you can fix it?” “Dunno,” said Helen. “Sit yourself down and I’ll see what I can do.”
As Helen went to pick up Julie’s scissors, Julie sat on the high-backed chair and looked around apprehensively. Suddenly, she spied the clippers that Jenny had left behind and her eyes returned to her friend’s bald head.
“Oh, screw it,” she said. “Shave it all off. Just like yours!”