Cut For Cut – Lisa Osborne
Linda Stromyer was an angry, wronged woman. For six years, she had been a reasonably faithful wife, helping her husband, through the labyrinth of studio politics–being decorative, loyal, and supportive. Until, one day, Sheldon had simply left to move in with Adrienne Nye, a model half his age. She was the woman in the Goldmist Cosmetic ads with the gorgeous golden-brown hair, held up, burning in light, then dropped in a sudden, sensuous cascade. Linda should have known it would have something to do with hair. For most her marriage, her husband had reveled in her long dark hair–thick, and shiny, and when unloosed–which was his sexual foreplay–falling almost to her waist. Then he had started wondering how she would look in short hair, or at a restaurant, noticing a woman with very short hair, and commenting on how great it looked.
Linda loved her hair long. It had always brought her compliments and attention. But considering herself good at reading nuances, one day she had made the appointment. The two Frenchmen in the salon almost fought over who would do it. The tall, thin one won, and he escorted her to his private booth.
“Mon dieu, you have beautiful hair,” he said, letting it tumble full down her back. “Why do you want to cut it?”
“I don’t,” she said. “But my husband wants it short.”
“All off,” she said. “As short as you can get it.”
In theory, that was partially her decision. If her husband wanted her in short hair, she would see how he liked it really short!
But she had sat in agony as the man combed her long hair, moving it in thick sections about her face, and then holding the whole mass to one side.
Suddenly, with a shrug, he pushed in his scissors, and methodically kept cutting, until the whole polished mass came off in his hand.
“Would you like to save it?”
She was too shocked to answer, and he took that as “no.” With another shrug, he tossed the two-foot drape of hair aside, and began clipping and combing what hair was left–which to her, was very little. And that was just the beginning. The cold steel of the clippers plowed up the back of her head, and with her hair wet, he had kept cutting until the sides were sheared, and the longest hair on top was hardly an inch long.
“As short as I can get it,” the man said.
The next week, her husband’s lawyer had served her with the divorce papers.
It was, as Hollywood divorces go, reasonably quiet. Sheldon got $600,000 dollars–and Adrienne. Linda got to keep the house in Brentwood, and all the rest. But money would not buy revenge. At night, she would savor various plots, but when taken seriously, couldn’t be. The idea that came and stayed had come to her while watching the local evening news–Sheldon attending a preview with Adrienne on his arm. The camera idealized her, and her long flowing hair that fell thick and glistening down her half-bare back. For Linda, all that remained was deciding how to do it. Every plan that involved hiring someone involved an invitation for betrayal–of which she had had enough. Whatever was done, she would have to do herself. And the more she thought about it, the more she wanted to do it herself–particularly when encountering one of Adrienne’s TV commercials, with that blindingly beautiful hair, tumbling into the lens.
She and Adrienne had never met. Sheldon had been careful to see about that. But there was always the chance that Adrienne knew what she looked like. Against that possibility, Linda bought a blonde wig in downtown Los Angeles, and a dress that she would never otherwise wear. From a trade story, planted for publicity, she knew Adrienne had hair done at Raoul’s, a new salon on Sunset. It had been a simple matter, calling as a studio secretary, to find out when Adrienne had her next appointment.
“She and Mr. Stromyer are going to a special benefit dinner,” Linda explained, “he wants one of the studio stylists to do her hair.”
“Then why not do it at the studio?” Raoul said, his injured pride showing.
“Because she has an appointment with you,” Linda said, “and of course, Mr. Stromyer would like to pay you something extra.”
Money has a way of soothing hurt feelings.
“Very well,” Raoul said. “But she’s scheduled for her usual facial.”
“Go right ahead with it,” Adrienne said. “I won’t have the stylist there till after 3:00.”
For a moment, she thought giving the time was mistake. But Adrienne could have mentioned the time of her earlier appointment.
Linda was not sure how a studio stylist would look–but this one would wear the dress she had bought, have blonde hair, full about her face, and makeup to further change her appearance.
Timing was essential, so she waited a block down from the salon until 3:10, and then entered with a small leather case, which she thought looked professional.
“I’m here for Mrs. Stromyer.”
The receptionist, on the phone, covered the mouthpiece.
“I know,” she said. “Booth three.”
Fortunately, the booths were numbered. Adrienne was in the deeply padded chair, tipped fully back, her face covered with mud, pads of moist cotton over her eyes–her mass of golden- brown hair, wrapped turban style, in a thick white towel.
Linda slid the curtain closed. Adrienne did not stir. Alone with the unsuspecting Adrienne, Linda was now out of plan. She could remove the towel, freeing Adrienne’s waist hair. But Adrienne would certainly hear the cutting, and come up screaming. That’s when Linda noticed the shampoo bottle. Finding a lever on the side of the chair, she swung it gently until Adrienne’s head was opposite the metal extension to the white porcelain basic; then undoing the towel, and the two heavy clips, let the glistening mass of hair flow toward the basin. Adrienne barely shifted, used to such pampered care–or was very nearly asleep.
Opening her bag, Linda took out the barber scissors, purchased for the occasion. The water would cover the sound of the cutting, aided by the soft music from a speaker overhead–but neither would cover the feel of the hair falling away. The answer to that again seemed in the bottle of amber shampoo. Testing the water for mild warmth, Linda let the spray play on Adrienne’s hair, them poured on the shampoo, massaging it into a heavy foam. The result was a deep breath from Adrienne, pleased and relaxed.
With her scalp covered with heavy foam, Linda let the rest of Adrienne’s hair flow wet and long toward the basin. It reminded Linda of her own hair, in the bath, clinging wet and long to her body. Like cutting fabric, she placed the scissors into the thick, flow of hair that had tumbled for a hundred cameras, and now, with each cut, was sliding silently into the waiting basin. There was so much hair, she was afraid it would clog the drain, and she had to stop to deposit the wet, glistening mass into a plastic-lined wastebasket.
Adrienne stirred, but only in complete relaxation.
Most of her hair was gone, but much remained, hidden in the thick white lather. Experimentally, Linda put the sharp, pointed scissors into the lather, and closed the blades gently. No sound came over the music and flowing water. She could not see the hair she was cutting, but could feel it being sliced away with each careful stroke of the scissors. Soon, she was placing the scissors very close to the scalp, and feeling a distinct pleasure with each silent cut.
What seemed grossly unfair is that she would not be there at the moment of discovery–some operator turning on the spray to rinse away the lather, and then the shock and horror. Dear Sheldon would have nothing left to play with. It would be delightful. Thinking she could add to the scene, she recovered two-foot sections of wet hair from the basket, and added them to the thick mixture of foam and severed hair that covered Adrienne’s head.
To finish, she wrapped the white towel around Adrienne’s head, and returned the chair to its original position.
Shorn sleeping beauty, still lay relaxed and quiet.
Linda was tempted to save one long, glistening section of hair to send Sheldon. But no matter how anonymous, he would know who it was from. The point was to give him no way to prove it. She’d even taken the precaution to wear thin, latex gloves.
Wiping the basin clean, she dropped the towel in the basket, and looked around. The bottle of shampoo was where she had found it. The spray hose hung up. She had left nothing, because she had taken out only the scissors–and these, with the gloves, she replaced in the bag, and quietly closed the curtain behind her.
The receptionist was taking another call, but looked up as Linda extended a small envelope, held, of course, in her driving-gloved hand. It contained a folded new hundred-dollar bill, devoid of fingerprints.
“All done?” the receptionist said, accepting the envelope.
“All done,” Linda said, and emerged into the warm sunlight of the street, delighted with what money could not buy. Sweet, pure, delicious revenge.