It’s Just Another Day… by Claire Oil
“How are you, Edna?” chirruped Jilly, one of the stylists in our sleepy little village salon.
Most of the business was of the shampoo-and-set variety, mainly for the ‘Blue Rinse’ brigade. The ‘Old Trout’, we unkindly called them, as they always seemed to be flapping about something, like fish out of water.
The background buzz of the salon was mainly from the hood dryers under which the trout sat. It was truly hard to tell if they were alive or dead sometimes as I watched from my vantage point at the reception desk. There they sat, asleep with a magazine balanced on their knees, heads back, mouths open as though all semblance of life had left them. I would sit and amuse myself imagining a T.V. detective having difficulty trying to establish the time of death as the dryers had kept the body at room temperature!
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Me, I’m Claire, the beauty therapist around here. On the whole, my clients are a bit younger and trendier that those of the hair salon, although I do my fair share of the ‘trout’.
Today, it is raining, and that has not been a good thing for me. Picture it if you will, me, in my nice salon white uniform trying to start my car, leaning over the bonnet with a can of WD 40 in one hand and a hairdryer in the other. It was damp, what else was I supposed to do?
Needless to say, £20 on a taxi to work later, I was not feeling too great. On top of it all, when I told the hairdressers my tale of woe, they teased me mercilessly, asking if I wanted to do a few blow-dries today. To cap it all, I had several clients not turn up, amazing how the bad weather affects their memories; still, I am not the only one. It seems to be affecting all of the clients today.
I stare into space, vaguely aware of the pile of hair swept neatly into the corner… a thousand shades of grey are there, mainly in tight permed curls having suffered from their six-weekly trim.
Jeanette, the younger of the two hairdressers, has also got a long gap in her bookings now as one of the trout had cancelled a perm appointment due to the fact that she had been listening to the shipping forecast, and apparently there had been a gale warning for Dogger, Fisher and German Bight! Exactly what difference that makes to the weather in deepest, darkest Hampshire was anybody’s guess!
Suddenly, it was as if the lights had been turned on! A stunning young woman with the longest auburn hair that I had ever seen walked through the door. I snapped awake, surely she was for my side of the business; a blue rinse on that hair was unthinkable!
As soon as she closed the salon door, it seemed to me that her aura changed, the confidence was gone. She timidly approached the desk and asked in hushed tones if it was possible to have a re-style appointment NOW!
A small smile tinged my lips as I looked in the book to see that Jeanette’s perm cancellation was now, she had an hour and a half free!
I recognised the look of fear in the girl’s eyes as she had asked the question, and I could identify with it… I had been there once.
I asked her name as I ushered her gently to a chair. She told me that it was Chloe. Once I had her seated I said that I would check with Jeanette to see if she was free to do it… I knew the answer already!
I rushed out to the back room where Jeanette was tucking into a sandwich and flicking through the pages of ‘Hello’ magazine. Her newly-painted purple nails were glistening as she leafed through the pages. I looked at my work approvingly as I told her of Chloe. Her eyes lit up and she licked her lips, I’m not sure if that was to remove any stray traces of sandwich from her purple lipstick or if it was a small thrill of anticipation at the task that lay ahead.
I knew Jeanette well, and she had complained bitterly to me in the past about not having enough younger clients. It was true that the older clients provided the bread and butter of the salon, but it was the rare re-style opportunities that provided the jam. It was Jeanette who had cut my hair for the first time, some years ago now!
Jeanette sauntered into the salon covering her own excitement at the prospect of the work ahead. She spotted Chloe and immediately broke into a broad smile as she set eyes on the girl’s russet tresses. She went confidently over to Chloe, sat down and introduced herself. Jeanette was so experienced that her manner even drew a weak smile from Chloe as she gently fingered the girl’s tresses, feeling the strength, texture and condition, all subconsciously noted.
Chloe’s hair was a full three feet in length, with that extra body that redheads sometimes seem to have. Her hair was thick both in the amount that she had, and also in width of each strand, which can make the hair feel coarse if it not kept in the peak of condition. Even I could see that this was not the case with Chloe, her hair glinted like burnished metal under the salon lights. I marvelled at the colour. I have always wanted that rich red hair myself.
I focused again on the two women, intent on their conversation about the re-style, Chloe absently curling her hair with her fingers as if to reassure herself that it was still there. I could see Jeanette concentrating hard on the shape of Chloe`s face. She was taking in all the features, the large blue eyes, almost too big for her face, the long dark eyelashes (clearly tinted, blue-black to accentuate the eyes). The perfectly-shaped eyebrows and high cheekbones, which gave her a triangular, almost cat-like appearance.
Meanwhile, the trout still slumbered. ‘Ping’ went a timer on one of the dryers and one of the trout was ushered over to the dressing-out table to have her scales polished! (Oh, I meant to say to be combed out and finished!)
As each trout awoke, they stared at Chloe almost with loathing for her youth, and for the fact that she did not need a blue rinse! Surely this girl should not be in their salon. Who was she anyway? they croaked, louder than they realised – trout are notoriously deaf! Not a local gal, maybe she was Lady Harriet`s granddaughter – from the big house in the next village?
Suddenly, Jeanette stood up purposefully and led Chloe to the styling chair. Chloe`s eyes dulled as if she was making the journey to the electric chair. Jeanette ushered her into the seat, and deftly started to plait the girl’s long hair from a tightly-tied ponytail at the nape of her neck. A golden rope appeared before my eyes, stunning in its length and thickness. Jeanette’s hands quickly completed the braid and tied another band tightly around the still thick ends of the hair.
For a moment, I wondered what could be happening, surely this was not the re-style! But then, with a tingle of anticipation that was timed synchronously with the first flash of steel, I realised that this was going to be a Jeanette special!
Snick! Snick! Snick!
No messing about there. Jeanette was almost in a reverie. I could see she was relishing the moment.
I saw the glint again, and the purple nails flashed against the auburn locks. The braid was now shockingly no longer attached to Chloe, and for a split second, Jeanette held it aloft, triumphantly, as a sportsman would hold a trophy! She held it for Chloe to see, but the gesture went unnoticed. The mystery girl had her eyes tightly closed and, if I’m not mistaken, was actually holding her breath as if to stop time in its tracks!
Jeanette, seemingly unaware of Chloe’s discomfort, laid the dismembered braid on the shelf in front of her client. My heart missed a beat as Chloe’s eyes opened very slowly, and rested on the severed braid. She was mesmerised, with a look of horror on her face, almost as if she were viewing the dead body of a beloved pet laid out in front of her.
Her eyes welled up, the baby blue contrasting with the now slightly reddened rims. One tear splashed onto her cheek, she then blinked back the tears in a supreme effort and looked straight ahead into the mirror at Jeanette’s reflection. Her eyes had now taken on a steely determination as she indicated that Jeanette should continue.
With the bulk of the length now gone, Chloe’s hair was more unruly. The weight had gone, and it bounced around as Jeanette ran her fingers through it.
“Come over to the basin if you will”, Jeanette said in a rather breathy voice. Chloe complied and was soon relaxing visibly under the ministrations of the stylist. I was more concerned for the purple nails for a moment, my handiwork in water so soon!
The trout were in uproar in their characteristic way about the desecration of the red hair. They were clucking and tutting, shaking their heads and whispering to each other whilst pointing at the abandoned plait on the shelf, now clearly visible to all who wanted to see.
Hair wash and head massage over, a thick conditioner, the texture of evaporated milk, was applied to Chloe’s hair. It smelt strongly of coconut. It was slicked over the now much shorter locks and then Jeanette left her client to condition for a while as she herself went to the styling tower to check the various tools of her trade were all present and correct!
She deftly opened the scissor drawer to reveal a row of the finest precision-made scissors that ever came out of Sollingen (Jeanette thought the German ones were the best!) Then there were the thinning combs. Her beloved Wahl clippers were in the drawer below, stored with the various-sized guards right down to a number 1! I was breathing hard now; I could almost feel those old friends on the back of my own neck. Suddenly my interest grew in the process, and I secretly hoped that nothing would stop me being able to witness this rite of passage!
Chloe was then rinsed and rough-dried by Jeanette and taken back to her abandoned braid. As an eternity had passed since she had it cut off, it seemed like a lifetime ago, although in reality it was only about 15 minutes.
Towel removed, Chloe’s hair looked darker as it was combed through, this way and that. After a brief pause for thought, a pair of medium-sized scissors were selected, and Jeanette was chopping into the crown area to produce that fashionable bedhead look. Auburn hair fell in clumps to the floor as Jeanette made short work (in all senses) of the crown. As the shorter more textured style started to emerge, Chloe was now more interested in her reflected image. The back and sides were now occupying Jeanette`s scissors as she was cutting obliquely into the hair, the length falling away.
Jeanette’s feet were now covered in red fluff… she stamped them as she became aware of this and then reached for the broom in the corner to sweep the evidence of the massacre away from the chair. The titian locks were now mingling with the shades of grey in the growing pile on the floor.
It was as if the break in the contact had woken Chloe again, she began to sway her head from side to side a little like a caged animal. She was trying to see the sides, which just eluded her, now panicking that the cut was already too short!
Jeanette’s cool hand settled on to the back of Chloe’s neck, an intimate reassurance which settled Chloe`s nerves visibly. The elegant long-fingered hands looked beautiful as they rested on Chloe’s newly exposed nape. I swallowed, suddenly aware that I was staring at the scene ahead… I could not pull myself away from it! I ran my hand over my own neck remembering that thrilling sensation of the clippers that I now craved… and perhaps even needed.
The second draw was opened and the clippers emerged. The number 1 guard was placed on the business end and then that glorious HUMMMM started up which changes pitch as it contacts the hair.
Chloe raised a hand as if to ward them away but took control of herself as Jeanette pushed her head forwards into that age-old position of submission. Chloe’s eyes rested on her lap now as if in defeat, allowing what will be – to be!
The clippers buzzed as the first stroke was made centrally up the back of the head, exposing more of that creamy flesh. I could see the change in Chloe now as her whole body started to vibrate in time with the clippers… oh, that irresistible thrill! Jeanette then addressed the sides, taking the buzz cut up high. The red fuzz looked infinitely strokable, I so wanted to touch it. Chloe was clearly aroused, as her eyes snapped open, pupils wide as she caught sight of herself once more.
That was it! The transformation had taken place. I knew that feeling intimately and there was no going back for her now, either physically or emotionally. The abyss of the unknown had been traversed, and on the other side was truly the land of milk and honey!
Chloe looked fixed in time once more as the buzzing died away, and she broke into a large smile. Her face was transformed. She was beautiful, otherworldly, like a sprite only visible for a second through a mist. She became aware of me staring now and beamed at me. For the first time since she had arrived in the salon, she spoke, clear and confident. “I think a makeup next, maybe.”
“Claire, are you ready for me now?” A voice disturbed my reverie. It was Mrs Jackson, my 3.30 for her electrolysis. My professional demeanour returned, mask-like as I ushered her into my inner sanctum. The entertainment was over, but I could not wait to return to my appointment book to see if Chloe’s name was there.
Maybe Mrs Jackson would like to have her hair cut!
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