Louanne’s Louse-y Lesson – Shea
Louanne was finding university a challenge. It was already the middle of October, and she hadn’t met anyone, except for her aggravatingly apathetic roommate, Christa. Louanne was finding great difficulty in adapting to the whole university environment. There was just so much work to do, and none of it made any sense to her. She frequently found herself going to bed late in the night, after having spent a frustrating number of hours trying to understand the course material, and would finally relax in her bed, only to have Christa return from some late night adventure, and, upon learning that Louanne was still awake, would try to create as much distraction as possible.
So of course, it didn’t make things any better one day when Louanne looked in the bathroom mirror and saw what looked like white powder in her hair. Was it dandruff? She tried to brush it away, but the attempt was not very successful. Louanne had never had bad hair. Back in Boone’s County, she was known to have one of the finest heads of hair, judged so at the annual county fair for the past 3 years. The long golden mass of hair still shone from roots to end, all the way down her back and nearly to her waist, but the white grains were very distracting. Feeling even more disgusted with life at university, Louanne made a mental note to pick up some dandruff shampoo after class.
And the shampoo did work, it seemed. She showered as soon as she got home, and didn’t notice any white stuff for the rest of the night. But as soon as she got up the next morning, it had returned. She showered again in the morning, and checked her hair every hour to see if anything had come back. By the end of the school day there was nothing, so Louanne decided not to worry so much. She went back to her room to study, which wasn’t very successful, since Christa was in the room goofing around as usual. Finally, after a few hours of unproductive work, Louanne headed down to the cafeteria for dinner. It was pizza night, so the dining room was pretty busy, despite being so early. She found a seat at the end of a long table and pulled out her book.
Louanne had only started reading when she heard a squeal from the girl beside her. She turned her head.
“Eww!” the girl screeched again. “You have lice!”
Realizing that the girl was talking to her, Louanne blushed. “It – it’s not lice. It’s dandruff,” she managed to blurt out.
The girl stood up and grabbed her tray. “I’ve seen dandruff. That’s not it. That’s disgusting!” She motioned to her friends to move to another table, and Louanne lowered her head in shame as a bunch of the people from the table got up and left. Many of the other people around her were staring in disgust.
“It’s not lice,” Louanne muttered again, as if anyone could hear her soft voice. She couldn’t stand everyone staring at her and laughing. She got up and ran from the cafeteria, back to her room. Conveniently, Christa wasn’t there.
Louanne sprawled out on her bed for a while, just having a good cry. It could have been minutes later, or maybe hours, when Christa came back into the room.
“Hey, whatsa matter?” Christa asked. She had a bit of a taunting nature to her voice, but she did seem genuinely concerned, as concerned as Christa could actually be.
“Christa,” Louanne sobbed, bringing her tear-stained head off the pillow, and not even caring who she was talking to, “do you think I have lice?”
Christa stared at her head. “Well, I didn’t want to say anything…”
Louanne cried even harder. “I DO?”
Christa nodded. “Sorry.”
“Well, what can I do about it?”
“You’re gonna have to cut your hair off, bub.”
“What?” Louanne sat up from her bed, afraid at the thought.
“Well, unless you want to pick the individual lice out of your head every day for the next year, which I wouldn’t recommend.”
“I could do that,” Louanne muttered.
Christa sneered. “And get all the ones on the back of your head at the roots? I doubt that!”
“But,” Louanne whimpered, “are you sure I have to cut it all off?”
Christa nodded. “My little brother had lice once. You have to cut it, so that you get rid of all the lice.”
“What about those lice shampoos?” Louanne suggested.
“They don’t work. Don’t worry. My brother’s hair only took about a week to grow back to normal length again.”
“Yeah, but mine will take years!” Louanne muttered.
“Nah. Haven’t you heard of those super growth formulas? You can buy them at health food stores. They’re kinda pricey, but I could probably get you a good deal, since my dad owns a store. You could have hair to your shoulders by New Year’s.”
“Are you sure?” Louanne tried to imagine herself with shoulder-length hair. Then she remembered that it would have to be shorter first. She frowned at the thought. She hated short hair. It looked so unfeminine.
“Yeah sure. Hey, why don’t you let me cut it off for you, so you don’t have to be embarrassed about going to a stylist, or trying to do it yourself.”
Louanne dried her tears, thankful that Christa was finally being nice to her. “Okay, I guess. But why are you offering to do this for me? We’ve barely talked since I moved in here.”
Christa shrugged. “Okay, you caught me. There is something in this for me, too. I enjoy cutting hair. You’d give me a chance to practice my technique. I promise, you’ll look good, though. Remember Alyse? I cut her hair.”
Louanne tried to remember which friend Alyse was. She was probably the one with the chin length bob. Louanne had to admit, the style was pretty cute.
“Okay, go ahead. Do it before I lose my nerve.”
Christa grinned. “Great. Have a seat in my parlour.” She gestured to the desk chair. Louanne sat down, and Christa found a bedsheet to wrap around her neck as a cape. She tied the sheet in a tight knot around Louanne’s neck, and around the back of the chair, so that Louanne could barely move.
“Ouch, does it have to be so tight?”
“Trust me, you don’t want clumps of hair all over your clothes. It gets really itchy.”
“Okay,” Louanne shrugged. She couldn’t believe she was doing this. She had never been spontaneous before, but maybe it was time for a change. Besides, maybe this activity would start a better friendship with Christa. They had already had a longer conversation on this topic than they had probably spoken to each other all year. So obviously, there was something to gain from this.
Christa began brushing Louanne’s hair, from her head to her waist, in slow rhythmic strokes, so that Louanne began to relax with the rhythm. She let her worries go and just enjoyed the strokes. The brushing must’ve gone on for at least ten minutes, maybe longer. When Christa stopped, Louanne was so relaxed, she barely noticed. She shut her eyes and let herself allow the sensation.
She felt Christa step over to the desk, and begin searching for something. A minute later, she felt hands sweeping through her hair again, caressing the locks. Suddenly she felt cold metal against her cheek, and before Louanne could react, she heard the shhnick of the scissors slicing through her hair. It was short all right, but Louanne supposed she could get used to it. She was a university woman now. A change would be good.
She could feel a lock of her hair being pulled from the top of her head, upward. Somewhere above her head, she heard the rasp of the scissors, and some hair fell back downward. She began to get into Christa’s motions.
Then Christa moved in front of her, and brushed the front section of hair in front of her face. Louanne began to enjoy the feel and smell of the soft locks against her face, until she felt the cold surface of the scissors against her forehead, at least an inch above her eyebrows.
“What are you doing?” she gasped. Before she got the words out, the scissors had closed, claiming a few more locks as their victims. Louanne could see Christa from underneath the bangs that had just moments ago reached nearly down to her waist.
“Oh, I thought you wanted bangs,” Christa muttered.
“Well, I guess it’s too late now.” Louanne tried to convince herself that bangs would just add to the novelty of the haircut. Except they were so short!
She sat still, trying to get back into the haircut, but she couldn’t help but feel like her hair was becoming a lot shorter than she first thought. She thought she could feel air on her ears. Christa was working at the back, and all of a sudden snipped the bottom hairs at the back right up to Louanne’s hairline.
“Christa! How short are you cutting it?” Louanne gasped.
“Don’t worry, it’ll look great,” Christa assured her.
“But this doesn’t feel like chin length!”
Christa stopped her snipping and moved around to the front, to face Louanne. “Oh, did you think I was cutting it to chin length?”
Louanne nodded. “Of course I did. Why wouldn’t I?”
“Oh, you must’ve misunderstood. I said I was cutting it short,” Christa said, almost emotionlessly.
“But this IS short!”
“Louanne, this isn’t short enough. You’re still going to have lice, chin length won’t make any difference. I have to cut it really short.”
Tears started to form at the corner of Louanne’s eyes. If she had known it would be short like a boy’s, she probably wouldn’t have gone through with it. But judging by the feel of Christa’s comb right against her scalp, she probably didn’t have much more hair to lose anyway, so there wouldn’t be any sense in turning back. Louanne sighed and decided to bear it. At least she’d be rid of the lice, and that was the whole point, anyway.
She sat back and tried to make herself enjoy the combing motion, but it wasn’t nearly as hypnotic as when she’d had the brush running through the sheets of hair down her back. She tried to imagine how horrible the hair would look.
Finally, Christa snipped off the remaining long lock by the side of her face, and set down her scissors. “Almost done!”
“What more do we have to do?” Louanne moaned. She wasn’t enjoying the cut at all anymore. She just kept picturing how much shorter her hair must be, trying to think of how long it would take to grow back. Somehow, she didn’t believe Christa’s prediction of shoulder length hair by New Year’s. Obviously that had been some mean trick to let her do the haircutting.
“Don’t worry, you’ll know when we’re done,” Christa said sweetly.
Louanne stared straight ahead, wondering how much longer it would take. Suddenly, she felt something cold and hard against the back of her head, and tried to figure what it was until it started buzzing. By the time she had realized what it was, Christa was running the clippers up the top of her head.
“What are you doing!” Louanne screeched, trying to turn her head toward Christa and only managing to have the clipper path diverted over the side of her head.
“Sit still so you don’t lose an ear,” Christa said over the hum of the clippers.
“Stop it!” Louanne tried to sit up, but the sheet was tightly tied around her, and she only ended up getting tangled in it.
“What? You want to walk around with a bald streak down your head?”
Louanne sighed. She was right. She would have to resign to finishing the haircut now. She couldn’t even begin to think of how dreadful she must look. This was much shorter than she would even believe that Christa would cut. She tried not to think about how freakish she would look.
She stared miserably over at Christa’s desk in front her, while her roommate continued to run the humming machine over her head, sending small clumps of hair flying from her head. She tried to distract herself from the torture by staring at the items on the desk. Something caught her eye: a bag of white powder of some sort. It looked like something she had seen before. She realized that it was just icing sugar or something, but still it looked vaguely familiar beyond that.
Suddenly, she made the connection. It resembled her lice. Immediately, everything made sense. She didn’t have lice!
“Christa! Stop it!” she screamed. “I know what you did!”
“What’s that hon? I can’t hear you over the clippers!” Christa shouted back.
Louanne gritted her teeth, searching for the right words to say. Finally, the clippers stopped, and she was just consumed in tears, realizing how stupid it had been for her to be so impulsive. Christa hadn’t wanted to help her, she was just playing some dirty trick. Some trick! It would take Louanne years to grow her hair back. The thought just made her sob further.
“What? Don’t like it?” Christa taunted. “Don’t worry, I’ll fix it.”
Louanne tried to think of how her roommate could possibly fix the wretched hairstyle she was probably sporting, when she suddenly felt something cold being rubbed around the top of her head.
“Hey! What – ?” It took her a minute to recognize the smell of shaving cream. “What are you doing?” She struggled against the sheet, again to no success.
“Don’t worry. Two more minutes, I promise. Then you won’t have any hair to worry about.”
Louanne began to sob again, as she felt a razor stroking its way across her head, removing any remainder of hair she might have. She cried for the entire time, waiting for the torture to be over, but almost not, because then she would be faced with the reality of her bald head.
Finally she felt Christa rub the last of the shaving cream off the back of her head, and untie the bedsheets. Louanne remained sitting in the chair, shocked at what had just gone on. She felt a mirror being thrust into her hand, and reluctantly stared at her reflection, hoping that perhaps this had all been some well-planned joke, that she would still have her long golden ponytail tucked behind her head. But she saw the white hairless dome reflected in the mirror, and began to sob harder.
“What, you don’t like?” Christa laughed cruelly.
But as Louanne kept staring, she couldn’t help but warm up to the look. Maybe she had been hiding behind her hair for too long. She would be forced to present herself now. The haircut was certainly bold; maybe it would motivate her to become more bold as well. Yes, she could see herself actually liking this style. She broke into a huge grin, startling Christa.
“It’s marvelous,” Louanne smiled.
“What?” Christa stared at her, wondering if it were some sort of joke. It was obviously not the reaction she was expecting.
“Yeah,” Louanne continued, standing up and moving toward Christa, “I think this is quite the improvement.” She reached for the clippers and continued toward her roommate, trapping her in the corner. “In fact, I think you should try it too.” She smiled, and clicked on the clippers.