Personnel Services – Yvonne K
The phone ringing interrupted my thoughts
“Hi, it’s Marla, I was wondering if it was OK if I took some extra time off at lunch, maybe from 11.30?”
“Er, hang on.” I delayed as I looked at today’s diary. “That might be a bit tight, as there will be no cover on reception.”
“Oh.” Her disappointment was obvious.
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“Can I ask why do you need to go?”
“It’s just that I was hoping to get into a salon for a haircut,” Marla explained.
Suddenly my daydreaming well and truly stopped, and a different kind of dreaming took its place. So, Marla fancies a haircut, I thought to myself. “I tell you what: I’ll see if I can get someone to cover for you, and I’ll call you back with an answer.” Truth was I had no intention of finding anyone to cover for Marla and instead I spent the next 5 minutes thinking to myself.
“Reception, Stephanie speaking, how can I help?”
“Hi Steph, I’m after Marla, is she around?”
“She’s on a call, can I help?”
“Can you ask her to pop up here when she’s free, it’s about her lunch hour.”
Within five minutes Marla appeared in the office. She was attractive, her blue-grey eyes were shielded behind glasses, as HR manager I knew she was mid 30s, and single. Her face was lightly made up, but she always wore a smile and had a bubbly, outgoing personality, which made her well suited to her receptionist role. Her face was framed by natural wavy hair that cascaded down to just tickle her shoulders. It was a variety of blonde shades from honey through to light brown, and its randomness suggested that this too was natural.
From the colour in her face I think she must have walked up the stairs, she did sound a little short of breath when she spoke,
“Steph said you wanted to see me?”
“Yes come in, thanks for being so quick.”
“Well I came as soon as I got off the phone.”
I had decided to delay my announcement that I wasn’t going to let her have the extra time, and therefore go for her cut at the salon. However I was going to give her the chance to have her haircut.
“I’m surprised you are going for a cut, your hair looks so good as it is. Couldn’t they fit you in for a trim at any other time?”
“No, I asked for some time after work, but they are booked solid for 2 weeks, and I really can’t wait. I need it sorted now!”
“Why the rush, surely you can wait a bit longer, hair can’t grow that quickly, surely?”
“That’s just it, it’s long enough already, the reason that they couldn’t fit me in is that I don’t just want a trim, I fancy a change and they said a re-style consultation lasts longer, which is why I asked for the longer lunch.”
“Oh, I see.” I was distracted by Marla’s revelation that she was thinking of and wanting a haircut, rather than just a trim. “So why the change in style?”
“Well, it’s been like this for so long, I find it hard to remember it being any different.”
“It suits you though – those curls – some girls would kill for them.”
“I know, I know, it’s just that I’m bored with it, I see other women coming here with much more exciting cuts, and I just wished I could join them.”
“There’s no reason why you shouldn’t, Marla…”
Before I could finish Marla butted in. “Does that mean I can go early then?”
“I’m afraid not today, we are just too busy, and I can’t spare the time at lunch, but I do have an idea.” Now I was committed. This would either go well or be a complete mess and embarrassment to us both. “I thought that maybe you would let me advise you on a style?”
“Really, do you know a lot about hair?” Marla questioned me, but I detected a hint of interest.
“Well, it is an interest of mine.” Marla now knew something that very few others knew. “I read a fair few magazines and I have trained as a hairdresser.” This last bit was not entirely true – my “training” was driven by an interest in haircutting and watching other trained stylists at work. I had indulged myself in haircutting of friends before, but I had not done anything in the last 5 years. I embellished my expertise a bit more. “I trained at college, and I used to work as a home hairdresser. I have all the equipment.” Again fact mixed with fiction, my “equipment” consisted of about 2 pairs of scissors, various brushes and combs and clippers.
“So what do you think I can do with it?” As she spoke her fingers entwined themselves in her soft curls. I asked her about the styles she liked, her favourites seemed to be variations on a bob. I asked her if she had thought about going shorter, maybe to a crop? Her hesitation made it unnecessary for her answer. “Do you mean like Steph’s? I don’t think so, that would be quite a change, to go from this to a short crop.” Steph’s hair really did suit her, cropped close, it was a short and fashionable style, her spiky hair tinted with a plum colour made her a very striking first impression on any visitor. Marla continued her explanation, “Besides it might look weird having two of us on reception with the same cut.”
I could see her point, and nodded, “So, what do you think, would you be OK to let me have a go? I can get my stuff this afternoon, and if you come back after 5 we should both have enough time to give you that restyle. You can think carefully about what you’d like, and I will give it some more thought too.”
“OK,” Marla said cheerfully, “see you a later.”
At 5 the offices began to empty, as darkness fell outside I closed the blinds and tidied my office as I nervously waited for Marla to arrive. I was still not certain that she would turn up. Marla’s knock on the door made me jump, and I turned as she entered the room. “Hi,” she said. She sounded nervous. “Did you think I would bottle out?”
“I was not sure,” I admitted, “but I’m glad you didn’t. So have you been thinking about what you would like?”
“Yes, all afternoon, I’ve hardly done anything else!”
It sounded like she had been as preoccupied as I had, I had done little since our earlier chat, other than to reacquaint myself with my equipment. I offered Marla a chair and she sat down. “Nervous?” I asked her, although I knew I was stating the obvious. I tried to remain as controlled as I could. Marla sat down but she was fidgety allowing her hands to toy with her hair. When she noticed I was looking at her she stopped, smiled and pulled her hands away.
“I wish I could have a smoke to steady my nerves.”
That wasn’t going to be possible unless she left the building. I thought if I let her go outside she might not come back in. I moved to the door, locked it and hit the override button on the smoke alarms. “Well, if you promise not to tell anyone, and I open the window you should get away with it.” After all, I wanted her to be as comfortable as possible. As Marla lit her cigarette and inhaled she seem to relax straight away, however her nerves were still evident by the way she played with the cigarette in between puffs. As she exhaled I asked her if she had made up her mind.
“Well, not really, I know I don’t want a crop but other than that I’m pretty open to suggestions.”
“Well how about I start cutting and we see what happens?”
“You promise that you won’t cut it all off and leave me with a crop? I really don’t feel ready for it yet.”
“I promise you won’t end up with a crop, Marla.” I was careful with the words I used, so not to restrict my options. “Now usually we would get your hair washed, but that’s not going to be possible here, all I have is my haircutting things.” As I spoke to her I gestured towards my desk, where on the top tray of my in-tray I had arranged the combs and scissors. Lying on the tray beneath, and hidden from Marla, were the clippers. “I thought I’d start with a basic bob, which is as you have now but just a bit shorter. If we go in smaller steps you can always tell me to stop, or carry on. Is that OK with you?” As she took her final puff she nodded. “Now as it’s not a salon there is no mirror either, but I have this small mirror that I found in my drawer, so as you can’t see what it looks like you will have to feel what it is like.”
“I wont be able to see very well without these anyway,” Marla said as she took of her glasses. She then took off her jacket and sat on the chair in front of me. Marla’s chair faced away from the desk, and I began to brush her hair. The brush bounced along the waves in her hair. I worked from the sides all around her head, from crown to shoulders. Up close I could see the variety of golden shades. I changed my brushing style and began to brush underneath her hair, pulling the brush towards me.
“Mmmm, that’s nice.” Marla’s voice broke the silence and surprised me, but I continued with the brushing and lost myself in my thoughts. I brushed for a full five minutes smoothing her hair after each pass of the brush. I was intrigued by the length and curl of her hair, how different it was from my own.
I leant back and picked up the scissors. “Right Marla, I’m going to start cutting now, and as cut I will tell you what I am doing, so if you don’t like the sound of it you can stop me. OK?”
“Right I am just going to start cutting level with your chin, this will give you a shorter bob style, and you can tell me what you think of it.” As the blades of the scissors met their first cut in years, it caused 3 inches of golden curls to fall away. They fell to her shoulders and as I brushed them off Marla shuddered. “I’m sorry there is no cape, I’ll try to make sure you don’t get too hairy.”
“That’s OK.” I gently moved her head to the side, and checking I maintained the level, I brought the scissors together again. More hair fell away and I saw Marla’s face begin to be revealed. Another half a dozen cuts and I was at the back of her head. I was surprised by just how much I had cut. There was a considerable difference between the length of Marla’s hair on the right hand side, compared with the left that I had been working on. The silence was only broken by the “schnick” the blades made as they met and severed her curls. As I cut, Marla’s hair above the scissors bounced upwards, as if it was relieved not to be cut, whilst the hair that was below the line of the blades fell away, silently.
I had soon finished my first cut and as Marla shook her head her hair danced. “What do you think about that as a start?” I asked her.
“It’s good but, it’s not a lot different from what I have. I thought you would have cut more off.” Marla sounded like she was complaining.
“Remember it’s only the first cut, if you want me to go shorter I will.” I really wanted to reveal Marla’s neck, and I had in mind a short bob with a difference. “I really think that you can go shorter, you can easily get away with a shorter bob, it would look really stunning on you.”
“Where do you want to cut it to?”
“To here,” I gestured, holding my hands horizontally alongside Marla’s face. The I realised she couldn’t see where my hand was indicating, and she reached up to feel. Her hand touched mine, resting as it did level with her ears.
“Oh, there,” she said, “that’s fine, cut away.”
“I can go higher if you wish. I thought you might like an angled cut so it’s cut higher at the back.” Again Marla was unaware of my gestures. My forefinger pointed to a point about 1 inch from her crown. If I cut her hair from her chin to this point there would be an angle of about 45 degrees. Unaware she shrugged, “Whatever.” “Ok then, I’ll cut the sides first, then I’ll look at the back and then I might need to do the sides again. Then we will talk about a fringe.”
Less delicately than before I chopped into Marla’s golden curls. Just over an inch of hair started to rain down onto her clothes and she assisted me to brush it off so it fell to the floor. As the scissors moved backwards I began to tilt them, so the angle of the cut climbed to the back of her head. Her right ear was revealed: a golden stud and ear-ring “ting”ed as the scissors knocked against them. More and more of Marla’s hair fell away as I cut up over her ear. It was only as I stood back that I realised I had a little problem. The curl in Marla’s hair made her hair spring up, and it had also become rather bushy. As I started to cut the other side in the same way, I thought of a solution. I finished cutting the sides. Marla’s hair was now cut diagonally from her chin to a point about 2 inches from her crown. The back was still long and it skimmed the gold chain she had round her neck. I told Marla about the sides.
“The sides are quite bushy Marla, because of the wave in your hair. I know how we can settle it down, are you OK for me to cut it?” I ran my fingers into the sides of her hair, my little finger on each hand brushed against her ears as I gently teased her hair away from her head.
Marla reached up with both hands and felt her hair. “Oh, yes, I see what you mean.” She didn’t realise that the actions of my fingers were exaggerating the body of her hair.
“To stop it happening at the back I will have to cut it shorter underneath.” Marla mumbled something that I couldn’t quite make out.
I took the comb from where it lay on the desk and I rummaged in the bag for some clips and hair bands. Picking the comb up in my left hand I began to comb the back of Marla’s hair. I began to part the hair horizontally above the cuts I made earlier. I combed the upper layers upwards and gathered them with my right hand. I noticed that the hair that hung below this line was much darker than that I had gathered up. I continued to work at the back of Marla’s head, until I had a perfect horizontal parting from the left to the right of her head. The hair I had gathered up I secured carefully in a band I got from the drawer, a little crude but it served its purpose.
Once I had finished this I felt glad that Marla could not see what I was doing and how she looked, with a pony tail sprouting from the top of her head. There was still a fair amount of hair to be cut. “I am going to cut this away and then it will allow the top layers to sit better, rather than being too bushy. I’m just going to do the same on the sides,” I awaited for a reply but Marla didn’t give one, so I carried on gathering and securing secured most of the hair that remained, securing it up high on each side. Soon the hair was parted and gathered into 3 sections I moved behind my desk and fumbled in the middle tray. As my hand emerged it was trembling as I gripped the clippers. I uncoiled the wire and plugged them in. “Right Marla, I am now going to cut the hair away, so you have an undercut.” This wasn’t quite true, it would be an undercut at the sides but the back it would be closely cropped as I had decided to reveal her nape and cut it high and close towards the crown. It was then I discovered that my clipper set was not complete: I only had one guard and it was the shortest there was. I decided not to tell Marla and I carried on.
I combed through the darker, looser hair, once more preparing it to be shorn away. I was enthralled by the line of separation caused by the parting, knowing as I did that there would soon be little left below it. I turned the clippers on, and they hummed as efficiently as they did the last time they were used. The sudden noise caused Marla to sit up. “Don’t worry. This is just the easiest way to cut the bulk off, and it gives a much better finish than scissors.” Only having the one guard to choose from, I carefully clipped it on, and checked it was fast. I practised a few swipes in the air, to get a feel for the clippers again, then I concentrated my gaze on Marla’s long, soon to be shorter, hair.
I placed the clippers at Marla’s nape and slowly pushed upwards. I was surprised with the ease at which the hair was removed. Inactivity had done nothing to rob the clippers of their ruthless efficiency. I noticed how strange I felt as I pushed the clippers higher up, through Marla’s curls and on to the parting. I ran a fingernail over the clipped area to check the length. As I moved up it felt so bristly, when I stroked my hand down it felt so smooth. Marla’s audible moan echoed my own internal moaning.
“Oh!” Her moan was soft and long. I continued with the clipping, slowly widening the shorn strip at the back of her head. Each time I worked up from the nape towards the crown. I remained amazed and transfixed as the hair fell away, the guard was cutting so close I could see her scalp. As I neared the finish I began to wish there were more lengths to shave away, I was enjoying this so much. I regretted only having the sides to cut, the transformation there not being half as dramatic. The floor beneath my feet was covered with the darker curls that once adorned Marla’s head. I decided that she looked far better for its removal.
I soon moved to the sides of her head. As quickly as they clipped the back the clippers eased their passage through the shorter lengths at her sides. The shorter hair flew away to fall to the floor and soon Marla’s head was covered with a golden brown, velvet pelt, that was smooth when you stroke it downwards yet deceptively stubbly when you stroke it the wrong way.
It dawned on me that Marla hadn’t said much whilst I had been clipping away. “Are you OK?” I ask.
“Oh… I’m fine… really.”
I released the hair that I had secured. It all cascaded down, the hair at the back bounced as it unfurled to its full length, not that it would be able to do that for much longer. The hair at the sides fell to conceal the close clipping that had happened underneath her curls. To finish the cut I needed to join up the line of the cut I had made at the side of her head. I began by carefully snipping the hair from the back of her head, working from right to left. I selected a few strands at a time, separating them and holding them between the middle and forefinger of my left hand. The right hand held the scissors, and as I closed my hand, a curtain of blonde curls fell to the floor revealing the crop underneath. Soon more of the clipped section was revealed and only one inch-wide section remained. It hung, in isolation, the sole indication of Marla’s former style and length.
“There,” I said, “I’m almost done, and you are almost finished. I just need to tidy things up and blend it in.” I picked up the scissors to blend the upper layers to the clipped lengths below. I cut downwards, carefully snipping off the ends of her curls, so they blended in. I stood in front of her and opened and closed the scissors before settling on a length for her fringe. At a line level with her eyebrows I closed the scissors, the hair fell away to reveal Marla with eyes sparkling and a smile to match. I soon had cut the rest of the hair away to leave Marla with a fringe for the first time in years.
Once I had finished with the scissors I picked up the clippers again and flicked off the guard. “I’ve just got to neaten you up.” I then turned them around and carefully placed the whirring teeth of the clippers against her bare flesh and began to shave away at Marla’s hairline to get a precise finish to the cut.
I was extremely pleased with the cut, but Marla was really in the dark as to what I had done. “What do you think, Marla?” I asked, and this was her cue to feel her new haircut. Ooh’s and Aah’s were the first few words I heard as she explored her new style, her fingers caressed the clipped undercut, exploring the extent of the clipping. She bounced the longer curls that remained.
“Well?” I asked, seeking her approval.
“It’s great,” she beamed. “I’m glad I couldn’t get in the salon, and I think that you have been hiding away this skill for too long.”
Pleased, I stood there and gazing at Marla I agreed, she looked great and it was the best time I had had in that office since I joined the company.
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