Home » Language » English » Facing The Demons of Her Past

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There must be hundreds, if not thousands, of small hair salons like it around the country. Standing there on the back roads of most cities, towns and villages. Their shop fronts sparse of the modern `in your face’ sign writing and neon signs, happier to blend into the background and general fabric of the community. Their doors glazed in obscure glass and their front windows draped in netting, as if to prevent the curious from looking inside. The steady flow of elderly female clientele, all wearing the similar permed mass of tight white curls.

`Rosinas’ was typical of this type of small salon. Tucked away on a back road, most people would hardly notice it as they walked by. For there were only a couple of framed photographs, featuring dated ladies hairstyles, on the front windowsill and the name above the shop. There were no other indications that it was hair salon! Despite this, it enjoyed a loyal customer base, and was something of a refuge for the local older generation. Entering the shop, these women felt cocooned by its familiarity and traditional ways.

The owner of Rosinas was a woman named Hilary. She was in her mid-fifties, and had owned the shop for over fifteen years having taken over from her own mother. In its heyday, the shop employed four girls and was a constant buzz of activity. Now, Hilary just employed her daughter Josie, aged 31. Generally, she would shampoo clients and do the normal housekeeping in the shop, like sweeping up, making drinks and booking the diary, etc. Over the years, Hilary had taught her to do simple haircuts, but Josie had never been ambitious enough to take it any further.

Ella drove past the shop everyday on her way to work, as she lived just around the corner. Her parents’ house was nearby as well and, having grown up in the area, Ella was well aware of Rosinas. It had just simply been there all of her life. She could remember, as a child, her own mother going there and dragging her along with her. Back then, Hilary’s mother Rosina was the `head stylist’, and Ella could clearly recall her mother asking Rosina to do something with her daughter’s hair. She consequently cut Ella’s hair very short, telling her that this was the `latest fashion on Carnaby Street’! At that age, Ella hadn’t a clue where Carnaby Street was, its significance, or outdated such a saying was!. All she knew was that her long hair had be hacked away, and that she would be the laughing stock at school the next day! It wasn’t the last time that Ella was marched down to the little salon, and it wasn’t the last time that her prized hair was lopped off! Even now, at the age of 24, Ella would feel a tingle whenever she drove by and looked across at the shop.

Given her previous experiences there, you would imagine that Ella would never dream of stepping inside the place again. But you would be wrong.

For Ella had found herself in a situation. Since leaving school and getting herself a job, she had always had her hair regularly trimmed and styled at `Websters’. It was a trendy, just-out-of-town salon and Ella found a stylist there, named Amber, who cut her hair perfectly every visit. Unfortunately, Amber and her husband had moved to another part of the country. This left Ella without a stylist. Her dilemma was whether she tried another stylist at Websters, or uses the opportunity to try somewhere else.

However, for some reason, a more daring idea had crossed her mind. For eight years she had played it safe with her hair. There had been no dramatic changes of style or colour, despite the constant encouragement of Amber who, Ella thought, would have loved to transform her given the chance!

Perhaps, she thought, if she had to change stylist then why not grab the bull by the horns and get a new look as well? The strange thing was, as she considered her next step, the memories of her visits to Rosinas played on her mind. Even stranger was the fact that Ella no longer shuddered when she recalled those short haircuts. She could picture herself sat in one of Rosina’s chairs, wearing a large floral gown, as her mother and Rosina discussed how her hair was to be cut. Rosina would always persuade her mother that a short cut was best, and the cutting would soon commence. Over ten years since she was last taken there, Ella could clearly remember the cascades of hair falling onto her lap.

Ella found those graphic memories somehow arousing in a strange way. A few years back, she would never of considered returning there. Now, she wasn’t too sure? There was a curiosity building up inside her. What was the shop like inside now? Surely they didn’t cut hair as short now as they did back then? Besides, she was a little girl back then, and you don’t give a grown-up woman a little girls’ haircut do you? No, the little salon might lack the prestige of Websters, but Ella was sure that she would get a reasonable haircut if she did go back. In any case, even if they did cut it a little shorter than she usually had it, then that would be fate. Trying to be decisive, Ella convinced herself that she should take the opportunity to confront her childhood demons, and have her haircut at Rosinas despite any nerves she might have. Determination was the key, she thought, and decided to have the afternoon off work on Friday. On her way back home, she would call in and see if they could fit her in. If she couldn’t be seen straight away, and she didn’t think the salon was ever that busy in any case, then maybe later that afternoon, If that wasn’t possible, Ella would take that as a signal to abandon the idea altogether.

So, she left work on Friday as planned, and drove towards Rosinas. Twenty minutes later, she was parking up outside. She looked at herself in her rear view mirror, admiring her shoulder-length, black hair. Was she sure this was the right thing to do? Had she forgotten those childhood haircuts? She smiled at her self-doubting reflection, and got out of the car. Maintaining her determination, she strode towards the shop door and pushed it open.

As she walked through the doorway she looked up. They still had that old doorbell, which rang when the door was opened. The memory of it ringing came back to her in an instant.

“Can I help you?” She heard a voice ask her. It was Josie, who was sat at the main counter. Ella looked over at her. She was dressed in the same style of nylon smock that Rosina used to where! In fact, as Ella gave the shop interior a quick look, nothing appeared to have changed much. It was like going back in time?

“Yes.” Ella began hesitantly, suddenly feeling not as confident as she had been, “I was wondering if there was any chance of having my hair cut…I mean trimmed?” She quickly corrected herself, choosing to play it safe despite her best intentions.

“Mum, can you give this lady a haircut?” Josie called over to Hilary. She was busy removing rollers from the hair of an elderly woman. Hilary paused and looked over.

“Not unless she wants to wait for half an hour?” She replied. “You could do it though!” She added. Josie turned back to Ella and gave her an unnerving grin.

“Okay then, if you would like to take a gown and slip it on?” Josie said, pointing towards the floral gowns hanging up by the door. Apprehensively, Ella took a gown and put it on. Josie walked from behind the counter and guided her towards a vacant chair. No more words were exchanged until Ella had sat down in front of the large wall mirror. Almost immediately, Josie began combing through Ella’s black locks.

“Right then, how would you like it?” She asked. Ella tried to relax her tensed muscles, telling herself not to be so nervous. Amber would usually take about half an inch off the length, and then use a razor to shave the thickness of the sides.

“I normally have the sides razored,” she answered, “and the ends trimmed.” Her watched as Josie nodded, appearing to understand what was required and agreeing with the required look.

“Shall I razor the back for you as well?” She asked.

“Well, errrrr, if you think it needs it, then yes.” E
lla replied.

“Oh it would definitely look better if it’s all even.” Josie said with confidence. “It would look really odd if I only do the sides!”

“Okay then.” Confirmed Ella, feeling herself relax a little.

“Head forward then please?” Josie asked, as she gently pushed Ella’s head. Ella obediently tilted her head downward, looking directly at her own lap, as she felt Josie comb through her hair once more. She then stepped away for a second, fumbling around at another station, before returning to Ella.

`POP’ – the noise took Ella by surprise and she jumped. Josie’s hand firmly rested on the back of her head and pressed in downward. Suddenly, Ella was aware of a distinct buzzing noise. A split second later, she felt something touch the back of her neck and travel up her nape, accompanied by a strange scrunching sound. Then it moved to the base of her neck again, slightly over to one side, and began travelling up her nape again. As if woken from deep sleep, Ella realised what that sound was! Hair clippers!!

“What are you doing?” She cried, but Josie continued to shear off her locks.

“What’s up?” She asked puzzled, as she positioned the clippers for another pass. Ella pulled her head slightly forward, away from Josie.

“You’re using hair clippers on me, that’s what’s up!!” She screamed. Undeterred, Josie placed her hand on Ella’s forehead and gently pulled her head back, placing the clippers back on her nape.

“Of course!” She retorted. “You said you wanted it razored?” She began pushing the clippers up the back of Ella’s head once more. This time Ella leaned her whole upper body forward.

“No! No! Stop! Just stop!” She cried. Josie lowered the clippers and gave Ella a puzzled look. “That’s not what I meant!!” Ella argued, mortified by what Josie had done. “I said I wanted it razored, not shaved off!” Josie just looked blankly at her, gesturing that she didn’t think there was a difference.

“What do you mean?” She quizzed Ella, looking totally confused.

“Razoring is where you reduce the thickness of the hair by shaving layers away!” Explained Ella. A puzzled complexion looked back at her through the mirror. “You’ve just shaved my hair off!”

At this point, Hilary appeared behind Josie. She had heard the arguing and had come across to see what the problem was.

“Mum, this lady asked me to razor her hair. I started to do it, and now she’s changed her mind?” Josie told her.

“No! That’s not right!” Snapped Ella. “I haven’t changed my mind at all. I asked her to razor my hair, meaning razor some of the layers away to reduce the thickness. She’s gone ahead and shaved me with her clippers!!”

“So, you didn’t want it razored then?” Hilary asked curtly.

“Yes, I did. But this isn’t being razored, this is being shaved!” Ella replied.

“Sounds like the same thing to me!” Hilary hissed back at Ella. “Razored, shaved, clipped…it’s all the same here dearie! Besides, the damage is done now isn’t it? There’s no point in going on about it. You should have made yourself clear at the start, then this wouldn’t have happened, would it?”

“I did! I said I wanted it razored! I never said anything about wanting it shaved or clippered!”

“Well, you obviously didn’t make yourself understood did you?” Hilary stated defiantly. “I think I’d better take over her Josie. Go and see that Mrs Jackson is okay under that dryer.”

“Okay Mum.” Answered Josie, leaving Hilary and Ella alone. Immediately, Hilary picked up the clippers and switched them back on.

“I’d better finish this off then.” She announced, pushing Ella’s head forward again and moving the humming clippers back towards Ella’s neck.

“Wait! Is there anyway to limit the damage? I don’t want it too short!” Ella pleaded.

“No, not really.” Snapped Hilary, pushing the clippers back up her nape. “You should have explained yourself better!” Ella felt the clippers press much harder against her skin, and Hilary seemed to push them further up the back of her head. Ella sat in a dazed state. There was little sympathy coming from this woman. She sat there motionless as she caught a glimpse of large clumps of her black hair falling from her head.

“Could you leave the top layers as they are?” Ella asked, thinking a good stylist might be able to create a funky, fashionable hairstyle out of what would be left. She’d still have shaven back and sides, but it might not look so awful.

“That would look daft!” Dismissed Hilary. “I’m not having you leave here with a half-finished haircut! No, it’s going to be cut nice and short.” As she continued to shave away Ella’s hair, she also continued her bad-tempered rant. “I’m fed up with you young girls. You come in here and mess me about. You don’t know what you want half the time! Well, at least this way you’ll not have enough hair to be choosy about.”

Ella was shocked by her sudden outburst. What had she done to annoy this woman so much.

“Listen, I’m sorry. But I didn’t want my hair cut short.” She explained. Hilary just huffed her indigence, as she finished shaving the sides of Ella’s head. Without a word, she placed the clippers back on their hook, took her scissors and began back combing Ella’s crown. She combed out a section and held it up, in between her fingers, and slid the scissor blades in. Schnick! Ella watched horrified as Hilary cut her hair just above her fingers, reducing it’s length to a mere half inch! Six inches of severed hair dropped in front of her eyes. Hilary saw the look on Ella’s face.

“Don’t start young lady, or I’ll shave the whole lot!” She warned. “Don’t think I won’t!” Ella didn’t doubt it for a second! She watched as Hilary combed up another section in her fingers. Schnick! Another section. Schnick! Another. Schnick! Progressively, she worked backwards, across Ella’s crown, reducing her flowing locks into a butch-looking, crisp, short crop. With the overall length now removed, Hilary went to work on the detail. She mercilessly snipped away at Ella’s hairline, giving her a ridiculously high fringe. Once more, she picked up her clippers. She removed the plastic guide and ran the blades up her temples and around her ears, as if enjoying taking the haircut even shorter.

Hilary pushed Ella’s head forward again, and shaved her nape once more with the naked clipper blades. Now she really was giving Ella a very short `short back and sides’. Josie walked back to stand behind Ella, smiling as she viewed her mother’s work.

“My, that’s much shorter than I would have cut it.” She said, as if to make Ella regret making a fuss. “That’s really short mum!”

“Well Josie, maybe this will teach this young lady to make herself clear next time.” Hilary smirked. “It’ll certainly be a while before it’s that long again!” Ella did not reply. She tearfully looked at her reflection. The horrors of her childhood had returned with a vengeance. Gone, was the stylish, fashionable young woman. Her feminine, flowing locks replaced with a hard-looking, shaven-headed appearance. Hilary unfastened the gown.

“I expect to see you again in three weeks.” She instructed. “Any longer, and I’ll shave it even shorter next time, okay?” Ella rose to her feet, feeling rather unsteady. “Okay?” Hilary repeated sternly. Ella looked at her.

“Okay.” She answered.

“Good! Josie, make a date in the diary and take down her details!” Hilary called over to her daughter. Ella was in a dazed state, completely subservient to Hilary’s commands.

“Name?” Josie asked, as Ella walked up to the cash register.

“Ella,” She replied. “Ella Wilkinson”.

“Address?”

“26 Maywall Crescent.”

“Local girl then?” Josie remarked. “Funny, I don’t remember seeing you in here before? Never mind, I’ll be seeing you regularly from now on. What’s your phone number?” Ella obediently gave Josie her mobile and home telephone numbers. “Right then, my mum wants to see you again in three weeks Ella. That’ll be on the sixteenth, okay?”

“I guess so, I’d have to check?” Ella pondered.

“No, it has to be on the sixteenth.” Josi
e insisted. “We open at eight and close at six.”

“I’ll try to make it.”

“No, you don’t understand. If you don’t come for your haircut, my mum will come round to find out why not.” Ella stood there horrified that Hilary would do such a thing. “It’s better, all round, if you just come here?” Josie added.

Ella nodded and headed for the door. Hilary watched her leave, satisfied that she had won herself another regular customer. As for Ella, fear would ensure that she returned to Rosinas.

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