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Author: Blade
Category: Time for a Change
Location: Barbershop
Type: Fiction
Rating: PG
Date: 2006-02-16

Josie was three weeks into her new job at Harcourts Insurance, working as a claims administrator at their Head Office. It was a fifteen-mile journey to work every morning, but she couldn’t find a job closer to her home. Josie was not familiar with the town, where the Head Office was based, as she spent her free time in her own area. She would often feel the odd one out when her new work colleagues talked about local events, etc. However, she loved her job and the other women were really friendly.

One Monday morning, Josie noticed that a young woman, from the claims department, had had a dramatic change in hairstyle. On the previous Friday, she had had shoulder-length, brown hair. Now, she was sporting a short, choppy cut. Everyone remarked how fantastic it looked, and what an amazing difference it had made to her appearance.

Josie agreed. Her own hair was a similar colour, but a little longer. Having had the same style for a few years, she had recently been considering a change of hairstyle herself, especially since all her new work colleagues sported fashionable styles themselves. But she had never even considered such a radical change. Would it suit her, she pondered? This woman was living proof that it would! She loved that look and, when an opportunity presented itself, she approached the woman to ask her about it.

“Hi, we haven’t been introduced yet, but I’m Josie,” She nervously began, ” and I couldn’t help noticing your hair this morning.”

“Yeah, there’s not much hiding this is there!” She replied jokingly. “I’m Georgie. Do you like it then?” Georgie was very outgoing and confident.

“Yes, very much, it really suits you,” Josie answered, “where did you have it done?”

“In town, there’s this place down Welton Street, do you know it?”

“What, Welton Street?”

“No, the shop?” Georgie asked looking puzzled. “You don’t know Welton Street either?”

“No, I’m afraid I’m not local,” she said apologetically, “but I could find it on a map.” She felt a bit embarrassed at her obvious lack of local knowledge. Fortunately, Georgie has sympathetic to her problem.

“No worries,” she said, “if you find Welton Street, go down to just past the big supermarket. Across the road, you’ll see a take-away, and about three shops up you’ll see the shop. You can’t miss it!”

“What’s it called?” Josie asked.

“Do you know Josie, I haven’t got a clue! I was with some friends at the weekend, and they were all going in and so I said I would go in with them. I had no intention of having my hair cut, but hey, here I am!” Josie couldn’t imagine doing such a thing, and admired Georgie’s carefree attitude. She was so intrigued.

“So what’s the place like then?”

“Well it isn’t no modern la-di-da salon Josie, more like a barbershop if you ask me. There are no appointments. You just walk in and take a seat. It’s no frills, but can those women cut hair?!” Georgie enthusiasm was rubbing off on Josie. She was just about to question Georgie even more, when she was called away to check on something. As they went their own ways, Georgie encouraged Josie further.

“Get your map out and pay them a visit!”

Josie returned to her desk, and gave the idea some careful consideration. She had already booked Thursday off as holiday, with no specific plans for the day. Why not drive over and check this place out?

For some reason, she never saw Georgie again that day, nor on Tuesday or Wednesday. But she was confident that, with Georgie’s verbal directions, she would be able to find the shop on her own.

As she said goodnight to her work mates, on Wednesday evening, she thought to herself how surprised they would be when she returned on Friday. It would be her turn to receive the compliments this time!

Having found Welton Street easily enough, Josie soon realised how far the road stretched. It was a main road through the town, and so it was little wonder that Georgie was surprised that she didn’t know it!

Being nearly three miles long, Josie did wonder at which end to begin. She walked along the road, heading into the very town centre, until she spotted a supermarket. A little way past that, there were several take-away shops together which slightly puzzled Josie. Georgie had said take-away, not take-aways? Perhaps, she hadn’t explained herself too well, or maybe Josie hadn’t heard her correctly? Anyway, she distinctly remembered Georgie saying that the shop was `about three shops past’ the take-aways, and so she carried on by.

As she counted shop fronts she saw that, seven shops down, there was indeed a barbershop. That must be it?! She shook her head, thinking how scatter-brained Georgie must be. First she’d only said about one take-away, and then she’d only counted three shops past? Josie wondered if Georgie and her friends had been drinking that day?!

As she approached the barbershop, its appearance didn’t fill her with confidence. It looked very much like a traditional barbershop, complete with red & white revolving pole outside, but the shop front was in need of a lick of paint! Josie decided to do a `walk-by’ to see what the inside looked like, through the front window.

As she passed, she could see two red-leather barber chairs, stood side-by-side, in front of a countertop. Vinyl tiles covered the floor, and the room was light with a fluorescent light on the ceiling. Seated in one of the seats, was a barber. As she focused on the figure, Josie realised that the barber was indeed a woman! So this must be the place, she thought!

Not to look too obvious, she walked past a couple of more shops before pausing on the pavement. She turned around and walked back. There was something still not quite right about this, she thought, and so she did another `walk-by’, to take another look in.

Sure enough, there was a barberette seated awaiting her next customer and, yes, the shop was more like a barbershop than a `modern la-di-da salon’! Josie looked up for the shop name, but it just said `Hairdressing’, and that’s probably why Georgie didn’t know its name?

Josie now decided to cross the road, to view the shop from afar. Something in her was still uneasy about this, but she couldn’t escape the fact that it fitted with Georgies description? As she leant up against the lamppost, her angle of view allowed her to see the barbertte. She was still seated in one of the two leather chairs, reading a magazine. Where were the `women’ that Georgie described? That was, unless another woman worked there at the weekends? It was only Thursday morning after all, and obviously the shop was not busy enough to justify two barberettes, both sitting there reading magazines!

After convincing herself that she had the right place, Josie decided that she would walk down on the opposite side of the road, cross over and then she would go in. This would give her two more chances to look inside and satisfy any doubt remaining.

Her heartbeat was racing and she was as nervous as hell, as she crossed the road, having decided that this was her `final appr
oach’! There was no reason for her to postpone this any longer. The barberette had remained in her seat throughout and no other customers had entered the shop. This was it!

Josie tried to calm herself as she walked up to the shop front, telling herself that Georgie’s haircut was amazing and that she would look the same within the hour! As she passed the window, towards the shop door, she looked in for one final check. There was no change. The barberette was still seated. There were no other customers. She would be straight into the chair. She was just seconds away from having her hair cut!. She reached out and grasped the door handle and, with a deep breath, she gently pushed it open.

As she entered, Josie immediately breathed in the smell of cigarettes and male hair grooming products. The barberette looked up from her magazine and smiled at Josie through the mirrors reflection.

“Hello love.” She said in a firm, but friendly, tone.

“Hi,” replied Josie, standing sheepishly just inside the doorway. She was so nervous that her voiced trembled, “a friend of mine, at work, came in at the weekend and had her hair cut short and choppy. I was wondering if you could cut mine in a similar style?”

“Of course love. Take off your coat and come and take a seat.” The barberette climbed out of her chair, and turned it around to face Josie. Obediently, Josie removed her jacket and hung it up. As she then walked towards the chair, the barberette took the red cape from the chair’s back, and shook it loose. Something about this action unnerved Josie, and made her pause.

“Step up love.” The barberette instructed. Still a little unsure, Josie placed one foot on the chair’s footrest, and swung her backside into the seat, lowering herself down whilst grasping both armrests. Without a word, the chair was then turned to face the mirror. Josie then felt the chair jerk, as the barberette began pumping the chair upward.

Staring at her own seated-reflection, Josie could now also view the barberette. She was older than Josie had expected. This woman was slightly overweight, but appeared quite muscular at the same time. Her face was wrinkled, and her grey hair was tightly permed, and quite short Josie thought. Georgie’s short, choppy, quite sporty haircut had a sense of youthfulness about it. Whereas this woman appeared very traditional, prim and proper, and it surprised Josie that she would cut hair in a way like Georgie’s had been?

Her train of thought, and her view of the woman, was temporarily broken as the red cape was swung around her. The barberette gathered it up tightly around Josie’s neck, securing it firmly in place. She then grasped Josie’s long locks into a make-do ponytail, and pulled them out from under the cape. Her hair fanned out around her shoulders, and the barberette gave a less than admiring look at the long, cascading tresses. She then brushed past Josie’s shoulder, as she walked to the countertop where she picked up her comb and scissors. Josie thought it strange that her hair had not been washed, nor dampened yet?

“Are you keeping the centre-parting dear?” The barberette asked, as she began combing Josie’s hair.

“Well, err, no, not really. You see my friend had a short, choppy style. There wasn’t really a parting at all.” Josie answered, not entirely sure that the barberette was on the same wavelength yet. “You cut her hair in layers, so she could have it spiky but not punky, if you know what I mean?” She was looking for some reassurance here.

“Oh, I see,” the woman replied, not really conveying any reassurance at all, “well, I’ll take the length off for you first and then we’ll see.” With that, Josie watched as she manoeuvred the scissors in her hands, and prepared to start cutting. She placed one hand on the back of Josie’s head, and gently pushed it forward, dropping Josie’s chin downward. As she could feel her long hair being combed once more, she tried to look up at the mirror but was unable to. The combing paused for a split second, only to be followed by the sound of the first cut, `schnik’! To Josie, it sounded quite high up the back of her head but, without clear sight, it was impossible to know for sure.

`Schnik, schnik-schnik’, the scissors opened and closed repeatedly. Josie was beginning to feel anxious about this haircut, and tried to lift her head up slightly, in order to look through the mirror’s reflection. However, the barberette just pushed her head down again.

“Keep your head still, there’s a good girl!” She instructed. Josie wasn’t used to being spoken to like a child. She was twenty years old, and had left school years ago!

The combing, alternated with the cutting, moved to the rear, left-hand side of Josie’s head. The woman gently pressed her temple, to move her head over to the right-hand side. At last, Josie could look into the mirror, but her remaining hair still shielded her view of how much had been cut off the back. Not for long however! The barberette combed the hair covering Josie’s left ear, and readjusted the scissors in her hand. Josie watched, expecting the cut to be made equal with the bottom of her ear, believing that the woman would cut it rough first, before cutting her hair into it’s final style.

The comb lifted a section of hair, and the scissor blades were swiftly inserted near the scalp. As Josie watched in horror, the blades closed together, just above the top of her left ear, `schnik!’

“No, no, you’re cutting it too short!” She blurted, as she immediately up righted her head. ” That’s too short!” The barberette just pushed her head back over without hesitation.

“Keep still will you?” She retorted in a firm tone. “It’s not too short at all.” With her hand still held against Josie’s head, she combed through the long locks left in front of Josie’s left ear.

“No, it is too short!” Josie persisted. ” I wanted short and choppy, not just short. You have to leave longer layers for it to look right!” She was beginning to panic now, especially as the barberette seemed less than sympathetic with her.

“Will you please keep still dear,” she ordered, “I will sort it out once I have taken off the length. I told you this, don’t you listen?” Her tone was that of an old, and annoyed, schoolmistress. Its effect was to silence Josie in an instant. As she resigned herself to her fate, the cutting resumed. `Schnik, schnik-schnik, schnik!”

The woman now walked around the back of the chair, to the right-hand side of Josie. As she did, Josie up righted her head to view her `new look’. She was horrified at the reflection in the mirror. The hair, on the left-hand side of her head, had been reduced to about two inches in length! This contrasted dramatically with her right-hand side, where her hair still hung past her shoulders. She looked like a freak!

Josie was about to speak up, but a firm hand pushed her head over to the left, just as she was summoning up the courage. Once more, she resigned herself to having this severe haircut. The barberette seemed to sense Josie’s discomfort, and swiftly began despatching her long, brown tresses to the shop floor without much combing inbetween the cutting. `Schnik, schnik-schnik, schnik!”

Just as the barberette was cutting across above Josie’s right ear, the shop door opened.

“Morning Shelia.” An old man’s voice was heard to say.

“Good morning love,” said the barberette, ” are you okay?”

Josie, with her head tilted over, had a limited view of the shop interior and couldn’t see this stranger at first. Then he slowly shuffled into sight. She could see him staring at her seated there.

“Having a haircut Miss?” He suddenly said. At first, Josie didn’t realise who he was speaking to, but then she realised he was now looking directly at her face through the mirror.

“Yes.” She answered him, dismissing him as a little odd. He shuffled forward, as if to gain a better view of proceedings. He appeared to be in his sixties, and was quite frail.

“My, that’s a lot of hair on the floor isn’t it? I bet that fe
els lighter eh?” He chuckled.

Josie managed a polite smile for the elderly gentleman, who continued to stand behind her and watch her haircut.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a girl in here before Shelia?” He remarked, as he finally turned to sit down in one of the waiting chairs.

“No, I don’t get many in here,” the barberette replied, ” I can’t remember the last time, to be honest with you.”

Josie, already having serious suspicions about how her haircut was proceeding, was not finally realising that she was in the wrong shop after all. Or was it? Had Georgie played a cruel prank on her? If so, why had she? Josie had never done her any wrong. Well, not knowingly anyway? But, she truly believed that she had followed Georgie’s directions, allowing for her little inaccuracies that is.

As she pondered her dilemma, the shop door opened again. Unfortunately for Josie, the shop was starting to get busy. This time another man entered, accompanied by his young son, who was probably about twelve years old. They both sat down, but the son chose to sit in a chair that allowed him to look directly at Josie’s face, through the mirror. He sat there staring at Josie intently, making her feel very self-conscious about her predicament.

Shelia now returned to the countertop, and placed the scissors down. To Josie’s complete surprise, the barberette then proceeded to light herself a cigarette, from a packet on the countertop! She stood there, for a few seconds, drawing deeply on the cigarette, before placing it balanced on the edge of an ashtray. Josie couldn’t help breathing in the smoke, and gave out a small cough. She couldn’t believe how rude this woman was, to smoke whilst giving her a haircut?

Without a word, the barberette leant down slightly, and unhooked the electric hair clippers, before straightening up again and choosing one of the plastic guards from off the countertop surface. Josie noted her every movement with disbelief. Surely she wasn’t about to use them on her? To her horror, the barberette shook the electric cable loose, and walked around to the back of the chair once more. Josie’s eyes widened as she watched her through the mirror. She heard the loud pop, as the clippers were switched on, followed by the continuous hum. Josie sat frozen in the chair as the barberette prepared for the first pass of the clippers. The boy in the waiting chair grinned, as he sensed Josie’s discomfort, and he nodded his head as though to confirm Josie’s fears.

Josie nearly leapt out of her skin as the clipper blades touched her neck, but Shelia just firmly pushed them up her nape regardless. The sound of scrunching, as the blades sheared away her remaining hair was too much for Josie.

“Please, not too short!” She pleaded.

As ever, Shelia was unsympathetic. She just continued with the shearing of Josie’s hair, acknowledging her plea with a frustrated sigh.

The boy in the mirror was certainly enjoying the spectacle, and ran his hand through his own hair as if to mock Josie further. It was all she could do not to cry. She felt so humiliated and embarrassed., and now the shop was half full of male customers!

Shelia ran the clippers up the back and both sides of Josie’s head, before they were returned to the hanging hook. She picked up her cigarette again, and placed it between her lips. The lit end glowed red, as she drew hard on it again. This time, she did not return it to the ashtray, but kept it in her mouth, squinting as the smoke rolled up across her face. The scissors were then picked up again, and she returned to combing out the hair on Josie’s crown.

“You see, I’ve left it longer on the top so that you can have it spiky, just like you wanted.” The barberette proudly told her. “I’ll just tidy up the length, and you’ll be done!” With that, she combed out a length of hair. `Schnik’, and it was reduced from two inches, to about an inch and a half! This, she continued, blending in the top hair with the much-shorter sides. `Schnik, schnik-schnik-schnik, schnik, schnik!’ Josie’s hair had been reduced to a boy’s short back and sides! There was no other word for it!

The boy in the mirror let out a snigger, as Sheila even applied a handful of `Brylcreem’ to Josie’s hair, in an attempt to show how she could `spike it up’!

Not a second too soon was Shelia removing the cape from around Josie. All the customers waiting just stared at her, whilst she paid Shelia. As the barberette sorted out her change, Josie looked down at all of her long, brown hair now scattered on the shop floor around the barber chair. She looked again at her own reflection, unable to comprehend the severity of the cut. It was almost savagely short! The barberette gave her change, and Josie turned to walk out of the shop.

“It suits you young lady.” The frail old gentleman called, as he went to climb into the vacated barber chair. Josie turned and smiled at him, and saw the boy just sniggering at her again. She was so relieved to get outside the shop, be walking away from the place! As she walked along the pavement, past the various shops, she imagined everyone looking and laughing at her. It was just so embarrassing!

Josie had dreaded this moment. She walked into her office, back at work on Friday morning, to be met with looks of surprise and amazement. Her co-workers gasped as they looked at her new cropped hairstyle. Fortunately, washing out the brylcreem and just using mousse and a hairdryer to style the remaining hair, it didn’t look half as bad as when she originally left the barbershop! However, it was clearly not a fashionable short style, and was obviously not done at a competent hair salon.

Her appearance was met with various comments, some more complimentary than others but done really nasty. That is, none that were said to her face. Josie could see a few of the woman whispering things to each other and clearly looking over at her, before breaking out in laughter and sniggers.

Midway through the morning, Georgie suddenly appeared at Josie’s desk.

“Jesus, I heard you’d had it cut short, but that really is short Josie!” Josie looked up at her. She half-believed that Georgie had set her up, and knew precisely what would happen when she walked into Shelia’s shop.

“Yes, your friend didn’t spare me did she!” She answered bluntly. Georgie looked puzzled.

“What? Samantha did this?”

“No, Shelia!”

“Shelia? Who’s Shelia?”

“You know Georgie.” Josie wasn’t in the mood for Georgie’s game this morning.

“Josie, I don’t know who you mean. There’s no Shelia at `Supercuts’? There’s Samantha and Julie, but Julie only works there on the Saturday. There’s no Shelia?”

“Supercuts?” Josie asked.

“Yes, Supercuts! I found out the name Wednesday night. I came to tell you yesterday, but you weren’t in and, when I’ve come to see you today, it’s too late! But, yes, Supercuts! That is where you went isn’t it?” Georgie was beginning to suspect not.

“I think so,” Josie replied, ” it was just down from the take-away shops, just like you said.”

“Take-away shops? There’s only one down that end Josie.”

“No, there were about three or four, just past the Morrisons supermarket.” Georgie’s face changed immediately.

“Morrisons? No, not Morrisons Josie! That’s not right! It’s near the Tesco store, down the other end..town end!”

“Tesco? I didn’t see a Tesco store?”

“You would have been up Craven Street end.” Georgie thought for a few seconds. “This shop you went in, was it the same side as Morrisons?”

“Well, err, yeah it was.”

“About fifteen, maybe twenty, shops down?”

“I don’t know, possibly? That sounds about right.”

“Jesus Josie, you went into a proper barbershop! No wonder your hair’s so short!”

“But you said it was a barbershop?”

“No, I said it was more like a barbershop! You don’t make an appointment at Supercuts, and it isn’t as flashy as some proper salons, but it is not a real barbershop!!” Georgie’s jaw dropped as she realised just where Josi
e had gone. “Jesus, that woman’s is renown for short haircuts Josie. The locals call her Shelia Todd, after Sweeney Todd, you know!”

“I just asked her for short and choppy, thinking I was in the right place.”

“That woman only knows one style Josie love, and that’s short – extremely short!”

“Don’t I know that!”

“Oh, Josie, I’m so sorry for you. Listen, next time, let me know and I’ll take you to Supercuts myself.” Georgie ran her fingers through Josie’s remaining hair. “It won’t be too long before it’s long enough to do something with.” She added reassuringly.

“Thank you, I’ll take you up on that.” Josie smiled.

“But, in future, you will have to listen more carefully, won’t you.” She jokingly teased her.

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