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Tabitha had never been one of the cool kids, in fact she liked to hide behind her knee-length straight caramel-coloured hair and never spoke to anyone unless they spoke to her. It came from years of being an only child. She watched as other girls formed groups- the cheerleaders, the goths, the intellectuals- a group in which she had a few friends, the sporty types etc.
She had been a lively vivacious child until she was six when her mother died. Somehow she never felt like it anymore. The house was so miserable. Only she had made it come alive, as for her father he knew that his wife had been the love of his life. He never even had another companion.

She had forgotten what it was like to live in the real, vibrant, world. That is until she started university. She had got outstanding exam results so had ended up with a scholarship to one of America’s top universities in Boston. She was re-born. Suddenly she was “expected” to have a social life.

She had gravitated towards a band who spent their down-time at a coffee shop which had regular poetry readings. Owen had intrigued her. He wore a beret and had a really cheesy grin. Life’s ironies had always amused him. She had been juggling collecting her change from the cashier with holding her coffee cup and picking up a muffin- something just HAD to give. He had laughed at her. She had snapped at him, then to apologise for his rudeness he had paid for her. She still didn’t know why she had agreed. Before she knew it he was talking about this band he was a member of- he gave ironic verse to their rock ballads- who were looking for a singer.

With the words “Come on, what’s the worst that can happen? Their last singer couldn’t so he just shouted and they hired him?!” she was sold and agreed to meet the band. She had an average singing voice but she did enjoy it. She hadn’t sung at home, it reminded her father too much of her mother’s singing voice. She had sung all over the house, especially when she was cleaning.

She auditioned in front of five people including Owen who had that charming cheesy grin on his face during her entire performance- it had a calming effect on her. His cheesy grin told her that she wasn’t alone and that somebody else cared. She sang her heart out as she had been on the brink of for years- all of those years’ pent-up emotions released in one go. She wouldn’t be able to do that again.

There had been an audience other than the band and THEY gave her a standing ovation. All she got from the band was bobbing heads as they swayed with the beat of the song. The guitarist with the grimey black t-shirt with a photo of an obscure European rock band on the front and a mangled beard and hair approached her “I s’pose you’re in the band. You rock Blondy!” There was no hint of a smile. She later learnt that his name was Jerome, known to all followers of the band as Grungey.

She slept so well that night. She was finally awakening from her father’s enforced social hibernation.

Early that morning her room-mate let Owen in. “So?” she said as she slowly awoke from her slumber.

“Well, they really liked you, but…..” The smile raced away from Owen’s face. “They need to style you. If you are to stay in the band as their official singer you need to be a proper spokesperson for the band.” Tabitha quite liked the idea of a make-over. Anything to get her out of this rut. She had never been able to change anything as she had grown up. Her father wanted EVERYTHING to remind him of the way things were before her mother passed. He hadn’t been able to change her growing up but he had controlled everything else. At the time she hadn’t minded, but now, in college, the real world, she realised what she had been missing out on.

“OK” she said with a shrug.

“Great. Grungey will pick you up around 2.00pm this afternoon so you can be ready for their gig tonight. I’ve told him where to come.”

Owen saw the confused look on her face.

“So soon?”

“Er yes, Tabs, they have a gig at a student union in Washington State.”

Tabitha smiled.

“See you later.”

At 1.58pm Tabitha laid down her books to answer the knock on her door. Grungey was punctual to perfection. She followed him down to the grey van which could’ve belonged to anyone but had all of the band’s equipment in the back. He moved some of it to reveal incongruous comfy arm-chairs in the back. “Hold still n I’ll try not to veer too much. I know it made Owen sick when he travels with us.”

She couldn’t see much out of the grimy windows but was quite relieved that it was a short journey as he jerked to a stop. He let her out to bright sunshine and offered her his hand. They were at a small parade of shops. “I’m banging Toni, the owner of this salon, so she gives us a discount.”

“Deep waters run deep.” Tabitha mused. Grungey pushed open the door and two kids- a boy and a girl- both with wavy long hair jumped on him “Daddy!” As Grungey carried them across the floor. He ushered Tabitha towards a woman, she guessed to be about 38 with a short blonde crewcut, wearing an off-white blouse and a loud turquoise mini skirt. “That’s my missus. She’ll be dollin’ you up!” The lady smiled at Tabitha. She radiated warmth. Tabitha no longer cared what happened now. She felt like she had come home.

“Right, I can see that we have a lot of work to do if I’m to follow Jake’s brief.” Jake was the founder and bass guitarist in the band. “Right. I think we’ll do the hair first, so I can finish Tabs”- I learnt that Owen had passed this on to everyone as my preferred name- “then I can put the kids’ tea on, she can be fitted up then we can have some alone time before the gig.” Grungey was away showing his son how to play guitar. Tabitha found a cape had made its’ way around her shoulders. Toni ushered her into one of the seats in front of one of the mirrors. Tabitha was surprised to see that it was empty. Then she remembered how Toni had turned the closed sign on as she had welcomed Grungey.

Tabitha sat down and with no ceremony Toni pushed her head forward. “You can close your eyes if you like.” Tabitha felt Toni start to massage her neck, up behind her ears, around where her pony-tail would be, the top of her head, her temples. Oh my God, and Tabitha was asleep in a snooze.

She didn’t hear when Toni started with the scissors. She may have felt a tug but she didn’t stir. Toni combed her hair straight down to the floor then started to raise a lock of hair so that it was as long as a short fringe. She worked her way around her head.

Tabitha awoke to sneeze. She saw her reflection in the mirror. She was aware that it was a reflection, but so alien to her own. One side of her head looked like a boys, the other side was still long, and she could feel that she still had long hair where she had pony-tails. Suddenly that was no more, as she caught the reflection of Toni in the mirrors on the back wall of the salon. She held Tabitha’s hair out and cut up from the nape of her neck over the pony-tail area then wrecklessly threw it to the floor.

She, Tabitha had short hair. What would her father say?! It felt strange as Toni went over the area she had just sheared. Tabitha was mesmerised as the watched the last of her long hair disappear from her left temple. It was there one minute, long travelling over her bust, down to her hips to her knees then with a swipe of the scissors after a bit of measuring up and it was gone, as short as the rest.

She didn’t recognise the girl in the mirror. Her features were more defined. Her long hair was gone. She had never thought about having short hair before, and if Owen had suggested it she’d have said no but now. Now she liked it. Her dark eyebrows framed her face.

She was still in a reverie about this new person in the reflection of the mirror when she heard a small engine. It was only when she saw the small oblong-shaped thing that she realised. She’s not done. They are clippers, my hair is going to get shorter. It winded her.

“Lean back sweetie.” Tabith
a did as she was told. Toni went around to her front and ran the clippers from just above her eyebrows over her head, giving her a cold shiver down her spine with the vibration as she did. The remaining hair hit the floor over her chair as Tabitha focused on a crack in the ceiling. Tabitha started to enjoy the vibrations on her head. She ran the clippers repeatedly over her entire head. Then suddenly she was done. Toni picked up the cape and said to the perplexed reflection in the mirror.

“All done.”

All Tabitha could do was stare. She had the barest of shadows of hair on her head, not even blonde, this was shorter than even Susan Powter had had it. She barely had it longer than Demi Moore’s hair in “GI Jane.” She smiled despite herself. She had enjoyed it. She actually saw a beauty looking back. “You can touch it love.” Toni broke her reverie. Tabitha obliged. So that’s what her head had felt like without hair. Her hair wasn’t even blonde anymore. Wow! She wouldn’t want to grow this back.

She started to get out of the chair as the stray long hairs fell off her. She walked around the chair and saw just how much hair Toni had shorn off. There was everywhere. Grungey appeared at the door with his daughter on his shoulders and his son around his feet. His son stared and pointed at Tabitha “Woah! Where did her hair go?” “That makes you look real good princess.” Grungey said with a smile.

Toni pushed past her sweet family to brush all of the hair away. “Now, the clothes………”

Tabitha followed her to a clothes rail. There she saw the most amazingly coloured outfits- tops, leggings, mini-skirts etc. “No expense spared. Let me measure you and then you can take your pick. I have one in every size.” Tabitha wanted to cry. All those years of quiet despair, this was her reward. People who wanted her for her. But all she managed was a croak of “Thanks.”

The gig went well and within a year they were being chased by record companies. Tabitha had to break it to her father that she was using her spring break to tour with the band.

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