“…will it grow back…?” a soft voice called from the illuminated hall behind the couch.
Their caretaker snapped awake, the muted television and dropped phone still running a mobile game the reminder of what happened a mere hour ago. They sat up, looking over the back of the couch, staring at the small, sniffling figure in the doorway.
The caretaker, still working off the slight adrenal rush, took in the figure: sticky, glue hands stuck with… kinky ringlets in bunches scattered about their tiny royal nightgown, a good five inches or so in height of hair, gone, in a trail from their feet to the bathroom, where the electric scissors clicked on the floor.
“Oh, sweetling,” the caretaker said, with a voice of understanding and soft amusement. They got up from the couch and picked up the small child, cradling them in their arms, hoping it would never be the last time they could do so. They kissed their forehead, walking back into the bathroom.
“You sat on the sink, didn’t you?”
The child nodded, rubbing their eyes.
The caretaker smiled and wiped the child’s tears away with a thumb.
“What were you trying to do?”
The child hesitated before answering, eyes darting a large clump of hair on the floor.
“We had a sub at school today… And they were so… They had on purple lipstick and they had no hair!”
The caretaker gasped.
The caretaker gasped again, in fake shock once more.
“And they were so pretty without hair! And I wanted to see if I could look pretty without hair, too… But–” Their eyes started to well up with tears.
“Oh, hey hey! It’s okay! I’ll have you know that, yes, hair does grow back.”
The child’s eyes lit up.
The giant grin that sprawled across the small one’s face slowly shrank.
“Your hair will do what it wants to after this. It may grow bigger if you decide to not cut it again, it may not get as big at all. You may even prefer, being bald.”
The caretaker smiled, picking up the electric scissors and turning them off.
“The growth won’t be immediate, either. It will take months, maybe even years to get back what you get off. If you don’t want to go bald like your teacher today, we can wait until morning to get it cut. And if you do want to go back, we will wait until morning to get it cut.”
Together, they cleaned up the hair, brushed out the coils into a bent halo of black oil. The caretaker kissed the child’s cheek.
“I’m proud of you for taking initiative in what you want to look like, but please talk to me before you do something like this, okay? We can take time to look up hairstyles and maybe permanent coloring when you’re a bit older of course.”
The child nodded and closed their eyes as the caretaker continued the nightly ritual of oiling their scalp and tying up their hair.
In the morning, they had gone to a friendly hairstylist, who smiled and praised the child for their creative choice. The caretaker, the stylist and the child sat together for twenty minutes, going through cuts for the child’s new length or shorter ones with (temporary) colors.
The child had three styles to choose from, one from each stage of length.
As the child sat in the chair and let the hairstylist begin the ritual of the first haircut by the flap of the apron. They sat in the chair as the stylist combed out their hair once more, massaging their scalp as they pulled away the night’s sleep.
“Oh, this isn’t so bad at all,” the stylist said, smiling. “This is a quick fix if you want to keep it big once I even it out.”
The child stared at their reflection in the mirror. They squinted.
The caretaker grinned from behind their magazine. The stylist nodded, a playful and surprised grin on their face.
The ritual continued in the sinks, the stylist washing the child’s hair in preparation for the cut. They went back to the chair and told the child what was going to happen. The child nodded and took a deep breath, closing their eyes as the electric scissors went off. The soft clicking and clacking on the scissors and the gentle touch the stylist’s fingers playing in the child’s hair lulled them off to a slight sleep. They sat up when the cutting stopped.
“You okay? I didn’t want you to hurt yourself. I’m done with the hard part.”
The child looked in the mirror and gasped, the big poof of hair a pile on the floor. The room was suddenly a bit colder than before. A smile slowly started to spread across their face as they turned their head. Even unstyled, they were impressed with the shortness of it all. But it still wasn’t enough.
“Shorter!” The child giggled. The caretaker glanced up from their magazine.
“Alright, then!” The stylist pulled out clippers and began the last step of the ritual. The buzzing of the clippers was a new and exciting sound and sensation on their head. It was over in a few minutes.
The child came home from school the next day, smiling from ear to ear. The caretaker was in the middle of preparing dinner when the child burst into the kitchen.
“SHE LOVED IT!” The child screamed, pulling out a small piece of tech known as a digital folder. The child powered it on and opened up the photo app. The teacher and the child were embraced in a tight hug, their shaven heads touching one another.