I lean against the shelves stacked high with hair products. Shampoos, conditioners and hair colour are piled around the room. I can hear the snipping of scissors and the broom sweeping. I can smell the many beauty products. I can taste the lingering flavour of hair spray.
Today is haircut day. I told Mom twenty minutes ago that I need a haircut. I need a new image. I need something that will make me get noticed. Or rather, something that will make Ryan notice me.
Ryan. Just saying his name gives me a happy feeling inside. He has dirty blond hair and eyes so blue I feel like I’m drowning in happiness every time I look at them. He is the cutest boy in seventh grade, and I’m determined to make him like me.
I flip my hair over my shoulder and text my best friend, Morgan. I need her advice, because I’m going to be called in to get my haircut soon, and I still have no idea what I want. I just know that I need something new, so I’m asking Morgan. She always knows what looks best on me.
Currently, my light brown hair goes about a third of the way down my back, so maybe I should get a bob. That will mix things up. Or maybe bangs are the way to go. Stacey got bangs about a week ago, and all the boys love it. Maybe I should do that. But then again, that might seem like I copied her. Which I kind of am.
I check my phone again. Why isn’t Morgan answering? I shake my phone, as if that would help.
Mom looks over at me. “Why don’t you just phone her? It’s much faster.”
I roll my eyes. Mom is so outdated. “No one talks on the phone anymore, Mom. It’s so not cool.” I am already going shopping with Mom, not a chance am I going to be seen talking on the phone in public. No way.
“Augusta Sweensey,” a middle-aged woman calls my name. I check my phone one more time, looking for a reply from Morgan. Nothing. I sigh, and slowly allow myself to be ushered into the salon.
She wraps a towel around my neck, being all fake happy as usual, “Hi, Augusta, my name is Blake,” she says with a winning smile. “What are we looking for today?” Blake has short grey hair. It’s wavy. I look and my stick straight hair and sigh. I’ve always wanted wavy hair.
“Well, I was actually wondering what you thought,” I caution. I know hairdressers don’t like it when you give them nothing to work with, but I’m not giving away my own ideas yet.
Blake hesitates. “I don’t know what kind of person you are. I find it hard to know what kind of style would go well with your personality.”
I inwardly groan. I check the clock, and see it’s already half past five. I still need to go shopping for clothes to suit my new cut, whatever that will be.
Since Blake has been no help, I just tell her my ideas. “I was thinking of maybe cutting it short, or maybe getting bangs.”
Blake nods her head. For some reason, I find Blake easy to talk to, and I spill the whole story. Ryan. Stacey. How I want a change. But change might be bad. I’m talking so fast I don’t know how Blake follows it. Finally I’ve let it all out. My dilemma. How I can’t make up my mind.
Blake says, “Okay, so you have a bob in mind? With bangs?”
I moan. Maybe she didn’t follow it after all, but maybe I’m not ready for a change quite yet. “Now that I think about it, that might be a good idea. Ryan would notice me, that’s for sure. But maybe not in the way that I would like,” I tell her. “So maybe it would be best to just get a trim. Sure. That.”
“Hmm, I see,” answers Blake. “You have to make up your mind soon, Augusta. I have other clients I have to see. Normally we like you to come in already knowing what you want.”
“Okay. I’ll go with that,” I decide.
Blake’s face shows that she actually has no idea what I want, but she doesn’t ask. Instead she says, “Lovely,” and begins. I wonder why she didn’t clarify with me. She mustn’t want to get me talking again. She has other clients to see. Or perhaps she knows what I want, because I did make it rather clear. Very clear. Extremely clear. She’d be an idiot not to know.
I sigh again, because I still need to find the perfect outfit, and now that I look at my nails, they need painting too. I pick up a fashion magazine for some tips.
“Tilt your head to the right, like a teacup,” says Blake in a sing-song voice. OMG, does she think I’m a baby? Teacup? Are you serious? I’m about to get a boyfriend, for gosh’s sake!
I go back to my magazine. I don’t really notice what Blake’s doing, because I’m busy catching up on the latest celebrity gossip. It’s engrossing!
“Ta-da!” Blake spins me to the mirror, and I scream. Loud. My beautiful long hair has been cut to my chin, and above that, I have horrid bangs.
“Bangs!” I jump out of my chair and run at Blake. “What did you do to me? What will everyone at school think? Gosh, what do you think? You think it’s funny to wreck my hair? Do you? Do you?” I have tears running down my face, turning my makeup into muddy rivers. “What did you do to me?”
By this point there are employees all around us, trying to pull me away from Blake. “I hope I never have the misfortune of seeing you again!” I scream, and run out the door.
Mom is right behind me. “Augusta, what was that?” she pants.
“That was you witnessing a wolf in sheep’s clothing! She looked so sweet, didn’t she? Now over half my hair is gone,” I sob.
“I actually think your new cut suits you,” Mom says.
I stop so fast Mom runs into me. “What? What?” I bellow. People are staring but I don’t care. “My hair is ruined! My reputation is ruined! My future with Ryan is ruined! My life is ruined!”
Mom has had enough of me. She grabs me and drags me out of the mall. She pulls me to the car and basically throws me in. “What was that?” Now it’s Mom’s turn to yell. “You made quite the scene, attacking that poor lady.”
“You mean Blake? She was not a poor lady, she wrecked any future life I have!” I shout. “Speak for yourself about making a scene; you just dragged a twelve year old out of the mall!”
I can tell Mom wants to argue, but instead she just buckles and drives us home. As soon as we get home I run to the mirror, because I didn’t have enough time to really look at it before. I slowly open my eyes, and wail. The bangs put a shadow on my beautiful eyes, making me look old. My hair just brushes my chin, making me look like a grandma.
What in the world will I do for school tomorrow? Stay home? Mom would never let me. But maybe if I faked sick…
“Augusta! Dinner’s ready!”
I walk toward the door, then decide I’m not all that hungry. “I’m not very hungry. I’ll be in bed,” I call down to Mom.
“You sure, honey?”
“Yeah, I’m sure,” I reply. I pull off my clothes and put on my pyjamas. I brush my teeth and climb into bed, but I can’t sleep. My new hair tickles my neck in a very unpleasant way, and I can’t stop thinking about what everyone at school will think, especially because I haven’t bought a new outfit and my nails look like something out of a horror movie. Could I get away with faking sick? Finally, I drift into slumber.
BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! My alarm clock jolts me awake. For a moment, I don’t remember the terrors of yesterday, but then they come rushing back to me like floodwaters. I rake my hand through my hair, and am filled with dread. What to do, what to do, what to do?
I get up, but I don’t get dressed yet. I’m going to try to tell Mom I’m sick. I do thirty squats to make me all hot and sweaty, then I go into Mom’s room.
“Mom, I don’t feel very good. I think I have a fever. Feel my forehead,” I say.
Mom doesn’t fall for it for a second. “Nice try, Augusta. You’re going to school today. I’m not arguing. Go get ready.”
I try to disagree, but Mom pushes me out. “Leaving in forty minutes!”
I’ve prepared myself for the day, and have made my plan. I will leave the house, but instead of walking to the bus that takes me to school, I’m going to walk in the other direction, to Granny’s house. I know she’ll let me stay with her for the day. Then, at three o’clock, I’ll walk home. Easy-peasy. Until it’s not.
“Augusta, are you almost ready?” Mom calls up the stairs to me.
“Almost!” I’m trying to find my scarf, that way I’ll have something that at least slightly covers my terrible, dreadful, awful hair.
I run down the stairs, but stop short when I see Mom there, her brown hair tucked into a toque, wearing her snow boots, winter coat, scarf, and mittens.
“What are you doing?” I ask.
“I’m driving you into school today. Since it’s so cold out, you can be in the car.” Mom has a glint in her eyes. She knows. Why else would she suddenly decide to drive me in? Now she is guaranteeing that the whole class makes a joke of me.
“No Mom! You can’t! My hair looks so terrible! What will everyone at school say?”
“Augusta, I am not having you staying at the house like a scared puppy. I promise everyone will like it,” Mom tells me.
“You’re just saying that because you're supposed to! You’re my mom! Moms are supposed to say stuff like that!” I can’t contain my fear of what they’ll say. “Maybe I am a scared puppy! But people can’t see my hair this way!” I hold back tears because I don’t want my makeup smearing again.
“We have to go. You’re coming,” Mom waits while I put on my jacket, and leads me out the door.
I won’t get out of the car. People say you get butterflies in your stomach, but these feel more like elephants, stomping and drawing away any sort of breath I could have.
The bell rings.
“Augusta, you have to go to class. Bye, have a good day!”
A good day. What a joke.
I drag myself out of the car and into the school. I keep my head down, hoping no one will notice. It doesn’t work. I can feel the looks before I see them. Heads are turning my way. I wonder if I could run back out the door without anyone noticing, when voices stop me.
“That looks good, Augusta!”
“Let me see-wow!”
“Oooh, I love it!”
“Hey! Augusta!” It’s a voice I would recognise anywhere. Ryan’s.
I turn, but don't raise my head yet. He walks up to me. “Wow! I heard you got a beautiful haircut, but I wanted to see it for myself.” I nervously raise my head. His easy grin lights up his face. “I’m glad I did.”
Is he being serious? Maybe change can be good. Maybe my haircut was like a sheep in wolf’s clothing. It looks scary, like a wolf, but really it’s just a fluffy sheep.
I smile, staring into Ryan’s bright blue eyes, and can see the world in front of me, just gleaming with possibilities.