The smile fixed rigid on her face, you’d think she was radiantly happy. It was only on close inspection that you saw the tremor at her mouth; only then that the slightly manic edge to her gaze grabbed you.
“All of it?” she asked, trembling.
“All of it. Nits, and worse, we can’t risk it in here.”
She looked around the room. None of the girls had long hair. No one had hair past their ears, even.
Her hands flew through Sarah’s hair, neatly sectioning off thick curly bunches. “So what are you in for?” the hairdresser asked. As if it was a normal salon visit; as if she was blithely discussing this year’s holiday plans.
“Erm, I’m not sure really. Supposedly subversive, but you know what they’re like, they’ll find any excuse to put you here if that’s what they want.”
“Yeah, I hear that a lot. Lucky for me this is only a job, you know. I get to go home at six.” She lopped off Sarah’s thick curtain of fringe. It puddled dark and accusing on the shiny floor.
“Yeah, thanks for that then.”
“Sorry, wasn’t thinking. How long you in for?”
“Three months, they said it would take at least that long to rehabilitate me.”
“Jeepers, you must have really pissed someone off!”
Sarah winced as the cold scissors circled her left ear, so close the clashing blades rang inside her head.
“Shame you don’t know what you’re in for, though: you might do it again!” She winked at Sarah in the mirror.
Sarah pinched her mouth into a stubborn twist. Subversive was only the beginning. Martyn had actually labelled her Militantly Disobedient in the summons.
Refusal to bear another child.
Refusal to keep an orderly house.
Refusal to provide meals on time.
Ignoring family obligations to pursue unhealthy interest in imaginary writing career.
Sarah watched as more hair fell in clumps on the floor. She looked at the woman in the mirror.
“Do they have pens and paper in this place?”
published 25 October 2011