The little bell over the door tinkles cheerfully when Kaz opens it, drawing her attention upward. A woman at the front desk says hello, keeping her attention from lingering suspiciously too long on the collection of silver balls hanging overhead. The woman at the front desk has nails that are long and painted black. They gleam under the lights installed into the high ceiling and Kaz is, momentarily, aware of a near-intangible tugging feeling near the center of her chest. What did Bobby call it?
Envy. Yes. But also something else. She remembers the sun’s effect on her hood when she looks at the woman’s nails and it makes her feel…
Nostalgic. That’s the word.
Yes. Nostalgic. And also envious.
“Do you have an appointment today?”
Kaz blinks, suddenly all too aware that she has been staring and remembering that humans don’t like it when you stare at them. But still, the woman at the front desk is interesting. Her hair stops level with her chin and there are shocks of pink running through it. She also smells strongly like flowers.
Perfume. The word comes to her mind unprompted. Perfume. Sometimes women wear that to smell nice, or to seem attractive to others.
“An appointment,” the woman repeats. “Do you have an appointment or are you a walk-in?”
“I…” Kaz reaches into the pocket of her jacket for a small bundle of green papers that Bobby gave her. “Yes. Yes, I have an appointment. I— M-my father called ahead for me and he, um, made the appointment—”
That was the story she came up with on her own, built on partial truths. Bobby is as much her father as she is Sam and Dean’s mother, but the suggestion was, indeed, his. He took one look at the dark blue cutting through her brown hair, gave another look to all the borrowed books she had open on his desk, and told her there was a much easier and much safer way to deal with her mistake. He grabbed a phone book, picked up the phone—
“Oh!” says the woman at the desk. “Singer?”
“Yes, we have you here,” she says. “Singer, one o’clock; you’re going to be with Daniella today.”
“Okay.” Kaz pulls out the bundle of paper—money, Bobby called it. “Do I—?”
“You pay after the service,” the woman tells her.
There is an uncomfortable pause. Kaz looks around, seeing all the different people in the rows of red chairs; others dressed in black dance around the sitting people, wielding tools that buzz and click and whirr. It makes her think of auto body shops. Same idea, different tools, perhaps.
The woman at the desk clears her throat. “Is this your first time here?”
“Yes!” Kaz clears her throat as well, tries to make herself sound less surprised. “Yes, it is my first time.”
Her first time ever in a hair salon, really. Her first time ever getting her hair…done.
“But there’s nothing incomplete about my hair!” she remembers telling Bobby. His response was to shake his head and tell her to change out of her borrowed pajamas.
The woman who comes up to Kaz next has hair a lighter brown than her own and skin as tanned as her own. They are tied in two pigtails that hang down past her shoulders. Her round face is pleasing, young. It harbors an almost perfect symmetry similar to the faces of women in magazines but lacks the manufactured touch that makes the magazine women so uncomfortable to look at. She is…
The word has touches of Dean’s voice in it, and Kaz finds smiling easier to do.
“That’s me.” The hairstylist returns the smile. “So what’re we doing with you today?”
“Ah… W-well…” Kaz touches the chunks of dark blue in her bangs, fingers the streaks of dark blue cutting through the sides. “My hair is incomplete.”
“Well, that’s what I’m here for—to help you make it complete.” Daniella gestures for Kaz to sit in the red chair. “Do you have any idea of what you want to do with it?”
“I want to fix the color. I want it all just one color again. And I’m not really sure this length is for me—”
“So you want it shorter and you want a new color.” Daniella runs her fingers through her client’s hair, sizing up the task ahead. “Have you thought about what color you want to go with?”
“Black.” The word comes out of Kaz fast enough to surprise both women. “I want it black. I was trying to do something else, but it didn’t work.”
“I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard of that, but that’s the risk you run into when you try home coloring. Now, what about the length? How much do you want to take off?” Daniella asks. “Have you thought about how short you want to go?”
No. No, she has not. Kaz looks around, evaluating the styles of others in the salon. Too many options lay before her, growing only somewhat more overwhelming when Daniella offers to bring her a style book to look through. How do humans deal with so many options for self-styling? Why do they even find it so necessary? Even the boys have their little moments of—of preening, don’t they? True, they aren’t as high maintenance as some of the people she has witnessed on television and the internet, but all the same…
Kaz’s eyes drift back over to the woman at the front desk, at her chin-length haircut. It looks manageable. It’s…it’s cute.
“Like hers, please. O-only…no pink. Just black.”
“Are you sure?” Daniella’s voice is patient, concerned. “Have you ever cut it that short before?”
“No.” Well, it is sort of true, at least. “But—well, I’ve already done something pretty drastic to it on my own already. Cutting it shorter hardly seems scary by comparison.”
The hairstylist looks pleased with the response. From there things happen almost too quickly for Kaz to process. There is the visit to the washing station, where she is asked to sit in a black chair that reclines into a bowl that cradles her neck. (Oh, but before that, she has to take off her leather jacket in order to avoid the risk of ruining it. Fortunately, the request to keep it on hand is not viewed as odd. The fewer explanations she has to give, the better.) The water is just hot enough to feel comfortable. The scrubbing job of Daniella’s fingers is strange, but not altogether troublesome. It’s familiar, in its own way.
“Don’t go falling asleep on me now,” the hairstylist teases.
“Hm? No, I was just…” Kaz blinks. “I was thinking.”
No, not thinking. Remembering, in the fragmented way she has grown accustomed to; the heat of a bright summer day contrasting against cold water, the texture of a sponge against her smooth exterior, the pressure of his hands as he worked…
And his voice.
Always his voice, for some reason.
“Ready for the next step?”
“Huh? Oh.” Kaz sits up. “Yes.”
Color is the next step. The dye makes her head prickle and tingle as she waits for it to process. No fragments of memory come surfacing this time. She has nothing to equate it to, except maybe the strange feeling that comes when a limb is recovering from numbness or the strange white fuzz that dominates certain television channels instead of a clear picture. (And how, for whatever reason, uncomfortable that fuzz makes her! How it calls up the awful memory of—of maggots. Terrible and white and crawling mindlessly over things. But why? She still has no idea.) Kaz is relieved when the time comes to wash it all out.
“Looks like it took!” Daniella sounds pleased with herself.
“Mm-hm. Black as night.”
The news fills Kaz with a strange sense of… Ease? Calm? She isn’t sure which word is right. It is the same feeling she associates with the thought of having a window crack filled in or a dent smoothed out—a feeling of being repaired, whole. Complete. Close to it, anyway.
“One more time, just to be on the safe side. Are you sure you want the bobbed cut?”
Kaz looks up. “Is that what it’s called? The, um, the haircut she has?”
“Uh-huh. You really are new to this, aren’t you?” The hairstylist rests one hand on her hip. “Have you always done your hair yourself?”
“I’ve always sort of… I’ve been very…fortunate, I think is the word, to have my needs cared for by others.”
“Aha.” Daniella raises her eyebrows.
“I don’t know if that’s the right phrase. I’m sort of…learning as I go.” Kaz frowns. “I think that’s the right phrase, though.”
“I take it English isn’t your first language.”
“Kind of?” She tugs at her earlobe. “You could, ah, say that.”
“Well, you speak it pretty well—and without an accent!”
“Th-thank you? I guess? I’ve had good teachers.” Kaz lowers her hand. “I would like it cut like the girl at the desk. Definitely. I like having length, just…not so much.”
“Understandable.” Daniella pulls out a pair of scissors and a long blue comb from the blue utility belt around her waist. “Okay. Let’s get started.”
It’s a strange experience, that of having a haircut. True, she has experienced the painlessness of using a comb before, but she is still rather surprised to feel no pain as the blades shear away the unwanted excess. There is, at least once, the sharp sting of a snagged strand accidentally pulled from the scalp, but Kaz has experienced this before. It’s nothing. A side effect of having a head to care for with her own hands instead of a roof for someone else to wash—though Dean probably doesn’t mind.
“So do you have anyone special?”
“Y’know,” says Daniella, “like a husband or a boyfriend or…or a girlfriend even?”
“Oh. N-no, nothing like that. I—I’m a family person,” Kaz answers. “I still live at home.”
“Mm-hm. Just me and my boys… I-I—they’re…not my children. I mean—” Kaz rubs her eye, brushes a stray bit of cut hair from her cheek. “Sometimes, they sure act like children, though.”
“Far from it. No, they’re very…” Kaz shrugs. “I don’t even know. They’re my boys. We move around a lot. It’s part of their job.”
“Oh? What do they do? Are they in the military?”
Something about the word military makes her think strongly of John. His hard face, those sad eyes…and his weary, harsh voice.
“Something like that,” Kaz answers aloud, trying to banish the thought. “I don’t know too much. You learn quickly not to ask too many questions.”
“But we look after each other. We take care of each other. We’re…we’re family. That’s important.”
They fall into a comfortable silence. For the most part, Kaz is content to watch the woman work whenever she comes into view. This work comes naturally to the hairstylist. When not in the midst of conversation, she wears a determined expression. Her cuts are careful, measured. This is not the first bobbed cut under her belt and it will certainly not be the last. It will be perfect.
“Almost done… Just need to style it. Make it look nice.”
The warm blast of the hairdryer is a welcome presence. It brings back fragments of cruising on sunny days, of racing through desert towns at top speed with the music blasting loud from her speakers. Motorhead. AC/DC. Black Sabbath. Styx. It didn’t matter what it was; the boys—her boys—always sang at the tops of their lungs. They sang loud, clear, and free.
At least, they used to.
“Okay! I think…we’re done.” With a satisfied expression, Daniella turns Kaz to face the large mirror. “What do you think?”
The person in the mirror is still initially a stranger to her. It always takes a few seconds for the realization to sink in that—for now, anyway—this is who she is. This is who people see when they look at her—rather, this is who people will see. They’ll see a young woman in her mid-twenties with gray eyes and tanned skin, with black hair styled in a bobbed cut. They won’t see…
Kaz reaches up to touch her hair, watching as her reflection does the same. Her hair shines in the lights of the salon. The new color is a comfort, feeling more like a return to the familiar. The new length suits her given face. It’s practical. Manageable.
She can only hope her boys will feel the same way when they next see her.