Excerpt: The Rule of Three

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This is an excerpt from my novel-in-progress The Rule of Three. I will post updates as it moves forward.

Delia, head beautician at the Clippe Shoppe, cried as she cut off my long, thick, blond ponytail. Tears dribbled out of her eyes and down her cheeks and she sniffed. The snuffly whistle that came out of her mouth before every sniff made me want to scream.

I shouldn't have come to the Clippe Shoppe. I didn't have to. Just because it was where my family always got our hair cut didn't mean I had to get my ponytail cut off here.

I hadn't thought about the crying. Of course Delia would cry.

"Your mom would have loved to see this, Honey. I just know it."

Stupid cow. My mother never let me get my hair cut short, not even when I begged. If she were here right now she'd be saying "just a trim" and Delia would trim the ends like she always did because people didn't say no to my mom.

"It's a good thing you're doing. So brave."

Right.

If you made a list of one thousand brave things, would you put getting a hair cut on it? Didn't think so.

With three strong snips, Delia cut through the top of the ponytail and the whole long piece came off in her hand. She had a pink ribbon ready and she stood behind me, fixing the ponytail, tying the ribbon, stroking the hair, and sniffing up her tears.

She laid the tail in my lap. I refused to look. That hair had nothing to do with me. I'd started this whole thing, growing my hair to donate to some kid, after my mom died. Sixteen months I'd spent just growing my hair and being sad. But I was done now. The hair was off. Nothing else to do with me.

I squinted at my reflection in the mirror. With the length gone my hair skimming my shoulders didn't look the same. It was still the same deep blond but it was fluffier than I'd ever seen it. Delia ran her chubby fingers through it then scooped the ragged ends of the hair up off my neck.

"We'll smooth this up into a bob. You can tuck it behind your ears like this and it'll be adorable. So classy but cute. Your mother--"

"Cut it off." I didn't say it loud enough. Delia didn't hear. I made eye contact in the mirror. "Cut it off."

Delia paused, unsure. "We'll trim it up, even the ends."

"Off. I want it all gone."

She gave a hesitant giggle.

"If you're not going to do it, let me out of the chair." I felt so jangled that it didn't even matter that this wasn't the way I talked to grown ups. This wasn't really my voice.

"But Honey, your mother--"

I was out of the chair, on my way out the door, still holding the length of hair. The thin, nylon cape was tight around my neck and I tore at it. I let the cape fall. Delia's sneakers squeaked on the floor behind me. "Honey, stop. Wait."

No.

I yanked open the door of the shop and ducked through. The bell on the door tinkled and then it was shut and Delia's voice was gone. I walked blindly past the shops on the street, clutching the hair, not caring where I was going, just needing to be moving.

Delia was wrong. So wrong.

Brave. It was nothing but hair. It wasn't like she cut off my arm, or even a pinky. Just nothing but a ponytail and it wouldn't save anyone or help anyone, only maybe make them look more normal when they were dying. Maybe some kid would wear the wig in their coffin.

My dad had said my mom would want her wig on in her coffin and wouldn't change his mind even when I told him it had never been the right color brown and made her look stupid, which she was not. It was bad enough she was dead, I wished she could at least have looked like herself. She had her wig on in the coffin, which was the last time I saw her, and I don't know if I will ever really forgive my dad for that.

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