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by Melissa Martin  
11/15/2011 / Short Stories

Ruth inhales deeply and hurries into HairMart Express before her courage evaporates. It's eight o'clock at night, prior to closing. After the deed, she will sneak back to her apartment.

"May I help you?" the smiling receptionist with highlighted hair and painted lips asks.

With no appointment necessary, she signs the waiting list and drops into an armless chair. The time is now. Abigail grimaces. Then she frowns. Tomorrow during the end of the sermon she is going to sashay into the church and slide into the family pew. She will sit between her two older sisters like she has done every Sunday during her childhood and young adulthood, Miriam on the right and Debra on the left. She will make eye contact with Hannah and Esther, her two younger sisters, hoping that someday they, too, will visit HairMart Express. Ruth knows her parents will promptly escort her out of the little church, with her father leading and mother following. No doubt, the preacher will sprint down the isle shouting and quoting 1 Corinthians 11:15. Heads will turn and tongues will wag.

"Abigail, your next." A cheery hair stylist escorts her to a black leather chair. "What kind of a cut do you want today?"

"I want a very short cut." Abigail emphasizes each word without hesitation. She has contemplated upon this moment for years.

With each snip of the scissors, a heavy shackle falls to the floor. Abigail closes her eyes. Legalism is being cut out of her life. Religiosity is being swept away. Freedom is within her grasp. Abigail lifts her shoulders and exhales deeply.

"Your hair is so long. Are you nervous about getting it cut?"

She will shed no tears today or tomorrow or the next day. Guilt over unkempt rituals will no longer rule her days and nights. She will no longer serve a God who condemns and judges women. A God who would send a girl to hell just for cutting her hair.

"No." she replies.

The fruity smell of the shampoo is refreshing. The warmth of the hairdryer on her neck soothes her soul. She will not grieve for the brunette locks that litter the stylist's floor.

"See how you like it." The cheery stylist whirls the chair around and hands her a small mirror.

Abigail stares at the mirror's reflection. "I like it."

While the stylist chats about hair care products and puts shampoo, conditioner, gel, and spray into a brightly colored bag, Abigail nods.

"Is there anything else you would like today?"

"Yes, I want to buy two separate gift certificates for haircuts. I have two younger sisters." Abigail smiles.

Melissa writes about the God and human connection and condition.

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