The Crying Mannequin – A Short Story

A woman who cuts her hair is about to change her life. And what about one who wants to dye her hair? Is that a step ahead in the encyclopedia of rebellions? Is that a league apart from normal revolutions? She mused.

This was a challenge to herself. To the conservative girl hiding under her skin; who at 40 was still 14. She laughed aloud and entered into the salon. The excitement of breaking certain long set rules gave her an adrenaline rush. Yes, she was about to do what she never dared if it was a normal day. But today was not a normal day. And she intended to turn that around. So here she was at a salon.

‘New Look’ Salon. It looked like a new place. She was visiting for the first time. No prior appointment. No known faces. Well, that’s what happens when acting on an impulse. But man, was she enjoying the slight nervousness that was squeezing her heart, the anxiety that was numbing her senses! It was after a good long moment of self-reveling that she realized she had four pairs of eyes fixed on her.

She wasn’t exactly a dazzling beauty but that did not mean men didn’t notice her. But when you walk in a room full of men, at an unexpected hour, especially after they’ve had a long tiring day, who wouldn’t appreciate a feminine visual treat!

The men all looked the same. Young. Unambitious. Captivated. She couldn’t decide who was the employer, who the employee, and thus hesitated to speak. One of them came forward, and offered a confident, “How may I help?” That broke the spell and she scraped together, “I wish to dye my hair.” A bit of brown with copper. Certainly not blonde. Not too loud, just highlights. Nothing grand. She was shown to a high chair and instructed of the process.

After a soothing hair wash from one of the working men, she grew more relaxed. She made a mental note to enquire of the shampoo he’d used. For now, she wanted to look good. She wanted to feel good.

A pair of hands worked its way through her hair while she was comfortably engrossed in her mobile phone, skimming past her ex’s Instagram profile using a fake id. He’s blocked her after their break up so that the past and present wouldn’t mingle. But she was not going to accept this subtle removal. She’ll fight her way in.

After the application of the first set of solutions, she starts to feel a sudden chill working its way up her spine. It was the minty feel of the application that gave her goosebumps. But more than anything, the water dripping from her hair, hurriedly crawling down her skin, had her in a bout of ecstasy. The air conditioning complemented the notorious act and together, they made her feel bare, chilled to the bone. The fact that she was in a spaghetti top exposing most of her skin, she conveniently ignored.

After about an hour, is when she started to feel weird. The inkling that something was quite not right was knocking. When she peered out of the glass windows, it felt hazy. As if it was raining. As if the panes were draped in moisture. As if the world outside was floating in air. She looked in to her phone and the icons were swimming. She rubbed her eyes to make sure she wasn’t sleepy. And what was that? The mannequin that stood with a pretentious pride a while back was looking at her with profound sadness. But what was that – was it crying?

She felt her throat constricting from an unknown fear. Water, she thought. She looked around. But no one was in view. Hell! What was wrong with her eyes? Why would they burn so? Something as trivial as keeping focused without tiresome blinking seemed undoable. It was as if she had rubbed chillies on to them. She forced herself to think exactly when it started. It was sometime after the application of the pungent smelling mixture. Yes, that was it. Or was it something else?  What did the stylist use? And where was he now? How lost was she?

A growing unease was settling upon her slowly. Minutes were getting intolerable. She could barely keep her eyes open at all. Picture this. You haven’t had a pinch of sleep in a fortnight. Now here’s someone who wants you to draft a letter for them. You are struggling to hold the pen straight without scribbling. How would you manage to write? Tina felt something akin to that.

Helplessness was traveling up her limbs.  Just then she saw the lights go out. Somewhere in the distance the doors to the salon were being shut. She tried to protest when someone tugged at her spaghetti strap. She tried to shout when her bra was being unhooked. Her feeble attempt was drowned by monstrous laughs. Soon, everything was engulfed by darkness!


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