Wild Hair

It wasn’t like her to have a wild hair day. It simply wasn’t.

Rahel had been a compliant child and was a well behaved adult. And if sometimes she was a little impatient with herself, if she felt lonely or locked into a life that was predictable and ordered and dutiful, at least she was safe.

Being safe had been her goal since she was very young, and since mom had told her what happened. And what her father had been.

So the last thing she expected herself to do was dye her hair a strange and artificial gold. And she’d never be able to explain it. It was, she supposed, a combination of things. For one, two days before, she’d found a white hair amid her mousy brown mane. Not that it mattered. Why should it matter? She supposed at 28 she was not so young. Women in the middle ages would be dead by her time of life, right?

But the white hair had bothered her. Like it was unfair. White hairs should come when one had lived a long life and done a lot of things, not when all one had done was study and work, live at home, and then in a very clean apartment in the big city.

So she’d put her hair up, as she always did, and pinned it, but it seemed to her like it screamed for attention from the mirror.

It didn’t, of course, and even if her hair went white overnight, like Marie Antoinette’s was said to have, it didn’t matter, because she worked from home. She’d moved to the city mostly …. well, mostly because it was easier to be alone and to keep to herself in the city than to be alone and keep to herself in the small town she’d grown up in.

If what mom had said was right, sooner or later, people back at home would notice. They had already noticed that she had stopped dating in 10th grade, and distanced herself from all her friends.

No one noticed in the city. The neighbors probably wouldn’t even notice if she dropped dead. Part of the reason she didn’t even have a cat — besides the fact she was afraid she’d go weird and turn the cat into a frog or something — was that she didn’t want her cat to eat her, which seemed to be the inevitable conclusion of someone who lived alone dying. As was, she wasn’t absolutely sure that fate or luck or something wouldn’t conjure up a cat out of nowhere to eat her, should she die in her 22nd floor apartment.

And perhaps that too was part of the reasons she’d bought the hair dye. After a long day of scientific translation — it paid well, and it was easy, but it didn’t do much for those parts of her mind that weren’t fully rational and logic — and catching glimpses of that bright white hair in her reflection on the window, she’d gone to the grocery store for food. Because, of course, she’d run out of food that day. The heat-and-eat dinners that she bought by the month-supply and of which she was supposed to have ten left had mysteriously vanished, leaving her freezer empty.

She glared at the empty freezer for a while, then put on jeans and a sweatshirt and ran to the grocery store two blocks away. Really ran, because the weather had turned unexpectedly cold . Well, maybe not unexpectedly, since it was Denver and it was October. But it had been in the seventies last time she’d been out of the house, and now it was …. felt like twenties.

She ran all the way, thinking she’d come out and buy a proper amount later. She’d just grab frozen pizza or something.

And on the way to the frozen pizza — rushing across the store amid couples shopping with their kids, and singles who seemed to be giving the eye to each other more than the food, she found herself, inexplicably, in the hair dye isle, and staring at a box that promised “Metallic golden sheen.”

How the box happened to be in the bag with the frozen pizza by the time she got home, she’d never be fully able to explain. But while the pizza was baking, she thought, well, if she was going to have white hairs soon, shouldn’t she have really extraordinary golden hair? Just once in her life?

And after eating half the pizza — it wasn’t very big — she found herself in her tiny bathroom, fooling around with malodorous chemicals, and an hour and a half later her hair was gold. No, really gold, like it had been spun from pyrite, which always seemed more gold than real gold.

She stared at herself, in the mirror, mouth half-open. It wasn’t that it was ugly, precisely. What it was, wasn’t natural. And it certainly wasn’t …. right. Not for Rahel. She’d always been the sort of girl who tied her hair back, who didn’t wear makeup, who didn’t call attention to herself.


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