Snick! went the scissors. The girl felt the pain on her scalp ease on one side as the hair fell away.
“There!” Drops of spittle flew past her face as Mother spat out the words. “Not so beautiful now, eh?”
The girl kept her eyes on the end of her copper plait where it lay curled at her feet. It shifted slightly as Mother twisted another loop around her fist and pulled it tight so that the girl’s scalp burned.
Snick! went the scissors.
“You won’t get any young men looking at you when your lovely hair’s gone, will you?” said her mother.
Did Mother think she wanted every young man to look at her? Why would she want that? Apart from Mother, only one person had ever even seen her, and he was the only one she was interested in. Love at first sight, that’s what it had been, though he must have met dozens of girls more beautiful, wiser, more knowledgeable than her, and she had no one at all to compare him with.
Mother’s grip tightened again.
Nearly done. The pain was all on one side of the girl’s head now, the only bit of the plait not yet cut. One more cut and she’d be free of the copper rope. Yes – free! It was this rope of hair that tied her to Mother, wasn’t it? This rope that Mother climbed to get into the tower, that she brushed for an hour each night while the girl read, that she that she washed once a week and spread out to dry so that it covered every surface.
The pain ceased. Head still lowered, the girl could see that the hand in which Mother held the scissors had fallen to her side. Her hand itched to rub her throbbing scalp, to investigate what was left of her hair, but she sat still.
An animal noise burst from Mother. The scissors fell to the floor with a clank and the copper rope moved, snake-like, as she gathered it up and fell into the rocking chair, cradling the shining mass, moaning and sobbing, “How could you do this to me? How can it end this way?”
The girl clasped and unclasped her hands in her lap. Part of her longed to creep over to her mother, lay her head in her lap in place of the copper rope, feel Mother’s hands gently stroking her head. Mother was, after all, the only human being she had ever known until her young man came along, and, until this very day, she had been nothing but kind and loving. You do not stop loving someone the moment they behave unreasonably towards you.
But another part of her knew that things could never be the same again. She’d heard Mother rant about the villagers when she went out for provisions, the tradespeople who gossiped about her and cheated her. She knew how bitterly Mother could feel and how quick she was to take her vengeance upon them. Much as she loved Mother, she feared her wrath. Best to take it upon herself and shield her young man from it.
She stood and ran her hand over her shorn head. It was a surprisingly pleasant sensation, soft rather than smooth, and her head felt light and cool.
“Don’t imagine I’m going to give him up, Mother,” she said. “You can’t stop me by cutting off my hair.”
She stood, feet apart, readying herself for whatever blow Mother would throw at her.
Mother lifted her head, cheeks shiny with tears, eyes black with fury. “Oh you’ll give him up all right. I’ll make sure the pair of you never find each other again!”
And with a sweep of her hand – poof! – the girl vanished like the flame of a candle and the woman was left with nothing but a shiny copper plait.