Erica spotted the scissors in the window of a shop on Main Street the same day Corey told her he was leaving. He dropped it casually during a phone call, no hint of question or apology. He had taken a job managing a bar in Calgary—a big promotion, he said, as though she should be proud. He was leaving in a couple days.
So she went shopping. She refused to be cross. There was an hour left before her shift when she found the scissors. They had a pleasant weight in her hand. They looked as though they belonged in another era, to someone serious who played the pianoforte and did beautiful embroidery. They didn’t look like they belonged to a server who had dropped out of university and was living in her mother’s basement. Erica bought them at once.
In the staff washroom at the restaurant, she changed into her slender black dress and touched up her makeup. She slashed liquid eyeliner on her lids, and brushed on a thicker coat of mascara. Then she tied her long, dark tresses in a neat ribbon at the base of her neck, removed the scissors from their butter-soft carrying bag, and lopped off her ponytail in a single slice. Then she applied a perfect coat of lipstick and stepped out onto the floor.
She felt fierce and powerful every time she caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror-lined, candlelit walls. She had heard of women who cried in salon chairs after shearing off long hair, who sobbed uncontrollably into their smocks while their anxious stylists backed away. But she was not one of those women. She stood tall and proud, and she did not give one fuck about what Corey would say.
After her shift, she sat down at the bar and flirted with the new bartender. He was skinny and blond, with a stupid little goatee. He didn’t seem to have anything interesting to say. But she flirted with him all the same, feeling generous and glamorous while she did it. After an ice-cold shot of Aquavit, she called Corey’s apartment. He had not been clear about their future.
The old Erica would have taken this, would have waited to see what Corey wanted to do next. She would have tried to spend every waking moment with him before he left, and felt sorry for herself when he was gone. Not so the new, short-haired version. No more bullshit. She was going to crisply, politely tell him that there would be nothing more between them. The call went to voicemail. Probably out with some slut, she muttered into the answering machine, and hung up the phone.
When she arrived home, the house was dark and silent. Molly was at a field hockey camp, and her mother was working the night shift in the Emergency Room. Erica tottered up the stairs and kicked off her heels, hard. Then she coiled her hair into her memory box, dug her cello out of the closet, and played Saint-Saëns’s “The Swan” while swallowing angry sobs.