Her fingers combed through her brown bob, tugging and pulling at any loose strands.
The mirror that took up half the bathroom’s wall allowed Sophia clearly to see the clump of hair that was removed, leaving a bald patch in its place.
Still, the routine was no longer shocking. Instead, Sophia stood quietly, her eyes glazed over, staring at the mirror’s reflection. The hair weighed heavily in her hand, laying limp, but she continued to tightly hold onto it.
A radio played faintly in the background, classical music flowing from its speakers. The pitter pattering of feet was approaching and the bathroom door, slightly ajar, suddenly pushed wide open. Her little girl stood in close proximity, her pigtails swinging.
“Mommy, let’s play!”
Sophia looked down at the tiny girl and smiled. She crouched down and stroked Mia’s head with her free hand.
The soft silky locks drew Sophia back to her balding appearence. She furrowed her brows, remembering the new clients scheduled to visit tomorrow afternoon. Her employment was riding on a good first impression.
As always, hiding her condition was a priority and, despite protests from Eric and Mia, Sophia was against drawing attention to herself. She recalled the uncomfortable faces of previous clients upon their discovery of her secret. Unwelcoming questions often followed.
It was her shame, her vulnerability, the reason she felt pitifully weak at times. All those weekly hospital visits, sitting anxiously in the cold, white waiting room. Alone. She could still hear the sound of hair clippers buzzing to life.
“Mommy, please!” Mia whined. She was pulling at Sophia’s hand now, giddy with anticipation. “I wanna play hide and seek!”
“Then we’ll play hide and seek. You go hide first while I count to one hundred.” Like a rubber band, the tiny body flew out of the room, pigtails whipping behind her.
Remaining crouched, Sophia thought of Mia. The tiny girl had forced her way into the heart of their small family and Sophia couldn’t stand the idea of her daughter inheriting the same condition. Mia, whose permanent smile was all she ever wore, need not know the despair and anxiety that Sophia endured. It took her a long time to understand the true meaning of beauty.
“Mommy are you counting?”
The voice echoed in the hallway. Sophia knew the game wouldn’t start without her. Mia was waiting. She needed her mother. That was all it took for Sophia to stand. She walked over to the garbage and tossed the strands of hair that she clutched in her fist. Exhaling slowly, she steals one final glance at the mirror. “Ready or not, here I come.”
Julia is a 17-year-old from Burlington, Ontario, Canada.