September 13, 2017 by downwardlymobilewoman
‘Do you think your mum would still love you if you cut your hair, Merrie?’
Boom! A killer question from Bexie Granger, aged nearly thirteen, my best friend in the whole wide world, as we waited for her mum to finish cooking sausages for our tea.
Neither Bexie nor I realised it was a killer question until immediately afterwards. I was about to smile and say ‘Of course she would, silly!’ when Bexie’s mum abandoned the sausage pan with a crash, grabbed her away from me and pulled her right over to the other side of the room, whereupon she smacked her as if she were a three year old who’d run into the road and launched into an agitated, whisper-shouted telling-off.
I don’t know how much of it Bexie took in because she started crying but I, the intended beneficiary of her mum’s lowered voice, the one who was not supposed to hear, made out quite a lot.
‘You must THINK, Bex, before you speak. You’re not the little boy in the Emperor’s New Clothes. You can’t go round saying that… it’s tactless… it hurts people. Merrie’s only young. We need to believe our mothers love us for ourselves… Of course she can’t cut her hair. Dreadful, really, but it’s the way it is… You do understand, don’t you, Bexie? Oh baby, you’re crying… you think I don’t love you… I hit you. I’m a terrible mother. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.’
She gathered Bexie into an enormous hug, saw me hovering uncertainly on the other side of the kitchen and reached out an arm to draw me in.
‘Mothers love their children in their own ways always and forever,’ she said. ‘You must both remember that.’
I accepted the embrace but my body stayed stiff and it wouldn’t lean in and in my head I was thinking that Bexie’s mum had some front. My mother would never tell me off like that for no reason or hit me right out of the blue in front of my friends or start carrying on like an idiot and talking rubbish. I’d always loved Bexie’s mum, almost as much as I loved Bexie, but now I wasn’t so sure.
Maybe she was jealous. After all, even though she’s warm and kind (usually) there’s nothing special about her. She’s not famous and she never could be. She’s fat and her hair’s all over the place, dyed a different colour every week. She cooks nice sausages and delicious cakes but she’s not a good housekeeper like my mum. She says herself she’s slapdash and lazy and the stupid cats always infest her house with fleas. She doesn’t have time to help Bexie pick out tasteful clothes or pamper her or even brush her hair. Bexie has to do all that for herself. Poor Bexie.
She was subdued as we walked to the corner shop to buy a feast of sweets with the £2 her mum had given each of us to say sorry.
‘Are you ok, Bex?’ I said. ‘Don’t worry about your mum. She was wrong. I wasn’t upset.’
‘Merrie, I’m really, really sorry,’ she said, looking at me very earnestly. ‘Mum was dead right. I should never have said that about your hair. I would never, ever want to hurt your feelings.’
‘Bexie! You were just joking around! It’s funny, the idea of a Rapunzel girl having a pixie cut like yours.’
‘Yes… but that’s why you can’t ever do it. Even if you really want to one day. Felicity and Dorothy still have their Rapunzel hair and they’re all grown up! If you cut it you might be thrown out of your family and your mum might do an interview in the papers about you being a rebel. They’d have to make you hide away so you didn’t embarrass them. I shouldn’t have even mentioned it.’
My arm flew out and grabbed her shoulder, stopping her mid-stride. She nearly fell over.
‘Just you hang on a sec, Bexie.’ My voice sounded shrill and unfamiliar. ‘My mum isn’t some monster. Yours is the one with issues, if you really want to know, slapping you like that. You should call the NSPCC on her. My sisters haven’t cut their hair because they like it long. It’s fun being part of a famous family and being recognised and being in the Guinness Book of World Records. Why would they want to give all that up?’
‘I don’t know,’ said Bexie. ‘They might want a change?’
‘They don’t. You and your mum are ridiculous, Bexie. I can cut my hair whenever I want. I just don’t want to. My mum would be fine with it if I did. If you were really my best friend you’d know that.’
Bexie set her jaw at that and stomped ahead of me into Mrs Ahmad’s shop without saying another word.
‘Little Miss Meredith Rapunzel! Our local celebrity. And Miss Bexie Best Friend! Welcome, welcome. Have you seen the photo yet? Front page of the Hedgetown Herald, Meredith!’
Rapunzel Family Let Down Their Hair at Hedgetown Country Fair said the caption, under a picture of all of us, apart from Dad and Rory, backs to the camera in height order, the six of us, hair loose and rippling right the way down to our calves. Or ankles, in Mum’s case. There was the usual paragraph about the genetic quirk that enables our hair to grow so long and how none of us have ever had a haircut and how mum spends hours on end grooming us younger ones but she loves it and we love it and we’re the world record holders and yay us, yay us, yay us.
‘See Merrie? Just imagine if you had short hair like mine,’ said Bexie. ‘You couldn’t be in that picture!’
‘We wouldn’t like to imagine that, Miss Bexie,’ said Mrs Ahmad. ‘Of course Miss Meredith cannot cut the hair! Mama Rapunzel would be very sad.’
‘No she wouldn’t! If that’s what I wanted she’d be happy for me,’ I said.
The look Bexie and Mrs Ahmad exchanged when I said that made me feel angrier than I ever remember feeling before and I spent Bexie’s mum’s £2 guilt money on scissors not sweets so I could prove them wrong on the spot.
I had to really hack at it because corner shop scissors are so blunt. Bexie and Mrs Ahmad rushed at me as soon as they saw what I was doing. But they were too late. Mrs Ahmad marched me across the road to Hedgetown Haircuts and begged her friend Macy to tidy it up a bit.
My mum said seeing me with a bob was like a knife to her heart and she can’t bear it and what did she ever do to deserve it and please get out of my sight, Meredith.
In the end Dad suggested that I went to stay with Bexie and her mum for a while, just until it’s grown back a bit.