Welcome to St. Anne’s
Welcome to St. Anne’s – Chris Hall
Kathryn Livingstone approached St. Anne’s School for Girls nervously, her long, blonde hair streaming behind her in the strong wind. As she mounted the stone steps to the old building, an imposing pair of wooden doors greeted her. A smaller door was open in the right-hand door, and she stepped through into a large reception area. Kathryn took a deep breath and conjured up a smile as she approached the middle- aged lady behind the desk.
“Good morning,” she said, “My name’s Kathryn Livingstone – I’m starting here today.” “Ah, yes, Miss Livingstone. We’ve been expecting you. Welcome to St. Anne’s,” replied the receptionist, with a warm smile. She took a clipboard out of a drawer and handed it to Kathryn. “If you’d like to take a seat and fill this form in, I’ll call your tutor.”
Kathryn sat down on one of the high-backed chairs and relaxed a little. Her misgivings about coming to a boarding school for her final year were seeping away gradually. Sure, she was going to miss her parents and brothers, but she was sure she’d be able to make new friends here. As she filled out the form she ran her hand through her hair, trying to straighten out the tangles caused by the wind. Should’ve braided it, she thought. She’d considered it, this morning, but had decided to leave it loose as she’d found over the years that her golden, waist-length locks were a good ice-breaker with other girls. She’d had long hair all her life, going for a trim every couple of months, regular as clockwork, and the result was, quite frankly, stunning.
“Miss Livingstone, I presume?” said a voice. Kathryn snapped out of her daydreaming and looked up to see an elegant woman in her early thirties smiling at her. “I’m Miss Todd, your tutor. Welcome to St. Anne’s.” She extended her hand, and Kathryn stood up to shake it. “Follow me, please. Leave your luggage, the porter will take it to your dorm later.”
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Miss Todd led Kathryn down a maze of deserted corridors, chatting and pointing out areas of interest en route until finally the tutor opened a door and waved Kathryn into a classroom with twenty other teenage girls seated at desks, most of them talking loudly. Miss Todd clapped her hands sharply and a hush descended on the room as twenty pairs of eyes fixed on Kathryn. Kathryn looked around the room, and her nervousness returned – big time. There seemed to be some wicked gleams in those forty eyes.
“Now, girls,” said Miss Todd, “I’d like to introduce you to Kathryn Livingstone, who joins us today. I trust you’ll all make her feel welcome. Now, form an orderly line, and we’ll get on with the induction.”
There was a loud scraping of chairs on floor as Kathryn’s new classmates scrambled eagerly into a queue against the side wall. The two girls in front, one tall with a chestnut, chin-length bob and the other slightly shorter with a blonde pixie-cut brought forward a chair, then grabbed hold of Kathryn and plonked her down in it.
“Silence!” barked Miss Todd, as Kathryn started to protest. The brunette started to stroke Kathryn’s hair, then took a long, thick lock in her hand. Miss Todd reached into her desk drawer, drew out a large pair of scissors and handed them to the girl. A look of horror came over Kathryn’s face as realisation dawned on her. Surely they weren’t going to… No, surely not – that wasn’t legal, was it? Then she heard the other girls chanting, “Cut it off! Cut it off!”. She tried to get up off the chair, but the blonde was holding her down tightly. As she struggled, the blonde grabbed hold of her hair and jerked her head back. Kathryn screamed, as the brunette opened the scissors around her hair and slowly squeezed. With a grating sound, the golden hair fell away and tears started to roll down Kathryn’s cheeks. The other girls in the class cheered as the brunette waved the severed lock in Kathryn’s face, then carefully laid it out across Kathryn’s lap. Kathryn sobbed again as she saw her beautiful hair hang limply over her legs. The brunette then handed the scissors to her colleague and held Kathryn down while the blonde girl sliced off a lock on the other side of Kathryn’s head. She, too, laid the hair across the weeping girl’s lap. One by one, the girls in the class stepped forward and sheared Kathryn of her pride and joy, laying each long lock across her lap, until all that was left on Kathryn’s head were the ragged stumps, and a few long strands here and there.
Miss Todd approached Kathryn, and carefully picked up the dismembered hair from the girl’s lap, held it together and snapped an elastic band around the top. She went over to a cupboard at the back of the classroom and opened the door. Kathryn gasped as it revealed rows of cut-off ponytails, presumably from the other students in the class, hanging on hooks in order of colour and length. She hung Kathryn’s hair, which was by far the longest, at the end of the row of blonde tails, then took out two objects and closed the door. Returning to the chair, she held up a mirror for Kathryn to see the results of the other girls’ ravages. At first, she kept looking down, still crying, but eventually she looked up and started wailing again as she brought an arm up to feel her head.
“Emily, I believe it’s your turn to finish her off,” Miss Todd called out to one of the waiting, laughing girls.
A small girl with short red hair stepped forward and took the other item from Miss Todd – the electric clippers. She switched them on, and a buzz filled the classroom. She teased Kathryn a little, bringing the clippers close to her face, watching her shrink away, then moved behind her and ran the clippers across Kathryn’s head. A shower of short golden hairs floated to the ground. Kathryn cried out once more as she felt the humiliation of being publicly shaved, as the hair floated in front of her eyes and tickled her nose. The buzzing continued until there was an even ¼” crew-cut around Kathryn’s head, then, the shears were abruptly shut off and Miss Todd’s voice rose above the excited rabble.
“Okay, girls, the fun’s over. Go back to your desks, please. Kathryn, why don’t you take that one over there?”