In the first grade Jillian discovered that she could make her hair grow at will. Each day before school her mother would plait two long braids down her back, and one morning in a fit of defiance Jillian snipped both of them off with the kitchen scissors. Her mother cried and her father paced the floor, and together they decided to keep Jillian home, locked in her bedroom for the weekend. Jillian whispered curses into her pillow, and the next morning her mother found her standing in her night gown, long dark waves spilling over her shoulders as if nothing ever happened. They both screamed. Her mother forced her to promise that she would never let anyone see what she could do, because it would scare people away and she’d never make friends.
Unsure if she’d really done it with the power of her own mind, Jillian began to experiment. She locked herself in the bathroom and chopped big chunks that gathered into piles on the floor. Then she’d stare at herself in the mirror and furrow her brow, and the blunt edges would lengthen into shiny, undulating tresses. Once she went so far as to shave her head, and found she was able to make her hair grow back at a rapid rate until it touched the linoleum.
Jillian did research and learned that the only beings with this type of ability were vampires, and maybe witches. Leave it to me, she thought, to have a power that’s weird enough to make me a freak, but not important enough to make me a super-hero.
In spite of her promise to her mother, Jillian used her skill on more than one occasion. She scared off a bully on the playground in middle school. In high school, she warded off a chemistry teacher with prying eyes and busy hands. By college she could walk through alleys alone at night without a care in the world. If some asshole came near her, she’d just fix him with the evil eye, clench her fists, and when the hair came flowing down around her, he would take off in confusion.
After years of cutting it into pageboys and bobs, Jillian realized she could earn a living off her hair. She left home and became an aimless grifter, wandering from one beauty school to the next in all the big cities. Salon students would pay big bucks for the experience, and Jillian let them do all manner of wild hairdos, mohawks, fauxhawks, you name it. But she couldn’t risk sticking around at one place in case they found out the truth, so she’d take the cash and move on.
Each night before she fell asleep Jillian grew her hair out, braided it into one long section, cut the braid and tied it off. She filled boxes and bags with hair and eventually she donated all of it to charities for wigs, anxious to put her power to good use.
One day after a particularly lucrative hair cut at one of the top hair schools in New York, Jillian went to the bank to deposit her check. As she stood in line a shot rang out, and she turned around to face a man in a Ronald Reagan mask with a gun. “Everybody get down,” he yelled, pointing the weapon at an old lady.
“Oh no,” Jillian said. “No wannabe Patrick Swayze motherfucker’s gonna rob this place on my watch.”
The gunman looked at her and she squinted her eyes, balled up her fists, and her freshly styled pixie cut began extending down to the floor. All the customers gasped, but the villain was not impressed. “Get on the fucking floor,” he demanded, “freak.”
Jillian did as he said, dismayed that her trick had failed. She watched the thief as he barked instructions at the teller. She reached into her purse and felt a long, thick coil of braid from the night before. Hoping her intuition was correct, she drew out the braid. Ronald Reagan was wearing a backpack, presumably to fill with loot. As Jillian expected, he knelt down and put the gun on the floor so he could take off the pack to hand to the teller. Jillian sprang up, wrapped the braid around his throat and strangled him until he lost consciousness.
Everyone cheered, and a woman called Jillian’s name. Jillian hadn’t noticed, but one of the frightened customers was the hairdresser from the fancy hair school. “I saw what you did with your hair,” she said, “I can make you an extremely rich woman.”
Six months later Jillian called her mother from Paris to apologize for breaking her promise. “But on the bright side,” she said, “I’m the most sought-after hair model in the world.”
Sara Dobbie is a writer from Southern Ontario, Canada. Her work has appeared in various journals around the net. She loves playing guitar and hanging out at the beach. Follow her on Twitter @sbdobbie.