Hannah banged the front door, dumped her schoolbag on the floor and thundered upstairs.
‘She’ll be down shortly for something to eat, I expect,’ said Christine to her elder daughter, Lucy.
They lost track of time, chatting while Christine prepared the evening meal.
‘Can you keep an eye on this while I nip to the loo?’ asked Christine, rinsing her sticky fingers under the tap.
She was surprised to find the bathroom door locked.
‘You in there, Hannah?’ she called. It had to be Hannah, unless they had an intruder with a cleanliness fetish.
‘I’m a bit busy at the moment, Mum.’
‘Are you in the bath?’
‘Well, can you come out a minute, please? I need the loo.’
After a bit of scuffling about the door opened and Hannah emerged with a towel on her head.
‘What are you doing, love?’
‘Just … washing my hair.’
Hannah appeared at dinner, and Christine’s eyes opened wide.
‘What have you done to your hair?’
Hannah faced her mother defensively. ‘Dyed it.’
‘Cos I’m fed up with being the only redhead for miles. Fed up with everyone calling me ginger nut and saying I’ve got a temper to match.’
‘I see. I wish you’d told me sooner.’
‘And me,’ said Lucy. ‘I would’ve helped you choose a better colour. Black doesn’t really suit you.’
‘I’ve always thought your red hair is beautiful,’ added the girls’ father pensively. ‘You inherited that from my Mum.’
‘Well I wish I hadn’t,’ said Hannah, pushing back her chair. ‘You lot are stressing me out. I’ve lost my appetite.’
A few days later Lucy noticed her sister’s face was covered in a red rash.
'Ugh! Have you got measles or something?’
‘No,’ said Hannah sheepishly. ‘I bought some cream to fade my freckles. I seem to have had an allergic reaction.’ Hannah burst into tears. ‘Oh, Lucy! Everything I do goes wrong! First the hair dye, then the freckle cream. Why couldn’t I be normal like you and have brown hair and nice skin? Everyone at school thinks I’m a joke, including Marty Collins.’
‘What’s so special about Marty Collins?’
‘He’s the most wonderful boy in the whole world. He’s clever and funny and good-looking. But he doesn’t even know I exist because I’m a red-haired, freckly geek.’
‘Plenty more fish in the sea, hun,’ said Lucy, fingering Hannah’s hair. ‘How about going blonde? We might need to cut your hair a bit shorter if the ends become brittle, but it should work.’
‘Thanks, Luce. I know I should have talked to you first. And Mum.’
‘I’ll get some stuff tomorrow.’
‘I’ll pay you back out of my pocket money.’
‘Don’t worry about it, sis.’
The following night Lucy transformed Hannah into a blonde. ‘Hmm, your hair’s like straw, even though I’ve cut a couple of inches off. You’ll need to put loads of conditioner on each time you wash it.’
‘Oh, Luce! It’s much better, thanks,’ said Hannah, admiring her golden mop in the mirror.
The following morning she noticed her skin was peeling, so she slapped on plenty of moisturiser. Still, she felt much better as a blonde despite her flaky face.
Later that morning Hannah was making her way back from the science block when Noah Fishburn hurried to catch up with her.
‘Hannah? I nearly didn’t recognise you. That’s the second change of hair colour this week. What’s going on?’
‘Experiments in the name of science,’ replied Hannah off the cuff with a forced grin.
‘Dunno why you bothered. Your red hair was gorgeous.’
‘You’re the only one who thinks so. Everyone else treats me like a freak.’
‘That’s because they’re immature and ignorant. They also pick on Corey and Jessica because they’re black, and Wei Ying because she’s Chinese. People like that aren’t worth bothering with.’
‘That’s easy for you to say. You’re normal.’
‘There’s no such thing as normal. We’re all different from each other. Just try to ignore them. I won’t make fun of you. You can hang out with me.’
Hannah decided Noah was rather nice, and wondered why she hadn’t really noticed him before. He had lovely brown eyes as well as being kind and sensible.
A few days later her skin stopped peeling, and her freckles seemed to have faded quite a bit. She made a point of applying sun block every morning so the freckles wouldn’t get worse. She could see the roots of her hair showing red already.
‘What should I do, Luce?’ she asked her sister. ‘My hair will look dreadful as it grows out. Maybe I should get it cut really short.’
‘You don’t need to be that drastic. We can tint the blonde hair slightly red with a rinse so it blends in better. And a rinse won’t damage your hair the way bleach does. You’re doing the right thing going back to red as nature intended.’
Hannah felt like she was turning a corner. At Noah’s suggestion she had joined the Ramblers Club and they were going for a walk the following Saturday. He was right. The people she’d thought were the ‘in crowd’ were really just a bunch of shallow-minded sheep.
By Karenne Griffin
Last Modified on: 05-11-2015