May 21st, I had an important end of the year science lab. Having always been really bad with labs, I had been really stressed out, and the fact that Emilie would receive her final results about her cancer today weren’t helping.
It was noon when I finished the lab. Glad it was over, I headed to my locker to grab my lunch box and my cell phone with my friend Élodie, who’d finished at the same time as me. My heart skipped a beat when I realised I had a text message. Praying for good news, I opened it.
-Complete remission! J We’re celebrating tonight. I love you; you’re an exemplary older sister.
-Yay! I’m crying tears of joy!
-Love you xxx
I was indeed crying. I shared the news with Élodie and my other friends. I think most of them were touched to see me so happy.
Supper that night was perfect. The seven of us around the table was beautiful. We made a toast and wished for future health.
May 24th is a day that I’ll remember for a long time. It was the eve of Défi Têtes Rasées of Leucan, an event when my two cousins Aurélie and Camille, would shave their heads in order to support my sister. It was also the day we ran the Color Me Rad race at Valcartier. That night, my uncle, dad’s brother, had invited our family as well as my mom’s sister’s family for supper. My father’s eldest brother and his wife and 4 children as well his sister, her husband and their 3 boys were also invited. It was a big gathering to say the least.
The evening was coming to an end when my aunt Julie, my mom’s sister and Aurélie and Camille’s mother, pulls out a chair and a clipper, also deciding to support my sister and her daughters.
“Shave my hair,” she tells Emilie.
My sister approaches a little before she starts sobbing.
“No I don’t want to. I’m not able to do that,” she replies, hugging my mother.
I started trembling, feeling the tears pricking my own eyes. My mother is the one who ended up playing hairdresser. Eyes filled with tears, she starts cutting off her sister’s hair. Both my parents were crying, as well as my two sisters and Nicolas, my younger brother. My older brother, Alexandre, wasn’t crying, but it was obvious he was touched too.
“Hey don’t cry Emilie,” my aunt kept saying as her hair was being shaved. “I want this Emilie. I don’t mind. Hair grows back.”
I wasn’t crying because it was sad. No I was crying because I couldn’t help reliving the night when Emilie had lost her own hair. And that hurt.
The tears didn’t stop flowing there. Oh no. Nicolas also shaved his hair once we finished clapping for Julie. After taking a picture with my sister, Julie shaved my younger brother’s hair off. To lessen the atmosphere, we all started challenging each other.
“Hey Mathieu! I do it, you do it?”
“Come on Eric!”
“Hair grows back! Come onnnn!”
“No I have my prom in a few weeks.”
“Come one boys! Antoine! Alex! Mathieu!”
“Hey Jacob, wanna go?”
Tears in his eyes, Jacob, the youngest son of my godmother, father’s sister, accepted.
“We’re not forcing you to do this Jacob,” we told him, to make sure he was doing it out of his own free will.
“I know, but I want to do it.”
I had so much admiration for him when he sat on the chair and let us shave his hair that I started sobbing again. Camille hugged me.
“How do you do it?” I cry in her arms.
“Shave your hair. Tomorrow.”
“I don’t think about it Anne-So. If I did, it’d be too hard.”
The conversation kept playing again and again in my head as I looked at the scene.
“Antoine, I do it, you do it?” enquired Alexandre when Jacob stood up from the chair with his new haircut.
My parents couldn’t stop crying and Emilie either. She was so thankful. I was still thinking about my conversation with Camille when it was Antoine’s turn after my older brother. She was going to shave her hair for her cousin.... I was Emilie’s sister, why couldn’t I do the same? Because of my cheerleading competitions? What a bullshit reason...What about the end of the year show? And the Gala? Can I be brave enough to go without hair? And what about prom? Would my hair be long enough for prom next year?
Filled with interrogations, I went to hug my mother in the search for answers.
“Mom, if I shave my hair... how long with they be for my prom?”
“I don’t know... About shoulder length.”
It was at that precise moment I made my decision. Fuck what they’d say for cheer. And fuck the looks I’ll undoubtly get at school. Emilie has them every day. Go Anne-So.
“I wanna do it after Antoine,” I declare, voice shaky.
There’s a moment of silence.
“I wanna do it after him,” I repeated. I think I was trying to convince both myself and them.
When Antoine was done, I took a deep breath. Not a single sound was made as I stood up, slipped the garbage bag they’d all wore to avoid having hair in their clothes, and sat on the chair. My mother and aunts all started to tie my hair, dividing them in order to give them to organisations that make wigs.
It was my mother and my father that shaved me. And I know it was hard for them: I could hear them crying above me, just like many around us.
I looked at my hair as it fell beside me, silent tears trickling down my cheeks. I understood it was over when I felt a breeze of fresh air on my head.
“Wow bravo Anne-So.”
They we’re all complimenting me but the one comment that rung out louder than the other was Emilie’s.
“You’re so pretty Anne-So,” she told me, crying as she hugged me tightly. She said I was pretty. Me. Pretty. Impossible. But when I heard her words, I felt truly beautiful for the first time in a long time. And it felt good.