She was staring at the mirror in her bathroom, frowning deeply as she stared hard at her reflection. Ann then looked down at the box that was placed on the sink, once again staring hard at the contents. It was easy for her to buy it for herself. Too easy, in fact. She could only guess that people bought hair dye all of the time, since the selection was varied in the store. Her caretaker didn’t even notice that she brought it in the house and hid it in the bathroom. (Not like it mattered in the long run. She doubted that this caretaker would stay long enough to care about that anyway.) But now… Ann was left with a choice: is she actually going to do it?
Is she going to dye her hair?
The box contained black dye. If Ann goes through with it, then she’ll have black hair just like all of the other kids. Initially, Ann thought that dyeing her hair was a silly idea. Her hair didn’t seem to be much of a problem in some of the other places that she’s lived in before. America? They welcomed it. Finland? Totally fine. France? England? Italy? All were fine with her looks… but since coming back to Japan, that seemed to be the number one thing that made her stick out like a sore thumb… and it earned her the scorn of the kids around her. They all made it sound like having blonde hair was so… abnormal. But she’ll be fine with black hair, right? A lot of the other kids had black hair, and some of the girls looked pretty with it. Won’t Ann look pretty with black hair, too? Won’t she fit right in with them? It would be a perfect solution… although there was a problem here.
She liked her hair the way it was.
She loved her long blonde hair. She loved how soft it always felt to her, and how easy it was to twirl it around her finger. She loved how pretty the color looked, especially when it was summer time. And she always tried to take great care of it. She often combed it every morning when she got up and brushed it every night when she had to go to bed. And her parents loved her hair too! Her dad would always compliment her on how pretty her hair was. He always said that it reminded him of her grandmother. And her mom would always play with her hair as a way to soothe her. It gave Ann great comfort whenever her mom did that.
“...They’re not here to stop me, are they?” Ann said to herself sadly.
That’s right… they’re not here. They’re not here to play with her hair until she was relaxed, or to say how pretty it was… or to comfort her because the kids at school were being mean to her, or even to assure her that it was okay to be the way she was. Yeah, they can say all of that on the phone if they liked but… to Ann it wasn’t the same.
She wanted them here.
And secretly? A part of Ann wanted her parents to be here just so they could stop her. Even a simple ‘What are you doing, honey?’ would have gotten her to stop. But…
They’re not here.
“Let’s see… uh… instructions…” Ann skimmed over the instructions that were written on the box, but she was reading it half-heartedly. Honestly, she could probably do it if she was actually serious about it, but it was clear that her heart wasn’t in this.
“Ugh… whatever. It’ll probably take forever to clean up the bathroom anyway. And I don’t wanna clean the bathroom. Gross.”
With a final angry huff, Ann put away the box of hair dye and left the bathroom.
Middle school was a bitch.
“Stupid Takakura! Throwing dirt at my hair!”
Ann grumbled angrily as she washed her hair in the bathroom vigorously, watching the dirt and twigs fall into the draining water in the tub. She lathered her hair with shampoo several times and then rinsed with water, watching the soap run down the drain with the last remnants of dirt.
“Stupid Aoi! Making fun of the dirt in my hair!” Ann cursed, lifting her head up from the tub before she rinsed out the excess water. “She wouldn’t like it if someone threw dirt at her hair! So why laugh at me!?”
She wrapped her hair with care before she wrapped a towel around it, allowing for it to dry. But Ann was still seething as she glared at the mirror angrily.
“And what’s with calling me ‘prissy?!’ No one wants dirt in their hair!! They’re so stupid!”
She was yelling at the top of her lungs, but she knew that she was home alone. Her new caretaker wasn’t going to be here until nighttime. That was when she was supposed to come by to cook dinner for Ann so that she won’t go hungry. Why doesn’t she do something that’s actually useful!? Like telling those other kids that it was super uncool to throw dirt in someone’s hair!
“Ugh, this is so stupid!” Ann cried out as she gathered her shampoo and conditioner bottles. She bent down to the cabinet where she usually kept it, but when she opened the door, she noticed that the box of hair dye was still sitting there, unopened. She frowned as she stared at it, contemplating if this was the day that she was actually going to dye her hair. Her hair was already wet, and the materials were there. If her hair was black, then maybe those kids wouldn’t throw dirt at her hair again.
But… that’s stupid!
Why should it make a difference whether or not her hair was black or not?! It was NOT okay to throw dirt at people!
“Grrr…” Ann growled at the box of hair dye and felt like she was seeing red. She dropped the bottles that were in her arms and grabbed the box. Instead of actually opening it and using the contents, Ann angrily threw the box at the bathroom wall. The box bent a little at the impact, and it fell onto the floor with a loud ‘plop’.
Ann yelled that out at the top of her lungs before she felt the bathroom again, slamming the door closed before she stormed off.
Once again, she stands in front of the mirror in the bathroom. But this time she was simply grooming her hair. Ann looked at the mirror periodically as she combed out the morning tangles that were in her hair, occasionally admiring how it looked. Sure, she didn’t get all of the tangles out yet, but somehow she can still look at her hair with pride.
“Almost done…” she murmured to herself. “Just gotta get at the back.”
Brushing the back of her hair… that was always the hardest part. Even so, Ann tilted her head at a particular angle so that her hair could be hanging down, making it easier for her to comb through. It was still soft to the touch, still so easy to twirl the ends with her finger... she’s always enjoyed that, even when she was bored out of her mind. And it was still its’ natural color… blonde. It was still long, soft… and blonde.
She remembered that the box of hair dye was still in the cabinet below her feet.
“I wonder what would happen if Shiho saw that my hair was black?” Ann wondered to herself out loud. “Sakamoto would probably flip out. I bet he would be like ‘Wait, when did your hair turn black?!’ or something like that. He’ll probably drop his jaw all wide like those old American cartoons… Actually, that might be kinda funny to see!”
Ann laughed to herself as the mental image popped up in her head, but she eventually turned quiet when she thought about her original question again. What would happen if Shiho saw that she dyed her hair?
“Shiho… she’d probably ask why…” Ann figured, sighing to herself. “Not like… ‘Why?’ She’d probably sound more like… ‘Why.’ Like, ‘Ann, that was really stupid. Why did you do that?’ I wouldn’t blame her. I probably wouldn’t have a good answer for her. I don’t even have a good one for myself.”
Why did she want to dye her hair, originally?
“I just wanted to fit in…”
Yes, that was the root of it all, wasn’t it?
She just wanted to fit in.
She loved her hair as it was, but she also wanted to fit in.
If she fit in with the others, then people wouldn’t make fun of her… or ignore her. Some of the adults probably wouldn’t give her dirty looks if her hair was black like all of the other kids. But… Ann learned that her hair wasn’t the only problem. Her eyes were a beautiful, bright blue. It sometimes turned green depending on the weather, but regardless of which color it was, it just screamed ‘foreign.’ And her body… hers was developing a lot faster than the other girls. That started up a completely different problem for her. She didn’t like how the boys stared at her… and she didn’t like the hatred in the other girls’ eyes when they looked at her. It’s like people were finding new reasons to hate her. It was clear to Ann that she was never going to fit in.
Why was this so hard?
And her parents were still not here… Ann wished that she could ask them how to deal with this, but somehow a part of her doubted that she was going to get a clear answer from them. For one thing, they actually had to be here for her to ask that.
Should she ask her caretaker about it? No… she’s been in the family for a while now, but she and Ann weren’t that close.
“I really have to find that answer myself, don’t I?” Ann sighed, putting the comb down for the moment. With her hair combed, she then reached for the two hairbands that sat on the sink. Parting her hair and putting them up in twintails was much, much simpler than combing the back of it.
Ann hummed to herself happily as she made the last adjustments to her twintails. Another day, another time for Phantom Thievery. And if not, then she could always hang out with the guys for a while. Somehow hanging out with everyone made her troubles seem far away. She never thought that she could meet a group of people that mattered so much to her… and accepted her for who she was. No matter how many times she gripes at Ryuji and he gripes at her back… no matter how many times she listens to Yusuke’s weird ideas, or how many times that she hears Morgana talk, or no matter how many times she pours her heart out to their leader… they accept her for who she is. And she accepts them.
She hasn’t felt so happy in a long time… probably not since she met Shiho.
She has friends…! She can proudly say that she has true friends!
“Looking good!” Ann cheered. “Anything else I missed?”
She bent down to the cabinet to see if she could do anything else to her hair, and she saw something that she hasn’t seen in a long time. In the back of the cabinet, she saw an old box of hair dye that was unopened. The sides were still bent, but the box itself was still unopened. Over time, Ann just stuffed so many countless hair products and makeup in that cabinet that the box of hair dye was pushed to the back as a result.
“Huh. There’s something I haven’t seen in a while.” Ann mused, reaching inside the cabinet so that she could grab the box and take it out. Ann looked at the box for a while and skimmed through the instructions again for old times sake. Once she was done, she smiled to herself and shook her head.
“Guess I don’t need this anymore,” she said. “I don’t think I ever did.”
After all… she was proud of her hair. Her long, soft, and beautiful blonde hair.
Ann rose up from the floor and tossed the unopened box of hair dye in the trash, getting rid of that old desire to fit in for good. After all, it didn’t matter if she was an outcast to society as a whole. She knew that now. Someday she will endure all of that scorn from others and take it all in stride. Because in the end, their thoughts didn’t matter.
As long as she could look at herself with pride, and as long as there were people who accepted her for who she truly was, that was all that mattered.
Ann Takamaki was Ann Takamaki, blonde hair and all.
And she’s proud of it.