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Grey Zone
by Hermine Robinson

Mary clawed at her scalp along the part-line. The offending grey strand stood out, bright and shiny, against the glossy brown of its neighbours. A beacon – this way to middle age! It was just one, but that was how it started. She plucked the grey hair, plus a couple of dark ones on either side, so the rest of them wouldn't get any bright ideas. Followed by instant regret. What if the empty follicles simply invited in more of the interlopers? Most likely they were already there, lurking just out of sight, waiting to ambush her at a weak moment.

She examined the plucked hairs carefully. The grey one trembled and declared its innocence. “Who me? Not Grey! Silver. Distinguished silver.” But it was thicker, coarser, tougher than the rest. A thug.

Mary glanced up at the bathroom mirror with a sigh. She wasn't ready for it – only 29 for goodness sake – actually 30 a couple of months ago, but Mary had not yet reconciled herself with the change of decade. Plucking would work for a while, but then what? Dye probably. Something dark to match her natural colour.

Except, her friend Gloria had gone to blonde straight out of high school, claiming that premature grey ran in her family and lighter shades hid it the best. Going blonde was a big commitment, with roots and touch ups to worry about. Mary was not sure she had the time or energy for any of it, not with a couple of toddlers in the house.

The sound of banging in the kitchen broke Mary out of her reverie. Her husband, Walter, was making coffee, getting breakfast for the girls, making a mess before heading out to work for the day, completely unaware of the battle going on upstairs.

Mary turned as five-year old Kathleen stumbled into the bathroom, sleepy-eyed. She lifted the little girl up to sit on the vanity and ran damp fingers through her daughter's tousled hair to get rid of the tangles. Both her girls were dark blonde, like their father. Mary glanced at the mirror. It could work. If she changed her hair colour incrementally, a shade lighter every few months, it would not look unnatural. 

“Why are you smiling Mommy?”

“I was just thinking about colouring my hair.”

Kathleen popped a thumb into her mouth, eyes wide. She looked worried, like the time Walter shaved off his moustache and scared the girls with his new look.

“I'll still be Mommy,” Mary assured her. “I just want my hair to be a pretty new colour.”

Kathleen considered this for a moment, removed her thumb and asked, “Green?”