I swung my legs backwards and forward, like the hands of the tall clock in the hallway.
“Sit still, sweetheart,” Toby said. He pulled me back so I was sitting properly on the chair, my back against the chair’s cushion, my hair behind it. I was used to people being obsessed with my hair; girls in school assemblies used to play with it idly, twisting bits of it around their fingers without even asking. Toby brushed it, going slowly whenever he encountered a knot, which wasn’t often. I think you get knotted hair when it gets blown about by the wind. You have to go outside for that.
He started to pull strands of hair and plait them together. It was his favourite hairstyle, something he’d seen on the internet. I always asked Toby if I could go on the Internet and he would say, Sure sweetheart, but then he only showed me kids TV on YouTube.
“Have you finished yet, Toby?” Sometimes it felt like he was doing my hair the whole day. I don’t know how he didn’t get bored.
“Not yet, sweetheart.”
He tied the end of my plait with a band and reached down to his bag. I began drumming my fingers against the wooden table. I was just about to stand up and get a biscuit from the silver tin in the corner, when I felt Toby’s hand on my shoulder. He forced me back down onto the chair. He could be strong when he needed to be.
I heard the click of metal and felt my head rise up, oddly weightless. Then I felt a clump of my hair slide down my neck and saw it fall in a heap around my feet.