My Challenge This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

“Okay honey, you can open your eyes now.” The drawling voice of the gum-chewing hairdresser jerked me back to reality. However, I found myself screwing my eyes tightly shut, for I was afraid that opening them would reveal the diamond-like tears I had worked so hard to hold back.

This was no ordinary haircut. The reason why tufts of my silky jet-black hair were scattered all over the polished tiles was much deeper than that. It all started on a fine wintry day in the heart of Cambridge, England. My mother had come home from work one day with the flu. What had started out as a trivial sickness suddenly morphed into something much more formidable. Since we had detected no sign of the illness improving after several long days, we rushed her to the hospital and anxiously waited for a sign. After what seemed like an eternity, a doctor came out with a mixed expression that read somewhere between I am so sorry and Oh, why do I have to be the one who delivers the bad news, and informed us that my mother had been diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Immune Deficiency Syndrome. This discovery meant that my mother was going to have to stay bedridden from now on, since even the slightest of physical exertion would leave her dizzy and fatigued.

We rode home in silence, and all the while I was thinking, Why us? What did we ever do to deserve this? But no answer came. I had always believed my life was perfect, that nothing bad could ever happen to my family. But now, I realized that anything can happen, and that could be turned upside down at any time. I could no longer rely on my mother for the mundane tasks that I had previously taken for granted. But I tried my best to adapt to my family’s new lifestyle. I woke up in the morning, a small five year old, and heated the kettle to make tea for Mom. As the bubbles frothed and foamed to the surface, I tidied up the rooms, straightening sheets and fluffing pillows. As I trudged up the stairs with the scalding cup of tea wobbling in my unsteady hands, my mother’s mouth cracked in a smile for the first time in days. At that moment, I knew that, together, we could overcome this hardship.

I decided to take action. Brushing and braiding my hair, a raven wave of liquid silk cascading down my back, was a task too arduous for my mom to perform. So I decided to make a critical decision; I would chop off my ebony tresses to ease her burden a little more.

As I was reminded of the reason behind my haircut, I slowly gained the strength to peer through my cemented eyelids. What I saw in the mirror surprised me: a young girl with beautiful shoulder-length locks staring defiantly back at me with eyes that flashed with courage.





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