Alex Martel 2-About to Get Married


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Alex Martel-About to Get Married
Ginger Herten

It’s been two and a half years since I started working undercover. Since then, many things have changed. The biggest change has been transferring to the downtown precinct to work with Detective Jones and the very handsome Detective Rodriguez, whom I frequently call Tom. The reason I call Detective Rodriguez Tom so often is because I see just as much if not more of him at home as I do on the job. That is one of the other big changes, we’re engaged. At home we’re Alex and Tom, at work we’re Detective Martel and Detective Rodriguez.

One thing that has been going back to the way it was before I started working undercover is my appearance. When I first started undercover, I had to get a very unwanted extremely short haircut, and I’ve been growing it out ever since. It has been taking forever!

Tom grumbles about my hair being in the way occasionally. He enjoys the unfettered access to my neck that comes with short hair along with the velvety feel of the short back and sides. He cares more about my happiness though than getting to pet my short hair, so he mostly keeps it to himself.

Was he happy though when I got the bob. I wasn’t so happy about it, since I saw it as a step backward in my growing out the boy short cut. The bob was Sam’s suggestion. Sam is one of the barbers at Joe’s barbershop, where Tom and several other guys from the force go. It was a bit of an impulsive decision when I agreed to it.

The bob took place on a day off for Tom and me a few months into the growing out process. Tom had headed out that morning from my place to get his usual monthly haircut, and I was doing stuff around the house. Well just a few minutes after he left his mom called his cell phone which he had “forgotten.” She had a very “urgent” question about dinner that night. I figured I might as well make his mom happy and go give him the message, it was a lovely spring day anyway so I figured I’d enjoy the walk. As it turned out, it was hotter than I thought it was going to be and I was soon uncomfortably hot. My hair was still in that horrible in-between stage of growing out where it’s hard to put it up because it’s too short, but long enough to be in the way. By the time I got to Joe’s barbershop it was uncomfortably pasted to my neck with sweat.

Joe’s Barbershop is not the kind of place women go to a lot, but I’d been there before. The first time for my unwanted hair cut, then a few times when I needed to talk to Tom, so I knew the barbers, Joe and Sam, pretty well. In front of the store was an old fashioned swirling red and white pole. Just above the door was one of those bells on a spring that jingles when anyone enters. It announced my presence as I walked in that day.

I smiled and said “Hey Joe, Hey Sam,” and nodded to the older man in Joe’s chair. “Tom you forgot your phone again, your mom called with a very urgent question.”

“So urgent you needed to run down here to ask me?” Tom asked with a chuckle from Sam’s chair.

“Nah, not really, I felt like stretching my legs and getting some fresh air.” I answered as I flopped into one of the chairs in the waiting area.

Sam was busy going over the back of Tom’s head with clippers. The clippers rattled against the comb that held the hair up from Tom’s head. Quarter inch clippings of Tom’s shiny jet black hair fell to the blue and white striped cape over him. Watching was slightly mesmerizing.

“I have to admit I didn’t actually much enjoy the walk, though” I said to break the spell before any of them noticed I was staring.

“Oh, why’s that” Tom asked slightly muffled since it’s hard to talk with your chin tilted so far down.

“It’s much hotter and more humid than I thought it was going to be. This hair is totally stuck to the back of my neck.” I was lifting it up and fanning my sticky neck. “I can’t wait till it’s grown out enough to put up.”

“It’s not going to make it for this summer.” Sam offered his professional opinion as he started using the scissors on the top of Tom’s head.

“Well, you’re the one who got me into this predicament, have any plans to get me out, perhaps a some magic hair growing potions.” I joked teasingly.

“Sorry no magic potions,” Sam chuckled, but then added more seriously “a classic bob would do the trick though.”

My heart fluttered slightly at the thought of it. “You seem to forget I’m trying to grow out the last haircut you gave me.”

“A bob won’t really set you back much, and growing out one length will be a lot easier than dealing with all the different lengths you’ve got now.”

I suppose he did have a point, but it seemed weird to cut my hair again when I really just wanted all of my long hair back. I seemed to have developed butterflies in my stomach. I was torn, I hated the idea of cutting my hair again, but it was also really awkward to deal with right now.

“Go for it Alex, you’ll be much happier.” Tom interjected his opinion.

Ha, yeah right, I’d be happier, I suspected it was him that was going to be happier.

“Well maybe not happier,” he admitted “but more comfortable. And it’ll save you time when you are trying to get it fixed up for work.”

He was trying to appeal to my practical side. He knew I liked to think of myself as a sensible woman.

Sam was shaving Tom’s neck smooth with the straight razor. Way too much of my mind was occupied by thinking of nuzzling my face against his smooth neck and into the velvet just above it. It was clouding my judgement. Maybe that was what was getting my guard down and actually making me consider doing it. I felt nervous and torn.

Sam had finished with Tom and was removing the cape. There was a dusting of jet black hair over the black and white tile floor. Sam was shaking more down off the cape. It was almost like flurries.

Instead of going to the register to pay, Tom came over and sat down in the waiting area next to me.

“Go on” he said as he nudged my shoulder “I’ll wait for you and we can walk home together.”

That was the first time Tom referred to my house as “home.” The distraction was not helping me to think clearly.

Oh well, at least I could show him I didn’t bawl like a baby every time I got a haircut like I had the last time. Not that getting haircuts was anything close to a regular experience for me. Before having to cut it for my work undercover, I had only ever gotten dragged in for occasional trims when the split ends got out of control.

I walked over to Sam’s big red leather and chrome chair and sat down.

“Can you hold up your hair Martel.”

It felt out of place being called Martel on my day off. Here I was in my frilly girl stuff. A sleeveless blouse, a flouncy skirt, some strappy sandals. My cool comfortable day off clothes to be Alex in instead of Officer Martel.

As I held up my hair, Sam tucked in the tissue around my neck and then shook out the cape again with a snap and let it fall over me, fastening it around my neck.

I was way beyond nervous now, my heart started pounding. I wanted to change my mind, but it felt too late.

Sam picked up his spray bottle and started wetting down my hair and combing it. As the sprayer made its rhythmic squeak-sish, squeak-sish sound I realized Sam hadn’t bothered to ask me what I wanted.

Sam started combing my hair straight down, parting it in the middle. He made a part down the side of my head on the left from the crown to my ear and combed the hair in front of it forward. He gave it a quick twirl with his fingers and repeated the process on the right side of my head. He then smoothed out the hair in the back against my neck tilting my head forward with his free hand.

I saw in the mirror that Sam was taking the scissors out of his pocket and took a deep breath. I wasn’t really sure I wanted to do this. I could feel the sharp point of the scissors slipping into the hair at the back of my head. My heart pounded faster. I could hear the shlich come from the scissors slicing through my hair.

The locks fell to my shoulder first then tumbled down to my lap since I was leaning forward slightly. I stared down at my lap. Wow, that was way more hair than I had expected. It was several inches long. My heart was really racing now. I was regretting having sat down in this chair, but it was too late now. I bounced the locks off the cape from underneath it so I wouldn’t have to look at them. They landed on my exposed toes. I was going to be stuck feeling them for the rest of my hair cut.  Why had I worn sandals?  Oh yeah that’s right I hadn’t planned this. Oh well, they were soft locks.

The cold steel blades had moved to the middle of my neck now, and I heard shlick once again as Sam made the next cut. This time I could feel the wet locks just resting on my neck. Sam soon combed them off though.

Sam shifted slightly, and was coming in from the other side. Once again the point pushed in through my hair, angled differently this time. Shlick. More wet locks hit my shoulder and tumbled into my lap. This time I let them be.

One last shlick, and another wet pile of hair was waiting on my neck for Sam to comb off. As soon as it was gone I felt the pointy tips of the scissors start to nibble at my hair line.  I could now tell that this bob was going to be very short in back. Definitely above the hair line.

Next Sam held the scissors against my neck and removed all the little wispy bits. I knew Tom would like that. I looked up at him through the mirror. He caught my glance and smiled. I made an effort to smile back even though I was regretting this.

Sam started picking my hair up off the back of my head with the comb and holding it out at an angle and cutting off another half inch or so.

I guess I looked confused because Sam volunteered “I’m just layering the back a bit to give it a current shape and give it some movement.”

Did Sam read style magazines?

My ears were filled with crunching as he continued to layer the back just slightly. And my shoulders were covered in hair.

He seemed done so I raised my head up. He combed it through some more in the back making a few more little snips. None of the hair reached my neck anymore.

He came to the side of me and untwisted the front hair. It suddenly made sense why he had simply chosen a length and not consulted me. The bulk of hair he was combing down over my ear was just ever so slightly longer than what he’d cut it to in the back. Sure there were a few slightly longer pieces, but not much. He had to cut it that short to get it into a bob.

After he had it all smoothly combed, he used the comb to connect the front to the back and cut straight across the bottom of the comb.    My hair just hit the bottom of my ears, the straggly long bits were gone. He moved to the other side and repeated the combing down and cutting against the comb.

I turned my head side to side, looking in the mirror to see how short it was and how it looked. It angled up very slightly towards the back. Not a true aline since I hadn’t had enough length in front for it, but enough of a hint at it to make it look reasonably stylish.

“Ok, let’s clean up the back, then I’ll give you the hand mirror.”

Clean up the back? I didn’t think there was any hair left back there.

Sam took his clippers from the hook and oiled them. He turned it on with a pop and came around behind me. Once again he gently tilted my head down to expose my neck. He ran the bare blades of the vibrating machine right up my neck and slightly into the hair line. I could feel the slightest rain of hairs that were almost a dust hitting my neck. He started in the middle and worked his way across to the left ear. Then he went back to the middle and across to the right ear.

He turned off the clippers and hung them back up.

He gave my neck a cursory dusting and wiped it with a warm towel. Then he got out the lather. I hadn’t been expecting him to actually shave it, but there Sam was stropping the razor.

This was a new sensation. I instinctively held my breath and was very still. Sam stroked the blade carefully down my neck.

As Sam finished up, he handed me the hand mirror and spun me around so I could inspect the back. As I reached up from under the cape, the pile of hair on my lap tumbled to my feet

Wow it was short. It was a huge setback. It did look good though.

Sam started dusting me off and took off the cape. “There you go, you’ll be nice and cool this summer and it’ll grow out all nice and even now. Problem solved.”

Men have a funny idea of how problems are solved. I raised my hand to my neck and it felt so smooth.

Tom was grinning from ear to ear as I looked at him. I walked over to him and he put his arm around my waist and bent down and kissed my neck lightly. I knew he was looking forward to being able to access to the back of my neck again.

Sam had been right. The walk home was much more comfortable, and the bob grew out much more gracefully than the boyish crop had been growing out. I was very torn between loving and hating that bob. Tom’s feelings about it were clearly not mixed though.

 

Finally though, my hair is pretty much back to my preferred length, which is as long as possible. Just in time for the wedding, 2 weeks from now.

Tom and I both have a ton of vacation time saved up, so we’re taking the week before the wedding off, as well as 2 weeks after for our honeymoon. This week we are focusing on catching up on paperwork, and making sure everything is squared away for anything we have going to trial when we get back.

As I’m busy typing away at my computer our Captain, Captain Morgan, comes out. Yes, his name is a huge running joke throughout the department but that really does just happen to be his name, sometimes he complains he should have stopped at sergeant.

“Jones, Miller, and Martel, I need you in my office.” the captain calls.

When we get to the office there are the sheriff and two of his deputies, already seated. There is nowhere left to sit so I leaned against a file cabinet.

“As you probably know this is Sheriff Wilson,” Captain goes through the introductions. “And this is Deputy Ryan, and Deputy Harris. Detectives Miller and Martel here both have done numerous undercover operation, and Detective Jones has worked with them frequently as their handler.”

“Martel, I’m sorry, but it’s necessary to cancel your vacation time next week.” The captain continues. “Sheriff Wilson will explain.”

“We have a problem in our jurisdiction, which isn’t within our normal scope. There is a girls Catholic boarding school that is adjacent to the county park and on county land. Something’s been going on there, but details are hard to pin down.” He started. “The headmistress of the school, Sister Rose, is happy to allow us to put a few undercover officers in this week and next. The problem is, our investigative branch is very small since most of our jurisdiction is parks, county roads, and the county jail. So, we have a limited number of deputies with experience with this sort of thing.”

“To complicate matters, the undercover officers need to be female and Catholic, since they will be posing as substitute teachers at the school. She is sending the math teacher and the science teach on a two week retreat.” Sheriff Wilson continued. “Deputy Ryan is our only available Catholic female deputy, and though she has expressed interest in getting as broad experience as possible, she has yet to have any experience undercover. So, the sheriff’s department put in a request to the city’s police commissioner to do this as a joint operation between the city and the county.”

Son of a bitch. Well this is just great. I’m supposed to be getting ready for my wedding and instead I’m being sent off for two weeks. Well Tom was the one that wanted a big wedding, he’s going to have to deal with it. I bet the way they figured out I was Catholic was because they were invited to the wedding mass.

We spend a while going over details in the captain’s office. Since Deputy Ryan and I will be staying at the school, I go to my locker and get the overnight bag of plain clothes I keep ready to go. Deputy Ryan has brought a bag too. I let Tom know he’s responsible for any last minute wedding planning and we all head off to the school.

We meet Sr. Rose at a church in the city, so we can arrive at the school with her, she was supposedly meeting us at the train station. Miller will be working as a painter, and arrive tomorrow in a van marked as a contractors van.

“Deputy Ryan, Detective Martel,” she greets us warmly.  “I have clothing that will be appropriate for you two to wear while you are staying with us.” Well that seems like a good thing because I only have 2 changes of clothing and a few extra sets of underwear. That will not last me two weeks.

“What are your given names? I think it will be simpler if you use those than if you go with religious names. In our order only about half have taken on religious names since Vatican II.” Our order?! We are going to be nuns? The female and Catholic requirement makes more sense now.

“Alex, short for Alexandra”

“Cate, Catherine.”

“That works fine” she says, taking us to an office in the back where there are piles of plain black, white, and gray garments. “We don’t wear veils and our habits are very modified, so you can mix and match whatever fits you. Start getting out of those.”

Sr. Rose is wearing a black turtleneck, a grey skirt and suit jacket, with a cross necklace. Ryan and I start stripping down, as soon as we are down to our bras and panties Ryan starts reaching for one of the black turtlenecks.

“Oh, hold on Cate.  Before you start getting dressed, let’s sort out your hair. No point in getting the clothing messy.” Sr Rose interjects and goes over to the desk, reaches into a drawer and pulls out big old office scissors.

“My hair?” Ryan’s voice is weak and I can see panic in her eyes. “but didn’t that end with Vatican II?  Sr. Janice who runs the food bank at my church has hair down to her elbows.”

“It depends on what order she’s in.  We’re a rather traditional order.” I hadn’t really thought about Sr Rose’s short matronly haircut, but suddenly it was very much on my mind, as I’m sure it is on Ryan’s. Shit, not 2 weeks before my wedding.  My sister and I have planned and practiced how she was going to do it for the wedding.

“I can’t–I just can’t” Ryan blurts out and starts gathering her uniform up in her arms. “I have to go. Where’s the bathroom I need to get dressed and go.”

Ryan runs from the room not waiting for an answer about the bathroom. My guess is asking made her remember the one we passed just down the hall. Sr. Rose looks at me slightly worried and surprised.

“I’ll go talk to her, I’ll be right back.” I pick up my suit jacket and slip into it so I have something more than just a bra and panties on as I follow Ryan to the ladies room.

“Deputy Ryan, are you in here?” a soft sob is the only answer I get. “Are you OK?”

“I can’t Martel, I just can’t.” She’s leaning against the wall, her uniform dropped on the counter next to the sink and she shakes her head. “What am I going to say to the Sheriff? He’s counting on me. This will ruin my career, but I just can’t go through with it. She’s planning to cut my hair off, I just know it. I can’t do it. How do I get out of this mess.”

I knew it too. I knew that nuns traditionally cut their hair, but like Ryan I knew a few modern nuns with long hair. However, for every nun I’d met with long hair I’d met a dozen more with short matronly hair. It was pretty obvious that we would have to cut ours to look like we belonged.

“Ryan, I know this is hard, but you can do this. I’ve been in your shoes, and that first undercover assignment is what got me from a rookie on patrol to a detective. It’s worth it.”

“It’s not like undercover assignments come up at the sheriff’s department regularly, This isn’t going to lead to doing undercover work regularly.” She is staring at herself in the mirror as she says this. I think she is trying to convince herself more than me. Her hands gripping the counter.

“What is your career plan?”

“I plan to stay in the sheriff’s till I have enough experience to apply to the FBI.” She breaks eye contact with her reflection and looks at me.

“And you’ll need the sheriff’s recommendation?” I ask and she nods. “How do you think backing out of this now is going to affect that recommendation?”

A small squeak comes out of her throat, and she looks down in defeat. I can tell she knows but doesn’t want to believe it. She sobs again. I put a comforting arm over her shoulder.

“You won’t tell anyone about this will you? That I was panicking?” She asks weakly.

“Not a soul, I promise. Now let’s splash some cold water on your face and get back to Sr. Rose. OK.” I try to sound comforting, I guess I succeed because Ryan nods.

When we get back to the office Sr. Rose has been making herself busy with paperwork. She looks up as we enter and smiles sympathetically at us. She places her gradebook and calculator back in her satchel. Then stands up and comes around to the front of the desk.

“Are you ready to continue?”

Ryan nods weakly in response to Sr Rose’s question. “OK Cate come over here and we’ll get your hair taken care of.”

Ryan stands in front of Sr Rose. Sr Rose reaches up to the tight bun at the back of Ryan’s head and starts pulling out bobby pins. As the pile of bobby pins grows Ryan’s hair starts to come free. Sr Rose very briefly finger combs it.

I had noticed Ryan was a redhead, but it had been hard to truly appreciate how wonderful her hair was until now that it is loose. It is a lustrous flame red, thick, and wavy. It is that rare combination of many shades of red all blended together that is impossible to get from a bottle. Some strands a golden strawberry blond, many more a bright copper like a brand new penny.  Other strands a deep auburn that one could almost call maroon. The sunlight from the window plays off the different strands making it gleam like precious jewelry. It reaches to her panties’ elastic band.

Sr Rose now gathers it back up in her left hand, all together at the back of Ryan’s head. With the hair tightly grasped in her left hand, she starts reaching for the office shears with her right hand. It’s obvious this isn’t going to be a careful cut. Ryan reaches out for me and I give her my hand to squeeze.

Sr Rose raises the long steel shears to Ryan’s neck and opens them. As Sr Rose inserts one of the blades behind the hair she holds, Ryan shudders at the cold against her neck. The scissors begin to close. Even if the scissors had been really sharp they wouldn’t make it through Ryan’s thick hair in a single crunch. Sr Rose is working the blades open and closed rhythmically. Crunch, crunch, crunch. Ryan’s eyes are squeezed tightly shut. Her hand is gripping mine so tightly it hurts. Sr Rose continues cutting undaunted by the thick hair, she seems to have done this before.

The tone of the scissors crunching changes as the amount left to cut through lessens. Short locks of hair begins to fall forward to brush Ryan’s face. She gasps for breath as she feels them.

With a final clack, the blades close all the way and it is over. Ryan’s beautiful long red hair is held hanging from Sr Rose’s hand. Ryan has a rough choppy bob. Sr Rose picks up an elastic and twists it around the ponytail in her hand. She then very matter-of-factly takes just a few snips to clean up the most uneven bits of Ryan’s bob. Though it isn’t the worst haircut I’ve ever seen, it is far from a professional job, and not at all fashionable.

Ryan reaches up to feel the ends and takes a deep breath, that she lets out with a shudder. Tears are rolling down her cheek again. I feel awful about pressuring her, I knew this was going to be bad. I put a hand on her shoulder and begin rubbing it to try to comfort her.

“Ok, Cate, start getting dressed while I deal with Alex’s hair.” Sr Rose breaks the silence. Damn it, I had forgotten about being in the same boat as Ryan.

I give Ryan’s hand a final squeeze and release it. I go to stand before Sr Rose with my back to her just as Ryan had. My own bun isn’t as tight as Ryan’s had been, since I didn’t need to make it fit under a uniform cap. I just need it up so that it can’t be grabbed easily by a suspect, so I have it in a fashionable “sock” bun. It is quick and easy to take out, and soon there is a new small pile of pins, a hair elastic, and a mesh donut on the desk next to the pile of pins from Ryan’s bun and her severed ponytail.

My straight chocolate brown hair is loose now, hanging down my back, but not for long. Very swiftly it is being pulled taught in Sr Rose’s hand. I can’t see what’s happening, but know the scissors are coming.

My heart is beating madly, but I’m managing to keep a calm exterior. I don’t want to let this happen to me any more than Ryan wanted it to happen to her, but I am resigned to it and it’s not effecting me the same way. I guess it’s just less of a shock to me. Or it’s just that the years I’ve been working undercover have turned faking a calm demeanor into an instinct

The thin line of cold hard steel on the back of my neck makes my heart beat even faster. Then the noise starts. The same hungry crunching sound that the scissors had made in Ryan’s hair starts. I feel the blade rocking back and forth on my neck almost in a sawing motion. The motion of the blades on my neck are accompanied by little tugs and releases of my hair. There is no mirror. I know what is happening only from the feel of short hairs coming down against my neck and face. I fear it looks as bad as Ryan’s.

It seems like the crunching and twisting and tugging is endless. How can this be taking so long, I know my hair isn’t putting up as much resistance as Ryan’s had. My hair is soft, smooth, and silky. Though there is plenty of it, the strands are very fine and shouldn’t be putting up a fight. Each hair will easily yield to the sharp blades. Or really not so sharp blades, those are old office shears, probably mostly used on paper. I take a deep breath and contemplate the damaged state they will be leaving what is left of my hair in. With a deep sigh I realize this haircut is going to leave me needing another haircut.

Finally I hear the schlick and clack, as the blades close on the last strands. My head feels light with the release. After putting the elastic around the ponytail in her hand, Sr Rose starts cleaning it up. Swiftly grabbing at any long bits left sticking out she snips them off. There is no great care or thought being put in here. It is obvious that to Sr Rose this is just a task to be gotten over.

I reach up and run my hands through my hair. It’s sort of a bob, but not like the one Sam gave me when I was growing out my hair. Though I’m happy it feels longer, the ends feel rough and tangled. The neck just has short hairs, none of the clean smoothness Tom loves. It feels completely unshaped. I’m sure it’s totally matronly just like Ryan’s and Sr Rose’s even though I can’t see it.

After I’ve dressed I get a chance to go use the bathroom before we drive out to the school. I look in the mirror and my fears are confirmed. It is the most boring haircut ever. Too short to be long and luxurious, but not sleek and edgy or sexy. It’s just there. I can also feel the ends are really damaged. Yup, I hate how short it is, but I need a haircut.

Sr Rose, Ryan and I all pile into Sr Rose’s car and arrive at the school in a half hour. Soon Ryan is “Sr Cate” and I am “Sr Alex” and everyone simply accepts that we are from the convent just over the state border to be substitutes. Miller comes during the day as a painter, and we begin our investigation.

It turns out the head of grounds and maintenance has been laundering money, through the school. It only takes us a week and a half to gather all the evidence to make for a nice convictable case.

Three days before our wedding, I get home late in the evening. I’m exhausted from the week and a half of staying up half the night looking through the bookkeeping followed by having to get up at dawn the next day for morning prayers. Basically working 3 jobs, nun, teacher, cop, simultaneously. It’s heaven to be home.

“Hi, Tom.” I shout up the stairs. I hear him start practically galloping down the stairs. This is our last night together till the wedding. Our families feel it’s bad luck for us to be seeing each other right before the ceremony..

“Hey Alex.” he says with a smile as he gets to the bottom. Then his jaw drops. “What happened. Your hair.”

“I had to fit in with the other nuns.” I put my hand up to my head feeling the short hair as I drop my own smile and bite my lower lip.

“Mom’s going to cry when she sees that.” He scrunches his face in concern. “Sorry, I bet you’re really upset and here I am thinking about the wedding.”

He wraps me in his strong arms, and gently runs his hand down my head. I understand why his thoughts went straight to his mom. She made the veil, and fussed and fussed about how it was going to be perfect with my hair all curled and in an elaborate updo. I wasn’t the only one who had an investment in my now gone hair.

“I’ll figure something out. I have tomorrow off to play with the curling iron.” I reassure him.

I wake up late the next morning, since we are now both officially on vacation. Tom’s all packed up for his bachelor weekend. His brothers, cousins, and a bunch of the guys from the precinct come by and drag him off for the festivities. I call my sister to come over and see if she can help me out.

“Alex, we need professional help.” My sister, Angela complains. “The ends are so chewed up that it just tangles two seconds after I get it combed out. Come on, we’ll go to my salon, Shear Glory, maybe Jake can squeeze you in.”

“God no, I hate that place. That time you dragged me there for a simple trim I thought I was going to suffocate from the hairspray and perm solution fumes.” I protested. “Besides, I had told Jake one inch and he cut off nearly three and layered it. Okay, maybe just two inches, but it was more than one and involved twenty tons of smelly products.”

“All salons smell like that. I know you usually just avoid them all together, but that’s not really an option since you’ve gone and gotten yourself into this mess.” Angela waves her hands dramatically over my head as she says mess. Which reminds me.

“Ya’know who got me out of my last hair disaster, Tom’s barber Sam. It’s just a few blocks from here.” I get up and start gathering my purse.

“You’ve got to be kidding me, you want to go to the place all the cops go to.”

“I am a cop!” I protest, as I find a baseball cap to wear.

“That’s different.” Angela responds with a roll of her eyes.

“Well we need professional help and I’m not going to your salon. So we haven’t got other options.” With that I head to the door.

The chime jingles as we open the door of Joe’s Barber Shop. Angela looks like she wishes she could disappear as we walk into this classic male establishment.

“Hey Alex. Didn’t expect to see you till the wedding.” Sam greets me. “Where’s Tom,?  I didn’t expect to see him again till the bachelor party tonight.”

“Hi Alex” Joe adds then gets back to one of his regulars sitting in the chair.

There is actually another woman sitting in the waiting chairs for a change, and going to sit next to her seems to make Angela a bit more relaxed. My guess is she’s the mom of the boy in Sam’s chair.

“Tom’s off doing bachelor stuff. I actually have a bit of a problem of my own, I was hoping you could help with.” I nervously adjust my baseball cap.

“I’m almost done, just give me five minutes and we’ll see about your problem.”

Sam soon finishes and rings up the mom on the cashier. “OK, Alex, what happened?”

“It got chopped short for my last case.” I explain and take off the cap. “She used old office scissors so the ends are all chewed up.”

“Ok, come on over and we’ll see what we can do.” Sam indicates his chair.

I take a deep breath and head over somewhat nervously. I realize that though this will be the third time I’ve gotten my hair cut by Sam, this is the first time it’s actually my idea. Well sort of. It’s not like I would have been doing this if I wasn’t desperate.

I sit down and let out a long sigh. Sam does his usual ritual of shaking out his cape with a snap, then letting it settle down over me slowly. He tucks in the tissue and tightens the cape at the neck. He runs his comb through my hair a few times. It tugs through snags when it gets to the ends.

“Well, we are going to have to cut a bit off the bottom to make it healthy. Do you want me to just take off the bare minimum to get it cleaned up or do you want something more like that bob I did last time, so it has a bit more style?” Sam asks looking at me through the mirror.

I purse my lips looking in the mirror, I’m torn. I’d like to keep as much length as possible, but the style is so dowdy right now. “I don’t know Sam, I really want to not look so bland, but I need some length for fixing it up with the veil.”

“Hang on, I have an idea.” Joe interrupts as he’s ringing up the client he just finished with.

We all watch as Joe starts looking through some car magazines.

“Don’t the sexy ladies draped over the hoods of the cars generally have long hair?” Angela asks with a raised eyebrow.

“Pfft!” is Joe’s response with a dismissive wave of his hand. “Alex would never just sprawl on top of a car, she’s a good hard working sensible lady. Not that she’s not pretty enough, but she doesn’t have time for silliness. She’s a busy detective.”

I smile at Joe, he gets me. He also has found what he was looking for, and starts coming over to Sam’s chair while flipping to the right page. It’s an in depth article about the pit crew for a car that recently won some race. I don’t really follow car racing. I get more than enough fast driving on the job. The article has a bunch of pictures, including the one woman on the crew.

In many of the photos, she’s wearing a baseball cap to hold her hair back off her face. In those all you can tell is she’s got something bob length going on from the bit sticking out under the cap, but none of the detail. He flips to the next page though, and there she is without the cap. It’s an interesting cut, certainly not boring or dowdy. Also much shorter than what I have now. It’s an asymmetrical cut. Longish bob length on one side, but not even reaching the bottom of her ear on the other. Do I care more about how long it’s going to take to grow it back out, or it’s going to look right now? I’m still undecided.

Angela has come to look over my other shoulder as the magazine now rests on my lap. “I could see that working.” She grudgingly admits.

“For the wedding, you can slick back the shorter bits with gel and curl the long side. It’ll give the look of an updo with curled long bangs hanging out.” Joe explains. “It will make growing it back out take a bit longer, you’ll want it more of a one length, but for the wedding and honeymoon you’ll be stunning.”

I bit my lip and looked in the mirror and thought about the honeymoon. I didn’t want to feel frumpy on my honeymoon I realized. I wanted to look sexy for Tom. I started thinking about how much he’d enjoyed my smooth bare neck. Suddenly those extra couple of months this was going to add to the growing out process didn’t seem so important.

“That’s a great idea Joe, let’s go for it.” I’m trying to sound more enthusiastic than I really feel. And as I was settled now, Joe and Angela went off to sit and get comfortable leaving Sam and I to it.

Sam started by rummaging around in his drawer. He pulled out some large hair clips. “I don’t get to use these very often” he says and sets them on the marble counter in between the open magazine and the jar of combs in blue fluid.

He picks up his spray bottle and starts squirting and combing around my head. When I’m damp all over, he stands behind me, looking square at my reflection in the mirror then down to the magazine and back and forth a few times. He’s obviously thinking and planning. I come to the conclusion that he’s never done this cut before and he needs to figure out how he’s going to approach it. I’m now a lot more nervous.

He seems to have come up with a plan because he starts combing again, this time with more purpose. He starts with a side part and grabs one of the clips to keep my damp hair over to the side he chose. Next he parts the hair around the back in a diagonal to my neck line, and grabs another clip to hold the hair up and out of his way. Now that he has a plan he’s wasting no time. He briefly gives the hair hanging down on what I assume will be the short side a few more squirts from the water bottle so that it’s really wet and picks up his comb and scissors. He combs down a couple of times, then inserts the comb under the hair lift it up and starts slicing it off with the sharp blades. next to my ear.

A wet clump of hair hits my shoulder, then tumbles down to my lap. Though it’s just three or four inches of hair, all the emotion I had pushed down when Sr Rose cut off my ponytail comes bubbling back up to the surface and a tear starts rolling down my cheek.

Sam keeps combing the hair upward and slicing. Every now and then he combs it down to see what it looks like then goes back to combing up and slicing off more damp hair. That side seems to be done and he’s moving around to the back. I can feel the teeth of the comb raking the skin on my neck as he lifts the hair up with it, then the short slightly prickly hairs falling on my bare neck. I look at the side he has finished cutting. It reaches to just about where my earring is in my ear lobe. I hope it is long enough to stay behind my ear. I probably should have mentioned that before Sam started.

Sam puts down his scissors and picks up his clippers. Angela looks horrified.

Sam’s behind me and starts tapering the neckline. I feel the teeth of the clippers nibble away at my neck hair, then hear them against the comb further up. A barely noticeable dust of hair is falling against my neck now.

Sam finishes with the clippers and has moved on to his straight razor. Angela looks even more horrified than when he picked up the clippers, as Sam rubs the lather around my neckline. He glides the razor through the warm lather on my neck and then wipes off my neck with a warm damp towel.

He now addresses the hair that is up in clips. He combs down the longer side and gives it a few squirts. The cold mist against my still hot freshly shaved neck is a refreshing feeling.

He’s holding the comb against the back of my head angled down towards the ear, and begins snipping against the comb. He move the comb so it passes under my ear towards the bottom at the front. When he gets to the very front, he trims off just enough to get rid of the chewed up ends, leaving it dramatically longer than it is in the back. He then layers it very slightly.

He picks up the drier and starts blowing my hair dry and using it to blow the hair off of me.  It takes just a minute or two, not like at Angela’s salon.

“I can’t believe you shaved her neck like a man’s.” Angela finally blurts out, even though it’s been several minutes.

“I didn’t shave it like a man’s. For a masculine haircut I would shave a squared off neckline.” Sam explained to Angela, then to me. “You remember that’s what I did that time you needed a cut like you were trying to pass as a man, though just with the clippers because it wasn’t supposed to look fresh.”

Do I remember? That was the first time Sam ever cut my hair, I’d bawled like a baby. The neck had been left with stubble on it, I hadn’t really paid attention to the shape of the neckline though.

“See here,” Sam continues, handing me a hand mirror and turning me so I can use it to see the back in the wall mirror. “I follow the curves and shave it in a more feminine shape. It emphasizes the length of the neck.”

I examine the shape of the neckline as he brushes me off with powder. It did just what he said. The shaving followed the natural curve of my hairline to it’s points. It made the natural shape cleaner and more defined. A perfect transition from the smooth neck to the velvety tapered area then up into the short layers, and finally into the longer smooth bobbed hair above. I touched it and it felt just as good as it looked, if not better.

“Thanks, Sam. Tom will love it, and thanks for thinking of it Joe.”

“No charge. It’s a wedding present.” Sam smiles at me. “I can’t wait to see how it looks with the veil on Saturday.”

Angela and I practice curling the front a couple of times, which proves to be quite easy. Then we invite over all the bridesmaids and some friends for drinks and girl time.

The next night at the rehearsal, Tom is stunned speechless when I come in. During the rehearsal dinner, we sneak off to the coat room where Tom nibbles at my neck till his brothers find us and drag him off.

The day of the wedding finally arrives and brings the usual joys as well as many guests surprised by the haircut. Our wedding night is followed by an amazing honeymoon. Tom spends half the honeymoon nibbling or stroking my neck. I’m glad that he is enjoying this cut so much, I feel a bit bad that I’m planning to let it grow out limiting his free access to my neck for a little while. We’ll see how far I get this time around.

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