I was working in the furthest out biosphere from the main base of our colony, when I saw the streak of light blaze across the sky night sky of Ilargi.
I had just taken samples for a few of the hydroponic tanks and was heading off to the labs to test them. I may be a biologist, not an astronomer, but even I could tell it wasn’t a meteor. The way it moved and how the intensity of the glow changed; it had to be a ship landing. There was no good reason a ship should be landing, but there was one very bad reason one might be landing.
I took my phone out of my pocket and tried calling main base emergency. My signal was jammed. There was a larger biosphere just 10 kilometers from this one, which had a fiber optic connection to the main base in case of emergencies like this. I dropped my samples and started running for the exit out to the large moon’s surface.
Though we call it a sphere out of tradition, it is actually made of a series of domes connected by tubes. The plan is to eventually remove the tubes once Ilargi is terraformed enough that we can walk out the door without an air supply. Ilargi is a huge moon orbiting a gas giant. It has an atmosphere, of similar density to Earth’s but with oxygen levels similar to the Precambrian. So, for now there is only one air lock to the surface, and a maze of tubes to navigate. Of course I was at the far end of the sphere from the airlock, so it took me several minutes to get across the kilometer in diameter sphere.
When I got there I started into the side room for an air tank. That’s when Ben, one of the junior ichthyologists, grabs me and pulls me into a closet whispering “It’s too late, they’re already outside” in my ear.
“Is what I think is happening, actually happening?” I ask as I look around and note that everyone who should be in this biosphere is in this closet with Ben and me. Dr. Jen Williams the senior biologist of this sphere, Dr. Joe Lopez an astronomer who has been staying out here for 2 weeks to do some observations, Jim Chu a junior biologist concentrating in botany like me, and Elizabeth Campbell our junior engineer. Oh and of course Ben Arman and me, Alyssa Nelson.
“Yes, claim jumpers. From the look of the symbols on the clothes on the one I glimpsed through the window, it’s the Neo-Puritans.” Joe answers. “They’re right outside the airlock already.”
We had been warned about this back on Earth, before we left. The charters that gave us the legal right to establish a colony on this moon were virtually impossible to enforce from Earth. During our passage here, 14 years had passed back on Earth.. Though due to time dilation during the normal space travel between safe wormhole generation points, we only spent 2 years our time traveling. Not that most of us remember those 2 years. Except for a small crew of a couple of dozen, we were in suspended animation. Add to that, that sending communications back and forth to Earth took a couple of months. Point is, that by the time anyone could get here from Earth to enforce a charter the claim jumpers would be fully established anyway. Nobody back on Earth saw any point in sending help.
So, as part of our colonist training, there were long detailed lectures about who might come to steal our colony, and how they would do it. This group is especially notorious. They are religious fanatics who feel they have the God given right to go anywhere habitable. They’ve tried to set up colonies on planets which had existing extra terrestrial life, which was completely against the law. Though we hadn’t found anything even remotely close to intelligent extra-terrestrial life yet, long ago it was decided it was best to leave anything alive mostly alone, in case it had the potential to evolve into something more interesting than a slug. The Neo-Puritans ignored this. Then there was them doing what they seemed to be planning to do here. Take over existing colonies with already established terraforming projects and plenty of supplies.
Obviously, there was a lot more to colonist education and preparation than the lectures about Neo-Puritans. Just getting accepted into this colony had been a big deal. I applied when I was 17, though you had to be 18 to be accepted, they took applications early since the process took so long. Tests, transcripts, interviews, and physicals took months. Then there were the classes and training.
Finally it had been time for me to leave with the other colonists to go to the quarantine base on the moon. My family and friends threw a huge party, since this was going to be the last time they ever saw me. It was all very bittersweet.
The grand finale of the party was my leaving my braided hair with my mom. It had become something of a local tradition among young girls leaving for colonies. We had to cut our hair for the suspended animation pods anyway, so we might as well leave it as a part of us on Earth instead of in a recycling facility on the moon.
I had very long straight smooth strawberry blonde hair. My sister combed it out, me sitting in a chair at the front of the room. They placed an elastic in it to make a loose ponytail. Then they added a bow, and braided it with a ribbon running through it. After they put another elastic at the end, they finished it off with a big bow with a personalized ribbon with my name and the date and stuff.
That’s when it was time to start the cutting. My sorta-ex boyfriend, Mike, got the honors. Mike and I had ended on good terms and had stayed really close. We were going in different directions in life, but we had never stopped caring. So even though he was officially available to date, he got the honor of doing the actual cutting.
We were all already very emotional, and tears were in everyone’s eyes. Mike stepped up behind me with the scissors. His left hand tentatively picked up the long braid, He held it taut, but not so it pulled. He opened the scissors and placed them just above the first elastic. The thin line of cold metal against my neck made everything so real and urgent. I was already so emotional about leaving, that the extra emotion of losing my hair felt like it wouldn’t fit inside me.
Then Mike had started closing the scissors. Each squeeze made a crunching sound. My best friend, Maddy, grimaced in sympathy at the sound. The shortened hair started to fall forward now that the scissors had freed it. The cut ends brushing against my chin. I could feel the tautness had slackened from much of my hair as the crunching continued.
Finally only a small section of my hair was left to cut through, and Mike closed the scissors with a final triumphant snap. Mike handed me my beribboned braid to present to my mother. When I handed it to mom, she clutched it to her chest and sobbed.
That night after the other party guests left, Mike and I sat up all night together. We made love one last time just before sunrise. He toyed with my new bob telling me it was pretty cute. Of course the bob had been just the start.
The next day I had left for quarantine on the Earth’s moon. Most of the colonists jammed into the quarantine base were young like me. There were reasons that most colonists were 18-21 year olds. Young people were at a good stage of life to leave everything behind and start over. We didn’t have children or spouses yet. Of course there were enough older colonists to function, and act as professors for us younger colonists still studying at a college or graduate school level. Several PHDs, MDs, RNs, DDSs, a couple of DVM, etc were coming; a few already married, but no kids. Suspended animation is bad for kids.
We spent 60 days in quarantine, getting to know each other and having no physical contact with anyone from outside. We continued doing classes and stuff via video conference.
Finally the day to go into suspended animation aboard the ships we would be going on came. That was when we really had to give up our hair. Hair caused problems in the pods. The pods cycled through various levels of deepness to the suspension. Though for most of it, a person was pretty much frozen, they had to be brought up to a level closer to normal sleep for cell renewal and stuff every once in a while. During those lighter sleep-like periods people moved around a bit. Hair would tangle. If it was long enough, hair could get wrapped around a body part and cut off circulation. It also got in the way of the cleaning and decontamination cycles of the pods unless it was very short. Wearing something to keep it contained wasn’t an option, because anything that wasn’t part of the human in the pod caused the decontamination to malfunction. So everyone went into their pods, naked and with all their hair cut off.
So there we were preparing each other to go into the pods. We did all the preparation ourselves to keep our quarantine. We all wore recyclable one time use paper coveralls, they would be removed right before the final shower before we entered our pods. My pod was in the middle of the queue, so I was helping to prepare those who were ahead of me. It had been intimidating at first, but after a bit, I got the hang of it.
“It’s very simple. It’s not like we’re aiming for high fashion. Just keep the blades parallel to the scalp, follow the curve of the skull, and don’t rush it too much. Go slow and watch out for bumps, moles, and pimples.” was all the instruction I got from Cassandra, the nurse overseeing the group I was helping prepare before I was handed the humming clippers.
I looked around the room. There were a bunch of others set up as I was, with clippers and a stool. Most of them were already cutting hair. I was surprised at how short. It is one thing to have heard “all hair cut off,” but it is an entirely different thing to see that it means shaved down to stubble.
The first person I helped prep wasn’t too hard. He was a guy with already very short mousy brown hair. I held the clippers to his hairline above his ear and started pulling them back the short hairs rained down, leaving nothing behind but the faintest shadow and a slightly velvety feel. His hair was soft and the clippers went through like a hot knife through butter. Though I was nervous about doing this, it was actually pretty simple. He’d been great about it too. He had obviously had his hair cut in a similar manner before, so gave me little hint’s and tips about folding his ears forward, and turning the clippers over to get the back of his neck. Soon he was done, with what was really only a trim for him.
The next guy proved more of a challenge. His shiny black hair was very thick, almost like wire. I again placed the clippers at his hair line, but this time it wasn’t like slicing through butter. The hum of the clippers changed to a strained tone as they encountered his thick locks. I went very slowly. The stubble left behind on him wasn’t soft and velvety, but scratchy, almost like sand paper. It was a very different feel. This time the hair tumbled in two to three inch locks, instead of a constant rain. The roomba clearing the floor raced to keep up with the locks that bounced as they hit the floor.
It was the next person who really gave me pause though. I knew her name from a few lectures, Miranda. She was a girl like me. Her hair was still long. It spilled over her shoulders in caramel colored curls. She was already crying when she came over and sat down slowly in the stool.
I couldn’t do it. I just couldn’t bring myself to do something I knew was going to upset her so much. Cassandra noticed I had frozen and came over to see what was going on.
“What’s going on Alyssa?” Cassandra asked softly.
“I don’t want to hurt Miranda, she’s so upset.”
“Miranda, you’re OK with this, you know it needs to be done, right.” Cassandra checked with Miranda.
“I’m OK. I’m sorry about the crying. I thought I was going to be able to control it, I keep telling myself I’m fine, but y’know, sometimes what we feel gets in the way of what we think and want. I want to go, and I know this has to happen for me to go.” Miranda sniffled and looked up at me through the tears. “I’ll be ok, just get it over with.”
Cassandra squeezed Miranda’s shoulder and got up to leave. I took a deep breath and started.
It was hard to keep my hand from shaking as I placed the clipper to her hairline. I guided the blades back into her hair. It started falling to the sides of the blades, but then just hung there. The moon’s low gravity wasn’t enough to over come all the friction from how her long curls twined together, so I had to pull the cut off hair down with my free hand. As I held the curls in my hand I noticed they were very soft and springy. I dropped them behind her.
I kept going, the hair piling up in front of the blades. as I went over the top of her head. I lifted up her hair as I went around the curve of the back of her head.
I brought the clippers back up to her forehead for another pass. I was trying to get it over with quickly for Miranda’s sake, but I couldn’t go faster than the clippers were up to. The next path widened the area covered in nothing but dark velvety stubble.
The shape of her head started to emerge as I went around her ears. Fortunately, Miranda has a delicate face that looked feminine still without the hair to frame it. I had worried that I wouldn’t look nearly as good.
When she bent her head down so I could clean up the nape of her neck, she sobbed more deeply at the sight of the roomba gobbling up her hair.
A few hours later, I had done the same thing to many more of my fellow colonists, as well as helped with many of the other tasks involved in getting the first group settled into their pods. It was then my turn to start getting ready for my own pod.
I listened to Cassandra give the same instruction she had given me on how to use the clipper to one of the new helper who would be prepped some time after I was asleep.
My eyes were dry as I sat down on the stool. I hadn’t expected to be too emotional; I had already left the bulk of my hair back on Earth, though of course the rough sloppy bob had grown out quite a bit during quarantine. My hair was brushing my shoulders again.
The clippers were warm from having been going all day long when they were placed on my forehead. The tone changed as they reached my hair line. My hair smooth and straight had slid down easily even in the low gravity. Then there it was in my lap, 10 or so inches of strawberry blond hair. I ended up feeling a lot more emotional than I had expected to, as I felt more hair sliding down off my head and behind me. I’d had to swallow hard to keep from crying as I played with the lock of hair in my lap. I tried to ignore the sensation of the clippers going over my head, but it was impossible. The humming had filled my ears and the vibration kept moving. What was even more impossible to ignore was the coolness of air on parts of my head that had always been insulated for as long as I could remember.
The clippers went over my head again and again. I was soon having to brush the surprisingly long cut locks off my arms to the floor. Occasionally he went a bit too fast and the clippers tugged.
It was later, getting into the shower, that I lost it. I closed the mirrored glass door to the shower stall and caught my reflection in it. Though I knew I had the same amount of stubble on my head as everyone else and could feel it, I looked completely bald. My hair was too light to create the shadow effect those with darker hair had. My hair was completely invisible. I sat on the shower floor sobbing until one of the nurses knocked on the door and asked if I was ok. I pulled myself together, and came out.
A few minutes later I was laying down in my pod with an IV line in my arm, as drug induced unconsciousness swept over me.
Next thing I knew, I woke up stiff and groggy on Ilargi. To me it felt like an instant. In reality, it had been 14 years earth time, or 2 years ship time.
My hair had only barely grown during the suspended animation though. No where near 2 years worth of growth. It had grown unevenly too, some hairs were a quarter inch or so, others almost an inch and a half.
That had been a couple of years ago though, my hair had grown back here on Ilargi. It was long again, like I had never had to go through cutting it all off for the pod. It was currently up in a messy bun, the weight of it felt similar to how it had on Earth, since Ilargi was 90% the mass of Earth.
Dragging myself back from memory lane to the closet we are hiding in, I look around again. I know why Ben dragged me in here with the others; this closet is hard to see. It’s around a corner blocked by several potted plants. It will be ages before it is discovered.
“We need to get to the next sphere before they have a chance to revive too many of their group.” I state the obvious, just to get us started thinking about our time line. “They probably revived one group before landing and will have started the process for another group, so we should have about 28 hours before they have anything approaching a force capable of standing against us. Joe, is there any chance another sphere would have seen them landing?”
“No, they picked the landing site well. We actually put this sphere here to cover this part of the sky. We just didn’t expect that they could get everyone trapped here with jammed signals this quickly.” Joe is obviously frustrated as he runs his hands up through his hair.
“Shh. I hear something.” Ben whispers.
There are foot steps coming from near the airlock, they have obviously gotten it open.
“We need to search this sphere. It should have a small staff of somewhere between 4 and 10 I would guess. Ask for numbers first thing from everyone you find. They are sinful and may lie about the numbers though, so keep looking even if you think you have them all. Verity, you guard the airlock. Prudence and Hope, go get a drink and change to full air tanks then go and walk around the outside. We’ve had an eye on the airlock since we landed, but I want the outside checked just in case.” An authoritative voice barks orders.
We hear footsteps moving off in all directions. Just two soft sets of foot prints come towards the air tank storage.
“You grab one and I’ll grab the other.” Ben whispers in my ear. “Make sure you cover her mouth so she can’t call out.”
Then he whispers to Elizabeth “You have duck-tape?”
She nods and holds the roll up at the ready.
Ben and I creep out as carefully and quietly as possible and drag Prudence and Hope inside the closet, which is getting extremely crowded. Elizabeth has them taped up in no time.
“Now what?” Jim askes. “Aren’t they going to notice they are missing in a minute when they don’t go back out to the airlock?”
“Our own Hope and Prudence will take their place.” Ben points to me as he says Hope, and then to Elizabeth as he says Prudence. “With the air masks covering their faces they can get away with it for the few seconds it will take.”
“Hope and Prudence still have short hair from suspended animation.” Jim points out. “You have scissors?”
“I have a very sharp knife.” Elizabeth volunteers.
Dammit. I hate this. I do not want to go back to cropped hair. But really there is no time to be upset about it, we need to get out there and contact base as soon as possible. Elizabeth is already handing her knife to Jim.
“I have one too.” I mention as I reach into my pocket and pull out the one I use for splicing plants. It is razor sharp. I hand it over to Ben.
Ben opens the knife and looks at the blade. I take a deep breath and take out the clip holding my hair up. As my hair tumbles down my back, I turn my back to Ben offering up my hair for him to cut.
He grabs a lock, wraps it around a couple of fingers, and pulls it taut. He places the knife blade almost at the top of it. I can feel the pressure and cold of the dull side of the blade against my scalp. He starts sawing at the lock. It pulls slightly as it cuts, but not too bad since the blade is sharp. My head jerks forward slightly as the blade cuts through and the tension is released.
“This’ll work.” Ben says holding the long lock of hair looking around for what to do with it. There isn’t enough room to just drop it on the floor.
I reach up and feel the short hairs left behind. They are shortest where he started and get longer where he finished cutting through. This would look pretty close to the uneven growth during suspended animation. Not quite an exact match, it’s a wee bit longer, but not much. It only has to fool one person briefly.
Ben has found a shelf to put the hair down on and is reaching for another lock. This time he’s faster. He cuts the lock with a single slicing action instead of sawing at it. It pulls more and my head jerks more at the end, but I know we need to hurry, so I don’t complain.
“Show me what you did.” Jim asks Ben.
“Like this, hold the hair tightly, and the knife at this angle.” Ben grabs one of Elizabeth’s locks and slices through it the way he had with mine as a demonstration. Jim nods.
I can see from the way Elizabeth is clenching her jaw, she is not any happier than I am with the way things are going. She scrunches her face up with each swipe of her knife. Her light brown locks curl helping to hide the unevenness of the cut. I know my very straight hair will not hide it at all.
My head is beginning to get sore from all the tugging. I hope it will be over soon. Jen has stripped the jackets off of Prudence and Hope and is waiting with them for Ben and Jim to finish with our hair.
“Get down so I can get the top.” Jim asks Elizabeth. He’s only slightly taller than her. She crouches and he lifts lock after lock from the top of her head straight up and slices it off as quickly as possible.
Ben, who is a fair bit taller than me, has simply turned me with a hand on my shoulder and is cutting the hair at the front of my head now. He places his hands on the side of my head briefly and bends my head down to get at the crown.
I’m facing the shelf he’s been dropping the hair on. There is a huge pile of my long tangled locks on it.
I can see the knife coming down as he slices through the last of my hair.
“Ok, get the jackets on, and go grab masks.” Jen says “try not to say anything and be quick getting out. Good luck.”
Verity barely glanced at us as he opened the airlock for us. We ran the ten kilometers to the next pod in record time.
Soon we have rounded up all the Neo-Puritans and they are all back in suspended animation with the ship headed back to Earth. It will have to do the entire 127 light year journey in normal space since we don’t trust them to pilot themselves back and have it set on autopilot, with no awake crew.
Two nights later, I am settled back in my room at the biosphere. It’s late, so I’m wearing a tank top and pajama bottoms as I am brushing my teeth looking at the wreck of my hair in the mirror, when I hear a knock at my door.
“One sec” I yell at the door, rinse out and grab the small towel.
When I get to the door, it’s Ben. He has a small black case tucked under his arm.
“Hi.” He smiles at me. “I thought I should offer to fix what I did to you.”
“Huh?” I’m a bit confused.
“Your hair. I can fix it. Trim it up and shape it so it looks nice.”
“You’re an ichthyologist.” I say with a giggle. Why am I giggling?
“My dad’s a barber, I used to work in his shop before we left Earth.” He is blushing slightly. “I can make it cute. Really.”
“Ok, I guess.” I say tentatively. I’m suddenly feeling very nervous and it’s not really about my hair. My hair’s a mess anyway, what have I got to lose.
I step back from my door and let Ben in. He looks around for a moment and puts his case down on the counter by the sink. Then grabs my desk chair and puts it in front of the sink and mirror. He unzips his case, there are a few pairs of scissors, a couple of combs, and a clipper not quite like the ones we had used for suspended animation prep.
He puts the clippers down on my charger pad, and I eye them suspiciously. He notices me looking at them.
“Don’t worry, I won’t make you look like you’re about to go into a pod.” He assures me with a chuckle of his own. “Come on, sit down.”
I sit and and adjust the height of the chair, so I can see myself in the mirror. Ben reaches over me and grabs a large towel off the hook next to my sink. He places it over my shoulders.
“Here, lean forward over the sink so I can wet your hair.” He turns on the sink and uses his cupped hand to pour the water over my head a few times. He runs his fingers through my hair as he does it to make sure it is evenly damp. As I sit back up straight, he uses my smaller towel to keep me from dripping.
He picks up a comb and runs it through my uneven ragged hair. Then he picks up the clippers from the charger pad. He taps the button a few times and the clippers adjust.
“You’re really planning to use those?”
“Going into the pod was the first time you had clippers used on you, wasn’t it?” He asks, and I nod. “These are different. They are adjustable, and I’m not going to use them all over, just around the back and sides. Are you ok with that?”
I kind of wasn’t ok with it, but something about being asked like this. and knowing that if I said I wasn’t ok with it he would drop it, some-how it made me feel like I wanted to just trust him, even though I wasn’t really comfortable with the idea of the clippers.
“I trust you.” I realize it is a more intimate answer than the question originally asked for. From the way Ben looks at me, he realizes the depth of the statement. He knew I wasn’t giving him the go ahead to use them because I didn’t mind the clippers, but because I was putting my fear of them aside.
“You’re sure?” He asks looking at me intently. I nod.
He gently guides my head down to expose the nape of my neck. I feel very vulnerable. He places the humming clipper against it, and brings them up slowly into my hair. I can’t see what is happening, but I can feel the teeth of the guide running along my scalp. It feels different from the last time, but my heart is pounding anyway. When he reaches the end of the occipital bone, he flicks the clippers away from my head and I breath a sigh of relief.
He starts again at my neck, next to where he just cut the hair. It follows a similar path up my neck, along the occipital bone and then flicked outwards. As he starts the third pass, I’m terrified but very curious. It’s weird that I am so nervous about this when I once let someone make me bald. I realize I have had more of an investment in looking nice lately. Ever since I started working with Ben.
As he works into the side, he starts going up higher before he flicks the clippers away from my head. I finally get a glimpse at the length. It’s short, but I still look like I have hair. He keeps going with the clippers around my ears and up to my temples. It’s looking good, short but good. I’m starting to relax more.
“So, is this the latest style back on Earth?” I decide to lighten the mood with chit-chat.
“I have no idea.” He laughs as he admits it. “We left there over 16 years ago. I’m just going for a retro late 20th century look.”
He puts down the clippers and I take the opportunity to feel my hair. The clipped area is now an even length. The short damp hairs feel plush under my hand.
“I was thinking of spiking the top, do you have something that will help it hold.” He asks.
“That spiky green fellow up there on my window sill should help. He’s a hybrid aloe. The leaves make a gel similar to aloe vera gel, but with more stick and holding power.” There are advantages to being botanist. I point at a spike from it in a bowl next to the sink. “I harvested a bit earlier today.”
“Spiked it is then. You can match your handsome green friend.”
He picks up the comb and scissors. He combs the hair up, then holds it between his fingers as he snips at it with the tips of the scissors into points. Little snippets of hair fall on my face. I reach up to brush off some that are tickling my nose. Ben smiles down at me and uses the small towel sitting next to the sink to brush me off.
He combs the top back and forth a few times taking a little snip here and there every once and awhile, then puts the scissors down. He picks the clippers back up and taps the button again. The clippers now look more like the ones that had been used for the pods.
“I’m just going to taper the neckline and blend the side to the top.” He seems to have noticed I look nervous again and has gone back to talking in reassuring tone.
He starts with the blending. He combs the top out from the sides and runs the clippers over the teeth of the comb. It makes a shoop sound as it goes across the teeth. The very short sides now transition up to the longer top seamlessly where he’s cutting. He repeats the process several times and I start to relax again.
When he finishes the sides, he guides my head down again. I feel the bare blades of the clippers vibrating on my neck, which gets my heart racing again. He moves the clipper up my neck and gradually on to the comb so it is moving away from my head. The feel of them on my neck brings back such bad memories, I am surprised at the level of trust I have given Ben. With the next pass though, I realize how light and gentle they feel in Ben’s hand. The sensation is almost like having my neck caressed. As the clippers move up my neck over and over, I relax and the feel of it becomes pleasant.
Ben runs his hand over the back a couple of times. The feel of his hand against my bare neck sends a shiver through my body.
I reach into one of the drawers and pull it out, while Ben is smooshing gel out of my aloe leaf. He rubs the gel through the hair on top of my head, pinches locks up into little spikes with his fingers, then dries me off.
“Voila. Do you have a small hand held mirror, so you can see the back?”
I reach into another drawer and pull out an antique compact. I spin myself in my office chair. I hold the compact in one hand and feel my neck with the other. There is a graceful gradual transition from my smooth neck skin, to the slightest stubble, to the velvety, to the soft plush of the sides, and finally to the stiff pointy spikes on top. It looks perfect, and feels amazing. I look back at the larger mirror.
I had been worrying I was going to look like a boy instead of a girl. I don’t look like a girl anymore, but it’s not because I look like a boy. I look like a woman now. Hey, it was about time, I’m physically over 20 years old now, older if you count the years spent in suspended animation.
Forget cute, I look fierce.
“It was the least I could do after I had hacked your hair off with a knife. I’m really sorry about that.”
“You don’t need to feel bad about it, none of us would be alive today if you hadn’t.” I get up and start dusting myself off. “I need to shower before I go to bed. If I go like this I’ll be itchy as all hell.”
I toss the towel from around my shoulders in the hamper and grab a clean one from my closet, as well as a clean set of pajamas. Ben is putting his tools back in his little case. I push the button on top of my roomba to get it to start cleaning up. We both walk towards my door at the same moment, and suddenly I feel very bold.
“Want to join me?” I ask with a smile.
As it turns out, yes he does.