Jean and Mary had become very close over the past six months, and it was not only because they were, by choice bald, even though they had affected this look for similar reasons, it had been by vastly differing paths. Their husbands too had become good friends. And now four months of planning and four weeks of preparation was about to come to fruition. Jean’s son and daughter were home and Pete and Mary had just arrived.
Will had met Mary before while it was Jenny’s first visit home in six months. Her homecoming was also the first occasion on which she had actually seen her mother with a shaved head, and now she was meeting Mary, of whom she had heard so much but had never had an opportunity to see. The occasion had been planned as an informal meal and a get-together of friends. Lunch was a self-service affair after which they were to chat over drinks. Jean and Mary had wine and, much to everyone’s surprise, Jenny opted for a beer like the men. The conversation started with Jean relating the story of the man who fell over the pyramid of toilet rolls in a department store while staring at her. Mary related a similar tale of a man who ended up in a pile of soft fruit which he had walked into, mesmerised by her shaved head.
Jenny was asked how it was going at Caltech and she went into detail on the ways they were investigating renewable energy sources, saying that virtually all fossil fuel derivatives could be synthetically created. Will interrupted that it would be years before petroleum and light fuels could be viably produced and the world was still very dependent on oil. Jean sensed a heated discussion, if not an argument brewing so she prised in a question to Will about Juanita. Will said that he had received a phone call from some irate relative who had blamed him for giving her up to the INS, but he told them to contact the Boston PD, and he never heard any more. He had even quit smoking, something which Nita had gotten him into.
Jean then reminded Mary that some time previously she had been on the verge of relating her story of how she came to be a bald woman. Mary looked at Pete, who nodded his assent.
Mary had been raised in the northern parts of South Carolina. Her father had been in light construction, he was good at his trade but had the notion that all bosses were idiots and did not know what they were doing and needed to be reminded of that, often. Subsequently he was out of work, often, her mother therefore worked, sometimes at two jobs to keep the family going which included Mary’s brat of a younger brother, Georgie. He was not naughty or even mischievous, he was just plain evil. He would always find someone else to shoulder the blame for his misdeeds, usually Mary who was often grounded, slapped or, even at the age of thirteen, was bent over a table and given the belt by her father, much to her humiliation and anger as her explanations and protests were never accepted.
The family moved around many of their surrounding counties as her father changed jobs, he eventually had to venture into North Carolina, and one day he just did not return. As a result Mary had to drop out of school and enter the employment market, first as a supermarket cashier and then onto various waitressing jobs, starting at fast food franchises and moving up to steak houses and finally smaller restaurants. Georgie meanwhile was in and out of trouble, he was finally expelled from the umpteenth school and was forced to work, following in his father’s footsteps doing house construction.
Mary’s jobs did not allow much opportunity for dating, which led to her having little interaction with men and subsequently little experience. Georgie was meanwhile making more money than seemed possible for a construction worker and was inexplicably contributing more to the house keeping than expected, meaning that their mother could cut back on her work load. The car he was driving was also above the range that one of his standing should be able to afford, but as usual, he had a feasible explanation for its origin. One evening when Mary was off Georgie brought his supervisor home, although he was somewhat older than her, he showed an interest in Mary, perhaps of her most outstanding feature, her chestnut hair that hung to her shoulders and gave off a copper sheen when light glanced off it. They started dating and within six months they were married.
The first year or so of marriage to Frank was happy and he persuaded Mary to grow her hair to mid back length, Naively Mary did notice how easily he angered and that tools often flew around the garage while he was working. During the second year Mary started receiving the brunt of his anger and would be slapped on occasions, while upset at this, but she believed that this was a part of a normal marriage as her mother had been treated similarly. This treatment grew worse and she was being slapped and punched to her body eventually, Frank seemed to be careful that he never struck her where it would show. One night, about four years after their wedding, with Mary being eight weeks pregnant, Frank got exceptionally violent, knocking her to the floor and kicking her in the stomach several times. She of course lost the baby, and as always Frank was most apologetic, promising to never let it happen again, as he had done every time before. This time Mary was not so accepting of his excuses and started mentioning her abuse to few friends and their pastor’s wife, not going into the more brutal parts of her abuse. Some of her friends were shocked but others were in similar situations and deemed it normal, The pastor’s wife told her that a wife should be subservient to her husband, that if he felt she needed chastisement, there was probably a reason for it and she should accept it accordance with what the ’good book’ said.
The abuse got worse and became part of their sexual relationship as well, Frank would pull her hair back to arch her back up to him or grip her hair as he rode her doggie style. During some attacks on her he would drag her around the house by her hair, often pulling out clumps in his violence. During a moment of defiance Mary threatened to cut her hair short but Frank warned her if she did that he would kill her. Mary was unwilling to accept much more of this treatment and started to plan an escape. Frank had made sure that she never had any ready cash, only supplying her enough money to buy the bare essentials, but she managed to slowly stash away small amounts of cash, skimming off what he gave her whenever she could. She estimated that she would need at least two hundred dollars for bus fare and other expenses before she could leave, and it took her all of a year to raise that amount.
Franks car pooled with a few of his colleagues, and on such a day Mary quickly packed her clothing and few possessions, piled them into Frank’s pick-up, left a note for Frank that his pick-up was in the police impound at Florence in South Carolina and made her way to that city. She parked the vehicle sort of half way between the Greyhound bus station and the train station in a tow-away zone and made her way to the bus station. The one thing in all her preparations that she seemed to have omitted was where she was going to go. She was standing in the queue for the automatic ticket machine when an elderly man approached her. He asked if she was perhaps going to New York or that direction. For some reason she said that she was and the man asked her if she could do him a favour and look after his granddaughter who needed to go back to Morristown in New Jersey, he would pay her additional expenses plus a fee for her services. After he had explained where Morristown was and that he was unable to take his granddaughter himself because his wife was ill but his son would meet them at the bus station in Newark, Mary agreed.
Having someone to take care of and talk to made the near twelve hour trip more bearable and they arrived in Newark early the next morning. A man who was unmistakably the girl’s father introduced himself to them. After Mary had confirmed his identity, he asked if there was anything he could do for her. His daughter told him that Mary had mentioned that she was uncertain of where she was headed and needed a job. A suggestion was made for her to accompany them or Morristown which has a huge electronics company and he could make some enquiries on her behalf, so Mary found herself outside a moderate Motel there with a promise that she would be phoned that evening with news of available jobs. When the call came, the news was not good. Few companies were hiring and she lacked the qualifications for any available positions. Only having funds for a few days at the motel, she spent the next day scouring the local papers for situations vacant but could find nothing suitable. She went out at midday for something to eat, finding a diner named ‘Pete’s Happy Diner’ nearby. To conserve funds, she ordered toast and coffee which the waitress brought and sat down across from Mary. She asked if Mary was looking for a job, having deduced from the small order that finances might be a problem. The waitress left and in a minute came back with, at this point Mary pointed her thumb at Pete sitting next to her. Pete had been very impressed with Mary’s experience as a waitress and she found herself employed in the place of the waitress who had served her who was due to leave at the end of the week.
A rapport quickly formed between Pete and Mary, and when she mentioned that she could not afford the motel and her necessities, although staff ate at the diner as a perk, Pete offered her a spare room he had at his house at a nominal rent. Accepting that she had no other options at the time, she accepted and moved into Pete’s spare room, having the use of the main bathroom and other facilities within reason initially. The situation worked out well and Pete and Mary became close friends, but nothing more, she not having fully recovered from her previous domestic maltreatment.
Mary’s long hair proved to be a nuisance so she started to wear it in a ponytail or plaited for work. She started wearing make-up again and regained some of her self-confidence, helped by Pete’s encouragement and support. Over time she told him bits of her life in South Carolina and as part of her contribution towards the rent, she took over much of the housekeeping and prepared meals on Mondays, the day the diner was closed. She was happy, secure in the knowledge that it was unlikely that she would be traced to this out of the way place, and so it was for thirteen months and twenty one days.
Mary saw a guest examining his meal; she went over and asked if there was a problem. He looked up, the mutual recognition was instantaneous and she staggered back in shock, within seconds her brother’s face had changed into a malicious sneer, Mary leaned against the counter for support as Georgie brazenly stood up and walked out, she watched him as he walked towards a BMW Coupe with his cell phone pressed to his ear, gesticulating and pointing towards the diner as he spoke. Mary required no imagination to know who he had phoned.
In shock, Mary said to Pete that she needed to get out, she needed air, to think, she needed the security of her room. When Pete returned home that night he found Mary in her room in a terrible state, a near empty wine bottle on the dressing table next to her. She had hacked off her long hair with a pair of kitchen shears and she was crying and shaking. What was left of her hair was sticking out in all directions and some spot had been cut right down to the scalp, she was saying to herself over and over that Frank would not want her without hair, he had said he would kill her if she cut her hair, he could do that, she would not go back.
It took Pete a while to calm her down somewhat and to make her aware of what she had done to herself, then seeing her image in a mirror brought back some normality. Pete spoke to her calmly, diverting her mind from Frank and focusing on solutions to her hair dilemma. After a mug of strong coffee, he suggested that, for starters, they needed to get her hair to all one length, rubbing her hands through the irregular mop on her head she agreed. Pete went to a neighbour and borrowed a home hair cutting set. There seemed little sense in using the cape as Mary was already covered with the results of her hair cutting frenzy. With the clippers running, Pete held it up with the number four guard in place. Mary nodded in agreement and within minutes her head was shorn to one half an inch all over, but there were still several gashes where her scalp showed through. Pete put the number two guard on, Mary shrugged in resignation but at one eighth of an inch of hair the gashes were even more obvious. Without hesitation and no emotion, Mary told Pete to take it all off. Pete was reluctant, but Mary told him to just do it, and with care and several passes, Mary now had nothing more than dark short bristles covering her head, which to her felt like sandpaper.
Tears still running from her eyes, she started to pick up the hair that littered the floor, throwing it into a bin. Pete helped her, bringing a hand broom and pan to sweep up the shorter bits. Mary said that she wanted to shower and get to bed and Pete reluctantly let her go. He heard her go to bed and decided to do the same himself. Later that night Pete sensed that Mary was in his room, he turned towards her and she told him that she was afraid, afraid of what the next day would bring. He lifted the bed covers and Mary climbed in without hesitation, snuggling up to him to assuage her fear. She woke up several times during the night, her buzzed head rasping strangely on the pillow, she rubbed it a few times but sleep overtook her again, secure in the comfort of her nearness to Pete.
The next morning she woke up with a devil may care attitude and dressed for work. Pete asked her how she was going handle having a nearly bald head after hair that hung to the middle of her back. She replied that the way she was feeling she was prepared to take on anybody or anything. The rest of the staff at the diner were amused by the change but did not comment much as they had all witnessed the events of the previous day, even though they did not understand the circumstances and were not prepared to delve into the matter.
At about four in the afternoon, while Mary was serving at the far end of the diner, she felt a hand on her shoulder, turning around, she looked straight into Frank’s snarling face and the smell of old whiskey. His eyes narrowed as he held onto her uniform and started cursing her, saying that he had warned her of what would happen if she cut her hair, and now she was belittling him by shaving it off. He would show her what would happen as a result of her disrespecting him. Her fear turned into fury as she looked into that loathsome face, the desire for vengeance now drove her, and when she got close enough she kneed him in the groin with all the force her hatred could muster. As Frank started to double over a vise like grip closed over each of his shoulders, nearly crushing his collar bones. In a normal voice, Pete told Frank that he was causing a disturbance and that it would be better if he left quietly as Pete marched him to the door. At the door Pete whispered in Franks ear that if he ever saw him again he would not kill him, but he would spend the rest of his life in such excruciating pain that he would wish he were dead. Out of view of the patrons, Pete pushed Frank out of the door but as he stepped out Pete hooked Frank’s foot, causing to fall on his face on the pavement, grunting as he struck the ground.
Frank dragged himself up and staggered to his pick-up van, driving off erratically, straight into the path of a police prowler. He was instructed to exit his vehicle and given a sobriety test. The test and a nearly empty whiskey bottle on the van’s seat was sufficient evidence for taking him into custody on the spot. A police sergeant came into the diner and asked Pete basically what had happened. Pete told him that he had evicted a person who was being unruly and had threatened his staff. He seemed to be drunk as he tripped over his own feet as he stepped out of the diner. The police officer asked some of the patrons what they had witnessed and they confirmed Pete’s story; he added that he may need a statement later, but it was unlikely.
Mary was surprisingly calm after the incident and saw out the rest of her shift as if nothing much had happened, she and Pete going home at closing time as normal. They discussed the Frank incident again and Pete told Mary what he had said to Frank, assuring her that she would never be bothered by him again. Mary came to Pete again that night, but this time Mary realised that her feelings for Pete were deep and sincere, and she showed it, they both found, almost by accident, that her shorn head turned out to be an extremely erogenous zone and their love making, at first tentative, became frantic as they sought to satisfy each other and themselves – several times that night.
A few days later Mary started complaining about her growing stubble, it was itchy and looked unruly. Pete told her that she had two options, either let it grow out or shave it completely and keep it shaved. After some thought, and the added sensation it brought to their now regular lovemaking, she opted for the second option, Pete doing the honours again. Mary loved the feel and the look and promised herself that she would probably never have hair again, emphasising her make-up and eyebrows’ shape to suite her baldness.
Three weeks later Mary was served with divorce papers, which she signed eagerly and about a month later she was notified that her divorce was final. Pete and Mary were married three days later.
Jenny asked if they had heard any more of Frank. Mary told her that she had kept in contact with a friend she had worked with before coming to New Jersey and she had learned that shortly after his divorce Frank had married a young woman from a Virginia mountain farm. It did not take him long to revert to his old self and one night he beat her up so badly that she was taken to the ER unconscious. Her three brothers came from Virginia to be with her and stayed till she recovered consciousness. About three weeks later Frank was found in his truck, He seemed to have run off the road and overturned into a gully. His injuries were very similar to his wife’s, a severely injured face, broken ribs but both his knees were smashed as well. The brothers were suspected but just about the whole county where they lived supplied them with a watertight alibi.
Jean asked what had happened to Georgie and Mary replied that he was serving fifteen to twenty years behind bars, having been arrested for possession of a considerable amount of a controlled substance with the intent to sell.
As Mary finished her story she sank into Pete’s arms and he hugged her possessively.