Mitch sat on the sofa, drinking a lukewarm Rolling Rock. He loved the green bottle, the way the light shined through it, the way his hand fit perfectly around the bottle. Mitch was a simple man. Simple, not stupid.
The love of his life was Cere, she had eyes that danced, and a giggle that could brighten even the darkest day. She was a perfect fit for Mitch: a straightforward woman, no B.S. to her personality, the way she dressed, the earrings she chose, the way she wore her hair. Always, simple and direct. In everything she did. She would run for hours after work; across the hills of La Mesa, watching the sun set, listening to her headphones, blasting the Bangles (an unexplainable weakness for 80’s girl groups being her lone vice), running hard.
That was the point where Mitch and Cere differed: Mitch enjoyed the comfort of his sofa: the hounds-tooth print, the over-stuffed cushions, the footstool… he figured that it was his well-earned respite at the end of the day.
Cere hated to sit around, hated it with a passion. She and Mitch would go out Thursday through Sunday evenings, but you couldn’t pry him off “that damn sofa” the other nights of the week. She loved to run, but hated the solitude. She knew getting Mitch up off his precious furniture would be tough, but she knew his competitive nature: Mitch hated to lose.
Mitch hated to lose so badly, in fact, that he had cracked two ribs diving for a foul ball at a company picnic softball game. Mitch, apparently, had a quirk worse than Cere’s “Manic Monday” penchant.
“Heart,” she said, with the ‘we need to talk’ tone in full-effect.
“Yeah,” he said, looking up from the latest issue of Spin.
“You need to work out more,” she said, direct as always.
Mitch’s head swam with visions of Fiona Apple, and how much cuter she would be if she’d eat something and gain a pound, or two. And how much prettier she’d be if that mass of stringy hair was cut into something much, much, shorter. But Cere was talking, so he shook the vision from his head and attempted to pay attention.
“So you say,” he said, returning to his article.
“So I propose a bet,” Cere said, her mind cooking up a plan as she spoke it.
Mitch put down the magazine, a smile came across his face. “I’m listening.”
Cere’s proposal was simple: They would both train for the upcoming 10K Charity run for Muscular Dystrophy. If Cere won, as she said, “You’ll let me trim that goatee of yours to some civilized level.” Her giggle amused Mitch, her wager amused him more.
“Okay, but you’re in much better shape than I am. And what if I win?” he asked, knowing the chances were remote, at best, so the pay-off would be large.
Cere dropped a computer print out of a bald girl from a web site Mitch had left on when he went to bed recently. “You see her?” Cere asked, knowing she had Mitch at her mercy. She handed him a pair of clippers she’d just bought from out of the drawer in the end table. “You win, heart of mine,” Cere said, smirking (knowing she had a bet) “and you can do that to me.”
The thoughts raced through his mind: The clippers plowing through her shoulder-length hair. The warm towel on her head. Rubbing the shaving cream all over her lovely, round skull. Shaving it over and over until it was a smooth as a cue ball. Then he’d run his hands over her newly bald, naked head, and make love to her all night long. Not just love… the kind of stuff guys write all those letters to Penthouse about. All those lies about twin flight attendants looking for lodgings and multiple orgasms. All those letters would be so much fish and chip paper when Mitch was done introducing Cere to the angels that would play harps and weep at the beauty of their love. Of course, as punctuation, he’d let her tie him up and spank him, and do god-knows-what to satisfy her more primal urges.
“Oh, do you have a bet,” Mitch said, figuring that his odds of winning were only slightly better than the Tortoise beating the Hare in the old fable, or even the Bugs Bunny cartoon that was on t.v. at that moment. (It didn’t dawn on him that the turtle won, in both instances… simple.)
In the coming weeks Mitch ran as hard as he could to keep up with Cere. She would run backwards and lend her encouragement. They would shower together afterward, he would wash her hair, and imagine the day he got to shave it, swipe by swipe went through his mind as he massaged the Pert into her head and rinsed it out.
The glistening water would sit in droplets on her skull, run, slowly down the temples then fall to the floor. She would, of course, love the new look. She would, after the race, not grow back her auburn hair. She would walk down the isle with him at their wedding with her head smooth and polished. He would be the happiest man alive… but he had a race to win first. And Cere was as fast as a colt running free.
Mitch began to run an hour before work, and during his lunch break. He didn’t let Cere know. He trained as hard for this as an Olympic athlete would have. To Mitch, whenever he got tired, he’d think of kissing the top of Cere’s sensual head. The exposed temples would taste sweet on his lips, better even than his beloved Rolling Rock. So he ran on, hard, farther and faster. His heart swelled in his chest, his lungs expanded and contracted as he drove himself up the rolling hills of his suburban home. Never once did he actually think he’d win, but he liked his goatee, and was turned on by the prospect of shaving his fiancÃ©e in ways too numerous to count to ever surrender to reality.
The day of the event finally came. Cere ran hard, even leading the pack at one point. Mitch was on her heels the entire time. This shocked Cere. She figured he would be somewhere in the back, maybe even last. But Mitch’s competitive nature, and lack of the knowledge that you have to pace yourself would take its toll; by the halfway point, he was exhausted and falling further and further behind Cere. She was still in sight, but about 100 yards in front and pulling away at her leisure.
A patch of naked, bald scalp against an otherwise full head of luxuriant auburn hair flashed in Mitch’s mind. The pinkish, untanned skin on her head being exposed for the first time was enough to pull him through another stretch. The purr in her voice, the hum of the clippers, the light’s reflection off Cere’s shorn scalp… Mitch found the images too enticing to give up. He closed some distance between himself and the love of his life. Not much, but enough to feel encouraged.
He could see her legs, so toned and tan, pumping with a deliberate meter. Her no-nonsense ponytail bobbed back and forth in cadence with her legs. Her bottom, oh how Mitch loved Cere’s ass. He would use it as his pillow some nights. Cere laughed at him, but she knew it was the same as when she’d nuzzle up to his chest and nod off.
With the finish line in sight, Cere pulled up with a cramp, hobbling and in obvious pain. When running with Mitch to train, she hadn’t run as hard as she was used to… and her muscles didn’t respond well to the change. She hobbled to a near crawl, Mitch broke into a sprint, forgetting the contest for a moment and only caring about the love of his life.
Mitch caught up to Cere. “Are you okay?” he asked, panting and exhausted, but more worried and in love. The win-at-all-costs warrior inside him had been pushed aside for the sake of his Cere.
“Fine,” Cere said, sweat dripping from her forehead. “Just cramped. I can finish though.” She knew he would win, and there was no way she could stop him. “Go on, beat me,” she said, motioning to the finish line.
“No,” Mitch said, “we go together.”
They got to the finish line, Mitch holding Cere up. “Almost done,” he said, knowing that a tie would mean he would lose the opportunity to fulfill his fantasy of slowly removing her hair. Watching it cascade to the floor in his mind a thousand times over, like he had a thousand times before. He’d wake up tomorrow, go to the beach with her and have lunch, and run his fingers through her mane. He wouldn’t complain, he had the perfect woman for him. The woman with the eyes that danced. The woman with the smile that was slightly crooked. The woman with 16 freckles on her cheeks, and the world’s greatest giggle. The giggle that he wanted to hear every day when he woke up, and every night when he went to sleep.
The same giggle he heard as she pushed him across the finish line, one step ahead of her.
“You win,” Cere said, with the crooked, knowing smile. With the giggle that could only mean she knew what she was doing. And that bouncing head of hair that would soon be gone. Forever.