Marco watched the eight ball rattle around the corner pocket, mocking him as it sank. “That’s game,” Gayle said with a wink, spanking Marco on the ass as she walked by. “Loser racks,” she added just for the fun of it all. Marco hated to lose, Gayle never did. The two were destined to fall in love. Birds of a feather, sort of.
Marco loved short hair, Gayle had an affinity for hers and kept it long; it fell to her waist in blonde waves of glory that had taken her all of her 28 years to grow and maintain. She loved it, it was her vice. She didn’t smoke, because she hated the thought of the smell getting into her mane. She tied it back with care, never using anything that would tug or tangle it, when she ran. And she ran often enough to make her legs as muscular as any marathon runner, but not unfeminine, she was every bit a woman. Every bit a woman that loved to be pampered. She’d let her boyfriends brush her hair, but only after they’d been involved for a while. She spent extravagant amounts of cash on oil treatment and scalp massages, just because.
Tonight had cost Marco many vodkas and several layers of pride, Gayle had waxed him in for straight games of pool and was showing no signs of letting up. Game five ended the same way the previous four had, Marco buying the round of drinks and racking up the balls on the table.
Marco grinned, embarrassed and beaten. He looked over to the bartender, tilted his head and ordered another round.
“Next time I beat you,” Gayle said, so cocky she could pass for an NBA regular, “you’ll buy the house a round.”
“Next time I beat you,” Marco replied, “you’ll let me cut your hair and take film of it happening.”
Gayle’s face went blank. Even the thought of an amateur’s hands on her brilliant coif made her uneasy. The knot in her stomach made an audible noise. She had to win everything, she didn’t like the idea of losing her hair; but Marco had never beaten her in any competition. Ever.
“Fine. If you win, you can cut my hair, film it if you want. You can’t make copies. If I find out you made copies, I get to shave your head, strip you naked and make you jog from my house to yours in broad daylight. Clear?”
“But,” Gayle added, “not here, not tonight. We do it in private. And if you lose…” Gayle looked at Marco, his strong hands and bedroom eyes, “if you lose, two things: one, I shave you bald and two, you become my hair slave.”
Gayle pointed out what that would mean: He would have to shampoo, towel dry, and brush her hair nightly for a year. He would have to remain bald for a year. He would not be able to date any woman with hair shorter than Gayle’s. That part, Marco thought, would be hell. The rules were laid out on a cocktail napkin. If Gayle lost, Marco could cut her hair as short as he wanted and she would have to submit to his whims and hairstyles for a year. He could take as much film as he wanted of the event, but it would be for personal use. Gayle could too. She liked that part. She’d play it, over and over, while he spent the evening brushing her hair.
“I can do with 365 nights of ridiculing you while you treat me like a Goddess,” she said. Marco racked the balls.
There was a loud crack as Gayle broke, balls flew about the table. She sank hers before Marco got a shot. One by one, Marco watched them fall. He thought of how much he’d miss his hair. How much he’d hate having to brush and care for such a detestable mane of hair for a whole year. He’d hate the moment, every night, when Gayle would rub lotion on his naked scalp and he’d have to submit to her. Oh, how cruel Gayle would be. She continued to sink every last ball of hers on the table.
“Well, baldy,” she said, sizing up the eight ball, “say good-bye to your hair. Oh, and your freedom.” Gayle laughed, that witch’s cackle of victory she was so known for, and she turned her head toward Marco and shot. “I don’t even need to watch.”
The eight ball fell, like Gayle knew it would. Followed closely by the cue ball. Gayle had lost! She muffed the final shot and gave Marco the win. She sobered up in less than a millisecond.
Her head dropped when she turned to see it fall into the pocket. Her jaw froze on the ground as she turned toward an equally stunned Marco.
She sat perfectly still in the cab on the way to Marco’s house.
She had to be led to the chair in the kitchen, where Marco sat her down as he set up his makeshift studio.
He pushed record and began to brush Gayle’s hair. “Too bad this is the one time you’ll feel me doing this to your long, flowing hair,” he said, stifling, sort of, a giggle. Gayle didn’t budge. She didn’t even blink. Marco placed a full-length mirror next to the camcorder so Gayle could see every snip.
He started by cutting bangs, less than 1/2 inch across her forehead. Gayle’s head had to be tilted forward as Marco swung the camera around to catch the back being cut away. Cut away as it fell to the ground, mountains of hair. Feet of hair fell as Marco snipped it away above the collar.
The scissors snipped over her ears, cutting away the last bits of long hair, gone, gone for a year. Marco whispered into Gayle’s ear that on the last day, he’d give her a nice crewcut to hold her for a while. Gayle’s face did not change. It was blank. A cold, blank stare, directly into the mirror in front of her. She saw every snip. She watched as Marco stopped to comb what was left of her locks. He plugged in the clippers and placed them close to her ear. Gayle didn’t budge when the loud “pop” brought them to life.
Marco was careful to clip around the ears and at the back, reducing Gayle’s head to 1/4 inch on the sides and at the base of the neck. He changed guards and worked up, blending the 1/4 inch bits with the 1/2 inch. The top was reduced to 3/4 inch at its longest point, leaving a messy pixie cut where a back full of hair once sat.
“Almost done, hairy…” he said, digging in, and still surprised that he’d won. But Marco did not want Gayle to have enough time to chicken out and run from her bet. He ran the clippers over and over, using the longest setting, just to rub in the fact that he’d won. It didn’t do much more than traumatize Gayle further. That and even out the more choppy bits.
Marco pulled a brush through Gayle’s hair, not much of it moved. He smiled and pressed his mouth up to Gayle’s ear. “Be here every night for maintenance trims.”
Marco left the room to go get a broom, “to sweep up this trash.”
When he was gone, Gayle reached up to touch her conquered and defeated head of hair. The back and sides were short and fuzzy in parts – she hated it. She hated the way the bangs fell in odd angles on her naked and exposed forehead. She didn’t like the feel of the stubble at the base of her neck. It was a feeling she swore she’d never get used to, not today, not tomorrow, not next week.
“I’ve got a year to get used to this,” she thought to herself, looking at the stranger in the mirror, rubbing at the bristles around her ears. “And I’m never betting on anything again.