Blank Canvas – Part 4

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Author’s note: This is Natasha’s story, the customer who bought the same outfit as the boutique-owner in Part 3.

 

I had to admire that woman in the dress shop. I think that she was the owner. At least I can’t see how an owner of a boutique would allow an employee to dress like that. I mean, she might just as well have been topless! That sheer material left nothing to the imagination and I just had to have one for myself. Well, three actually. Birthday boy at home would’ve thought that all of his Christmases had come at once if he’d been with me. He could’ve been, but for the fact that he deems my kind of shopping to be nothing short of torture. He’s not a big boob type of guy, at least if he is, he’s kept it quiet and I’ve been disappointing him for the past ten years. But at the end of the day, he’s a fully functioning male and that woman did have spectacular tits. Mine are a standard issue 34B, enough to keep him amused, but nowhere near the playthings that she’d got. I’d almost been tempted to play with them myself. In the end, I made do with buying the same item and making the most of what I’ve been blessed with.

Stu was pleased enough with what I modelled for him once we got home. Even more pleased when I slipped out of my jeans to show him that I might as well not have had anything on. I teased him by suggesting that I wore it out to lunch with just a light jacket on, the same as the woman in the shop.

My man’s appreciation was such that we ended up having our first public sex ever. When I say public, it was a secluded car park in a forest on our way home, but it was pretty adventurous for us. I was hoping there’d be no dog walkers, whereas Stu was hoping that there would be doggers. That made for an interesting conversation when we got home. The discussion got heated.

‘I don’t see the attraction’ I said, getting annoyed.

‘If you don’t, you don’t’ he replied helpfully.

‘What is remotely exciting about sex in a public place with total strangers?’

‘How long have you got?’ he asked.

‘You’re incorrigible, you know that’ I said, trying to bring the conversation to an end.

‘It would spice things up a bit’ he said. ‘Be something different.’

‘You should’ve quit while you still could’ I said, bringing the room temperature right down.

He looked at me as if to ask what he’d done. I decided to let him work it out for himself. I went upstairs to change and to put my metaphorical chastity belt on. It would be a while before he’d be granted visitation rights again. When I eventually went downstairs again, he was consoling himself with football on the television. Maybe I’d throw away the key.

Things remained frosty for days. He was employing his usual tactic of waiting for me to come round. On this occasion, he’d be waiting a while.

I don’t like it when we fight, but it happens to everybody. I’d made the bed up on the spare room for him and made sure that he had dinner when he came home in the evening, but other than that we led separate lives for a while. I spent the time going to the gym for a couple of extra sessions, going swimming, taking walks. I’m thirty-three, only too aware of the need to keep active, to keep trim. I like to think that children may still come along and want to keep myself fit for them. And for Stu, when he’s not being a dickhead, of course. So, tight stomach, tight bum-cheeks and disciplined boobs are the order of the day.

All that time on my own gave me time to think through what Stu had said. Although dogging would never be on the menu, he wasn’t wrong about the need to mix things up from time to time. Despite that, what he’d said had hurt. Why would he want to get involved with strangers in such a setting? Who knew where they’d been, what infections they’d got? Was I really so dull that he’d want to expose us to that sort of thing? I started wondering about what he got up to on the odd occasions when he had to travel for work. Was he “experimenting” then? Was he making up for what he wasn’t getting at home?

When I’d bought that outfit in the boutique, I’d thought that I was spicing things up. It was something that Stu wouldn’t expect me to wear, that I wouldn’t necessarily expect me to wear, particularly not outside the confines of our house. I’d had a thrill every time that I’d noticed someone looking at me, seeing their disbelief that someone would “wear” something like that out in public. I’d done exactly the same when I’d realised what the boutique owner was wearing. That was one woman appreciating another, but the looks that I’d got in town were pure lust. I’d caught men who were probably grandfathers stealing a look. I’d seen schoolboys who couldn’t believe their luck and everyone in between. I had to admit that I liked it. It made me feel sexy, made me feel wanted and then Stu spoiled it. We’ll get over it, because there are better things to be doing than being mad at each other, but for the time being, I was hurt and needed time.

While I was at one of my gym sessions, I’d been playing things through in my head again. I decided to go back to the shop to see if she had something that I could eventually use as a peace offering.

The shop was the only one of interest in a row of small units, unless you wanted a haircut, a newspaper or one of those vaping things. I wondered how any of them could make a living out of what they did. I looked at the hand-written cards in the newsagent’s window as I went past. People wanting a handyman or gardener, people trying to sell ancient furniture, who hadn’t realised that no-one conducted business like that anymore. I glanced in at the hair salon as I went by, depressed that there were several styling stations, but only the one stylist as far as I could see. I looked again. The figure was female and didn’t appear to have any hair. I thought back to when I’d passed it before, but couldn’t remember seeing anyone. I’d have clocked a bald stylist. You don’t see those every day. Poor woman! Fancy cutting other people’s hair, when you’ve lost yours.

I made it to the self-styled “boutique”, still thinking that it was aiming too high for its surroundings. I shouldn’t criticise ambition, but surely her shop is a bit niche for the area. I opened the door and went in, scanning the shop for the owner. I didn’t really want to spend ages looking through everything, but equally I was reluctant to ask her if she had anything that would go well with make-up sex. I wondered what she’d be wearing, but then I spied movement at the other end of the shop. I browsed the first couple of racks, but realised that the stuff I wanted was unlikely to be so close to the door. I headed deeper into the shop and closer to her.

‘Good afternoon’ the woman said. It looked like she was trying to remember me.

‘Hi’ I replied, suddenly knocked off kilter. She looked like the woman I’d seen before, in all respects except one. She hadn’t got any hair. What were the chances of two women in the same row of shops losing their hair? Had she been wearing a wig when I was in before? I hadn’t noticed anything strange. Either it had been a good wig or I really had been distracted by the display of her generous rack. I chastised myself silently for even thinking such a “man word”!

‘Anything I can help you with?’ she asked, oblivious to the whirl of thoughts in my head.

‘Er, maybe. I was in a few days ago. I bought the same outfit that you were wearing. The body, do you remember?’

‘Of course. I thought you looked familiar. Nice to see you back again’ she said, with the sort of beaming smile that you only get with years of practice.

‘My husband would thank you if he were here’ I chuckled. ‘I was wondering if you had other outfits that might appeal to him’ I continued.

‘Something else of the “less is more” variety?’

‘Something for him, rather than for me’ I confirmed, starting to think that the visit was a little ridiculous when he and I weren’t even on proper speaking terms.

She nodded. We were on the same wavelength. Now that the shock of seeing her bald had dissipated a little, I took a look at her outfit. Although there’d be no disguising the swell of her boobs, the dress she’d got on was as modest as could be. There were no clues pointing to the vampish outfit she’d had on when I’d come in that first time.

‘I’ve got a few pieces, but that sort of thing isn’t something that I carry a lot’ she said with a hint of regret. She recognised an easy sale when she saw one and had already realised that she was unlikely to benefit to the full.

She told me that the interesting stuff was up where she was, so I joined her at the far end and stood there while she retrieved various garments, if that’s what you could call them. I suppressed any sense of good taste that I have, together with any element of modesty and forced myself to look at things that couldn’t really be described as items of clothing. She surprised me with some of the things that she had.

‘I ordered some of these in for someone, but she never came in for them. I hadn’t got the heart to return them’ she explained, drawing my attention to what appeared to be some scraps of material.

Or was too embarrassed, I thought.

I sensed an air of relief when I told her that I’d take a couple of them, despite being embarrassed that she’d think that I was a real slut. After all, you only bought crotchless things for one reason and it wasn’t to keep warm on a winter evening.

She headed for the till to wrap them up, which gave me the chance to observe her more closely, while her focus was on bows and ribbons.

‘I hope you don’t mind me saying so, but you’re very brave’ I said.

She looked up. I watched the cloud of uncertainty pass.

‘Oh, this?’ she said, pointing to her head. ‘Moment of madness, that’s all’ she replied.

I took a moment to digest her response.

‘You mean…I mean…you’re not…’

‘The lady from the salon a couple of the doors down was quite persuasive. I don’t know if you’ve seen her. She shaves her own head and she was determined to show me the benefits’ she said, looking down again to fiddle with the wrapping paper.

‘Oh! I saw her when I walked past this morning. I didn’t realise…’

‘Most people think she’s not well. Or I’m not well. It’s only natural, but I assure you, it was by choice. Hers, in both cases’ the woman chuckled.

‘Wow! You’re still very brave. Not to wear a wig, I mean?’

‘It’s just easier like this and it’s so liberating. I’d always had long hair and would put it up, out of the way every day. The obvious thing was just to chop it off. She just went that little bit further’ she replied, flipping the package over.

‘It suits you’ I said, wondering whether I was being too personal.

‘Thank you. It took me a while to get used to it, but I’m not sure I’ll ever go back to having hair. It’s too much like hard work!’ she said, putting the dainty package on the raised counter in front of me.

‘I know what you mean’ I replied, putting an empathetic hand to my head. My hair isn’t long by any means. It’s only collar-length, but it takes a fair amount of effort to keep it under control.

‘Yours is a lot shorter than mine was, not so far to go’ she chuckled.

‘I think my husband would have a fit if I said that I was going to cut my hair off.’

‘You’d be surprised. My husband certainly surprised me. He loves it’ she said with a sparkle.

‘I’m not sure mine is that enlightened.’

‘Hit him with a double whammy! Go and get your hair cut and put one of these on, for when he sees you the first time’ she said, patting the package. ‘He’ll be bowled over!’

‘I wish I had your confidence.’

‘Andrea can usually take you without an appointment. You could pop in while you’re here, just get it done. I’ll come with you and introduce you, if you like’ she suggested.

‘I’d have to think about it. It’s a massive step’ I replied.

‘But one that you won’t regret, I’m sure of it.’

I smiled at her and dug into my bag for my purse. I needed to get away. I said my goodbyes, which she countered with “Think about it.”‘

‘I will’ I said, knowing that I wouldn’t. I headed for the door.

Despite that, I couldn’t resist a peek into the salon on my way past. The stylist was arranging stock on the shelves, her back to me. Everything about her screamed “sexy woman” except for her lack of hair. Convention appeared to be an immovable barrier. I carried on walking back to my car.

I fastened the seat belt and sat for a while, closing my eyes. I was trying to summon an image of the shop owner, a “before” and “after”. I wondered what the stylist had said to her to persuade her to cut her hair off. I wondered what had led the stylist to shave her own head in the first place. I could never imagine doing something like that. I had my mother to thank for instilling in me a fear of what other people would think, which I still struggled to shake off, despite all the years since I’d lived at home.

I started the car and went home. The obvious thing would’ve been to try my purchases on, but that would mean that I’d conceded and I wasn’t ready for that. I was well-aware that it would inevitably be up to me to wave the white flag, or the purple one with black trimming that was lying on the bed, still in its packaging. All in good time.

Silent hostilities were still the order of the day when Stu got home. He probably suspected that my resolve was weakening, due to the improving quality of the food that I was preparing, but that was for my benefit as much as for his. I left him to his football or cop shows or whatever he was watching and retired to my room for the evening. I couldn’t find anything to watch, so I decided to have a bath and go to bed with a book.

He went out early the following morning. I heard him, but didn’t see him before he went. A gym session and the supermarket lay ahead. Not exactly exciting, but they had to be done. I showered and sat with a coffee, a breakfast tv show murmuring in the corner. A celebrity news piece came on. I turned it off. Three hours until my yoga session. Supermarket before or after? I’d look more respectable if I did it before, but then who did I really need to look respectable for in the supermarket? I’d go afterwards. That gave me three hours to do the hoovering and clean the bathrooms. Or three hours to forget about it and go to the mall.

By the time I’d finished getting ready and cleared away breakfast, the worst of the rush hour traffic would’ve gone. I got in the car and headed for town. The car radio annoyed me, so I opted for silence. Silence gave me time to think. Think about Stu and me. What were we doing? Why were we doing it? He was a dick, but was I much better? Despite that, I needed to have the last word, so that we could stop this and get back to normal. I turned the radio back on, so that I didn’t have to think. Without knowing it, Stu had been forced out of my head by a seventies icon and suburbia had become the desert. I hoped for the moment when the world becomes right again.

Reality forced its way back into my head and I tried to work out what I was going to the mall for. I didn’t really need anything. I was going for something to do, just for the drive. I went round the big roundabout, one exit too many. I wasn’t going to the mall anymore. I turned the radio up louder and relaxed.

There were only three cars in the car park. I say “only”. That could well be a good day for this place from what I’d seen on my last visit! I listened to the car settling down. Should it make sounds like that? Who knows? Stu’s problem. I’d banished him from my head for much of the trip and now he’d wormed his way back in. I didn’t want him there just at the moment. Didn’t want him to have any part in this.

I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. He was still there. A dog barked in the distance. I had to laugh. How appropriate!

I looked at myself in the mirror. My expression wasn’t as soft as I’d like it to be. I looked tense. Should I be surprised. My marriage wasn’t as solid as I’d thought, my husband was probably screwing his secretary during lunch, even though he didn’t have one. Well, he probably would be, if he could. I had visions of him in a lay-by on a business trip, but wasn’t actually sure what a dogging gathering looked like. Why would I? Did it look like one of those gatherings of young men with their souped-up cars that you see in mall car parks? Did people do it in the cars? Against the cars? In the woods? Why was I even thinking about this? I was thinking about avenging something that I didn’t even know had happened. Was I thinking of getting my retaliation in first? Why did I want to do that? I wanted us to be “us” again, although it would probably be a different “us”. I could feel myself welling up. I should go home.

I opened the door and got out, stretching myself. I badly needed to go to yoga. I took another deep breath and started to walk.

I knew that I could always overshoot and go back to the boutique. It was another few paces. I slowed down at the postcard adverts. No change. There were still gardeners available if I wanted one. Another few steps. How many times have I seen in films where the mission is at a critical point? Should they continue or forget the whole thing? One more step would put me at the point of no return. I reached out for the handle.

The salon was empty. Did it open late on a Wednesday? I looked for a sign to show the opening hours. Then I saw her appear from a back room. She smiled and came towards me.

‘It’s open’ she called out.

Indeed it was.

‘Hi, sorry. I wasn’t sure if you were open yet’ I said nervously. For a moment I’d had the option to pull away, but would’ve still been able to tell myself that I’d tried.

‘I was just putting the coffee on. Would you like one?’ she asked.

She was friendly. Welcoming. Bald.

‘Yes, that’d be lovely. Thanks’ I replied, hoping that it would give me a minute to think.

‘Have a seat. I’ll be back in a moment’ she said, turning on her heel.

I looked around me as I sat down in what was clearly the waiting area. Looked at the pictures on the walls. Tried to read the writing on the windows, the writing that wouldn’t have been backwards if I’d looked at it before I’d come in. The writing confirmed what I was seeing in the pictures. Everything was focussed on short hair, even for women. There were pictures of men’s haircuts, but this wasn’t a place for men as such. There were no car magazines, no suggestive pictures. It was serious hair salon, where everyone appeared to be welcome, as long as they didn’t intend to leave with long hair.

I wondered about the boutique owner walking in. What she’d thought when the stylist had released her hair from the bun that she’d had. Wondered how the conversation had gone when the stylist had suggested that she should shave her head. Had she come in for a trim and things had gone from there? She’d obviously had long hair for years, so what had made her let someone cut it all off?

‘Sorry, it wasn’t quite done’ the stylist said, interrupting my musing. She was carrying a tray with all that she needed. She put a cup down on the small table in front of me and made sure that everything was as I like it.

‘I’m Andrea, by the way’ she said, pulling up a seat.

‘Natasha, but call me Nat. Life’s too short for all those syllables’ I replied, aware that she was assessing me. I wondered what she thought of my mousey, soccer-mom, non-descript, collar-length cut. Was she thinking of ways to convince me to cut it off? Did she have a script that she followed?

‘So, what can I do for you, Nat?’ she asked politely.

There wasn’t much in that question to get my hair afraid for its very existence.

‘I don’t know really. I was hoping that you could give me some ideas. You obviously specialise in short hair, so I was thinking that you could come up with something for me that’s more exciting than this’ I said, with the obligatory gesture to my head, just in case she didn’t know where to look.

‘Well, it all comes down to what you want to do.’

‘I don’t know what to do with it’ I replied with a smile. ‘I don’t go to the same place ever time, but I end up looking much the same whenever I come out, if you know what I mean.’

‘Do you ask for the same thing each time?’

‘I don’t really know what to ask for, that’s the problem. I tend to be a bit vague and they seem to play safe.’

‘So do you want someone who doesn’t play safe? Is that why you came to me?’

‘I’m due for a cut, that’s the first thing. Your salon seems to specialise in short hair, so here I am.’

‘It’s a bit tucked away. Did someone recommend me?’ she asked.

The moment of truth.

‘I pop into the boutique along the way from time to time’ I replied, not quite answering the question and exaggerating my total of two visits.

‘Have you been in recently?’

‘Yesterday’ I replied.

‘So you’ve seen what I did for Janet?’

‘Yes. It was she who suggested that I come in to see you.’

‘That’s what I like, a satisfied customer’ she said proudly.

‘She looked very different.’

‘So you saw her before?’

‘A couple of weeks ago. Her hair was in a bun, so I couldn’t really see what it was like.’

‘She’d had her hair the same for years. Didn’t ever consider doing something different.’

‘It is pretty different now’ I chuckled, reaching for my cup. I hoped that it was cool enough to drink.

‘So she set you thinking?’

I took an extra sip.

‘Enough to make me pop in for a chat’ I replied, non-committaly.

It was her turn to pick up her cup. She cradled it in her hands rather than taking a drink.

‘It all comes down to what you want. You can treat me as a coffee shop or a hair salon. Absolutely no pressure, so if you get up and leave when you’ve drunk your coffee, I won’t be offended.’

‘And if I stay?’

‘I can put another pot on or you can jump in the chair.’

‘Definitely no more coffee’ I replied.

‘Do you want to look at some style pictures while you finish that?’

‘That’d be good, yeah’ I replied, starting to feel more comfortable.

She got up and returned with an iPad.

‘The days of laminated binders and magazines are gone’ she said, noticing my curiosity.

‘The places that I go to are still those sort of places’ I replied.

‘Welcome to the future’ she chuckled.

She sat closer to me so that she could flick through the pictures.

‘Stop me if you see something you like’ she said.

I watched a procession of pictures, mainly along the lines of the photographs on the wall.

‘Did you do all of these?’

‘Most of them. A few are stock pictures, but I’ll replace them once I do my own versions. Hopefully they’ll all be mine before too long.’

Given the lack of urgency and the silent phone at reception, I suspected that it would be a while before she was able to complete the set. Some were conventional, some were more extreme, but most were in between.

‘See anything you like?’ she asked when we’d got to the last one.

I reached for my coffee and drained the last mouthful.

‘I’ll take that as a no, shall I?’ she said with a smile.

‘Sorry, I was thinking’ I replied, putting my cup down.

‘Any that you’d like to see again?’

‘I’m not sure.’

‘Not sure that you want to see them again or not sure about them at all.’

‘I’m not sure that I want to choose. Maybe I’m not the best person to make the decision.’

‘Do you want to talk it over with your husband?’ she asked, glancing down at my wedding ring.

‘That would be such a betrayal of the Sisterhood’ I said with a smile.

‘Is the right answer!’ she replied. ‘So, if not you or your husband, who do you think should decide?’

‘If I said that I’d be happy to let you do what you think would suit me best, would that be okay?’

‘You’re asking a bald woman to do what she thinks?’

Her smile lit up the salon.

‘It’s difficult to tell from the pictures. I can’t see what they looked like before, so all I can see is that they look good, but I can’t see the actual change’ I said, not quite sure of the point that I was trying to make.

‘You saw the change in Janet’ she countered.

‘I did, but I’m sure that you don’t just shave everyone’s head. You have a vision for what would suit them.’

‘And what if I think a shaved head is the best choice for you?’

My hand went to my head again.

‘I trust you to do something better than this’ I said.

She had a wry smile.

‘What about your husband? He obviously likes short hair. What do you think he’d say if you go home looking very different?’

‘He’s not voiced an opinion in all the years he’s known me, so he’s missed his chance’ I replied.

She nodded, wisely unwilling to venture an opinion on a stranger’s domestic matters. I could see her formulating her next remark.

‘Okay. Just so we’re clear. You’re going to get into the chair and I’m going to do what I think you need and you’re going to walk out of here looking stunning. Is that about it?’

‘I get the feeling that I’m not going to look like this for much longer’ I said. My stomach was churning.

What was I doing? What would Stu say when he saw me? Despite our current spat, it wouldn’t last for ever. Would he be mad that I’ve just gone ahead and made a big change? Would he see it as me pushing him away? Would he head for the nearest wooded clearing?

I got up and walked to the chair.

‘Sure?’ Andrea asked.

‘No, but the alternative is to go back to the places that I’ve been going to since we moved here and go round the same old loop.’

I took a seat and tried not to think what was going on in my stomach. She saw me look at the gown that she’d just taken off the coat-stand. It looked like there was a selection of the sort of gowns that I was used to: flowery gowns with arms in and a little belt, feminine looking. Andrea had ignored those and taken a plain grey one that seemed more like a tarpaulin than something you’d put on!

‘I want everything about today to be different from your usual salon experience. You’ve always had the girly salon experience, now it’s time to get serious’ she explained with a smile.

‘I can see that’ I agreed.

‘Anyway, this sort is more efficient at stopping the bits getting down your neck. It’s what I use for the guys’ she clarified.

She didn’t fasten the tarpaulin. She broke off and got a length of fabric-type stuff, putting it round my neck before bringing the two sides of the gown together.

‘Comfy?’ she asked.

‘Definitely a new experience.’

‘I like to think of it as a new beginning’ she replied.

‘That sounds like I’m in for something drastic.’

‘I’m not going to do anything that you don’t want to do. Really’ she said, trying to reassure me. It didn’t work.

I was in fight or flight mode. On edge. I wondered how I was going to get to the basin from where I was. Getting shampooed by someone else was probably the only part of visiting a salon that I enjoyed. I didn’t really enjoy the chit-chat, particularly not if celebrity gossip was involved and I rarely took pleasure from the end result. Looking at it like that, I wondered why I actually bothered. So far though, I had no complaints about the experience since I’d walked through the door.

Andrea must’ve noticed the change in my expression when she picked up a spray bottle and fired her first shot.

‘Forget about what your salon usually does. We’re doing it differently this time, remember?’ she said, pulling the trigger again and following it with a sweep of a comb.

‘Sorry. Force of habit. I just need to keep telling myself that this isn’t what I’m used to.’

‘No need to apologise’ she said, generating more misty spray and combing it through.

‘Are you going to tell me what you’ve decided?’ I asked.

‘I’ve decided to follow your instructions to the letter. I’m going to do exactly what I want’ she said with a cheeky smile.

‘In that case, I’m going to shut up’ I replied.

The spray bottle was set back on the counter. I looked at my reflection in the mirror, hair slicked down like I’ve just come out of the shower. I was intrigued. Nervous. Excited. There was no room for thoughts about Stu and the trouble in paradise.

‘Have you always had your hair cut with scissors?’

‘Yes’ I replied, my eyes flicking towards the men’s hair clippers dangling from their hook. Shit. She’s giving me the whole “man” experience. Man cape, no shampoo, man clippers.

‘This’ll be another first for you then’ she said, placing a hand on my head. She didn’t make a move for the clippers. She combed my hair through again and then moved her other hand up. The clippers were still on the hook, the implement she’d got in her other hand didn’t look like scissors. I felt a little tug at the back of my head and then another. I was curious. She could tell.

‘Sorry, I should’ve said. ‘I’m razoring it’ she explained, holding up a cut-throat razor.

‘Oh!’ I said, not knowing what else to say.

‘I prefer the finish to a scissor-cut’ she explained.

‘I’d nod, if I dared’ I joked.

‘It’s not too late to tell me what you’d like me to do, you know’ she said.

‘I’m still happy to let you choose’ I replied, watching her lift a tress of hair from my crown.

She appeared to stroke it up and down with the blade. The piece of hair was dangling from her fingers. I tried to work out how much she’d cut. The piece she was holding was relatively long. Which could only mean that the piece she’d left attached to my head was relatively short.

‘Still happy?’

‘I know I’m going to leave looking very different to the way I looked when I came in and that’s a good thing. To tell you the truth, when I left home this morning, I wasn’t actually intending to get my hair cut. I was going to the mall.’

‘What made you change your mind?’ she asked, severing another hank from my crown.

‘I was only going to the mall to kill some time before my gym session. Then I sort of ended up in the car park here. I must’ve been thinking about Janet telling me that I should come and see you.’

Well, I’m glad that you did and hopefully you’ll be glad too. If the hairdryers at your gym are as bad as the ones where I go, you’ll be pleased you did this first.’

‘Sounds like I’m going really short’ I said, a little flutter in my stomach suddenly joined by a little tingle somewhere more interesting.

‘I think it’s fair to say that you’ll have less hair than when you came in’ she said.

‘I could’ve got that at the last place I went to’ I chuckled.

She paused and fixed my gaze in the mirror. I tried to interpret her look. Was it a challenge? Was it confirmation? I wasn’t sure. She moved away from me and went to a cupboard behind her. I’m not sure what was in the bottle that she’d got out, but she poured some of the contents into the palm of her hand and stroked my head with it. I waited for her to explain, but she didn’t. There was a second dollop of whatever and then she put the bottle back where she’d got it from.

She massaged the liquid into my hair, her fingers gentle enough to kick off a whole flurry of tingles. She might have me trussed up like one of her male customers, but she was caressing me as only a woman would want to be caressed. My hair was slicked back, shiny. I didn’t care what the lubricant was, it eased the passage of her fingers over my damp scalp and made me close my eyes.

‘Head down for me and hold still’ she said.

I dipped my chin and sensed her come round to my side. I felt her stroke me again, slowly, tenderly. The sensation was slightly different this time, the stroke deliberate, longer. It went across my crown and then came again. If she carried on like this, that wouldn’t be the only thing coming!

‘Head up for me.’

I lifted my head, eyes still closed so that I could hold on to the sensation for as long as possible.

‘You can open your eyes now’ she said, one hand on my shoulder.

I stared at my reflection. I laughed. It was an impulse. I tried to put my hand to my mouth, but it was trapped under the tarpaulin thing.

‘Oh shit!’ I said, before apologising quickly.

‘Surprised?’

‘I shouldn’t be, but I am’ I replied, looking at the hairless expanse that extended across the top of my head. ‘How did you do that? It didn’t feel like a razor’ I said, still trying to take in what she’d just done.

‘You see that bottle. I just let the genie out of it and he gave you three wishes. You’ve got two left’ she replied with a mischievous smile.

‘There were other things I’d have wished for first’ I replied.

‘Who am I to argue? Your wish is my command’ she said through the smile.

‘Be careful what you wish for, isn’t that what they say?’

‘I think you’re safe enough. As wishes go, this is a pretty tame one’ she said, picking the spot for her next sweep.

‘Were you always going to do this?’

‘I think it’s why you came in. You saw how vivacious Janet looks now. She’d told you that I was bald. It’s the logical conclusion.’

‘Shit’ I repeated. Although her logic was sound, I hadn’t actually thought that she’d do it. Not on the first visit anyway.

‘It’ll take a few days, but you’ll love it. I promise’ she said in an attempt to prevent me from freaking out.

What was Stu going to say? Would he head off in search of a proper woman? One with hair? Shit.

I watched the razor move, still wondering why I couldn’t really feel it, still wondering how someone could use a razor like that and not draw blood. My hair was sliding off my head with hardly any effort on Andrea’s part. It was almost as if it wasn’t my head or my hair. There was nothing to do but to watch the rest of the show.

Andrea glided around me seeking out the best angles of attack. All the while the only sensations that I was feeling were not where I’d have expected them to be. They were considerably further south than I’d have thought. I put it down to the light touch of Andrea’s fingertips, as she made micro adjustments to the position of my head.

She’d cleared all of the hair that I could see, but was still working around the back, not that anything still there would resist her for long.

She stood up.

‘Get the idea?’ she asked with a huge smile.

‘It’s so strange.’

‘Have you ever left a salon thinking that what they’d just done was going to have an impact on your life?’

‘Never. I usually just wonder why I’ve spent so much money and got so little in return’ I replied.

‘Exactly. This is going to waken you and everyone around you. All for a fraction of what you usually pay.’

‘So I’m an honorary guy now?’

‘You’re a beautiful, sexy woman getting what she deserves.’

‘I just hope it doesn’t take me too long to agree with you’ I joked. ‘All I’m seeing is a strange creature looking back at me.’

‘Give yourself time’ she advised, checking for any bits that she’d missed.

She paid another visit to the cupboard that held all the secrets, returning with a can that was obviously shaving foam.

‘Haven’t we just done that?’

‘Just for good measure’ she replied, squirting some foam straight on to my scalp. I closed my eyes as she spread it about.

‘You know’ I said ‘if it wasn’t for the fact that I haven’t got any hair, I could get to like this.’

‘That’s what I want to hear. Just wait until you touch it and it’s super smooth.’

‘Something in me would say that there’s many things wrong with that observation. My head isn’t meant to be smooth. It’s meant to be covered in hair that has been expertly styled by someone as skilled and imaginative as yourself.’

‘Come back next week and tell me that’ she invited.

‘Do you think it’s be any different?’

‘I know that you’ll be begging me to make it smooth for you again.’

‘Really? I don’t think so.’

‘When we’re done, I’ll put you in the book. If you change your mind, you can cancel. I won’t mind.’

‘As long as you don’t mind me wasting your time.’

Before I knew it, Andrea had finished the second pass. Surely I was as bald as I could possibly be? I still wanted to touch it. She gave me a spray with her bottle and wiped my bare scalp with a towel, her movements ranging from firm to “that sort of touch should only happen in the bedroom”. Maybe there is something in what she says about the attraction of a bald head. She tossed the towel over to the adjacent chair and put her hands on each of my shoulders.

‘Time for you to go and stun the world’ she said.

‘I wonder if the boutique sells hats’ I said.

‘Don’t you dare!’ she said, rubbing my scalp playfully.

She released me from the guy-gown and there I was, in my everyday clothes with a once-in-a-lifetime haircut. I looked down at all the hair that had come off. Except that it didn’t look like hair. Whatever she’d run through it had made it stick together. I stood up and turned around, surprised by my reflection in a mirror opposite.

‘I could swear I had hair when I came in here’ I joked.

‘You did and it really is best where it is now. Somebody had to put it out of its misery.’

‘Was it really that bad?’

She nodded.

I paid her the small amount that she asked for and then doubled it. It was still significantly less than I paid the girl responsible for the style I’d come in with. As promised, she put me in her appointment book and handed me a card.

‘We’ll see’ I said, tucking it safely into my bag despite my reservations.

‘You really do look wonderful’ she said, surprising me with a hug. I felt awkward. She stroked my head. I felt something else. It was time to go.

I walked back to my car in a daze. I touched my scalp with my fingertips, just to confirm that I really was walking away from the hair that I’d known and sometimes loved. It struck me that I should pop in to the boutique to show the woman that somehow I’d arrived at the same place that she had. I decided that it could wait until I was happier with my new look.

Fortunately, my car knew the way home. My mind was certainly not on the task at hand and to all intents and purposes, my mind was still in the salon, rather than where it should’ve been. I was in my hallway before I knew it, staring at myself in the mirror. I had both hands on my head, feeling it properly for the first time. It still felt a little tacky, so I headed for the shower to rinse it off. Standing under the jet, I realised what I’d been missing. If only Stu had been home. My fingers did what he should have been doing. With one hand on my slippery scalp, I made do with two fingers in my slippery pussy. I’ve no idea how long I was in there, but it was long enough to do what needed to be done.

I dried off and got changed into my gym stuff, sneaking looks in the mirror every now and again. Maybe it wasn’t so awful. After all, I’d never felt the need to finger myself when washing my hair, so maybe there was something to it.

I dreaded opening the door to the gym. Dreaded all the stares, all the comments that would be coming my way. Except that they didn’t. I got comments, but they were overwhelmingly positive. By the time I left, I was walking on air, even if I was convinced that those who’d been most vocal were probably rug-munchers. I amused myself on the way home trying to think up a new name for those occasions when there was no rug to munch on. I concluded that I needed to modernise my thinking.

The moment of truth would be the moment when Stu walked through the door and there was a lot of time until then. Time that I did actually spend cleaning, just to take my mind off things. I wondered about dressing up for him, but decided that it wouldn’t be right in the circumstances. It would be a waste of one of the outfits. I’d save those until things were back to normal with us. I went with a button-through summer dress, skipping my underwear.

When he came home, I was in the kitchen, checking the fridge for inspiration for dinner. I opened the fridge door wider so that it formed a barrier between us.

‘Hi’ he said when he saw me half-hidden behind the door. Not too much enthusiasm there, I thought. It didn’t bode well.

I could sense him weighing up the wisdom of asking what was for dinner. I closed the door and looked at him. He stared.

‘Don’t say anything. Just fuck me like you’ve never fucked anyone in your life’ I said.

In normal times he would have come back with a quip about needing a cup of tea first on or something similar. In any event, our sex life hadn’t happened outside the bedroom since the early days of our relationship. We certainly didn’t do it in the lounge.

He still hadn’t moved. He watched me undo the buttons on the front of my dress and slide a finger down to my pussy. I don’t know what he’d been doing for relief over the past couple of weeks, but I hoped that he’d got something left. I locked eyes with him as he approached me. He stopped in front of me. Looking for clues as to what had happened.

‘Just fuck me. Please.’ I said quietly, sliding the dress off my shoulders and turning my back on him. I braced myself against the edge of the table.

I listened, relieved to hear the sound of his belt being undone. I felt his hands on my hips, felt a hand move between my arse cheeks. I knew that I was wet. Just telling him to fuck me had done that. It wasn’t something that I did. On occasions, I might reach down for him to try my luck when we were in bed, but usually sex was something that he initiated.

His fingers were in me. Maybe a little too enthusiastic, but I took that as a good indication that he hadn’t been off on unauthorised manoeuvres during our spat. His fingers had confirmed what he needed to know and in a blink of an eye had been replaced. I felt his tip and closed my eyes ready for him to slip gently inside.

I gasped as he thrust forcefully inside me. He’d never done that, never gone from 0 to 60 in the blink of an eye.

‘Bastard’ I gasped.

‘Horny bitch’ he replied.

This was not how we talk to each other. Not even during sex.

‘Fuck me, you dirty fucker!’ I retorted.

That probably wouldn’t win me any awards if I submitted it in a literary contest, but he did as instructed and it was just what I needed.

If I needed any confirmation that he hadn’t been a bad boy, I only had to look down when he’d finished. His fidelity was dripping out of me. I know that I should’ve been thinking about the rug, but I wanted to watch it and appreciate its significance. He picked up the tea-towel that had been lying on the worktop and positioned it judiciously to catch the drips. Both of us were panting. What we’d lacked in endurance, we’d made up for in effort.

‘Does this mean we’re talking again?’ he asked.

I reached out and touched his fingertips with mine.

‘Depends’ I replied, fascinated by the course of his cum down my leg.

‘On?’

I pointed to my head.

‘Have the police got who did it?’

My Stu was back!

‘Be serious. What do you think about having a bald wife?’

‘I’ll need a closer look’ he said, taking my hand and drawing me to my knees.

‘Closer’ he urged.

‘Wouldn’t it be best to give him a few minutes’ I said, taking his spent cock in my hand.

‘Try the kiss of life’ he suggested. I looked up at him and dipped my head forward I felt his hand on my scalp, felt his fingers roam, felt his cock come back to life. Maybe there was hope for it, after all.

For our sins, we went to bed without supper, doing our best to make up for lost time. When I woke, he was cradling my head in his hands. I eased up from him so that I could look at him properly.

‘Well, given that I don’t think that I’ll be able to walk today, I take it that you quite like it’ I said with a smile.

‘I’ll get used to it’ he replied, shrinking away from the slap that I aimed at him.

‘Well, Stewie-baby, you’d better get used to it, because I like it. I’m back and I’m bald and I’m taking you with me next time’ I said in my best Hollywood blockbuster voice.

‘I’m not so sure about that and you know I hate it when you call me “Stewie-baby”‘ he replied.

‘You want any more of this’ I said, throwing off the covers and swivelling to display my open legs to him, ‘you’re getting rid of that. You want pussy, I want bald.’

I got out of bed and headed for the ensuite bathroom, my demands succinctly made.

‘You know Nat, we should fight more often’ he called after me.

I turned to glare at him.

‘No more fighting’ I replied.

The old “me” would’ve closed the bathroom door. The new “me” didn’t care. Just one of many changes that I sensed were in the air.

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