Bourne Academy 4 – Governing the Governors

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Heather Richards had recently commenced her challenging role as the headmistress of the prestigious Bourne Academy, and she was determined to turn things around. The academy had been struggling for years so the Board of Governors saw Heather’s controversial appointment as the best way forward if they were to return the academy to its glory days. In just one week, Heather had stamped her authority on the minds of the staff and the students, but she needed to remain steadfast in her approach to implement all the changes she deemed necessary.

As Miss Richards sat in the comfortable leather chair behind her large desk in her spacious study, she was interrupted by a knock on the door. After her customary delay of one minute – a tactic to unsettle visitors – she barked an invitation to enter. She looked up to see two women marching in – Donna Masters, the Chairwoman of The Bourne Academy Board of Governors, and Alice Taylor, her junior colleague. They had come to express their concern about disturbing reports they had received regarding the methods the new headmistress had employed during the past week.

Donna was a stern woman in her early fifties, dressed in a smart and expensive black and white checked skirt suit. She wore her hair in a crisp permed style, clipped close at the back and sides. Alice, on the other hand, was fifteen years her junior and dressed much less formally in black trousers, a red slinky lace top and a leather jacket. Her auburn hair cascaded down her back in loose waves to her waist, with highlighted shorter layers flicking around her face.

‘We have received several complaints about your methods, Miss Richards,’ Donna Masters said, getting straight to the point.

Heather listened politely as the two governors went on to express their concern about the regulation haircuts that Heather had implemented for the students. They also raised the matter of Brenda Shearer, the barber, who had been reported as being unnecessarily harsh in the way she treated the students while cutting their hair.

Heather remained calm and composed as she explained her reasoning behind the haircuts. She wanted to create a sense of discipline and uniformity among the students. But Donna and Alice were not convinced, and they wanted to dig deeper.

‘Let’s visit a classroom and see for ourselves,’ Heather suggested. Without waiting for a response, she led the two governors out of her study and towards the classroom she had in mind.

= * = * =

While a lesson was taking place in the classroom, Donna and Alice peered inside from the corridor. They were shocked by the sight of all the students having identical bowlcuts, with their necks shaved to the skin.

‘This is unacceptable!’ Alice, the younger governor, exclaimed.

Donna, however, was intrigued by their uniformity. She noticed how neat and tidy all the students looked, and she could not help but praise them on their overall appearance.

Heather put her head around the door and requested Emma Andrews to pop outside for a few moments. Emma was the first student to whom Ms Shearer had given the academy’s new regulation haircut a week earlier when Heather Richards had instigated her changes.

Heather made the introductions and invited the governors to inspect Emma’s haircut and to ask her any questions they may have.

‘What do you think of your haircut, Emma?’ Donna asked bluntly.

‘It’s wonderful, ma’am,’ Emma gushed, patting her bobbed hair. ‘So much easier to care for, and we get to have it trimmed every week,’ she continued excitedly, ‘which keeps it feeling fresh and looking neat, which is absolutely wonderful. In fact, I popped in to see Ms Shearer this morning to have my bowlcut freshened up. See?’ she added, indicating her bare neck, and then running her fingers along it to demonstrate its smoothness.

Donna studied the cap of hair on Emma’s head and closely examined her shaved neck, and she complimented her on how delightful she looked. Emma beamed.

Alice, on the other hand, stood back as if offended by the sight of Emma’s hair. She shook her head in disbelief, absently fingering a tendril of her own long locks that fallen over one shoulder.

Emma Andrews smirked as she watched Alice playing with her own long hair. The headmistress then thanked Emma before allowing her to return to her class.

Receiving Donna’s approval, Heather knew she had won over one of the governors. But Alice was clearly still sceptical, convinced that no student could find it a pleasant experience to have her long hair cut so short.

Heather was determined to prove her wrong. ‘I suggest that we visit the barbershop – or Ms Shearer’s Study, as we like to call it – and you can see for yourself.’

Although Donna was keen, Alice was reluctant. However, Heather assured her that see the facilities and meeting the barber was the only way to know for sure that the complaints were unfounded.

= * = * =

Heather Richards and the two governors stepped into the barbershop. They were met by the alarming sight of Brenda Shearer, an intimidating woman with noticeably short black hair, shaving the neck of one of the students. The student was smiling excitedly at her reflection in the mirror as the foil shaver was returning the dark shadow of bristles, representing seven days of hair growth, back to the pristine whiteness of her skin from a week earlier.

Brenda finished her task and the student jumped out of the chair, beaming at the adults.

‘Doesn’t that, well, hurt or something, having that done to you?’ Alice asked, clearly confused by the student’s delight at what Alice considered to be such an awful indignity.

The student giggled, rubbing her smooth neck vigorously. ‘Of course not, ma’am. It feels lovely. Go on, have a feel.’

Normally the headmistress would have reprimanded such insolence from a student but, in this instance, she had to stifle a giggle of her own.

Alice tentatively reached out a hand and touched the student’s smooth neck with the tips of her fingers. ‘Oh my!’ she exclaimed.

‘That will be all thank you, Abigail,’ Miss Richards said. ‘You may run along to your class.’

‘As you have seen and heard, Alice, our students are very happy with the attention they receive from Ms Shearer,’ Heather said, and Alice nodded her reluctant agreement. ‘So may I suggest that you have a seat in Ms Shearer’s comfortable chair to build a fuller picture of the service she offers?’

Alice was extremely hesitant under the intense gaze of the three other women. However, she conceded it might be a reasonable course of action and, after further persuasion from Donna, she eventually dropped into the chair.

As soon as Alice sat, she felt the chair jerk upwards. Ms Shearer theatrically shook out a large white cape and covered Alice completely, with just her head and her abundant hair poking out. Brenda began brushing her hair and Alice, although feeling vulnerable, began to relax with the comforting long firm strokes.

The barber looked towards Heather Richards and Donna Masters who were having an animated discussion. When they saw Brenda look over, they both smiled and gave her an assenting nod.

Brenda Shearer needed to no further confirmation. She expertly secured Alice’s locks in a ponytail, selected her largest scissors and, with a few deft snips, chopped off Alice’s hair. The governor’s eyes opened wide as she stared in the mirror.

‘That wasn’t so bad, was it, my dear?’ Brenda smirked, completely out of character as she never enquired of her students how they felt. However, under the circumstances, she felt it was a necessary concession as her victim was a governor of the academy.

‘What the …’ Alice said, opening her mouth then slowly closing it again, as she saw the barber adding her auburn ponytail to a collection that hung on a rail running along one wall of the study.

‘Certainly not as bad as those complaints you have been receiving, I hope?’ Brenda mildly admonished.

Absorbing Brenda’s pointed words only added to Alice’s feeling of vulnerability as she sat under the large cape in Brenda’s pumped-up barber’s chair. Alice vigorously shook her head to indicate that the complaints were not as bad as she had believed. The governor was immediately rewarded with the unfamiliar and uncomfortable feeling of short, chin length tendrils of hair slapping her in the face.

‘She’s fine, Ms Shearer,’ Donna Masters said, speaking up for her junior colleague, with a barely concealed grin. “Please carry on.’

Brenda Shearer needed no further encouragement and took her large red hairclippers to Alice’s head with undisguised enthusiasm. As the hairstyle took shape, Alice’s heart sank when she realised that she was receiving the regulation haircut that was identical to the one that the barber had given the students.

The enthusiastic barber relentlessly thrust the hairclippers back and forth around Alice’s head. Snippets of auburn hair flew in all directions, with some landing on the cape and others falling directly to the floor. Alice felt her head getting lighter and lighter as the hairclipper removed more and more hair. The expensively highlighted sections that had framed her face were consigned to history. The layered waves on the top of her head were replaced by a smooth and glossy cap of hair. The wavy locks that had hidden her ears were sheared off, her temples shaved and her delicate ears exposed. Her neck was shorn, and the cool breeze of the air conditioning caused her to shiver with cold, a sensation that mingled with her quivering with fear.

Then something strange then happened.

As the barber shaved her neck and her temples, Alice Taylor realised it was not so unpleasant to feel the vibration of the hairclippers buzzing against her skin. It was not entirely disagreeable to have less hair weighing her down. It was not completely awful to be able to see where was going. The sensation, strangely, was not dissimilar to quivering with arousal.

As Alice tried to come to terms with her strange and unexpected emotions, she gazed in the mirror and could not believe that she liked what she saw. ‘Gosh, that looks and feels so amazing, Ms Shearer. Thank you!’ she said, tentatively running her fingers up her shorn nape.

‘Not unlike my own,’ Donna said, patting her crisp permed curls, clipped on the back and sides. Compared with the sleekness of Alice’s hairstyle, the clippering of the dry curls was where any similarity ended. ‘As you are my potential future deputy, the Board of governors will certainly look on your more favourably with a more professional haircut,’ she asserted. ‘However, before then, I would expect to get you out of those trousers and into a more professional skirt suit or dress.’

Ms Shearer smirked at the double meaning on the words, overlooked by the others.

Irrespective of any future role with the academy, Alice was already feeling more empowered and increasingly confident than she had with her long hair.

‘I’m sorry for doubting your methods, Miss Richards,’ Alice humbly apologised. ‘And you too, Ms Shearer.’

‘Please do not concern yourself, Miss Taylor. We all need to be challenged at times,’ Heather conceded. ‘I’m just pleased we were able to convince you that we are on the right path to ensuring The Bourne Academy becomes a prestigious establishment for learning once more.’

= * = * =

As the governors left the barbershop, Alice pondered how she had completely misjudged Heather Richards and her methods. She was now convinced that she was the right person to lead the academy and turn its fortunes around. The new headmistress had not only transformed the students’ appearance but also their attitudes.

From that day on, Alice Taylor became one of the strongest advocates for Heather Richards’ exceptionally strict but highly effective methods.

TO BE CONTINUED

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