It Was Time

Story Categories:

Story Tags:

Views: 7,234 | Likes: +48

It Was Time

Cathleen stopped in front of her hallway mirror before heading out the door for work, partly to make sure her vest, long skirt, and blouse were presentable for the school day. Mostly, though, it was to take one more look at the long, red locks that fell to her hips in gorgeous, graceful sock-curls. With the sides held back by a white silk bow and her thick bangs now tickling her eyes when they weren’t brushed away, she knew there was a greater than normal chance that she’d be mistaken for one of her students by another teacher.

That was always a risk when she wore her hair part-way or all the way down; something that she admitted wasn’t helped by her cottage core aesthetic.

But come this time tomorrow, it might not be much of a problem anymore. Brushing her abundant hair back behind her shoulders, she reassessed her reflection and liked what she saw. And that was probably a good thing since she was just a few hours away from having about half of her hair cut off. As if needing to remind herself, she motioned across her collarbones with both of her hands, imagining the long locks past that point flittering to the floor around her ankles.

Her hair was going to be shorter than she’d ever had it since growing out her college bob. Definitely since she met… since she met George. He was the one who encouraged her to keep letting it grow, and over the course of the eight year relationship, that seemed like a very simple thing to do for him. But it’d been about a year since the breakup, and now was as good a time as any to cast that into the past. Especially since she’d finally started seeing someone again. Luiz was a wonderful guy and she couldn’t imagine her would get hung up on the length of her hair, but things were getting serious and she didn’t want it to become, “But you’ve always had it that long and you know I love it!” down the road.

Best to just nip that possibility in the bud, especially since she’d been planning to for a while now.

Making sure she had the card with her appointment time in her purse, she stuffed it into her shoulder bag and headed out the door.

***

As usual, the girls among her students fawned over her hair before classes began, a lot of them expressing envy in exchange for Cathleen’s encouragement that some day their hair might be just as long if they wanted. The male teachers always gave her longer looks as well, but a number of them were as old as her father, so she tried to ignore it. There was only one other teacher’s opinion that she really cared about, anyway.

She saw Luiz in between third and fourth period. They normally didn’t cross paths, just because of how their schedules were set up and how large the school was, but just by coincidence they found themselves at the same intersection of halls. His smile easily carried over into his brown eyes when he saw her approaching, and Cathleen felt every bit like the high school girls darting past her this way and that. Heart fluttering, she returned Luiz’s smile and slowed to a stop.

You’re looking especially nice today, Miss O’Rourke,” Luiz said. Cathleen had to admit that she absolutely adored his Brazilian accent.

And you as well, Mister Silva.”

While the two weren’t explicitly hiding the fact that something had started between them, they weren’t broadcasting it either. And frankly, Cathleen kind of liked the harmless little role-play they did during rare meetings like this.

Have any plans for the weekend?” She asked.

He mimicked giving it some thought as his hands slipped into his pants pockets, and then finally shrugged. “Not really. Meeting a friend for dinner tonight at a new outside cafe in town. I’ve heard good things about the place.”

Ooh. An outdoor cafe for dinner with a friend? Sounds like it could be kind of romantic.”

Well…” he ran a hand back through his dark hair while looking up and down the hall. “I don’t like to assume. Or rule things out. Mostly, I’ve heard that this place has incredible desserts. So good, they don’t even put them on the menu. The chef decides what the best ingredients are available that day, and only makes one thing and it’s always fantastic.”

That’s definitely a solid reason to try a new place out. I’m a big fan of desserts, too.”

How about your plans?”

She acted as though doing anything interesting was the furthest of possibilities. “Nothing much. Getting my hair cut. Hoping the charming fellow I’ve been seeing won’t be too upset about that.”

I don’t see why he would be, considering how cute everything about you is.” His eyes flashed a bit wider after he said that, but Cathleen’s giggle set him at ease. He cleared his throat and started to continue on his way. “Anyway, I really hope you manage to have some fun this weekend. And that skirt look great with the vest.”

Caught by surprise, Cathleen smiled at the comment and swirled her skirt out a bit before he turned away. One of the small things she really liked about him was how he never asked her to dress any differently than she did. He was just letting her be her, which, probably in a sad way, was a new experience for her.

***

In the way of many women with beautiful hair, Cathleen had kept quiet about her appointment. Her friends among the staff could find out with everyone else when (if?) she posted pictures online, or when they saw her Monday morning.

Cathleen hadn’t even asked anyone she knew for stylist recommendations. Although she’d trimmed her own hair for years, she still knew how to read reviews and write-ups online and found a salon near the town square with amazing ratings and reviews. She decided the possibility of being mislead by everyone on Yelp! was small enough that it didn’t outweigh the fun of suddenly appearing with a new style without anyone expecting it.

Although, was she really getting a new style? Glancing at her reflection in the storefront windows as she walked to the salon, she considered whether simply losing length counted as a new style. It’s not like she even planned on asking them to change her bangs; even after getting her hair chopped she’d still look the same when she wore it all up or tucked behind her shoulders.

Maybe she should go a bit further? Or, in this case, shorter?

No. She’d told Luiz about the impending cut, but she’d told him it’d be to her collarbones. He was fine with that, but what if he wouldn’t like it shorter?

Cathleen drew herself up short at that, stopping just outside the salon. That line of thought was exactly what she’d been hoping to break away from. Brow furrowed, she’d couldn’t believe how easily she almost fell back into it. But what could her response to it be? Cut her hair even shorter than she’d planned?

That’d be kind of silly. Yes, she was looking forward to having much less hair to deal with, but she was also looking forward to having some to play with. For Luiz to play with. Would forcing herself to chop off more than she planned just to prove she wasn’t beholden to the idea of needing to please someone else really that much better than actually being beholden to someone else? It’s not like she even had seen a short style she wanted.

Cripes, with thinking like this, she should have signed up to teach philosophy next semester.

Trying to sort through her thoughts just outside the salon, she was startled back to reality when the door opened and a young, blonde woman strode out. She smiled as she met Cathleen’s gaze, but Cathleen was too taken with the girl’s pixiecut — not boyish, but side-parted and really short with barely there bangs and just a golden dusting of hair at her nape and around her ears.

It took a moment for Cathleen to realize the woman was holding the door open for her.

Oh! Thank you.” Cathleen was halfway through the door when she turned back and blurted out, “Love your hair!”

***

Inside, Cathleen could not have felt more out of place. Standing in her cute little cottage core outfit and hip-length curls, she was almost the polar opposite of the salon’s minimalist, almost industrial aesthetic. She liked the atmosphere overall, with soft, lo-fi music that she almost recognized but not quite, and calming, lavender scents wafting through the air. She wasn’t sure what she expected scent-wise, but probably something more chemical-y.

Hi!” The woman at the front counter said. As if an advertisement for the salon’s work, her long, light blonde hair was swept back from her dark green eyes in an immaculate style, falling halfway down her back in a thick, intricate braid.. “I’m Victoria. Can I help you?”

Hi. I’m Cathleen. I have an appointment with Brad.”

Sure thing. If you’d like, you can have a seat and I’ll let him know you’re here.”

Cathleen didn’t take a seat; couldn’t take a seat. With how nervous she was, she opted to pace back and forth in the waiting area instead. Reaching up to undo the ribbon in her hair, she let the long curls fall free around her, pulling them all over her right shoulder to gently stroke as she waited and watched the salon in action.

Near the back, a stylist with a gorgeous riot of auburn curls falling almost to her bra strap was attentively perfecting a sharp, sleek, shoulder-length bob on her client. Closer, another stylist dressed in a black tee and black pants, swept up a mass of golden blonde clippings from around her chair. Her hair was pale blonde, falling just past her shoulders in wild waves.

It only made sense that the stylists themselves, and their employees, would have incredible hair, but Cathleen was still impressed. Even the high school kid folding towels in back looked like he could be in a fashion magazine. If nothing else, it certainly set her nerves at ease.

In fact, it might have set her nerves at ease about more than just their abilities and skill.

Finding a mirror behind a shelf of hair products for sale, Cathleen considered her mass of curls as it was. Cutting it to her collarbones would be cute and would definitely give it lift and life and more volume, but… what if she went further? What if she just seized the moment and …

Cathleen?”

A warm, rumbling voice killed the thought before she could finish it. Turning, she set eyes on someone she hoped was Brad, a tall, fit fellow with gorgeous blue eyes and dark hair. Broad shoulders were evident under his tight t-shirt but not obnoxiously so, and he was tall enough to leave his Superman-like jaw a bit taller than the crown of Cathleen’s head.

That’s me,” she said, stroking her hair again.

He held out his hand. “Brad. Would you like to come with me?”

Sure. I guess I could convince myself to.”

He kindly stepped aside and guided her toward his chair, set up near the front but tucked away just a bit from being seen past the front desk. As they walked, he asked how she had found the salon, and she mentioned all of the great reviews online.

That’s always a relief,” he said as he motioned for her to have a seat. “The fact that we don’t actually have a name for the place is always a bit of a worry.”

Sitting back in Brad’s black leather seat, Cathleen was surprised to hear that. “Judging by how hard it was to get an appointment…”

That’s true. And I’m sorry about that. We actually hired a business manager recently who’s looking into expansion as well as rebranding. But that’s not important today. You’re here now, and I am at your service.” Stepping behind her, he silently requested permission to play with her hair and then gathered it back to let it fall behind her shoulders. He ran his fingers through it a few times, lifting a few locks and shaking them to see how the curls played. “Naturals curls?” He asked.

Enhanced,” she admitted, her cheeks reddening. She wasn’t sure why they did that, but it probably had to do with feeling like she was being ungrateful for the natural, though unruly, curls her hair did have when left to its own devices.

And this is your natural red color?”

She nodded.

He whistled in appreciation. “If you don’t mind, I’m going to tell anyone who asks that you had a specialist do it, or they might die of jealousy.”

Cathleen laughed, and nodded. “If you must. I’ll back you up, I promise.” She loved the feel of his fingers through her hair; they moved slowly but surely, providing just a bit of a gentle tug at her nape. As he fluffed the long locks, his fingers rubbed and caressed her scalp in a way that sent tingles to her toes.

So what were you thinking of doing today?”

Cathleen hesitated. “Well, I had one idea, but now I think I have another.”

Okay?”

Cathleen looked at her reflection, with the beautiful, long red curls and waves falling past her shoulders. When she first started dating her last ex, her hair was just as long as she was about to get it cut; just past her shoulders. And then she didn’t get it cut again because he asked her not to. What if the same thing happened with Luiz? Not that she expected him to, but it’d be so easy to just pick up on the slightest hint he preferred it longer, and then she’d give in without even being asked.

No, she came here today to finally get out of a rut, and she needed to be drastic to do that. A shorter cut wouldn’t mean anything if it still was basically the same. She needed a new definition of herself, something to shake things up that would create a new Cathleen on the outside — a Cathleen that she formed without anyone else’s input — that would let her leave the past behind and move forward with someone new, whether or not that turned out to be Luiz.

I’ve been planning on asking you to chop it all off up to here,” she said, lifting her left hand to about the middle of her neck. It was a lie, but she was afraid if she gestured at the original length she’d been considering, Brad would consider her revised request to be too drastic. “But I saw a woman leaving here a few minutes ago with a blonde pixie cut—“

Oh, Cara. She’s one of our long-time clients.”

Cathleen smiled at the fact that Brad didn’t immediately refuse to cut her hair like that. With her heart pounding, she forced herself to say the words, “I want you to cut my hair like hers.” Then, immediately, “But not quite as short. Not clippered. I’m not ready for that.”

Brad smiled, immediately setting her at ease. He brushed her thick bangs to the side and then gathered her hair back into a ponytail as he looked at her reflection in the mirror before her. He gently guided her to look left and then right, and nodded silently.

Give me a moment to talk to Rebecca. She does Cara’s hair.”

With a thump, Cathleen’s hair hit the back of the chair after being let loose again. She took a deep breath and wiped her palms against her skirt, nervously flicking it so its hem teased her ankles. She had barely even seen that girl’s style. What if it looked terrible when reproduced on her?

No, Brad had obviously just considered the risks. If he thought short hair wasn’t for her, he would have said so. Right? Right. She was sure of that; salons don’t get five star reviews for being stupid.

As she waited, Cathleen pulled all of her hair in front of her shoulders and played with its curls. Soft, silky, and shiny, she knew she’d been blessed with beautiful locks, even if the length was something that she had just kind of let happen rather than something she set out to achieve.

Growing hair was easy. But asking for a new style? That was a decision. That took guts. She smiled at her reflection, glad to see that it seemed to agree that she was making the right call.

Brad and the blonde stylist appeared behind Cathleen in the reflection. “Hi, Cathleen. I’m Rebecca,” she said. Underneath a swath of slightly overgrown bangs, beautiful soft brown eyes were already focused on Cathleen’s abundant mane. “Brad tells me you’d like something similar to Cara’s style?”

Cathleen nodded, her finggers now nervously playing with her white ribbon. “It really looked cute. I just don’t think I want it quite that short.”

Rebecca reached out, fingers seemingly itching to play with Cathleen’s curls. “May I?”

Of course.” Cathleen felt a little silly constantly giving permission for the stylists to play with her hair. She just kind of assumed they would assume that was okay to do. Either way, Rebecca seized upon the opportunity to slide her hands under the wealth of silky locks, lifting it all away from Cathleen’s shoulders to look at her hairline and get a sense of the silky texture of the tresses.

I love your bangs,” Rebecca said softly, her eyes lost in thought as her fingers brushed Cathleen’s fringe this way and that. Cathleen’s lashes fluttered as the soft locks brushed against them again and again, but she didn’t say anything since Brad and Rebecca had begun talking shop, passing ideas back and forth about what should be done. It was as if they were planning a military campaign, discussing different approaches and the possible advantages each might provide.

All the while, Cathleen sat in silence, fidgeting with her ribbon as she looked at her reflection and the beautiful hair her visage currently had. There was no doubt she was being rather extreme, but it’s not like she ever meant to be a long-hair for life. She just kind of accidentally wound up on the road to becoming one.

On one level, she’d be so disappointed if Luiz didn’t like short-haired girls. But on another, she really, really hoped she’d be hot with all of her hair chopped off. Like, she wanted Luiz to drool over her when he saw it. But in a very feminist and equality-affirming way, you know?

When the discussion was done, Rebecca patted Cathleen’s shoulder and assured her she was going to look great. Then she patted Brad’s and told him to have fun, leaning her hip into his as she walked past.

Brad watched her go, and then returned his attention to Cathleen. “Okay, are we ready?”

I am. Are you?”

He smiled with absolute confidence. “Born ready. What I’m going to do first, though,” his hand rose from the back of the chair and motioned right about where she had said her original idea for a cut had been, right about mid-neck, “is take it all off about here. Then we’ll go give you the quickest shampoo you’ve probably had in years, come back here, and get you all cute and cropped. Sound like a plan?”

The phrase cute and cropped made everything seem so real, sending shivers of anticipation, exhilaration, and absolute terror down her spine. Was she really going to do this? On a whim?

Yes, she was! On a whim!

It does,” she answered. “And I love it.”

He smiled again, something she doubted she, or any other fan of men, would ever get tired of. Moving efficiently but carefully, Brad took a few minutes to run a large-toothed comb through the length of Cathleen’s hair, He started toward the ends, then slowly moved further and further up until the soft tips of the comb’s teeth were gently brushing along her scalp at the start of each stroke.

She had just about started to close her eyes when the combing stopped. She heard the slink of metal against metal, and saw Brad returning to his spot behind the chair with his shears in hand.

There’s no going back once I start,” he warned. “You ready?”

She nodded.

You sure?”

She wrinkled her nose and nodded again, for the first time feeling — really feeling — the weight of her abundant red curls.

Positive?” He asked again, the word tinged with a grin.

Yes!” She said with a laugh.

Good. Just wanted to actually hear you say it.”

Cathleen clenched her eyes shut as the shears were lowered toward her mane. A gentle touch leaned her head forward just a bit, and then the cool metal brushed against her neck an inch or two below her nape. Her breath froze in place when the first crunch sounded — it was a long, slow sound, steady in its intensity as a little shiver against her skin slipped sideways along her neck. There was a sudden, new coolness there as the air of the salon began to caress skin that had been previously hidden. The shears slid to her left and then the crunching sounded again, and then again and again as it grew louder. Brad nudged her head upright, and then the shears restarted their attack a short distance below her left ear.

Cathleen reminded herself to breath after feeling the electric thrill of the last of her long hair on her left side slide away, every inch brushing against her shoulder like someone grasping for a hold on a cliffside before they fell away.

When she opened her eyes, she was suddenly looking at her college-aged self, a girl with a precise, sharply cut bob of soft red hair. This time, though, the beautiful locks didn’t even come close to her shoulders. Once the crunching of the shears began anew, Cathleen’s right side joined the illusion, as with a few fated snips her long, romantic curls fell to the floor behind her.

It was in that moment, as she looked at herself with the short, thick bob and bangs, that Cathleen realized Brad was probably giving her an off-ramp at this first step. This was the bob she had pretended to want at the start, and she guessed that if she had broken down into tears he’d have suggested just a few more snips to make it look nice while she desperately tried to grow it out again.

But there was no need for that. She was all in.

She realized he was standing next to her now, hand out to help her from the chair. She placed her hand in his and stood, turning toward the shampoo area only to freeze when she saw the absolutely massive pile of silky, shiny red curls that lay in a mass carpeting the tiled floor behind the chair.

Holy shit,” she whispered.

Yup,” Brad said.

All of that was on my head?” She instinctively reached up to tuck her hair behind her ears as she looked down, the stark contrast of how easy such a thing now was ringing out clearly in her mind as she continued to look down at the pile of her crowning glory.

Are we about to panic?”

She shook her head as she laughed, and then again after feeling her shortened hair brush against her cheeks. “Not even a little bit.”

***

Brad may have been right about the ensuing shampoo being the quickest Cathleen had in a long time, but not by much. What her hair now lacked in mass and volume that needed to be washed, it made up for in care and attention from the very handsome fellow who was running his fingers through the locks that remained. Warm and gentle, his fingertips moved in slow circles from hairline to hairline. First he was massaging Cathleen’s temples as she fought back purrs of delight, then gently lifting her head with one hand as the forefinger and thumb of his other slid up and down either side of her spine.

Cathleen tried not to turn into jelly as Brad worked, but she did begin to wonder whether the 5-star reviews had as much to do with this as they did the actual cuts. She realized she’d find out soon enough when Brad nudge her upward, blotting her hair in a ridiculously fluffy towel before quickly wrapping it up and guiding her back to his chair.

The long locks that had been previously lopped off of her mane were gone, and weren’t even mentioned as she sat back down. She imagined little elves coming out to sweep the place clean when everyone else was looking away, but figured it was far more likely the teenage kid had come in to sweep up instead.

With a snap and a flash, Cathleen found herself surrounded by a parachute-like black cape. Brad fastened it in place, then gently tugged the wrap free from Cathleen’s hair. Again, she found herself shocked by how little remained — it was as if her mind had tricked her into thinking her hip-length locks were somehow tucked inside that tiny little towel around her head. But no, they definitely weren’t, and the wet tresses that remained were able, for once, to fight off the will of gravity and stay clumped together atop her head, save for a few that decided to fall free to tease her neck and cheeks.

Brad set about restoring order quickly, though, running a smaller comb through Cathleen’s bobbed hair until it hung straight once more, most of it reaching for but failing to touch her shoulders. Her bangs, brushed forward in one uniform curtain, danced every time she blinked.

Still all in?”

She nodded, biting her lip as she watched him reach for his tools. First, there was a spray bottle, which seemed a little silly after the shampoo but she guessed the towel may have soaked up a good bit of the water that had inundated her hair. With that done, he then reached for something other than the shears he had used before. Without explaining, he gathered up the relatively long locks hiding her right ear, gently tugged them, and then attacked with a razor blade of some sort that sheared away a majority of the remaining length.

Cathleen’s breath caught in her throat again as she watched eight more inches of her hair fall away, leaving just enough length to hide the top half of her little ear. Another thick lock followed, and then another as Brad picked up the pace. At first the wet locks slid down past her breast to gather in her lap, but then they just settled on her shoulder and, as Brad moved toward the back, seizing and slicing away at the wet, crimson locks at her crown, they begin to hit the floor with a quiet, pitiful plop.

This is just a rough cut, I promise.”

She realized she had been holding her breath the whole time, and that gentle reassurance let her continue breathing once more. But there was still something chilling about seeing him work, seeing him flick the blade back and forth almost imperceptibly to sever the pampered locks that had adorned her head for so many years. In a handful of minutes, Brad had worked his way around her head and left a trail of destruction in his wake, taking away any bit of red hair that could be considered significant length and shearing her rough-cut bob into a short, wild shag. Her neck — the long, elegant neck that she so rarely showed off — was completely naked now, and even her ears were metaphorically tugging at the bedsheets of her remaining locks to remain covered from the cold.

Oh my. I have cheekbones.”

You do,” Brad assured her. “And they’re only going to stand out all the more as we go.”

There was a second round of spritzing, and this time Brad’s comb coaxed Cathleen’s thick locks into a side parting, one that she hoped only looked so severe because her hair was soaking wet. Then, starting on her left side, he attacked her hair again, never leaving a single lock the same length it had been after the last round. His slicing was more precise this time, though, his chosen tresses smaller and more targeted. Barely enough length was left to be tucked behind the bashful tip of her ear, with a softly curling forelock remaining to tickle its lobe.

Chewing the inside of her lip, Cathleen watched her mane melt away, every rasping slice of Brad’s layer adding to the fluffy red coating of the floor and reducing her enviable mane from a wild shag to an overgrown pixie and then, as he began to slice away several inches at her crown, to a neat and tidy crop. Even her bangs, her thick, heavy blanket of eyebrow-hiding bangs, found themselves herded between two fingers and sliced away. Again and again the shearings were added to the pile of locks growing in Cathleen’s lap, until, finally, Brad rumbled what remained playfully and stepped away, moving again to her nape to pick and choose sacrificial wisps to be sliced away.

Even as she looked at her reflection, Cathleen couldn’t believe her bangs were gone. Her trademark bangs, just… gone.

Well, no. Not gone. Just shorter —- much, much shorter. And coaxed into the same soft side parting the rest of her hair had dried into, leaving a beautiful, dark red mini-wave cresting across her completely exposed forehead and unbothered eyes. Despite trying to keep her head still as Brad picked and pecked at the last bits of hair he decided needed attention, Cathleen found herself waggling her eyebrows at her reflection. She scrunched up her nose and widened her eyes, raised an eyebrow suggestively and winked as seductively as she could. All of it, every bit of it seemed so much more intense than it would have just a few hours ago.

Without anything being said, she felt the cape around her loosen, and then it was pulled away. Hordes of red locks spilled to the floor to join the rest, and she couldn’t believe the amount of hair that had still been left to get shorn away after her bobbing.

So, what do you think?” Brad asked.

She smiled. Finally free to turn her head this way and that without worry, Cathleen looked at herself from every angle. Everything — everything! — was just so naked and bare. She ran her hands up her neck until her fingertips slid over the half-inch of hair at her nape before sliding into the longer locks above. Longer should probably have been in air quotes, since nothing left in the back or on her sides was more than an inch in length.

Her fear had been that the style would look severe and far too short, but Brad had known exactly what she wanted — there was a softness to it, but also a daring because how could any woman wear her hair this short without being a little daring?

The top, at her crown, was two or three inches long at most, getting a bit shorter toward her hairline. Just a bit too feminine to be considered boyish, with a parting that had become more subtle as her hair dried.

Her hair was hot. Like, seriously hot. Worthy of standing with the other women in this salon, this inexplicable vortex of attractiveness in the center of town.

I love it. Really. I absolutely love it!”

Fantastic. Do you have a few minutes for me to show you different ways to style it?”

She furrowed her brow. “There are different ways to style it? When it’s short?”

Brad shook his head as if she had disappointed him. “There are always different ways to style it.”

***

A few minutes turned out to be a bit of a lie, as Cathleen spent the better part of an hour absorbing any and all tips and tricks Brad was willing to offer her. There was slicked and sexy, puffy and pretty, curly and casual, or just nice and normal. She firmly understood why there hadn’t been a single bad review for the No Name Salon, and she swore to herself she was going to leave the best review ever once she had a chance.

That chance, however, would not be today because all of that learning and absorbing put her at risk of running late for her dinner with Luiz. As she drove home and ran up to her apartment, she found herself laughing at her earlier concerns about what he’d think if she cut her hair too short.

She certainly had decided to confront that fear head on — like, in the same way one might dive headfirst into oncoming traffic.

But still, when she stripped off her vest and skirt and blouse and caught herself in her bedroom mirror, she realized something that hadn’t struck her before — the cottage core look just wasn’t going to fit anymore. She couldn’t trade in her cute-but-beautiful, tumbling mane of curls for an inarguably sexy, hot, neck-nibble-demanding pixie cut and then show up on a date in her same old flowing skirt and blouse combo.

Fortunately, she had the kind of friends who were never afraid to ignore her style preferences in the name of fashion-based birthday gifts.

****

As she walked toward the cafe, Cathleen wondered exactly how long the breeze would feel foreign against her neck. It wasn’t like she’d never worn her hair up when it was long—in fact she probably wore it up more often than she wore it down—but there was something about the realization that there was simply no possibility of hiding her neck under her long hair anymore that made the weather seem that much crisper. Still, that was balanced by the fact that no matter how often one of those breezes picked up, she never had a single lock of hair blow into her face to get stuck to her lipstick.

Lipstick, she might add, that was bolder and darker than she’d worn before. Coupled with some rarely worn eyeshadow, she decided to go all out for Luiz tonight. She didn’t go overboard by any means, but if she had a new haircut that was going to bring out her eyes and cheeks and other features, why not try to show them off a bit?

As for clothes, she decided to match a cream-colored turtleneck that was loose enough to be comfy but fitted enough to show her curves with a short, black skirt that failed to reach her knees. Combined with high-heeled boots that almost reached her knees, her confidence somehow outweighed her anxiety regarding how Luiz would react.

She liked him. A lot.

She hoped he still liked her.

At first, as she made her appraoch, the handsome history teacher was paying more attention to his phone than anything else. But once she sent him a text saying Look up, he did.

And he looked right past her.

He looked back down to his phone, and then hers chirped.

Why?

She grumbled. Look again.

He did, and this time when he almost looked past her, she held her arms out from her sides as if to say, “It’s me, you idiot.”

He certainly took notice after that, his jaw dropping as his eyes looked her up and down.

It was probably the first time Cathleen welcomed that type of attention in public, and she spun around for him as she approached the table. He never got out of his seat and never closed his mouth, so she began to slow as she got closer to the table. Her confidence started melting away into a wave of anxiety, but then he locked his eyes on her and the dropped jaw lifted just enough for his cheeks to hint at an attempted smile.

Holy shit!” He mouthed in an attempt to be respectful of the other diners. He finally managed to stand, taking her hand with his.

Cathleen stepped close, but, while they’d been out a few times they still hadn’t quite nailed down their routine greeting, and so she wasn’t sure whether he was going in for a hug or a kiss or just to spin her around for a better look. She wound up looking up at him, biting her bottom lip nervously, as he hovered close. Then he leaned in, his cheek brushing against hers and his breath warm against her ear and naked neck as he whispered, “You look amazing.”

Then, he stepped away and pulled out her chair, tucking it in behind her as she sat. His eyes never left her, though his gaze would occasionally move away from hers now and then to look up at her hair or down at her skirt, always to be followed with an effusive compliment.

Did I look so bad before? You could have told me!” She finally chided him.

His first expression was a panicked expression, but then it melted into blushing embarrassment.

It wasn’t a bad look for him.

Not in the least. You always look amazing. This is just…. Unexpected. And amazing in its own way. A different way,” he said. “If that makes any sense.”

She smiled. “So you like it? And feel free to say no, because … I did it for me. I like it.”

It won’t cheapen your feeling of independence if I say I like it?”

She grinned, and shook her head.

So it’s just bonus points for your ego?”

She smiled, and nodded.

He smiled as well. “I think I’m okay with that. Because I really, really do.”

When the waitress came to take their drink order, Luiz seized the excuse to shift his chair a little closer to Cathleen’s so they could unnecessarily share a menu. By the time their drinks arrived, Luiz’s hand was slowly caressing Cathleen’s neck and playing through her hair at her nape as she angled in closer. When the waitress returned with some appetizers, Cathleen was leaning into Luiz, teasing his lips with her own as his fingers traced the edges of one of her bared ears.

Dinner turned out to be amazing, but, by mutual agreement, they never bothered finding out what the cafe was serving for dessert.

________________

Been a while since we saw the crew at the Nameless Salon, so I figured it was time to revisit them. I hope you liked it! Comments and critiques are always welcome.

10 responses to “It Was Time

Leave a Reply