Long Day (Abridged)

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Foreward:  This story is a sequel to one of my earlier stories Bad Day .   I have to thank Paul for inspiring this sequel.  I had no plan to write a sequel, since the first story was inspired by a DIY project gone wrong and it seemed like a stand alone till Paul said something and this popped into my head.

Dyeing isn’t really my thing, so please be forgiving.

Most of the story is PG13, but things get X rated in part 11, so is that’s not your cup of tea, you might want just read to the end of part 10.

 

———— Part 1 ————-

I sat on the side of the bed next to Rachel, stroking the hair off her face.  I was already dressed for work, and needed to go soon, but seeing Rachel there in our bed with the blanket pulled tight around her, drew me to her.

I often paused in the morning on days when Rachel could sleep in, but I had to get to work, and sat stroking the hair off her beautiful face.  Last time I had done it, only a little over a week ago, I had been pulling back long tangled locks that stuck to her lips and wrapped around her neck.  Now, those were gone, and the short hair I brushed aside easily only fell slightly over her eyes anyway.

With the tip of my finger, I traced over the brow ridge that should have been well covered in pale eyebrow hairs, but only had a few sporadic ones that had managed to escape being pulled out as we’d wiped away the sticky resin she had splashed all over herself last week.

At least the skin itself was mostly healed, and she no longer was covered in angry pink patches.  We’d been applying copious amounts of aloe vera gel everyday to the irritated skin all over the left side of her body.

Rachel’s eyes opened and looked up at me, she squinted slightly and smiled.

“Sorry babe, I didn’t mean to wake you.”  I said tenderly as I stroked my finger once again over the sparse hairs.  “I only have a couple of minutes anyway.”

“A couple of minutes with you is worth waking up for.” Her voice just a little gravelly.  

Rachel reached over to the nightstand, and started groping around blindly for her glasses.  The dark tortoise shell frames of the new glasses she got a few days ago blend into the dark wood way more than the previous pair had, so she’d been having a little trouble finding them.  Annoying as they were for her to find, they looked nice on her, which was a good thing, since she had been wearing them all day everyday since she got them.  The frames helped camouflage the missing eyebrow.  I reached over and placed them in her hand.  

“What are your plans for the day.”  I asked as Rachel sat up, pulling the blanket around her bare shoulders, and put the glasses on her face.  

“I only have to deliver that river table to the Hendersons’ around noon today, other than that I’m free.  I’m not starting my next job till after next week.  Thought maybe run a few errands, do we need anything from the supermarket, or something.”

“I don’t think we’re low on any of the stuff you and I usually eat, but you might want to stock up on stuff.”

“That’s a good idea,”  Rachel nodded.  Then she hesitated, and ran her hand up into her short blond hair.  “Uhm…”

I waited as patiently as I could, trying to give her time to gather her thoughts, but she was obviously too nervous about whatever it was she wanted to say.  I really did need to get to work, so finally I pushed her a little.  “It’s ok honey, what did you want to say?”

“I… uhmm…” Rachel began, but couldn’t finish.  The frustration obviously building in her as the words failed.  She tried to pull a lock of her hair forward in front of her face, but failed, the look of frustration on her face dramatically increasing.

A week earlier, one of Rachel’s long blond locks would have been pressed against her lips to comfort her as she dealt with whatever inner conflict was keeping her from simply saying what she wanted to say.  Now, that comfort along with the hair was gone.

She’d been doing it all week.  First trying to bring the hair to her mouth and failing, then looking frustrated and trying to just move on, then forgetting and reaching up to try to pull the now non existent long hair to her lips again.  

Before we’d had to cut off the ruined hair, I had barely thought about how often Rachel rubbed the hair against her lips.  Sure, I had noticed that she tended to do it when she was nervous or upset or even just bored, but she would always stop and try to hide it as soon as she realized I was looking at her.  I figured it embarrassed her, so I tried to just ignore it.  The distress caused by not being able to do it was much harder to ignore.

I felt a whole renewed pang of guilt every time I saw her do it.  I knew it wasn’t really my fault that the hair had to be cut off, but I did wonder if I could have prevented it.  If I had managed to get home sooner with the right supplies, maybe the epoxy would have come out cleanly.  If I hadn’t lost my temper, Rachel might have agreed to a bob that would have at least let the tips of her hair brush against her lips.  If I had been more open to fixing it in a way that left some long, she might not look as cute, but she would still have the comfort of rubbing her hair over her soft pink lips.

Before she’d ruined the beautiful hair with epoxy, I had thought Rachel’s insistence on the long hair had been a mostly aesthetic choice, it was beautiful after all, with a little impatience and practicality thrown in when she said “no” to layers that would have added a lot to the aesthetics.  I hadn’t realized the degree to which the insistence on long hair had been rooted in trauma and coping mechanisms. I guess maybe I should have, knowing how much those things defined Rachel’s life, but it was so so hard for her to talk about things that had happened to her, that no matter how intimate we are, I’m pretty sure there will always be some other aspect of the trauma that she’s just never mentioned.  Heck, I suspect there are aspects of the trauma Rachel has buried so extremely deeply, that she doesn’t even consciously know about them.

I reached up and brushed the tips of my fingers over Rachel’s lips, hoping that was at least a little bit of a substitute comfort.  It was going to be several months, 7 or 8 if her hair grew out at the typical rate, before any of her hair reached that far again.

“What is it babe?”  I encouraged her.

“I was wondering if maybe…”  She mumbled.  “You know, if you’re not busy… I don’t know.”

I could tell Rachel wanted to ask me for something, but I had no idea what.  

When Rachel and I first got together, she came with a deep belief that she shouldn’t ask for anything ever.  She’d been taught that wanting anything was greedy.  She had a really hard time thinking of herself as worth anyone’s time and trouble.  She had been shamed whenever she asked for anything as a child for being too demanding.

Very slowly over the 3 years we had been together, she had learned to just ask me for some things.  She could ask to trade chores occasionally, she could tell me that she wanted takeout occasionally, she’d even managed to ask me for help in an emergency just last week.  But there were times it still was a problem, especially if what she was asking for felt like a favor; not something she could trade for like the chores; not something that came out of our shared finances that she contributed to like takeout; not something that if she didn’t ask for help was going to cause bigger problems like help-me-stay-out-of-the-ER type emergencies.

“It’s ok babe, if it’s something I don’t want to do I’ll tell you.  You can ask.”  I tried to not sound too impatient as I pushed her to get to the point.

“It’s ok, it’s not important you need to get to work.  We can talk about it another time.”

“I have time right now.”  I was beginning to suspect there was more to the having trouble putting the request into words than just the trouble she had asking for favors.  Possibly it was something she was embarrassed about or scared of.  “I’m not in that much of a rush.”

“Ok… So…  remember the other day… after the…” she pushed the words out stilted and nervous, as she once again reached for a non-existent lock of long hair.  “You uhm joked… you joked about dying my hair.”

“Don’t worry about it babe,” I reassured Rachel, “you don’t need to feel bad that you don’t want to dye your hair.  In fact, I’d like to apologize for all those times over the years that I pressured you about layering your hair, I should have just listened to you.”

“No, no…”  Rachel seemed flustered.  “that wasn’t… I…”

I sat there trying to figure out what Rachel was trying to say as she clutched the blanket more tightly to her bare breasts.

“I actually…”  Rachel went on her frustration and shyness of the topic showing as she brushed her hand up through the short locks till she got to the nape where she rubbed up and down over the velvety taper.  “That job I start in two weeks is at a construction site with a really strict hard hat policy, and the hair in the back sticking out is going to be so short.  And, I know it shouldn’t really matter if I look like a guy from the back while wearing my hard hat, but…”

If she wasn’t worried I was going to try to talk her into dying her hair, why in the world had she brought it up?  Then the light dawned on me.

“Do you want to dye your hair, babe?”  I asked trying to keep my voice neutral incase I had guessed wrong.

“I don’t know.”  Rachel said shyly.  “Maybe, if it’s not a lot of trouble.”

 

—————— Part 2 ——————

“You’re late,” Jane announced as I walked in the door.  She was standing next to the reception desk looking at the mail.

“My first appointment isn’t for another 20 minutes, and I was drumming up business.”  I said as I stepped behind the reception desk and turned the computer towards me so I could put Rachel on the schedule.  I squinted at the screen a little confused.  “Why does this say I’m unavailable for the last hour before we close, I know I don’t have anyone scheduled.”

“You didn’t get anyone scheduled for that slot because I made you unavailable.”  Jane said casually.  “Remember you agreed to be my model for that live stream I’m doing this evening.  I figured you’d want a little extra time to grab a bite to eat, and then you need time to get shampooed and everything.”

“Oh god, I completely forgot.” I sighed. “I knew I didn’t have an appointment, so I told Rachel to come in and I’d pop her on the schedule.”

“Your wife Rachel?”  Jane asked with a degree of disbelief that was palpable.

“That’s the Rachel I was talking about.” I confirmed as I searched the schedule for an alternative opening in vain. 

“Really?”

“It’s not that strange.”  I said getting mildly annoyed.  “It’s not like she’s never been here before.”

“Dropping off lunch for you isn’t the same thing as coming in for an appointment.  She always wants you to come up front to the reception area.  And when she absolutely has to go to you instead, the way she looks at everything back by the work stations, it’s like she’s scared of it.”  Jane pointed out.  “I know you love her Maggie, but you have to admit she’s a little weird.  Why is she even coming in, you said you had to cut off all that gorgeous hair after she ruined it?”

“I’m going to dye what’s left for her.”  I answered while clicking to the next day.  “She just gets a little nervous when she comes here.  She thinks you don’t like her.”  

I’m already at the next week having no luck finding another time to ask Rachel to come in, when I realized that will put us into the week after next, and she’ll be busy.  Really rescheduling her probably would have just made her decide she was being a nuisance and tell me to forget about it anyway.

Jane hasn’t said anything.  

“You know the polite thing would be to deny it and tell me that you do like her.” I point out. 

“It’s not that I don’t like her,” Jane explained, “but she shows up dressed like a homeless person and then acts weird.  It’s not like I really know her, she’s never friendly to me.”

“Well, maybe you can get to know her this afternoon, because I can’t reschedule her, and I’m not going to just cancel, or she’ll never ask me to do anything again.  I’ll just have to make it work.”  I said, definitively.  “Please be nice to her, she’s nervous enough about this already.”

“See, this is what I mean.  Why should she be nervous?”  Jane asked like she didn’t expect an answer, as she followed me to the coat closet so I could hang up my jacket.

“Did you ask Rachel to dress not like a homeless person?”  Jane said as I got to my station and started getting stuff ready.  

“She doesn’t dress like a homeless person, and can we please stop using ‘homeless person’ as a descriptor, it’s offensive.  She dresses like a carpenter, because she is a carpenter.  She’s off work today though, so she won’t be in her work clothes.  Besides, she’s got to change into a smock anyway.”

“I suppose that’s something.”

I took a deep breath as we seemed to be at the end of talking about how weird my wife was, and I was glad to be able to move on to the next topic.

“And what exactly did I agree to for tonight?” I suspected that Jane had been taking advantage of the situation when she’d asked me to be her model right after I had asked her for a giant favor and needed to leave.  After all I was feeling like I owed her, and in too much of a rush to ask for details.

“I told you, modeling for a live stream.”

“You were a little vague on the details, and I am still wondering why you were desperate, you don’t usually have trouble finding people happy to get a free haircut.  Especially since you said it wouldn’t be short.  I’ve been growing this out since before the pandemic started.  And you know how much self control that takes for a hairdresser, since we have access to scissors and the skills to use them.”

“You’ve been muttering about needing a haircut.”  Jane mentioned.

Ok, it had been bugging me occasionally.  In fact, today I had the dark brown locks up in a french twist because it had been bugging me.

“Well, the awkward growing out phase gets on my nerves occasionally.  I really do want it longer though.”

“Relax, I can keep the back as long as you want,” Jane reassured me.

“What do you mean by ‘keep the back?’”  I asked.  “What about the front, and sides, and top?”

“Those will be shorter.  Did you think I was going to live stream a basic trim?”

“Please tell me it’s not a mullet.”

“It’s a modern mullet.”

“Jane I can’t.”

“You promised.”

“I hate mullets.  I didn’t even like mullets back in the ‘80s.”

“Oh please, you were like 9 years old when the ‘80s ended.”

“I was a 9 year old with opinions.”

“It’s not the same as in the ‘80s.  It’s not going to be permed and teased up with enough aquanet to hold up the Eiffel tower.  It will look great, have you ever disliked any of the haircuts I’ve given you?”

“I really really just can’t, especially not with Rachel here.”  I tried to explain without actually explaining.

“I can’t get someone else at this point, it’s way too late.”  

“There’s got to be somebody.  What about Madison?  She’s young, she doesn’t have bad memories from the ‘80s.”  I pleaded.  “Rachel seriously will not forgive me.”

“I asked Madison last week, she said ‘no.’  I asked her first, because frankly she needs a style update more than you do.” Jane confided after checking over her shoulder to make sure Madison was well out of hearing range.  “But considering that Rachel ruined all that pretty blond hair last week, her getting upset with you over a haircut she doesn’t like seems really hypocritical.”

“You don’t understand, I told Rachel she was too old for a mullet.”  I finally admitted.  “She’s five years younger than me, I can’t tell her she’s too old then get one myself.”

“Ok, I really don’t understand,” Jane said, raising an eyebrow and I suspect smirking under her mask.  “Why in the world would you say something like that to your wife? You know my husband would be dead if he ever told me I was too old to wear a certain style.”

“Ok, longer version of what happened last week.”  I began my confessional.  “Yeah, she’d ruined a bunch of her hair with the epoxy, and I was going to have to cut a fair amount of it, but not all of it.  We’d both had an absolutely horrible day, and I had so little patience.  I knew how I thought it made the most sense to cut it to deal with the epoxy.  Jaw length bob just slightly layered, cute and a super easy grow out, right.

“Well Rachel wasn’t really listening, and had other ideas, which I should have been more understanding of considering it was her hair and she’d had an even worse day than me.  Instead of being understanding, I just lost my temper.  And we had a fight.

“I ended up saying a few things I regret so so much.  I told her to cut it herself.  Which I should have known she would then actually go do, I swear I thought she would understand that I was not being literal, I was just being sarcastic.  Which is why I ended up having to cut all her hair off pixie short.  And of course, during the fight, I told her she was too old for a mullet.”

“Was there enough undamaged hair that you could have given her a mullet instead of a bob?”  Jan asked.

“Just barely.”  I admitted.

Jane just stared at me for a few minutes, like a very disappointed school teacher with her arms crossed in front of her.  They say confession is good for the soul, but in that particular moment I wasn’t so sure.  I’d left for work in the morning thinking it was going to be a pretty good day, but I was now feeling like crap.

“And you’re telling me I need to be nicer to Rachel.” Jane finally said.  “I may not really understand her, I may occasionally roll my eyes at her, but I have never been out right mean to her.

“You’re right, you can’t go around in a mullet after having said and done that to Rachel.  After the live stream, I’ll recut it into something unmullet for you.”

“The only way to unmullet a mullet is to cut it short.”  I pointed out.

“Yeah, and your point is?”  Jane asked sarcastically.

“Fine, I guess I made this bed so I should lie in it.”  I grumbled.

“Maggie, your 10:30 is here,” Madison called back to me and Jane went off to leave me to take care of my client.

 

————— Part 3 —————

I was walking my last client to the door, when I spotted Rachel’s truck parked nearby.  She’d arrived early and was staring nervously at the big window of the salon.  I smiled at her, then remembered I was wearing a mask, so waved awkwardly at her.  She smiled and waved back, but kept sitting there.  She gestured for me to come out, instead.

“Madison, I’ll be right back,”  I said before I slipped out the door.

“Hey what’s up?”  I asked as I reached the passenger side door of Rachel’s pickup.  The day had become unusually warm for this early in spring, so the windows were rolled down.

“I baked.” Rachel announced as she held up a ziplock bag full of cookies, and another full of what I hoped were slices of banana bread.  I could feel my eyes begin to fill with tears as I got choked up at the sweet gesture.  Then of course Rachel cracked a joke to ease the tension.  “I figured I owed you a decent last meal before I drive you to the edge of sanity by not being able to sit still.”

I opened the door and stepped up into the passenger seat.  I unhooked my mask from my left ear, leaving it dangling from my right, and gave Rachel a full mouthed kiss.

“Thanks babe.”  I said as I pulled a slice of the banana bread out of the bag.  “I actually really needed to grab a bite, because Jane needs me to stay late tonight, so this is perfect.”

“Maggie, if it’s not a good day for it, we don’t have to do this now.”

“No babe, this is a great time to do this.”  I reassured her.  “This way, you can hang around after hours with us.  It’s way more fun than when the place is open.”

“You’re sure it’s not a bad time.”

“It really is a great time.  If you bring in the baked goods, you can share them once the last customer leaves.  I’m sure they’ll be a huge hit.”  I told her as I reached over and stroked the velvety hair on her nape.  “And by the way, you look completely adorable, I have always loved that blouse on you.”

She’d paired the loose calico peasant blouse with fitted dark bluejeans, no holes, no stains. The birkenstocks on her feet were a little worn, but they went so well with the boho vibe, they looked perfect.  And she was wearing the crawler earrings that I had given her as an early birthday present.  

She’d even gone to the trouble of penciling in her eyebrows, so she could wear her contacts.  Her sunglasses were pushed up to the top of her head, holding most of the floppy top hair back.

“Let’s get going ok.”

“Ok,” Rachel agreed nervously.  

She picked up the cloth mask with a light neutral toned floral print from the cup holder, and slipped the elastics over her ears.  I grabbed the bags of baked goods, and we got out of the truck and headed into the salon.

“…didn’t consult with me first.”  Jane’s voice drifted out of the salon while I held the door open for Rachel.

“I know how.  I do my sister’s highlights.”  I heard Madison, who was standing next to Jane at the reception desk.  “She specifically asked about a junior stylist price.”

“And you should have either just said that none of the current junior stylists were approved to do balayage, or talked to me about it.”  Jane sighed, deeply while frowning at the computer.

She looked up at us when the door clunked closed.  I could practically see the proverbial light bulb pop up above her head.  “You can do Maggie.  It will make the layers show up better on camera anyway, and she can supervise you while you do it.  Just keep it subtle.”  

“I have to take care of Rachel right now.”  I objected.

“I’ll entertain Rachel, it’ll give us a chance to get to know each other.”  Jane smiled so broadly, that it made her mask stretch out.  “I was supposed to get to know her at the wedding, but then you guys ended up eloping during lockdown, so that never happened.  I was planning to grab a slice of pizza to eat in the park, since the weather’s so nice.  I am so sick of eating alone in my car.  Feel like grabbing a slice, Rachel?”

“Sure I guess.”  Rachel answered Jane tentatively. Then she looked at me and raised a questioning eyebrow, well, really a questioning mostly bald spot with an illustration of an eyebrow.

 

———— Part 4 ————

I was wearing a black smock and had put away the bags of baked goods, as I sat down in the chair at the workstation Madison shared with the other junior stylist, Hannah.  I’d let my hair down, and now the deep mahogany colored hair hung over my shoulders like a cape.  It had made it well past my shoulders in the growing out process.  Not as long as I had wanted it yet, but I guess that really didn’t matter anymore.

“Ok, so consultation.”  Madison said with a bit of an attitude.  “Blah, blah, blah, you want balayage highlights.  Give me a minute while I go mix up your color.”

I was more than just a little unimpressed by the way Madison seemed to view the consultation as a joke.  She’d wanted to just skip it and go mix the chemicals while I got ready.  I’d insisted it was important though.  Well, she’d get to find out the consequences of thinking it was unimportant when she got to rinsing.

When she started heading to the back room I followed.

“I know how to mix it, you don’t have to show me.”  Madison complained.

“I’m not planning to show you how, just observe.  This is an evaluation, not instruction.”  I said.  “Now that we are clear this is an evaluation, do you want to redo the consultation?”

Madison just went “ugh” and kept walking.

I had planned to keep my mouth shut as I watched her mix the bleach, but then Madison reached for the 40 volume developer.

“No, use the 20 or 30.”  I said, before she could start pouring it.

“Stop being such a nervous nelly,” Madison whined.  “We’re never going to make it all the way to blond without 40 volume.”

“If you use the 40, I’m not going to let you put it on my hair.”  I stated simply.  I thought about pointing out that if she’d done a proper consultation, she would know that we weren’t aiming for blond, but decided against it.

“Fine.”

Back at the chair, Madison began sectioning out the hair she planned to highlight.  I hadn’t planned to say anything, the point of this was to determine if Madison was up to doing this unsupervised on a customer after all.  At the end of the day though, I also need my hair to look decent, so I ended up telling her several times to take thinner sections.  She grumbled that they were barely going to be visible.

By the time she was done, and my hair was folded into foils not quite as neatly as I would have hoped, the last customer of the day was done and Megan, Heather, and Tom were getting ready to leave.

“I can’t just sit here like a customer while this processes,”  I informed Madison.  “So, when you need to check it, come and find me.  I am not going to be checking it myself, you need to act like I’m a customer and keep an eye on it.”

“yeah, yeah, i know, i’m setting a timer”

I walked towards the front wondering if I would find Rachel or Jane in the reception area.  When I rounded the divider, I could see them out the big window.   They were both leaning against Rachel’s pick-up truck in the fading light.  Rachel was showing Jane her portfolio and had her sketchbook tucked under her arm.  Jane was sipping from a bottle of raspberry iced tea still.  They were chatting amicably.

I stood there just watching them.  On the one hand, I didn’t want to disturb them, on the other, we all had a few too many things to get done.  I went to the window, tapped lightly on the glass and waved to them.  They both looked up.

Jane said something to Rachel, and then Rachel put her portfolio and sketchbook away in the cab of her truck and came in.  

“Hi,”  Rachel said to me as she entered.  I think she was smiling, though it can be a little hard to tell with the mask.  “Jane said she’d be in in a couple of minutes.  I guess I’m going to head home now, was there anything you needed from me before I go?”

“But I haven’t done your color yet.”  I pointed out.

“It’s ok,”  Rachel said.  “I can see you’re busy.”

“I’m not really being busy,”  I said.  “I’m just being a living practice mannequin.  I can do your color while this is processing.”

“You’re sure?”

“Yeah, let’s get you into a smock.”

 

———— Part 5 ————

“Maggie,” Rachel called to me from the changing area.

“Yeah, babe,” I said as I went back to see why it was taking so long for her to get into a smock and disposable mask.

She said in a quiet voice when I got there.  “Can I just wear my blouse?”

“Babe, it’s such a pretty blouse,”  I said.  “There’s a really high chance it will get ruined.  The shop is closed anyway, and Madison and Jane are off doing their own things.  OK?”

“Ok.”  I could hear in her voice that she didn’t really mean it though.

She came out a little reluctantly with her arms crossed under her breasts.

“I got the colors mixed, come take a look and make sure it’s what you had in mind.” I said as we walked over to my station.  I showed her the 3 bowls.  “So since you wanted it to look almost natural and not just solid, my plan is to use this deep magenta on the roots and really short hairs.  This light pink lemonade color as highlights around your face and scattered a little throughout, but mostly on the top.  Then fill in with this bubblegum color.  The colors will be ever so slightly lighter on you, and then they will fade just a little more every time you wash.  Technically, they are demi-permanent so should eventually wash all the way out, but sometimes they leave a slight stain that actually is pretty permanent, especially the deep pinks.  Do they look about right?”

“Yeah, that sounds perfect.”

Rachel sat down, and I threw first a black towel over her shoulders, then some plastic for wrapping it later.  Though I had tapered it so that there wasn’t a super distinct disconnect between the undercut area and top, it was pretty easy to find the dividing line and clip up the longer top hairs to keep them out of my way while I applied the vivid magenta dye to the undercut.  Of course that first step was so easy, that it was probably less than 2 minutes later that I was covering it in plastic so I could start the much more difficult task of applying the multiple tones precisely to small sections of the slightly longer hair on top.

Jane came over shaking a bottle of nail polish, leaning back against my counter when she arrived.  She politely ignored Rachel’s bouncing knee.

“I figured, since I need to talk to you anyway, I could do Rachel’s nails.  I haven’t done nails in ages.”

“It squigs me out when people push back or try to cut the cuticles.”  Rachel stated clearly and without apologizing.  I’m not sure why Rachel was better at being assertive with Jane than other people, but I was happy she was not going to just go along with something she didn’t like to be polite.

“Is it ok if I just shape and polish them?”

“There isn’t much to shape.”  Rachel stated casually.  “You know we all mostly keep our nails very short.”

“Carpenters?”  Jane asked, looking confused.

“Lesbians.”

“Is it some kind of unwritten rule.”

“Oh no,”  Rachel said in a tone that I knew meant she was telling a very dry joke, that others didn’t always catch.  “it’s one of the written rules.  It’s chiseled onto the side of the ancient obelisk of Sappho on the Isle of Lesbos.”

To her credit, Jane snorted, obviously realizing it was a joke.

“What did you want to talk about?”  I interrupted before the question of why lesbians mostly had short fingernails could come up.

“How’s Madison doing so far?”  Jane asked as she pulled over a short rolling stool to sit on, and spread a towel over her knee.  “With the balayage.”

“Meh,” I said looking at my watch.  While Jane reached for Rachel’s hand.  “Some of it is a little hard to gauge because she’s not really acting like I’m a customer.  Some of it’s a question of taste.”

“So would you trust her alone with a customer?”  Jane asked as she placed Rachel’s hand on top of the towel on her knee.

“I don’t think she’s ready.  She might be okish with placement, not great.  But she didn’t ask me the right questions.  Now that might just be because she figured I knew what I had put on my hair previously, knew what she was using, and would say something if it was going to be a problem.”  I answered.  “The ends are going to be a hot mess by the way.  The part I dyed back to brown over the auburn I used to have still hasn’t grown out fully.  I figured the shock of seeing them when she rinses this out would maybe teach her to always ask.”

“You just let her mess up your hair?!”  Rachel asked, with alarm.  She had started to relax as she watched Jane begin to use the emory board, but that was over.

“Jane’s cutting that part off this evening anyway.”  I tried to reassure Rachel, but it didn’t seem to be helping.

“I thought you were growing it out?”

“Well, I’ve lost patience with it, so when I heard Jane needed someone to demonstrate on tonight, I volunteered.” I said looking at Jane to make sure she was going along with my slightly adjusted version of the story.  “She’s going to cut it twice though, because the demo style is longer than the style I wanted.”

I looked down at my watch again, my hair might not be fully processed yet, but  Madison should have checked it a bit ago, just in case it was going fast.  Really, she should have checked it a couple of times.  It going fast was a distinct possibility, since I was moving around making extra body heat and not just sitting around.  Jane looked up and noticed me checking my watch.

“She’s overdue to check it isn’t she?” Jane asked with raised eyebrows.

“Yeah.”  I said with a slight nod.  “Do me a favor and take a peek.  Letting the ends get messed up as a teaching opportunity is one thing, but having the whole head over processed is another.  That’s asking a little too much.”

“Way way too much,” Jane said as she folded the towel on her knee and stood up.  “Not to mention that it would mess up my evening too.” 

“You know, this was your idea.”  I pointed out.

“I’m beginning to think it was one of my bad ideas.”  Jane stood next to me, carefully unfolding one of the foils.  “Oh yeah, you are definitely done.  Did she use 20 or 30 volume?”

“30.  She’d wanted to use 40, but I put my foot down at that,  so it’s not like my hair is about to burn off, but it could go way too light.”  I said.  “She had wanted to use 40 saying we would never make it to blond with 20 or 30. Which I suppose is true, but we should be aiming for subtle highlights not glaring blond streaks.  Can you finish up what I’m doing here?”

“Sure no problem.”  Jane said.

“You’re ok with that?”  I checked with Rachel, as I took off my gloves, since I knew how nervous she was about this whole thing.  She surprised me by just nodding happily.

Back to addressing Jane, “you know what my plan is?”

“Root shadow, midtones, and highlights?” Jane checked as she pointed to each bowl.

“That’s it.”  I said then turned away towards the front of the shop.  “MADISON!

I found her at reception playing on her phone.

“What are you doing?” I asked.  “You haven’t checked this.”

“I’m waiting for the timer to go off.”  Madison answered without looking up.

“Do you think that maybe because I’m doing stuff it got warm and is processing faster?”

“Sure in theory, but I’ve never seen that happen.”

“Just check it.”  I said to Madison, who rolled her eyes, but at least got up to do it

“It’s not blond yet.”

“What color is my hair?”

“Brown.”

“Dark brown, almost black.”  I clarified.  “Do you think blond streaks will look good in it, or do you think some chestnut highlights are what you should be aiming for?”

“Fine, meet me back at the sinks in 5 minutes, I just need to finish one thing.”

“No Madison, right now.”

“Fine,” Madison said in a way too sulky tone.  She rolled her eyes and put her phone in her pocket as we started walking back to the sinks.

I sat down at one of the sinks and started to lean back.  I noticed that though  Madison was standing next to the sink, she wasn’t really paying attention, but instead was looking at her phone.

Seriously, Madison!”  I raised my voice loud enough that it could probably be heard on the sidewalk.  It was a good thing that the salon was mostly empty.  “Do you know how pissed I am going to be if you really screw up my hair?

“Yeah, yeah,”  She put her phone away and finally turned on the water.  “I’m rinsing.”

To my relief, I finally felt the cool water running over my head, and the tin foil being removed.  Then I heard the faint gasp.  I figured Madison had just discovered that the ends of my hair weren’t virgin.  To her credit, she didn’t swear or panic, she just kept rinsing.

“So, I was noticing when I was applying the bleach, that you’re really overdue for a trim.”  Madison said, obviously trying for nonchalant, but not quite making it.  “I could give you a quick trim before I blowdry.”

As far as plans to fix a problem without the customer noticing, it wasn’t a bad one.  Of course, it also wasn’t going to work.

“Jane is cutting it tonight.”  I reminded her, possibly a little too smuggly.

“damn” she muttered under her breath as she squirted shampoo into her hand.

“Is there a problem?”  I asked, definitely too smuggly.

“You knew, didn’t you?”

“That not taking the consult, where you should have asked me about what I’ve done to my hair in the past, seriously was a bad idea?”   I queried rhetorically.  “Yeah, I knew.  I gave you an opportunity to fix that mistake.”

“Why would you set me up for failure.” She asked as she started lathering the shampoo.

“Madison, I did not set you up for failure.”  I spoke clearly to drive my point home.  “First, you wanted to just go mix up the bleach while I was changing, and I let you know the consult was important and we weren’t going to skip it.  Then you didn’t take it seriously, when I showed up ready and willing to do it.  Then, after I explained this was an evaluation, I gave you a chance to try again and do the consult properly, which you declined. You weren’t set up for failure.”

Madison was rinsing out the shampoo when Jane came over.  “So, how did it go?”

“She sabotaged me.”  Madison complained as she started applying the conditioner.

“How exactly?”  Jane asked evenly.

“She didn’t tell me she had dyed her hair before.  Then she only let me use 30 volume developer and do really thin sections.  So the highlights are just barely visible.”

“Did you ask her about her hair history during the consult?”  Jane asked as she peered down into the sink.  “Honestly, I think a little subtler would have been better.  Ok Madison,  We’ll discuss this more tomorrow, go home the crew will be showing up in 15 minutes and we can take it from here.”

“I haven’t toned it yet.”

“Maggie usually likes the untoned chestnut her hair goes to when it lifts.”  Jane stated since she knew me.

“ Fine.”  Madison muttered as she went off to the closet.

“Sorry I had you do this, Maggie.”  Jane said as she helped me sit up and get a towel around my head.  “Don’t worry, it’s not totally terrible, just a little lighter and chunkier than would be ideal.  I’ll be cutting most of it off anyway.  Fortunately for me, these things tend to look more subtle on camera than they do in real life.  We are going to need to do something about those ends though.”

“Hey don’t worry.”  I said.  “They have to learn on somebody.”

“Do you think she’s actually learning though?”  Jane sighed, then sat down in the seat in front of the next wash basin over.

“What made you think she was a good hire?”  I asked very frankly. 

“When she said in the interview that she knew that going to beauty school was mostly about getting a license and that learning mostly happened through real world experience, I thought she understood that she was basically an apprentice here.  I didn’t realize what she really meant was that she thought she knew everything because she used her sisters as guinea pigs, and hadn’t paid a lot of attention in school.”  Jane lamented.  “Her technical skills don’t seem to be terrible, but her attitude and taste level are really holding her back.”

“What are you going to do about the appointment Madison made?”

“I’ll see if Hannah is willing to come in even though it’s her day off and do it.  And I will come in to supervise her, even though I am also supposed to be off.”  Jane looked tired.  “At least Hannah is working out well.”

Rachel pacing about the shop caught my eye.  Her hair was wrapped up a little more thoroughly than one’d normally do just to keep demi-permanent colors from bleeding between sections.  I was glad Jane had realized that Rachel wasn’t going to sit in the chair and wait patiently. 

“How’d it go with Rachel?”  I asked very quietly, leaning towards Jane.

“She is rather wiggly, isn’t she?”  Jane said.  “She didn’t want me to finish her nails when I was done with her hair.  She said she needed to stretch.  Why didn’t you tell me about her?”

“That question could mean a thousand different things Jane,”  I said, feeling pretty tired myself.  “It’s certainly not like I’ve been hiding her existence.”

“She has ADHD, doesn’t she?  You know I would have understood having raised RJ.”  Jane referenced her middle child.

“Yeah, ADHD according to some school psychiatrist.”  I confirmed.  “According to Rachel’s mother Rachel just didn’t try hard enough.  Honestly Jane, I think you should have understood without knowing.  RJ is almost an adult, don’t you hope people will be patient and understanding with him without him having to constantly explain his diagnosis?”

“Touché.”  Jane sighed out.  We both just watched Rachel wander about for a couple of minutes.

“She told me about the elopement over pizza in the park.  She said she was kind of relieved when you guys had to cancel the fancy wedding in March last year.”  Jane broke the silence.  “Why didn’t you tell me that she felt weird about the wedding because your family was supposed to be coming, but her bigotted one wouldn’t be?  Obviously that’s something I could have related to.”

“I didn’t really think of it as the same thing as with your family.  Your family are racists, not homophobes.”

“Biggotted is biggotted.  If the last few years have taught us nothing, it’s that it’s all connected.  Racism, homophobia, misogyny, etc, it’s all just some excuse to push other people around.”

We fell back into silence for a few minutes after Jane finished.

Then came the knock on the door.

 

———— Part 6 ———-

 

Things were suddenly noisy and busy again now that everyone had arrived.  James, the videographer, was setting up lights.  Lauren, the receptionist and office manager for the salon, was setting up her laptop to deal with comments and questions.  Hannah was chatting with Jane, going over things.  I was going to check in with Rachel.

“Babe, you’re going to need to be quiet while we are live streaming.”  I explained to her.  “Do you have something to do?”

“Can I go get my sketch book from the truck?”

“Sure babe.”  I reached into my pocket and pulled out my keys.  “Just make sure the door is locked after you let yourself back in.”

I handed her the keys, but she stood there looking like she had something else to say.

“Uhm…”  She began.  “You know how you were worried about your hair over processing and stuff?  Should I worry about…”

Before she finished, she focused on something over my shoulder.  I turned slightly to see Hannah approaching.

“Jane said I should rewet your hair, then trim off the really messed up looking bits at the bottom, so she doesn’t have to explain them on camera.”  Hannah said as she came over to us.  “What exactly happened to them?”

“Ok, just give me a second, and I’ll come back to the sinks.” I said aiming for warmth, even though I was a little unhappy about being interrupted, I knew it wasn’t Hannah’s fault. Then I turned back to Rachel.  “Don’t worry babe.  The type of dye I put on your hair can’t over process.  It’s basically just super intense easter egg coloring.  The only thing that could go wrong is if you play with it and cause the magenta to get on the highlights, so just keep not touching it.  Ok?”

Rachel nodded, not quite as carefully as I would have liked and took the keys.

I walked back to the sinks and sat in the chair Hannah was standing next to.  I felt Hannah gently guide my head back being very careful of my neck.

“So what happened to the ends?”  She asked with genuine curiosity.

“I used them to demonstrate the importance of the consultation.”  I said.  “Go ahead and look at them closely and see if you can guess.  Just be quick about it, because I believe we only have about 15 minutes before the stream starts.”

“Bleach over previously colored hair?”  Hannah guessed as she sprayed warm water over my scalp.  “How would I prevent it from turning a weird shade of orange?”

“That’s a much more complicated question, that I unfortunately do not have time to answer.”  I said, as I sat up.

“Jane just said ‘get rid of them.’” Hannah said as she draped a cape over me at the same shared workstation Madison had me at earlier, and fastened it.  “Should I trim off the whole 2 inches, or just snip off the actually orange bits?”

“Just snip the orange bits as quickly as possible.  Don’t worry about being perfect, since Jane’s going to be cutting it anyway, and we’re in a bit of a rush at this point.”

Hannah detangled my hair, possibly a little too gently considering the time crunch, and picked up her shears.  I listened as the sharp shears barely made a whisper of sound slicing through the small bundles of strands Hannah plucked out of the mass of my hair.

“HANNAH, I NEED MAGGIE HERE.”  Jane called across the salon from the make shift work station in the middle of the salon.  “WE’RE ABOUT TO START, AND JAMES NEEDS HER TO CHECK A FEW LIGHTING AND FOCUS THINGS.”

“I guess we’re going to have to call it good enough.”  Said Hannah as she unfastened the cape.  “I got everything really glaringly orange.”

“Thanks, honey.” I said taking a quick look in the mirror at the hair that still hung well below my shoulders.  Then down at the floor that had tiny little bits of orange hair scattered here and there.  “You did great.”

If only that had been the full extent of the haircutting I would be receiving that evening.

 

————- Part 7 -————

As I sat waiting for things to begin, I watched Rachel.  She sat sideways, leaning back on the armrest of the waiting area couch.  Her birkenstocks were on the floor next to her, her bare feet up on the cushion.  I hoped Jane was too busy to notice.  Rachel’s sketchbook was propped up on her knees.  There was a slice of banana bread on a napkin on the coffee table next to her.

I watched her break off a piece of the banana bread, with one hand, and slip down her mask with the other hand as she brought the treat to her mouth.  She caught my eye, and smiled at me briefly before popping the morsel in her mouth, and pulling her mask back up over her face.  Then she held up the pad and showed me a pencil sketch of a masked Hannah.  I smiled back, then remembered the mask and added a little nod.  Rachel went back to what she was doing.

The cookies and banana bread had indeed been as much of a hit as I had expected.  Everybody had grabbed either a slice or cookie and gone off to a corner to be far enough away from everybody else to feel comfortable slipping off their mask briefly to eat at some point during the evening.

I looked down at my watch.  We’d be starting in just a minute.  I was mildly chilly there, in just the short sleeved smock, with my wet hair dripping down my back.  Jane always skipped the cape for demonstrations, saying it obscured anatomy that she frequently referenced. 

“Ready to go?”  Jane asked, as she came up behind me.

“Yup.”  I simply answered.

“Are your wife’s bare feet up on my couch?”  Jane asked with undisguised annoyance plus just a hint of disgust.

“Yup.” I answered again, then added, “you’re gonna have to ignore it. There isn’t enough time to go talk to her and disinfect the couch.”

Jane made an unhappy “hmmm” sound.

Just a moment later though, Lauren held up her hand and announced “We’re going to be live in 5….4….3” she put down a finger with each number.  The last two fingers up, the pointer and middle, she put down silently, then nodded at Jane.

“Hi everybody.  Tonight we’re going to be considering the modern mullet.  Most importantly we are going to be discussing how to keep it from turning into an ‘80s mullet.”  Jane spoke into the camera.  “This is Magdalena, she is usually a senior stylist here at Wind Song, but tonight she graciously volunteered to be my model.”

Though I probably should have paid attention to the demonstration, I didn’t really.  As Jane talked about technique, I watched Rachel.  It was impossible to fully read her expression as she looked at me.  The disposable mask obscured half her face, so I couldn’t tell if she was actively frowning, as Jane sang the praises of the mullet I had denied her.

I was suddenly very glad that my own mask kept me from having to think about my own expression too much.  Looking unhappy on camera would be bad for Jane.  Looking too happy to Rachel though came with its own pitfalls.  The mask added a benign neutrality. 

Jane spun me away from facing Rachel a few times as she talked about angles and disconnects and whatnot.  Rachel was still watching though.

I noticed the shift in Rachel’s eyes, before I actually heard the first crunch from the scissors.  Then the long wet lock fell onto my bare arm.  I had only half been expecting it, since Jane had been combing my hair and lifting it and talking about it for 15 minutes already, and I had barely been paying attention.  Jane didn’t continue cutting though, instead she was explaining why she’d started the guide length how and where she did.

So began my journey back to short hair.  I found myself surprisingly nervous about it.  I knew it wasn’t really about the haircut itself.  I was worried about how it was going to affect Rachel.  She was still watching with an inscrutable expression.

I really wasn’t prepared for the emotion.  I’d had short hair so so many times, I didn’t think it would phase me much at all.  I was mildly annoyed about getting it cut, but I knew it wasn’t anything like what it was like for people like Rachel.  I’d done quite a few first time going short cuts, as well as the often even more emotionally fraught first time going short as an adult cuts, over the years I’d been in the business, and I knew it was not the same as being mildly annoyed about going short for someone who’d done it enthusiastically many times.  It almost didn’t matter what the reason behind that big haircut was, if it was just a planned change of style, or if it was a reluctant necessity like it had been for Rachel, often the fear and anxiety were pretty similar.

I heard the bite of the scissors again, and another wet lock landed on my arm.  God this haircut was going to take forever at this rate.

I wondered if this experience being really nervous about a haircut for a change, was going to help me relate to my more nervous clients.

Jane started cutting with a little more earnestness, as she kept explaining what she was doing, and hair started to really fall.  As hair piled up on my arms and shoulders, I watched Rachel.  

Rachel’d gone back to drawing.  Even from a fair distance, I could tell it wasn’t quiet portrait sketching anymore.  The pencil was being pressed too hard, and the movements were too swift.  She paused briefly, and swiped at something on her face.  She drew some more, and then swiped at her face again.  She went back to drawing again, but after a few minutes gave up and put her sketchbook aside and just buried her face in her hands.

By the time Jane started cutting in what felt like really short bangs, Rachel’s head just rested on her knees as she breathed steadily.  I suspected she’d drifted off to sleep.

Mostly I faced the front of the shop, so I couldn’t see what was happening, just try to guess from where I felt the cold metal scissor and what landed in my lap.  But I caught occasional glances of myself in mirrors around the shop when Jane spun me to show what she was doing with the sides or back.  The bangs area was indeed very short.

I knew that later when Jane was going to unmullet this for me, it was going to end up being shorter than Rachel’s on top.  I wondered if I hadn’t confessed that I was partially at fault for Rachel’s hair ending up so extremely short, if Jane might have gone a little easier and left me more length in front to work with.

It had been at least 45 minutes since the initial snip when Jane finally started blow drying and pushing products.  Then came the dry part of the cut, and the flurries of hair that came down to stick to me.

As she worked texture into the bangs, the hair falling got caught in my mask.  It was a strange new sensation, since this was my first haircut since we had started wearing them.  When I looked down, I could actually see little bits sticking up in the edge of the mask where it had landed.

When the live stream was finally over, and James shut off the camera, I breathed a deep sigh of relief.  I looked in the mirror, between the fairly obvious highlights and the very distinct style, I looked extremely different from how I had when I arrived in the morning.

 

————— Part 8 ——————-

“Go ahead and take care of Rachel.”  Jane whispered in my ear, with her hand resting on my shoulder.  From the way she said it, I guess she’d also noticed the tears and didn’t just mean getting Rachel’s hair rinsed. “You don’t have to say anything about the feet on the couch.  I’ll just clean it in the morning.”  

“Thank you.”  I said as I put my hand over Janes, before I got up and headed over to the couch.

I sat carefully on the edge of the couch and picked up Rachel’s sketchbook.  I turned to the page after the portrait of Hannah.  It was a drawing of a person again, but not a portrait, it was dark and raw with a frenetic energy.   Not quite as abstract as a DeKooning, but close.

I closed the book and placed it back down on the table.  Then I stroked my hand down Rachel’s back as she woke up.

“Hey sleepy head.”

“Are we done, is it time to go home?”  Rachel asked groggily as she looked around and blinked.

“Not yet.  I have to rinse out your hair, and Jane is going to recut mine.”

“What time is it?”

“A little after 10:15,”  I say as I look down at my watch and realize I have been at this salon for 12 hours already.

“Can I go take out my contacts first.  They’re not centered anymore.”

“Sure babe, where’s your purse.  I’ll walk you to the bathroom.”

 

————— Part 9 —————-

James had finished packing up his equipment and was taking cases out to his car.  Hannah and Lauren were looking at the schedule and talking about it with Jane.  I was waiting outside the bathroom, and just watching and listening.

“Good night everyone.”  James called from the door, with a cookie in one hand and his last case of equipment in the other.  “I’ll see you next time.”

“James, can you wait to walk the girls to their cars?”  Jane called before he could slip out the door, then the 3 of them hurried to finish up what they were doing.

“Thank you for coming in tonight.” Jane said when they reached the door and she held it open for them.  “Lauren I’ll see you in the morning.  Drive safely guys.”

Jane locked the door behind them just before Rachel emerged from the bathroom wearing her new glasses.

“It’s just you, me, and Jane babe.”  I told her as she visibly relaxed.  “Let’s go see if we managed to keep the colors all separate.”

We walked to the sink where Rachel sat down nervously on the edge of the seat, and I remembered that this was the first time Rachel had her hair done in an actual salon since before she was a teenager.

I suddenly remembered what her hair was like when we first met.  It wasn’t just that it had been really long, the bottoms had been completely frayed like it had been a really long time since they had been trimmed.

 

The first time I saw her she had worn it loose, the platinum ends thinned out to a point just below the waistband of her faded and well worn bluejeans.  We were both volunteering to work a voter registration information table at an event.  We chatted when we weren’t busy, and after we were both done for the day, we went and grabbed a bite to eat.

It wasn’t till a few days later, when she’d invited me over offering to cook, that I got a really good look at the glorious hair.  Later that evening in her bed, I was laying next to her.  I was naked, she was wearing just her blouse hanging open.  We’d made love for over an hour, and were at the point of just relaxing.  Our legs were intertwined, and I was propped up on a couple of pillows while Rachel sprawled out on her belly.  

I played with a handful of her hair.  Almost every strand ended in a split, often multiple splits.

“You really need a trim.”  I mentioned as I looked at the ends.

“I like it long.”  Rachel muttered.

“I wasn’t talking about cutting it short, just neatening up the ends a little.”  I said trying to sound reassuring.  “It’s gorgeous.  People pay me a small fortune trying to get hair this length and color.”

I felt Rachel’s legs suddenly stiffen.

“What do you mean people pay you?”  She asked in a small voice.

“At the salon where I work.”  I was slightly confused by the question.

“You work at a salon?”  Rachel asked.  “Like a hair salon?”

“Yeah.  Didn’t I mention that?”  I asked 

“No, no you didn’t.”  Said in a tone that made it obvious, she was not exactly thrilled.

I was suddenly realizing we’d mostly talked about things like politics, pets, movies, etc, not work, and I wasn’t totally sure what she did for a living.  My first thought had been ~well that explains why she hadn’t been excited about the possibility of free hair services,~ then I looked at Rachel and realized she was never going to be excited about that.  Looking at her, I had a feeling that if this relationship lasted, I was going to have a hard time talking her into letting me take care of the split ends so they didn’t drive me completely insane.

For several dates after that, Rachel wore her hair up hiding the frayed ends.

Since I always trimmed Rachel’s hair at home, it had probably been well over 20 year since she’d sat at a sink.  Of course for all I knew the place her mom took her to might not even have washed her hair, they might just have decided it was better to just spray down the unhappy wiggly kid’s hair with a spray bottle to get it over with as quickly as possible.  This could be the first time Rachel had gotten her hair washed in an actual salon.

“Babe, just lean back slowly.”  I reassured her.  “I won’t let you hit your head.”

I cradled her neck with my gloved hand as she followed my instructions, blinking up at me.  Once she was in position, I handed her her glasses to hold and started the water.  I carefully peeled off the first layer of plastic and started rinsing at the back while leaving the rest of it still wrapped up holding out hope that none of the magenta had bled into the pink lemonade highlights.

“I’m sorry about the mullet babe,” I said as I watched the vivid magenta water swirl down the drain.

“Why are you apologizing.  You can get any haircut you want.”

“I saw you crying babe.  I never want to do anything that hurts you.”

“It’s not that I’m upset you got a mullet, it’s just that I was suddenly really overwhelmed by a whole lot of memories.”  Rachel paused thoughtfully for a moment.  “Is the reason you’re getting Jane to recut your hair because you thought that I was going to be upset that you got a mullet?  It’s not that big a deal, you can keep it if you want to.”

I sighed, not really knowing where to go with that, as I watched the water that was still had a slight tinge of magenta flow towards the drain.  I looked up at a mirror.  Though the mullet wasn’t my favorite look of all time, Jane had done it well.  It was unquestionably more interesting than the mostly just grown out hair I had started the day with.  Of course the grown out hair had just been something Iwas putting up with because it was a step along the way to a plan I had, that plan would have to either be delayed or abandoned.

I started removing more of the plastic and foil that Jane and I had used to keep the colors from mixing, as I contemplated the possibility that maybe I should just stick with the mullet that was a little bit closer to the long hair I had been working on growing.  It would mean having another discussion with Jane.  I had a sinking feeling I might feel guilty every time I looked in a mirror if I kept it, which considering my occupation was pretty frequently.  

Jane came over, and looked down into the sink basin.

“Looks good so far.”  Jane commented.

“The big question is if we managed to wrap the highlights well enough.”  I said as I waited not very patiently for the water coming off Rachel’s hair to be a bit clearer.

“I wish I’d asked Hannah to stay, I could have finished Rachel’s hair while Hannah got you washed for me to recut yours.”

“If you hadn’t used quite so much product, we could have skipped rewashing my hair,” I teased since I knew that selling product was half the point of the live streams.  Then I passed the sprayer to Jane.  “Here, you do this, and I’ll go wash my own hair.  It’s late and we all want to finish this day up.”

“I’m sorry,”  Rachel offered up.

“It’s not your fault that Jane and I both suck at time management.”  I planted a quick kiss on Rachel’s lips, which didn’t work all that well since I’d forgotten we were wearing masks.  “The only difference of you not being in this mix would be that Jane would wash my hair, instead of yours while I washed my own.  So no apologies, OK.”

I went and grabbed a towel and headed over to the far sink, so I wouldn’t splash Jane and Rachel as I did the awkward task of washing my own hair while bent over the basin.  As I used the lather to break up the hairspray, I thought about how this was the third time today my hair had been washed, and that wasn’t even counting when Hannah had rewet it before the haircut.  My scalp was probably going to be in a mood tomorrow.

 

————- PART 10 ———

By the time I was squeezing the excess water out of the long back of the damned mullet, Jane had Rachel in my styling chair and was combing the short pink pixie.

“How’d it go?”. I asked as I walked up to the chair and started looking at it for myself anyway.

“Perfectly.”  Jane assured me.  “I’ll have her dried and styled in just a minute.  Then we’ll get you unmulleted.”

“Hair spray and stuff gives me a headache, and it’ll dry on its own.”  Rachel said to  Jane.  Then to me.  “I’m ok with it if you just want to keep the mullet.  I don’t hate it, it doesn’t really upset me.”

And I knew that if Rachel was completely not upset by the mullet, she wouldn’t have qualified that statement with “really.”  Yeah, I couldn’t keep the mullet.

“Thanks Rachel, but I really do hate mullets.  Especially on anyone who isn’t a teenager anymore.”  I patted her shoulder.  “Let Jane run the hair dryer over you real quick, it’s much easier to see the colors when they’re dry.  And, I can start combing out my hair anyway.”

From Jane’s work station, which was next to mine, I watched as Jane smoothed Rachel’s hair with a round brush as the warm air from the dryer blew.  It didn’t take long till it was shiny and full.  Somehow, even with Rachel having fallen asleep on it, the magenta root shadow color had not gotten onto the bubblegum midtones or the bright pink lemonade highlights.

“You guys did so great, I love it.”  Rachel let out cheerily while running her fingers through the short hair.  “This morning when I told you I wanted it pink, but hated how dyed hair was so flat and cartoony, and you said it didn’t have to be, I had no idea it could be this good.  It’s going to make living with this till my hair grows back a lot more bearable.”

“You’re welcome, making things more bearable is our main goal.  Next time you come in, maybe we can get you all the way to not entirely loathsome.” Jane teased giving Rachel a shoulder hug.  “Now let me get that wife of yours happily looking like an adult instead of an oddly wrinkly teenager.”

Jane came over to her own station where I was waiting for her.  She swiftly grabbed the nearest cape and started shaking it out.  She swung it over me, and fastened it around my neck.  She grabbed a comb and shears from the counter.  I’d already combed it out, and twisted it up and clipped it for her, so she just released it, and my tangle free long, at least in the back, hair tumbled down.

“So like we discussed?”  Jane said, as if we’d actually discussed it beyond unmullet.

“Yup.”  I said, just playing along because what the hell else was I going to do.

And then just like that, Jane had gathered up everything she’d left long, had it twisted in her fist, and was cutting it right at my hairline.  The ever so familiar sound of scissor biting through wet hair filling the strangely quiet salon.  She dropped the bundle of long locks to the floor.

She almost immediately started elevating and cutting the hair along my nape, off to about an inch and a half or so.  She sliced away at the locks swiftly, showing absolutely no mercy as she cropped my hair down.  As she worked her way around my head, I could tell it was going to be an overall very short crop with just a very slight taper.  Longer than Rachel’s through the nape and around the ears, but much shorter on top.

Damp hair fell all over me, landing on my shoulders and sliding down the cape to my lap.  I’d had short hair many times before, but this was going to be quite a bit more drastic than any of those previous times.  I had no doubt that it would look good when Jane was done, between her ego and her need to make sure my appearance reflected well on the salon, Jane was pretty much incapable of giving a bad haircut, but that didn’t exclude it being a very radical haircut.

I had mostly been just watching Jane shearing me down in the mirror, but I caught movement from the corner of my eye, and noticed Rachel shift uncomfortably as she watched.  I listened to the scissors snapping away at my hair, but watched Rachel.  She was constantly shifting slightly, but stayed and watched.  She looked unhappy in a far off way.  I began to wonder, if when she’d said she wasn’t really upset about the mullet, what she had meant was that she wished that I hadn’t cut my hair at all.  It was too late to clarify things though, another lock fell to my shoulder tipping the balance and sending everything there sliding down to my lap and driving home that point.  My hair was now very short whether Rachel liked it or not.

Jane bent forward and grabbed the hair dryer, and started blowing the warm air over my head as she ruffled my hair with her long fingers.  She was barely styling it as she went, counting on the short hair to fall into place because she was always just that confident in how she cut it.  Of course now that it was so short, it took almost no time.

I watched as Jane added texture to the boy short crop with the tips of her scissors.  Most stylists would use thinning shears for this, but Jane always wanted more control, so stuck to her regular shears.  As the dry strands fluttered down catching the light, I realized she was targeting what little was left of the highlights making them subtler.

As Jane ever so precisely snipped my sideburns into wispy perfection, I began to understand why Rachel had trouble sitting still when I wasn’t quick.  I wasn’t usually impatient about it, I usually appreciated that these details were what really made the haircut.  I knew that how well the details were done in a haircut this short was the difference between ~Wow, why did you get a mens’ haircut,~ ~So, you got a pixie, you can get away with that because you are so pretty,~ and ~OMG, that’s so cute, why doesn’t my hair ever look that good short.~  It’s just that I was really tired, it was incredibly late, and I just wanted to take my adorable pink haired wife home.  It probably didn’t help that I hadn’t really wanted this haircut in the first place.

It felt good as Jane ran the buzzing trimmer over my neck, pulling it up through the baby hairs of my neckline.  After that, the snipping only lasted a few more minutes before Jane was unfastening the cape.

I reached up and ran my hand through the much simpler and more mature style.  It was just a classic clean short haircut done impeccably.  It was soft around the edges with now harsh lines.  What was left of the highlights added just a hint of dimension. It looked nice, nice enough that I wondered if I was going to be able to find the motivation to grow my hair long like I had been planning to.  

“Thanks Jane,” I said then turned to Rachel.  “What do you think babe?”

“It’s really short.  Even shorter than when we met.”  Rachel said in a small voice.  “It’s cute though.  I guess we can go home now?”

“Yeah, babe.”  I said.  “Why don’t you go put on your blouse and gather up the rest of your stuff, don’t forget your sketchbook.  Jane and I will go grab our jackets.”

“Did I go a little overboard?”  Jane asked when Rachel was out of ear shot as we headed to the closet.  “I was aiming for about the same length as Rachel’s but different enough that you guys didn’t look like you had gotten matching haircuts, which I figured would be weird.  I’m not sure Rachel likes it though.”

“You definitely went overboard.  I have never had hair this short.”  I grumbled as I held open the closet door.

“Oh stop complaining, it looks good.”  Jane chastised, then added.  “I meant I was worried that it wasn’t really making things better for Rachel.”

“I don’t know.” I admitted as I pulled off the smock and started to put on my own blouse.  “She isn’t crying or anything, so I think it’s ok.  My hair was short when we met, not this short, but short enough, so she can’t have that huge an investment in having a longhaired lover. 

“Making things better though?” I continued with a shrug.  “If I had thought cutting off my hair would have made things better for her, I would have done it last week.  I don’t think there’s much that we can do to make things better for Rachel.  I’m hoping the pink dye helps, she really doesn’t like to get mistaken for a guy.  When she was dressed for work, it occasionally happened from behind even with the long hair.”

“Couldn’t she dress more girly?  Like she did today.”

“She also wants to be taken seriously at construction sites, so wearing practical clothes she can move and get dirty in is necessary.”  I said as I put on my jacket and zipped it.  “She doesn’t avoid girly clothes, but the options for things that are both girly and good for construction work are kinda limited.”

“Oh well,”  Jane sighed, “I guess I got a little carried away.”

We walked out to the reception area, where Rachel was standing in her pretty blouse, with her purse slug over her shoulder, and her sketchbook clutched to her chest.

“Babe, did you bring a jacket or sweater?”  I asked her.

“It was so warm this afternoon, I didn’t need one, and I didn’t think I would be here till nearly midnight.”  

I started taking off my jacket.

“But Maggie, you’ll be cold.”  Rachel objected as I draped the jacket over her.

“I’ll be fine.  My blouse is thicker material than yours.”  I assured her, as I made sure it was placed well enough to not fall.

“Thanks sweetie.”

Rachel slipped through the door Jane was holding open first then I followed and waited as Jane locked the door.   Once outside and a few steps away from the door, I slipped off my mask and took a deep breath of the cool night air.

“God that feels good.”  Jane exclaimed as she rubbed the backs of her ears with her own mask dangling from her hand by its elastic.  “I can’t wait till we are both fully vaccinated.  Did you get an appointment?”

“Two days from now,” I cheerfully announced.  “5 weeks from now, and we can finally have a girls weekend again.”

Rachel leaned against me as we walked to the shop’s parking lot where Jane and I had parked.

 

—————-  PART 11 ——————

Rachel’s truck pulled into the driveway next to my car, as I was unlocking the house, so I waited for her at the door.  Between the lack of a jacket and the lack of hair covering my neck and ears I was cold, but didn’t care.  I watched Rachel jog towards me.

“You didn’t have to wait for me.”  Rachel pointed out as she planted a kiss on my frozen lips.  “You’re shivering.”

Inside the mudroom, Rachel rubbed up and down my arms, trying to warm me up.  I stood there, enjoying the fussing and warmth.  Her hands moved to my back, then I felt her warm fingers pressing against my bare neck, where they stilled.

“You know if you’d put off cutting your hair just a couple of more months, you wouldn’t be quite so chilly.”  Rachel sighed while looking deeply into my eyes like she was searching for something.  “I’ll heat up some leftovers, you must be starving.  All you had for dinner was a couple of slices of banana bread.  A little warm food in your belly will make you feel better.”

I grabbed a sweater from one of the hooks, and followed Rachel to the kitchen.  I watched as she pulled out a tupperware full of homemade lentil soup, and poured it into a sauce pan.  I sat down at the kitchen table.

I always loved watching Rachel cook.  She had a funny habit of swinging her ever so slightly round rump in time with the stirring, like both were moving to a tune that played in Rachel’s head.  Till a week ago, a ponytail would also have been bouncing along between her shoulders.  It’s absence reminded me of my own sudden lack of hair.  My hand reached up to the back of my head, my fingers soon buried in the soft tufts.  My mind drifted to the long style I had been planning to grow.

“You’re not going to convince me you actually wanted that haircut by frowning like that while feeling it.”  Rachel observed while putting a bowl in front of me.

“I’m just tired.” I made the excuse while breathing in the savory aroma of the hearty soup, I began to stir as Rachel sliced off a chunk of baguetta and handed it to me.

“Tell me the truth.”  Rachel said, then blew on a spoon full of soup from her own bowl and carefully sipped it.  The steam fogging her glasses.

“I promised Jane she could demo on me but was in too much of a rush to find out what style.”  I explained between mouthfuls of the soup that was warming me up.  “When I found out it was going to be a mullet, and it was too late for Jane to get anyone else, I had to choose between living with the mullet or having Jane cut it short after.  So, no I didn’t really want it short, but I do think the short hair is better than the mullet.  Do you hate it?”

“I don’t hate it,”  Rachel said smiling as she reached over and stroked her hand over my newly cropped cap of hair.  “I just don’t like that you got a haircut you didn’t want, and have a sinking feeling you agreed to it in part because you felt bad about what happened to me.  It wasn’t your fault, I’m the one who got epoxy in it then hacked it off without looking in a mirror.  So stop feeling guilty.”

Rachel’s gentle fingers had moved down to my bare neck and were stroking the spot where Jane had trimmed my neckline to the skin.  I didn’t know what to say, so I leaned in for a kiss instead.  Her soft lips pressed back against mine, and I raised my hand to stroke the side of her face, then up into the velvety hair around her delicate ear.

We simply sat at the kitchen table kissing for longer than we had since we had first started dating.  Our hands kept stroking each other’s faces and hair, then one of mine found its way into Rachel’s blouse.  Tension just kept building, till finally I stood up and shed my sweater.

We made our way to the bedroom, slowly shedding clothing along the way; my sweater in the kitchen, Rachel’s blouse in the dining room, my blouse in the living room, Rachel’s bra at the bottom of the stairs, my bra at the top of the stairs, my trousers in the hallway outside our bedroom, Rachel’s bluejeans on the bedroom floor.

I gently pushed Rachel down to the bed, marvelling at her perfect body laid out before me.  She lay on her back, her knees bent over the side of the mattress, her feet dangling just above the floor.  The bright pink hair forming a halo around her head.  Her face wide eyed and smiling.  Her delicate neck leading to narrow, but surprisingly muscular shoulders.  Her long strong toned arms.   Her breasts sloshed off to the sides of her. 

I started at the breast, placing my hands at either side and squishing them back up onto her chest.  Rachel’s hands clutched my back.  I began kissing her between the round breasts.  I worked my way down her kissing along the midline of her soft belly.  Rachel’s hand gripped my shoulders.  I kissed my way down past her deep belly button, to her simple cotton panties.  Rachel’s finger gripped my hair, but the short locks just slipped through them.  I pulled the panties off of her.

The pubic mound before me, covered in neatly trimmed pale hair, I gently stroked it.  Then I spread her open, and buried my face in the folds inside, my tongue finding her hardened clit.  I pushed and teased and sucked at it.  Rachel moaned with joy.  My fingers found the wet opening below, and stroked the inside looking for her g-spot.

Rachel came hard, her knees pressing against my shoulders as her whole body trembled.  

I lay down on the bed next to her, stroking the soft pink hair that hung away from her face with my clean hand, as she panted catching her breath.  When she was breathing normal, she turned to me.  Her hands stroked me, one at the nape of my neck, the other on the side of my face.   

Then she rolled further up onto her knees so she was above me looking down at me.  she kissed me, then kissed down my neck, till she was kissing her way across my chest towards my nipple.  When she got there, her tongue circled my nipple till it became hard, and she began sucking it.

I was used to feeling the long hair, like a blanket, over my belly and chest, but all there was were the very tips of her bangs occasionally brushing above my breast.  

She reached down with one hand and slipped her fingers into my folds.  Stroking the wetness from my opening towards my swollen clit.  I felt first one finger, then another inside me, as her thumb kept stroking my sensitive clit.  The orgasm burst inside me, making me see flashes of light in its intensity.

Rachel continued to fondle me as my heart pounded.  Still sucking on my nipple.  She brought me back to climax again, almost painfully good.  My hand clutched her, spasming with pleasure, as I felt her silky skin and velvety hair.

We made love for another hour, till we fell asleep naked.  Rachel wrapped in my arms, our legs entwined.  The magenta velvet hair of her nape, rubbing against my face.

The next morning, neither of us were tangled in hair for a change.

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