Not What She Wanted

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This was originally published on 1hss.com in the early 2000’s by “Tim”. This has always been my favorite story and I was able to find it on web.archive last year but have since misplaced the link. I had copied the story onto a word document so I would always be able to read it and figured I would share it with all of you!

This is not my story and all I did was edit some typos that showed up in spellcheck.

 

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Danielle Barker was understandably nervous as she pulled into the parking lot (if 15 parking spaces could be called that) of the Wayward Inn. The small hotel was something fresh out of an old movie, and looked more like a boarding house than a hotel. It only had 12 rooms. And what was more amazing is it was the largest hotel in this small one-horse town.

 

Danielle was nervous because this week would in large part determine the rest of her life. Her struggling software company was on its last legs, and only a major grant by an investor could possibly save it. Which brought her here, to this incredibly small town in the middle of nowhere, and the eccentric multi-millionaire who lived here. He was her last gasp to save her company, and her job, and her life as she knew it. To lose her company would mean moving away from her lover, her friends and family, and the house she adored for the uncertainty of a new city. It was definitely not what she wanted, and this man was her only chance. Fortunately Ted Chamberlain, her top salesman, was along.

 

While Danielle usually did all the business meetings, Gerald Harrison III was a proud old man who made it a habit never to deal with women, though on occasion he reluctantly had. But when Danielle studied up on those few success stories she discovered why they were successful, as these ‘women’ looked more masculine than the majority of men she had known. Danielle certainly could never be described as anything but a beautiful woman. Her shapely 5’4″ body was toned from daily workouts and blessed with wondrous curves that most women could only attain with surgical assistance. Her big eyes, perfect teeth and high cheekbones made her face every bit as appealing as her body, and her long blonde hair reached just past midback, with the exception of the full bangs which, if she left them uncurled (which she never did) reached almost to the tip of her nose. Her hair used to be waist length, but hot roller damage and the stress of her job had resulted in some fairly extensive trims over the past two years. She wanted it very long again, and fretted anytime she had even the slightest trim these days. She considered her hair her best feature, and always used it all her life to provide added power over men. In this job she would pin it up harshly when she needed a totally professional look. But when she curled it and left it down she found she could melt even the most stubborn male client. Unfortunately those charms were useless in this case, which explained the presence of Ted. Still, she hated having her fate in someone else’s hands. If her company was going to go down, she wanted to be the one taking the last shot.

 

The two arrived several days early for their appointment to do some local research on Harrison, and to see if all the anti-woman stories were really true. If they weren’t, then Danielle would take that last shot. Sadly the couple discovered the stories were all too true. Danielle easily befriended several people close to the millionaire who really wanted her to succeed but said it would be quite unlikely with her looking as she did. When she dropped by later, dressed down in her most unfeminine executive attire, hair harshly drawn back into a tight bun and not even a touch of makeup, she was disappointed to discover even this wouldn’t do. All granted she stood a somewhat better chance then before, but was told even the bun still didn’t cover one undisputed fact. To Harrison, “long hair was feminine, and he didn’t deal with anything feminine.” Of course if Danielle was willing to severely cut her hair that would help her cause. That thought was out of the question though, and in any case their odds with Ted would still be better than with even a bald Danielle. So Ted was still the ‘go-to’ man.

 

But then that evening Ted came down with food poisoning, severely, and it took all his strength just to crawl to the bathroom where he spent the night. With their appointment set for the following day at noon, it was clear Danielle would have to do the dealing. Ted would be lucky if he could even stand up and walk without falling over.

 

Danielle spent the night looking through all the information they had, including the pictures of the handful of successful women who dealt with the man. They all dressed like a man, and the longest head of hair on any of them was a shoulder length bob. Others wore shorter bobs, or wedge type looks, and one was a dead ringer for Janet Reno. As much as the thought revolted her, Danielle would need to cut her hair quite a bit the next day to look anything like this group and stand a chance with the man. She decided on the least drastic choice, a ‘bob’ to her shoulders, which still meant losing over a foot of hair. She felt nauseous, but conceded. At least it wouldn’t be too unfeminine looking, and she would certainly be ‘in style.’ She called her boyfriend, Richard, long distance and told him what conclusion she had come to. He reluctantly agreed with her, and pledged his love and support of her decision.

 

“Just don’t get anything too short,” he said.

 

“Don’t worry, I won’t.”

 

She checked by the phone for the yellow pages. It was all of 20 pages long. She couldn’t believe how small this town was. There were only four salons in town, and no national chain places like Supercuts. Amazing! That next morning she called the shops. Two of them were by appointment only, and were booked until the afternoon. Too late since her meeting with Harrison was at noon. The third salon was closed that day, but the last one was open and thankfully walk-ins were welcome. Not knowing how long this would take, she dressed for her appointment in her most basic business suit with pants. Her curves made her look every bit a woman in spite of her efforts, though very professional. She somehow resisted the urge to apply at least a little makeup, which was saying a lot since she felt naked without at least lipstick on, but figured every little bit would help. Danielle was blessed with very healthy skin that she took great measures to treat right, so even without any makeup she was still strikingly attractive. She lovingly brushed her long hair one last time, noting it looked even longer to her now since it hadn’t been curled that day, and headed out. Her hands were clearly shaking as she opened the hotel room door.

 

It didn’t take her long to find the “Trends in Hair” salon, and she was relieved to see only a few cars out front of it. The other stores in the small strip mall were either still closed or devoid of customers. Maybe she wouldn’t have to wait too long. Fortunately she still had four hours before her appointment, so a wait of even up to an hour would still give her plenty of time. She wasn’t looking forward to this at all, but it was a sacrifice she was certainly willing to make now if it meant saving her company and her job. She hoped she wouldn’t look too bad with short hair. This would definitely be the shortest her hair had ever been, as even her mom had loved long hair and saw to it Danielle had long tresses from the very start. For most of her life Danielle could sit on her hair.

 

An hour later she walked out of the salon sporting a shoulder length bob, the ends curled under just a bit. Her bangs had been trimmed back so they reached just short of her eyes, though the slight curve courtesy of the blow dryer made them look only as long as her eyebrows. It was exactly as she asked for, and she tipped the stylist well despite the fact it had been something she didn’t want to do. The fact she got in and out so quickly gave her time to head back to her hotel and collect her thoughts.

 

Once back in the room she couldn’t help but stare at her new reflection, running her brush through her now much shorter length. She figured she lost almost a foot of length, and that had been very tough to watch at first. But once the first cuts were made and there was no turning back Danielle found herself almost enjoying watching the whole transformation. She figured that since haircuts and long hair were such polar opposites, it was almost like satisfying a part of her personality she had suppressed for all these years. Now here she was with hair that didn’t hang any further than the top of her shoulders, the shortest it had ever been. But Danielle noted it didn’t look bad at all. In fact it looked much healthier and fuller at this length, and made it seem like her hair was much thicker than it truly was. The way the stylist handled the blow dryer expertly eliminated all the natural wave she normally had, and now she had totally sleek, smooth hair like a fashion model. There was no doubt about it. She looked good. She looked very good.

 

Did she look too good?!

 

She studied herself again. Here she was in ‘exec drag’ attire with no makeup trying to look much less the woman she was and still she looked stunning. She compared her look to the pictures of the other women that had experienced some success with Harrison. While her hair was similar in length now, she still came across as extremely feminine, especially compared to the women in the photos.

 

She tried playing with her hair a bit, pinning the sides back so her ears showed. The shorter length allowed some flyaways to escape, so she wet down the sides in hopes that would help. It did, but the alteration to the style just made her look cuter, but no less the woman. She tried pulling it back into a ponytail, which was now much more difficult due to numerous short strands that kept trying to escape her grasp. She spritzed it with water, and eventually finally succeeded. She noted it looked a little better, in fact clearly better. Then on a lark she tried drawing her bangs to one side. Subtly at first, and then she made a definite part and drew them over a bit more harshly. With her ears now totally exposed it looked a bit better still, but she noted the full and fluffy bangs rose up a bit too much. If only she could get them to lie flatter. Once more she used a comb and water and slicked them over a bit, quite pleased to find the look much more stark and manly. Yes!!! Now this was looking like something. Then she checked her profile discouraged by the full ponytail gaily bouncing behind her, and then her natural wave started taking hold of her bangs, and suddenly they were no longer cooperating and started hanging forward again, only quite haphazardly.

 

Danielle moistened them down again, but took down the ponytail, wondering if just the severe side part would be enough. It looked different but not what she was hoping for.

 

What if she went back and asked for a bit shorter of a ‘bob?‘ She couldn’t believe she was even considering this, since she had given up so much already. But then she remembered almost being disappointed when her appointment was over, almost asking for a bit more to come off just to prolong it. It had been fun to see the makeover. She tried to picture herself with a cut an inch or two shorter. What difference would an inch or two make compared to the foot she already gave up? But as much as she tried to convince herself, she realized she just was too attractive in a ‘bob‘, any length of a ‘bob‘.

 

She looked once more at the newspaper clippings of the female success stories, strangely looking at the Janet Reno clone even longer this time. The woman’s hair was parted on the side, just like Danielle now wore, and it still covered her ears and was every bit as long in the back as her ‘bob‘. The big difference was it lay quite tight to her head, mostly because it was extensively layered. It almost looked? like it had been meant to be worn by a man. In fact it looked like it had been cut in a barber shop.

 

She quickly studied all the other photos and recognized now what all the hairstyles had in common. None of them had the ‘salon’ look to them. They all looked a bit harsher or less polished, almost like they might have been cut by a men’s barber.

 

She looked at herself again. Her cut was outstanding. Clearly a ‘salon’ cut. Perhaps that was the problem. What if she got just a bit more taken off, but this time by a barber‘ Her nerves were jumping again, just as when she was watching the first long sections of her formerly long mane fall to the floor, yet this time just by the notion. She always considered a barber shop as a “poor man’s salon”, and wouldn‘t even let Richard get his haircut in such a place. She spent another five minutes playing with her hair and staring at her reflection. Since it had all been wet down the smooth and sleek salon finish was gone, and now her natural waves were leaving it in disarray and almost making it look shorter. But it still looked great. In fact now it looked very sexy, kind of like Jennifer Grey in the movie “Dirty Dancing.” This clearly would not win over Harrison. Somehow she found herself picking up the stack of newspaper clippings and the phone book and heading out the door in search of a Barber Shop.

 

Unlike salons there were no shortage of Barber Shops in this small town, as the yellow pages listed 23. However each time Danielle got near one she chickened out. They were small shops with no windows, and she wanted to catch a glimpse inside before committing to walking in the door. The one with a glass window she did see was stuffed with customers. She doubted she would have the time. Did she need an appointment like the salon?

 

With only two hours before her appointment it was basically crunch time and Danielle knew it. Her own hair was now totally dry and a mass of waves slapping at her face in the wind. It felt and looked so odd each time she checked herself in the rear view mirror. It was also totally inappropriate. She suddenly wished she had her long hair back and had just risked the conservative bun. But she didn‘t. She found herself passing by the salon she had visited just a few hours earlier. For a moment she considered just paying it another visit, but the mass of cars out front told her they were obviously too busy. Besides, they wouldn’t give her what she wanted. She needed?”..(Ah. She saw a spinning red, white, and blue pole) a Barber Shop.

 

It was in the center of a strip mall, and had a big glass window out front. Perhaps this was it. She pulled into a parking space that, although a very discreet distance, provided her easy viewing of the inside. She could see it was a very small shop with only one chair. The barber was an immaculately coiffed dark haired man with a white shirt. He was busy cutting the hair of another older man. There were no other people in the shop. There wasn’t even a car in front of the store. His present client must have walked there. She grabbed the handful of clippings and got out of her car, still summoning up the courage to go forward.

 

Then she noticed something that was a welcome relief. A sign on the door saying ‘Haircuts for Men and Women.’ Perhaps this wasn’t such a bad idea, but still the fear of this establishment froze her in her tracks. Then a car pulled up and a younger girl, with straight brunette hair even longer then Danielle‘s used to be (strange to be saying that), climbed out and strode into the shop. Danielle inched a little closer now. The woman sat down and was talking with the barber in a very lively conversation. Obviously they knew one another. The older client was paying now and the young girl was hopping up into the chair.

 

He did cut women’s hair!

 

After a couple of minutes watching the barber work on the young girl (she was just getting a very light trim of the ends and of her bangs) she figured this was probably as good a risk as any. She took a big breath and purposely walked into the shop.

 

The barber looked up and, realizing she was new to his shop, smiled and greeted her warmly. “I’ll be with you in just a couple of minutes if you care to take a seat.”

 

Danielle sat in one of the old wood chairs, her back to the big glass window that separated the shop from the parking lot. She was looking directly at the young girl now, and thought it odd but couldn’t figure out what was so peculiar. Then it hit her. The client in this shop wasn’t facing the mirror. They would have to totally trust the barber until they saw their finished cut! Even with her hairdresser of many years this would be a bit unnerving. Here is was downright scary. But the young girl seemed very comfortable, and he was doing a trim job that looked every bit as good as any stylist she had known. She relaxed ever so slightly and took in the atmosphere of the shop. It was certainly far different than any salon she had ever seen. It was much smaller, about the size of a dorm room in college, and very sparsely decorated. No plants or flowers. The walls were a faded and peeling antique white, with some pictures of local sports teams who were his clientele. Along the top of the shop, running completely around the room, were artist drawings of all types of men’s haircuts, with their names under each. Danielle had no idea there were so many different types of ‘Flattops’ and ‘High and Tights’. She unknowingly was standing up, catching a glimpse of every picture.

 

Before she could take them all in, the young girl was up and paying for her trim which, quite honestly, was done very well. As the barber was being paid and making change Danielle started getting nervous as she realized it was her turn next, and she’d have to make a decision. She ran through the stack of choices yet again. Unfortunately there really was only one correct decision here, and she swallowed hard as she selected the photo.

 

“I’ll be just a moment Mam,” the barber said, as he grabbed his broom and swept up the area. There were a fair amount of clippings on the floor, but since there were many colors and textures it was clear it had been from numerous customers. Looks like it had already been a busy morning. By this time she noticed the scent of the place. It was so different than any salon she had been in, which always were pervaded with a mixture of perm solutions, hairspray, and flowery room freshener. This one was a peculiar combination of antiseptic type clean and very masculine scents.

 

As he put the broom away in a closet and strode back into the room he noticed Danielle was still looking around. She was actually just trying to summon the courage to climb into the huge, well worn leather chair.

 

“Hello Mam. My name is Robert.” He held out his hand and they exchanged a quick professional handshake.

 

“Hello, I’m Danielle.”

 

“What can I do for you today?”

 

“Well, I was going to ask if you cut women’s hair, but I can see that you do.”

 

“I have four girls myself, all teenagers now. If I didn’t learn to cut women’s hair I’d have gone broke by now.”

 

The two shared a laugh, and Danielle looked at her now very fluffy “bob” once more in the mirror, and then cautiously stepped up and seated herself in the huge chair.

 

“Then I guess I’m your next customer.”

 

She felt like a little girl in a grownup’s seat, as she had so much room , and her feet dangled off the ground. She looked straight ahead out the window, happy that no other clients were in the shop waiting. She didn’t want anyone to watch this, and also didn’t want the barber to feel rushed. She hoped it would stay that way, although all the hair he had already swept up suggested she would be lucky to have the place to herself.

 

Robert snapped open the robe, making sure there were no clippings from previous customers still on it, and then draped it over his new customer. A tight tissue was wrapped around her neck. Danielle didn’t know what that was all about but noticed it on both his previous customers so she took it in stride. Then the robe was snuggly cinched in place. Robert turned the chair around so she was now facing the mirror, and he was facing her.

 

“So what can I do for you today?”

 

“For professional reasons, I need to cut my hair a bit shorter.”

 

“Cutting it back for work, huh?”

 

“Something like that.”

 

“What did you have in mind?”

 

She showed him the picture of the Janet Reno clone. “Could you make my hair look like that?”

 

The barber looked at the picture, quite surprised this lovely woman would request such an unflattering style. His facial expressions couldn’t contain his surprise. Then he touched her hair a bit, noting it’s texture.

 

“Sure, it shouldn’t be too difficult.”

 

She closed her eyes and wiped back a bit of a tear. “Then I guess that’s what I want.” Her voice was weak.

 

The barber was very sympathetic. “Seems like this is something you don’t want to do.”

 

“You’re right.”

 

“So why are you, if you don’t mind me prying?”

 

“I have to close a deal with a man who only likes dealing with other men.”

 

“His last name wouldn’t be Harrison by chance would it?”

 

She tried not to share such information but her surprised expression gave her away. Of course in this small town he would be very well known.

 

“I thought so,” said the barber. “So you’re here sacrificing your hair to better your odds on fitting into a man’s world, or at least Harrison’s opinion of it.”

 

She conceded to his logic. “I bet it sounds kind of stupid, huh?”

 

“Actually I’m impressed anyone would go to such extremes. I’ll try not to make it any shorter than necessary.”

 

“Thank you. I’d appreciate that.”

 

He spent a good deal of times studying the photo of the cut in depth before finally setting it down on the counter. Then he spent a while lifting her hair every which way, seeing exactly how long it was and noted it’s texture.

 

“Actually you really won’t be losing much length, but I will have to layer it quite severely. That means I’ll still have to take off a fair amount of hair.” His hands grabbed handfuls of hair on the sides and back. “All this bulk will have to come off.” The look of distress was obvious on her face. “Still want to do it?”

 

She swallowed hard. As if this day hadn’t already been hard enough, she would have to bear losing a good deal more than she thought of her remaining tresses. She peeked over at the photo, realizing just how right the barber was. “I figured as much. Yeah, go ahead.” Never could she have imagined asking that her beautiful mane be purposely cut into a frumpy style like what she was now subjecting herself to.

 

Given her full permission he purposely rotated the chair so she was now facing out the big glass window. She snuck one last peek at her reflection as she was wheeled around, knowing she was going to look much different very shortly.

 

She tried to relax as he started spritzing down her hair with a water bottle, but the reality of the situation was making that impossible. To think that just yesterday she had long hair and this whole assignment was supposed to be in the hands of someone else. Now here she was with much shorter hair about to be cut even more by a complete stranger, in a barber shop no less, and she wasn’t even going to be able to watch. She tried to relax by sharing her adventures already that morning, and how much length she had already lost. It didn’t work. She found herself death gripping the arms of the chair.

 

Robert was in front of her, wetting and then combing her bangs straight down in front of her. They still nearly reached her eyes.

 

“Did you want it parted on the side like in the photo too?” he asked. Strange that the question should come before the cut rather than afterwards.

 

“Uh..yes. Just like the picture,” she got out weakly, realizing she had just lost her last opportunity to back out.

 

With that she felt Robert making a straight, firm part on the left side and combing it over the top, spraying and patting it down so it lie tight to her head. It felt strange to have her hair styled so by a complete stranger, even though she had done this exact same thing only about an hour ago.

 

She didn`t know why but she half expected him to be using electric clippers. Earlier that morning she had her first ever encounter with the tool when the stylist used a small pair to clean up the hairs at the base of her neck. She remembered holding ever so still, fearful that they would plow up into her hair, but eventually found the gentle vibration of the blades almost relaxing. However she knew barbers used them to remove vast quantities of hair, and she found herself breathing easily when she realized he was using only comb and scissors, just as a stylist might.

 

The first thing Robert did is take a couple of inches of length off the right side, destroying the clean precise shape of her “bob”. Now the side just reached past the bottom of her ear. Danielle found herself holding her breath a bit as she saw the first chunks of hair start falling forward off her shoulders and come to a rest on her lap.

 

The barber continued around the back, only taking about an inch of length off there, so it would still cover her collar but no longer touch her shoulders. Then he made the left side match the right. Danielle knew there was no turning back. She closed her eyes trying to remember how the photo looked. She couldn’t remember anything but that it was very unfeminine, and prayed all this sacrifice would be rewarded. She started going over her presentation in her head, attempting to block out what was happening to her formerly lovely tresses. But she was snapped back into reality when Robert moved back to her right side and gathered a huge quantity in his big hands and started the layering process. Clippings rained down with an audible “plop” to her lap, and she saw some were nearly 5 inches in length.

 

“I think you might be going too short,” she said, wishing she had a mirror to see what was happening.

 

He stopped for just a bit to reassure her. “It probably feels that way, but if anything I’m keeping it even longer. I can always take more off if you wish.”

 

His words and gentle voice worked for a bit, but as soon as the scissors bit off another huge mass her concerns came right back. The way he gathered up the hair made it feel like her ear was totally exposed now, and she almost expected it to stay that way. That fear was dispelled when he let go and she felt the remaining hair once more fall over it, though it was noticeably lighter.

 

After what seemed like an eternity, but was in fact only a matter of minutes, Robert shifted his attention to the back. Again Danielle winced as she heard and felt huge sections of her mane being hacked off. Her neck was still covered (thankfully) but it felt far lighter now.

 

The left side was next to be layered, and Danielle knew her hair was now looking far different than it had ever looked before. He hadn’t even touched her bangs or the top, yet her head felt significantly shorn.

 

Robert stepped in front of her and she felt her bangs combed down once again, and then watched as the scissors slid in and cut them a bit shorter still. What concerned her is that the line he cut didn’t look straight. She would swear the right side was a bit shorter than the left.

 

She sat there trying to see them (of course she couldn’t) as the barber stepped behind her again. Then he drew up her top hair with his hands and set into layering the top. He steadily worked his way back to the crown, and then made a second run to make sure he hadn`t missed anything. Then he redid the part and drew it over once more. Then he combed all the length once more, before taking a few minutes to go over the sides and back double checking his work. A few small alterations were made before he was satisfied and he combed it all in place. He had done the entire cut in less than 10 minutes.

 

However to Danielle this had taken forever. She was aching to see what she looked like now, knowing she’d hate it but hoping he hadn’t cut it any more severely than he had.

 

“Would you like me to blow dry it to match the picture.”

 

Although she desperately wanted to turn around and look, she conceded she did need to look like the photo.

 

“Yes please.”

 

She was quite surprised that he seemed every bit as handy with a blow dryer than any stylist, and she eventually relaxed as she felt the final touches of this cut being done. An older man with a now somewhat shaggy rim of gray hair walked into the shop and sat down.

 

“Morning Will,” said the barber. Obviously Will was a regular customer.

 

“Hey Bob. See the game last night?”

 

“Nah, I missed it. Went to the movies with the family last night.”

 

“Too bad. Great game!”

 

Will noted the pretty lady in the chair and the two exchanged looks that said “Hello.” Danielle wondered what this man would make of her, but noted he immediately seemed preoccupied by a sporting magazine. Then she heard the dryer turned off and returned to its place, and the brush set down. She knew the time of revelation was at hand. Her heart was pounding.

 

“Here’s your picture to compare it,” he said, as he lay the picture on her lap. She looked down at it as he slowly turned the chair to face the mirror. The photo looked so much more drastic now, and Danielle was visually trembling now knowing she supposedly sported an identical match. Then she looked up and saw the new Danielle. At first she was stunned that her blonde hair looked so much darker, but then realized that much of the sun bleached length was gone, exposing the slightly darker length underneath now. She now looked to be a dirty blonde. Secondly she was stunned by how flat it lay on the sides now compared to her previous ‘bob’. It greatly altered the shape of her head. She looked taller and older now. Then she compared it to the picture and saw it was an exact duplicate. This barber really followed directions well. She reached up and touched it, quivering at how short and thin it now felt. She was so used to grabbing huge handfuls of hair. That wasn’t going to happen again for a while.

 

“What do you think?” he asked.

 

“You did great. Too bad it’s not something I really wanted.”

 

“I hope it works for you. I’m impressed by your sacrifice.” The barber snapped off the robe and tissue from her neck, and Danielle was free to stand up again.

 

“So am I,” she said, flashing a bit of a smile as she rose. She truly was too, never thinking she would ever do something like this for anyone. However she became immediately concerned when she saw her reflection with a smile. She immediately wiped it off, and studied her reflection long and hard. She didn’t come across with the harshness she felt was necessary and was expecting. Robert noted her concern.

 

“Something wrong?”

 

She bit her lip as she studied her look. Then she shook her head a bit. “I wish I could be certain this would do the trick. I don’t mean to sound vain, but it’s almost like I still look too good, even like this.” She once more ran her hand through her new cut, noting how the back still had enough to wind around one hand a bit.

 

“Quite honestly you’re a very lovely woman, and there really isn’t much that’s going to change that.”

 

“Thank you,” she blushed a bit. “I just want to come across like someone who looks..like a man. I think I look too feminine still.” She played with her hair a bit, even removing a brush from her purse and seeing what it looked like to draw the sides back over her ears. That looked a bit better to her.

 

“If you want to look like a man, then get a man’s haircut!”

 

It was Will throwing his two cents in as he stepped into the big barber chair. His bluntness shook Danielle to the core. The problem was, he made perfect sense. Danielle paid and tipped Robert well, but for some reason didn’t leave the shop. She watched Robert put the tissue and robe around the old timer.

 

“The usual Will?”

 

“Yeah, maybe even shorter so I don?t have to keep coming back so often.”

 

“OK, how ‘bout I go with a number two?”

 

“Nah, go for a number one. That’ll hold me for a while.”

 

Danielle interrupted the two. “May I use your restroom?”

 

“Sure,” Robert said, and pointed it out for her.

 

She heard the clippers come to life and dive into this newest client as she stepped into the room. He was wasting no time. Once there she just stood in front of the mirror, trembling all the while, and pondered her look. Her hair was just a fraction of what it had been. She lifted it up noting it was all about 4 inches in length, though it varied in places. She pulled her bangs down in front of her. Her senses had not been wrong. They had been cut at a slight angle. Perhaps Robert wasn`t as good as she gave him credit for. Of course they lie perfectly when drawn to the side. Could it be they had been purposely cut like that just so they lie better? She used her brush and put it all back in place and considered her image. It was a stark difference, no doubt about it.

 

BUT SHE STILL DIDN’T COME ACROSS AS MASCULINE.

 

Certainly more than she had yesterday, but not to the extent she felt necessary. She played with her hair some more, including exposing her ears again. Then she walked back into the shop.

 

What first stunned her was how much different Will already looked. How long had she been in the bathroom? It seemed like Robert was already done with his cut, and he was nearly bald. The top of his head started out devoid of hair, but now the sides and back basically matched. It looked a bit like a Captain Picard haircut on Star Trek. But Will seemed quite content and totally at ease.

 

Robert was applying shaving cream now and cleaning up his lower hairline. Danielle sat down and started looking at all the drawings on the walls of “men’s haircuts”. They all looked so very short. Every single one had their ears totally exposed and were above the collar in back. Some left almost no hair at all.

 

“Gonna get another haircut little lady?” asked Will jokingly. He chuckled out loud.

 

“Go easy Will. She’s already had a long day, and she has an appointment with Harrison this afternoon,” said the barber.

 

“Good luck looking like that,” Will laughed sarcastically.

 

“Quit it Will.”

 

“It’s OK Robert,” Danielle said. She looked at the old man. “I take it you know Mr. Harrison.”

 

He nodded. “He doesn’t take kindly to women.”

 

“I need him to ‘take kindly’ to me. What do you think I should do?”

 

This threw Will for a bit, but as the robe was removed and he checked his look in the mirror (he nodded in approval to Robert) he sounded out to the challenge. “All right. Well, what you’re wearing is fine I suppose. But you need a real haircut. The less hair you got, the better your chances.”

 

She stood there dumbstruck as Will paid and walked out the door. When it closed it was once more just she and the barber.

 

She looked to Robert with genuine concern. “Do you think there’s any truth to what he’s saying?”

 

“Maybe a bit.”

 

“I was afraid of that, but deep down I think I knew it too.”

 

“So what are you going to do?” asked Robert.

 

She took in a deep breath and sighed. “I suppose I’m going to get another haircut.”

 

“You really don’t have to do this,” the barber said.

 

“Actually, I do. I have to succeed this afternoon. The future of my company is at stake.”

 

“So what do you have in mind?”

 

“I don’t know,” she said, and she started circling the room studying all the pictures. They all looked even shorter now. “All I do know is I need a man’s haircut.” She couldn’t believe she was even pondering such a thing. How would she ever explain THIS to Richard or her co-workers.

 

“I could just trim yours back a bit. Maybe just gelling the sides back over your ears. That will make it look a good deal shorter.”

 

The offer was tempting, and she almost jumped at it, but she resigned herself to the truth. “No, I need one of these,” she said as she pointed to the pictures. “What do you recommend?”

 

“I guess that depends on how short you want to go. All of them are quite a bit shorter than what you’ve got now, though I suppose I could do a more feminine version and keep them longer.”

 

“NO! I need a true, men’s haircut. No going easy on me.”

 

Robert shrugged his shoulders, knowing he had tried his best to talk her out of it. Now he decided to help her out, since this was clearly something she planned on doing.

 

“Well, this wall over here you probably don’t want to look at, as it shows the more unconventional styles.”

 

It was true, and she now realized the photos actually were arranged in a somewhat logical fashion. The wall he referred to showed a wide variety of bowl cuts, plus a shaved head, a Mohawk, a comb-over, and various cuts for men with bald spots and receding hairlines.

 

“This wall shows the more military looks and very short haircuts,“ he said. It was the wall with the large window. The one customers stared at the most while sitting in the chair. “Needless to say, any of these would be very drastic,” he pointed out. And he was right. It was filled with Buzzcuts, a half dozen versions of a Flattop, an Induction Cut, plus numerous versions of a High and Tight.

 

“This wall shows other standard yet still fairly short styles.” It was the wall to the customers left as one walked in. It showed variations of an Ivy League and a Fade, plus some spiky looks and “young man’s styles” she had seen on little boys before, many with thick bangs hanging straight forward.

 

“This wall has the longer looks.“ It was the one over the barber’s counter. It showed variations of a “Businessman’s Cut“ which she recognized as the cut most politicians wore. Some were drawn straight back, while most were parted on the side. One was parted in the middle, but looked very outdated.

 

Danielle had no idea what to choose, but naturally leaned towards the longer looks, fearful of going any shorter than necessary. Imagine asking for a Military type haircut! Ludicrous! The one that seemed least drastic was a “Businessman’s Cut”, though she didn’t know if she should just brush hers straight back or part it on the side.

 

“How about one of these?”

 

Robert grinned knowingly. “I was about to suggest the same thing. Did you want the side part or not?”

 

Danielle didn‘t know, nor did she understand why it was so important to declare her intent prior to the cut. Certainly she could alter the part afterwards if she wanted.

 

“I don’t know. Which do you think is more proper?”

 

“If it‘s a so-called “man‘s” haircut you want, I‘d definitely go with the side part.”

 

She looked at herself in the mirror, already with a side part. At least those hairs wouldn‘t need to be cut further. “OK, then let‘s do that.”

 

“Did you want the back and sides blocked or tapered?”

 

She didn‘t understand the difference, so he took the time to show her which was which. Tapered was clearly shorter. Much shorter it seemed. It frightened her to ponder it, but also conceded it looked more masculine. Still, she wasn‘t even looking forward to even having hair above her collar, much less reduced to stubble.

 

“Could I have it blocked first, and then taper it if I didn‘t like that?”

 

Robert chuckled to himself at her obvious discomfort. “I could do that.”

 

She looked at all the drawings once more. “I guess I‘m stuck with having all of my ears showing.”

 

“If you truly want a man‘s haircut than yes, you are, though I can keep it a bit fuller on the sides if you like.”

 

She summoned up the courage to once more resist the easy way out. “No, just like the picture. Just not too short.”

 

“So is that it? Is that what you want?”

 

Danielle stared at herself in the mirror, and what little remained of her beautiful hair, and tried to imagine losing even more. She couldn’t. She didn’t want to. She had to.

 

“Yeah. Let’s do it.”

 

With that she sat down once more in the big chair, and felt the tissue and robe put into place. She stared at her reflection teary eyed as the chair turned away from the mirror. In many ways she was glad she wouldn’t have to watch this. Robert was combing her hair once more, making sure the side part was crisp and the top hair drawn over tightly. She concentrated on keeping her head as still as possible for him, staring forward at the wall of extremely short haircuts. At least she wasn`t subjecting herself to something like that. The last of any tangles were smoothed through, and then Robert returned to his counter. Danielle closed her eyes and tried to calm herself. But then the electric clippers came to life with a loud CLACK. They sounded far larger and more powerful than her first encounter in the salon early that morning. In fact they sounded angry, and hungry. Her eyes opened wide and she clenched her teeth, and mentally bid goodbye to what hair she had left.

 

Robert started in the back this time, and she felt a comb lift up the lowest length and the clippers touch down on the back of her neck. Although they sounded very powerful, she was surprised she couldn’t feel them vibrate at all. Then they were pushed upward and hit home. Just like that she heard huge quantities of hair sliced off, and felt part of her neck totally exposed. “Oh my God!” was all she could say to herself as she felt Robert run all along the lower hairline, removing all the length that once covered her collar.

 

Suddenly she realized she had been holding her breath, and she made a conscious effort to breath. But then she felt the clippers start in even higher, and she found herself once more holding it all in. They felt like they were directly against her skin, and were now running halfway up the back of her head. She was being scalped!

 

“You are leaving some hair back there aren’t you?” she said timidly.

 

“Of course.”

 

“It just feels like you’re taking it all off.”

 

“Don?t worry. The clipper has a guard on it so it can ‘t cut things too short. You just feel the guard against your skin.”

 

She breathed easier for a bit, but then the carnage resumed, and she felt him going higher and higher up the back of her head. It was most peculiar feeling nothing against her neck any more. He spent what seemed to be an incredibly long time back there, several times returning to the lower hairline and then starting up again. After a while she actually found herself numb, not hearing or feeling any more being sliced off.

 

Then she closed her eyes as she felt it pushed up behind her right ear, and then up and forward. He then placed the machine by her temple and repeated the motion from front to back. She realized she no longer had hair covering her ear. He continued taking more and more off the side, including the formation of a small sideburn. He truly was giving her a man’s haircut. Problem was it felt too short. She truly fretted that she would be left not with the cut she had asked for, but with one of the extremely short styles like the pictures on the wall in front of her. She looked straight ahead at the picture of a “Traditional Flattop”. Was this what her hair would end up like? It sure felt like it, as she doubted she had anything more than the short stubble remaining on the side or back of her head, just like the figure in the drawing.

 

Robert moved to the left side and in less than a minute made it match the right side. Then he shut the clippers off and returned to his counter. Danielle sat frozen, stunned that she was actually doing this. How would she ever explain this to her friends? She knew her hair was far shorter than she ever could have imagined, and more was falling every second.

 

The barber stepped in front of her, combing down her bangs again. She hadn’t considered that they would be even shorter. Yet the scissors moved in again and she saw more clippings fall in front of her eyes. Once again she swore it was not a straight line. In fact this time she was positive it was a much more severe angle. Then Robert combed them back over, patting them in place. He spent a while combing the style and pressing on it with his hands, almost like he was trying to train a stubborn animal. Then Danielle heard him once more return to his tool counter. She heard him pick up something else.

 

He was again working on the top hair, inserting some scissors very close to her scalp, and seemingly slicing everything off. A comb quickly ran over the area. Probably so the clippings wouldn?t fall forward and alarm her. She once more looked at the picture of the Flattop, fearful she would end up like this. She was about to say something when the door opened and a man walked in.

 

“Hey Rob, here’s your paper.” He plopped the daily news on a chair directly in front of Danielle, and then was out the door without even giving her a second look.

 

She just watched the delivery man leave, and by the time she returned her focus to her hair Robert was done chopping her top hairs and was back at his counter. She heard what sounded like an electric blender.

 

Then he was back at her, dabbing some type of warm product on her neck. It was shaving cream. He also ran it around both ears. She was getting the same treatment as she had seen Will receiving. Hopefully her hair wasn’t as short as Will?s.

 

She held deathly still as she felt the razor slowly scraping against her skin. She wondered how often he cut people doing this. She knew shortly she would see her new reflection, and she dreaded the moment. Looking straight ahead at the short haircut pictures sure wasn’t helping, so her eyes drifted down to the daily paper. Something on the headline story talked about Harrison Industries. She couldn’t make out anything more.

 

Moments later the razor was put down. It had been odd feeling it working its way around her ears. The whole procedure of a men’s haircut in a barber shop was certainly far different than a woman’s trip to the salon. Thankfully it was now over, as she was toweled down, whisked off of any stray hairs, and then her hair was combed once more into place. Without saying a word the chair was turned around to face the mirror.

 

Danielle sat dumbfounded. The difference was amazing, and a relief. He truly had cut her hair just as directed, and she wasn’t sporting some short military cut as she had feared. However her hair was definitely short now, and looked so much darker on the sides as the sun bleached length now lie on the floor of the shop. The top had a very defined part on the left and was combed over totally flat to her head. There was no hint of her natural wave at all, even though he hadn’t used a blow dryer. She couldn’t get over how lifeless her bangs looked now. She pulled them forward, noting that they were cut at almost a 30 degree angle now. Obviously this was intentional. Robert handed her his comb and she put them back in place, amazed at how quickly and obediently her now very short hair responded. The sides of her head looked so different, as she now had very short sideburns, and her ears had nothing covering them, or even close. Her slender neck also had nothing against it. She was given a hand mirror and allowed to see the back. It looked actually longer than she expected considering how long he had spent back there, with a solid straight line across the bottom the result of being “blocked.” She fumbled as she touched it, discovering it was only about an inch in length. She was glad she hadn’t had it tapered as this was quite short enough. She looked over at the drawing on the wall. Her hair looked exactly like the picture. She now wore a side-parted Businessman’s Cut. She had just received a “man’s” haircut.”

 

“Oh God it is short,” she said. “It’s going to take years to grow out again.”

 

“It is what you asked for, right?!” Robert seemed a bit worried.

 

“Oh, right! You did exactly as I requested.” She kept touching it, noting the top felt so much thinner and lifeless now. “I’m just amazed I actually did ask for this.”

 

“You know you really pull it off quite well.”

 

“You mean I look like a man now?”

 

“Actually I meant you don’t look bad.”

 

She looked hard in the mirror. She had to agree, she didn’t look bad. She definitely looked different, extremely different, but not bad. That was saying a lot too, because in no way was this cut becoming to her at all. It was definitely a totally masculine look.

 

“Will this do it then, or did you want to go even shorter?” He obviously said it in jest.

 

She laughed a bit. “I should hope this would do it. I feel practically bald.”

 

Robert removed the cape and tissue and she once more rose from the chair. She paid him again even though he begged her not too. She even tipped him well.

 

As she started to leave she couldn’t help but look at the paper. She still had an hour and a half before her appointment, so she figured she could easily spare the time.

 

As she thought the lead story was about a celebration at Harrison’s company. In fact there was a huge color photo of him with a group of about 10 honored workers that year. She stared at the photo, noting the haircuts on everyone. They all were sporting extremely short haircuts, like the military ones on the wall. Even Harrison himself had short hair, although he was bald on top like Will was. In fact his cut definitely resembled the one Will had received.

 

Upon further review Danielle gasped. Two of the honorees were not men, but women. However their hair was every bit as short as the men, and in some cases even shorter. They were actually wearing what looked to be military length haircuts! She looked up at the pictures on the wall, comparing them to the women in the picture. She was not mistaken. They were every bit as short as the cuts on the wall!

 

THESE WERE THE WOMEN THAT MET THE APPROVAL OF HARRISON! She looked at herself in the mirror again, shocked by the drastic new apparition that stared back at her. Despite the fact that her hair was now clearly cut like a man and was in no way feminine, it was also clearly much longer than any of the people in the picture. A horrible thought crossed her mind. WAS IT STILL TOO LONG?!

 

“Oh, No,” she said audibly.

 

“What’s wrong?” asked the barber, busy sweeping up the pile that was her former mane.

 

“This photo of Harrison’s star employees.” She handed him the article. He looked it over fairly nonchalantly.

 

“So?”

 

“Look at the women. Look at how they wear their hair.”

 

He stared at it, then raised his eyebrows. “Wow! We’re talking real short hair on those two.”

 

“Exactly. Now look at mine.”

 

He looked at her quizzically, unsure of where this was leading.

 

“Mine is still too long,” she said a bit too loud, and she sat down on one of the wooden chairs that lined the wall of the shop. Her head hung in dismay.

 

“It’s definitely not too long. It’s as short as any man. I didn’t go easy on you at all, just as you asked.”

 

She looked up at him, tears in her eyes. “It’s not as short as theirs.”

 

“No it isn’t, but?..” Robert didn’t have time to finish his sentence. Danielle had returned to her feet suddenly and sat yet again in the huge barber chair.

 

“What are you doing now?” he asked her.

 

“What do you think?” she said sarcastically. “Getting another haircut.”

 

“You’re not serious.”

 

“Unfortunately I am. I know I’ll regret this in the morning, but give me a cut like hers,” she said, pointing to the lady in the picture with the shorter hair of the two.

 

He stared at the photo, recognizing how severe this request would be. “Do you realize what you’re asking for? That’s a man’s Flattop she’s wearing!”

 

She took a deep breath as the word “Flattop” rang through her head. For all her life it had been a joke of a hairstyle, and that was on men. She found any man sporting the style totally unattractive. Of course it was never, ever, an option for women.

 

“I figured it was something like that. Which one of these pictures is it?” she asked, pointing to the section of the wall of the shop that showed perhaps a half dozen versions of a “Flattop.”

 

“This one,” he said, pointing out the Traditional Flattop picture front and center of the chair. It was the one she had looked at often that day already. Even though it wasn’t the shortest of the pictures (The extremely short “High and Tight Horseshoe Flattop” took that honor) it looked extremely severe. Amazing that there were three variations even shorter. Of course there were also three variations that were longer. Still, her current “Businessman’s Cut” seemed tremendously long in comparison to all of them.

 

“Is that really what you want me to do?” he asked.

 

“No!” she said with absolute conviction. “I want that one.” It was the picture next to the Traditional Flattop. It was titled “Short Flattop with Landing Strip.”

 

“But that’s even shorter!?”

 

“That’s right. I need to go one better on this woman. I can’t let him find fault in my appearance.”

 

“You‘re going to end up with practically no hair left at all.”

 

Her fears were screaming at her, but she stood resolute. This was too important to back down now.

 

“If that’s what it takes, then that’s what I‘ll do. After all, I‘ve already come this far.” She leaned back into the big chair. “Please Robert, give me that exact haircut.” She said it leaving no doubt of her determination. Robert just stared at her a bit, totally lost for anything to say, and then shrugged his shoulders.

 

“OK,” he replied, and he once more put the cape around her along with the tight tissue. “I just hope you know what you‘re doing,” he added as he turned the chair once more towards the window, “because it‘s going to be REAL short. Even for a man.”

 

As Robert stepped back to prepare his tools, Danielle looked at the picture she had just requested. The back and sides had only the slightest amount of hair left. The top was a definite level surface, and it seemed to get unbelievably short the further back it went on top. In fact it looked like it faded into nothingness. Frightened, she compared it again to the “Traditional Flattop” picture. It really didn‘t look too much different, which made it easier to stick by her decision.

 

She re-read the title of the cut. “Short Flattop with Landing Strip.” She wondered what a “Landing Strip” was.

 

Robert was ready to go now, and stepped in front of Danielle pointing to the picture. “Do you really want me to cut it that short?”

 

She grasped the arms of the chair in a death grip and nodded her head in affirmation. “Absolutely.”

 

“We‘re talking drastically short here all over: back, sides and especially on top.”

 

“Yes! Yes! I know! Just do it already before I lose my nerve.”

 

He pointed to the Traditional Flattop picture once more, with a smile, trying to get her to change her mind. “I really think this would suffice.”

 

She shook her head.

 

“How about I cut this one first. Then I could go shorter if you really wanted to.”

 

Tempting as the offer was, she was running out of time and couldn‘t draw this out too much longer. As it was she would need some time to adjust and mentally prepare for the meeting. She shook her head again.

 

“The other one.”

 

“You really want me to give you a “Landing Strip??” he asked.

 

“Definitely,” she said, though she still had no idea what it was.

 

He walked back to his tools, shaking his head. “All right. Give the customer what he?..she wants.”

 

“Don‘t go easy on me either. Make it the same as you would give any man.”

 

“Oh I will. Fact is there is no way to go easy on this one. You wanted a man‘s haircut. Well, this one definitely fits that bill.” With that the clippers came to life and he stepped behind Danielle. One hand grasped the top of her head and tilted it forward. Her chin was on her chest, staring at the cape that still held a few stubborn clippings from her most recent cut. She couldn’t believe she was about to receive her fourth haircut that morning.

 

“Here goes nothing,” he said as the clippers were placed at the base of her neck. She closed her eyes, summoning up the courage not to flee. The clippers dug in quickly, mowing a clean path as they journeyed up the back of her head. She recalled how short the picture was, and figured this time there would be no guard on the clippers. This time it really was all coming off.

 

Robert seemed to work very fast, but then why wouldn’t he? This was a simple matter of removing basically everything. In no time he had finished the lower half of the back and was working his way up steadily. Danielle started getting very nervous as she felt him go clear to the top, seemingly never letting up on the carnage.

 

Then he returned her head to level and stepped to her right side, quickly running the clippers tight around her ear. Now some clippings fell forward. They seemed much longer on her lap then they had appeared on her head. They looked at least an inch or so in length. She didn’t think she had that much left to lose. The clippers continued tight to her head, reaching ever higher and higher. She was sure they were too high. She felt them bite into some of the section that was combed over from the left. It was no match and it too felt forward. These hairs were easily two inches in length.

 

Then he stepped over to the left side, quickly outlining that ear too. He continued up basically annihilating all the hair that was below the part. Funny how he hadn’t bothered even combing that hair down or anything, just leaving it in the “Businessman’s Cut” until the very end.

 

The clippers were shut off and he returned to his counter. Danielle looked at the picture again. It was so very short on the sides and back. Now it looked substantially shorter than the Traditional Flattop. If this is what he had already done to her head, then it was too late to back out and just go for the less drastic version. She studied the picture, trying to determine what the “Landing Strip” was. This was all so surreal, almost like it wasn’t really happening to her and she would wake momentarily once more surrounded by her precious long hair. Reality kicked in as she heard a different pair of clippers snap to life, this one with a higher sound to them. She figured these were for the top, but then felt her head tilted forward again. Apparently he wasn’t through back there after all.

 

These clippers attacked the lower half of her head again, and she was stunned to actually hear more coming off. She didn’t think she had anything left. He went over and over it so many times she actually started relaxing a bit, entranced by the massaging feel of the machine. Eventually she could hear no more coming off, but then tensed up as they moved in over her ears. It would be a long time before her hair covered her ears again. How long would it take just to be able to pull off a simple ponytail?

 

The clippers fell silent and she heard them return to the rack. A different pair, probably the first set, came to life. Then she felt a comb drawing her bangs, still lying from left to right, straight up. The clippers ran over the comb and clippings about one inch in length rained down in front of her face, some getting stuck on the end of her nose. Obviously it was time to start transforming the top into a level surface.

 

She stared once again at the picture, still in disbelief that this was what would become of her hair. The top looked so rigid, so harsh, and SO SHORT! Had she really asked for this? Plus it was standing straight up. She doubted her own wavy hair could ever be persuaded to stand straight up. It would probably take a good amount of effort each day using a blow dryer and gel or hairspray. As he worked his way steadily towards the back, lifting and mowing, she felt her heart rate jump even more. Still, it didn’t feel as short as the picture. Was he going easy on her after all? Right now that didn’t feel like such a bad thing. To tell the truth, she rather hoped he was.

 

However the comb returned to the front, and he repeated the procedure yet again. This time the comb felt like it barely rose up at all before the clipper made its run. More clippings, perhaps half and inch, fell forward again. For better or worse it was clear he wasn’t going easy now. Strangely some of her was almost anxious to see what she looked like. The very idea that her hair was being transformed into this attentive level surface was astounding and almost intoxicating. Of course it was definitely the minority though, as most of her felt like shedding a tear for each hacked off strand falling to the floor.

 

Her head was tingling from the foreign feel of the whole procedure, and she could definitely feel the “Flattop” was taking shape. It was most peculiar. As he finished the second pass she figured she would soon get to see her finished cut. Her fourth finished cut! There would be no fifth. Not for a long, long time. All Danielle could think about was growing her hair back to her waist like when she was younger. Maybe longer if it would let her. In fact Floor length sounded attractive to her now.

 

Robert turned off the clippers and walked in front of her, giving her a hard look. Obviously he was sizing up what he had done. She said nothing and held her head very still. Wasn’t he finished?

 

Then he snapped them on yet again, and started making a third pass. This time the comb was directly against her head as the clippers ran over it. She looked again at the picture. She was sure he was taking off too much. He worked his way all the way back again. From the sound of it there was still more hair left up there. Where it was coming from she had no idea.

 

When he reached the back he started attacking the upper parts of the sides and back again. He was laying the comb tight to her head vertically and then running the clippers over them. He must have been putting the final touches on. Her whole head was tingling, and she could feel the air of the shop on her scalp. It was so odd, and for a moment she found herself almost grinning that she had actually done this. She sat there just taking it all in, trying to feel the flat surface. This was definitely a morning she would never forget.

 

She heard the clippers silenced and returned to the counter, as well as the comb, so she figured she was done. Finally. He returned behind her and she expected him to loosen the apron around her neck, or at least turn the chair around. But instead one hand again touched her head, positioning it straight ahead. She could feel the texture of his calloused fingers against her scalp as there was nothing there anymore to run interference.

 

“I need you to hold very still,” he said, and the higher pitched clippers came to life. Obviously he wasn’t done yet, and she found herself focused hard on becoming a perfect statue. Still, she had no idea what there was left to do. She caught a glimpse of the clippers, and noted there was no guard at all over the blade.

 

The clippers were brought to the top of her head, and he very slowly and meticulously brought down the top even further. There was no comb this time helping out. This was freehand. She concentrated even harder on holding still, knowing one false move and she might end up being shaved bald.

 

From somewhere there was still some length, because she heard more coming off. A smaller comb with narrower teeth combed through it, allowing the freshly sliced hairs to begin their downward journey to the floor.

 

Then it happened, and Danielle’s eyes shot open wide. As the clippers neared the back of her crown, she felt them touch down directly against the skin and carve back several inches. At first she thought it most surely was a mistake, but when he went over and over it, making it even longer and wider, she knew it wasn’t. She swore she just had a bald spot carved into the top of her head.

 

Immediately her eyes went back to the picture. She focused in on the level top surface. In the back it truly did go to nothingness, and that nothingness ran for a good portion along the top of the head! It was like a bare patch or strip! It was like a ?..“Landing Strip!”

 

OH GOD! A “Landing Strip” was a bald path down the middle of the Flattop! And she had asked for one! Insisted on one! And from the sensations and sounds of what was happening, she was getting one! She bit her lip as she felt him go over and over it, steadily hearing less and less sliced off until there was just the hum of the clippers, and the feel of the machine directly against her skin.

 

Each time she glanced at the picture the “Landing Strip” seemed to grow. Why hadn’t she noticed this at first?! It seemed so obvious now.

 

The clippers fell silent and Robert once more stepped in front of her, sizing up his work. She stopped biting her lip, trying to look calm. It took all her might not to break out crying. Her hair! Her beautiful, long, luxurious, precious hair was gone!

 

“Hang in there. Almost done,” he said as he headed back to his counter.

 

She was torn in her desire to see the cut, and her desire to run and hide for about three years. She heard the comb and clippers placed back on the counter. Then he took a prickly whisk broom and swept off all the stray hairs from her neck, ears, and face.

 

Then he returned to his counter and she heard him opening a jar. Suddenly his hands were slapping at her hair, depositing some type of product into the top. She momentarily relaxed, happy to feel that there still was some hair up there. Whatever it was smelled very masculine, much like the odor of the shop itself, and was very thick.

 

“What is that?” she asked.

 

“Some Krew Komb. It helps keep your hair standing straight up. I’ll give you a small jar before you leave. When that runs out you can buy more basically anywhere if you want.”

 

It sounded so odd. “Keep your hair standing straight up.” This was something she had never wanted before.

 

He used the comb and positioned it all in place as she sat very still. Now she had to be done. But then the high pitched clippers came to life once more.

 

“Just a few strays,” he said as he delicately ran over the top yet again. Again she cringed as she felt him run over her “Landing Strip.” It felt positively huge.

 

Robert returned to the counter and washed off his hands. “Are you ready to see this?” he asked cautiously.

 

“I think so. It’s real short now, isn’t it?”

 

“Afraid so, but only because that’s what you asked of me. Quite honestly I got no pleasure out of giving you this haircut.” He removed the apron and tight tissue, snapping all the clippings to the floor.

 

“That makes two of us. But if I win over Harrison it will be worth it.”

 

“Let’s hope so.” With that the chair slowly turned to the mirror.

 

Her image was drastically different. Any notion that he had gone easy on her was immediately discarded. Staring back at her was an absolute carbon copy of the haircut in the picture. The top of her head was standing up straight and at attention, totally level clear to the back. The short length and Krew Komb combination made her hair look almost brown. The front hairs couldn’t have been any more than half an inch long.

 

The sides had basically nothing left. There was the slightest bit of blonde stubble, but the light color made it appear basically devoid of hair. She summoned up the courage to tilt her head forward slightly, and see what had become of the top. As she both feared and expected, there was a bald strip of hair about an inch wide and nearly four inches long running straight along the top. Her “Landing Strip” was every bit as pronounced, if not more so, than the one in the picture. The good news is that it wasn’t noticeable at all when her head was held straight. Since she was only 5’4” others would be constantly looking at it, but at least she wouldn’t.

 

She touched it, horrified by the feel of absolutely nothing. Yet the hair next to it, only a fraction of an inch in length standing at attention, felt no better. She truly had almost no hair left.

 

“Quite honestly I’ve never given a woman a “Landing Strip” before, though I have cut a fair number of flattops on women.”

 

“Quite honestly I’ve never had one,” she said, trying to at least humor herself.

 

She was shown the back, which was even shorter than the sides (she didn’t think that was possible) at the base, only getting a bit longer at the top. From the back you couldn’t tell it was a flattop. In fact she basically looked bald.

 

A tidal wave of emotions struck Danielle, as the reality of the morning actually rang home. She was visually trembling now, wishing that this was all a bad dream. But it was very real. She returned the mirror to Robert and stood up again from the big chair. She could feel the air of the shop against her head with even the slightest movement. She tried to pay Robert a third time, but he flatly refused even a tip. He gave her a small jar of Krew Komb, which she put in her purse. She couldn’t imagine wanting to use it.

 

Another customer, a middle aged man sporting what she now knew as a “Businessman’s Cut”, parted on the side, stepped in the shop. He did a double take when he realized Danielle was female, and his gaze continued on her as she prepared to leave the shop. She expected to be the subject of conversation with many people she encountered over the coming months. He would probably be the first.

 

Danielle looked at herself one more time in the mirror. As ghastly as her new apparition was, she easily looked to fit in with the other women who had won Harrison over, probably even well enough to be their leader. Suddenly she was filled with some confidence, and she strode out the door, still with plenty of time to mentally prepare for the appointment.

 

A first huge dose of reality hit Danielle the moment she stepped outside, and the cool morning breeze swept over her now exposed neck, ears, and scalp. It almost knocked her senses off the scale, and it took her quite some time to adjust. She still was trying to get used to her head feeling so light, having no bangs tapping at her eyes, and the bare “Landing Strip”.

 

She really didn’t have enough time to head back to the hotel, nor did she want to go through the inevitable difficulty of explaining her new look to the still ailing Ted. So she took a leisurely drive around the town, taking in the small-town charm of the place, before finally heading to Harrison’s office for her appointment. All the while she found herself constantly checking her new look in the rear-view mirror, or just tuning in to the feel of it all. By the time she arrived she could at least look at herself without cringing. She arrived 10 minutes early and made her presence known to his secretary. She communicated with him via intercom.

 

“Mr. Harrison, a Ms. Barker is here for your 12 o’clock appointment.”

 

“MIZZ Barker? My appointment was with a Mr. Chamberlain!” He sounded clearly agitated.

 

“Yes Sir. Mr. Chamberlain unfortunately was taken ill. Ms. Barker, who is the head of the company, has come to take his place.”

 

Danielle could only imagine what was going through his mind right now. Fifteen minutes later she was summoned in. She strode purposely into his office, expressing confidence and determination, her posture ramrod straight.

 

Her appointment was only 30 minutes. After 20 Harrison asked his secretary to cancel his 12:30 commitment, and 20 minutes later asked her to free up his afternoon. Two hours later Danielle left the office beaming. She had done it. He would back their venture even more solidly than she could ever imagine. Not only had she saved her company, she would have the funds to hire back some of the valued employees she had to let go.

 

She drove probably too quickly back to the hotel, and informed a clearly still ill and now stunned Ted Chamberlain of her successful results. She mentioned nothing of her haircut, and he lay in bed just too stunned to say anything.

 

Then she went to her room and quickly stripped of her binding and none too flattering outfit. When she finally caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror she was again struck by the severity of what had been done to her treasured hair. She found the nerve to touch it again, her hand for some reason constantly patting the level top surface. She expected the Krew Komb to dry stiff like a gel, but it was still slightly moist to the touch and thick. However it had held firm, and she figured it would until she washed it out.

 

She walked around the room a bit, considering the whole day. While at first her actions could only be called drastic, she now considered it necessary. And it had helped this afternoon. Harrison had even mentioned how much he liked dealing with a woman who ‘acted and looked like a man’. While normally she might consider such a statement an insult, today it was vindication. Her hands were mysteriously constantly touching her Flattop, captivated by the level crown. They even lingered over the bare “Landing Strip” now.

 

When she realized what was happening, she forced her hands away from the top of her head and decided to take a shower and wash this junk out of her hair while she tried to determine the best way to break the news to Richard.

 

The process of washing her long hair was a fairly involved ritual. When she dunked her hair under water and started to shampoo it this time Danielle was taken aback again at how little she had left, and how little shampoo and conditioner was now required. When she toweled off it took only seconds to render it almost completely dry. Much to her surprise it dried right back in shape, although it looked several shades lighter without anything in it, and not as full on top. It also looked a good bit shorter if that was possible, and very different to the touch. It only took her moments to decide that she liked it better with the product in her hair, and she fetched the jar from her purse. It was very thick, almost like a putty, and she winced a bit as she rubbed a small amount into the top. It took only seconds and her cut looked identical to how it looked when she left the shop. One thing about this cut: it would certainly save her huge amounts of time in the morning.

 

She called Richard, first telling him the great news of the successful meeting before telling him the bad news of her extreme haircut. She took care to clear Robert of any wrongdoing, pointing out that he had constantly tried to talk her out of it.

 

“I guess he found out how difficult it is to talk you out of anything once you have your mind made up,” Richard joked. The two chatted for a bit longer before Danielle hung up, turned on the television, and let herself relax for the first time all day.

 

EPILOGUE

 

While her extreme new look came as quite a shock to everyone, the story of how it saved her job and got her company back on its feet, became more and more grandiose with each telling.

 

Danielle hated the haircut, but reluctantly and religiously applied the Krew Komb each day, as she really had no other option. At least it stayed in place all day, she never had to fiddle with it, and it only took seconds each morning to arrange. When she had long hair she used to constantly fiddle with the ends when stressed or bored. Her hands still played with it, constantly touching the top or exploring the contours of her head.

 

Fortunately, her hair did grow out, and soon the “Landing Strip” filled in, and she could see actual hair instead of stubble on the sides and back. Strangely she got used to seeing the level top, and when the length grew long enough that she could actually start brushing it back she found herself using her blow dryer to keep the “Flattop”.

 

A month later it was too long to continue sporting the style, and she started brushing it back. Her hands often reached up to the top, trying to feel the flat surface only to be disappointed by it’s passing. Still, Danielle was happy she was on her way to growing it out again, though had to admit she did miss the sight of herself in the extreme “man’s cut.” In some ways she had found it had become her trademark over the past months.

 

Three months later, as her length was now covering the tops of her ear and reaching over her collar, she finalized a five year plan with Harrison. It would involve semi-annual face to face meetings with him, and Harrison insisted that he would meet only with Danielle. A new reality struck her. She couldn’t grow her hair out and expect things to go well with the key investor. For better or worse, her hair would have to be short for the next five years. But how short? She looked at herself hard in the mirror, asking herself what she was willing to commit too. She found herself immediately considering a Flattop again, and was even enthused about the possibility of sporting the distinct style once more. She talked it over with Richard, who truly missed her long hair but supported her none-the-less.

 

Four months later, her hair now long enough to sport respectable bangs, be parted wherever she liked, and even enough to curl a bit on the ends, she set out a day early for her first appointment with Harrison. The reason: a visit with Robert in his barber shop.

 

It was time for another Flattop. She smiled as she looked at herself in the rear view mirror, envisioning the level crown staring back. She was eager this time for the cut. This time she actually wanted that “Short Flattop”. She touched the top of her head, anticipating what was to come. She even wanted another “Landing Strip.”

 

Robert recognized her when she stepped into the shop. It was a full house today, so she took a seat recognizing she would have a bit of a wait. Before having a seat, she looked at the pictures of the variations of Flattops once more, giggling a bit in anticipation. She even studied the two versions of the Flattop shorter than she last received. Since she would be wearing this cut for the next five years, perhaps one time she would request one of these versions. First there was the Horseshoe Flattop, where the top was even shorter than the one with a Landing Strip. In fact all that remained was a circle of hair at the front that reminded one of a Horseshoe. The sides and back looked only a bit shorter than the cut Danielle last received. The shortest cut, the High and Tight Horseshoe Flattop, was different only in the sides and back. But what a difference, as they were shaved completely smooth of hair. It would really take some guts to request such a style.

 

Since her appointment wasn’t until tomorrow, she was in no rush. She happily waited her turn, enjoying watching others get their short haircuts. She even got to see a High and Tight Flattop cut on a young serviceman. It truly was extremely short, but enthralling to watch the whole process. She imagined herself in the chair, having the shaving cream spread on the sides and back of her head, having every trace of stubble scraped off. By the time the young man was out the door, her gaze following the bare back of his head for as long as she could, she knew one day she’d have to ask for that cut.

 

Perhaps it would even be today!

 

THE END.

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