There was light at the end of the tunnel. This lockdown business had been declared “over”, but I was still wary. The same way as I had decided not to eat out or even go to a bar during the first week of freedom, I resolved to put up with my hair for another few days. I was desperate to get it tidied up, but I wanted to stay away from the initial wave of euphoria, let new ways of working bed-in for the businesses that were emerging from hibernation.
I was like most people – I’d got used to lower standards over the past few weeks, slumming it in comfortable leisure-wear for the most part, rather than trying to maintain my usual standards. I wasn’t going to bump in to anyone in town, I wasn’t going to get chatted up in the supermarket, so the order of the day was “loose”. It had been weeks since I’d worn a bra and I actually quite liked it. I wasn’t sure whether the “new normal” was going to include people continuing this sort of thing going forward or not, I didn’t know. I couldn’t really face the thought of walking through malls populated with an even greater number of slobs than before, but that might be what we’ve become as a result of the virus.
I glanced at myself in the mirror once I’d finished my yoga. That was something that I forced myself to do every day and didn’t dare to not do. It was my way of staying in touch with the “old” me, a way of preparing for eventual release from lockdown. I wanted to be ready for whatever the new world could throw at me. I lifted my sweatshirt, pleased that the effort was showing results. I was lithe and I was trim, the swell of my unfettered boobs just visible. They were showing their appreciation for their lack of restraint in recent times, and were holding up their end of the bargain. I’d told them that at the first sign of slouching, they’d be back in harness, so for now they were behaving themselves. I looked at my hair. It was longer than I liked, it was less obedient than it had been, more relaxed. I decided to have a shower and then see if my salon had re-opened. That was the thing these days, you just didn’t know what had survived from before.
I stood in the shower, still not used to doing this alone. Eddie and I broke up (again) just before the lockdown, which didn’t give us time to get back together again or to move on. The fact that he hadn’t texted since seemed to suggest that it was for real this time. That was the best part of a year down the drain, the best part of a year less for me to find Mr Right and have his babies. Every time I speak to my mum she finds a way to get some sort of ticking clock analogy into the conversation. “You’re thirty-two Jill…” she reminds me, not that I need reminding. Quite how all that dating and mating stuff was going to happen now though, I don’t know.
I reached for the shampoo bottle, pleased that it was nearly empty. It had cost a fortune and was basically a bottle of broken promises. It hadn’t delivered the sheen and it certainly hadn’t delivered the hunky man that the advert portrayed. I massaged it in, enjoying the rich lather that enveloped my long blonde hair, even though nothing would come of it. My eyes were closed, my mind open to a visit from someone that I hadn’t thought of in a long time. Someone who I’d decided was a bit too kinky at the time, but who may just have been a little ahead of his time, for me anyway. I really was looking for something long-term at that stage, thinking that I was just filling in time in an office job before marriage and family and all that stuff. Bondage gear hadn’t featured in that vision for me, but was very much on Mark’s mind from the start. Most guys are happy to get in to your underwear and go from there, but for him, that underwear had to be of a very particular sort and involve straps and buckles and who knows what else, right from the get-go. Needless to say, things came to an abrupt halt back then. Ten years later, I think I’d be a bit more willing to explore. I knew that if I dwelt on it, I’d be in the shower for ages and the day would waste away. Mark went back to the darker corners of my mind and I rinsed off.
I padded into the lounge in my robe, with a towel turbanned around my head to keep my hair corralled. I dug my phone out of my bag and scrolled through the list of people that I couldn’t get within six feet of for the foreseeable future. I scrolled past it, backed up and then hit the link for my salon. I switched to speaker to save me from the onerous task of holding the phone while it rang out at the other end. Miraculously, someone answered, catching me quite unawares. I was just about to go and put the kettle on when the cheery voice stopped me in my tracks.
‘Good morning, Hair Lounge, how can we help you?’ the female voice asked.
‘Hi, sorry, er, I didn’t think you’d be open’ I said, realising how stupid that sounded. Why ring, dummy, if you didn’t expect an answer?
‘Hi, we’re very much open. Would you like to make an appointment?’
‘Please’ I replied, me and five thousand other people, no doubt.
‘Certainly, have you been to us before?’
‘Yeah, Dani usually does it’ I replied.
‘Ah’ the voice said. That didn’t sound good.
‘Has she left?’ I asked. That would be just my luck. The only stylist I’d ever found who never had an off-day, always made me feel great and it sounded like she was gone. I’d have to track her down, but they probably wouldn’t tell me where she’d gone. They’d try and put me with someone else and I’d have to start all over again.
‘No, she’s still here’ the girl said. So why the dicking around? Book me in, why don’t you?
‘Great. Can she fit me in later in the week?’
‘She can, but we’ve had a sort of re-vamp, and she doesn’t do hairdressing any more’ the voice explained mysteriously. So she’s a hairdresser working in a salon, but she doesn’t do hairdressing any more. I’d need her to run that by me again.
‘So..?’ I said, trying to give the girl space to explain what that statement meant.
‘We’ve started a new service, it specialises in short hair. Dani’s doing that’ she informed me.
‘So are you saying that I can’t book in with her if I’ve got long hair?’ I asked, baffled.
‘She only does short hair.’
‘But she can’t have forgotten what to do with longer hair?’ I replied tetchily. It wasn’t this girl’s fault that things had changed or that my social skills had become a little blunt during the past few weeks of lockdown.
‘Not at all. The owner has launched this new service, that’s all and for the first few weeks, I’m only allowed to book short haircuts for Dani. After that, it may be different and you’ll be able to get in to see her again.’
This girl’s cool head was admirable, but a challenge nevertheless.
‘So, can Dani only see people who have already got short hair or is she allowed to see people with long hair who’d like to have short hair?’ I asked. That should get her, I thought.
‘We’re actually doing an introductory offer for people who want to go short. The more you cut off, the less you pay. For this week only, though’ she countered. She was doing well.
‘Run that by me again. The more I get cut off, the less you charge? Is that it?’
‘Exactly. There’s only two qualifying appointments left though’ she said.
‘I’d need to think about it’ I replied.
‘Sure, give us a call if you decide to’ she said, apparently deciding that there was nothing to be gained by talking to me further. I’d show her.
‘Hang on, I tell you what, book me in. Please’ I said, not wanting to give her the satisfaction of seeing me off.
‘Absolutely. I’ve got this afternoon at 2pm or Friday at 11am’ she offered.
‘This afternoon’ I said quickly. I’d show her.
‘Certainly. Can I take your name please?’
‘It’s Jill Fraser.’
‘Okay then Jill. That’s an appointment in “Shorty’s” with Dani at two this afternoon. We’ll see you then.’
‘Thanks’ I replied, but she’d already gone. “Shorty’s” What the..?
I really did need to put the kettle on now. I stood in the kitchen, watching the kettle, daring it not to boil. It did and I headed back to the lounge with my prize, playing that almost surreal conversation back in my head. Was I really going to get my hair cut off just to prove a point to someone that I’d never met and probably wouldn’t even recognise as the person I spoken to, even if she was on reception when I got to the salon. I could always stand them up and go somewhere else. Could I do that to Dani? I’d given the girl my full name. Dani would know that it was me. I stared into space, wishing my tea to cool enough for me to take a hit. I unwrapped the turban while I was waiting, Medusa-tendrils falling down around my face. I needed to do something, but was this the right way to go about it? What was the alternative? Go somewhere else and put myself at the mercy of someone who’d make me old before my time? Make me in to a soccer-mom without having done the “mom” bit first?
I picked up a notepad off the coffee-table and drew two columns: “Pro’s” and “Con’s”. Never failed. I tried to think of some “Pro’s” in favour of getting my hair cut. 1) Save time. I scribbled down “2)” but couldn’t actually think of anything. I moved on to the “Con’s”: 1) Don’t want to cut my hair. 2) Guys like long hair (need to get a guy). 3) Might look like a lesbian. I went back to the “Pro’s” and added a second point: Offer of the week. I stared at the page. As usual, when I drew up these lists, they didn’t help me.
I took a sip of tea. Ouch! Still too hot.
I tossed the pad back on the table and tried to do the same sort of thing mentally. What was stopping me? My man? Hadn’t got one. Work? Self-employed. Can please myself. Mum? She’d criticise whatever I did: stayed the same or went for change. Man hunt? That was about the only thing that I could think of. Men liked long, flowing hair. Particularly the hunk on my shampoo bottle. Except that he was probably off somewhere screwing a short-haired girl. Okay, most men liked long, flowing hair. What about the ones that didn’t? Could I get one of those? You won’t know unless you try, the little voice in my head said. It was okay for that little voice, it didn’t have to hide away from the world until its hair grew again.
I took my tea with me in to the bedroom to dry my hair and get dressed. It felt so strange to feel jeans gripping my legs. Did that mean that I was just unused to wearing clothes that weren’t loose or had I been snacking too much and the weight had snuck onto my thighs. I decided that I just wasn’t used to wearing normal clothes any more. I picked a bra out of my drawer, hoping that I could sneak up unawares and capture my boobs without them seeing what was coming. They’d had it so good for the past few weeks, but now it was time for restraint.
I drank my tea while I painted on a face for the outside world.
That was it, I took a last glance back at the flat that had held me captive for too long and went out the way that I’d used to.
It wasn’t long before I was disabused of the notion that I was going out into the world the way that I always had. A trip like this would’ve involved looking round shops, sitting on a bench with a sandwich before going for a good trim with Dani. I didn’t have time to stand in the queues outside any of the shops and the sandwich shop that I used to love looked sad and empty. Even the trim and chat with Dani wasn’t going to be the same.
I’d used up most of my time scouting round town looking to see what there was, whether anything was worth coming back for in the short term. I came to the conclusion that I’d need to give it a bit longer for a bit more re-generation to take place. I headed slowly back towards the salon.
‘Hi’, I’m Jill Fraser, for Dani’ I announced.
The girl at reception smiled at me. It was her. Didn’t think I’d come, did you? Well, here I am, bitch. In my head, I was fearless!
‘Hi, I’ll just let Dani know that you’re here. Would you like a coffee?’ she asked. I most certainly would.
‘Yes, please. Black, no sugar’ I replied.
‘Take a seat and we’ll be right with you’ she simpered. I watched her go, swinging her long, dark hair annoyingly at me.
I sat down and flicked through the meagre stash of magazines on the coffee table. Not been open long enough to re-supply, I thought. I decided not to bother and sought refuge in my phone. I hadn’t even keyed in the code before I was disturbed by someone else.
‘Hello, you!’ the new arrival said, with more cheer than I could reciprocate at this point. I looked up. She was tall and attractive, even with the buzzcut. She was Dani.
‘Hi Dani. I didn’t recognise you’ I said, standing up, eyes wide in surprise.
‘Yeah, well, meet the new me’ she said, running a hand over her bristly head. The Dani that I’d known before all this started had hair past her shoulders, so dark that it had a blue sheen. Or maybe that was a little hairdresser trick that she’d never own up to. That was gone. She’d swapped it with some guy. A guy who liked his hair short, even for a guy.
Her outstretched arm invited me to start walking, just as reception-girl appeared with my drink. The three of us processed down the salon, past a couple of other stylists and clients, stopping at a styling station that I’d sat at before. I waited for the receptionist to put my cup down and go back to where she belonged before passing comment.
‘I thought you worked in “Shorty’s” now. That’s what she told me’ I said, flicking my eyes towards the receding figure of the receptionist.
‘Sorry. Welcome to “Shorty’s” she said with a grin. ‘You may need to use your imagination just a little’ she added.
‘This is where I came before’ I pressed.
‘It’s all in the mind’ she replied, still with the smile. She tapped the back of the seat to get me to sit down.
‘She wouldn’t let me see you unless I played along’ I explained.
‘It’s something that the boss wants to do. So far, it’s cost us a stylist and most of my regulars’ she said, somewhat dejectedly.
‘A stylist?’ I pried.
‘You remember Suzy, long blonde hair? She was asked first. Wouldn’t cut her hair, so she’s not here any more.’
‘You didn’t mind doing it though?’
‘I need a job and there isn’t much else about at the moment. My hair’ll grow back. It’s not the end of the world. I just feel sorry for Suzy, cast aside like that. I can’t even bring myself to call her.’
‘I suppose every business is having to re-invent itself’ I observed.
‘It’s hard for everyone. Business is way down on what it was. People are frightened to come in at the moment, so you’ve got to do what you can.’
‘So there’s no point asking you for a trim?’
‘You can ask, but it’ll get me the sack’ she laughed.
‘I wouldn’t want that’ I said quickly, struggling to tear my gaze away from her shorn head.
Without me realising it, Dani had covered me with a gown and had now slipped into professional mode, rather than co-conspiritor mode.
‘Katie told you about the promotion this week, did she?’ Dani asked.
‘Yeah. Well, she told me there was one, but I didn’t really take it in too much. I was too annoyed that you weren’t “you” any more’ I replied.
‘That’s one way of putting it’ she replied. She paused for a moment. ‘How’d you like to stick it to my boss?’ she asked.
‘For taking my little star away from me? Dependable Dani? I’d love it. Just tell me how.’
‘I can give you a free haircut. No money for her’ Dani replied.
‘Okay. What’s the catch?’ I asked.
‘You won’t need a hair brush for a while.’
‘I was pretty much expecting that when I walked in’ I replied.
‘So you’re okay with not worrying about split ends?’
‘Who isn’t’ I replied.
‘So we’re going for it?’
‘Yeah’ I said, trying to sound certain for her benefit. I wasn’t feeling certain. We hadn’t even defined “it”.
‘Just think of it as ripping off a plaster. The quicker you do it, the less painful it is’ she said.
‘You’d better let rip then’ I replied, bravado getting the better of me.
She picked up some clippers that had been dangling unobserved from a hook on the side of the styling unit. The sort of clippers that get used on men. Not on me. She was serious.
‘Is it going to be like yours?’ I asked, the prospect of being clippered starting to get a little too close for comfort.
‘You can have it like mine if you want’ she replied. I wrinkled my nose. She turned the clippers on. There was a hand on my shoulder. ‘I’ll just go with what I think then’ she said. Just like a dentist who was about to do something hideous to you.
‘Head down’ she said, giving it a helping nudge with the fingers of her left hand.
My head obeyed. I was looking at my lap, covered in shiny grey material. Then I felt her make contact. I waited to see fallen hair appear. It didn’t. I felt contact again. Of course, she was at the back of my head, that’s why I didn’t see anything. It was going straight to the floor. She wasn’t messing about. I could feel the clipper things run up the back of my head time and again.
‘Head up for me’ she said, breaking contact for a moment.
I brought my head back up so that I was looking directly in the mirror.
‘Okay so far?’ she asked.
‘Only because I’ve got no idea what you’re doing to me’ I replied.
She looked at me in the mirror. ‘This’ she said, placing the clippers at my forehead.
She moved them backwards. I felt my stomach lurch. I was grateful that I hadn’t had lunch.
‘Jeez Dani!’ I exclaimed, realising that I’d turned heads at the other styling stations. The clippers weren’t clipping, they were shaving. I hadn’t got any hair left in the path that she’s just mown. ‘You said that it wouldn’t be like yours’ I objected, before reflecting that she hadn’t really said that.
‘It isn’t’ she replied. ‘This is the free option.’
‘You could’ve told me’ I said, feeling a tremble in my voice.
‘Would you have done it if I had?’ she asked.
‘No’ I said firmly.
‘There you go then, you’d have missed out on an experience.’
‘Have you done this?’
‘This is re-growth’ she replied, pointing at her own head. ‘We thought we’d be able to open a couple of weeks ago, but then they extended the lockdown, so it’s had a chance to grow a bit.’
‘That says it all, if you’re growing it again.’
‘I was just thinking that I’m going to get one of the other girls to re-do it for me when we close up tonight. Just doing this on you makes me want to do it again. The first time felt like I was expected to do it. Now it’ll be because I want to do it’ she replied.
‘Really? What does your boyfriend think about it?’ I asked.
‘He realised that he’d never liked my hair long’ she laughed.
‘What?’ I exclaimed.
‘He loves it short. Quite liked me bald too. Said that it made me look exotic.’
‘You looked exotic with long hair’ I told her.
‘Loads of women have long hair. There aren’t many bald women, so I would stand out in a crowd. He liked that. Not that there’s any crowds these days.’
‘So you thought you’d sneak me in to your new world?’
‘You wanted a free haircut’ she chuckled.
‘I never would’ve thought that you’d do this to me though.’
‘I did it because I know you, because I know you’ll look fabulous. I didn’t want you to miss out. I really wish that I’d chopped mine off years ago. I keep thinking about Suzy and what she’s missed out on, all because she wouldn’t cut her hair.’
‘I’ll probably need a bit more convincing than that, but as long as you’ve got a wig or a big paper bag that I can put over my head, I’ll walk out of here a confident woman’ I replied.
‘Don’t be like that. No wigs, no bags. You’re walking out bald and beautiful’ she said.
‘We’ll see’ I replied, watching as she consigned another strip of my hair to the floor. There was nothing else that I could do, no going back. While she finished off, I tried to picture her without that covering of darkness on her own head. I suppose that I could always pop back later on to see the real thing, but for now it was the distraction that I needed.
I was just watching her target the last bit of hair on the side of my head when I sensed a presence next to me. Dani paused and a figure leant in to me.
‘I just wanted to say that you’re very brave’ the woman said, walking away without waiting for a response.
‘That was nice of her’ Dani said.
‘I’m not sure that I’m brave. It’s not as if I made a conscious decision to do this, is it?’
‘You booked an appointment knowing that you were going to lose a lot of hair. You showed up. That’s brave’ Dani said.
‘I suppose, when you look at it like that’ I conceded.
‘Well, now you do need to be brave’ Dani said, turning the clippers off and putting them on the shelf.
‘Why? What else are you going to do to me?’ I asked. My answer was in the form of a can that she got out of a little cupboard.
‘You’re not going to “shave” it, “shave” it, are you?’ I asked, spotting the razor that was also coming out of the drawer.
‘You wouldn’t want me to do half a job now, would you?’
‘Maybe this is one of the times that I would’ I replied.
‘I don’t think you mean that’ she said, squirting a mound of cream into her palm.
‘I wouldn’t be so sure’ I said.
‘Let’s do it and then you can see what you think’ she said, patting her hands together quickly and then pressing them both to my scalp. She started to smear them round.
Despite my misgivings, the sensation while she did this was worth the loss of whatever micro-covering of hair that I had at that point. There was something in the way that her fingers played around in the slush that made me tingle in ways that I’ve never felt in a hair salon before. I was actually getting turned on! I thought that the razor would put a dampener on things, but far from that, the sensations intensified to the point where I wondered whether I was going to disgrace myself. How was that even possible?
‘Still with me?’ Dani interrupted.
‘Yes’ I replied slightly hesitantly. Did she know? Dani stroked, I wished that I could, but in the end she got to her goal and I managed not to get to mine. Then I realised that she would probably want to rinse my head to get the last of the shaving cream off. Would that push me over the edge? As expected, she asked me to move to the basin for a quick rinse. I hoped that that would be all it was. I wasn’t sure that I could take much more. I was more turned on than I’d been for months and there wasn’t a man in sight. How weird was that?
I lay back against the basin, telling myself that I was just getting some soap rinsed off. There was nothing to it. Nothing would come of it. I tried to clear my mind of anything that could be regarded as erotic, but it was a real struggle. I was so grateful when the sound of running water stopped and she was dabbing at my head with a soft towel. I sat up, impressed with the ease that I could do it now, thanks to all the sit-ups that I’d been doing while stuck at home. I stood up and followed her back to the styling station. I sat down, she rubbed my head with the towel for a final time and then took it away. There I was in the mirror. Not a hair on my head. I started to reach from under the gown so that I could have a feel, but Dani stopped me.
‘Let me make it easier’ she said, undoing the gown and whisking it away. ‘There’ she said.
I reached up. I touched. It was so strange.
‘Well?’ she asked.
‘I can’t believe I’m bald’ I replied.
‘But do you like it?’ she asked.
‘Not yet’ I said.
‘You look stunning’ an exuberant voice said. I turned to look at her. It was a middle-aged woman with a buzz cut.
‘Hi, I’m Laura. This is my salon’ she said, holding out a raised hand in greeting.
‘This is Jill, Laura. One of my regulars from before. She decided to try the new service’ Dani explained.
‘I can see that. Excellent choice’ Laura said. ‘I was wondering’ she continued, turning to look at me directly ‘You wouldn’t be able to spare me a couple of minutes of your time to talk about your experience here would you? We’re very new to this sort of thing and I was wondering if there’s anything we could do to make it better’ she said.
I looked at Dani. Dani shrugged. I couldn’t think of a reason not to. I said my farewells to Dani and followed the new woman up a flight of stairs to her office.
‘Thanks for coming up Jill. Your experience could help us make our approach more enjoyable for other clients’ she started.
‘Anything to help out’ I offered, looking around me.
‘Would you like tea? Coffee?’ she asked, just as my stomach rumbled. She smiled.
‘How about if I get one of the girls to pop round the corner for some sandwiches? You’re not in a hurry are you?’ she asked. I wondered what secret supplier she had, when I hadn’t been able to find a sandwich shop.
‘Not really no. To tell you the truth, it’s just nice to be out of the house for a bit.’
‘Boyfriend driving you mad, is he?’
‘No. It’s just me at the moment’ I replied.
‘Same here. It’s odd that for so long I wanted to be on my own and then I was, and it wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be.’
‘I know what you mean’ I agreed.
‘Tell you what. Make yourself comfortable, I just need to pop dowstairs and then I’ll be back. Is that okay?’
‘Sure’ I replied, looking at the inviting armchair to the side of her desk. This was an office that was more than an office. It was her cave.
I watched her walk towards the door. She either hadn’t let herself go during the lockdown or had used the time to get herself fit. She was svelte and well-dressed. Very striking with that buzz cut. Obviously practised what she preached. I flicked through my phone, just in case any messages had snuck in while I’ve been in town. Nothing. She was very trusting leaving a stranger alone in her office. I stroked my head. The more I did it, the quicker I’d accept it, get used to it. I thought about the sensations of Dani shaving my head and couldn’t actually think of a time when I’d been with a guy who’d managed to generate the same sort of excitement. With a guy you always knew that he was just putting in time before he could stick his dick in you, but what Dani had done was nothing to do with that. It wasn’t intended to be sexual (as far as I knew), but it had certainly got me on the launchpad, despite my underlying reservations about the fact the she was actually shaving my hair off. I was starting to feel abandoned when the door opened and a platter of sandwiches came in to the room, followed by what I assumed was one of the stylists.
‘Laura asked me to tell you that she won’t be long’ the girl said. ‘She said to go ahead without her’ she added, gesturing to the platter she’d just put down. She went to a cupboard and brought out a couple of plates and some napkins. I thanked her and was alone again. I looked at the food, wanting to tuck in, but deciding that I should wait. I just hoped that my stomach wouldn’t rumble quite so loudly again before I got to eat. My resolve was just starting to waver when Laura came back in.
‘Sorry about that’ she said smiling. ‘Now, where were we?’
I looked at her. She smiled at me.
‘I’ve got some bottled water here’ she said, bending down to open a little drinks fridge. I looked at her again as she handed me a bottle and a glass.
‘I hope you don’t mind me asking, but didn’t you have hair when we came up here?’ I said, not quite believing what I was seeing.
‘I thought I’d join you. Dani’s next client isn’t due for a few minutes, so I got her to do me quickly’ she said.
‘It must be contagious’ I chuckled.
‘If only. I’ve set myself a mission to convince as many women as I can just to get rid of their long hair. I know it seems odd, having a salon and wanting to shoot myself in the foot, but we’d still make a living from short hair. Might miss out on the wedding stuff, but they can be more trouble than they’re worth once you get mothers in, fussing around, asking for the impossible.’
I looked at her again. She was quite different without that meagre covering of hair that she’d had.
‘Have you shaved your head before?’
‘Not quite. I went from a bob to a number two and kept it at that. Seeing you though, I just had to. Had to do it while you were here’ she said.
‘You’re very positive about it.’
‘You will be too in a while. I doubt that you’ll want to go back to long hair ever again’ she said, sitting back against the edge of the desk.
‘Thanks for the food’ I said, looking longingly at the sandwiches.
‘My pleasure. We can’t have you wasting away now, can we?’ she said. I watched her stroke her scalp and felt the urge to do mine. We laughed at the mirror image.
‘A cheap thrill’ Laura chuckled.
‘So what can I help you with?’ I asked, trying to get back to the reason that she’d asked me up here.
‘I wanted to ask you about the whole experience, from making the appointment, the welcome you received, what sort of support Dani gave you, that sort of thing’ she said.
‘Well…’ I started, before realising that her expression had changed.
She had reached out her hand to me from her perch against the desk, urging me to stand up. I stood. She examined me, looking in to my eyes and then she looked at my bare scalp, reaching up to brush it with her fingertips. My surprise must’ve been obvious. She smiled.
‘Maybe we can do that interview later, over a glass of wine’ she offered.
‘I’d like that’ I replied, surprising myself now.
Her fingers brushed my cheek. ‘Tell me if I’m making you feel uncomfortable’ she said.
‘I’m not…I’ve not done this before’ I said quietly, hoping that I wasn’t leaping to the wrong conclusion. How many more surprises could the day throw at me, I wondered. My ex had a thing for lesbian porn (in addition to his thing about MILFs, that I never understood) and he wasn’t averse to dropping a hint about finding a girl to join us in a session, but I’d never taken him seriously. If only he could see me now, shaven-headed and toe-to-toe with an actual MILF.
‘If Dani’s had the same effect on you as she’s had on me, I’d say that there’s nothing you want more right now’ she said, trailing a finger across my cheek to my lip. ‘I don’t think it’ll take much’ she said giving me a glimpse of the tip of her tongue. Her other hand was working away at the button on my jeans, then the zipper. Cheek-hand joined zipper-hand to ease my jeans down slightly. The gasp that I uttered as her fingertip made contact with the material covering my pussy confirmed her suspicion. She looked at me triumphantly as her finger worked away. We hadn’t even kissed, let alone had that glass of wine as a prelude to anything like this and now here she was, manipulating me with a single fingertip, like a basketball player spinning a ball to impress a crowd. Laura had an audience of one, enthralled, very appreciative, out of their seats, gasping. She hadn’t even needed to touch me directly, it was just as she suspected and I came more intensely than I could remember. She smiled and planted the lightest kiss on my forehead.
‘Thank you’ I said breathlessly.
‘I can’t take all the credit for that. I think Dani deserves much of the thanks’ she said, pulling my jeans up and fastening them for me graciously.
‘That’s two firsts for you today then. Maybe you’ll let me make it three later on’ she said with the sort of tone that she’d use to talk to her clients rather than someone that she’d just brought to orgasm.
My stomach rumbled to defuse the tension that I sensed.
‘How selfish of me, keeping you from the food’ she smiled. I felt awkward, taking a food break when my sense of politeness told me that I should have been taking tentative steps down a new path. I needed the sandwich and I needed the break. We chatted idly for a few minutes whilst I ate like some starving urchin, wondering how to make a tactical withdrawal so that I could re-group. Did I really want to go down this path? I finished eating.
‘I’ll let you get on if you like. You’ve probably got lots to think about’ Laura said kindly.
‘Thank you, for everything’ I said, taking another long look at the attractive woman sitting across from me. Already I was taking no real notice of her bald head. It seemed right, somehow.
‘I really would like to talk to you about today. Can I give you my number and you can call me?’ she asked.
‘No’ I replied quickly.
She nodded. Disappointment forming quickly on her face.
‘What I mean is I don’t want to ring you. Can we just meet somewhere?’ I said, feeling awkward.
Her expression changed. We agreed to meet for lunch the following day at a little place that she knew, but decided that it was best if I headed off before tongues started wagging in the salon. I gave her a little wave at the door and headed down the stairs.
I smiled at Dani as I went past and stepped out of the temporary fantasy world of the salon and into the real world where I was a young woman without hair. I had no boyfriend, but did I have a girlfriend? How would I ever break that news to my mother? “Hi mum, you know you wanted rug rats? I’m actually a rug-muncher, so we might have to put that little dream on hold for now.” I couldn’t do that to her, surely. Never mind, I hadn’t even kissed the woman yet, so who knew how things would go. I kidded myself that a sly finger in the jeans didn’t really count.
I spent the evening thinking about the events of the day, wondering how I would break the news to my mom. Did I need to say anything at all? We didn’t see each other that regularly, so by the time I saw her again I would have hair. Not as much as she’d expect, but I’d at least have something that you could call hair. Or would I? What would happen if I decided that I liked not having hair, unlikely as that would seem just at the moment? What would happen if things took off with Laura, again as unlikely as it would seem? Who knew, maybe I’d always been a bald lesbian struggling to get out and that was why I hadn’t got the best track record with men.
I couldn’t keep away from mirrors. At first I was trying to come to terms with the fact that I was actually bald and then once I’d done that, I tried to convince myself that it suited me. It looked so different, so not the reflection that I should be seeing. I stroked my scalp in a bid to convince myself that it had happened, but that triggered the same sensations that I’d experienced in the salon. I clearly liked what I was feeling, even if I wasn’t sure if I liked what I was seeing.
I thought about Laura, one minute with a severe buzzcut, the next completely bald. I hadn’t had a chance to decide whether the buzzcut suited her and then it was gone. I tried to imagine the sensation of her finger rubbing me, but it was just easier to substitute my hand for hers. I was in front of the hall mirror, leaning against the opposite wall, legs spread, fingers busy when the letterbox clattered, startling me. Even though common sense said that no-one else had a key, I still tried to make myself decent in a fraction of a second, before realising that it was just a new menu for the local pizzeria. The moment had gone. I looked in the mirror, cheeks red, still bald. It was time for a shower and the untold mischief that that would bring.
I woke up, still bald, still uncertain. The thought of all the drama of having my head shaved paled into insignificance compared with having a date with a woman, an older woman at that! What would I wear? Dressing up for a date with a guy on a promise was easy, but how did you do it for another woman. Women hate being trussed up in corsets and such stuff, but do they like the thrill of seeing their date wear that sort of stuff? I wasn’t sure, so decided to save that one for later. This time, simplicity would be the order of the day. I chose my favourite summer dress and looked at myself in the mirror, feminine and masculine at the same time. I told myself that it would take time, running a hand quickly over my bra-less boobs. I flicked up the hem of my skirt to savour once more the thrill of preparing to go out knickerless. I’d never done that in my previous life, but now the rule-book had been ripped up. I was bald, I was about to go on a lunch date with a woman, so underwear seemed a little pointless. My bravado lasted until I got to my front door.
When Laura had told me that the restaurant was small, I’d been worried, but she’d assured me that it had penty of little nooks and crannies that were quite private. She was already there when I arrived, still sitting in her car in the car-park. She waited for me to find a space before getting out, but was ready to welcome me by the time I’d sorted my things out and grabbed my bag. I walked towards her, pleased that she was casually dressed in a shirt and jeans, but felt a little unsure about the wisdom of leaving my underwear at home.
‘I wasn’t sure that you’d come’ she said, her smile beaming. She leant in to me and gave me a chaste peck on the cheek in welcome. All thoughts of social distancing go out of the window when you’re taxiing along the runway to our intended destination.
‘You’ll have to forgive me. I’ve got no idea how this works’ I admitted.
‘It’s fine dear. I’m not exactly a seasoned pro myself. We’ll find our way’ she said, taking my hand.
She felt my uncertainty.
‘Don’t worry. The people who own this place are like-minded, if I can put it that way’ she replied, squeezing my hand. ‘You look gorgeous, anyway’ she said. I thanked her and returned the complement.
We went in. I couldn’t remember a time when I’d been more self-conscious. Here I was, freshly bald, walking in to a restaurant hand-in-hand with another woman. I needn’t have worried. The owner couldn’t have been more welcoming and discretely showed us to a little alcove away from anyone else.
While we waited for our food to arrive, we chatted about nothing at all until Laura took the opportunity to ask me about the previous day. That was after all, the reason why we were here. Well, that and the almost inevitable tumble in the hay, of course.
‘Tell me, what did you think when Katie told you that Dani had moved away from what she did before?’
‘I was annoyed’ I replied. ‘She was telling me that Dani was there, but that she couldn’t take me, even as a regular.’
‘Ok, that’s not good. We don’t want to annoy people straight off. They’ll just put the phone down. We’ll have to look at that. But you persevered…’
‘Yeah. I wanted to get in to see Dani.’
‘You weren’t put off by what Katie said?’
‘I didn’t want to give her the satifaction of me chickening out’ I replied, taking a sip of my drink.
‘So you came in anyway, knowing that you were going to go short?’
‘I think at that point, I was prepared to go shorter, but not short. Not really short, anyway.’
‘So why did you?’
‘Dani looked really good with hers so short. I suppose it fascinated me a bit that she’d done it and looked really good. Then there was the point I had to prove with that receptionist girl’ I said, smiling.
‘I need to have a word with her’ Laura said.
‘Shave her head for her, that might sort her attitude out a bit’ I said without thinking.
‘Now there’s an idea’ Laura said pensively.
‘No, that was bad of me. I shouldn’t have said that’ I said, regretting my comment. Laura smiled.
‘We digress. Why did you let Dani shave you?’ Laura asked, her fingers touching mine across the table.
‘I didn’t have much choice really’ I replied, pausing while our food was put in front of us. ‘She just did it’ I added.
‘I didn’t exactly hear any wailing.’
‘If I’m honest, it was a bit of a turn-on’ I replied. She raised her eyebrows at me. ‘It was also an acknowledgement that it was time for a fresh start. Ditch the old and start again.’
‘Is that what you’re doing?’
‘Looks like it’ I replied.
‘I just hope you won’t be disappointed’ she said. There wasn’t much that I could say to that.
I’m not sure what benefit any of that post-match analysis was for Laura, but it was good to talk to her about it. It took my mind off what I was actually doing, what I was probably going to be doing. We chatted some more, just like any first date, trying to get to know each other a little better. I wanted to pinch myself to see whether I really was sitting with a bald woman, with a one-way ticket to her bed. Was this really me? No, but then a shaven head wasn’t me at all. I wondered what my mother would say. I wondered what it would be like when Laura and I left the restaurant. I wondered whether I’d like it.
‘Penny for them?’ I heard Laura say.
I looked at her. ‘Sorry, I was miles away’ I replied, slightly embarrassed.
‘I know. Go on then, what were you thinking about?’ she asked.
I looked at her. I looked at her bald head. I smiled.
‘I was just wondering what you’ll taste like’ I replied, surprised to hear myself utter the words out loud. She smiled.
‘Only one way to find out’ she said, folding her napkin and signalling for the bill.