Paying Tuition Part 3
It had been a fast year on her new job. Shannon, Casey, and Jeff were all assigned to the same big program, a new space vehicle. Shannon got a lot of attention and was given some good opportunities to create and present briefing packages to their client. Casey was doing the same for her end of the program and it was an exciting time. Shannon had decided the flattop was not her style despite the initial attention it garnered from her coworkers and was letting it grow out, never getting it trimmed. After ten months it had settled into an undefined shaggy look that was not helped at all by the quarantine in effect around the world. She couldn’t have gotten it styled if she wanted to at this point.
Shannon was more than happy with the work at Nebula. Brad and she were still dating, and it was obvious to even the casual observer they were a serious couple. However, she thought she noticed a change in her assignments. While Casey was getting a great deal of attention and doing a lot of customer briefings, Shannon’s role seemed in her mind to be diminishing. She asked her boss if there was a problem with her work and got nothing but praise. She was the design engineer for a test fixture to determine the natural frequency of the space vehicle they were designing. It was highly complex and using the data her test would generate would give them the data they needed to understand how the flight vehicle would perform under stress. Using this data would allow them to properly design the flight controls. She was now both the design and test engineer for this all-important project.
Nebula needed perfection on this job, and it generated a lot of visibility for her. However, she wasn’t doing the number of briefings she was months ago on her test fixture. She kept wondering if something had changed. One day as Casey and she were having lunch Shannon opened up to Casey saying she felt she was being left behind. Casey was silent a moment before saying. “Shannon, do you remember one of the things they liked about the two of us when we interviewed was how we projected the image of change the company wanted? Well, my hair is still short, even with the quarantine, and you’ve let yours grow out and frankly it’s a kind of messy mop look right now. You’ve never had it trimmed since your flattop over a year ago now.” Shannon had never thought about this. She had never taken her looks seriously and had just let herself go. All she wanted to do was get herself back to a more normal appearance. But a year’s worth of growth without even a trim had left it looking, as Casey said, like a mop head. “Think about it Shannon,” Casey said.
That Friday evening Brad and she had a date, if you could call downloading a movie in her apartment a date, but such was the 3-month effect of the quarantine. Shannon asked Brad what he’d do if she cut her hair a little shorter. He replied, “one of the first things I noticed about you Shannon was how stunning you looked when you first got here. I never saw the flattop look that Mike told the leads about. By the time you actually started working here it was longer and kind of pixyish. I do love you and I don’t care what your hair looks like.” Shannon persisted, “but they’re not giving me great assignments anymore. I feel like I’m getting left behind and that I’m not the image they want in front of the customer.” Thinking back to Mark’s reaction she continued, “If I get it cut, I’m afraid you won’t like me anymore.” “Shannon, nothing could be further from the truth. I really liked your short hair.” Brad also assured her he hadn’t heard anything but praise from the other engineering leads and that it was probably all in her imagination. In Brad’s mind he yearned for Shannon to cut it shorter but would never tell her of his deepest secret nor would he demand she ever cut it to please him.
He asked her what she was doing the next Saturday as the quarantine would be lifted this coming Monday and more opportunities might be available to get out and do something. They agreed to get out and about more the following weekend and maybe get in a hike in the mountains.
As the week rolled on Shannon’s mind kept returning to Casey’s comment about the image she presented when Nebula hired them and what they now saw in Shannon as compared to Casey. She had fallen into the habit of dressing the same as her male counterparts at work. Jeans, sneakers and any old shirt would do and the more thought she gave to it the more she decided she needed to look like an up and coming professional. She decided she needed to do some shopping before Brad, and she had another date. She now realized she was a pretty woman and wanted to take advantage of her natural beauty and maybe enhance her appearance a little. She asked for Friday afternoon off from her boss and told Brad she had to go clothes shopping. She spent hours in the newly opened local stores buying the latest for both work and leisure. Thanks to the quarantine there was a huge selection, and everything was on sale as the stores were trying to bring customers back. Unknown to Shannon, Brad took Friday afternoon off as well.
Brad showed up Friday evening at her apartment for their date of video downloading and was shocked to see Shannon in tight fitting jeans and a blouse that showed off her assets to the max. Taking a second look he noticed she was wearing makeup. “Wow Shannon”, was all he could get out. “Do you like it?” she asked. “Definitely, I never really noticed your eyes before, and those jeans are showing some seriously defined legs. I really like this look.” “Good, because this is what you’ll be seeing more of around here and at the office. I decided I was maybe a little too casual at work and I went shopping today and bought a lot of new clothes and makeup.”
The evening went incredibly well, and they discussed what their plans were for Saturday. “I need a haircut first thing,” Brad said. “The barbershop I go to finally opened back up this week so I want to get in early and then we can go to the mountains for a hike. How’s that sound?” Shannon thought to herself she could accomplish multiple goals and said, “that sounds great, how about coming over here before you go to the barbers and we can go directly from there?” Not knowing Shannon had an ulterior motive in mind Brad agreed.
Saturday morning arrived and Shannon had dressed to the max while realizing they were going for a hike later. She’d also done her makeup as well as she knew how given she had little practice doing it. But she remembered what Sandy had done and what the cosmetics counter person told her, and it came out looking amazingly well. Brad dropped by still in awe at this new and improved version of his girlfriend and they drove off to the barbershop. Shannon with a plan and Brad clueless to what was in store.
They parked the car and entered the barbershop together with just a few other customers waiting and all of them assumed Shannon was just there to be with Brad. There were four barbers working and there was a ticket dispenser just inside the door. Shannon looked at the barbers and then at the dispenser and grabbed 2 tickets. Brad looked at her shocked, with his eyes saying, “what’s going on?” Shannon just smiled back with a “don’t ask” look but kept the first number “17” while giving Brad number 18.
When the barber announced “17” Shannon got up and walked to the chair. As she sat down the barber cautioned her saying “honey, we don’t do too many women’s haircuts here. We’re a short and sweet kind of place.” Shannon replied, “Oh, I think you can do what I want.” The barber asked what kind of haircut she wanted to get. Feeling much more brash than ever she said, “I want a flattop. About an inch or so on the top and shave the sides and back.” This would be even shorter than her video flattop. Grace had left her with 2 inches on the top. This would be way shorter than before. The barber looked at her with a quizzical look on his face and Shannon said with much more bravado than she really felt, “don’t worry, I’ve had this before.”
With that the barber smiled and said, “a flattop I can do” and placed a tissue around her neck, a cape on her shoulders, and tightened the cape saying, “Ok, a one-inch flattop and I’ll shave the sides and back, right?” “That’s right”, said Shannon. Looking at the waiting customers and Brad all Shannon could remember was the last time she’d had her hair done and this was nothing like that. The last time was terrifying enough with just her and a few other people all recording her hair’s demise. Now she had an audience.
From Brad’s perspective he was numb. He knew Shannon had once before had a flattop but didn’t know any of the circumstances around that haircut. Having Shannon sit in a barber chair and ask for a flattop was the most welcome of a surprise. He had never told Shannon that when Mike Williams had told the engineering leads he had hired three new engineers and that one of them was a tall blonde knockout with a flattop Brad couldn’t wait to meet her. He loved women with short hair but would never bring himself to ask Shannon to cut her hair. His secret was his alone. Until now.
Looking at Brad she noticed he had eyes only for her, a huge smile on his face, and he looked quite uncomfortable trying to hide something else. Shannon could tell he was getting very excited on the prospect of her haircut. She had never thought Brad might be one of those guys her video was meant for. She was more than happy to see him squirm a little with a growing discomfort in the waiting chair until she heard the whirring of the clippers coming close. She wanted him as excited for her haircut as she was.
She watched in the mirror as the barber started on her right side quickly removing the six to seven inches of grown out shaggy look she had. In the wake of the clippers her light blonde hair gave the impression that nothing was left behind. He was an expert and quickly moved completely around her head leaving what appeared to be nothing but skin behind. At this point she looked like a mushroom. Her sides were almost bare while the barber hadn’t touched the top at all.
He then grabbed his flattop comb and inserting it above her forehead he said “ok, I need to remove a lot of length here before we get to the final cut.” Looking straight ahead she watched him quickly remove six inches of hair in a single pass. The hair tumbled down her face onto the dark cape showing just how much blonde hair had been severed from her head. Inserting the comb again he moved back on her head and removed another six inches repeating this until he had completely removed most the length she had grown out over the last year. Opening his jar of butch wax, he took a small amount and rubbed it into her hair and then brushed her 2 inches of hair until it stood straight up. He grabbed his flattop comb and said “now don’t move. We only get one chance at this and we want it perfect.” He then used his clippers and the comb and carefully removed more hair until she thought you could have played pool on her head. She knew this cut was shorter than the last as she could feel the comb lying flat on the top of her head. Putting the comb on the shelf he returned with his whirring clippers and, using a practiced eye, ensured her hair was no more than an inch high and perfectly level while getting progressively shorter towards the crown where only a faint hint of her blonde hair remained.
Satisfied, the barber then placed his clippers on the hook, and now she heard a different whirring sound. Confused because she thought he was done; Shannon couldn’t understand what the barber was doing. He came back to her with foam in his hands and started placing shaving cream on the sides and back of her head. When Shannon had asked for the sides and back to be shaved, she meant using the clippers the same as Sandy had done a year ago. Now she could either admit she wasn’t as used to this treatment in a real barber shop as she had told the barber or continue. She glanced at Brad who was visibly having a difficult time staying put in his chair and wickedly decided to prolong Brad’s discomfort and be quiet and continue.
Brad meanwhile had passed on several barbers announcing “18” preferring to watch Shannon get her haircut. He would wait until she was done and sit in the same chair for his haircut. He was enjoying her transformation to a flattop immensely and wondered how lucky a guy could get having his girlfriend get a flattop without ever being asked. He knew she was a one of a kind beauty, his one of a kind and he had no intentions of ever letting her go.
The barber picked up a straight edge razor and stropped it against the leather belt hanging from the chair. Placing his left hand on top of Shannon’s head to steady it he used the razor in his right hand to carefully peel away the shaving cream and all remnants of hair from her sides and back. This was a new sensation for Shannon and her excitement began to grow as well. This was nothing like the terror she felt at It’s All About You. This felt wonderful and with another look at Brad trying mightily to hide his growing enthusiasm she was sure that he liked this look too.
Wiping away the remains of the shaving cream with a towel the barber dusted off her hair and picked up his brush again making sure her hair was perfectly in place he sprayed it with hair spray to ensure it stayed at erect as possible. Pronouncing his work done Shannon thanked him and left the chair for Brad to have his hair cut. Passing each other in the waiting area Brad whispered, “you look so hot.” “Glad you like it,” she replied.
While Brad was in the barber chair Shannon felt her hair for the first time marveling at how erect the top was and how smooth the sides now were. Brad could hardly contain himself watching her run her hand across the top of her head. Shannon noticed and realized Brad loved her new look and devilishly continued to run her hand over her hair. After Brad finished his haircut, they got up to leave and Shannon asked the barber for a jar of butch wax telling Brad this time she thought she’d need it to keep it looking right. Brad heartily agreed. They paid and leaving a generous tip, left the shop on their way to the mountains but Brad could not help but stop and ask Shannon if he could touch her hair. “Sure silly, I’m all yours,” she replied. His touch was like a fire in her heart as his hands ran up the back of her smooth neck and they embraced in the parking lot. Brad asked Shannon to drive so he could look at her while they went up to the mountains. She had a smile firmly placed on her face as she reveled in the staring look he gave her and knew he was a happy man.
Once they got out of the car in the park, they walked hand in hand to a lake and while standing on a promontory jutting into the lake Brad reached into his pocket and removed a small black box. The reason for Brad taking Friday afternoon off was revealed as he opened the box allowing Shannon to see a huge diamond ring. Shannon knew this was a moment that had taken some time to occur; longer than just this morning. Brad loved her not just because of her haircut, he loved her for being her. Kneeling, with Shannon speechless and unmoving, Brad said, “Shannon, yesterday afternoon I called your father to ask his permission and he gave it. Will you do me the honor of marrying me?” Shannon burst into tears and managed to extend her hand and somehow got the word “yes” out. It was a Saturday they would never forget.
Back in the office Monday Shannon’s new look hair and clothing were the talk of the program. Casey then grabbed Shannon aside and extended her left hand. On her ring finger was a beautiful diamond from Jeff. Shannon wrapped her arms around her friend and then showed her the ring Brad had put on it. They were both squealing with delight attracting attention and they had to come clean and tell the gathering group that four people on the program were now engaged.
Shannon could not believe her good fortune. In the last year she had managed to finish her degree, land a great job and find the man she wanted to spend her life with and who loved her and her short hair. Reflecting on the past year she marveled at how it all had started with a need to pay for tuition.