Roxie or Johanna?
Jason Parmalee sat a sidewalk table in front of his favorite Greenwich Village café sipping a cup of cappuccino when a long-legged young woman purposefully striding down the crowded sidewalk caught his eye. He followed her, not so much because of her costume—a frayed yellow t-shirt, artfully torn cut-off jeans, and a pair of scuffed Doc Martens—but because of her hair. It was platinum, obviously dyed, with two inches of dark roots showing. Not only that, but it was cut in a jagged, irregular style that might have been described as a grown out pixie cut if it had been more carefully groomed. But her hair sprouted in all directions in rejection of prevailing fashion. It was a defiant remnant of the punk era, a left-over from a previous decade.
He couldn’t help but stare. Jason had been obsessed by women’s hairstyles for as long as he could remember, especially those that were radically short. While this woman’s hair was not as short as he preferred, it definitely was an extreme statement.
As she walked toward him, he averted his eyes so his voyeurism would not be obvious. But his effort was too late. She halted in front of his table. “Why were you ogling me?” she demanded accusingly. He protested his innocence, but she persisted. “I saw you staring at me. Don’t try to deny it.”
He was caught. No use pretending he hadn’t been enjoying the view. “I was admiring your haircut,” he sheepishly admitted. “You don’t see many women with their hair styled like that these days.”
“Okay. I’ll take that as a compliment,” she replied, her mood suddenly less hostile.
Sensing an opportunity to discuss his favorite topic, Jason continued. “You wear it well. I’m curious why you choose this particular look when it’s so outdated.”
She smiled at him and responded, “Buy me a cup of coffee and I’ll tell you my story.”
As they waited for her espresso he learned her name was Johanna, although she preferred to be called Roxie. She had been an art student at NYU for a year and a half, but dropped out due to lack of cash and an unwillingness to go more deeply in debt. She now supported herself making deliveries for a nearby deli and serving drinks at a SoHo bar on weekends. “It doesn’t pay a lot but I get to hear some awesome new bands and hang out with the musicians.”
When he returned the conversation to her hairstyle she explained that she was on her way to have her hair cut. “Why would you do that?” he asked. “This style seems to suit you and your lifestyle so well.”
“You could say I get bored easily. I’ve worn my hair in this style and color for nearly a year. That’s sort of a record for me. I’ve decided to go back to my natural color.”
“Will you keep it this length?” he inquired, his interest swelling.
“Nah, I’m gonna tell the barber to cut off all the blonde. It’s gonna be pretty damn short when he’s done.” She seemed not the least bit concerned about the drastic change she was about to undergo.
“Have you ever had your hair that short before?” he continued.
“Yeah, once when I was in high school. I caught a lot a flak from my parents and kids at school, but I thought it was kinda cool. I’m looking forward to being a skinhead again.”
She had finished her espresso and was preparing to leave. “Thanks for the coffee, mister. It’s always nice meeting new people.”
“Roxie, this may seem strange, but would you mind if I accompanied you while you’re getting your hair cut?”
“Why would you want to do that?”
“Let’s just say it would give me pleasure to see your hair being cut short.”
“You mean it would turn you on?” she continued, seemingly enjoying his embarrassment.
“Yes, you could say that,” he reluctantly admitted.
“Well mister, I don’t mind you watching me, but if you wanna see the show, you gotta pay the price of admission.”
“And what would that be?” he inquired.
“Paying for my haircut and leaving a nice tip, too.”
“You’ve got a deal,” he said, reaching his hand across the table to seal the bargain.
Jason paid the bill and escorted Johanna/Roxie to back out onto the sidewalk. “Now, where are we going?” he asked hopefully.
“Well I was planning on heading to the nearest barbershop, but now that I’ve found a Prince Charming who’s willing to pay for my haircut, I’ve got a special place in mind.” He could tell she was waiting to see his reaction.
“Sounds good to me,” he told her. “It’s always best to go first class.”
“Wait a minute,” she said as she punched a flurry of numbers into her cell. “Hello, it’s Roxie,” she said when she got an answer. “Can Michael fit me in for a quick haircut right now? Half an hour? Yes, that’s fine.”
She turned to her companion. “We’ll have to wait a while, but not that long. Is that okay with you?”
Jason had no pressing business, it being Saturday, and told her a short wait would be fine. She took the lead, walking quickly towards the East Village. They made a curious pair. Jason forty-five and casually but expensively dressed. Johanna/Roxie in her ragged punk attire. After covering ten long blocks they arrived at a rather ordinary storefront near Tompkins Square Park. The awning out front read, “Crops for Girls: Specializing in Women’s Short Haircuts.”
Roxie announced, “I’ve only been here three times, back when I had more cash, but Michael did an awesome job each time.”
“You were lucky he could fit you in,” Jason observed, “especially on a Saturday.”
“I told him it wouldn’t take long. I think he kinda likes me,” Roxie confided with a sly smirk.
As they stood in front of the shop a young woman came out. Her hair was cut in a daring short pixie cut. “Is that what you want?” he asked, referring to the haircut that just passed.
“Nah, that’s an old lady cut. Besides, when he removes all the blonde my hair’s gonna be a whole lot shorter than hers.”
“So why don’t we go inside?” Jason suggested.
He held the door for her as they walked in. “I’m here to see Michael,” she informed the young receptionist.
“Do you have an appointment?”
“Yeah, I’m Roxie. I called half an hour ago. Michael said he’d fit me in.”
“Okay. You and your boyfriend can have a seat.”
Jason expected Roxie to protest that he was not her boyfriend, but she just winked at him and took a seat next to him. They chatted amiably as they waited. He could see that she was eager to have her hair cut in this one-of-a-kind salon. “Barber shop haircuts are okay, I guess, but you can never be sure what you’re going to get. Some barbers aren’t too thrilled about women customers. This place is much better.”
In the ten minutes they waited three more young women exited the back of the shop, all of them sporting trendy short haircuts. “I like this place. I’m glad you brought me here,” he confided.
“Yeah, I kinda thought you’d like it,” she replied with an impish grin.
It wasn’t long before Roxie’s name was called. “Okay if my boyfriend comes along?” she asked.
“As long as Michael doesn’t object, it’s fine,” the receptionist replied.
Roxie led the way back into the interior of the salon. “Roxie! You’re a blonde!” her stylist exclaimed.
“Not for long, Michael,” she said, giving him a peck on the cheek. “I want you to cut all the blonde away. Going back to my natural color.”
“It’s a great color. The blonde works for you, but I like the brown better.”
“It was fun for a while, but it’s time for a change,” she answered as she settled into the chair and her hairdresser prepared to end her days as a blonde.
“So you want me to buzz it all over” Michael asked. “That would be quick and easy.”
She glanced over to her companion, seeking his approval. “What do you think, honey?”
He spoke right up, surprising her. “Short back and sides is fine, but leave it longer on top. Get rid of the blonde, but leave her enough to style.”
Roxie nodded her assent. “Yeah, that sounds good to me.”
Michael wasted no time. He spread a cape over Roxie’s shoulders and secured it at her neck. As her stylist sorted through his implements Roxie smiled at her escort who found a perch in the corner of the booth. “Having fun?” she teased. Jason said nothing, but his broad smile told her he was enjoying the experience.
The hairdresser worked rapidly. He began by using his clippers to buzz the back of Roxie’s head. Platinum locks, freed by the voracious blades, cascaded to the floor leaving a pelt of half an inch of chestnut brown fur in their wake. Michael then repeated the strokes on both sides, shortening them to the same length. When he paused his client wore an extreme two-tone style, blonde on top, brown below. “Don’t stop now,” she encouraged him.
“I’m just switching to a longer guide,” Michael told her. “I thought we’d try a number eight.”
“What will that do?” she asked.
“It will leave one inch of hair,” he explained. “That should get rid of all the blonde and leave you enough to play with on top. Then I’ll blend the two sections so the transition is not so noticeable.”
“Yeah, that sounds cool,” she enthused. “Go for it.”
Michael slid the longer guide over the clippers’ blades, switched on the power, and placed them on Roxie’s forehead. He plowed them back into her hair, leaving a dark stripe down the middle of her pale blonde top. “Wow, this is so weird. I look like a zebra” she exclaimed.
“Not for long, my dear,” Michael said as he continued buzzing off her platinum locks.
Jason sat in the corner of the small room, drinking in every detail of the spectacle unfolding before him. He watched as the hairdresser stripped the last trace of blonde from Roxie’s head and then skillfully merged the top with the bottom into one stunning creation.
Michael massaged a generous dose of styling gel into Roxie’s shortened hair and used his brush and blow dryer to coax it upright until every hair was standing erect in a stylishly long brush cut.
When he held a mirror so she could observe the finished creation, Roxie could hardly contain herself. “Michael, it’s perfect. You’re a genius.”
Jason smiled inwardly. He agreed with his young friend’s assessment, Michael had lived up to his reputation as one of the city’s top stylists. It was a marvelous haircut, bold, yet not too extreme, one that matched Roxie’s adventurous personality.
Minutes later they stood at the reception desk. The perky receptionist said, “Fifty dollars for a standard haircut.” Jason opened his wallet and pulled out a hundred dollar bill. “We’ll be back,” he promised as he followed his freshly clipped new friend out the door.
Roxie waited for him outside on the sidewalk. “Thank you for the great haircut, mister. When this day started I had no idea things would turn out so good.”
“I’m so glad I ran into you, Roxie. It’s been an unexpected delight for me too.”
“It’s so strange, I don’t even know your name.”
“I’m Jason. Here’s my card. Next time you’re thinking about getting your hair cut, give me a call. I hope we can get together again.”
Roxie took his card, turned, and walked back in the direction from which they had come. As she walked she reflected on the surprising events of the last hour. She had met many men during her four years as a city resident, but Jason definitely was the most unusual. He was polite, refined, and well dressed, to be sure, but definitely strange. Almost without exception, the men she met had hit on her. Jason was the only one who did not ask for her number. Instead, he expected her to call him. Their next date, if what they did this day could be called a date, would be up to her. She was certain it would involve another haircut. He was old enough to be her father, but that didn’t bother her. Despite his peculiar interest in her hairstyles, she felt safe with Jason. Perhaps he was gay, she thought. In any case, she was confident he would never try to take advantage of her.
Three months later Jason came home from a business trip to find a message from Roxie on his answering machine. “Hello Jason. This is Roxie. Remember me? The haircut girl. It’s time for another haircut. I thought we might arrange another date. Give me a call if you’re interested.”
He called her later that evening and left a message on her machine, thinking she might be working at the bar. “Hello Roxie, it’s Jason. Got your message. I was out of town on business last week. Give me a call if it’s not too late.”
Five minutes later she replied. “Hi Jason. I screen my calls. I’m glad you called back. I’d like to see you again.”
“Yes, I’d like to see you again too. How about Saturday?”
“Saturday’s fine with me. The deli job is weekdays only and I don’t start at the bar until six. Shall I make another appointment with Michael?”
“Yes, why don’t you see if you can get an appointment for two o’clock? I thought we might get together for lunch at noon.”
“I’d like that. I’ll call you back when the appointment is set.”
“What kind of food do you like? Do you have any preferences?” Jason asked.
“I’m omnivorous. I eat almost anything. Why don’t you surprise me?”
Roxie called back half an hour later and told Jason the appointment was set. Jason gave her the address of a restaurant in the Village, not far from Crops for Girls. “See you at noon,” he said as he signed off.
Roxie found the address without difficulty. It was a small Caribbean restaurant with pleasing kitchen aromas spilling out to the street. She was better dressed than on their first date, wearing a flowing skirt, an embroidered peasant blouse and sandals instead of the Doc Martens. She spotted Jason sitting at a table near the front door. “Nice to see you again, my dear. You look lovely,” he said as he rose to hold her chair. “I see you’ve exchanged your punk clothing for hippie attire. It’s a good look for you.”
“Yeah, I like to mix things up. Good to see you again, too,” she answered with an innocent peck on his cheek. “This is a really nice place,” she observed.
“I was looking for someplace close to Crops for Girls. A friend recommended this establishment.”
They sipped Red Stripe beer and chatted casually as they waited for their order of Jamaican jerk beef and plantains to be served. Roxie talked about her jobs. She informed Jason that she loved working at the bar on weekends, but admitted that the sandwich delivery job was getting to be a drag.
“What would you rather be doing?” he inquired.
“I dunno,” she said. “I don’t have many marketable skills. I sketch and paint, but there aren’t many job openings in that field.”
“I have some friends in the advertising business. Maybe one of them might find a place for you.”
“But I know nothing about advertising; never took a course,” she pointed out.
“Very few people in advertising have any academic preparation. Basically what employers look for when they’re hiring is someone with creative potential. I suspect you have plenty of that.”
“I’d be so happy if you could help me get an interview. I’d do almost anything to get my foot in the door.”
“Well, I’ll see what I can do,” he told her. “Can’t make any promises, but I’ll do my best. Now let’s talk about your haircut. What are you going to do today?”
“I haven’t made up my mind yet, but I’ve definitely got to do something. This shaggy mop is starting to drive me crazy. I suppose if I have a job interview in my future I should try something more conservative.”
“If I may make a suggestion, let me show you what I have in mind.” Jason took a pen and sketched a woman’s head on a paper napkin. Roxie was surprised to see a reasonable likeness of her face quickly emerge. In the sketch she wore a modified pixie cut. Her dark hair was parted on the side and drawn across her head. Longish bangs were drawn in a dramatic swoop across her forehead. The back and sides were still short enough so her ears were exposed.
He put down the pen and slid the napkin over to her. “I know it’s a bit on the conservative side, but when you’re out with friends or working at the bar you can spike it for a more radical look.”
“I’m sure this would be a great look for job interviews, Jason. It’s kind of a grownup haircut, but I like it. Let’s see what Michael has to say.”
They finished their meal and strolled three blocks to the salon. This time there was no waiting. “Michael’s waiting for you,” the receptionist told them.
An hour later Roxie and Jason walked out of the shop. She looked like a completely different person, her hair stylishly cropped, her face aglow with satisfaction. “Thank you, Jason. So many of my haircuts have been do-it-yourself jobs, done in front of my bathroom mirror. Having a skilled professional like Michael do it makes me feel like a queen.”
“Nothing but the best for my girl,” Jason responded.
Almost as soon as he said them, Jason wished he could have those words back. He had no right to call Roxie his girl. After all, they’d only been together on two occasions. He was about to apologize when he saw a broad smile spread across Roxie’s face.
“So you want me to be your girl, huh? Is that what you want?”
Jason blushed. “I don’t know why I said that,” he stammered.
“That’s okay. I’m currently without a boyfriend, so I guess I can be your girl until I get a better offer. But you gotta call me more often and we gotta do something besides getting my hair cut.”
“Sure, you’ll be hearing from me,” he said as they prepared to go their separate ways.
“Remember, call me soon,” she shouted as he walked away.
Three days later Jason left a message on Roxie’s machine. “Hi Roxie. It’s me, Jason. I’ve talked with my friend, Harry Childress, at the D&B agency. He says he has an opening. It’s entry level, but it could be a start for you. Here’s the number you should call to set up the interview. I hope you don’t mind, but I told him your name was Johanna, not Roxie. I thought that might be better.”
Roxie called back a few minutes later. “Jason, it’s me, Roxie. Or should I say Johanna? How can I thank you? I’m gonna call your friend first thing in the morning to set up an interview. Do you have any advice for the job interview? How can I make a good impression?”
“First of all, you need to be natural. Don’t pretend to be something you’re not. They’re going to ask about your work experience. You have to be honest; you’re a beginner, but you’re willing to learn and work hard. They’ll be interested in your art experience. You might bring photos of your work.”
“How should I dress?”
“I wouldn’t recommend the punk outfit you wore when we met at the coffee shop. Not the hippie garb either. You should be neatly dressed, but you don’t have to be too conservative. This is not a bank. They appreciate a little flair.”
“What about my hair?”
“I thought it looked great when Michael finished with it last week. Trendy, but nothing too wild. I’m sure you’ll fit in with the rest of the staff at the agency.”
“Jason, I’m so excited. I was beginning to think I might never get a chance like this.”
“Roxie, just relax. Be yourself. You’ll do great.”
Friday afternoon she left another message on Jason’s machine. “Hi Jason, it’s Roxie. The interview went well. They said they’ll call me back next week. I’m working tonight, but I feel like celebrating. Can you meet me at the bar?”
Jason heard the music blaring a block down the street from the address Roxie had given him. The bar was jammed with young people, none appeared to be over thirty. The band was blasting some variety of heavy metal music and the clientele seemed engrossed. Jason edged his way to the crowded bar and eventually found an open stool. Roxie saw him before he spotted her. She wore a low cut blouse, obviously intended to solicit tips from her male customers, and carried a tray loaded with empty beer mugs. “Great to see you, Jason,” she shouted. “I’ll bring you something to drink in a few minutes.”
Jason sat at the bar nursing his beer through a raucous music set. He spent most of his time observing Roxie as she skillfully navigated among the crowded tables, flashing smiles while fending off groping male hands. Occasionally she checked on him, but it was nearly impossible to carry on a conversation. The wild music was not to his type, but he endured it because he was thrilled being near Roxie. Her shift was done around 2 AM and he walked her home. When they reached her building she said, “Jason, I’d love to invite you up, but I’ve got two roommates and I’m afraid there would be no privacy.” Jason told her that was not a problem; there would be other occasions. Then she surprised him. “Jason, I’ve got to ask, are you gay?”
He had to laugh. “No Roxie, I’m as straight as they come. Why do you ask?”
“Well, you’ve been so nice to me and you haven’t hit on me once. In my experience a guy who hasn’t hit on me by the second date has to be gay.”
Jason laughed. “First, I only count one real date, the luncheon at the Caribbean restaurant. Tonight and the first time when we had coffee were meetings, not real dates. Second, I’m very much aware of the difference in our ages. I don’t want you to think of me as a dirty old man. Third, I’m cautious by nature. I was waiting for some sign that you were interested, something more than gratitude.”
“I see,” she said with a sly grin. “You were waiting for a sign, huh? Let’s see if I can take care of that problem.” She extended her hands around his neck, stood up on her toes, and kissed him on the lips. Jason quickly recovered from his surprise and kissed her back. “You’re certainly not a dirty old man. You’re the best thing that’s happened to me in a real long time,” she said sincerely.
They kissed again. This time both of them were fully engaged. “Now I’ve got another question for you, Jason. Do you like me because of my haircuts? You’re more interested in my hair than any guy I’ve ever dated.”
“That’s complicated, Roxie. I like you because you’re a breath of fresh air. I’ve never dated anyone quite like you, but I wouldn’t be honest if I denied that your haircuts had nothing to do with my attraction. Some guys look at legs; some look at boobs; I look at hair. I find women with short haircuts very attractive, yours especially.”
“I appreciate your honesty, Jason. I like me with short hair too, so I guess it’s okay if you like my short haircuts.”
On Thursday of the following week Jason’s phone rang urgently. It was Roxie calling. “Jason, I got the job. I start on Monday. Thank you so much. I’m bursting with joy.”
“Sounds like a celebration is in order,” Jason replied. “Can you get off work tomorrow night? I’d like to take you to dinner.”
“I’m sure I can find another girl to take my shift.”
“Great. I’ll swing by your apartment around seven. Wear something special. We’re going to a very nice place.”
Jason pulled up outside Roxie’s apartment promptly at seven in a long dark car driven by a uniformed driver. Roxie descended the steps of her building wearing a short black cocktail dress, balancing on high heels with dangling earrings swinging from her ears. The dark hair on top of her head was spiked into a profusion of exclamation points. “Wow! You look like a million bucks!” he exclaimed on seeing her.
“A car and driver. I’m very impressed,” she observed as she entered the waiting vehicle.
“Only the best for you, my dear,” he answered back.
The subdued lighting of the wood paneled restaurant and jazz standards played by a tuxedoed pianist were a marked contrast to the rowdy atmosphere of the bar where Roxie usually spent her Friday evenings. “I could get used to this,” she told her companion as they finished their dessert and after-dinner brandy.
“I hope you do, my dear,” Jason promised.
“Where are we going?” Roxie asked as they climbed into his car two hours after they arrived at the restaurant.
“I’d like to show you my apartment,” he said hopefully.
“I think I’d like that,” she answered as she sunk into the luxurious leather seat.
After Jason had shown her the artworks hanging on the walls of his tenth floor apartment, Roxie kicked off her shoes and collapsed onto the soft couch in front of the floor-to-ceiling picture window. She looked out onto a panoramic view of the city at night. “I’ve heard about apartments like this, but this is the first time I’ve ever been in one. It’s like a different world. It must cost you big bucks, Jason. How much do you pay in rent?”
“Nothing,” he answered.
She was shocked. “Nothing? How can that be? Nobody get a place like this for free.”
“I do. I own the building. Everyone living here pays rent to me.”
“Wow! You must be filthy rich, Jason!”
“Yes, I’ve made a few dollars from my investments,” he admitted. “I hope you don’t hold that against me.”
“Not at all. You just took me by surprise. I took you for regular folks, Jason. Now I’m not so sure.”
“I am regular folks, Roxie. I grew up in a single parent home. My dad died when I was eleven. My mom was a waitress. I worked my way through college. Then I got lucky. I got a job with an investment firm and my boss took me under his wing, taught me the business, and encouraged me to branch out on my own, to invest in real estate when I felt ready. That’s one reason I’m eager to help struggling young people like yourself.”
“And you never married?”
“I was married for three years. We were both in our twenties. Carol wanted children, but I was too busy establishing my business to be a father. We divorced amicably and still see each other at social events. She married an accountant, lives in New Rochelle, and has three children.”
“Are you sorry it didn’t work out?”
“It’s my biggest regret. I have a circle of friends and business associates. I have an active social life, but there are times I feel a void in my life.”
“That’s kinda sad,” Roxie said. “Come here and sit down next to me.”
Roxie wrapped her arm around Jason and gently stroked his head. “Poor little rich boy,” she cooed.
“Look, Roxie, I don’t want your sympathy,” he insisted. “I’ll settle for respect.”
“You’ve got it, mister. You’ve treated me right and you make me feel like a queen. I’ve got nothing but respect for you. No guy I’ve dated has ever been nicer.”
“There’s one thing I’d like to ask you, Roxie.”
“Sure. Go ahead.”
“Can I feel you hair?”
“Will that turn you on?”
“I’m already turned on just looking at you, but, yes, feeling your hair would give me special pleasure.”
“I think that would be okay, mister,” she said as she turned to face him. Jason lifted his hands to the back of her head and gently fondled her shortened locks. Slowly he worked his way to the top of her head. Roxie buried her face in his shoulder, relishing the warmth of his affection. Soon they began kissing. Roxie reached down and felt the bulge in front of his slacks. “Oh, oh. Looks like we’ve got a problem here, mister. Pressure’s building. Feels like you might explode.”
“What should we do about that?” he asked, suggestively.
“First thing we need to do is get naked. Then I’ll show you how to relieve the pressure.”
“It’s been a long time,” he confessed.
“I think it’ll come back to you,” she whispered in his ear.
Roxie awoke the next morning to the delicious aromas of bacon frying on the griddle and fresh coffee brewing. She wrapped herself in the soft robe she found at the foot of the queen-sized bed and wandered into the kitchen.
“Morning, Roxie. How’d you sleep?” her boyfriend asked.
“I slept like a baby after I helped my boyfriend relieve his pressure. How about you?”
“Best night of my life. My world seems much brighter this morning.”
“Good to hear that, mister.”
“Roxie, dear, I wish you’d stop calling me mister.”
“Is there something else you’d like me to call you?”
“How about lover?”
“Yeah, that sounds good, lover.” She walked up to him and threw her arms around him. “And you can call me Johanna.”
“Really? You don’t want to be Roxie anymore?”
“Well, maybe I can still be Roxie sometimes,” she said coyly. “Would you like that?”
“You can be Johanna at work and Roxie when we’re alone together,” he suggested.
“Yeah, that sounds good,” she agreed. “Now, what would you like to do this morning, lover?”
“Well, after we finish breakfast I thought we’d go shopping,” Jason suggested.
“Shopping? What for?” she asked.
“My lover, Johanna, starts her new job Monday. She needs a couple of outfits to wear to work.”
“Yes, I think that sounds like a wonderful plan.”
Three months later, the long car pulled up in front of Crops for Girls. Roxie and Jason walked in and were warmly welcomed by the receptionist. “Roxie, so good to see you again. Michael is waiting for you.”
“Thank you, Marie,” Roxie said.
“So good to see you Roxie,” Michael said.
“From now on I’d prefer if you call me Johanna. That’s my birth name. Roxie was just a stage I was going through.”
“Sure thing. What are we doing today, Johanna? Just a trim or something different?”
Jason spoke up. “We’re doing something different today, Michael.”
“And what would that be?”
“Here, let me show you.” Jason unfolded a sketch. Both Michael and Johanna leaned in to see what he had drawn. A good likeness of Roxie looked back at them. The right side of her head was clipped close to the scalp. The hair on top was longer and combed across to the left side. It was a dramatic asymmetrical style, fresh from the latest fashion magazine.
“What do you think, Johanna?” Michael asked.
“I love it,” she eagerly answered. “You know me, always willing to try new things.” She turned to Jason and gave him a peck on the cheek. “You’re just full of surprises, aren’t you, lover?”
Michael took charge. “Why don’t we get started then?”
Back in the car, Jason instructed his driver to head for Roxie’s apartment. “Jason, lover, I love my new style. Thank you again. My roommates are never going to believe what’s happened to me.”
Jason helped her with the packages and told her, “I’ll call you this evening.”
“Call me early. I’ll be at work by six.”
“You’ll be able to quit that job pretty soon,” he told her.
“I need to pay down my credit card, so I’m gonna keep working at the bar for a while. Hope that’s okay with you.”
“Sure, love, I’ll miss you tonight.”
“Why don’t you pick me up around closing time?” she suggested.
“You’ve got a deal.”
The long car pulled up promptly at two AM and Roxie rolled out ten minutes later looking slightly disheveled, not nearly as fresh as she had eight hours earlier. “Rough night, lover?” Jason asked caringly.
“You wouldn’t believe the half of it,” she declared with disgust. “It seems that all the assholes in New York and Long Island decided to descend on our bar tonight. It was a regular asshole convention.”
“I know what will make you feel better. As soon as we get to the apartment I’ll draw you a nice hot bath. Then, after you’ve had a good soak, I’ll massage you all over.”
“Ummm. That would be so nice,” she purred as she curled up in his arms.
Roxie soaked in the tub until the water grew cool. When she dried off Jason was waiting to massage her with scented oil. She fell asleep after only fifteen minutes. Jason tucked her into the big bed and went into his study to read. He thought how lucky he was to have found such an exciting young woman who loved him with unquestioning devotion. He wished she would quit working as a barmaid, but understood it was important for her to keep her independence. He had suggested that she move in with him, but she refused. Take it easy; don’t push her too hard, he told himself. She needs time to get used to this arrangement.
Jason soon discovered that one of the best features of the sidecut style was the regular touchups it required. Every three weeks Ralph, his driver, delivered Roxie to Crops for Girls where Michael would buzz the left side of her head back to its original length while letting the right side grow longer. Her stylist would ask, “How’s Mr. Parmalee?” Roxie explained that he was busy with his various enterprises. Her lover was as attentive as always, but she sensed they were falling into a routine like old married folks. After six months she decided it was time to shake things up a bit.
The week before Christmas she informed Jason that they needed make a date to go shopping. He promised to reserve time on the Friday before the holiday. After visiting several exclusive shops Roxie informed him that they had one more stop to make. When the long car pulled up in front of Crops for Girls Jason protested that he hadn’t made an appointment for her. “But I did,” Roxie informed him. She jumped out and pulled her lover out behind her. “Come back in an hour,” she called to Ralph.
“What are we doing today?” Michael asked after she was seated in the chair. He turned to Jason, looking for direction, but it was Roxie who spoke up.
“I want you to make me look like this,” she told her stylist, handing him a photo torn from a magazine.
“This is going to be quite a change,” he told her.
“You can do it, can’t you?” she demanded.
“Yes, of course, I can as long as you’re sure this is what you want.”
“Well, I’m sure,” she declared.
Jason approached, trying to inspect the picture Michael was contemplating, but Roxie held out her hand to block him. “Not so fast, lover boy. This is your Christmas surprise. You’ve got to go outside while Michael goes to work. Go get a beer. Come back in an hour.”
“There’s no way I can watch?” he pleaded.
“Nope, not this time. Now be a good boy and run along so Michael can work his magic.”
They heard the door close as Jason made his exit. “You’ve had some pretty radical haircuts, Johanna, but this one is the wildest yet.”
“Are you saying you don’t want to do it? Do you think it won’t look good on me?”
“No, that’s not it, darling. I’m thinking about your boyfriend. All of your haircuts this year have been his idea. Are you sure he’ll like this one?”
“I’m pretty sure he will. If he doesn’t, he better pretend he likes it. This is sort of a test for him.”
“For your sake, I hope he likes it, Johanna.”
“Michael, why don’t you quit worrying and get to work.”
Precisely one hour later Jason returned to the shop. Marie, the receptionist, asked him to wait in the reception area. “Michael said they’ll be done in a few minutes. Take off your coat and make yourself comfortable.” Jason began writing a check for Roxie’s haircut. Marie told him, “You need to add another hundred dollars for the color treatment.”
“I didn’t know she was having her hair colored,” Jason said.
“I guess she wanted it to be a surprise,” she explained. Jason made out the check for $250, then sat as instructed. He waited nervously, glancing at this watch every few minutes.
Michael emerged a quarter hour later. “I want you to know this was entirely her idea,” he cautioned Jason. “I tried to talk her out of it, but she insisted. She can be pretty stubborn when she wants to.”
“I know,” Jason agreed. Michael usually was game for any kind of short style. Jason silently wondered what sort of outlandish hairstyle Roxie had selected that prompted him to apologize in advance.
Finally Roxie emerged from the back of the shop. She went up to Jason, gave him a kiss and stepped back. “Well, lover boy, what do you think of my new haircut?” she asked excitedly.
Roxie nervously posed in the middle of the small reception room. Her dark brown color had been replaced by a deep auburn hue. All traces of the asymmetrical sidecut style had vanished. In its place was a precise geometric flat top. The sides were buzzed close to her scalp; only a quarter-inch of hair remained. The back was cut just as short and blocked into a square outline at the base of her neck. But it was the top of her head that was most remarkable. Her inch-long hair was brushed straight up from her forehead, tapering to half an inch at the crown. It was flat as a table top. On each side of her head vertical walls rose to form a crisp, square look.
Jason stared openmouthed as his lover slowly turned in front of him. He silently inspected the astonishing hairstyle she now proudly displayed. Jason let out a low whistle. “I don’t believe you did it. I just can’t believe it.”
“Oh no,” she cried. “You hate it don’t you? I know, you hate it. I should have listened to Michael. He tried to talk me out of it, but I wouldn’t listen,” Roxie sobbed hysterically.
Jason gently took his distraught lover in his arms. “Roxie, darling, you’re wrong, so wrong. Your haircut is totally amazing. I’ve loved all your haircuts, but this one is the best by far. I love the color too; it really suits you. I can’t believe you chose it on your own. Many times I’ve thought about asking you to get your hair cut like this, but every time I stopped because I thought that if you did agree to get a flat top like this you would be doing it only to please me, not for yourself. I can’t believe you did it on your own. This is the best Christmas present I could ever imagine.”
Roxie looked up at her lover, smiling through her tears. Jason dabbed at her cheeks with a fresh white handkerchief. “I’m so relieved you like it. I took a chance. I’m so glad it turned out okay.”
The two lovers dove into the waiting limo. When they were safely ensconced in the back seat Jason handed Roxie a small square gift box. “This is my Christmas gift to you. I planned to wait until the 25th, but since you jumped the gun, I figured I might as well do the same.”
Roxie looked at her lover speechless. She had a good idea that a diamond ring rested inside the jeweler’s box. Ever since she moved into Jason’s apartment she wondered whether this moment would arrive. Now it was here. She ripped off the wrapping, opened the box, and gasped when she saw the brilliant stone set in a golden band. “Jason, does this mean what I think it means?”
“Marry me my darling Roxie. Make me a happy man.”
“Yes, Jason. Yes I will marry you and I want to have your babies,” she exclaimed in delight.
Jason stroked Roxie’s intoxicating new haircut. His excitement rose. He told Ralph to head for his apartment as fast as he could.
Twelve months later Johanna and Jordan arrived back at their apartment. He held the door open and she entered holding a sleeping infant in her arms. “You’re home baby Justin,” she cooed to her son.
“Let me put him to bed,” Jason said as he took the child from her arms. “Why don’t you fix us some holiday cheer?”
Johanna handed the three-day-old child to his father. “Remember to start the camera,” she reminded him. “We want to know if he wakes up during the night.”
She emerged from the kitchen a short time later with a mug of eggnog in each hand. “He went down without any trouble,” Jason reported.
“The doctor said he would want to be fed every three or four hours,” she reported.
“Then I suspect you should get some sleep,” he suggested.
“I will, but first I want you to know how happy you’ve made me. Not only do I have a sexy, handsome husband, but he’s given me an adorable baby boy. You know, there was a time I thought I never would marry. I never was interested in having a husband; I preferred the single life. You changed all that, darling.”
They embraced on the couch. Jason ran his fingers through her auburn locks. Shortly before going into the hospital she had visited Crops for Girls for a new style. She now wore a lip-length bob parted down the middle with super short bangs. “Your new hairstyle is delicious,” he whispered in her ear.
“I know you wanted me to keep the flat top, Jason, but it just didn’t seem right for a new mother,” she said.
“I’m glad you kept the color. It looks so natural on you,” he said.
“Someday when our son is older I may go back to the flat top. Until that day, there are other hairstyles and colors that I’m dying to try. I hope that will keep you interested.”
“Roxie, it was a lucky day when you walked into my life. Not many women would be willing to please her lover the way you have pleased me.”
“And not many men would be as tolerant of my need to express myself by trying out different styles.”
“Ours definitely is a match made in heaven,” he told her.
“Oh, I thought it was made in a hair salon,” she joked.