Secret Santa – Part 2

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All of that was nearly three months ago. Have I stayed bald, you ask? Did Ian grow his out? Before I tell you any of that though, you need to know that I’m pregnant. We weren’t actively trying to get pregnant, but had decided that it’d be no bad thing if it did happen. It just hadn’t happened before. Guess when the “event” happened? Yes, that’s right! Who knew that using clippers could lead to pregnancy? We’ll have to be more careful in future!

Ian is sporting a reasonable head of hair again. Not the way he was before, but he’ll get there. He decided not to let me use the foam and razors that I’d bought that day. All the more for me!

As for me, I had the embarrassment of explaining to Frances that my name isn’t Sonia. I concocted a story about having had a bad experience with a salon previously and being wary of using my real name. I said that I’d just picked the first one that came to mind, which just happened to be someone that I’d seen on the news that morning. Anyway, she now calls me “Dawn” and I call her “Frankie”, just to show how friendly we are.

It was a week before I decided that I wanted her to repeat the professional shaving experience. Ian had asked whether I was sure, but I just told him that I couldn’t have been more sure at that point. I loved the feeling of my scalp, both when I touched it and when he did. I got a thrill out of people looking at me when I was out and about, wondering if I was someone famous, because surely no ordinary woman would shave her head. How wrong they were. All it boiled down to was that I felt better about myself without hair (odd though that may seem) and I thought that I looked better too. I even deleted all but one of the pictures of me with that awful hairstyle that Frankie thankfully laid to rest. I did keep one just as a reminder of me as I was, “b.g.” (before gorgeous!)

The return visit was everything that I’d hoped it would be. Once I’d cleared up my deceit, we were on a firm footing and we’ve just gone from there. I go to her every week for a shave and a chat, just leaving her to get on as she likes. It was probably the fifth or six visit that my eyebrows succumbed to a couple of determined strokes of the cut-throat razor (“Edward” as I call it, for obvious reasons). Frankie said that she just couldn’t be bothered to tweak them anymore and thought that she’d show me what I looked like without brows. Once I got over the shock and she’d given me some pointers on drawing them back on, I was fine with it. I’m actually getting quite nifty at doing them, playing around with different designs to amuse myself.

Apart from giving you an update, the point of this lies elsewhere. Outside a shoe shop on the high street, to be exact. Last week. (I’ve been a bit busy, so it’s taken me a while to get this together).

I was just coming out of a dress shop, where I’d been trying to find stuff that would fit. I nearly bumped into the woman responsible for my last hairstyle, in the days when I had hair. The same instance of the word “Fuck!” probably went though both of our heads, we were that close. Neither of us could pretend that we hadn’t seen the other.

‘Dawn, long time no see’ she said, the first to recover her poise. ‘Almost didn’t recognise you’ she added.

‘Cathy, yes, erm, I had a bit of a makeover’ I replied, trying to put on a goofy sort of smile.

‘I can see why you haven’t been to see me’ she said, before her attention slid lower to fix on the swell of my belly. I’m at the point where the casual observer isn’t 100% sure whether I’m expecting or I’ve just been on the pies, so her hesitation wasn’t the first time I’d experienced it. I smiled to confirm her suspicion.

‘I’ve been busy’ I said.

‘Congratulations!’ she said.

I felt bad. I hadn’t actually spoken to her personally to tell her that she wasn’t my hairstylist of choice anymore. I’d rung up and cancelled the appointment that I’d had booked the previous time I was in, but only spoke to the receptionist, who probably had no idea that she was speaking to a client of several years’ standing, who’d just jumped ship.

‘Have you got time for a coffee?’ she asked, surprising me.

I looked at her. She still looked the same, but there was something less bubbly about her. She’s a couple of years older than me, russet hair that just touches her shoulders and a figure that would make you reluctant to stand next to her on the beach. When I first met her, I tried to play things down by telling myself that her boobs were too big, but that was just desperation. She always struck me as the sort of woman who’d have guys falling over themselves to be with her, but there was that air of sadness that she couldn’t hide.

I’d been thinking of an excuse so that I could extricate myself from an awkward situation and here she was, wanting to prolong it. I decided that I owed her a coffee after dumping her so unceremoniously. Probably a large slice of cake too.

We went to a coffee shop that I like. She had coffee and that large slice of cake while she told me about her recent split from her husband. It just got better and better! Eventually she acknowledged that she’d monopolised the conversation and had just been talking about herself, before continuing to talk about herself for another half hour or so. I decided just to go with it.

The dregs of the second cup were about to appear when she paused and said ‘And what about you?’

‘Apart from shaving my head and getting knocked up, you mean?’

She smiled, as if realising that she wasn’t the only one whose world had been rocked since we’d last spoken.

‘Both suit you’ she replied pleasantly.

‘I wasn’t expecting you to say that about this’ I said, pointing to my head.

‘That last style did nothing for you’ she remarked without a hint of irony.

I shrugged an acknowledgement, not wanting to dig myself a hole.

‘So tell me all about it, what made you do it, what does your man think about it?’

‘There’s not much to tell really’ I lied. ‘Ian shaved his head and I thought I’d give it a go. Why should men have the easy option all the time, right?’

‘Tell me about it. Life would be so much easier without having to make sure this is perfect every morning’ she said, fingers wafting a makeshift brush of the perfectly-trimmed ends of her hair. ‘You just know that you’re on show all day and there’s always someone willing to have a dig, if they so much as sniff a split-end. “What sort of hairdresser are you?”‘ she parodied.

‘Getting ready in the morning is certainly a lot quicker now’ I confessed. ‘And when the baby comes, there’ll be no hair pulling, no sticky fingers trailing through it.’

‘So you’re a confirmed baldie? It wasn’t just a one-off thing?’

‘I can’t imagine having hair ever again’ I replied, watching the surprised expression spread across her face.

‘Where would that leave me? Destitute and in the gutter’ she chuckled.

‘Not at all. I go back to have it shaved every week.’

‘Really?’

‘I can’t seem to get it as good when I try to do it.’

‘Isn’t that what your man’s for?’

‘He hasn’t got the patience. You know what they’re like’ I replied, regretting it almost instantly, as it opened the floor up for her once again.

‘Don’t get me started’ she said, placing a demonstrative hand on her generous corsage.

The conversation stalled for a few moments.

‘Is this where you were headed when we agreed to take you shorter?’ she asked, re-igniting the hair thread again.

‘No, it hadn’t crossed my mind then.’

‘I wish I was as brave as you’ she said, the note of sadness back in her voice.

‘I’m sure you’ll be back on your feet in no time, metaphorically speaking’ I said in a bid to re-assure her. With tits like hers, there was no excuse to be single for long. Her hand ran through her hair subconsciously.

Sonia made an appearance, like a malicious sprite on my shoulder, whispering ideas in my ear.

‘I’m booked in tomorrow, I can ask them if they’ll take you too’ I ventured, trying to keep a straight face. I just had to put it out there, so that I could enjoy the look of horror on her face when I suggested that she cut off that luxurious mane of hers.

‘That’s very kind of you’ she said. ‘Can I let you know? I’ll need to see what my day’s like tomorrow.’

It wasn’t an outright “Are you out of your mind?”, but it wasn’t far off. I wouldn’t be hearing from her again, once we’d paid and gone our separate ways.

The conversation wound down and after exchanging numbers, vowing to keep in touch, but knowing that we wouldn’t, we said our goodbyes.

I might’ve been a little harsh in my approach. She was a decent person, feeling down. Maybe I should’ve jollied her along a little more.

As expected, I didn’t hear from her about joining me for my appointment with Frankie, but she had given me plenty of stuff to talk about while I got my freshening-up.

‘You didn’t really expect her to come and do what you did, did you?’ Frankie asked when I’d finished relating my conversation with Cathy.

‘No, not really. But it would’ve been cool to see her in the chair!’

‘That’s just mean’ Frankie replied.

‘Yeah, well. Maybe I’d like some company in “Bald World”. I haven’t seen a single woman with a shaved head in all the time since I did this.’

‘Why should that matter? It just means that you can feel unique.’

‘I know it shouldn’t matter, but it’d be nice to have someone to compare notes with.’

‘Well, it sounds like there’s as much chance of her doing it, as there is of me doing it’ Frankie said.

‘I thought you said you were tempted, when you did mine the first time?’

‘I know. Maybe I got caught up in the moment.’

‘It’d be so cool to come in and have my head shaved by a bald stylist’ I chuckled.

‘Yes, well. Never say never, but I can’t see it happening.’

‘Maybe when I bring Cathy to you, you’ll have a re-think.’

‘That’s never going to happen, so yes, let’s say that if you bring her in here, I’ll get in the chair after her. I’ll even let her do the honours for me.’

‘Can’t say fairer than that’ I confirmed.

I walked out of the salon happily smooth again, which was always a pleasure. It re-vitalised me and always sent me home with a spring in my step, because Ian had come to regard “shaving day” as an occasion to be marked with a little extra attention. I wasn’t disappointed.

Almost three weeks later, my phone pinged while I was having lunch. I forgot about it, but remembered while I was clearing the dishes.

Cathy. That was a surprise.

“Could your salon fit me in this week” it said. No pleasantries, no explanation.

“I can ask. What are you thinking?” I replied.

The response took a couple of minutes to come back.

“About you”

There’s more than one way that you could read that. I thought about it over a cup of tea. I picked up the phone and rang Frankie’s salon. She was busy, so I asked them to get her to call me when she was free. I was intrigued.

It was over an hour before my phone rang. When it did, I explained to Frankie about Cathy’s texts and we tried to agree on an interpretation of her latest message. We agreed that it wasn’t very clear.

‘The bad news is that I haven’t got a free slot next to yours to do whatever it is she’s on about. I squeeze you in between a couple of others as it is, because you’re straightforward. I haven’t got any wiggle room. Best I can do is move you to the last slot of the day. That way we’re not racing the clock. How does that sound?’

‘Sounds like you’re being put to a lot of trouble.’

‘Don’t worry about it. It’ll be something to look forward to.’

‘Depends what she wants, really.’

‘Not at all. I always enjoy getting another stylist in the chair. Show them how it’s done, you know’ she chuckled.

We were just about finished when I felt I had to tackle the elephant in the virtual room.

‘You know what we mentioned before? You don’t have to, you know. I wasn’t serious.’

‘Let’s see if she turns up first. I’ll see you Thursday at 6.’

That was it. I texted Cathy and arranged to meet her a few minutes before, so that we could go in together. I shared Frankie’s scepticism. More to the point, I had to sort out something for Ian’s dinner that he could microwave when he gets in.

As Thursday approached, my curiosity increased. I thought back to the conversation with Cathy and how we’d only exchanged a few texts since. At the end of the day, it was no skin off my nose if she didn’t turn up, although I would feel bad for messing Frankie about.

I needn’t have worried. Cathy turned up a few minutes before we’d agreed, looking slightly cheerier than she had when I bumped into her before. She was wearing jeans and a loose white shirt, which tried in vain to conceal the suggestion of the goodies underneath. She’d tied her hair back into a ponytail that sat high on her head, which just reminded me of circling the wagons before an attack. It wouldn’t take much to frighten the ponies and send them scattering from their enclosure.

‘Hi Dawn. Didn’t want to be late’ she said trying to sound bright and breezy.

‘I wasn’t sure that you’d come.’

‘And miss the chance to meet the woman who parted you from your hair? Valuable networking for me’ she smiled.

‘You’ll like her. She’s nice’ I replied, realising how lame that sounded.

We had a quick “chat”, which was long enough for her to give me the latest on her personal life, but not long enough for me to relate anything meaningful about events in my own. Hearing about her trials and tribulations did make me realise how lucky Ian and I are, though.

I looked at my watch, eager not to be late. It was time, although I wasn’t sure what for. I was pretty confident of having my “usual”, but as for anything else? Who knew?

Cathy let me go in first. It was odd, entering a salon that was essentially closed. There was no-one on reception and no sign of life at first, but then I heard footsteps.

‘I hope that’s you’ Frankie called out just before she came into view.

‘Depends who you’re expecting’ I replied.

Her smiling face came in to view.

‘You sly old devil’ I said as soon as I saw her. The immaculately-coiffed Frankie was no more.

‘What do you think?’ she asked, a hand poised at the back of her head.

‘Stunning’ I replied. ‘You didn’t tell me you were going to do it’ I added, fixated on her perfectly smooth, hairless scalp.

‘I didn’t know that I was going to do it either. My last appointment cancelled, so I got one of the girls to do it. It’s hot off the press, you might say.’

I looked at her in a different light. Beautifully dressed, as she always was, elegant, trim and very, very sexy without any hair. If Cathy hadn’t been with me, who knows what I might have tried to do. Which reminded me. I introduced Cathy to Frankie.

‘So you’re the one that I stole Dawn from’ Frankie observed with a smile.

‘I’m pleased that you did. She looks so much better than she did the last time she walked out of my salon. Must be something in the water here, though, judging by the pair of you’ she chuckled.

I watched Frankie look Cathy up and down. In normal circumstances, I’d take it that she was assessing the whole canvas that she was about to work with, make sure that whatever she proposed wasn’t out of keeping with the entire image. In this case, I wasn’t so sure. I noticed her gaze struggling to traverse the swell of Cathy’s chest. I wondered what it would be like to be defined by your boobs. Mine aren’t too shabby, nor are Frankie’s, but Cathy’s announce her appearance wherever she goes. I digress.

We walked into the salon area, the scene of my transformation and now of Frankie’s unexpected re-imaging.

‘Have a seat, dear’ Frankie said to Cathy.

There had been no discussion about the reason for Cathy’s visit to the salon, why she’d wanted to come with me. I’d made an assumption and passed that on to Frankie, but nothing had been said. Cathy sat down without hesitation and looked ahead expressionless, letting the light blue fabric of the gown settle over her. I made sure that I was standing out of Frankie’s way, but tried to ensure that I had an unimpeded view of whatever it was that was about to happen.

I wondered whether the chat would be different when it was hairdresser to hairdresser. I was torn between watching Frankie comb Cathy’s deep red hair onto her shoulders and just watching Frankie, elegant and bald. I found myself actually wanting to stroke her, kiss her head, run my tongue over her scalp. I tried to imagine what she’d look like in her underwear. This must be what it’s like inside the mind of a teenage boy!

I was brought back from the precipice by the sight of Frankie exchanging comb for scissors, via the magic of the pockets in her gown. I was still waiting for the discussion to start when the scissors slid into the cascade of hair on the right-hand side of Cathy’s head. There was no hesitation, no prior approval. Just the faint sound of the blades closing. I waited for the eruption of indignation from Cathy.

None came. I was looking at her from that side, which is presumably why Frankie had decided to make the first cut there. A curtain of hair tumbled gracefully, but fatefully. With one snip, Cathy had gone from modern-day to the nineteen twenties. I’d only ever seen those flapper bobs, or whatever they were called, in black rather than Cathy’s deep red, but it should give you an idea. I wanted to stop time, so that I could linger while I examined the scene of a sexy bald woman changing the world of a redhead so simply, so dramatically. I wanted to walk into the tableau, touch the severed ends of Cathy’s hair, run it between my fingers, brush her cheek with it. Maybe plump up her chest-cushions while I was at it.

Time, however, had other ideas. While I’d been intruding on the vision in front of me, Frankie had made more cuts and the back of Cathy’s hair was now suspended in the no-man’s land above her collar. I’m sure that Frankie wouldn’t lay claim to a precision cut, but for a rough hack, it wasn’t bad. Frankie marched on, her scissors now the other side of Cathy’s head, the effect unseen, but easily pictured in my mind.

I’m not sure what I’d expected to happen, but it wasn’t this. Maybe I’d thought that the two of them would have some technical discussion about what Cathy wanted, that Cathy would provide precise instructions on the style that she wanted, in order to close a chapter in her life and start another. I didn’t expect mute acceptance. I broke away from the action to look briefly at the pile of red hair on the floor around Cathy’s chair. I lifted my gaze to convince myself that the source was indeed the woman still sitting expectantly in the chair.

The scissors slid back into the magic pocket and were gone from view. Frankie paused to look at the helmeted Cathy in the mirror. That’s the best way that I can describe the way that she looked. The everyday feminine style was gone, to be replaced by something more striking, more androgynous. Maybe I was trying to justify my attraction to each of them, trying to convince myself that the less hair they had, the closer they got to the pool of traditional partners for me. What was I talking about? I had Ian, and both of the figures in front of me were very definitely women. I was attracted to women and I just had to accept the fact.

My attention had strayed again, but my focus was returned by the sound of clippers. I fixed my gaze on them, watched Cathy dip her chin unasked, as they approached. They touched the nape of her neck, bare blades ready to roam. I wish I’d seen Frankie like this, watched her about to submit to the clippers for that first time, watched the almost imperceptible change of poise, as the realisation struck home that she was about to change her world. No matter how many times she did it, it would never compare to the first time, the excitement, the frisson as the blades climbed, just as they were ascending the back of Cathy’s head now.

The straggly hair that had been revealed at the back of Cathy’s neck succumbed easily to the blades. I could see pale flesh replace the red tangle. I wondered how high Frankie would go. For the time being, she was clearing undergrowth, methodically flicking the clippers through the untended tendrils. Her hairline was becoming defined, her neck emerging from nothingness, becoming striking, kissable.

There was an exchange of glances between the two of them. Silent acquiescence. Submission. The clippers moved upwards, sliding effortlessly over the curve of the back of Cathy’s head. I altered position so that I could better appreciate the pale skin while the severed hair was still in freefall. Frankie had gone high. Then she went higher, right up to Cathy’s crown. She went again and again, until the back of Cathy’s head really was just a shadow of its former self. Pale skin with a reddish tinge.

Frankie turned her attention to the side of Cathy’s head, meaning another move for me so that I didn’t miss anything. I watched the clippers, I looked in the mirror, hoping to see Cathy’s expression, but realising that the angle was wrong. I’d catch that later. Frankie’s hand appeared to be able to pivot as required, something that I hadn’t really appreciated before. It really was economy of movement. She seemed just to support the machine and then allowed it to tread a path that it knew well. In moments, I could see more skin than hair, from the side of her head, right round the back. She still had an island of hair on the top of her head, but that was being eroded with every movement. The next pass split the island in two. Frankie had gone right over Cathy’s crown, taking a shortcut to get to the side furthest from me. That was it, the moment that I wasn’t sure that I’d get to see. I’d thought that maybe Frankie would leave Cathy with something on top, but it all went.

I moved to stand behind Frankie, so that I could watch Cathy’s reflection in the mirror. She was still passive, not showing reaction or emotion. My focus was drawn back to Frankie’s unreasonably firm backside and its subtle movements when she changed position. I went back to Cathy, the clippers now running this way and that while they performed their final checks.

Although I knew what was still to come, I was now looking at my stylist of several years as I never thought I’d see her. She had been separated from her beautiful russet hair, and was all the more attractive without it. What was it with me? How could I think that? Where had my “thing” for bald women come from?

The shaving cream came out. My favourite part when I was a “first timer”. Now, it’s what I come back to the salon for. The feel of Frankie’s fingertips on my scalp as they skate through the foam. It would be my turn soon enough, but for now I just watched the lathering, the razoring, the checking. Then I watched it all over again, wondering whether it had the same effect on Cathy as it did on me. How could it not?

Cathy didn’t look at me as she got up to go to the basin to be rinsed off. I certainly looked at her, watched her strut after Frankie, already with a more confident air than when she’d come in. She’d wanted this.

I watched her recline into the basin’s neck support, not needing the guiding hand, that I always seem to need, to dock safely. Her long legs were straight, elongated by her pointed feet. Frankie was bent over her; another tableau for me to file away in my memory. I listened to the chattering of the water.

Frankie patted Cathy’s scalp with a towel once she’d finished rinsing the foam residue away, patting that continued while Cathy sat upright again.

‘That’s you’ Frankie said, whisking the towel away.

Cathy’s right hand went to her scalp to explore.

‘That’s so strange’ she said, looking at me. She smiled.

It was the first proper look that I’d had, without it being in the mirror, or from behind or lying down. This was Cathy in all her bald glory. I looked at Frankie who was looking to me for a reaction. There was nothing that I could say. I took the couple of steps towards Cathy and hugged her.

‘You’re beautiful’ I told her.

Frankie joined us, embracing both Cathy and I at the same time.

‘Group hug!’ Cathy said.

I re-positioned myself, putting an arm round Frankie’s waist. My hand slid downwards slightly, onto the curve of the backside that I’d been admiring while she’d been working. She looked at me questioningly. She raised an eyebrow. There was an answering hand on my hip which, if I wasn’t mistaken, had just given me a little squeeze.

‘Well, that’s enough of that’ Cathy said, stepping away from the embrace. Frankie and I still had an arm around each other.

‘You make a lovely couple’ Cathy observed with a smile. I could feel myself blushing and eased apart from Frankie.

‘We’d ought to get you sorted out, since you’re the reason we’re all here’ Frankie said with a quick rub of my scalp.

‘Look, I need to say thank you and goodbye’ Cathy said, darting a glance at me. ‘I need to know what the world thinks of me as a baldie.’

‘Are you sure?’ Frankie asked.

‘I’m meeting someone. Can’t wait to see the look on his face when I walk in.’

‘Does he know you were doing this?’

‘I didn’t know myself, so he certainly doesn’t. Anyway, it’s sort of a blind date’ she chuckled.

‘What I wouldn’t give to be a fly on the wall’ I laughed.

‘Yeah, well, there might be flies on these walls with a tale to tell soon enough’ she replied with a knowing smile. I hadn’t thought that she’d seen Frankie and I with our “private” non-verbal communication.

We went through the charade of offering payment / refusing payment and vows to keep in touch, but before I knew it, Cathy was gone and Frankie was locking the salon door behind her.

‘I don’t know about you, but a glass of wine would go down a treat’ Frankie offered.

So I found myself sitting in the staff room with a chilled glass of wine that Frankie had thoughtfully provided, just mulling over what had happened.

‘It really suits you’ I said, with a nod to Frankie’s bald scalp.

‘I actually thought about doing it a couple of years ago, but I let someone persuade me to go with a crop and it didn’t really pop back into my mind until you came in.’

‘So it’s all my fault’ I chuckled.

‘Let’s just say that you inspired me’ she conceded.

‘Always happy to take credit’ I said, raising my glass in acknowledgement.

Frankie took a respectable swallow and stood up.

‘Well, we’d better do what we’re going to do’ she said, looking at me expectantly.

I stood up and drained my own glass. I’d needed that. I started to turn to head back to the salon.

‘Just before we go back, I want to check something’ Frankie said.

I turned to face her. She reached up to touch the side of my head, her gentle fingers exploring the slight rasp at my temple. It would feel much smoother in a few minutes once she’d worked her magic. The contact with her fingertips became what I can only describe as a caress of my cheek. I closed my eyes and then re-opened them again when realisation hit me. I put my hand over hers, intending to break the connection, but that’s not what happened.

‘When did you know?’ she asked, her gaze burrowing right into me.

‘I didn’t, I don’t’ I said.

Her index finger went to my mouth to hush me gently.

‘Our little secret’ she said, the tip of her finger now resting on my lower lip.

She led the way back to the styling station where Cathy’s red hair was still pooled where it fell. My mind was in turmoil and my stomach not much better while she spread the shaving foam across my scalp. I was watching her in the mirror and there didn’t seem to be any difference in the way she normally did it or how she’d done it for Cathy. Maybe everybody got the slow’n’sexy treatment and there was nothing special about this time. Everything was normal, even the fluttering that I usually felt was there, except that this time there was more reason for there to be something.

The razor did its work and before I knew it, it was my turn to be reclined at the basin, looking up at the figure looming over me. I didn’t know what to do, so decided to do nothing. The water carried away the last vestiges of the foam and set my scalp tingling. The soft towel dampened the sensation and then I was upright again.

Frankie was standing close. If I stood, we’d have to repeat our dance of earlier, try to work out who was meant to be leading. She made a show of drying her hands on the towel and when she moved to put it in the hamper, I stood up.

‘Thank you once again, Frankie’ I said.

‘You’re welcome.’

It felt awkward. Did she feel it too?

‘I’d better sweep up and get home’ she said with a glance back at the styling chair.

‘I’d better be going too. I’ve left Ian alone with the microwave. Who knows what he’s got up to’ I said.

She smiled. We’d almost embarked on something, but pulled back from the brink.

I insisted on paying her and left the salon, wondering what might’ve been.

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