Setting the Terms

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Foreword: I’d hoped to get one more story of this crew in before this one, but you’ll see why I ran out of time. This installment has some hairplay and a tangential haircut, but it’s a bit of an experiment in setting expectations for what could happen next. Since that depends on real life events this coming weekend, I wanted everyone who’s been following along to have an idea of what could happen.  Enjoy! (I hope)

 

Setting the Terms

Rebecca busied herself straightening her station as she waited for Brad to finish with his last client for the day before she, he, and Audrey headed out for a bit of a happy hour to celebrate Audrey’s first month at the Nameless Salon.

Glancing in the mirror to keep her gaze from being too obvious, she took a few moments to watch him work on the young woman in his chair, one of his favorite, and apparently more daring, clients. Just four months ago, Denise had walked in with one of the most absolutely magnificent manes of gorgeous brown hair Rebecca had ever seen. But by the end of that visit, most of it was laying on the floor as she walked out with a sideswept asymmetric pixie. Not long after, it became an undercut pixie, with long, sweeping bangs that still managed to keep one of her eyes hidden, and now… now she was sitting there calmly as Brad gathered up the last remnants of those soft, silky locks and snipped them away barely more than a finger’s width from her scalp.

Settling into her own stylist chair, Rebecca considered the beautiful young woman. Still in college, Rebecca believed, with near perfect, petite features. Rebecca wondered whether, as the young woman sat there sacrificing any discernible length of her lush locks to Brad’s shears, she knew that day way back in October was the last time she’d ever have long hair.

Like, ever.

It was something Rebecca just knew in her bones. There were some women you just knew would ever cut their hair short (men, too, though much less common), and there were others you just knew would never grow their hair long again once they wore it short.

Denise was the latter, which only increased Rebecca’s need to watch Brad work, watching him cut and snip and sending those shiny lengths of dark brown hair tumbling to the floor or down the dark cape that ensconced the giggling girl. Oh, she’d try to grow it out again, sure. She’d insist the short hair had been fun, but it was time to get those envy-inducing lengths of luscious locks back… The hair that had become such an icon around campus that she’d been driven to chop it short, ironically enough. And she’d probably get it to chin-length every now and then and manage to keep it in an adorable bob for a bit, or maybe even shoulder-length for her wedding before dashing right back to Brad after her honeymoon to condemn another incredible ponytail on his alter of gamine fashion.

Rebecca hoped Denise never found herself a long-hair lover to settle down with, because that fellow would be destined for disappointment.

Audrey appeared next to Rebecca, resting a hand on her chair and swaying it back and forth. She watched Brad work for a moment, too, and then turned to look into the mirror at Rebecca’s station. She tugged a few wisps of her auburn hair free from it’s otherwise immaculate ponytail, curling them around her fingers before they fell free to tickle her collarbones. What her hair lacked in length was more than made up for in volume; she had the sort of curls that didn’t so much fall around her shoulders as erupt from her head to engage in an vicious battle with gravity before succumbing and falling around her shoulders.

“I know it’s not necessarily a rule that I need to ask you or anything, but what would you say if I wanted to give myself a fresh start sometime soon?”

Rebecca spun her chair to face her friend directly. “What do you mean?”

Audrey motioned toward her hair. “If all of this…” she made a sweeping motion..”was gone. Not like, shaven bald.. But something like…” She nodded toward Denise and Brad. “I don’t want to accidentally mess up any sort of image you and Brad may have had in mind for this place.”

Rebecca reached up to slip her fingers into the wealth of curls that formed Audrey’s considerable ponytail. “As a professional colleague, no, there’s nothing against it… But as a friend who thinks you have curls people would die for…”

“Yeah yeah yeah. I’ve heard it all before. Listen, I’m going to head to the bar early in case Lindsey and Chase get there before us. You can go back to thirsting after Brad.”

Rebecca snarled, quickly glancing over her shoulder to see whether Brad heard. “I am not thirsting after him.”

“Mmhmm. You certainly didn’t jump at the chance to come with me, did you?” A pause, but if it was meant to be filled with Rebecca’s answer, that never happened. “See you there.”

Rebecca sat silently in her chair for a moment more, trying to will the heat in her cheeks to subside. Once she realized that sitting there in silence might seem a bit odd to the only other people in the salon, she made doubly sure to look twice as busy straightening her area. Her eyes lifted to her mirror again when she heard Brad’s clippers come to life. In the reflection, they were nibbling at Denise’s nape, baring just a little of her nape. In that sense, Brad had left an extraordinary amount of hair on the back and sides compared to past styles; but that was more than made up for by how much hair she lost up top.

Realizing Brad was close to finishing up, Rebecca turned her eye to her own reflection. Her makeup was still on point and she’d already changed her usual black top into her hometown Chiefs’ jersey for the hangout – she might have been far from home now, but that was no reason not to represent. The braid Brad had formed that morning from her long, dark blonde/light brown waves still held true for the most part, but a few wisps and stands that had escaped its hold moved it from professionally acceptable to adorably mussed, and she just didn’t feel like being adorable tonight.

With well practiced hands, she released her thick tresses from their bonds and shook them out, using both her hands and her head to fluff life back into her mane, bending over as she ran her fingers through its length and then flipping it all overhead as she stood, feeling its weight bounce against her back. She turned in the mirror, catching sight as the waves – maybe even lazily graceful curls – reached toward her waist. They weren’t there yet, but within a few months…

They provided a stark contrast to her bangs, that was for sure. Audrey had cropped them ridiculously short almost three months ago, and they still barely reached past her eyebrows. She’d sworn to get them back to their previous sheepdog length, only out of principle if nothing else, but she had to admit they looked really cute when short.

If she wasn’t so stubborn, she’d have kept those Bettie Page bangs. Every one seemed to think they suited her, especially Brad. He hadn’t even minded that he missed out on being the one to cut them. Remembering how they looked, she found herself gathering the rest of her hair back into a high, tight ponytail. At least the too-short bangs – couple with the occasional ponytail or bun – taught her that she’d look okay if through some disaster she ever wound up with short hair. That was something of a relief to know, even if she didn’t plan to ever be in that situation.

The swish of a cape being removed grabbed her attention, and she turned to see the new Denise getting up out of Brad’s chair. The difference from the woman who had sat down was incredible; really a testament to what a difference just a few inches of hair could make. When she’d sat down, she was a beautiful woman with gorgeous hair in a fantastic style, but now… the hair had been removed from the equation completely. Oh, it still looked good – it was simply against Brad’s genetic makeup to ever give someone a bad haircut – but the perfectly simple, cute, side-parted, sexy pixie cut her once-overwhelming mane had been cropped into had yielded the stage to her movie star features, the perfectly straight little nose, bright hazel eyes and gracefully arched eyebrows.

Denise smiled as she looked at her, lifting a hand to rub her shorn nape. “Well?”

“You look fantastic!”

The girl’s smile brightened even more, her cheeks reddening a little as Brad guided her toward the front to pay and say goodnight.

Once Brad closed and locked the door behind her, Rebecca told him, “You know she’s never going to have it long again, right?”

“Is that such a terrible thing?”

She shook her head. “Not even worth mentioning, really. But I just wanted to lay my marker out so I can tell you when I’m right later on.”

He crinkled his brow as he approached, coupling it with one of those disarming smirks he had mastered years ago. “Technically it’s going to take several decades to find out whether you were right.”

“I’m patient.”

“Mmhhm.” He stepped up close, placing his hands on her shoulders to turn her toward her mirror so he could stand behind her. Then his hands were in her hair, sliding down through its length and then up underneath it, adding his efforts to liven her generous waves to her own. “Is that why you keep it long? You’re afraid you won’t grow it back?”

“No.” Yes. One hundred percent yes.

He smiled, a bright enough gesture to make her wonder whether she’d actually said the quiet part out loud. His fingers slid away from her nape and brushed against her cheeks, gathering her thick locks back with a well-practiced tug to form a perfect ponytail. “You’d look really good with it short. And I’m not saying I would ever chop it off in one go or even suggest you should, but you could definitely pull it off.” Hold her ponytail with one hand, he reached forward with the other to brush her overgrown bangs to the side, simulating a side part. “I just want to make sure you know that.”

“Thank you. But I think working with Denise just now may have thrown off your compass a bit.”

His hand dropped to her shoulders, turning her so he faced him rather than his reflection. That resulted in her having to tilt her head up a good bit as he continued to run his fingers back through her hair. “Not remotely,” he said, his steel blue eyes not showing even a hint of doubt. “With your eyes and cheekbones?” The backs of the fingers of his left hand brushed against her throat. “The long, slender neck to die for? Yeah, my compass is just fine.”

Rebecca was glad something was fine because there were alarms going off all through her head.

“We should get going,” he finally said. “Do you want to wear your hair up, or down?”

She had no idea. For some reason, moreso today than in any time over the years she’d known Brad, Rebecca couldn’t quite put a thought together.

“Why not both?” she finally replied.

___________________________________

Brad being Brad, Rebecca’s hair was secured into a gorgeous half up-half down style that managed to show off her earrings and the tumbling waves of her hair at the same time. There’d been a minor disagreement about her bangs, but he’d won the argument and as a result she wore them swept to the side, a kind-of-brown wave that crested and crashed to her forehead just above her right eyebrow.

Audrey had secured a table before the happy hour crowds took the bar over, and by the time Rebecca had found a spot to park Brad was already inside with the others, leaving her as the last to show. Per tradition, the celebratory round of shots would be hers to pay for. She guessed there were worse outcomes in life for losing.

Once the shots congratulating Audrey on her first month at the salon were had, beers and wine kept coming to the table in quick order. A live band kicked up at some point, leading to fairly bad sing-a-longs, something Rebecca has a feeling they only got away with because, frankly, they were an attractive bunch. There was Chase, with his bad boy crewcut and office-overlord pressed shirt and slacks, Lindsey with her petite California-girl good looks and supercute pixie cut, Audrey the Redhead of Doom, and Brad, the Classical statue come to life.

The Classical Statue on the other side of the tightrope of friendship, the one that had to be traversed with the greatest of care lest ultimate tragedy result.

But goddamn she wanted to fuck him.

She backhanded him across his chest.

He broke off his conversation with Chase and looked at her for a moment before he pretended to actually have felt it. “What was that for?”

Rebecca shook her head. “It just needed to be done. Perfect man-chests like your need to be slapped every now and then or else no one appreciates just how rock solid they are.”

His head tilted, brow wrinkling before he replied, “Thank you, I think?”

She smiled, then turned her attention to the other women. She pretended not to notice Audrey’s raised eyebrow, but couldn’t hide a smug smile as she felt Brad’s hand on her back soon after, absent-mindedly rubbing up and down, his fingers playing within the depths of her hair before they slid up to gently rub her shoulders.

Lindsey noticed at this point, too, so Rebecca needed a distraction for the girls. She decided flattery was her best option to get Lindsey thinking about something else, and it had to be about a topic that would catch Audrey’s interest, too,

“Lindsey, you were born to wear your hair that short. You really were! Do you love it?”

Lindsey smiled brightly, subconsciously unable to resist turning her head this way and that to show off the ultra-short style, even though Audrey was the one who gave it to her and Rebecca had been there the night it happened. “I do! I mean, I miss long hair, but someone at this table has kind of made it REALLY worthwhile to keep the style for a while.”

“Yeah,” Audrey added between pulls from her beer. “You should hear how worthwhile he makes it.” Another drink from her bottle. “Almost. Every. Night.”

Rebecca gave a nod of respect and held her beer out to Lindsey, who clinked her wine glass against it before they broke out into laughter coupled with glances toward Chase.

“What?” Lindsey’s boyfriend asked.

Lindsey struggled to keep wine coming through her nose while turning bright red and laughing, and Rebecca just pretended not to know what he was asking about.

“Okay, Rebecca,” Chase said as he set his beer down. “I feel like there’s something I need to get out in the open with you.”

Rebecca an eyebrow as Chase reached for the top button of his dark red shirt and began undoing it.

Brad quickly held a hand up to block the view as everyone at the table started acting as if Chase had reached for his pants belt, but by the time half of the buttons were undone, Rebecca had to drop the act to make way for the true disgust she felt.

Pulling his dress shirt open like Superman racing to save a burning orphanage, Chase revealed a Tampa Bay Buccaneers t-shirt.

“Oh god, Lindsey, I thought you said he was a good dude!” Rebecca overdramatically cried out. A few poorly acted pounds of her fist against the table followed. “I thought you had good taste.”

Lindsey shrugged. “They can’t all be gold, I guess?”

Rebecca groaned and rolled her eyes before turning back to Chase. “Well, at least Lindsey will be able to see how well you handle losing.”

Chase grinned, shaking his head in disagreement. It was a weird expression to find attractive, but there was such a good nature and sense of camaraderie behind it, gentle teasing, if you will, that Rebecca could see why Lindsey could fall for him.

At least until she focused on the t-shirt again.

“When the time comes, I’m sure she will find that I’m a great loser… I mean, like, I take losing well, despite having so little practice at it. But Sunday will not be that day, my dear.”

“Please,” Rebecca replied. “Tampa Bay had it easy in the playoffs.”

“They beat Aaron Rodgers!”

“And he hasn’t won anything in years. Kansas City is going to roll over the Tampa Bay D. This isn’t twenty years ago, Good Sir. I mean, everyone here knows the Chiefs are going to win, right?”

Like the lamest game of spin the bottle ever, Rebecca pointed her beer toward each person at the table, awaiting their predictions in turn.

“Yup,” Audrey confirmed, clinking her bottle against Rebecca’s.

“I am totally abstaining,” Lindsey said, not even making eye contact.

Rebecca didn’t even bother pointing at Chase.

Brad hesitated.

“What?” Rebecca gasped.

Brad stammered. “They have Tom Brady. The dude wins Super Bowls like other people drive to the Super Market. He doesn’t even need to think about it!”

Rebecca leaned back from Brad, locks of he hair hanging from his fingers as she pulled away from his hand.

“Oh oh,” Lindsey murmured before giggling and taking another drink.

“Do I need to run down the entire Chiefs roster for you?”

“No, you do not. Do I need to remind you that Mahomes was in kindergarten when Brady won his first Super Bowl?”

“No, you do not.”

“How did he wind up stealing my thunder?” Chase asked.

Out of the corner of her eye, Rebecca caught the rudely demonstrative gesture Audrey made as a way of explaining the situation.

And… she wasn’t wrong.

Rebecca set her beer down. Maybe it was time to stop dancing around the issue. She definitely hadn’t had enough to drink to make any sort of move now, but…. she could set the pieces in motion without it really looking like she set the pieces in motion.

“Well, my friend, I think a bet is in order.”

“With me?” Brad asked.

She nodded.

“Okay. What do you have in mind?”

“Ryuusei’s Sushi Bar. When the Chiefs win, you take me there.”

Eyes all around the table widened, as did Rebecca’s smile.

“I hear it’s almost impossible to get in,” she added, “so you might not want to wait for the game to make the reservation.”

Brad considered it for a long while, his growing smirk showing complete openness to the idea but his hesitance betraying the fact that he knew just how expensive it would be. And she wanted exactly that – friends didn’t take friends to Ryuusei’s Sushi Bar. In all likelihood he was considering that fact and wondering what her suggestion could really mean. So part one of the plan was a success. Now, part two would be to send another bit of code that couldn’t say anything other than, “Yeah, being just friends ain’t enough anymore.”

He looked at her, one eyebrow raised above his gorgeous blue eyes. “And when the Bucs win?”

“You get to cut my hair. Any way you want.”

She held out her hand and held her breath.

His hand fit against hers like it was meant to.

 

_______

Thanks for reading — let me know what you think, if you’re so inclined.

(I’m personally rooting for the Chiefs, so I wanted to have something fun to look forward to if Tampa Bay wins.)

10 responses to “Setting the Terms

    1. Hopefully you won’t have to wait too long — I like to keep the sense of time passing in these related stories, and if I wait too long it may have to come in the form of a flashback. So hopefully I’ll get a chance to sit down and write it soon.

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