Summer of Change
“It’s a few of my friends, and some kids from school, Mom,” I explained. I was looking forward to going to the somewhat annual event that the kids in my neighborhood held, the first week after school let out. It was a bit of a party to celebrate the start of the summer vacation. For me, it would be my last.
I’d already been accepted at the University of Rochester for the fall term, and that would be that. I’d be leaving it all behind, my parents, my friends, but most especially my gorgeous lover.
I know, I was seventeen, so what on earth could a teenager get up to that would constitute a relationship. Well, that was where things were different between Caitlyn and me.
Unlike most of my friends, there wasn’t that specter of pregnancy hanging in the air, to prevent Cate and me from being intimate. So, we were, and had been since the middle of our junior year.
Of course, all of this was a mystery to my parents, who had no idea I was sexually active, let alone a lesbian. I knew that sooner or later we would need to have the talk. I figured it would be best left until after they had paid for my education.
As far as they were concerned, Caitlyn and I were best friends. I imagined they’d be horrified to find out that all those sleepovers were so much more than girls having fun.
What also worried me, was that Cate was openly gay, and had come out to her parents before high school. If her parents ever talked to mine, the cat would be out of the bag, for sure.
Cate assured me that she had told them about my hesitance to come out to my folks, but there was always that possibility floating out there. I tried not to think about it.
Of course, all that would be academic after the summer. Cate had been accepted at Stanford, being the brain that she was. With me heading to a relatively local school, we would rarely see one another. It was a real heartbreaker for us both.
We live in a small town south of Buffalo, New York, so even though Rochester was close, I would never be able to commute. Maybe an occasional weekend at home might be the best I could do. What would I have to come back to anyway, with Caitlyn in California?
“Is Caty going to go with you?” My mother insisted on calling my lover Caty, which she absolutely hated.
“I’m picking her up, yeah,” I said as I ran the brush through my waist-length mane one final time. I knew being a lesbian and having such feminine hair was a bit of an inconsistency, but Cate loved it, so I kept it long for her.
Cate’s hair was quite butch, with tapered back and sides, and a shock of blonde curls flopping over like an undercut. I loved the look on her and would sometimes threaten to have mine done the same way. She would beg me not to, of course.
I doubted mine would look anything like hers, being stick straight and black as jet. We once toyed around with my father’s clippers, and I convinced Cate to give me a mild undercut, one that would never be noticed.
Of course, not knowing any better, we failed to use any guard on the blades. They shaved me right to the skin. Having already started, there was no going back. Caitlyn shaved my nape all the way up to the part she had made across the back of my head.
So, for a few months, I had a two-inch-wide strip of exposed scalp hidden beneath my raven locks. It bothered me, but in a good way. I would often find my fingers wandering up my neck beneath my hair, caressing the ultra-short stubble. I have to say, I was sad when it finally grew in.
The thing was, as soon as I was in Rochester, I had every intention of having my hair cut short. There wasn’t going to be any reason not to, so I spent a bit of time perusing the internet, looking at different styles.
The one that I kept coming back to, was a cut that I would never have even considered for myself. The image stuck in my head like glue, and I was becoming obsessed with the idea of looking exactly like the girl in the picture.
“No drinking, Allison!” My mother called out as I slipped out the front door. I didn’t answer. It was something we all promised not to do, but never anything we adhered to. Beer was a given at these things.
Cate was waiting on her front steps as I pulled up to her house, a few blocks over from me. Her shorter-than-short shorts were tantalizing, and I knew that before too long, we would have to sneak into the woods for a little girl-on-girl.
“You look hot.” I sighed, as she slipped into the seat next to me.
“You’re not too shabby yourself.” Cate kidded. I was never too fashionable, so my store-bought jean shorts and tie-dyed T were standard fare for me.
As we pulled up to the park shelter, there were quite a few more people than we were used to seeing. Generally, it was only the kids from my neighborhood. This had all the earmarks of a leaked party location. It took us a while to find our gang, relegated to a few picnic tables on the far side of the shelter.
“What the hell happened here?” Cate asked, thumbing over her shoulder at the crowd.
“I think one of the freshmen must have told some of his friends, and then, well, you see what happens.” Allen shook his head. Allen Truman was a kid I had known since grammar school and had shaken his advances on more than one occasion. I finally told him I was gay and that was that.
“Well, I guess we could always move,” I suggested, indicating a few empty shelters down the drive.
“This is our spot, Allie.” One of the kids said. “We’re not moving.”
Cate had grabbed a couple of beers from the cooler, which Allen had to guard. “You’d think if they’re crashing a party, they could at least bring their own.” Allen griped.
“Yep.” I tapped the bottom of my bottle against Cate’s and motioned to the large stand of pines across a large field. “We’ll be back.” Everyone knew exactly where we were going, and why, but it was no secret to any of them.
The cooler air under the pines was refreshing, with the mid-day sun scorching the air under a cloudless summer sky.
“It’s nice in here.” I sighed, slipping my hand under the waistband of Cate’s abbreviated shorts, her tight butt feeling so soft under my fingers.
Almost at once, our lips were locked together, tongues battling and hands groping for anything they could blindly find. Cate’s shorts were immediately around her ankles, her lack of underwear nothing new to me. My fingers slipped along her closely trimmed mons and into her moist folds, eliciting an excited moan from her.
In no time at all, we were laying on our own clothes in the soft pine straw, nothing between us but naked skin. It was a pleasure that I was going to miss terribly, and I was certain that Caitlyn felt the same way. Our lovemaking had taken on a desperate tone as though we both knew we would soon be deprived of the other’s affection.
So intense was our passion that neither of us heard the approaching footsteps, or saw the two boys who had come upon us in the woods.
“Well, well. Look what we have here.” Jimmy Reardon leered. A junior, and not well-liked, he had a reputation as a bully.
Cate and I scrambled for our clothes, managing to cover the important bits. We waited for them to descend on us, but they didn’t. So, we were both surprised when he insisted that we get dressed.
“What do you want, Jimmy?” Cate sneered, pulling up her shorts.
“I always knew you were queer, Cate. You even look the part with that butch haircut of yours. What’s surprising me is you, Allie. I never would have suspected.”
“Sorry to disappoint you.” I snipped, freeing my hair from the confines of the t-shirt collar.
“That’s the thing, Jimmy.” The other boy, who I did not recognize said. “She definitely does not look the part. Maybe we should help her with that?”
Cate, immediately realizing what they meant, lunged at the boy. “You leave her alone, asshole!”
Unfortunately for us, both boys were much larger and stronger than either one of us, and they quickly deflected Cate’s fists. Jimmy grabbed her from behind, throwing her to the ground, roughly. Before she could shake it off and get to her feet, Jimmy and his friend had dragged me away.
They weren’t part of our party, I soon discovered, leading me in the opposite direction. I started to panic when I saw their truck parked along the side of the gravel track that skirted the edge of the park. “You’ve made your point, Jimmy. Now just let me go.” I begged.
“Oh, I think you’ll discover that our ‘point’ is far from being made, Allison.” They had thrown me into the front seat and climbed in on either side of me, preventing my escape.
Jimmy had just put the truck in gear when Cate came barreling out of the woods, crashing into the side of the truck. She pounded on the window hard enough to shatter it, before Jimmy showered her with gravel as he peeled away.
“Fucking bitch broke my fucking window!” He cursed. I almost managed to get away when he stopped to sweep the broken glass from his seat, but was grabbed by his friend.
“Your girlfriend is going to pay for that,” Jimmy promised, as he sped away from the park in the direction of town. I was confused when they started heading into my neighborhood. Jimmy lived on the opposite side of town.
“I thought we’d stop by your place so that you can explain to your parents what it was you were doing in the woods.” Jimmy threatened.
“What? No!” I managed, breathlessly.
“Oh, you mean they don’t know you’re gay?” He chided.
“No, they don’t.” But what I did wonder is how he knew that.
Jimmy pulled the truck to the curb a few houses down from mine. “Tell you what, Allie. You do exactly as we say, and we’ll forego this part of the trip.”
“Fine, whatever.” I hissed through my teeth.
As we drove back out onto the main road, I began to worry about Cate. She had to be going out of her mind. I was picturing her explaining what had happened to our friends back at the party. Cate rode with me, and my car keys were in my pocket.
A few minutes later we had pulled up in front of what must have been Jimmy’s house. “Do not let her get away.” He demanded of his friend. He’d referred to him as Chuck, but that was all I knew.
When Jimmy returned, he had a rope and something else in his hand, both of which he threw into the back seat.
“Please, don’t hurt me, Jimmy.” I pleaded.
“We’re not going to hurt you, Allison.” He assured me. “At least not physically.” He mumbled under his breath.
“How did you know that I haven’t told my parents?” I asked, the question begging to be asked.
“Your kid brother.” Chuck disclosed. “He swears up and down that your straight, even though you hang out with that lesbian friend of yours.”
I’d often thought about telling my brother about me. I guessed that point was moot. Chuck was going to be more than happy to shatter my brother’s opinion of me.
The Old Cabin
When Jimmy pulled down a dirt road leading to a local rod and gun club, I really started to get worried. What on earth were they going to do to me. Several side roads later, we came to an old cabin hidden well away from everything in a glade of hardwoods. Were the situation different, I would even have thought it charming.
“Get out, and don’t bother running. Your miles from anywhere.” Jimmy explained, opening the door to the old cabin, and ushering me inside. I imagined they were probably going to rape me; except he had promised they weren’t going to hurt me.
I watched as he slung the rope over a large hewn beam that traversed the room, some eight feet off the floor. He hung from it, testing the knot he had tied. My god, were they going to hang me?
“Bring that box over here,” Jimmy ordered. Chuck grabbed a low box that was probably used for firewood and positioned it under the rope. This was not looking good. He grabbed my arm and pulled me over. “Stand on the box.”
“Jimmy, wait. What are you doing?” I begged, thinking the worst. I fully expected the loop he had fashioned to be slipped around my neck. There was a warped sense of relief as he grabbed my hair and slipped the length of it through the makeshift noose, tightening it severely.
I could feel the knot tighten against the top of my head as Jimmy pulled as hard as he could manage.
“That ought to do.” He chuckled. “Now, Allison. I want you to do exactly as I say. Remember your promise?”
“I remember.” I scowled. I was trying to picture what they intended but didn’t have to wonder for long.
“Step off the box, Allie,” Jimmy ordered.
The box was a good nine inches tall, and I knew that if I did as he asked, I’d be left hanging by my hair. “You said you weren’t going to hurt me.” I accused.
“It’s not going to hurt, for long.” He grinned. “Now step off, or do I have to kick it out from under you like some lynching in a Western movie?”
Not wanting the sudden lurch of the box being suddenly gone, I tested the air with my foot, feeling my hair cinch up tight. I could feel my cheeks and forehead stretch as I made the commitment.
Suddenly, the box was out from under me, and I was literally hanging by my waist-long hair. It wasn’t quite as painful as I imagined, but it was no picnic either. I found that if I stretched, I could just touch my toes to the plank floor, but they offered no relief from the ache in my scalp. I wondered how long I could stand this. Were they just going to watch as I suffered?
“Bastards! It hurts!” I yelled.
“I imagine it does.” Jimmy sneered. He nodded to Chuck who nervously fumbled in his pocket. What he took out was not what I expected, and he handed it to Jimmy. Holding the object in front of my face for a moment, he reached down and placed it in my open palm. “Those, Allison, are your way off that rope.”
I felt the vibration of the clippers that he had deposited in my hand, the evil things already on. “You want me to use these on my hair?” I asked, desperately.
All he did was nod. I watched as the two disappeared through the door and could just hear his truck start over the buzz of the clippers as he pulled away. I was alone.
Knowing this, I was suddenly panicked. I tried picking at the knot with the clippers and nearly dropped them. That wasn’t going to work. There wasn’t enough room between the knot and my scalp to cut, so there was only one option.
With a tear in my eye, I raised the clippers to my forehead and pushed them back over the top of my head. Instead of the expected relief, the pain in my scalp only intensified, as less of my hair was supporting my weight.
The more I cut the more painful it was. When only the back remained, my weight forced my chin against my breastbone. Quickly, I ran the clippers up the back, but it was not fast enough to prevent the hair from being ripped from my scalp. As I dropped to the floor, an entire strip of hair had been forcefully torn away.
I laid there on the floor, in a heap. My beautiful black hair suspended above me like a perverse joke. Jimmy Reardon was going to pay for this, and at that moment, I didn’t care if my parents found out or not.
Reaching up I ran my fingers over the jagged stubble left behind by my hasty haircut. I thought I might be sick, but one thought saved me from being so pitiful. My thoughts reverted to that image that had been so indelibly burning into it. The picture of the girl with the buzzcut.
I picked myself up from the floor and shut off the clippers which were still vibrating against the wooden planks. I painstakingly untied my hair from the noose, easier now that my weight had been removed. Fastening it with the hair tie I always kept in my pocket, I laid it reverently on a nearby counter.
I managed to find a mirror, tucked away in a small bathroom that had long since been dry. The girl in the mirror was nothing like the one in my mind. Her hair had been even, like a coat of fur on her head. As I examined myself, I shuddered at the unevenness of the cut. I looked like something out of a prison movie.
I made my way back to the main room and retrieved the clippers, returning to the mirror, determined. Without hesitation, I switched on the clippers and ran them over my head, evening out the stubble to a barely perceptible black sheen. It wasn’t the buzzcut in the picture, but it looked far better than it had. I realized that for all intents and purposes, I was bald.
Now, when I ran my fingers over my scalp, the sensation was almost pleasurable. I worried over the thin strip of smooth scalp at the back, a stark reminder of my ordeal. I worried whether hair would ever grow there again. My thoughts immediately went to Cate. What would she think? My beautiful black hair that she had loved so much was no more.
Leaving the rope, the clippers, and my hair behind, I wandered out of the cabin. I had no idea where I was, but knew that if I just followed the dirt road, I would eventually get out of there.
Two Years Later
I laid back, my head in Cate’s lap, the ocean breeze caressing us and buffering the late summer sun. She stroked the ultra-short bristles that coated my head, the tingling sensation running straight to my center, enticing the exact response she was hoping for. Moaning, I reach up and kissed her upside-down.
There was no more pressure over leaving one another; it was no longer a consideration. Cate had given up on Stanford, just as I had forgone my opportunity in Rochester. My harrowing experience had changed absolutely everything.
Jimmy Reardon and Charles Weir had both been convicted of aggravated assault, and with the hate crime statute enforced were both spending some quality time behind bars.
Of course, after the assault, my parents found out about Cate and me. They were furious and promptly threw me out of the house. I think they were more upset over the idea of us fooling around right under their noses for two years. To be honest, I really didn’t care whether they ever came around.
Cate’s parents took me in for a while, but that was never going to work for long. They had been disappointed when Cate gave up her chance at college. But unlike my own mother and father, their response had been measured. We moved out at the beginning of that winter, when an apartment opened up in Provincetown. The small apartment wasn’t much, but it was all we needed.
As for my hair, well, that little bald strip finally did grow back. Cate decided that she could live with my short hair, as long as she got to cut it. Even though the sound and sensation of clippers on my scalp still haunted me, with Cate wielding them, my aversion was slowly waning. Cate had even joined me a few times with a buzz of her own. Eventually though, we both decided that I was to be the one with the crewcut.
We spent that morning strolling along the beach at Race Point, the outermost stretch of sand before Cape Cod relinquished itself to the Atlantic. It had always been a dream, one that neither of us ever thought would be realized. Now, it was our home, and we could not have been more content.