The Break-up

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It’s not something that I’d recommend and at first I said no. Then he made me feel guilty, so I gave in.

That’s how I managed to be on holiday with my boyfriend and his younger sister, who’d just split up with her partner. He thought it would be good for her to get away for a while, get some distance, all that sort of thing. I wanted it just to be the two of us in the sun, relaxing by the pool, drinking, doing some things that we’d let slide for too long because he’d been too busy at work. We’d done it before: rented a villa, stripped off as soon as we got there and just been naked for a week. Now he wanted to introduce his sister into the mix. Bit of an inhibitor regarding what I’d had in mind.

As it was, we had a relaxing “family” holiday. He sat and read and listened to music on his headphones. I lay by the pool, occasionally listening to his sister’s trials and tribulations, occasionally just lay there soaking up the sun. It was probably a good holiday for her. It wasn’t for me. Jamie and I almost fucked once, but he said he couldn’t with her in the next room. Great!

Now we’re home. With the heart-broken Susie staying with us to give her partner time to clear out their flat. Did I say “partner”? That’s right I did. I may have forgotten to mention that his sister plays for the home team. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course. Whatever makes you happy. Or unhappy in her case.

I do her a dis-service really. She’s not that bad. You’d never know to look at her. While we were away, she could’ve had her pick of men in any of the bars. She’s twenty-six, looks great in a bikini, with shoulder length dark hair. I’d have happily gone out on the pull with her, had I not known and had I not got Jamie, of course. Not that that’s been going so well lately. He wants to establish himself at work, thinking that he can deal with his home life once he’s made it in the corporate world. Let’s see how that works out for him. Before we went away I’d started to have doubts that he was the right one, but we’ve been together for two years, so it isn’t something I’d give up lightly. The fact that he won’t put my name on the deeds to his place does give me pause for thought, however. Maybe he has the same doubts.

Anyway, I digress. He’s at work and I’m not. I took an extra week off, which leaves me babysitting his emotional wreck of a sister. She’s told me everything (and more) about her personal life, so things are quiet between us. I’m reluctant to engage her in conversation, because I don’t know what I’ll unleash from the depths. So yesterday we took it easy round the flat. This morning e’s restless.

She just came into my bedroom as I was putting my make-up on.

‘Sorry Debs. I don’t suppose there’s a hair salon round here that I can go to?’ she asked, fiddling with the ends of her hair.

‘You’d need to go into town, but it’s only a ten minute walk.’

‘That’s not too bad. Do you know the name of one?’

‘Not off the top of my head. The one I go to is a car ride away, but I can find the name of a couple nearby if you want. When were you thinking of?’ I asked, trying to be helpful.

‘I’ll go to the first one that can take me. Break-up haircut you know. Gotta be done.’

‘No, Susie. Think about it a bit. You don’t have to.’

‘I do’ she said. The first tear appeared. Great!

I finished getting dressed and then did the research that she could’ve done for herself. At least she offered to make the call and now she was seemingly impressed with herself for getting an appointment that barely gave me time for breakfast, let alone anything else that I might have wanted to do.

We walked in to the salon. Good first impression. Maybe I won’t need to drive to the other side of town to get my hair done in future. I only go there because I’ve been going there for years, but this place has a nice vibe. I’d see how Susie got on and maybe defect from the wonderful Brenda if Susie looked good when she came out.

The receptionist beamed a smile. I could see her thinking. Which one am I meant to be nice to? Susie put herself forward.

‘Hi, I’m Susie. I’ve got a cut booked for 10’ she said.

‘Okay, let me just get Cassie for you’ she said, getting up and disappearing into the salon.

‘Cassie’ Susie mouthed. She pulled a face, although I’m not sure what she meant.

The stylist appeared. Her name suited her. Looked like something off a reality show. Immaculately turned out, dramatic make-up, brows that looked like she only had one bristle in her brush, they were that thin. Dark hair pulled severely back into a ponytail, with just a hint of product to make it shine. Her jeans were tight. Her top was tighter. This was a girl who wanted to be noticed. I wondered what Susie thought when she saw a woman dressed like that. Was her first thought “Look at the tits on that!’ or did her brain work in a different way?

‘Hi, I’m Cassie. Which one’s Susie?’ she asked. I pointed at Susie.

‘Are you waiting here or do you want to come on through too?’ she asked me.

I looked at Susie. ‘Would you rather go on your own?’

‘No, come with me, if they’re happy with that’ she invited.

‘Off we go then’ Cassie urged. Susie peeled off first and I tagged along, the pork pie at a Bar Mitzvah. I still hadn’t got over my fascination with Susie’s chosen lifestyle, still second-guessing her at every turn. Was she watching Cassie’s backside as she walked. I knew that I was. What it would be to have that confidence, that swagger.

Cassie pulled a chair from an unused styling station and invited me to sit down, while Susie got shown centre-stage. Hands on Susie’s shoulders, she went for the tried and tested opening gambit: ‘So, what are we doing today?’

Susie looked at me.

‘Break-up haircut. New start. You know the thing’ she explained.

‘Okay. Are you sure? Hasn’t your friend here tried to talk you out of it?’

‘Yes, I’m sure and no she hasn’t’ Susie replied.

‘Don’t you think you should’ve tried?’ she asked, directing the question to me.

‘She’s more my sister-in-law than my friend’ I explained before realising that it sounded weird.

‘So you’re not friends?’

‘Yes we are, but we’re more than that’ Susie jumped in, much to my relief.

‘I’m glad we got that sorted out’ the stylist said. ‘Now, tell me what we’re doing here.’

There was a pause for a moment before a less confident Susie quietly said ‘Cutting it off.’

‘Cutting it off? He must’ve really hurt you, girl’ she said, sliding towards the reality TV persona that I hated.

‘Yeah’ Susie conceded with an air of sadness and deception.

‘Ok, so how short are you thinking?’

‘Take it all off.’

‘Susie!’ I said.

‘Clean slate’ she replied.

‘This is serious’ Cassie returned. ‘I take it you’re talking about a cute pixie sort of thing.’

Susie shook her head.

‘Seriously?’ Cassie asked. ‘So we’re talking buzzcut?’

‘I don’t know. I just want it all off. As short as you can get it’ Susie replied. I was sitting there open-mouthed at this stage.

‘Susie, think about it’ I started.

‘I have. I just want it all off’ she said adamantly.

‘I can do that, if you’re sure’ Cassie said.

‘I’m sure.’

Cassie slid her hands to the inside of Susie’s hair and flipped it out as if to show the world what Susie was about to lose. ‘Just so we’re clear – all off?’

‘That’s right’ Susie replied.

I didn’t know what to do. I felt bad for having thought of her as a whiner at times when we’d sat by the pool, but she was clearly devastated by the break-up. I reached out and squeezed her forearm. Cassie covered Susie with a gown and looked at me, raising the thin lines that pretended to be her eyebrows.

She reached down to unhook a set of clippers hanging from the side of the worktop. I jumped at the sound of them and then felt foolish.

They had a plastic comb attachment on when she brought them up. Then they didn’t. She’d palmed it, like a street magician. She flipped them over in her hand and positioned the blades at the top of Susie’s shoulders. She moved them into the hair and I saw a six inch hank fall to the floor. Just like that.

No drama, just straight in. I’d had mine cut to collar length by a stylist who used scissors and who made a big performance of it. I’d almost expected her to say that she was just popping out to the shed to get a spirit level. This girl was just straight in, no messing. There was no reaction from Susie; she just sat there stoically, apparently lost in her memories of a relationship that wasn’t what she’d wanted. Cassie of the too-tight jeans went higher, at collar length and repeated her little trick. Clippers touch, hair falls, checks for reaction. Still nothing.

She did the little flip of the clippers in the palm of her hand. I waited for her to do a toss from hand to hand and then start to microphone-mime into them. She glanced at Susie in the mirror and positioned them just at the newly-exposed hairline. She moved them up slowly. Oh my fucking g…! There was a strip of bare scalp about two inches up the back of Susie’s head.

‘Wait! She didn’t mean…’ I objected.

‘It’s fine, whatever it is’ Susie said, torn back from sadness.

Cassie turned to look at me. Don’t you point those at me, I thought. She really had got a spectacular pair. Either she’d been really good in a past life or she’d paid for some surgeon’s vacation. She deployed her nearly-eyebrows, which communicated their sparse message. That told me!

The clippers moved to the side of their first track and went upwards. With a glance in my direction, Cassie eased them up and onto the crown of Susie’s head. Susie was motionless and emotionless. There was no stopping Cassie now. The shorter bobbed sections at the back of Susie’s head were nearly all gone and with each sweep of the clippers now, full lengths of Susie’s tresses were tumbling. I thought back to seeing her getting out of the pool on holiday.

Not quite Ursula Andress coming out of the sea, but not far short. She’d looked great dripping wet, squeezing pool-water from her hair as she stood up. I hadn’t asked her if she went to a gym, but if she didn’t, she was a lucky bitch. Lithe, firm, a great catch for whoever had let her go.

She wouldn’t be doing that wet-hair flip for a while. Cassie had taken her at her word and was leaving nothing behind. There’d be no bad hair days for a long time. Susie stared and Cassie carried on stripping away whatever it was that Susie wanted to leave behind in the salon. I just hoped that it did the trick for her. I glanced around, looked at the other two client/stylist pairings, who were oblivious to what was going on within touching distance. I watched hair tumble, watched raw Susie revealed. She had a great shaped head, didn’t look like a freak at all, just a hairless version of herself. Cassie worked the clippers over Susie’s scalp, peering more closely from time to time, following up with fingertips to make sure that she’d not missed anything.

There was just freshly-minted scalp. The clippers went quiet. Susie remained motionless. Cassie’s hand circled bareness.

‘Do you want to go the whole hog?’ Cassie asked.

‘Whatever you think’ Susie replied, sounding detached. I had to admire her. I couldn’t sit there and let someone do that to me and my hair was much shorter than hers had been. My eyes dropped to the pile of hair on the floor, bereft, suddenly homeless.

Cassie had armed herself with another gadget and turned it on. The previous one had been tolerable to listen to, but this one was higher pitched and annoying. She went over Susie’s scalp in a rapid circular motion, not really aiming for anything. Nothing fell away and I couldn’t really see the benefit.

It was only when she turned them off that she explained that they were just finishing the job.

She took Susie over to a basin and went through the pantomime of washing hair that was no longer there. I watched Susie sit up and look across at me while
Cassie rubbed her scalp with a towel. She smiled at me. She looked happy. I was sad for her, but happy at the same time. She stood up and headed back to the chair, only for Cassie to tell her not to bother sitting down. She was done. She dipped her head to look in the mirror. She ran a quick hand over her scalp and happy that she’d done what she set out to do, reached into her bag and took out her purse. She handed Cassie a £20 note.

‘You pay at the front desk’ Cassie said.

‘That’s for you. Thank you for not making me jump through hoops’ Susie said.

‘You’re welcome. I just hope that you find happiness soon’ Cassie said, leaning in to hug Susie, generous boobs flattening against her.

‘Me too’ Susie replied.

‘What about you, I’ve got 45 minutes left on that appointment, if you want to jump in the chair’ Cassie said, looking at me.

‘I’ve got a regular place. An appointment next week’ I said, hoping not to offend her.

‘We could call it an introductory offer, if you like’ she offered.

I hesitated. It was a bit of a pain going to see Brenda. But then she and I went way back, through more than a foot of hair. She’d taken me from long and straight, through less long and straight, through a bob to where I was now, with a nameless, short, sensible style that brushed my collar. It generally behaved itself, didn’t need too much maintenance and was familiar. There went those eyebrows, reaching for the sky in expectation.

‘I wouldn’t want to let them down’ I said with a wry smile.

‘Give them a call. You’re here now, save yourself the time next week, why don’t you?’

‘No, it’s very good of you, but I’m fine, thanks’ I said, gathering my bag in a sign of finality.

‘Okay, but if you change your mind, the introductory offer still stands’ she said with a smile.

‘What’s the offer?’ Susie asked annoyingly. I was mid-way through my first step away to reception when she’d piped up.

‘Two for the price of one’ Cassie replied.

‘Two what?’ I asked.

‘I’ll do yours the same as hers’ Cassie said.

‘That’s very kind’ I replied, not quite appreciating the sense of humour. I started walking.

Susie paid and we hit the street.

‘It looks good’ I said, trying to lift her spirits. Susie stopped in her tracks.

‘I know you think I’m insane, but I’m really glad I did it’ she said. ‘Thanks for coming with me.’

‘You’re welcome’ I replied.

We walked on.

‘Does it bother you?’ Susie asked after a while.

‘What?’

‘That I’m gay’ she said, surprising me.

‘I was going to say “whatever makes you happy”, but I’m not sure whether that’s the right thing to say at the moment.’

‘It does make me happy, despite what happened with Mickey.’

I still found it odd to hear a “Michelle” called “Mickey”, but there you go. She’d probably find Jamie’s pet-name for me a little odd, not that he’d used it for ages.

She took my arm as we walked on.

‘You know, it’s important to me what Jamie and you think. He’s accepted it and I’d like to think that you have too.’

‘I really do just want you to be happy’ I said, pausing outside a coffee shop. She caught me by surprise and hugged me. I don’t know why it should’ve surprised me, but it did.

We went in, ordered coffee and sat there, appearing to the world like two normal friends, where one of them is a bald lesbian. Sorry, that’s not fair, but that’s probably how the outside world saw us. The old couple in the corner appeared to, anyway.

We chatted easily while we drank. I was surprised by the change that had come over her.

I was even more surprised when she told me that she knew things were a bit rocky between Jamie and I. It wasn’t something that I wanted to acknowledge or talk about, but full marks to her for perception.

Then she surprised me again.

‘What do you think Jamie would say if you cut your hair? she asked.

‘Nothing much. He never does. It took him a week to notice when I went from bra-strap to my shoulders’ I laughed.

‘He’s great like that. He might not even notice that I’ve had mine cut.’

‘I think he’d notice that’ I countered.

‘Why don’t you make him sit up and take notice of you, then?’ she asked.

‘That’s a very deep question’ I replied. ‘I’ll have to think about that one.’

‘Is that what’s stopping you?’

‘What?’

‘Are you afraid of the way that he’d react if you cut your hair?’

‘Of course not.’

‘So why didn’t you?’

‘What?’

‘Take Cassie up on her offer.’

I looked at her. I picked up my cup, trying to think of a way to be diplomatic.

‘I just couldn’t do it’ I replied.

‘Because of him?’

‘I don’t know’ I replied. I didn’t.

‘Would you do it if I asked you?’ she said.

I looked at her puzzled. ‘Why would you do that?’ I asked.

Her hand covered mine. ‘Because you’d look great’ she replied.

‘I really don’t think that I could pull it off. Unlike you’ I added.

‘So you like it on me, but you wouldn’t do it yourself?’

‘It’s just not something I’d ever consider doing.’

‘I hadn’t either really. I’d have taken whatever she’d given me really.’

‘So why didn’t you stop her?’

‘That girl could do anything she liked to me’ she laughed.

‘You’re terrible.’

‘I could be’ she replied with a smile.

‘You’re not coming on to me, are you Susie?’

Would you like me to?’ she asked with a more serious expression.

‘I’ve got Jamie’ I replied.

‘Looks to me like there’s trouble in Paradise. Am I wrong?’

‘I told you, we’re fine’ I said, wondering where her insistence had come from.

‘Well, if you find yourself in need of a bolt-hole, you know where I am’ she said.

‘I thought it was you who was staying with us?’ I said, trying to lighten the mood.

‘Well, yeah, but only for another couple of days. Then I’ll be back home and all you need to do is call me, if you need to.’

I looked at her. I wondered if Jamie had said something to her.

‘Has Jamie said something to you?’ I asked.

She looked at me. ‘He just said that you weren’t spending much time together.’

‘Only because he’s at work all the fucking time’ I said a bit louder than I meant to. She squeezed my hand again.

We fell silent. I stared into space, not quite believing that he’d said that to her. She let me stew for a while.

When the sound of a dropped cup at the counter brought me back to the real world, she was still there, sitting patiently. She smiled at me. ‘Welcome back’ she said. I smiled awkwardly. Somewhere in that fog of thought was the realisation that she was right. I was kidding myself that Jamie and I were fine and would continue to be fine.

‘Sorry. I was thinking.’

‘About?’

‘About how it should be Jamie sitting there, not you. It should be Jamie asking if I’m okay, holding my hand. Concerned for me.’

‘What does that mean?’ she asked.

‘It means that I might be coming to a flat near you in the very near future’ I said, taking the opportunity to squeeze her hand this time.

‘Shouldn’t you talk to him about it?’

‘He’s never there. Even when we were away, we didn’t talk.’

‘That was my fault. Sorry’ Susie confessed.

‘It wouldn’t have been any different if it had just been the two of us’ I consoled her.

‘So what are you going to do?’

‘Tell him, I suppose.’

‘Just like that?’

‘It might make him think, if I move out for a bit’ I said.

‘Probably not. He’ll just blame you. Won’t try to fix it.’

I could feel a tear about to make itself known. Susie saw it and reached across the table to wipe it away. I looked across the coffee shop at the old couple, sitting there silently. Too familiar to speak after so many years. Here was I, twenty-seven and with the same sort of relationship with my boyfriend.

‘Can I come to yours?’ I asked, surprising myself.

‘Sure, but maybe it won’t come to that, eh?’ she said.

We went home.

Jamie and I didn’t talk. He was working later than ever.

Susie went back to her empty flat three days later.

I wrote the note on the fourth day.

On the fourth evening, I was drinking wine in Susie’s flat.

‘I didn’t mean to bring my problems and dump them on you. You’ve got enough of your own, I’m sure’ I said. She shrugged.

‘Misery loves company’ she’d replied, topping up my glass.

She’d made up the guest room for me, laid out towels on the bed. Just like a little hotel. My eye kept being drawn to my bags in the corner. How had it come to this?

I didn’t hear her get up and go out the next morning. I’d been asleep and woke to the gentle knock on my bedroom door. Breakfast in bed, with a delicate vase on the tray with a little posy of flowers.

‘Thank you, it’s beautiful’ I’d said, hoping that I hadn’t got dog breath.

On the fifth day, I’d heard nothing from Jamie. That said it all. I apologised to Susie and told her that I’d look for somewhere else as a matter of urgency. I’d even offered to go to a hotel, but she’d told me not to be so stupid. I still had to find somewhere and rang work to tell them that I needed another week off work to attend to some personal business.

I was sitting in an armchair on my laptop looking at property sites when she came in to the room. She perched on the arm of the chair and asked what I was looking at. She saw. She closed the lid on my laptop.

‘I told you not to worry about that’ she said.

‘I know, but I’m used to paying my way.’

‘Don’t worry about it. As long as you do the dishes, we’re fine.’

I still felt guilty about it. If she wouldn’t take money, I’d get her a present instead.

‘I’m going to head to town. I need to pick up a couple of things’ I said.

‘Solo trip or do you want company?’ she asked.

‘We can go together, if you want’ I said. I’d wanted to be able to wander round the town, looking for inspiration, which was going to be a bit difficult with her in tow. Maybe I should just ask her to pick something.

I told her my dilemma.

‘You don’t need to pay rent, you don’t need to buy me a present’ she said.

‘I want to. You’ve been so good to me’ I argued.

‘If you must then.’

‘The surprise has sort of been spoiled. How about you tell me something that you want and we go and get it together?’

‘Blank cheque?’ she laughed.

‘Maybe not. But there must be something that you’ve had your eye on that I can get you’ I said.

‘I’ll have a think’ she replied.

We drove into town, which was one of the drawbacks of not living at Jamie’s anymore. We didn’t talk on the way in. I was thinking about my old way of life and hopefully Susie was thinking about things that I could get her.

We parked the car and headed out of the car park towards the High Street. She took my arm as we walked and I wondered whether it was a friend-thing, a solidarity-thing or whether it was just two fresh-singles clinging to each other amidst the wreckage of our respective relationships. Whatever the answer, it was sweet. Comforting.

‘Where are we headed?’ I asked.

‘How about coffee first?’ she suggested.

‘We haven’t really earned one yet. We haven’t been into any shops’ I laughed.

‘It’ll give me a chance to tell you what I want’ she said.

‘Take me to the shop, tell me what you want, I pay for it. What could be simpler?’ I said, trying to suppress the exasperation that I felt.

‘Maybe you won’t approve’ she said.

‘Oh, it’s like that is it. I’m going to be embarrassed’ I laughed again, feeling bad about my previous tone.

We ordered our coffees and sat at the same table that we’d sat at before. Our “confessional table”, we joked. The coffees came, the waitress went.

‘So, tell me what you couldn’t tell me’ I urged.

‘I’ll tell you what I’d really like, but you can refuse. I won’t mind. Really’ she said.

‘That bad?’ I chuckled, wondering whether I would actually know what it was. My mind was filled with images of sex-toys and the like.

She looked at me and then reached into her bag. She looked at me again. I saw her take a deep breath before sliding something across the table towards me.

I looked at it and then looked at her.

It was a business card. My eyes were fixed on it for a few moments. My eyes questioned her.

‘Cassie gave it to me’ she said. I was confused.

‘You want to go back. Sure, I’ll pay for it, for a touch up or whatever’ I said, wondering what all the suspense was about.

‘I want you to go. That’s what I really want’ she said.

I looked at her. Reached for my coffee, drew my hand back, not trusting myself with hot liquid.

‘I was thinking more along the lines of a nice pot plant’ I joked. She smiled.

‘Like I said, you don’t have to’ she said, sliding the card back towards herself. I reached for her hand before she’d got to the edge of the table.

‘It’s more than a haircut, isn’t it?’ I said quietly.

‘It’s whatever you want it to be’ she replied.

Silence descended. Neither of us took our hand away. We must have looked odd to anyone who cared to glance in our direction.

‘Your coffee’s going cold’ she said eventually.

‘Yes, right’ I agreed.

We drank our coffees without another word, both deciding that it was time to go. We walked to the door in silence, intercepted by a cheery “thank you” from the woman on the till. We were out on the street.

‘Look, Debs, I didn’t mean…’ she said, looking at me. We moved to the mouth of the alley next to the shop so that we weren’t in people’s way.

‘Susie.’ I said. ‘It’s not what I was expecting. I’m shocked. It isn’t a pot plant or a pair of shoes. It’s a big thing.’

‘I shouldn’t have asked’ she replied.

‘That’s fine, but I don’t know why you’re asking. Do you just want me to cut my hair or…’

She kissed me. In the street. On the mouth. The sister of my estranged boyfriend. My ex-boyfriend, if that’s what he was.

‘I wanted to come into your room in that villa and give you what he wasn’t giving you’ she said, breaking the kiss. I looked at her. Looked over her shoulder for anyone that I knew.

‘Whoo’ I said, not quite knowing what I meant by it. ‘You know that I’m not gay. Not that there’s anything wrong with it’ I added hurriedly.

‘You’ve said that before. Don’t knock it ’till you’ve tried it, is all that I’d say to that. I went out with half of the rugby team at uni, but it was only when a girl at my gym took an interest that I realised where my allegiances really lay’ she said. ‘You don’t have to flaunt it, no-one needs to know unless you want them too’ she said.

‘Holding hands with a woman with a shaved head would probably give them a clue’ I laughed, finally feeling my heart going back into a normal rhythm.

‘You did that coming from the car park and you survived.’

‘We weren’t holding hands’ I corrected.

She held her hand out to me. I looked at her as if she were tempting me to step off a precipice into the void. I took a deep breath. I took her hand. She smiled.

‘That wasn’t so hard, was it?’ she asked.

‘I’m just holding my friend’s hand. She just happens not to have any hair. Nothing more’ I said. She smiled. She kissed me again, pressing gently against my reluctant lips. Her tongue made an appearance. I closed my eyes, it was too nice to refuse. She drew back, smiling at me.

‘Let’s go and find a pot plant’ she said, leading me by the hand.

I walked down the street in a whirlwind. Had I missed signals. Was I blind? I thought back to the time at the villa, how she’d got out of the pool in my line of vision. Innocent or the beginning? I wasn’t sure. She’d not made any advances, not appeared accidentally naked, not burst in on me in a state of undress. All perfectly normal for a family holiday.

She let go of my hand and we walked side by side, almost sisters-in-law or former sisters-in-law, out on a shopping trip. We looked in shop windows, went

into a couple of shops, but it was as we went into the mall that I spotted a bench and suggested that we sat down for a moment.

‘If it’s what you want’ I said seriously. She looked at me.

‘It would mean more, if you wanted it too’ she replied.

‘I don’t know what I want right now’ I said. I really didn’t.

‘I can wait’ she replied with more understanding than I deserved.

‘You’ve been good enough to show me what I couldn’t see for myself, saved me a lot of time. You’ve given me somewhere to regroup. I wanted to get you a gift to show my appreciation, something that would mean something to you. I just didn’t expect what you asked for. It threw me’ I confessed.

‘I’m happy for you to show your appreciation however you want. If it’s in the form of a pot plant, I’ll treasure it, water it, nurture it’ she said.

‘Now you’re making fun of me’ I chided, only half-joking.

‘No, I’m not’ she swore.

‘Make the call’ I said, looking away. What was I doing?

She put a hand on my thigh. Comfort or more? I wasn’t sure. I stared into the distance. I heard her voice. She wasn’t talking to me. Then she was.

‘Debs’ she said, squeezing my leg. ‘She’s free now.’

I looked at her. ‘Oh fuck!’ I said, running a hand self-consciously through my cap of dark blonde hair.

‘You don’t have to. I’ll get her to run that little buzzer thing over my head and then we’ll leave, how does that sound?’

I took a breath.

‘I want to do it for you’ I replied.

‘And…?’

‘I want to do it for me’ I added, with less conviction.

She squeezed my hand and we were walking towards my appointment with a whole new something.

I let Susie go into the salon first, so that I could sneak an extra breath and try to compose myself. There was no need for the receptionist to go and get Cassie this time, she was waiting for us.

‘Hello ladies’ she said.

I smiled a nervous greeting at her.

‘So, she convinced you then?’ Cassie ventured.

‘Something like that’ I replied.

‘You know where we’re going, so come on down’ she said theatrically. Susie held back to let me go first. I looked at Cassie’s rear, clad in a tight, slightly too short dress this time, rather than jeans. It didn’t seem to matter what she wore, she wasn’t one to hold anything back. Her hair was down, much longer than I’d expected it to be. It was as if she’d unleashed her secret weapon and let it tumble down her back. It must take some work to keep it looking that good. At least she was in the right place to get help if she needed it. She stopped at the chair and stood behind it, side-on, appearing to use her boobs as a distraction from what was about to happen.

‘Excited?’ she asked as she covered me with a gown.

‘Nervously excited’ I replied.

‘Don’t worry, you’ll love it. Look at how your girlfriend just radiates without all that hair’ she said. I was about to object when I thought that she may not be too far from the truth. I tried to smile.

‘You’ll look lovely, particularly once I’ve freshened hers up.’

Just get it over with, I thought. I felt Susie squeeze my shoulder. I heard the sound of the clippers.

‘Can we take it slowly?’ I asked.

‘If you want’ Cassie replied. I had a flashback to the clippers running quickly up Susie neck after a couple of intermediate cuts.

Cassie changed her approach for me. The clippers were at my forehead and then they moved backwards, tantalisingly slowly. That wasn’t what I had meant.

‘That slowly enough for you?’ she asked.

‘I was thinking more about doing it in stages, going progressively shorter’ I clarified.

‘Oh! You don’t want to do that. Just get it done’ she said confidently.

‘Bit late now, isn’t it’ Susie piped up, reaching in for another comforting squeeze of my shoulder.

So that was it. No going back now, not with a bald strip across the top of my head. Freed from the misunderstanding about the method, Cassie went for her preferred approach and stripped away my hair efficiently and relentlessly. I watched impassively, my mind full of thoughts about past haircuts, the progression from bra-strap length to this final stage. That first cut had probably affected me more than this one, because this one was blurred by the wider picture. I was losing my hair, but maybe gaining a new way of life. I thought about Jamie.

My hair put up no resistance and in a way it was a relief to see the last full strip tumbling away. The die was cast, so there was no point delaying things.

In my mind, it had taken mere seconds for me to be separated from my hair and from my former life. My hair was gone, Jamie was gone. There was no going back.

I wanted to look at Susie, to show her what I’d done for her, but was captivated by my reflection in the mirror. That was me. Without hair. Looking weird.

I took some comfort from the fact that my ears didn’t stick out. I wasn’t hideous and maybe I had Susie to thank for having given me a week to get used to the sight of her without hair. That made it easier. It was still fucking strange not to have hair though.

I waited for the insistent buzzing thing to make me smooth, but it didn’t come. Cassie had other ideas, which took the shape of a can of shaving foam and a

razor. I didn’t see that coming! She smeared the shaving cream over my head and all I could think about was old men getting their head shaved. Where did

that come from? I hoped that Susie wasn’t sharing that image. Cassie unwrapped a safety razor and stroked it over my head in long, languid strokes.

‘Are you okay?’ she asked, pausing to look down at me.

‘Yes, thanks. If I didn’t know better, I’d say that it feels just like someone shaving my head.’

‘Why ever would anyone do that?’ she joked.

Susie was at my side, holding my hand throughout. As with every interaction with her now, I was trying to determine the intent between friendly gesture and something more. I decided that this was friendship. Cassie worked in silence. Susie communicated with the tiniest squeeze of my hand every now and again. I tried my best to smile, but ended up just returning each squeeze.

I couldn’t see any meaningful traces of foam, which meant that I was done. I was bald, proper bald. I let Cassie lead me to a basin for the same pointless pretend-hairwash that she’d done with Susie, only to find out that that wasn’t what it was. It was a starburst of new sensations from the water hitting my bare scalp to her fingertips stroking my scalp. It was electrifying. It was foreplay.

It ended all too soon. She was helping me to sit up and swirling a towel around my head to catch the drips. She patted my head, she gave it a firm rub and then she stood back.

‘Time to say hello to the new you’ she said. I looked at Susie. Susie looked at me. She came across to me and hugged me. She kissed the top of my head.

Steady on girl, I’m not quite ready for that in such close proximity to other people. She released me and thanked Cassie.

‘Jump in and we’ll get you done so that you can be on your way’ Cassie said.

It was my turn to ride pillion and watch the shaving operation. It was so much more serene when done like this. No high-pitched whining. This was soft and gentle, more feminine altogether. If I ever did this again, it would have to be the way Cassie was doing it now, not with a machine.

I watched what was effectively an action replay of what Cassie had just done to me, spreading foam, stroking with the razor. I sat a little further back

than Susie had with me. She didn’t need any hand holding to get through this.

Susie broke the silence in our little bubble.

‘You couldn’t thin my eyebrows out a bit, could you Cassie? I’ve been thinking that they’re a bit too heavy now.’

‘Sure, I can do that’ Cassie agreed, not breaking her stride.

It seemed to me like she was spinning it out a bit and wasn’t sure if it was for Susie’s benefit, mine or her own. All around us, the salon worked on, with the normal comings and goings and no-one paying us any attention.

Cassie finished the shaving and stood back to let Susie stand up and move to the basin.

‘I haven’t forgotten’ Cassie said as Susie went past her. ‘It’s just easier at the basin.’

Susie reclined and nuzzled her neck in the neck rest to get comfortable. I’d looked away too watch another client get her ponytail chopped off and didn’t register Cassie come back to the styling station before returning to the basins. I looked across at Susie to see if I could tell whether she was enjoying the process as much as I had, when I saw Cassie with the can of foam in her hand, squirting some into her other hand. She put the can down and dipped her finger into the foamy pile she’d just released. Her index finger gently traced a line above Susie’s right eye and then the left. Not what I expected. I thought that it would be tweezers and pain, but she clearly had other ideas. She picked up the razor and stooped over Susie. The razor slid through the foam. How could Cassie tell what she was doing? The simple answer was that she didn’t need to. The penny dropped. I wonder what Susie would say. She was motionless.

Cassie repeated what she’d just done on the other side, rinsing the razor under the tap before applying more foam and using the razor again. She used a dampened corner of a towel to wipe away any residual foam from Susie’s face and then announced that she was done. Susie sat up. I looked at her. She looked at me. She stood up and went to the mirror.

‘There’s thinning out and then there’s that’ Susie said, turning to Cassie.

‘It’s so dramatic, don’t you think?’ Cassie replied.

‘It’s not me who has to look at it’ Susie said. She turned to me.

‘What do you think Debs? With or without?’

‘Bit late now’ I chuckled.

‘You’ve got to do it too’ Susie said.

‘Don’t I get a week to think about it?’

Susie frowned. Cassie waited. I sat down at the basin, questioning my sanity. Was this just taking another step further from Jamie?

‘I must be mad’ I said as I felt the first swipe of foam across my eyebrow.

I tried to relax, thinking that it was only a matter of days since I’d believed that whatever was wrong with my relationship could be fixed. It was only a matter of days since I’d wanted my boyfriend to fuck my brains out. Now here I was, bald and about to be browless, with my relationship status about to change from “fucked up” to “incestuous”. At least that’s what it felt like. How many people broke up with a guy and then slept with his sister? What would Christmas look like in that family? In the time that it would take to boil an egg, I was probably going to be back at the place I called home for now, coming face to face with something that I’d never expected to. That wasn’t being presumptuous, it was just realistic. We’d held hands, we’d kissed, so the next stage was getting into each other’s pants. That was the way the world worked.

The wiping with the corner of the towel told me all that I needed to know. I now looked like an alien. I sat up and looked at Susie. Susie looked at me. We
laughed. It was the best thing that could’ve happened. Cassie offered to draw them back on for us, but we decided that we’d try our own hand at it when we got home. We paid and left, promising that we’d be back once we got too stubbly. Would we? Would I?

We walked back towards the car holding hands. The last thing that would catch the eye of any passer-by would be the fact that two girls were holding hands.

Why would they look there when there was the freak-show above shoulder level. Maybe I was being too hard on myself. I didn’t see anybody laugh, wasn’t aware of any finger pointing. There was no mob with pitchforks trying to run us out of town.

We drove in silence for most of the journey. I was absorbed in my thoughts and Susie was too polite to interrupt. Eventually, I just had to lighten the mood.

‘She has got tremendous tits, though, hasn’t she?’ I said with a broad smile. Susie laughed out loud.

‘You’re trying too hard’ she replied. ‘There’s more to a lady than a pair of boobies’ she said in a mock-formal tone. I suspected that I was about to find out.

We parked the car and made it to her flat without encountering any neighbours. Quite how long that would be possible for, I didn’t know.

I closed the front door behind us and watched Susie head to the kitchen. I hoped that she was doing what I thought she was doing. I heard the fridge door open and close. She was. I went into the lounge to take down the mirror. At least that’s what I felt like doing. I caught my reflection and was still staring at myself when Susie came in clutching a couple of glasses and a bottle of wine. I carried on staring while she poured, only turning away when I saw the reflection of her with two full glasses poised. I took one from her.

‘To us’ she proposed.

‘To us’ I responded.

We looked at each other for a fraction of a second, before doing the wine an injustice and gulping it down.

‘You’ve got a drop on your chin’ she said. I wasn’t sure if that was just a ploy, but I didn’t care. I needed to be held.

She trailed her tongue from my chin to my lips, chasing the wayward drop to where it should’ve gone in the first place. Her wine-fragrant tongue slid easily into my mouth, exploring, teasing.

Her hands roamed. Mine just held her backside, while I tried to get my head round the fact that I was holding another woman’s arse while being expertly kissed. She broke off to allow each of us to drain the remainder of our wine. I expected her back for round two, but she stood and looked at me.

She drew her tee-shirt over her head, tossing it onto the sofa. The jeans were next. Seeing her standing there in bra and knickers was like seeing her come out of the pool in her bikini, although my interest in her flat stomach had been from a different perspective then. Then I was envious, now I was curious.

Her boobs were slightly bigger than mine, not that mine weren’t a respectable handful. My eyes were drawn lower again, skipping the stomach this time, and going straight for the pretty panties and the wonders that they concealed. They were moulded to her curves, to her mound, down to the bulge of her pussy lips. I’d never allowed my eyes to linger on another woman’s body like that. I wasn’t sure what to think.

‘We can just say that I want to get changed after sitting in a pile of someone else’s hair, if you like’ she said gently, acknowledging my uncertainty.

‘I’m probably covered in it too’ I said, unbuttoning my shirt, but grateful for her consideration. She poured more wine, while I thought how different this was to being with a guy. He’d have been tugging at my shirt at the first hint that it was coming off. I’d have been fearful of buttons getting ripped off, but Susie and I were just enveloped in patience. She sipped her wine while I eased out of my jeans, not showing any inappropriate interest. She handed me back my glass. I so wanted to do without it, but took a long pull at it, regardless. I put my glass down and reached behind me. The clasp yielded and I held the two strap ends together. Was this what I wanted? I slid free from it, held it at arm’s length and tossed it onto the growing pile of clothes. My heart was racing. I’d just exposed my tits to another woman in a non-changing room scenario.

Susie reached out to touch my cheek, running her fingertips over my skin as I closed my eyes. I felt her stroke the barren skin above each of my eyes. I felt the tenderest of kisses on each. Her fingers went to my scalp, stroking, exciting me as they went. She embraced me.

‘Thank you’ she whispered. I hadn’t really done anything yet, but then I realised she must be thanking me for the whole head-shaving, eyebrow-removing embracing of this strange new world. She was kissing my scalp, trailing the tip of her tongue across it, down my temples, back up again. I got the idea that she approved.

The teeth encircling my nipple would probably go down in history as the moment when I officially crossed the line from what I thought I was and how I saw my life developing, into something else entirely. A man and prospective children fell by the wayside when that curious mouth worked its way down my torso while co-ordinated hands drew my knickers down to clear the way for her advancing mouth. She’d done that before, I suspected. I gasped as her tongue acquainted itself with my pussy lips. Any gasp in the recent past had been due to surprise that Jamie had made the effort. This time it was pure pleasure.

My hands cupped her bald head, holding her firmly in place in case she changed her mind. Where I should’ve found hair, I found pleasure. I actually liked the feel of her hairless scalp in my hands. In a way, I could tell myself that it wasn’t another woman busying herself between my legs. I was thankful that I’d shaved this morning. Heaven forbid that she dropped my knickers and found an untended patch. It was getting awkward to find a stance that allowed her

to do what I wanted her to do, but which was stable enough for me to sustain. I gave her a pat, tapping out like a wrestler. She looked up at me.

‘I thought you liked it’ she said with a note of concern in her voice and evidence of my enjoyment around her mouth.

I wondered what the etiquette was, in this world. I obviously had a much better feel for the pace of things with a guy, the to-ing and fro-ing. This was the point where I’d get on my knees and give him what he expected.

I looked at her, kneeling before me. I placed a hand on the top of her head and stroked her, then applied gentle pressure to the back of her head to get her to look down at the floor. I knew what I wanted to do, but wondered whether it would work, wondered how it would be received. I was still faintly conscious of being naked, as opposed to her being in her underwear. For now, that was to my advantage. I took a deep breath and straddled her head, her baldness meeting my wetness. I did little hip gyrations with her head between my thighs, wishing that she could share the view that I had. Her scalp was shiny with my excitement. I slid off her, watching as she raised her head, her eyes meeting mine. She smiled and responded. She eased back from her kneeling position, so that she was on her back, legs still bent, pussy prominent. To some eyes, she’d still be decent, still in her underwear. I couldn’t have that.

I tugged at her knickers.

‘Sorry’ I said when I heard them rip. They weren’t cheap. Her knees parted further. I was staring into the abyss. A perfectly depilated abyss, bordered by crinkly, fleshy lips. What would it taste like? We both knew that there was no backing out. I didn’t, although my approach wasn’t the smoothest or most confident. It was her turn to grip the back of my head, pulling me into her.

The intensity abated, although neither of us knew for sure how long we’d enjoyed each other. We showered together, soaped each other, shampooed each other’s head just because there was a bottle of shampoo there and it felt good to slide lubricated fingers across slick skin. We patted each other dry and ended up eating microwave pizza in front of the TV in bathrobes. I struggled to think of a more memorable or enjoyable day in my life. However, I knew that reality would pounce soon enough.

I sensed Susie looking at me.

‘What?’ I asked.

‘Maybe we should’ve left the eyebrows’ she said.

‘You think?’ I replied.

‘Whatever made you ask her to do it?’

‘I hadn’t got much hair for her to take off. It just added something to the pot, but I didn’t think she’d go the whole hog’

‘I for one am never doing that again.’

‘What about up here?’ she asked, tapping a finger to her hairless temple.

‘We’ll see’ I replied. I wanted to see how the world treated me before I made any commitment. Eyebrows could be rescued with a bit of make-up. Convincing wigs came more expensive.

We were quiet for a while.

‘What do we do about Jamie?’ she floated.

‘I don’t know. He appears to have forgotten about me’ I said with an undercurrent of regret and bitterness.

‘What are you going to say to him?’ she persisted.

‘The truth, of course. His sister’s a better fuck than he is’ I replied, surprised that I kept a straight face. Until she laughed.

3 responses to “The Break-up

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