The Family That Stays Together …

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Prologue

‘I do believe your hair is getting even longer, Emma,’ my mum announced proudly as, with nimble fingers, she braided my hair for school as she had so many times before.

‘Well, that’s a surprise,’ I said, feigning enthusiasm, knowing it reached my hips and it was heading down to my knees.

Don’t get me wrong, I had always loved my long hair. But, well into my teens, I had felt I should be able to experiment more and get away from looking like my mum. The braiding each morning was a long and tedious task, but I knew the importance and significance that Mum placed upon it, so I never complained.

Although, I couldn’t help but feel like I had outgrown my long hair, out of sensitivity to my mum who still loved it, I never mentioned it and I left home each morning with my long hair in twin braids whose ends were targeting my knees.

Reviewing Family Woes

The concerns I had over my hair were not top of our family’s agenda. My mum, Christine Parks, was thirty-seven years old. A year earlier my dad had left her for his young secretary, leaving Mum to take care of me and my younger brother, Darren, with him offering little ongoing support. She struggled with money now that she was on her own and had to support us all. But she never let that show, always putting on a brave face for us. Mum simply got on with doing what she needed to do to care for my brother and I, with little thought given to her own wellbeing.

I should add that there was nothing much wrong with my mum’s appearance when she had the time to make the best of herself. She still had a wardrobe full of nice classic clothing. While her garments might not be fashionable, she looked after them so she could always look presentable in any situation. However, the ends of her long and dull chestnut hair needed attention. When she wore it loose, it looked straggly and unkempt. However, she usually just scraped it into an updo, using an assortment of clips and clamps, and it always looked the worse for wear after half an hour, a consequence of her busy and hectic life.

Putting aside my own hair woes, I could say that encouraging Mum to do something about her hair should have been the top priority of the family agenda. Indeed, it would have been a necessity if she had shown any inclination to start dating again. However, on that front, our family had an even bigger problem. My brother, Darren.

Resolving Fatherly Legacy

Darren, a couple of years younger than me, had always been a rebellious teenager. Sadly, he had also inherited my dad’s love for long hair. Over the previous ten years, Dad proudly declared that he had been going through his “rock star” phase. That was despite working with computers and knowing nothing about music. I overheard Mum using other choice, occasionally polite, descriptions of his appearance whenever she was ranting to gran about him. Dad’s greying layered locks fell in loose waves around his face and down to his shoulders. It was a style that did little to enhance his appearance. However, his young secretary must have felt differently.

Unfortunately, Dad encouraged Darren to follow his lead. He took him to the same upmarket and expensive hair salon in the city that he frequented where a bevy of attractive women hairstylists and shampoo girls pampered them. Darren had his hair trimmed in a shoulder length style reminiscent of Dad’s or, being cruel, resembling an ageing rock star.

Bashfully, Darren had told me that he found the attention of the women in the salon a highly enjoyable and stimulating experience. As he was a growing teenager, that was completely normal and acceptable in my eyes. However, he thought Dad found the attention of the attractive young ladies even more pleasurable than he did and, at times, was even embarrassed by Dad’s behaviour.

In private, Darren and I laughed about Dad’s conduct, convincing ourselves that it was all down to his age. However, we stopped laughing when Dad announced he was leaving Mum.

Before Darren entered his teenage years, he had a neat and tidy haircut that Mum preferred. Local establishments trimmed it regularly without the need to visit costly salons in the city. With Dad gone, Mum could not afford expensive haircuts for him – or, indeed, for any of us – but it had meant that Darren’s hair had grown even longer and shaggier. My brother professed to wanting to keep it long. I assumed it was in a misguided attempt to cling on to Dad’s approval in the vain hope that he might return to us. However, in general, my brother’s friends had short hair and I knew that most girls of his age preferred guys to have neater styles.

Resolving the issue of Darren’s hair had become a family priority.

Showing Brotherly Love

One day, after school, my mum took us to a nearby supermarket to buy groceries for that evening’s meal. Next to the supermarket, at the end of a parade of independent shops, was Dale’s Barbershop. I had passed it often but had taken little notice of it. The shopfront looked plain and dated, and the perpetually drawn blinds hid the interior from view. I had always considered it an establishment that, when walking past, I should quicken my pace until I was safely clear.

As Mum slowed to retrieve her shopping list, a framed sheet of paper in the window happened to catch my eye. It listed the price of the services they offered, and I saw that a boy’s haircut was far cheaper than the expensive trim that Darren enjoyed in the city salon. As my eyes fell on Darren’s shaggy mess of hair, an idea began to take hold.

Although it was late in the afternoon, I noticed movement inside the shop. Someone was turning over a sign on the door, suggesting the barbershop was about to close. Impetuously, I pushed the door and popped my head inside the establishment.

‘Excuse me. Are you still open?’ I asked. ‘My brother urgently needs a haircut.’

‘Sis!’ my embarrassed brother yelled from behind me. ‘I’m not going in that old place.’

‘Emma!’ my mother exclaimed, astonished by my boldness. ‘Come here, this instant.’

‘Sure, I can take one more,’ an amused voice called back, ‘if, as you say, it’s urgent.’

‘Come on Darren, in you go,’ I ordered, tugging hard on his sleeve. However, he had planted his feet firmly on the doorstep and did not wish to move. ‘You too Mum, we can wait for Darren inside.’

‘Emma, I really don’t know,’ Mum whined hesitantly. ‘It’s an old-fashioned barbershop. I am not sure I actually want to go inside … or want Darren to, for that matter … and I don’t know if we have the time anyway.’

‘I’m sure it won’t take long, and Darren’s hair does need cutting. And look, it is remarkable value,’ I explained, pointing eagerly to the price list hanging in the window. I knew that Mum would be worrying about any unbudgeted expense, even if she would be too proud to admit it. Mum held back uncertainly, still not sure.

Darren studied the tired shopfront appearance and, undoubtedly, compared it with the plush ambience of the city salon he used to frequent. My brother covertly looked at his reflection in the window, running a hand though his abundant and unruly locks. He shrugged, let out a long sigh, and stepped inside.

I ushered Mum to follow him, and I brought up the rear.

‘Wow, it is urgent,’ chuckled the same person as earlier, who I had yet to see. ‘You better get straight in the chair, mate … before it’s too late.’

While I laughed at the person’s attempt at humour, Mum just stood silently in my way transfixed. I could see she was blushing.

‘Hi Madam, you’re welcome to wait over there,’ the barber grinned. Mum did not move, and he comically waved a hand in front of her face to bring her out of her trance. ‘It won’t take long to sort out the young dude.’

‘Hi Miss,’ he said politely, turning his gaze on me. ‘Would you mind flipping the sign on the door to say Dale’s is closed for the evening, and then you can pop over to there to wait with your sister.’

‘Okay, fine …’ I replied, doing as he asked. ‘Er, but this is my mum, actually … Christine,’ I giggled, ‘and I’m Emma.’

Mum still had not moved or spoken, but she was blushing even more as she soaked up his flattery related to her youthful appearance. I took her arm and dragged her over to a long bench along one wall. The reason for her reaction, I surmised, related to how the barber looked. I imagined that, like me, she expected a bunch of old guys to be manning the traditional barbershop and who had done so for the previous fifty years. Instead, this barber was a fit looking guy – in all senses of the word – simply and stylishly dressed in a black open-necked shirt and tight black trousers. His hair was a short brush-like crop on top and graduated smoothly into the shaved back and sides of his head. The cut had a military air to it, but it was far more stylish.

Although I found Dale hot, he was far too old for me to have any interest. He was closer to Mum’s age than mine but may have been as much as ten years younger than her. Not that the age difference seemed to worried Mum. As soon as she sat down on the bench, she had turned away from me and surreptitiously removed an assortment of clips from her messy updo. Then she began busily brushing her hair out, attempting to style it and make it look presentable. Stifling my amusement, I noted that her makeup bag was open next to her as well.

‘Nice chap,’ I ventured innocently, but biting my lip to prevent myself from laughing. But I could not distract Mum from the task in hand. ‘Stylish,’ I added, deliberately not pointing out that he was young. ‘Fit.’

‘Nice hair,’ she murmured softly, and I assumed she was referring to Dale’s hair rather than her own. ‘Neat … quite attractive, really … his hair, I mean.’

I left Mum busily refurbishing herself and turned around to observe my bother in the barber’s chair. Dale was brushing Darren’s abundant hair with a bemused expression, as if he did not know what to do with it for the best. Darren was staring at my reflection in the mirror with imploring eyes. It was obvious that my brother shared Dale’s concerns over what needing doing, as did I! I imagined Darren was missing the salon girls taking charge. And Mum was no help while she continued titivating herself.

‘Okay, Darren, I’ve got this,’ I said, sidling up to Dale and whispering what he should do to my brother’s hair. He nodded, smirking as he threw a cape over my brother and securing it around his neck. ‘Relax, bruv, Dale knows what to do.’

‘I sure do,’ Dale chortled, as he selected large red hairclippers from a hook by the mirror. ‘I’ve even had training,’ he joked.

I stood back to get a clear view of proceedings as Dale turned on the hairclippers and placed the blade on Darren’s forehead. He forced the shining blade through my brother’s thick hair and instructed him to ‘Enjoy!’

‘I will,’ I murmured, entranced by a furrow of white skin appearing in the wake of the hairclippers.

As Darren absorbed what was happening, his mouth opened to form a perfect “O”, but no words came out.

Having started, Dale wasted no time in shearing off the rest of Darren’s hair. Huge clumps bounced onto my brother’s shoulders, tumbled down the cape, and ended up in his lap or on the floor. Once all the longer hair had gone, Dale exchanged the heavy duty hairclippers with an electric shaver that he ran back and forth over Darren’s head. The barber eliminated the bristles that had remained after my brother’s initial cropping, replaced by gleaming white skin. Under the ceiling lights, my brother’s head shone like a billiard ball and appeared equally smooth.

‘There we are mate,’ Dale said proudly, whisking away the cape. ‘All done!’

Although it had been fascinating to watch my brother’s transformation, I suddenly felt guilty and awkward, given that I was responsible. I glanced over towards Mum who, alerted by Dale’s pronouncement, was hastily gathering up her bits and pieces and stuffing them back in her bag. She looked far more attractive than I had seen her in a long while.

‘Right,’ she said, acting casual, as she looked over to where Darren was sitting. ‘Let’s see what you have … shit!’

It was unusual for my mum to swear, however mildly. She stared hard at her son, wondering if she could believe the evidence of her own eyes.

‘You look so cool, bruv,’ I said, attempting to calm the situation. I sidled up to the barber’s chair, running my fingers over his smooth head and finding the sensation pleasurable. ‘A lot more like your friends … and I know that Tina has a thing for guys with really short hair.’

‘Tina? Really?’ She was a friend of mine who was a target for Darren’s desire. My statement was sufficient for him to blush. ‘I guess I do look cool, don’t I?’ he murmured unconvincingly.

‘As cool as a cool thing, dude,’ the barber confirmed, trying to suppress a smirk.

‘My boy is completely bald,’ Mum finally piped up, sounding incredulous. ‘Why?’

‘Emma said you were looking for a compete change and something easier to care for,’ Dale responded. ‘And there we are!’ he pronounced grandly, waving a hand in Darren’s direction. ‘It doesn’t much easier to care for than that.’

‘Yes … well …’ Mum said, clearly flustered under Dale’s penetrating gaze. She did not want to challenge his skills, I imagined, or sound like an old fuddy-duddy. ‘It’s … it’s certainly a complete change … better … I mean, nice … and, er, easier to care for.’

‘Glad you like it,’ Dale acknowledged with his charming smile. I saw him raise an eyebrow as he looked Mum up and down, nodding approvingly as he did so. Mum’s efforts to titivate herself were not in vain. Maintaining a serious face, the barber added, ‘So, to care for it, all you need to do each morning is spray furniture polish on his scalp and rub vigorously with a soft cloth until shines.’

‘Eh?’ Mum questioned, her gaze flitting between me, the barber, and her son’s head. I could not help but laugh at her gullibility. ‘Oh, right, very funny,’ she admitted, as the penny dropped. To her credit, she did offer him a genuine lady-like chuckle.

Dale walked over to his reception desk. Mum followed, unable to drag her eyes from his pert bottom. I frowned, silently admonishing her, but she was enjoying herself too much to pay me any attention. The barber rang up the price of Darren’s haircut on the till. Mum took out her purse and flirted outrageously while she paid for his services. Dale did not seem to mind her blatant advances, so I left them to it.

I stayed with my brother as he came to terms with his updated appearance.

‘So, Tina will like this, will she?’ my brother probed, as he briskly rubbed his head. ‘I mean, she will like it a lot, will she?’

‘Absolutely, bruv,’ I confirmed truthfully. ‘Get in there quick and don’t let the grass grow under your feet.’

‘Or let the hair grow on my head,’ he chortled.

My instructions to Dale had been risky but my brother seemed happy. From my viewpoint, I was pleased that we had expunged a daily reminder of Dad from our household. And, given the lively conversation from the reception desk, Mum appeared happier than she had been for a considerable time.

I decided the time was right for me to ask Mum the question that had been nagging at me since our arrival in Dale’s Barbershop. As Mum had managed to drag herself away from Dale, I sidled up to her.

‘Mum,’ I pleaded, in my sweetest voice, ‘while we’re here, do you think we could ask Dale to give me a trim too?’

Taking Sisterly Action

Responding to my request for Dale to trim my hair, I could see that Mum had to make a difficult decision. Put simply, I knew she would be incredibly happy to spend more time flirting with Dale, but she did not want to see me lose any of my precious hair.

‘Dale only agreed to stay open to cut your brother’s hair,’ Mum reminded me, ‘and I doubt he cuts women’s hair anyway. Besides, it is getting rather late …’

‘No problem, Chrissie,’ Dale said, smiling, ‘I can cut women’s hair and, as a special favour to you, I’ll even charge the same price as I did for the cool bald dude.’

No one called my Mum “Chrissie” I contemplated. Dale must be making quite an impression for Mum to allow him to get away with that. ‘Oh, please, Mum,’ I whined, pushing home the advantage of her being in a happy mood.

‘Well, if Dale really doesn’t mind,’ she simpered. ‘Darren let’s wait over there,’ Mum said, absently rubbing Darren’s head for the first time, laughing as she did so.

‘It would be my pleasure, Chrissie,’ he agreed. ‘Well, Emma, you better jump into my chair and we’ll have you sorted out in no time.’

As Mum moved away, I whispered to Dale, telling him the manner of how I wanted to be “sorted out”.

The barber followed his sharp intake of breath with a long and laboured sigh. ‘Are you sure, Emma?’ he probed, as he put his characteristic swagger on hold. Looking deeply into my eyes, he looked for reassurance that it was what I really did want.

‘Absolutely!’ I confirmed, my excitement growing by the second, as he retrieved his scissors from his belt and loomed over me in the chair.

‘So, Emma, remember what I was saying this morning about your hair nearly reaching your knees,’ Mum said, looking over, ‘so, don’t have too much trimmed, or … shit!’

Dale had quickly pulled one my braids taut and encircled the base with his scissors. Having already clarified my unambiguous instructions, he had not hesitated. As he had closed the blades of the scissors, an extremely satisfying crunching sound had accompanied his action. He had completely severed one of my long braids giving rise to Mum’s discontent.

‘Emma,’ Mum whined from the bench. ‘Your hair …’

‘OK, here goes the second one,’ Dale announced, and I clapped my hands together excitedly as he chopped off the rest of my long hair.

‘Wow,’ I said breathlessly, feeling elated, but with a twinge of regret, wondering if I had asked him to do the right thing. ‘That feels so much lighter.’

‘I’m not surprised. Around one metre long,’ he said, holding up both my braids like a trophy, ‘and they weigh a ton.’

‘Oh, Emma, why?’ bleated my mum. I did feel sad for her, but I had pandered to her preferences regarding my hair for long enough. ‘You had such beautiful hair …’

‘And she will again, Chrissie, when I have finished,’ Dale stated convincingly, ‘it will just be shorter.’

Dale combed through what remained of my hair. He sectioned off the top half, twisting it into a tight bun which he secured neatly on my crown. I had instructed Dale on how I wanted my finished style to look but I did not know the process for achieving that result. However, Dale reassured me with his confident actions.

But, when Dale picked up his hairclippers, he did start shaking my confidence. A little earlier he had just used that brutal device to shave my brother completely bald. Deep down inside, I had grown extremely nervous. But I did my best to hide it. I could see Mum’s reflection in the mirror, and she looked horrified that Dale might transform me into an egghead like my brother.

Dale covered the threatening blade of the clippers with a plastic comb-like attachment that I correctly deduced would prevent him from shaving off all my hair. As a loud roar sounded next to my left ear, he pushed the blade through my hair that hung down. After the clippers had passed, they only left stubble behind.

‘Nice,’ he murmured, as he ran a finger over the short bristles. It was not a word I would have used as I witnessed the devastation he had wrought. Although, in his defence, the sensation of his touch against my prickly scalp was not unpleasant!

Satisfied with his initial action, Dale began to move the clippers through all the remaining hair on the left side of my head before repeating it on the right. After he had performed the same at the back of my head, I realised that the only hair that I had left was the section that Dale had twisted into a bun and pinned top of my head. But even that did not remain there for long.

Dale unwound the bun, dampened it with a water spray and combed it evenly around my head. He placed a comb horizontally above my left ear and snipped all the hair below. Having established a distinct line, he cut all my remaining hair to an identical length. This included the hair on my forehead, giving me my first ever fringe. A fringe high above my eyebrows, completing an immaculate cap of glossy hair that now perched on top of my head.

Dale continued to make precise adjustments to the perimeter of my hair using comb and scissors. It gave me time to take stock of his progress. He had cut the style I had asked for, but he had cut it far shorter and higher than I had expected. It resembled a fashionable undercut bob that several of my friends had adopted during the previous few months. However, I doubted the hair on top would be long enough to tie up in a short ponytail, revealing the undercut, as exhibited by the more adventurous girls at school. Indeed, I recognised that my hair more closely resembled a much less fashionable style.

‘A bowlcut!’ Mum shrieked when Dale stood back to admire his work. ‘Why did you do that?’

‘That’s what your daughter asked me to do, Chrissie,’ Dale explained. ‘That’s right, isn’t it, Emma?’

It was much shorter than I had expected but I accepted that I had only given a clear indication of the style and not the length. However, not wishing to appear silly and to prevent Dale getting into any trouble with Mum, I knew that I needed to think quickly.

‘Yes, it’s exactly what I wanted, Dale,’ I lied, ‘and thank you so much.’

‘My pleasure, Emma,’ Dale grinned.

‘Mum, it’s an undercut bob … and all my friends are getting them … and it will be much easier for us to take care of.’

‘Bowlcut,’ Mum contradicted, under her breath. ‘He’s shaved you like a boy.’

‘No, he hasn’t. Not yet,’ I hissed, growing irritated by Mum’s scorn but also feeling mischievous. ‘Dale, could you shave the stubble on the back and sides even closer?’

‘Well, you’ll be bald like your brother if I do that!’ Dale exclaimed, looking at Mum anxiously, clearly not wishing to upset her.

‘Yes, that’s right, Dale. Thanks,’ I said, casually and cheerfully, emphasising my voiced request but already regretting the consequences.

Dale retrieved his hairclippers and removed the plastic guard from the blade. It did not take long for the clippers to eliminate the stubble and leave smooth skin. The resulting sensation was completely different. It was even nicer!

‘There we are, Emma, all done,’ Dale announced, holding up a mirror for me to inspect my drastic transformation.

‘Well, it certainly will be easier to care for,’ Mum conceded humourlessly. She stood up and looked at my hair more critically. She grudgingly added, ‘but, I suppose, it does make you look rather cute.’

I was not sure that, having rid myself of childish braids, I wanted anyone to see me as cute. But, under the circumstances, I accepted that it was the best I could hope for with Mum still looking lost and unhappy.

‘Thanks, Mum. It makes me feel so grown up!’ I giggled, running my fingers through my short hair. ‘And thank you, Dale, you’ve done a brilliant job.’

I looked over at my forlorn Mum and felt a twinge of guilt, knowing I had forced her to accept that I was no longer a child. After perking up delightfully in Dale’s company earlier, not only did she look miserable, but her long hair looked more lifeless and ageing than usual. Someone needed to do something and the little devil deep down inside me resurfaced.

‘Dale, do you think a new shorter haircut would be good for my mum?’

Satisfying Motherly Needs

Mum looked aghast at my suggestion. ‘Don’t be silly, Emma, men much prefer women to have long hair,’ she insisted, interjecting before Dale had a chance to speak.

I felt sorry that Mum still held onto society’s outdated beauty standards. Any attempt to change her view was likely to fall on stony ground.

‘I prefer women with short hair,’ Dale countered plainly, accompanied by his charming smile.

‘Oh,’ Mum simpered. ‘Really? Well, a bit of a trim wouldn’t do any harm.’

It was obvious to me that my mum’s primary objective was to sit in Dale’s chair and, in a manner of speaking, have him pandering to her desires. He invited her to sit, and she could not have settled herself into the barber’s chair any quicker if she had been playing musical chairs. I took the opportunity to whisper in Dale’s ear what my mum needed. He cocked an eyebrow in both surprise and amusement at my suggestion. After briefly contemplating my request, he nodded his agreement as he enveloped Mum with his cape.

Looking in the mirror, Mum avidly watched Dale brushing her hair, clearly enjoying the sensation. ‘So, with my hair, what I was thinking -’

‘Don’t worry, Chrissie, I’ve got it covered,’ Dale interjected with a grin. ‘Trust me.’

Mum returned his grin. She appeared to relax although I could sense she was nervous and wondering if, indeed, she could trust him. However, it was apparent that she found Dale’s gentleness with the hairbrush both comforting and enjoyable, and she became visibly calmer, her eyes half closing.

Mum’s calm appearance was the sign that Dale needed. He had diligently brushed all Mum’s hair so that it flowed down her back. Retrieving his scissors from his equipment belt, he slipped the sharp blades through Mum’s hair. Resting the scissors against her neck, he closed the blades and quickly dispatched all her long hair to the floor.

Mum opened her eyes and casually looked up towards the mirror, aware that something had changed. But her unchanged reflection appeared to suggest otherwise. However, noticing Dale standing behind her with scissors in hand and a smug expression on his face, she turned her head. As she did so, her crudely bobbed hair flicked around into her face. Mum’s eyes widened in horror.

‘What the f-’

‘Calm down, mother,’ I said quickly, interrupting the flow of rude words that, unusually, might have flowed like a torrent from her lips. ‘Dale’s only carrying out my instructions regarding what you need.’

‘Aren’t I the best person to know what I need?’ Mum argued.

‘No,’ I snapped, wanting to maintain control of the situation. ‘So, just relax and let Dale work his magic on you.’

My words had a moderating effect and Mum calmed down. She observed Dale using his comb to lift the hair covering her left ear. The buzz of the hairclippers soon followed, and then Dale ran the shining blade across the comb, slicing through the hair. The longer locks that had escaped her earlier big chop fell to the floor, exposing Mum’s left ear.

‘What the …’ Mum began but, mercifully on this occasion, the roar of the clippers drowned out her subsequent words.

Dale repeated the same slicing action around Mum’s head in a rhythmic, almost hypnotic, fashion. In no time at all, he had sheared the back and sides of Mum’s head down to stubble. Just an expanse of short, cropped hair was all that remained on her crown.

‘Looking good, Chrissie,’ Dale breathed, ‘looking good.’

I am not sure if he said that to convince himself or Mum, but I certainly agreed. Despite Mum looking horrified, her features, hidden for too long under her unflattering and dowdy long hair, were looking alive and animated.

Dale dampened Mum’s hair with a water spray then combed a healthy dollop of a styling product through to the ends. This had the effect of spiking up Mum’s remaining hair into a semblance of a punk look. It looked dramatic but suited her well and she could have carried it off very easily.

But Dale had not finished. Using a much larger comb, he slipped it through the spiked hair and held it horizontal so that longer lengths poked through the teeth. He then ran the clipper blade over the top of the comb to remove all the excess hair that poked, reducing it all to the same length.

Dale continued the rhythmic motion of combing, lifting and clippering that he had used on the back and sides. Eventually, what remained on top of Mum’s head was an immaculate brush of hair, with every strand being of uniform length and standing erect next to its neighbour.

Dale, satisfied with the hair on top of Mum’s head, exchanged the hairclippers for his electric shaver. Running it back and forth over the lower back and sides of Mum’s head, revealed glowing bare skin around her ears and her nape. Finally, he diligently faded the brush on the crown with the stark baldness below.

Mum, having decided against any further expletives, was dumbstruck throughout all of Dale’s later activity. Periodically, she slowly opened and closed her mouth as if to speak, but no words came out. It seemed like changes to her appearance were occurring so quickly and so drastically that her mind and her emotions were unable to keep pace.

After a quick blast from a blow-drier, Dale breathed a sigh of professional satisfaction at his accomplishment. He whisked away the cape then looked over Mum’s shoulder, peering at her in the mirror with a broad grin. ‘We could be twins,’ he chuckled.

Organising Family Prospects

Mum was clearly struggling to comprehend Dale’s words when he declared they could be twins, so I took it upon myself to intercede. ‘Earlier, Mum, you said how much you liked Dale’s haircut, so I simply asked him to give you a feminine version of the same style.’

On hearing my words, Mum blushed, then blustered. ‘Yes, I liked it on him, but … well, that didn’t mean I … that is -’

‘You look absolutely stunning, Chrissie,’ Dale complimented her, relieving her of the need to complete a sentence that was both meaningful and comprehensible. ‘Matching flattops!’

I realised he may have misinterpreted my instruction for a feminine version of his bold haircut. He could have left the top a little longer than his own to make the overall appearance a little softer. He could have simply buzzed the back and sides with a guard on the clippers to make it look less stark. But he did not.

‘Wow, Mum, you look stunning,’ I said truthfully, and Darren yelled out his agreement from the waiting area. The removal of Mum’s long straggly hair had revealed her great bone structure. What’s more, her eyes and lips appeared to glow with life.

Dale stood back and held up a mirror, allowing Mum to view her transformation from every angle. When she saw the back of her head was completely bald, her jaw dropped. However, although mum was still in shock, I could see her softening up as she started to see herself in a different light. She ran her hand over the bare skin and her eyes widened in astonishment. She lightly bounced her palm on the erect brush on her crown and her lips curved into a wondrous smile.

‘You look ten years younger,’ Dale pronounced, and I would not have disagreed.

‘Do I?’ Mum simpered bashfully, her face reddening again.

‘You certainly do,’ Dale confirmed, ‘and, Chrissie, I now want to see you every two weeks.’

‘Oh, right … see me … every two weeks,’ Mum acknowledged demurely.

‘I want to see you at least every two weeks,’ Dale emphasised, accompanying his words with his charming smile, ‘if that would be okay with you?’

‘We’ll see,’ Mum giggled, acting as coy as I had ever seen her with a man. I had no doubt she would be at the front of the queue whenever he suggested.

Mum’s behaviour may have been on the sugary side, but the experience had provided her with the opportunity she needed, and she had grabbed it with both hands. It was obvious she had no intention of resisting Dale’s charm, and why should she, I pondered. Not only would a regular pampering by Dale at the barbershop be a welcome treat, but who knew where it might lead.

I could not help but giggle as I witnessed mum’s behaviour. I whispered to her, ‘See, Mum, you look beautiful with short hair … and some men definitely prefer it.’

Epilogue

Dale’s words, combined with the whole experience in Dale’s Barbershop, had changed my mum’s perspective on short hair. She could not believe how much easier it was to take care of and to make it look good, and she even admitted that she felt free and empowered with her new haircut. From then on, the family were regular customers at Dale’s Barbershop.

Darren loved his fresh bald look and revelled in Tina’s devoted attention. My brother never went back to growing his hair out again.

Mum could not have been happier with her dramatic flattop haircut, and the devotion it garnered from her new friend, Dale.

And I loved my severe, but stylish, bowlcut that my friends wished to emulate. Friends who begged me to escort them to the phenomenal Dale’s Barbershop to receive the same look.

Dale’s Barbershop, a remarkable establishment for the whole family.

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