I woke early before my alarm. I looked over at Liz, my lovely fiance, still asleep next to me. She was so cute there with her arm tucked under her pillow, and her soft mousy brown shoulder length hair stuck to her face.
I sat up, bent down, brushed the hair from Liz’s face back behind her ear, and gave her a gentle kiss. She mumbled something and turned over snuggling more deeply into her blanket. Hiding the bare shoulders I find so sexy. I slid out of our bed and headed to the bathroom.
A few minutes later I was enjoying the feel of the hot water running over my body as I lathered the shampoo in my long hair and thought about what was on my schedule for this afternoon. I was going to be interviewing for an open position on extraction pod 5. I need more field work if I want to move up to a command position, and this is currently the only position open that will offer it.
The last time I interviewed things took an unexpected turn. I had applied to the FBI on a bit of a whim. I hadn’t told anyone I was doing it, my family had been so unsupportive of me in the past, I didn’t want my head filled with the doubts they always voiced. Also I didn’t want to make the people at the job I had at the time feel I wasn’t committed to my work, so I hadn’t mentioned it there either. I hadn’t really expected to get offered an interview, especially since I had left the references blank.
I mean really who would give an interview to someone who didn’t provide any references. Yet, I got a call to come in to interview for what I thought was a job at the FBI.
The funny thing was in the interview the first thing they asked who knew I was interviewing. When I explained that no one did, I found out I wasn’t actually interviewing for the FBI.
That was when I found out that The Extra-terrestrial Affairs Mission (T.E.A.M.) existed. Basically real life MIBs, except we don’t go around in black suits, it doesn’t fit our cover story at all, which is as a cruise line. So, I quietly joined T.E.A.M., and told my family I had a new job working security for Sunshine Cruise Lines. The entire organization uses the cruise line as cover.
Liz works for T.E.A.M. too. Unlike most workplaces that have a no dating coworkers policy, T.E.A.M. has a only date coworkers policy. It just makes the whole keeping the secret organization completely secret easier.
As I stepped out of the shower I heard the alarm go off and Liz knock something off the night stand while fumbling for the snooze button. I stood in front of the mirror towelling myself off still thinking about my last interview and how today’s was different. I doubted that I was going to be thrown for a major curve this time around. Last time I was just trying to look nice and professional, this time it would be about fitting in with a specific pod.
I’d wear shoes that were more sensible this time than the ballet flats I had worn before. I would go for comfortable pants instead of the pencil skirt.
I had worn my honey blond curls down just held back from my face with a couple of barrettes, the day of my first interview. That wouldn’t work for today. I want to look more ready to tackle anything physical, I would wear my hair up and tight against my head, not just pulled back out of the way.
Liz came into the bathroom and wrapped her arms around my waist while resting her chin on my shoulder and smiling at our reflection in the mirror. She was just wearing panties and the cotton camisole she had slept in and I was still damp from the shower. Her bare skin felt warm against mine.
“Are you nervous, Sammy?” She asked.
“Just a little,” I admitted. “I’m thinking about what I should wear to make the right impression. I don’t want to underdress and look like I don’t care, but I also don’t want to overdress so I look like I’m not up to getting down and dirty.”
“Hmm,” she let out as she picked up my wide tooth comb from the counter and started to detangle my long honey blond curls. “Definitely a pants suit instead of a skirt or dress. Solid color blouse and sensible shoes. Keep the jewelry very simple, just stud earrings, nothing dangly. I can do your hair up for you,”
I nodded along to everything Liz was saying. It all matched up to what I was thinking which made me feel more confident.
“That would be perfect if you could do that braid thing for me.” I said as I smiled and turned around to kiss her.
Soon I was sitting sipping tea as Liz dried my hair. She tugged slightly as she straightened out the curls with a round brush enough to make it more manageable. When it’s left naturally curly, it hangs to around the bottom of my shoulder blades, but smoothed down it stretches to the small of my back. I could feel Liz working on the ends brushing them against my back.
“You know the ends look a bit ragged,” She commented. “Maybe it’s time for a trim. I have a hair appointment week after next. I could call and see if they can squeeze you in around the same time.”
“I suppose.” I said reluctantly. I don’t really like losing the inch of hair but I know it’s occasionally necessary.
“If you’re a good girl and don’t fuss, we can go to the bakery for cupcakes afterwards.” Liz teased while I rolled my eyes at her.
The teasing brought up memories of the first time she had suggested I go along with her for a trim while she combed out my hair. At first I had declined making the excuse of the split ends not being that bad and it being a waste of money, so Liz joked about saving the money and trimming my hair herself.
“I’ll probably make the right side longer than the left side though and have to take off a little more to even it up. Then the right side will be shorter than the left and I’ll have to take a bit off the left to try to even it up. And I’ll just keep going back and forth till you finally have a very short asymmetrical bob. You’ll look cute with an asymmetrical bob.”
She had laughed heartily through the whole joke, but it had made the blood in my veins run cold. It didn’t help that my hair was literally in her hands as she made the joke. I then agreed that her hair salon sounded better, but only if they had someone who was used to working with curly hair. Of course on the way home from the salon she teased me that if I really wanted to get my money’s worth I should have gotten more cut off.
She parted my hair perfectly down the middle then french braided first one side then the other side so I had pigtails, but soon the pigtails were tucked in and pinned against my head so my hair was up in a slightly sporty practical style. She finished it off with a layer of hairspray to make sure I wouldn’t have loose bits sticking out by lunch time.
Liz loved to play with my hair. This was far from the first time she had done this particular style, she’d done it for me on our first trip together. We had rented a cottage on the bay. After a morning of swimming in the incoming tide, my hair was tangled with seaweed.
In the shower Liz teased that I had to let her put my hair up or it would end up so tangled I would have to chop it all off. Even though it was a tease, I felt my stomach flip when she said “chop it all off” while she smoothed the conditioner through it. That afternoon she did the french braid pigtails for the first time. It was when I wanted to take them out before dinner at The Lobster Pot because I felt like a little girl with the pigtails that she turned it into a full updo. There were many other styles she did with my hair over the years, but the double french braid updo became my favorite.
Liz and I rode into work together in her car, me in my light charcoal pinstripe suit Liz in a more comfortable sleeveless cornflower blue sundress, her hair just brushing her bare shoulders next to the straps. My interview wasn’t till 3:30, so I had to try to not psych myself out thinking about it while I worked. Finally the time came and I headed to Stephanie Cunningham’s office.
I had never met Stephanie Cunningham, the unit leader for extraction pod 5. I had of course asked around about her. She was married to Bob Lopez from the research department. They had 3 kids, the youngest now a teenager. She had a reputation for being a stickler to details and obsessed with fairness.
As I walked into the office I saw Ms Cunningham for the first time. Her tan suit jacket was casually draped over the back of her chair revealing her crisp tailored white blouse, it was plain but not masculine following her curves. She’d dressed simply without any jewelry unless you count the beaded chain her reading glasses hung from as jewelry and her short cropped black hair was slicked back with a pomade that made the ripples shine.
“Hello, you must be Samantha Kaminski.” She said cheerfully, standing up and offering a hand to shake. “I’ve looked over your file. Everything looks good.”
“Hi, I’ve been looking forward to meeting you.” I smiled back at her as I took her hand and grasped it firmly enough to hopefully suggest confidence and not go overboard like I wanted to turn it into a wrestling competition.
We sat and started chatting. Everything was going great, we were comfortable together so I wasn’t surprised when we got to the point where she started talking about the specific requirements of the position.
“As you probably know my requirements for pod 5 are somewhat stricter than the general TEAM regulations.” She said as I nodded along. “Everyone is required to pass the same physical standards, everyone follows the same guidelines. I don’t allow gender to be a factor. Talking about which, you need to do something about your hair before you begin, and no earrings. Everyone in the pod follows the male grooming standard and dress code. Not that it has to look masculine, but it has to meet the written requirements.”
I suddenly felt the blood drain away from my face. From the off hand way she said “do something” about my hair, I was pretty sure she meant cut it though I wasn’t really sure what the rules were for guys’ hair. It was already up and off my neck, so she probably didn’t mean just doing what I already had. I felt ever so slightly panicky
“So why does everyone follow the male regulations instead of the female regulations?” I said as calmly as possible trying to sound curious and not like I was just looking for an excuse to get out of a haircut. “Always following the male standard suggests the male standard is inherently superior, which I don’t agree with.”
“We don’t always go by the male standard. I vary which regulations are followed depending on which make the most sense for pod 5. For example we follow the longer female standard for all new parents taking family leave.” Ms Cunningham explained. “As for why I follow the male standards for fitness, grooming, and dress code there are two main reasons. The first is just because they are stricter. I can require higher standards for pod 5 at will, but I can’t grant exceptions to rules without providing specific reasons for each one. So the stricter rule is the default.
“The second reason is that for field work the male guidelines in those categories happen to be practical. For example no skirts, you need to wear full length pants. They protect your legs. They can be pink for all I care, but they have to be something you can run through underbrush in and thick enough to protect your legs.” She ended finally pausing as I reluctantly nodded agreement.
I tried to think of another question I could ask, but nothing came to mind. Besides, I didn’t think I could get away with sounding curious again. She would definitely know I was just looking for an excuse if I kept at it. I had no way to change what I was facing, so I figured I would just have to hope the regulations were pretty vague. What she said about pink pants being ok gave me some hope.
“Do you have a document with the details of the pod specific regulations?” I asked. I figured I could look them over carefully with Liz and we could figure out how best to make my hair meet regulations and while keeping as much length as possible.
“I do. Most of it is pretty straightforward, and I wouldn’t have bothered to interview if you hadn’t passed the fitness requirements with a good margin back when you trained.” She said waving her hand over the personnel file open on her desk. “Be warned though, we retest every three months.”
She took a deep breath and closed my personnel file. “OK, then. I talked to your current pod leader earlier today and he said that I could have you right away if I needed. So you’re officially in my pod as soon as I drop off the paperwork.”
I expected her to stand up since the interview seemed over, but she only paused for a moment.
“Now about the hair?” She prompted me and just sat there waiting for my reply.
“I’ll make an appointment with my hair dresser as soon as possible, probably early next week.” I reluctantly offered, still not sure exactly what I had to do.
Ms Cunningham frowned. I guess I hadn’t quite hit the right mark.
“I need you at a briefing first thing in the morning.” She stated simply. “Depending on what the intel report from observation pod 3 says about the probe that crashed into the middle of the Pacific, we might be out in the field before noon. It’s especially urgent for this mission that your hair will be out of your face without putting it up because we will have to handle objects with powerful magnetic fields so you can’t be wearing any bobby pins or barrettes.”
“I don’t know if I can get an appointment this evening, and I’m not sure exactly what the requirements are.” I knew as I said it that it was an unacceptable answer from the frown spreading across Ms Cunningham’s face. “I’ll figure something out though. I’ll look over the regulations tonight. Maybe Liz, my fiance, can do whatever will get it to meet the requirements.”
Her frown softened slightly, and she took a look at her watch. “It’s almost the end of the day anyway. I’ll take you to my barber, I’ve taken a couple of other pod members to her, so she already knows what you need. It’s a strictly walk-in place, so no worries about getting an appointment. Will you need me to drive you back after to pick up your car?”
I wanted to politely decline her offer to take me. I knew declining would mean I wasn’t getting the transfer though. I really couldn’t think of a way to get out of what at this point was sounding like was going to be a serious haircut. Though I still wasn’t sure how serious.
“Liz drove me today, if you give me the address I can get her to pick me up from the barber.” I practically choked on the word barber, hoping she didn’t mean it literally.
Next thing I knew Ms Cunningham was driving us into town while I texted Liz the address and asked her to meet me there after work. I started typing out a long explanation about what was going to happen, but couldn’t find the right words and just deleted it. She was just going to have to find out when she got there. I worried she was going to be really upset that I had to cut the hair she so enjoyed styling and playing with.
After giving up trying to explain it to Liz, I spent the rest of the ride playing with the loose hairs on the back of my neck while looking out the window. I wondered if the hair there would still be long enough to wrap all the way around my finger tonight. I looked back over at Ms Cunningham, and figured at least her hairdresser was likely to be used to working with curly hair, since I was pretty sure from the way Ms Cunninghams hair rippled under the pomade that slicked it down, that her hair was at least as curly as mine, probably curlier and tighter.
We arrived at the shop and parked. The sign on the awning read “Delilah’s Barber Shop & Family Salon” in a scrolling script. I could see into the busy shop through the big plate glass window. It looked more like a barbershop than a salon. There wasn’t a big reception desk, there was only one sink in the back and it didn’t look like it got used very often, the chairs were big barber chairs not sleek salon chairs. I didn’t want to go in.
Ms Cunningham stepped out of the car. I didn’t have options, I took a deep breath and followed her. I tried not to look too reluctant as we walked to the front door she held it open for me to enter ahead of her. My heart pounded and my legs felt like jello as I looked around at the three chair shop. The bell jingled as the door closed behind me.
Ms. Cunningham put one hand on the small of my back, and used her other hand to gesture towards a line of wooden ladder back chairs along the wall opposite the mirrors the big barber chairs faced. Under the mirror was a long white marble counter with jars of blue fluid with combs soaking in them, towels spread out with scissors lined up on top, under the counter drawers and open spaces with multiple clippers and a single hairdryer in each opening hanging from hooks.
“Hi, Stephanie.” Said the smiling woman standing behind the middle chair. “Brought me a new customer, have you?”
“Yes, this is Samantha. She’s going to be transferring to internal security at Sunshine Cruise Lines, so she needs a haircut that works better for her.” Ms Cunningham said. “Something easy and practical.”
“Well, it’s nice to meet you. Sorry there is a wait, I’ll be with you in a little bit… is it Samantha or just Sam?”
“Either is fine.” I answered in as neutral a voice as I could trying to hide the emotion I was really feeling. “No rush.”
No rush was an extreme understatement, as far as I was concerned this haircut could be put off till the next century. I went to take a seat in one of the waiting chairs.
Ms Cunningham sat next to me and spoke softly into my ear. “You should take down your hair now. I’ll see you first thing in the morning, ok?”
I knew she was right even though I didn’t really want to, so I nodded and reached up and started pulling out bobby pins. The action making the upcoming haircut feel that much closer to happening. “Thank you for the ride here. 7 o’clock, right?”
Ms Cunningham nodded, then she got up and speaking up to the woman at the middle chair said. “You remember the requirements right? Off the collar; not touching the ears; above the eyebrows.”
“Yeap, Just like I did for Ben and Gail.” The woman said. “See you later.”
And that’s how I finally found out exactly how severe a haircut I was about to get.
Ms Cunningham gave a friendly wave and left me there to wait while feeling very alone and a little light headed.
I watched the woman at the middle chair snip with the points of her scissors across the top of the head of the young man sitting in her chair taking a little off of the upright spikes of hair. I wonder if she was Delilah, or if Delilah was the older lady at the last chair shearing off all the hair of a miserable looking shaggy teen with large clippers like he was a sheep. It was terrifying watching the huge clumps of dark brown hair slide down the cape and form a virtual carpet around the base of the chair. The third barber, who was working at the chair by the window giving a trim to a guy who had just taken off his suit jacket before being wrapped in a cape, was a middle aged man. So I figured he wasn’t Delilah.
The mystery was solved when the older lady at the last chair finished shearing off the last bit of the unhappy teen’s hair and tried to shake powder onto a fluffy brush. “Lilah honey, can I borrow some powder? Mine’s empty.”
“Sure thing Marge”
“Thanks so much. I can replace it tomorrow.”
“Don’t worry about it, I’m sure I owe you a favor or two anyway.”
Marge dusted the unhappy teen off. The tired looking lady who had sat at the end of the row of chairs reading something on her kindle got up and paid Marge. The tired mom reassured the unhappy teen that it looked good and getting to be on the football team would be worth it as they walked out. I wasn’t the only one here today giving up my hair for something I wanted. It happened every day, just usually to men and boys, not women and girls. It was kind of a double standard.
A much less unhappy looking young man with already fairly short hair from the middle of the row of waiting chairs got up and took a seat in the empty barber chair. Where Marge caped him, asked “The usual?” and started to remove a dusting of hair with a different clipper.
When Delilah finished with the guy in her chair, my heart sank thinking it was my turn, but the girl in her late teens or early twenties two seats down from me got up to take the middle chair. She had a short straight black bob, a couple of inches above her shoulders with bangs just hiding her eyebrows. She confidently pushed herself up with the armrests.
After a little chatting with Delilah placing the comb at various places and angles on the girls neck and forehead then nodding, she stepped over to the counter under the mirror and picked up a few things. Delilah first wrapped tissue around the girl’s neck and then fastened a black cape over it. Then started combing and sectioning the hair in the back up leaving just a couple of inches or so of short hair down above the hairline. She then walked back to the counter and took one of the clippers hanging under it off the hook.
Delilah lightly pushed down on the back of the girl’s head till her chin was against her chest and started running the clippers over the loose hair till there was just a shadow left. When she finished and hung the clippers back on the hook, she took out a towel and squirted some gel into the fingers of her left hand. She placed the towel on the girl’s shoulder and smeared the gel along the hairline. Delilah then wiped her fingers on the towel before picking up a blade from the counter. It was a cut throat razor, which surprised me. I’d only ever seen them in movies about the old days or antique stores, I didn’t realize anyone actually still used them. Soon though Delilah was stroking it along the girls neck. When she wiped off the girls neck there was a very sharp *M* shaped hairline.
Delilah let the rest of the girls hair back down and started spraying it with water. Then she started snipping the hair an inch or so above where it had previously ended.
I had finished taking all the bobby pins out of my hair, and was having trouble motivating myself to start undoing the braids, when the bell above the door jingled and a rather confused looking Liz stuck her head in the door.
“Excuse me, I think my GPS took me to the wrong place. Is this 47 Jefferson Street?”. Liz asked from the doorway.
“I’m over here Liz.” I spoke up enough to get her attention.
“Sammy?” She came over and stood in front of me with a perplexed look on her face. “What’s going on? Decided you didn’t want to wait for that trim?”
“I wish. Sit and I’ll explain.” I said with a sigh. “Ms Cunningham insists that everyone, male and female, follow the same grooming standard. The male grooming standard. So, I need to get a bit of a haircut. Ms Cunningham suggested this place because they could take me tonight and are already familiar with the…” I didn’t know what to call it; rule, guideline, length? My voice cracked at the thought of it.
“Do you mean the male grooming standard in the Sunshine Cruise Lines’ employee handbook?” Liz asked.
I had never actually read it, and was wondering why Liz had. It hadn’t applied to either of us till about an hour ago. Though, I suppose since a big part of Liz’s job was coming up with explanations for the regular cruise line employees who weren’t part of T.E.A.M. for what would probably seem like weird personnel transfers and the strange things that occasionally happened, I guess knowing more about the regular employee regulations came up sometimes.
Liz let out a low whistle as her eyes got wide and she sucked in her lips in an obvious attempt to hide a frown.
“I’m sorry babe. I know you’re not happy about this. I’m not happy about it either.” I reassured her as I stroked my hand down her bare arm. “It will only be a little while. I’ll probably only be in extractio… I mean internal security for a couple of…” *gulp* “years.”
I had expected Liz to relax and let her frown show as I talked but instead she was just sucking her lips in harder and straining even more. Then I noticed it, the twitch in the corner of her mouth. She was hiding a smile! I looked up into her eyes. Yes her eyes were wide with surprise, but it wasn’t horrified shocked surprise, it was excited surprise. Now that I knew to look for it I could see it all over her face and feel it in her body language, even though she was trying hard to hide it. Liz was completely delighted.
“You’re happy.” I accused her, the hurt coming out in my tone.
“It will be cute.” She let the smile show, but also had the grace to look guilty about it. “It will be cool and comfortable. It’s fun to change things. I always feel so fresh when I do something new with my hair.”
I just sat there not saying anything. I was hurt and confused, and still just upset about the coming haircut.
I guess I should have realized Liz wasn’t going to be upset. She’d joked about me cutting off my hair many times. Thinking about it I remembered one time she’d talked about it more seriously. We were on our way to her 10 year high school reunion and to visit her family. It was my turn to drive and Liz was telling me about how strict the nuns at her school were.
“I almost didn’t graduate.” Liz told me. “I dyed my hair red just three weeks before the last day of school my senior year. I hadn’t thought it would be a big deal but Sister Bernice was livid. My parents were called in and she threatened me with suspension that would cause me to miss taking my finals.
“My parents talked her out of it by promising the red hair would be gone by the next morning. Mom drove me straight to her salon that afternoon. The next morning when I went back with my hair a slightly darker version of my natural color and cut short Sister Bernice had the smuggest expression on her face.”
“Why cut short?” I’d asked.
“My hair was really long back then. Like to my butt.” She told me. “When mom heard how much the colorist was going to charge she balked at the price and complained. The colorist explained I had a ton of hair, and that she’d need to be really careful about not causing even more damage to the very dry ends while trying to lift the red out. So mom asked how much it would cost if I had less hair. As it turned out it was enough cheaper that it saved more than the cost of a short haircut. I begged, and pleaded, and offered to pay her back in a couple of weeks for the extra cost of coloring my long hair, but mom refused. She said even if I had the money to pay her back immediately she thought it was a ridiculous waste of money. So I got short hair for the first time. Shortest I have ever had it. Shorter than that a-line bob I had back when you met me.”
“That must have been brutal in high school.” I said. “I’m surprised it didn’t put you off ever having short hair again.”
“I mostly got lots of sympathy.” She said, “I guess I got used to changing my style as it grew out. Even though I didn’t want to keep it super short, it was kinda nice not having to deal with hair past my waist.”
Then she looked at me and picked up a lock of my hair and twirling it in her fingers asked. “Have you ever had short hair?”
“Not really.” I answered. “Shortest was to about my bra strap junior year of college. I tried straightening my hair for the first time with a new hair dryer. I was juggling the round brush and dryer clumsily. I let the back of the dryer get too close to the ends and a bunch got sucked up into it. One of my sorority sisters drove me to her hairdresser while I held the hair dryer. I sobbed when he said he would have to cut it to get it unstuck. He was careful to keep as much length as possible though. He was also able to blend the shortest part, which was around shoulder length, into layers, so he didn’t have to cut all of it quite that short. It kinda looked good when I bothered to straighten it, but it looked weird when I let it just air dry. He didn’t really know how to cut curls.”
“You should try it short sometime.” Liz said completely seriously. “It’s fun to change things up.”
After that, we had switched topics when I asked Liz if she’d been out in highschool, which led to a very long discussion about how we were going to handle the definitely surprised and possibly disapproving reactions she was going to get when she showed up with a girlfriend. Heck, not just when but if, since we discussed the possibility of my just going and doing touristy things with her parents while she attended the reunion alone. Not surprisingly, that subject had made it easy to forget about the earlier hair talk.
I realized I had been blocking out all the signs that Liz would be perfectly happy about the haircut.
“I’m sorry, Sammy.” Liz whispered gently as she put her arm around my shoulders and pulled me to her so my head rested against her chest just under her shoulder.
She kissed me tenderly on my head. I took in a ragged breath and felt a warm tear roll down my cheek. I brushed it away with the back of my hand and started undoing my braids.
Delilah was blow drying the hair of the girl with the bob, though she seemed to be using the drier almost like a leaf blower to clear off the cape as she undid it and not really to style the bob that was just falling into place anyway. The ends of the girl’s hair was now just brushing against her jaw in the front. It came up in the back revealing the bottom of the *M* shape and the bangs in front were now well above the girls eyebrows revealing a piercing there.
“Sam, I’m ready for you.” Delilah called out way too cheerfully.
I had just finished the unbraiding. I stood up and looked at myself in the mirror. My hair hung loose around me. It was a combination of still straightened from the morning, rippled where the braids had been tight at the bottom, and curled where it had gotten damp during the day. It didn’t look it’s best, but it was still beautiful, the honey blond naturally lighter on the top layer where the sun hits it regularly.
I took off my suit jacket and handed it down to Liz to hold for me. Underneath I was wearing a simple turquoise sleeveless blouse that left my shoulders mostly bare. My soft hair covering them like a warm security blanket that was about to get taken away. I gathered it up and pulled it forward so it hung in front of my left shoulder and over my breast.
Liz reached up and cupped my face with her hand briefly before reaching down and giving my hair a last little tug. She looked at me with a half smile and mouthed *It’ll be great.* I frowned back down at her.
“Hurry up dear, we haven’t got all day” Delilah chastised.
I stiffly walked over to the leather chair and stepped up onto the footrest and sat down into the seat. I slid back, my thin sleeveless blouse offering little insulation from the cold seat. The backs of my arms stuck slightly where they hit the leather directly. I felt squeezed slightly when I tucked my hands down next to me instead of resting them on the padded armrests that looked very cold.
“Ok.” Delilah smiled at me through the mirror while fluffing my hair behind the chair and talking. “So, I know the minimal requirements, but do you have anything in particular in mind?”
“I just don’t want to look like a boy.” I said, trying not to start really crying. Well that wasn’t the whole story, I also didn’t want to look like a short haired woman, but that was inevitable.
“With your delicate features, I don’t think I could make you look like a boy if I tried.” Delilah said as she continued to play with my long hair. “So you haven’t got anything in particular in mind?”
“I know it has to be above the collar so I guess you have to at least bob it. Do I have to have bangs for the above the eyebrows, or does my hair going off to the side count?”
“A bob won’t keep it from touching your ears.” Delilah told me. “Above the eyebrows means any hair that can fall forward needs to be short. Really it’s going to need to be pretty short all over.”
“I’ve always had long hair…” I paused, there was no point complaining. “Just do whatever doesn’t make me look too much like a boy or shorn sheep.”
“Her hair is naturally very curly, especially when it’s humid. I straightened it this morning.” Liz spoke up for me. “She usually parts her hair to the left, it’s just in the middle today because of the updo I did.”
“Ok.” Delilah responded as she reparted my hair on the right letting most of it hang over to the left. “I’m going to have to wash this. I usually like to cut curls dry, but it’s full of hairspray and I want to see what the curls normally do.”
Having my hair washed at least was going to be something familiar. I may not have really enjoyed losing the inch when I went to Liz’s salon, but I did enjoy the pampering that came along with it. Plus, I was glad that we were going to be putting off the haircut for a little bit. But as I was about to stand, Delilah pushed me back down into the chair. She grabbed the cape and draped it loosely over me, but didn’t fasten it. Then she bent forward and picked up her largest pair of scissors.
“Hold your horses,” she said as she grabbed a handful of hair in the back. “Let’s just get rid of some of this bulk, so washing it doesn’t take forever.”
Delilah started hacking off the handful of hair before I had a chance to respond. I knew the haircut was going to happen, but the lack of warning about it beginning jarred me. I’d had no time to make sure my emotions were in check, and a huge lump formed in my throat. I just barely managed to hold back tears.
Srunsh, srunsh, srunsh…The sound of the scissors sawing through the tresses, lasted for what felt like forever, before the final snap.
She unceremoniously dropped the golden bundle next to me. She swiftly gathered up another bundle in a no-nonsense manner. Once again the sound of scissors sawing through my hair as I tried to look down and get a look at the bundle on the linoleum floor. Though Delilah wasn’t pulling hard on my hair, I could feel the pressure releasing as the hair in her hand lost its connection to my head.
As the last strands were cut through my head was released and I could finally look down at the floor. It was hard to judge the length of the tangled bundle on the floor. It almost didn’t look like mine, but the golden strands glinted as they caught rays of sunlight from the window in a way that reminded me of how they often looked draped across my pillow in the morning. Soon another tight bundle of orderly strands landed next to the first with a bounce, the hair spilling apart into another tangle.
As I looked down, I felt Delilah gather up another bundle and start cutting. Crunch, crunch… The metal scissors brushed my neck sending a shiver up my spine. Then the scissors snapped closed with a firm finality that made me think Delilah felt she was done with reducing the bulk. The third bundle dropped to the floor, between the first two, the strands tangling together into what looked like a blond bird’s nest.
I looked up at the mirror as Delilah slapped the scissors down on the counter, and whisked the cape off. There were a couple of still long locks hanging down on either side of my face, but as I turned my head, I could see the roughly cut ends of my hair in the back only hung about halfway down my neck. I raised my hand to grasp the still long lock on my right.
“Come on then.” Delilah said impatiently, from halfway to the back of the shop. “We’re going to the sink.”
I swallowed hard trying to relax, but it didn’t help. I got up from the chair slowly, I had to stand for a moment before I followed, since my legs felt like jelly.
Delilah getting me down into the wash chair was a rough blur. Though she wasn’t hurting me as she scrubbed my scalp, it was obvious she was more concerned with being quick and efficient than gentle and pampering.
As I sat back in the chair with a towel wrapped around my shoulders, and the warm water running over my scalp, I let the warm tears fill up the corners of my tightly closed eyes.
After the final rinse of what felt like conditioner, Delilah started vigorously rubbing my hair with another towel while also pulling me up out of the reclined position. The chair moving with me till I was seated upright and my head was being wrapped in the towel.
Delilah started walking back to her barber chair, this time I followed immediately before she could chastise me again. I climbed back up into the big chair. As I settled in, Delilah grabbed a tissue strip and wrapped it around my neck. She then shook out the nylon cape noisily and swung it over me and fastened it over the tissue.
“Can I keep a lock?” Liz asked as Delilah pulled the towel off my head and down to my shoulders, letting the wet hair fall about my head in uneven curls.
“Of course.” Delilah said as she picked up the scissors. “How about this one?”
Delilah separated out the last long strand left on the left side of my head, lightly twisted the single curl, and sliced it off. It was now the shortest lock on my head, hanging to just the tip of my ear.
“There are envelopes in the top drawer.” Delilah told Liz as she handed over the wet curl.
Liz opened the drawer and took out an envelope that had “My First Haircut” printed on it with blank spaces for names and dates.
“It’s not really your first haircut, but it is your first real haircut.” Liz teased while smiling at me. Then when I just frowned back as my stomach turned and I fought back tears Liz’s expression changed. “Sorry Sammy, I shouldn’t joke when I know what a big deal this is for you.”
I gave her a fake smile and lied. “It’s ok. It’s not really a big deal.”
I looked at Liz, I could see from the way she frowned, that she knew I wasn’t really ok with the teasing. Delilah stood waiting, suddenly more patient.
“Babe, go sit down so we can get this over with.” I gave Liz a little shove, then nodded to Delilah.
Delilah didn’t waste any more time, and sliced off the very last long lock that was left on the right side of my head, dropping it on the floor, before she picked up a large toothed comb, and came behind me. She quickly detangled my curls, not really combing them, just separating and then and dealing with any knots. Then she shook and scrunched to bring the curls back.
My hair looked so much darker between the sun-bleached ends being gone and my hair being wet. It was already very short. While it had reached halfway down my neck before it was washed, now that the curls were back, only a few locks hit the top of my neck. I knew it would look even shorter, once it was dry and the curls tightened up even more.
I was mildly relieved when instead of trying to comb my hair flat, Delilah twisted a lock from the back of my head and started snipping at it with the points of her scissors. At least she wasn’t treating it like straight hair.
My relief turned out to be very temporary, when I saw how long the lock of hair dropped to the floor looked. It looked to me like almost the entire length I had left. I was sure that what was left must be boy short.
I sat, as my stomach churned, listening to the relentless sound of snipping. I could feel lock after lock being lifted from the back of my head. Lock after lock was casually dropped beside me. Sometimes, I thought I could even hear the slight plop as the wet coils hit the floor. Most of them were dropped so I could barely see, but every now and then, I got a good look at a lock as it plummeted to the floor.
After a while, Delilah worked her way enough towards the front that I could see what was happening in the mirror. I watched as she lifted a lock behind my ear and twisted it and started snipping at it with the points of her scissors at an angle. It was interesting how it untwisted itself as it was cut. It was also horrifying how short the hair left behind was. I had been right that it was going to be boy short. I guess that had been a given since it was being cut to the male standard.
Delilah dropped the short curl as casually as she had dropped all the others, but it missed the floor and landed on the arm rest of the barber chair. It lay there, coiled into a perfect circle, as she started cutting another lock. This one just missed the armrest as it dropped to the floor. The next lock fell to my lap.
Soon Delilah was standing almost in front of me. She was lifting up the hair that was right at my hairline. I looked up and watched the bright steel begin to slide through the twisted lock. As the scissors reached the other side and the lock was fully separated, the loose curl swung down and bounced against my forehead. Delilah dropped the severed hair into my caped lap.
Delilah paused for a moment, and stepped slightly to the side so I could see in the mirror. I could see the lock laying against my forehead, the tapered end of it just touched my eyebrow. On the already cut side of my head, the short curls hung mostly above my ears.
“Though this brushes your eyebrow while wet, once your hair is dry, it will shrink up to be above your eyebrow.” Delilah explained then pinched the lock and started pulling down on it. “If you straighten it, it will come down to well below. I’m not sure if Stephanie will consider this above the eyebrows. Do you want me to leave it, or take it shorter?”
“I don’t want it any shorter than it absolutely has to be.”
“Ok, if Stephanie says it’s not short enough, just come back within the next couple of days,” Stephanie offers, “and I’ll take a little more off, no charge.”
Which reminded me, I was going to have to pay for this completely unwanted haircut. This is what they mean when they say adding insult to injury. I sighed and nodded.
Delilah twisted another lock and started to slice through it, again at an angle. The twist and snip procedure went on and on as more and more little coils were dropped to the floor.
Eventually all the hair on the top of my head was cropped down into little curls that stayed well above my ears. I wasn’t terribly surprised to see that without the weight of the long hair, the curls were considerably tighter than before, even still damp. I imagined that once dry how much tighter they were going to be.
I was happily surprised at how much length was left on the back and sides, when Delilah put down her scissors, she had barely touched the sides the whole haircut. She unhooked the hair dryer and put a diffuser that she pulled out of a drawer onto it.
As Delilah dried my hair, she didn’t try to force it to do anything in particular, just occasionally separating a few locks, and encouraged the curls to take on their natural shape.
When it was done, it wasn’t nearly as short as I feared. The tight curls made it look a lot shorter than it really was, so I figured I was getting away with it being long enough to pull down over the collar and ears, because the curls lifted the hair up mostly clear of those, the same way I was hoping to get away with slightly too long bangs. I waited for Delilah to take off the cape.
Then she reached under the counter to hang the hairdryer back. While she was down there, she took a very large set of the clippers off their hook. I should have known, I had been right to think it was going to be shorter. I took a deep breath and prepared myself to keep a tight face, knowing I was about to be sheared like a sheep on the back and sides of my head.
I braced myself for the start of the clippers, but she put the clippers down on the counter.
She picked up some large clips and came beside me. She used the tip of the clip to draw a line back from my temple. The hair below the line was left to hang down, the hair above it was clipped loosely up, not crushing the curls. She continued to separate my hair into a lower section that hung free, and an upper section held up with multiple clips. It felt like it came to a point in the back above the nape.
I watched Delilah with so much trepidation as she walked back to the counter. I kept hoping that what I thought was about to happen wasn’t really going to. Delilah picked up a comb and the set of clippers from the counter. She came around behind me.
Delilah must only have been standing behind me a second, but it felt like a million heart beats as I waited with dread. I felt pressure from the comb on the back of my head. I wanted to swat it away, and raise my hands to protect what little hair I still had there, instead I tilted my chin down as was expected. I braced myself to not react to the next part.
I managed to only flinch ever so slightly at the strangely loud pop the clippers made as the switch was flipped. I felt the vibrating blades against the skin of my neck. I clutched my hands into such tight fists that I could feel my short fingernails pressing painfully into my palm. I felt the buzzing device creep slowly up into my hair. The blades travelled up my nape till they finally met the teeth of the comb and started to travel along it, making the oddest sound as the metal blades rattled along the plastic comb.
I felt the soft hair tumble down my neck, hit my shoulder, then slide to a stop in my lap, where I got to stare at the fluffy curls. They were considerably darker than I tended to think of my hair as, which shouldn’t have been a surprise, since they came from the spot on my head that probably got the least sun.
I felt the clippers return to my neck as the comb took up a new position. The process of the blades creeping up my neck then rattling over the comb repeated, and another bunch of my curls tumbled down to my lap. Then a moment later, it happened again, and again.
After it felt like Delilah had shorn off all the hair from the back of my head, I thought she would let me straighten up, but she kept going back over places that were already short. Instead of bundles of curls tumbling down, prickly snippets flew out from the angry machine. The snippets stuck where they landed, against my neck and on top of my shoulders.
When Delilah was finally happy with the hair along my nape, the pressure keeping my head bent forward finally let up and I raised my head enough to be able to see her running the clippers over the comb mowing away all but the tiniest bit of hair behind my ear.
“Can you please hold your ear forward for me?” Delilah politely requested for me to participate in my own torture, as she made sure that the not touching my ear requirement was well and truly met.
I watched in the mirror as little bits of my hair fell on my fingers. I had never before in my life thought so much about how my ears looked, since they were suddenly going to be on display 24/7. I had never thought my ears looked bad with my hair up or pulled back, nevermind just 10 minutes ago when the hair already wasn’t long enough to really cover them, but the hair around and behind the ear had filled in the space between the backs of my ears and my skull in a way that made them look less like they stuck out and generally framed and softened their appearance. And I wasn’t going to even be able to wear the earrings that made them extra cute. Delilah just kept buzzing around my ears, either unaware or unconcerned of my nervous gaze.
“Thank you.” Delilah said, when she was ready for me to release my ear.
When Delilah started removing the hair above my ear, I began to see exactly how short she was tapering the hair of the loose section.
“That looks shorter than I thought it had to be?” I said tentatively.
“It will look good this way,” Delilah said authoritatively as she mowed down the hair at my temple. “I’m also hoping it being very obviously short enough right around the ears, and way off the collar will keep people from thinking too much about how far down the hair on top might reach when pulled and stretched out. I made sure everything stayed above the ears and eyebrows wet, but if you pinch and pull…. Well as I said, if Stephanie complains, just blame me and come back.”
Then she combed up the wispy corkscrew curl in front of my ears, and ran the clippers over the comb, sending it to join the pile of hair in my lap. After that, she moved on to making the other side match, once again politely requesting that I participate in my own torture by pulling my ear forward so she could buzz all the hair around it off more easily.
I breathed a sigh of relief when she shut off the clippers. I had a feeling she wasn’t totally done, but I figured that I was probably not going to lose too much more length. She hung them back on their hook, and returned with the scissors and comb.
As Delilah combed upward through the area that she’d done with the clippers and snapping at any little hairs that had somehow escaped with a little extra length, I looked through the mirror to the waiting area. Liz sat there watching, she gave me a little smile when she caught my eye. I frowned back. She silently mouthed back *It looks good.* At least I think that’s what she said.
I kind of didn’t care whether or not it would look good, I still just wanted my hair back. In some ways, I actually would be happier if everybody hated it just as much as I did, because then I could just endure it and I wouldn’t have to put up with the rest of the world trying to convince me it wasn’t horrible. I just felt it would be easier to hear “I’m so sorry that happened to you,” and be allowed to feel lousy about it, then a whole bunch of compliments, many probably just given out of politeness.
Delilah undid the clips holding the top section up, and began to shake out the curls a little. The bouncy short corkscrews hung over the tightly cropped sides just a little. Delilah delicately pinched up one of the curls that hung slightly lower than the others and snipped carefully a little more off the end of it. She kept repeating this process, my hair getting just a little shorter each time the scissors clicked closed.
I looked straight ahead, and saw the person looking directly back at me. Dusty blue eyes, just a little red, stared out from under the lashes with flaking brown mascara that had smudged onto the damp eyelids. The cheeks with a light sprinkling of freckles just sat flat, since there was not even a hint of a smile to lift them up. The person had short androginous hair, light brown on the buzzed sides with just hints of blond on the longer top, which was gradually becoming less and less. I knew that person was me, I didn’t recognize them though.
Delilah unfastened the snap of the cape and stepped over to the counter. She put down the scissors, and picked up the cut throat razor from earlier. She spent a moment taking out the blade she’d used on the girl before me and put in a fresh one, giving me extra time to contemplate its impending use. Was I going to have a sharp M, or did she have something else planned.
Delilah was soon standing behind me, razor in hand ready to spread some gel along my hairline. “How do you want your neckline?”
The correct answer of course was covered by a long curtain of hair, but I didn’t think there was any point to saying that, so I just shrugged and shook my head.
“How about V shaped into the natural point.” Liz suggested from the waiting chairs.
Delilah just nodded and started spreading the gel on my neck, not bothering to consult with me again. Soon I felt her fingers holding the skin taut as the blade glided down, removing the last trace of what had once been the wispy bits that would escape when my hair was put up. After a few moments, my sore neck was being wiped clean. Then I was being dusted off and the cape was being pulled away from me as the blond curls littering it spilled to the floor.
I just sat there staring at the stranger in the mirror waiting to be dismissed as Delilah swapped the fluffy brush for a hand mirror. She stepped behind me and showed me what the back looked like and waited for my approval. I’m not sure why she bothered, since I thought it was pretty obvious that there wasn’t anything she could do to this haircut to make me happier. I wasn’t going to ask her to cut more off no matter how I felt about the shape of the back, and she couldn’t put any of the hair back, I was just going to have to wait for it to grow back. Maybe she just did it out of habit. I nodded that it was fine, even though it wasn’t.
“Thank you.” I said as I got up, because it’s polite to say thank you no matter how much you didn’t want the thing that was given to you.
I stood staring at the huge pile of my golden blond hair that was strewn around the base of Delilah’s barber chair. It was so much brighter in color than what was left on my head. I looked at the stranger in the mirror once again, searching for any traces of sun bleached highlights that might be left as my hand went up to feel the hair. My hand brushed back though the very short curls, flopping them back and forth. The little coils just sat against my head, no longer parting at all. They were mostly light brown now with just a bit of dirty blond. My hand moved down to the back of my head where the hair had been cut too short to curl anymore, the cropped hair prickling against my palm.
Delilah cleared her throat to get my attention as she stood next to the cash register. I suddenly realized I had left my purse at the office. I stood there frozen with my hand against my neck.
“I’ll get it honey.” Liz said and went over to Delilah. I don’t know if she noticed I didn’t have my bag, or if she just felt the unfairness of having me pay for something I had so very much not wanted.
After paying and telling Delilah she’d done a great job, Liz came over to me and started running her fingers up the sides of my head and ruffling my hair. “This is so cute. I just love it.”
“It’s been a long day.” I fought to keep my voice neutral. “Can we get going?”
Liz getting me back into my suit jacket and taking me home was just a blur. I found myself sitting at the kitchen table poking at a plate of ziti barely remembering how I had gotten there. I had very little appetite, and mostly pushed the food around, only occasionally sliding the fork into one of the little sauce covered tubes and lifting it to my mouth.
After a while I looked up. Liz was sitting across from me. Her elbows were on the table, her hands together, her arms formed an arch, her chin rested on the tops of her hands. The plate in front of her, with a fork laying across it, was empty of food except for a small puddle of sauce. Liz looked at me intensely.
“I have to get to work extra early tomorrow,” I said as I put my fork down on my still three quarter full plate, “so I’m going to head to bed early.”
“Ok, that sounds like a good idea, Sammy.” Liz said way too cheerfully as she took the plates over to the sink.
I headed up to our bedroom and started getting ready for bed. I was hanging up my suit when Liz joined me. I draped the pants over the bar of the hanger, thinking about how I would need to take them to the cleaners because there were little snippets of my hair that had gotten around the barber cape to stick to the pants as Liz closed the door. She watched me hang up the suit at the end of the rod smiling as she started taking off her own pretty dress. I walked across the room to the hamper and started pulling off my turquoise top, as I did, I felt Liz behind me. I watched her bra drop into the hamper, just as I dropped my top in, and then I felt her delicate hands on my back unfastening my own bra.
As I slid the bra down my arms, Liz’s hands worked their way up and into what little was left of my hair. She began stroking against the short bristles. Then I felt her lips on my newly bare neck.
“Mmmmm,” Liz purred in my ear. “This is so smooth back here, it’s delicious.”
“Don’t,” I said as I turned away from the hamper and walked towards my pajama drawer.
“‘Don’t’ what?” Liz asked as she intercepted me before I could get there. “Don’t let you know that I still think you’re the most beautiful and sexy woman I’ve ever known?”
I let out a ragged breath and abandoned my quest to get pajamas. I sat on the side of our bed in just my panties, feeling so defeated.
“Don’t continue to enjoy being with you?” Liz asked as she sat down next to me. “Don’t admit that I like your haircut just because you don’t? Don’t be excited that I’m going to be getting to marry the most wonderful person I have ever known?”
And then it really hit me.
“Oh god. I’m going to have to get married like this.”
Somehow, all day long I had forgotten about the fact that I was supposed to be a lovely blushing bride in just 2 months. I looked at my closet, the box with the vintage dress on the high shelf. There was no way it was going to look right with this hair instead of my long blond curls. I buried my face in my hands and began to sob.
Liz pulled me against her, pressing her bare skin to my bare skin. She made a gentle shushing noise as she stroked my shorn head. I just kept sobbing for who knows how long. Gradually Liz’s hand moved down to stroking my back, then my arm. Eventually, she started lifting me so I was sitting up again facing her.
“You’re going to be the prettiest bride ever.” Liz said to me, so earnestly I didn’t have the heart to correct her and burst her bubble. “Ok?”
I nodded just to make her feel better. She cupped my face in her hands, and kissed me. She kissed hard and passionately, her hands slid up into my hair, then down my back. When she finally pulled back, there was a gleam in her eye.
“Lay back,” she was gently pushing me down as she spoke. “You can just be my pillow princess tonight.”
“I don’t feel like a princess.”
“Give me a half an hour and you will.” Liz winked at me as she arranged me on my back, pulled off my panties, and encouraged me to open my legs.
She started by kissing my face and mouth, her hands buried in the short hair. Then she gently turned my head and nibbled my ear. Slowly her hands worked down as she lowered the nibbling to my neck, then my shoulder. Her shoulder length straight mousy brown hair dragged across my face as she went, reminding me that hers was now considerably longer than mine for the first time in our relationship.
Silent tears collected in the outside corners of my eyes, in spite of the comfort Liz was providing my body. The tears rolled off my face down the side of my reclined head, and into the short hair at my temple. I raised my hands to wipe away the wetness, but it was futile as my hands brushed over the damp velvet.
Liz moved onto scucking hard on my nipple, her hair draped over my chest. She began teasing and testing between my legs, opening the soft folds, finding the way inside me. Liz slid her way down my torso, kissing and nibbling as she went, her soft hair dragging over my belly.
Liz placed her head between my legs, the ends of her hair brushing against my thighs. Her tongue began to press against my clit in a mesmerizing rhythm. One hand held me spread open as the other massaged inside of me. She began to alternate sucking and pushing with her magical tongue.
My hands clutched through the soft velvet and short curls on my head. I tried not to move too much as I writhed in ecstasy, so I wouldn’t accidentally pull away from Liz’s ardent attention. The pressure built up inside me, as Liz took me to an almost unbearable crescendo.
The release when it came, it crashed over me like a huge wave breaking against the shore. The smaller waves that followed, pulsed through me, as Liz pressed me again and again. It left me breathless as my heart pounded inside my chest.
Liz lay down next to me, and stroked through the hair above my ear, almost like she was trying to tuck it behind my ear even though there was nowhere near enough hair to accomplish such a goal. Her face just inches from mine, I could smell my cum on her. She smiled contentedly at me.
“Feel like a princess?” She asked.
I just shook my head no as a simple response. Liz let out a slightly disappointed sigh and frowned, as she continued to stroke the hair above my ear.
“Do you at least feel better?” She tried again.
I nodded yes. My eyelids felt heavy, and I turned over and nuzzled into her warm body. I felt her soft breasts pressed against my back, as she used the tip of one finger to circled my sensitive nipple. As I let my eyes fall closed, Liz kissed along my freshly cleaned neckline, where it had been shaved to the skin. I could feel her nose in the velvety hair at the nape of my neck.
As I drifted off to sleep, I could feel the slight shifting of Liz’s body and the rhythmic movement of her hand that told me she was rubbing her own body seeking her own release.