Trading Places

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Author’s Note – Firstly, thanks for checking the story out! Without giving too much away, it’s a story of a couple who end up going to each others hair places. The guy goes to the salon and the girl goes to the barbers. I know not everyone will like all parts of this story so to make it a bit easier to find the part you’re more likely to enjoy.
Part 1 is how Leo and Ella ended up going to their opposites place of hair, Part 2 is his Leo at the salon and Part 3 is Ella at the barbers. I’ve tried my best to write the parts independently, so they don’t need knowledge from other parts to understand what’s happening.
Hope you enjoy!

Part 1: The Argument

“HOW MUCH?!” Leo gasped back at her.

“Look, we agreed I was going to spend a bit more because of all the events we’ve got coming up” replied Ella, trying her hardest not to sound snappy, “You haven’t even said what you think?” she went on, trying to give him an opportunity to compliment.

“Oh yeah, you look absolutely stunning!” he came back sneeringly “You look like “Holy shit she must have spent a ton on her hair” stunning.”

He went back to the food prep he was doing, chopping the onion as if he was angry with it and not Ella.

“550 quid…” he muttered aloud.

Ella couldn’t let it go.

“LOOK!! I know it’s a lot of money but I really like it and I’ve not done anything like this since we started saving for the house. You’re making me feel horrible for something I was so excited for you to see!” she pleaded.

“I thought you were just going to get your usual cut and just have some highlights or something done. Not spend more on your hair in one go then I do on mine in a year!” he retorted, his head still down and talking into the chopping board.

Ella was at a loss. She’d said to Leo on numerous occasions she planned to spend more on this hair appointment because they had a jam-packed social schedule over the next couple of months, including weddings and award nights, and she wanted to look her absolute best. Instead of just getting her bra-strap length chocolate brown locks given a blunt trim, she went for the works and got the best quality waist-length extensions and blonde balayage her salon had to offer. It had come out so well they insisted on taking pictures for their social media advertising. She didn’t care about the price and felt on top of the world when she walked out of the salon. However, Leo had brought her crashing down with a thud with his reaction.

“It’s not like we are behind on our bills or anything like that!” she pleaded, deciding on a new tactic.

“You know that’s not what I’m upset about…” he replied, putting the knife down and looking at her, “Sure, we’re doing fine with the mortgage and the bills. And we’ve both got little side things ourselves that we spend a little bit on but we’ve always said we’d consult each other on big expenses, even if we could afford it. Then you go and get talked into getting-”

“Hey! That’s not fair!” Ella cut in angrily, spotting the trap. “Don’t you dare try and make it like I didn’t know what I was doing or that I didn’t care! I thought we’d talked about this! That we agreed!”

“Well, it feels like you just assumed I agreed to something that I actually didn’t know about.” Leo came back just as angrily before taking a breath. “Look it’s fine, you look amazing, you really do. Just warn me the next time you’re getting it done ok?”

Ella scowled at him,

“I’m not going to get this done again if it’s upset you this much. I’ll go back to how I had after Sam and Keria’s wedding. The extensions probably won’t last as long after that anyway.”

She watched as Leo checked his phone, obviously looking up the date of that wedding.

“£550 for two and a half months worth…” he muttered as he had before.

Ella was getting more and more irritated by Leo’s fixation on the money,

“Look you can go and spend a bit more on yourself if you want, get a new suit or new watch or something. You could even get your hair done at my salon,” she remarked as she glanced at the tiny dark brown topknot that he was trying to grow out, the back and sides buzzed uniformly to a quarter of an inch.

“Uhhh.. yeah sure. Like I’d get to go to a place like that” he shrugged off sarcastically.

Ella’s senses tingled at that response. She noticed Leo hadn’t just refused the idea of getting his hair done at the salon, in an indirect way he had mocked it as well.

“You… you’re acting the martyr here, aren’t you?! You’re just upset because you like to think you don’t get do nice things for yourself.” Ella started. Leo glanced up and shook his head dismissively, but Ella had seen the uncertainty. “That’s what this is really about, isn’t it? You don’t splash out a little so you can have a go at me when I do it.” she stared at him, urging a response out of him.

“I’m fine going to my barbers.” he came back “Besides what would they do with my hair? What could they do with my hair that’s anywhere near as expensive as yours?”

Leo dodging the question hadn’t escaped Ella’s scrutiny, she pressed on, “I bet you wouldn’t even give them the chance to show you something new, then you’d have to give up your victim status.” she taunted.

Leo looked up again, unable to ignore the bait, “So what if I do prefer someplace a bit cheaper. It’s because I know what I like and I get it at my barber’s. I wouldn’t know how to make use of a salon, like the one you go to.”

“Then let them do whatever they think would be best for you, give them carte blanche,” Ella replied, ever more confident. “Let them show off and give you whatever they feel like, I’ll guarantee you they won’t hold back.”

Leo eyed Ella, not wanting to just give in to demand without a price, “What about you then?” he came back “What happens with yours once the extensions need to come out, you too proud to become a commoner like me and get yours done at my barber’s?”

Ella’s eyes gave away the fright she felt, “They… they don’t take women at barber’s. I’ve heard as much.” she stammered.

“The place I go to does. They even have a sign that says “You pay for our time, not your sex.” ” Leo commented, “What’s the matter, don’t think some run of the mill barbers could handle your desperately precious hairs?” he taunted her.

Ella stared at Leo, unable to think of a snappy comeback.

“Fine!” she said eventually “You don’t get your hair cut at all so they’ve got as much to work with as they can once my extensions give out,” she added menacingly.

“And you’ll get yours done at my barbers?” Leo replied, genuinely surprised he was getting something out of the situation.

“Yeah yeah ok whatever!” Ella replied angrily as she flicked her hair around and walked away, completely unsure if she’d won the argument or not.

Part 2: His Turn

Ella took another sip of coffee as she thought over what might happen today. She’d already gotten the earliest appointment available on a Saturday so she could have her extensions taken out, leaving Leo to sleep off the wine they had both overconsumed last night, preferring to take a morning walk to the salon rather than get a taxi. The micro-loop clamps that had held her extensions in place had to be very delicately removed with special pliers. It had been a long, slow and boring process. She’d been glad to she’d arranged for an hour after her appointment and Leo’s to grab a coffee and resettle, get used to being back at her old bra-strap hair length.

Secretly, she was glad to have just her own hair back. The novelty of the extensions had worn off after a couple of weeks, not that she ever let Leo know it. The constant brushing to avoid the knots, the sheer length of time it took to style, being unable to put it up in a ponytail because it would damage the bonds and not to mention the number of times she managed to pin herself in bed and to chairs because she was leaning on it. She had looked like a goddess at all the events though with everyone complimenting how good a couple her and Leo made. She had gotten her wish in that respect. In her mind, the expense had been well worth the result.

She glanced at her phone and noted it was 5 minutes before Leo’s appointment and they’d arranged to meet at the coffee shop across the street so they could arrive together. She messaged him to find out where he was, he was always early to appointments, it was just a habit for him. Her phoned buzzed immediately.

I’m parked just down the road. I’m not doing it. It’s stupid. Come on and I’ll take you home and we’ll forget it about. I’m sorry I went off on you” she read his reply.

Ella grinned to herself, she had guessed this was coming and she was ready for it.

You’re not getting to even touch me until you go through with this. It’s for your own good” she typed back. It was an idle threat. She knew she couldn’t last using sex as a weapon but Leo was worse. Sure enough, a few moments later he came through the door of the coffee shop.

“Oh don’t look so down” she soothed him as he slumped into the chair “You’re booked with Sandra, she owns the salon and is a master stylist. She’s bound to do something amazing with this!” she gestured towards his topknot. Leo had kept to the deal and the whole look now looked very ragged with the sides poking out to the side but with the top tied back.

“You’ve already told them what you want haven’t you?” he asked, still stinging from the easy manipulation.

“Actually, I want this to be as much a surprise for you as it is for me. I’ll just be there for moral support as they say.” Ella replied honestly as she finished her coffee, “Let’s go, this place runs appointments like clockwork and I don’t want you late.”

Leo glowered at her but said nothing, he realised the best he could hope for out of this situation was for this “Sandra” be one of those that somehow sees the subtlest of changes as a massive makeover. As they stood to cross the road Ella slipped her arm around his and, as much as he wanted not to, he couldn’t help but smile to himself and squeeze it back affectionately as they crossed. As they neared the glass door we could feel his nerves build but when they stepped through threshold he was stunned into silence.

 

“Now I see where all the money went for those extensions,” Leo commented to Ella, his mouth half-open in complete awe of his surroundings.

“There’s a spa upstairs as well, sometimes I like to get a massage appointment before I get my hair done when I want to feel suuuuper relaxed,” Ella replied as she smiled to the doll-like receptionist who greeted them, her black hair tied back under a small silver headset and microphone which was attached to the phone.

“Hello Leo and welcome back Ella,” she said with a rehearsed calmness as she tapped away on the tablet screen in front of her. “Sandra will be right with you. If you’d like to take a seat in the waiting chairs.” she gestured to plush leather sofas behind the reception desk.

They sat down, Ella lounging back calmly as she would for her own hair appointments, Leo, on the other hand, was sat forward, hunched over with his eyes darting all over the salon.

“Will you relax?!” she playfully scolded him, “I don’t want to be known as the girl who’s boyfriend doesn’t know how to behave at the salon.”

“Well sorry, it’s just that I’m nervous that’s all” he replied back as he relaxed back too, “So what’s this Sandra like, to run this place you must have to be a complete battleaxe or something, right?”

“You tell me,” Ella commented quietly as she noticed Sandra walking towards them, nudging Leo to stand with her to meet her. Leo had never understood why some of his friends professed to sometimes like older women, or “cougars” as they preferred to call them. However, upon seeing Sandra striding towards him, he finally realised there was certainly something to appreciate in older women. She was the same height as him, well-tanned with her shoulder-length brown hair in a stylish slicked-back wet look. She was wearing a pinstripe suit trousers with an open jacket which drew the eye to the white cami which held up her bust teasingly.

“Those are fake, by the way” Ella muttered to him before she was within earshot, knowing exactly how her man thought.

“So were those extensions.” Leo came back with before walking forward a little to extend his hand, “Hi there, I guess you’re Sandra?”

“And you must be Leo” she replied back, showing off a dazzling smile before planting two quick kisses on either cheek, “Come right over and we’ll do a consultation” she gestured towards one of the empty stations. They walked over together, Leo sitting down in the styling chair and Ella in a wheeled stool that Sandra had ready for her.

“Soooo if I’m understood the booking notes correctly,” Sandra started as she undid Leo’s dark brown topknot from the behind the chair, “You’re open to a complete change, no restricts on cut, colour or treatments. I’m just allowed to follow my muse, right?” she asked excitedly as she finger raked the length of the topknot out to one side, the ends of which hung to just past collar length.

“Well, within reason…” Leo started to protest, mindful of Ella scolding him earlier, “I don’t want to spend much time in the morning styling it, and I have to be presentable-ish for work” he hastened to add.

“I think can work to that brief,” Sandra replied back, now placing Leos hair here and there, creating simplistic views for herself to help her decide how best to approach this tantalising client. She continued this process for what felt like several minutes in silence before finally standing up straight and smiling, “Ok, I’ve got something in mind for you, you won’t even recognise yourself once we’re done, but you’ll love it I’m sure, so will Ella.”

“Gr…Great.” Leo barely managed to gasp, his mouth suddenly going dry at the sentencing of his hair.

“I’ll go get everything ready while the juniors get you shampooed and settled” Sandra smiled before turning and gesturing towards two assistants who had been standing dutifully by the washbowls. One immediately picked out a fresh cape from a cubby while the other starting preparing the washbowl. The cape was quickly and gracefully thrown over Leo and buttoned up. An expensive feeling black fabric with the salon name delicately stitched in gold across the front.

“Can I offer you a complimentary drink, Sir? Tea, coffee, juice or perhaps a craft beer from a local brewery?” the fresh-faced assistant asked Leo.

“Uhm…” Leo stammered, caught off guard by the offer that to him was unusual when he was there for a haircut, “I’d like to try that beer but I’m driving so I’ll just have a coffee.”

“Oh I don’t mind driving from here” Ella offered, “You get a beer and do your best to relax” she cooed as she playfully stroked his arm.

“Beer it is then” Leo added with a slightly resigned, slightly playful shrug of the shoulders, he could feel himself to start to get into the new experience already.

“Lovely. I’m Sophia and your shampooist today will be Luna. Please make your way over when you’re ready. I’ll have your drink here for you when you return. If there’s anything I get for you then please let myself or any member of the team know.” she smiled happily as she motioned Leo over to the washbowls before disappearing to fulfil her other duties.

“Hello Sir, just lean back and we’ll get started” the girl Leo and been told was Luna chirped at him. Dutifully he followed her instructions. He’d never had his hair washed like this before and wasn’t really sure where to look or how best to sit however as soon as he sat back the moulded chair and backrest did most of the thinking for him.

“It’s best to just close your eyes and try to relax, I’ll do all the work. If the waters too hot just let me know.” Luna offered, sensing her client was a little out of his comfort zone.

Leo took a breath and closed his eyes, giving in to the situation again as best he could. The feeling of someone else running water over his hair was at first jolting and unnerving but after a moment and a few gentle touches from Luna to move a few stray hairs into the water flow he realised he could quite happily stay in this chair for hours on end.

“Would you like a scalp massage as well sir? Complimentary of course.” Luna asked from behind the basin

“Would love one!” Leo replied back with just an excited murmur, realising he was almost falling asleep he was soo relaxed. Ella glanced up from her phone as she waited back at the styling chair. Seeing the look on Leo’s face as the scalp massage started, she knew he could be moulded like clay now. Luna’s scalp massages were heavenly and actually started to feel a little jealous of Leo.

“Lean forward a little for me please sir,” Luna asked as she picked up a towel and lightly dried Leos hair before wrapping it up and moving around to help him stand and lead him back to the styling chair. Leo thanked her and could see the beer he had asked for waiting for him on the mirror ledge, the light showing the glistening condensation off the glass, he smiled as he took a quick swig of the ice-cold bottle and took a seat in the styling chair. Glancing around as he heard a cart being pushed across the floor, he felt his gut tighten as he saw Sandra pushing the cart which some sort of chemical treatment arranged out along with some cutting shears and combs.

“Jesus that’s so much longer than I thought” Ella commented beside the chair as the towel was taken away and the topknot hung even longer down to one side, the dampness causing it to coil around itself a little. Sandra smiled but worked silently, carefully combing all of Leo’s hair out, pushing all but a small section at the crown forward.

“Ok, Leo, as much that I’m looking forward to this, as I bet Ella is too,” Sandra gave her a little smile,” It is your hair after all. This is your last chance to call it off.” she said definitely to him through the mirror. Leo stared at himself for a moment, contemplating to himself how this could turn out. He glanced at Ella quickly and wondered how upset she’d be if he backed out at the last minute. He’d never hear the end of it! But still, he realised that maybe she was right to push him into this, to try something new. He reached forward and took a long swig from the beer before looking in the mirror.

“Please don’t make me regret this!” he said ruefully before giving a curt nod and a “Go for it!”.

Sandra replied with a slight nod of her own before taking up a handled comb and shears. Starting at Leo’s crown she took a section and combed it out away from the head. Pinching her fingers around two inches from the root and calmly snipping away the several inches she’d decided needed. As he saw the beginnings of his topknot being taken from him Leo gave a little sigh, whereas Ella couldn’t be happier. She’d hated the idea of the topknot ever since she realised that was Leo’s aim, internally calling it the “rat-knot”.

With her guide length in place, Sandra combed the hair at the crown down and picked up part of the guide and part of the uncut hair, lifting it away at the same angle and blunt cutting to match her initial cut. She enjoyed soft *plop* each chunk of cut hair made on her client’s shoulder before it slides into his lap.

“So when was the last time you had something more traditional?” Sandra asked as she rustled the sectioned she’d already cut, seeing how it lay before she continued to work her way forward.

“Maybe about a year now I think,” Leo replied, still a little in shock at seeing that year of work starting to littering the cape. “It started off as just wanting a bit more length on top to style and then it just sort of became a whole other thing.”

Sandra stepped around to the side and started lifting the hair straight up and snipping away, for now avoiding the hair at the front and fringe section, easily able to hold a conversation and cut at the same time.

“Well it was a very trendy thing to have for a while, all the models had it, all the guys trying to capture the Khal Drogo look.” She ruffled one side of his hair again, checking it lay how she wished before matching the same snips on the other side. Wet, brown strands falling like rain.

“You not a fan then?” Leo asked, already knowing the answer. He could tell how Sandra was particularly joyous as she carved through what was left of his topknot.

“In terms of business, it was actually very good! Guys associate long hair with salons so they tended to come to us to help keep them in good shape.” she stepped around the chair, coming in front of Leo and pulling the uncut hair forward, which made a fairly thick veil and making her client instinctively close his eyes “Personally I hate them though. Having long hair to just tie-up goes against all my professional instincts.”

She placed her finger on Leo’s chin, adjusting him so he was looking dead ahead with a straight neck. Using her free hand to keep the blades of the shears completely steady, she started to rapidly point cut across Leo’s forehead. She got halfway across before she stopped and combed what she’d done so far. She heard the unmistakable sound of a camera shutter and instinctively glanced at her pocket, thinking for a moment her own phone had developed a mind of its own.

“Sorry!” Ella apologised as she quickly put her phone back down, “It was such a good action shot I couldn’t resist.” she smiled cutely.

“Don’t post that for the love of god!” Leo growled as he opened his eyes and glanced sideways at her. Just as he closed his eyes again he caught sight of his half-finished fringe in the mirror, “Fuck me…” he breathed before closing eyes, willing the result to be something he would approve of.

“Way too late to start backing out now!” Sandra teased as she continued her precision point cutting across his forehead, the rhythmic clicking of the blades like a military drum beat. As she reached the other side of the fringe she combed it out a few times, chipping little hairs off here and there that she could see. “Ok I need you to actually open your eyes now to make sure this sits right with your forehead relaxed,” she instructed.

Leo gave a reluctant sigh but obliged, a soft “Woah..” was the only audible reaction he gave, his eye’s growing a little wide. Sandra knew from that little indicator that her client was starting to come around, she just hoped that what else she had in mind didn’t put him off for good.

“I’m still going to take some weight out and texturise the front, it’s not going to be as full and blunt as that,” Sandra commented as she stepped to Leo’s side, taking horizontal sections from the front and deep point cutting down towards her fingers. She tussled and ruffled the hair after each section, observing how it lay with its new length and adjusting as she went. It didn’t take her long to work the one length blunt fringe into a beautifully textured front that complimented the new top length perfectly.

“Now I’ve always had a policy of not using clippers in this salon, so how I do the back and sides might be something quite new to you, but I’m sure you’ll appreciate it once I’m done,” Sandra commented as she stepped back around to her trolley, changing to a very fine comb and a narrower and sharper-looking set of shears.

“Well it’s actually starting to look pretty stylish so I guess I should trust you” Leo admitted with a smile towards Ella.

“You’re in the best hands,” Ella reassured as she stretched out and gave his leg a reassuring pat.

They both watched as Sandra took her shears and held the tips of the blades almost flush to Leos skin at his nape. She started a quick, metronome-like cutting action. The blades flicking open and closed as they cut the hair down to a short stubble. She moved back and forth around the base of Leos’s hair as she made her guide length, a barely visible stubble, before switching to scissor over comb and graduating the length steadily longer as it connected to the top.

Leo sat as still as he could and admired Sandra’s work. It was far more labour intensive than using clippers but the results felt gentler compared to the cold vibrating metal he had become used to. With each glancing pass of the comb and rapid flicking of the scissors, he could see the tiniest of hairs dance away onto his shoulders. After what felt like almost 20 minutes Sandra straightened up looked at her client in the mirror proudly.

“This suits you soooo much better than that silly topknot, dont’cha think?” she suggested as she toyed with the fringe a little.

“I… gotta admit I’m really liking it” Leo managed to stammer out with a steadily growing grin. He glanced at Ella who was positively beaming.

“Now let’s get to the colour!” Sandra announced excitedly.

“The colour?!” Leo whispered back. Throughout getting his new haircut he had forgetting he had noticed the chemical treatment waiting for him in the cart beside Sandra.

“Oh don’t worry” Sandra reassured him “I’m keeping it very on-trend, very acceptable in a modern workplace” she finished as she pulled on a pair of black latex gloves.

“What sort of process is going to be?” Ella asked, trying to gauge how long the wait was going to be until they were done.

“Bleaching, toning and a little colouring,” Sandra replied. Leo’s mouth dropped open as he realised he wasn’t escaping the chair any time soon. He heard Sandra stirring and mixing in the bleach. Without any warning, he felt the short brush being run into his hair leaving behind a white paste that had a hint of blue to it.

“This’ll be a while, Ella, you can go get a message upstairs if you want? Complimentary as thanks for bringing me such a fun client!” Sandra smiled at her

“Don’t I get anything?” Leo complained as Ella left towards the spa.

“Of course, sorry, I’m enjoying this too much” Sandra replied and made a gesture to one of the trainees. Within moments Leo had a tablet propped up in front of him and was watching series on Netflix. He was so lost in the latest episode he didn’t even notice that all but his roots were slowly turning a very stark blonde. After a couple of episodes, he was taken to the washbowl and told it was time for the toning. He didn’t argue, he was completely out his comfort zone and totally at Sandra’s mercy. He lay back and felt more chemical being put into his hair before everything was washed out and he was taken back to the chair. His hair covered by the towel. Right on cue, Ella was walking down the stair from the spa having gotten a Swedish massage and feeling dreamlike as a result. She took her chair again beside Leo, excited for the final reveal.

“Ready?” Sandra asked, her hand resting on the towel.

“Does it matter if I’m not?” Leo replied playfully, his stomach doing cartwheels.

Sandra slowly lifted the towel away and out tumbled his french crop cut, his roots were still his natural dark brown quickly changed to a cool silver at the tips.

“Holy shit!” Leo breathed as he stared at himself. He had prepared an impulse to hate whatever he saw but he couldn’t help but crack a smile, he actually liked it!

“I’m still to blow dry and style it but yeah, I think it’s come out really well,” Sandra commented. All Ella could manage was a gleeful nod, all she had hoped for was that Leo would like it and he clearly did. Leo watched closely as Sandra styled his hair, using a little heat protection spray to shape the french crop into place. He couldn’t argue that it was pretty low maintenance to style.

“So what exactly do I call this cut? Say, if one of my mates wants to get something similar?” Leo asked

“This is a french crop, although some people might call it a ceaser crop,” Sandra answered as she used a large-toothed comb to finish the look, “And you’ve got silver ombre going from your natural brown. But please don’t let any of your friend’s steal your style. I don’t want bad copies of my work walking around!”

As they paid Leo simply said to the receptionist “Just charge it, don’t tell me how much it is” with a wink to Ella. They left with a complimentary bag that had samples of the best shampoos and products Leo should use to keep his colour as fresh as possible. Back in the car, they both breathed with relief. The only thing they managed to say over silly looks and giggling was “That was fucking awesome!”

Part 3: Her Turn

“How does it feel?” Ella asked as they moved along steadily in the Saturday afternoon traffic.

“Lighter, that’s for sure” Leo laughed as he continued to look at himself in the passenger sun visor mirror, “I can’t believe I have silver hair!”

“Well believe it babe, it looks amazing on you. You’ll have to keep going back to Sandra to keep it looking nice though.”

“I know I know,” Leo came back with calmly “I don’t mind spending money on it now that’s for sure!”

They continued to drive on till they got to the right street. Ella could see the spinning barber pole on the next bloke of shops “Just go in the little side street there, you can almost never get parked on the main road,” Leo instructed.

Ella obliged and quickly pulled into the first available space.

“Ugh, my ends look a complete mess without the extensions in.” Ella commented as she looked herself in the rearview mirror, “Going to be soo nice just to get them trimmed and looking fresh again.” she finished as she gathered her phone and purse.

“Trimmed?” Leo looked up sharply at her in disbelief, “What are you talking about?”

“Well look…” she held one particularly frayed section of her left side, “Messy messy!”

Leo kept looking at her in obvious disbelief, “You…. actually think that’s fair?! You think that’s what we agreed on?” he asked incredulously.

“Wh…what’s the problem?” Ella asked, starting to feel fearful. She was at a loss as to why Leo was so upset.

“We agreed,” Leo persisted, doing his absolute best to keep his voice calm, “That I would get a cut at your place, and you’d get a cut at my place.”

“Yeah…” Ella replied back hesitantly, sensing she was missing something. Then it hit her. It hit her hard. “You… you thought I was going to get, whatever they wanted?!” she barely managed to squeak out.

“Well yeah, duh!” Leo came back quickly “And I’d maybe be ok with you just getting a trim if all I got was a little undercut to my topknot or some highlights. But now…” he reached up and touched the silver hair at his forehead. “It’s only fair if we see how you handle it”

Ella could feel the colour drain from her face “But… but… it’s a barbers. Who know’s what they’ll do!?” she complained meekly.

“Well for a start it’s not a ‘they’ or any random. It’s Lauren that’ll be doing yours. I messaged her on the way here, she’s kept her chair free just for you. And everyone who works in that shop is amazing, but she’s the best of them all. She even teaches classes on skin fading!”

Ella was hardly comforted by any of this, “But… but…” she started.

“But what if she cuts it really short?” Leo finished the question for her. Ella just managed to nod in reply. “So what if she does?” he came back, “I’m sure Lauren would make you look amazing, it’s not her way to let a someone out her chair with something she doesn’t think is her best.” he paused before adding, “And I think it’ll be for your own good!” he smirked at her.

Ella felt momentarily numb, she was trapped and Leo knew it. She’d just manipulated and pressured him into sitting down at her salon and letting whatever was to happen to his hair happen. Now he was putting her almost in the same place. Just with the major difference of it being in a barbershop. She felt Leo’s hand curl around hers.

“We push each other, remember?” he said lovingly, “We promised to help each other experience life, as much of it as we could. You’ve had long hair forever and you’ve looked amazing for sure, but it’s not what defines you.” he finished.

Ella smiled at him, she felt the rush of blood come back to her head and she felt a little more lucid. She glanced at her phone, the screensaver a picture from the wedding they had been at the weekend before. Her with flowing waist-length hair and Leo with his perfectly oiled topknot, arm-in-arm and beaming. She remembered she had caught the bouquet a few minutes before the picture was taken and for the first time had seriously considered what she would say if Leo ever proposed to her. She knew he was right, she couldn’t back out of this one.

“This is going to be an experience, isn’t it?” she asked him half-laughing

“That’ll make two experiences for the day.” he smiled before leaning over to kiss her. A slow and firm kiss on the lips, no tongue. She always enjoyed those kisses, it reminded her of their first awkward kiss at a music festival.

They got out the car and made they’re way across to the door under the spinning red and white pole. Ella wrapped her arm in Leo’s, this time for own security instead of his as they strode through the entrance.

Ella felt numb as she entered the shop. Her senses overwhelmed by all the sights, smells and noise that bombarded her. A dozen conversations, the sound of hairdryers screaming off the low hum of clippers. All of the barbers stood behind or in their perspective chairs wearing there own unique clothing with uniforms not even considered, different screens tuned to different sports games, a mismatch of movie posters and album covers peppered the walls behind the mirrors. The scents of hair sprays, gels, alcohol disinfected and clipper oil hung in the air, an aromatic combination that was bewildering to her.

They walked along the line of waiting benches facing the chairs until Leo stopped.

“Hey Lauren” he smiled at the woman waiting in the chair.

“Leo?! Oh my god! They really got you good!” she gasped as she stood up to greet them.

It was now Ella’s turn stand in awe at the woman she was about to sit down in front of. Lauren stood a little shorter than her but her presence was unmistakable. She wore a comfy well-worn pair of black converse all-stars,  high waist faux leather leggings and sleeveless black satin open-backed top. Her right arm was covered in ornate tattoos that Ella could have spent an hour pouring over each detail. Then it came to her hair. Shoulder-length and flame-red, all pulled around to one side to show off a sidecut that started at her temple and finished well behind her ear.

“Yeah well… I kinda like it” Leo replied sheepishly “So I might not be coming back here for a while” he went on, struggling to hold her gaze as he felt like he was letting her down.

“It’s alright” she came back quickly “People find new places to get what they want. Can’t hold it against you” she grinned as she looked at Ella finally. “And I guess you’re my newest customer?”

Ella’s throat was completely dry, a quiet “Yeah” with a small nod was all she could manage.

Lauren took a little step to the side and gestured for her to take a seat, immediately sensing Ella’s jitters. She decided to get her in the chair and caped before she said anymore. Leo took a seat in the waiting chairs behind, but not before getting his phone out and strategically resting it on his knee to record the upcoming haircut.

As Ella stepped into the chair and scooted back she felt a cold shiver run right through her, though she had no time to react to it as the flame-haired vixen Lauren was already gathering her hair up and lifting it into a rough bun, using a clip to hold it in place while she retrieved the cape from the armrest. The massive black and white pinstriped cape was flicked over her, completely covering her and almost entirely the elegant barber chair. The rubber neoprene collar that was sewn into the cape was fixed tightly around her neck, she knew there was no chance any stray hairs getting inside.

“So whatever I want right?” Lauren asked in the mirror as she took out the clip holding Ella’s hair, dropping it down over her shoulder.

“Well yes… but….” Ella stammered, she could feel the tension and nerves starting to build inside her. “Could… could you at least… give me an idea of what you’re thinking first?”

“So you can back out?” Lauren came back quietly, with a rueful tone.

“No… no.. nothing like that.” Ella replied hurriedly. “I just want to have something to try and be ready for. I woke up this morning with waist-length hair and well, I don’t think you’re just going to give me a reshape.” she finished, giving Lauren a pleading look. Lauren didn’t reply. She didn’t know what to say. She’d never had a client in her chair who was giving her complete control but, at the same time, was so obviously terrified of what she might do to them.

“Are you thinking short?” Ella tried, knowing she’d rather find out sooner rather than later. Lauren paused before nodded slowly. “Are you thinking really short?” Ella asked again, her stomach doing summersaults. Again, Lauren simply replied with a slow nod. “Fuck…” Ella breathed, which didn’t go unnoticed by Lauren.

“I’ve got every intention to make you look amazing in the best way I know how,” Lauren commented, starting to question her even agreeing to this bizarre arrangement.

Ella gave her a puzzled look “Best way you know how?” she repeated back to her.

Lauren held her arm up in the mirror and indicated something amongst the tattoos that covered it. It took Ella a moment to realise she was actually reading the tattooed message the right way around in the mirror. She mouthed “Queen of Fades” as she read the calligraphic writing, her heart somehow sinking even further.

“And that’s a title I can back up for damn sure! Not that you’re man over there ever let me prove it on him” Lauren added, glancing back briefly towards Leo.

“You really think I’ll look good with a fade?” Ella asked, feeling like it was an out of body experience just asking.

“Let me put it this way,” Lauren leant in a little closer so to be sure only Ella could hear as she whispered in her ear. “If I really have lost one of my customers to that salon, then I’m making sure to steal one back off them.” Ella felt her nail grazing her neck, “And if that means I have to pull off one the best fades I’ve ever done on you, then hunny, you better be ready for one hell of a haircut!” she finished in a soothing tone.

Ella felt like she was being hypnotized as Lauren gazed at her in the mirror. Maybe it was her being in the chair and under the cape, maybe it was because she felt a tad guilty Lauren had lost Leo as a customer, maybe it was the gentle tingles being sent through her by her delicate nails, or maybe she just felt like being just that daring.

“Ok! It’s all yours do as you want!” she nodded, the surge of adrenaline dulling almost any sense of apprehension she’d had.

“You’re gonna look amazing!” Lauren whispered to her as gave her shoulder a squeeze before reaching past her to the counter and picking up a pair of hair bands from the scattered selection. Ella could feel herself going tingly and feeling flush as a paddle brush was racked through her hair, dragging it back for Lauren to bundle into her hand. She felt like she was back at dance school it was getting pulled so tight and then tied snuggly at the back of her head. One band at the top of the ponytail, one band at the base.

“So do you want to donate this? I’m pretty sure it’s good condition enough for it.” Lauren asked as she inspected the ponytail briefly before going to the pink leather cutting pouch she had strapped on her hip.

Ella realised this was it. The point of no return. She wasn’t even being asked if she was sure. If she to stop this, she had to speak up now! All she did she did though, was smile, and nod.

“Here we go then” Lauren declared as she slid the scissors in and began cutting through the thick, tight dense of hair. She took her time, delicately cutting small sections at the band. She saw no point in ruining her favourite shears by trying to saw through all in one go. As she cut each section Ella felt the tension at various parts of her head begin to ease. First at her ear, then slowly forward to her temple and up across her forehead. Like a robe slowly snapping, each strand spring back into place as it was let loose by the scissors. Ella couldn’t bring herself to look at herself in the mirror so she glanced at Leo. His slack-jawed expression as he stared at the back of her head offering little comfort to her torment. One measured hard snip and the tugging at the back of her head stopped. Ella watched as her detached ponytail was lifted away from the back of her head and held up like a prize before Lauren gave her head a ruffle and she saw the lopsided bob she now had. She gulped as she observed one side of her hair was at her chin while the other barely came down to mid-cheek.

“Not got much of a choice to let me do what I want!” Lauren quipped playfully, clearly relishing the power she had over Ella as she lay the smooth ponytail on the counter and began preparing a set of hair grippers. Ella gave Leo a resigned look in the mirror, to which he responded with a nervous thumbs up. The way her hair fell over one side of her face reminded her of the typical “Karen” haircut. She hoped to god that would be changing soon.

Lauren started splitting the top section away from the back and sides, sliding and pressing the hair grips in to hold the hair in place.

“I’m going to change which side your parting is, just because your crown is on this side here,” Lauren commented, touching the back of Ella’s head, “It’ll be much easier to style and it’ll sit better too.”

Ella smiled that she understood, comforted a little that Lauren was adept and confident enough to notice the little details. Her heart started to race as she watched a large pair of cordless clippers be picked up, sprayed with oil and a relatively small looking guard was snapped on. “I’ll just be taking the bulk off first ok? A number two all around and then I’ll fade it out afterwards,” Lauren commented matter of factly as she flicked the clippers on, the *POP* loud and pronounced even above the noise of the busy shop. Ella sat transfixed as the clippers were brought up her cheek and into the hair in front of her ear. The vibrations seemed to flood through her whole body, making her feel flush and euphoric. She was grateful that Lauren had a firm grip of her head as she flicked the clippers up and down, she could feel herself wanting to fidget and stir as she felt and heard her hair being buzzed down.

As a bundle of brown hair cascaded down her shoulder, Ella dared to turn her head just enough to see the damage. She barely managed to suppress a squeak of shock that she could clearly see skin under the short, bristly fuzz that she still couldn’t quite believe was all that was left of her hair. A gentle push from behind her prompted her to look down. Closing her eyes, she gripped the armrests under the cape till her fingers were sore as she felt the soothing vibrations pass up her neck followed by the gentle waft of cool air. As her head was lent to the other side she opened her eyes to steal a glance at Leo. She was warmed to see he look utterly petrified at seeing his partner be severely barbered as if it was an everyday thing. He didn’t need to know how much she was enjoying this just yet, it was her little secret.

Laura switched out the large set of clippers for a much smaller, corded set marked ‘ANDIS’. “A high bald line’s going to be so good on you” she commentated as she returned to her side. Ella wasn’t sure what this comment meant at first until she saw Laura carefully press the teeth against the side of her head, high up in line with her temple, and she saw the literal bald line that was left behind. She barely had enough time to take in how pale she thought her skin looked before she felt Laura work back around her head, touching the clippers to her scalp and seeing the tiny hairs jump away. Eventually, she had a bald line halo circling her head.

“I’ll fade it up from there and get the rest later,” Laura commented as she switched back to the first set of clippers, laying out a row of steadily increasing guards. Ella watched as she worked around her head with each of the guards, going back and forth and higher and higher. The arm holding the clippers was metronome-like in its rhythm as it flicked up and down, like a sculpture delicately carving out stone. When Laura shut off the clippers for the last time she suddenly became aware that the back and sides of her head were warm from persistent clippers running over them. The 1/4 inch length all-around had transformed into flawless graduation from the bald line all the way to the top section. Ella couldn’t help but just see the rather odd look of having a fuzzy buzz still sitting around her ears and nape, and had to remind herself that Laura had said she wasn’t done there yet.

The hair clips were taken out of the top and the spray bottle began to dampen and darken the hair. Ella squirmed as she felt the spray, promptly a friendly “Sorry, forgot to warn you! You’ll get used to it though,” from Laura as a droplet trickled down her nape. Once she was happy the hair was sufficiently wet, Laura took up her comb and shears and got to work. Starting at the front she took a section, lifting it diagonally back and towards the crown and snipped away the hair that stuck out past her fingers. Ella still couldn’t believe how much hair still coming off even now as she felt a wet chunk catch her on its way past to her lap. Laura was working fast with a well-practised motion of section, lifting, snipping and combing back in, the time pressures from her first barbering jobs had made her incapable of wasting a snap of her shears. She could already see how thick and unruly Ella’s hair might be was even when wet so, once she had finished the length cut, she took her thinning shears and gently ran them diagonally throw Ella’s hair in a criss-cross pattern.

Ella sat with a little grin on her face, she was thinking how strange life was that she had woke up that morning with waist-length hair, albeit partially fake, and now she was watching her partner’s former barber work her length down to at most a few inches on top and almost nothing everywhere else. She caught Leo’s eye in the mirror and gave him a reassuring nod and smile, to which replied with a smile of his own.

The blast of the hairdryer brought Ella’s attention back to Laura. A mini round brush was racking into her hair and pushing it back, the heat drying it in place. Ella could see the straight-back combover look starting to form as Laura made sure to accentuate and expose the revised parting. She finished off the top with pomade to add a little shine and some hair spray for extra hold. The cut was complete aside from the obvious high collar of buzzed hair under the bald line. Laura picked out a squeeze bottle from the range on the counter and squeezed a generous amount of a clear, oily gel into her hand. She then rubbed the gel all into the buzzed hair under the bald line before using her finger to rub a small line of the goop right at Ella’s new parting. Ella wasn’t sure what to expect as she felt the cool gel seep into her skin and watched as Laura went to a drawer. Her jaw dropped when she saw her take out a straight razor and slide a new blade into the holder, suddenly realising what the cool gel was meant for.

Laura took a tissue and lay it on Ella’s shoulder. She took a firm grip of her clients head before placing the razor blade at the bald line and pushing it down. The 1/4 inch of hair slide away like butter, leaving behind completely bare skin. Ella felt like she could hear and feel each hair as it was stripped away methodically. She felt goosebumps rise as she realised there was not a single hair left below her temple line, which was made even worse when Laura blew lightly on her nape to get rid of a stray hair.

“Last little bit hun,” Laura commented as she stood before her and pulled her head down slightly, scraping the razor in at the parting to accentuate it. “All done!” she chimed as lay down the razor and gave the bare parts of Ella’s head a rub down with a towel and one last quick blast of the dryer. “One badass bald fade comb over” she announced as she undid the cape and released her client.

It was then Ella realised that she was completely exhausted. Getting the haircut had started off as a trauma and had worked its way to one of the most intense and invigorating experiences of her life. Her hands shook a little as she brought them up from her lap to feel her head for the first time. This time she couldn’t suppress the squeak as she felt her own totally smooth nape.

“You look amazing babe!” Leo said as he stood up, “Hell of a new look!” he complimented Laura.

“My model’s amazing,” Laura smiled as she held out her hand to help the jelly legged Ella out the chair. “Every two weeks to keep that looking fresh,” she instructed her new client, “Only if you want to keep it…” she added nervously as she realised Ella hadn’t actually said anything about her new look yet

“Two weeks?!” Ella whispered with amazement and joy, she couldn’t belief she would have an excuse that treatment so often, “Try and stop me!” she beamed as she paid for the cut, a much more reasonable fee compared to her old salon, and left into the street.

“So….?” Leo asked as he felt his partners head and grinned affectionately. Ella closed her eyes and bit her lip, Leo’s hands were bigger and stronger than hers and felt amazing against her bald fade. “We good?” he asked again

Ella turned and stood up on her toes as she always did to kiss Leo, pulling him down and wrapping her arms around his neck. She didn’t care that it was in the middle of a busy street, she kissed him like they were home alone. Just the two of them in bliss.

5 responses to “Trading Places

    1. Thanks for the lovely comment 🙂 So happy you enjoyed it!

      Leo’s cut was actually loosely based on a real-life work friend who’d had a gorgeous full-on man bun for years before just coming into the office one day with it all chopped off. We were all a little devasted haha.

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