“You’ve put it off long enough. It’s time to swallow your pride and get it done,” he shouted.
“Can’t this wait?” she pleaded, tears welling in her eyes. “I’m really not ready.”
He stood facing her, hands on hips. “You’ll never be ready,” he snorted. “You’re going do it today.”
“Please,” she sobbed. “I didn’t mean it when I said I’d get my hair cut. I don’t know what I was thinking. I must have been outta my mind.”
“Yeah, sure,” he snarled. “After I went and paid off your credit card. Now you say you didn’t mean it. Well, there’s a simple solution. All you have to do is pay me back the twelve hundred bucks I’m out and I’ll forget about your haircut.”
“Please Gavin, you know I don’t have that kind of money,” she begged. “Isn’t there some other way I can make it up to you?”
“A deal is a deal, Chrissie,” he told her firmly. “You promised you would get your hair cut. Now it’s time to own up. You’ve been stalling for months. I’m not waiting any longer. Today is the day.”
She began weeping freely. Begging for mercy was hopeless. What had she been thinking when she made the deal with him? It was a pact with the devil. Now the bill had come due.
Gavin and Chrissie worked together at the Long Branch Saloon, a Western-themed combination restaurant and watering hole in a gentrified section of the city. Gavin was the bartender and manager. The owner came around once in a while, but as long as the revenue stream was steady he let Gavin run the show. At six-foot-three and a muscular 230 pounds, the former collegiate wrestler with a gleaming shaved head and bushy beard seldom had to resort to force when dealing with rowdy patrons. His physical presence and air of quiet authority usually was enough to subdue even the worst offenders.
In most ways Chrissie was his opposite. She stood five-foot-one and weighed barely one hundred pounds. Even in the cowboy boots that all the wait staff wore, she was tiny standing next to him. With a winning smile and a cheerful demeanor, she made friends easily. A part-time waitress and barmaid, she had worked at the Long Branch for only six months, but during that time she and Gavin had grown close.
They say that opposites attract, and there was no denying that they were attracted to each other. Like most female patrons and servers, Chrissie saw Gavin as a hunk—a good looking guy who was super-protective of the girls who worked for him. More than once he had intervened when drunken male customers made inappropriate passes in her direction. The first time he trailed her back to her apartment after closing time they shared drinks. Although he didn’t date his employees as a rule, he had no problem making an exception in Chrissie’s case. Gavin spent that night in her bed and many nights thereafter. In fact, most nights she worked were followed by a post-midnight rendezvous. At the Long Branch they hid their deepening bond behind a front of irreverent banter. The sex was good, they both agreed, but there was no talk of a serious relationship. She considered him as more of a buddy and confidante than a boyfriend; he seemed to feel the same way toward her.
For his part, Gavin was fascinated by this petite server whom he hired despite her limited experience. She was a reliable worker, always on time for her shifts—a trait in short supply among most of the wait staff he employed. He was especially fascinated by the thick brown ponytail hanging halfway down Chrissie’s back. Many times he paused while mixing drinks to watch the silky bundle of chestnut hair swinging back and forth as she navigated the crowded bar balancing a tray loaded with dinner orders. On these occasions he let his mind wander, imagining what Chrissie would look like minus her trademark ponytail. Not long after she started working for him, Gavin resolved to make that happen.
Since reaching puberty he had nurtured a secret fascination—some would call it an obsession—with short-haired women. The thought of an attractive female having her long hair shorn into a radically brief hairstyle gave him an instant hard on. When interviewing prospective waitresses he always paid attention to the length of their hair, giving preference to those with the most abundant tresses. A casual observer might have surmised he was fixated on long-haired women, but the opposite was true. His spare moments were spent scheming and plotting ways to persuade them to cut their hair. With Chrissie he realized his first opportunity to actually put his fantasy into action.
Gavin knew Chrissie was in desperate straits. She told him how harassing calls from the collection agency were getting more frequent and more insistent. She tried changing her number, but they always tracked her down. A year ago, when she charged all those lovely dresses and expensive shoes to wear out to the clubs, she was confident she could cover the monthly payments. She had a good job at a bank, but that ended with the recession and a “reduction in force.” Since she was among the most recent hires, Chrissie got laid off. Then the landlord raised her rent. Her elderly mother might have bailed her out with a loan, but Chrissie was unwilling to impose her financial difficulties on the woman who already paid for her college education.
Chrissie could always move back home and reclaim her high school job at the neighborhood pizza parlor, but that would be too humiliating. She told all of her friends she was going to make it in the big city. She could never go back to that boring small town existence. Two months without a paycheck drained her savings account. That’s when she applied for the job at the Long Branch. Waiting tables was physically demanding, but it was steady work and the tips were good. She could pay her rent and utilities, gas and insurance for her second-hand Honda, and a frugal food budget, but there was very little left over to make credit card payments.
That’s when Gavin had come to her rescue—her white knight, or so she thought. Not only did he hire her, but when he learned of her financial predicament he offered to pay off her credit card balance. He only wanted one thing in return. She was desperate to be debt free and readily accepted his proposition. Gavin wrote the check and the calls from the collection agency miraculously stopped.
When he explained that he wanted her to get her hair cut short she thought he was kidding. She didn’t understand why he wanted her to cut her hair, but at first that didn’t really concern her. However, it was only a few weeks until she realized how serious he was. Each time he stopped by her apartment for a night cap after closing the Long Branch he asked, “When you gonna do it?”
“Soon,” she told him more than once, but it didn’t take him long to figure out she was stalling; she really had no intention of cutting her hair.
Tuesday was Gavin’s day off. He showed up at Chrissie’s apartment early in the afternoon. He guessed she would be home since her shift didn’t start until five. “Today’s the day,” he announced in a determined voice.
Chrissie was startled by his unexpected arrival in the middle of the day. “What do you mean?” she asked.
“Get your jacket. You’re gonna to get your hair cut.”
When she hesitated he went to the closet, grabbed a well-worn jeans jacket and tossed it in her direction. “We’re going now—no more excuses,” he demanded, seizing her elbow and shoving her out the door. She had seen this side of Gavin in the bar dealing with unruly customers, but she never dreamed he would treat her so roughly.
There was little use protesting. She had freely agreed to his bargain. Besides, all he had to do was complain about her work to the Long Branch’s owner and she would be out of a job. She really had no choice.
He opened the door to his pickup and pushed her inside. They rode in frosty silence, heading toward the downtown business district. Ten minutes later he pulled up in front of a strip of rather shabby older buildings. “Where are we going?” she cried as he forcibly escorted her down the sidewalk.
“You’ll find out soon enough,” he tersely replied.
She scanned the street in vain for a beauty parlor. Then her eyes froze on a revolving red, white, and blue striped pole fastened to a shop at the end of the block. Chrissie dug in her heels. “I’m not going in there,” she pleaded when she realized where he was taking her. “You didn’t say anything about getting my hair cut in a barbershop. I won’t go in there.”
“I never promised you’d get your hair cut in a salon,” he retorted. “All I said is that you would have to get your hair cut short if you didn’t pay me back. You could have gone to a salon, had it done and I wouldn’t have complained. But that was three months ago, Chrissie. Now it’s time to pay the piper.”
“But letting some barber chop off my hair?” she protested frantically. “That would be too awful.”
“Look Chrissie,” he told her sternly, “you’re a cute kid and I like you, but you don’t have a lot of options here, if you know what I mean.”
She knew too well what he meant. Gavin made no bones about it; he had unquestioned power to hire and fire at the Long Branch. When the recession hit most job openings dried up. Even waitressing positions were hard to come by. Chrissie knew she was lucky to have the Long Branch job. Given her circumstances, it was the best she could do. Even though everyone said she was cute, she was hardly Hooters material.
She had run out of options. It was either get the barbershop haircut he desired or start packing to go home. It wasn’t much of a decision. “All right, I’ll do it,” she reluctantly conceded, “but that’s all. Don’t get any ideas about spending the night.”
He gave her a firm shove, propelling her toward the barbershop entrance. He held the door as she warily crossed the threshold. She looked around and studied the unfamiliar interior. Two older men, both wearing white smocks, lounged in large chrome and leather chairs on one side of the brightly lit room. A row of stackable chairs, the kind with plastic seats and a metal frame, lined the wall on the opposite side. One barber rose from his seat and approached them. “Hello Gavin. How you doing, young fellow?” he said by way of greeting. The two men were obviously acquainted. The barber didn’t wait for a reply, but continued, “And who’s your pretty little girlfriend?”
“Hi Harry,” Gavin answered. “I’d like you to meet Chrissie. She’s come for a haircut.”
“Is that so?” Harry mused, a lecherous smile creasing his face. “Don’t get many women in here, certainly none as pretty as you are, missy, but I’ll be happy to oblige.”
Chrissie started to protest. She didn’t want this creepy old barber fondling her precious locks, but Gavin cut her off. “Chrissie needs a haircut, Harry, a short haircut. She’s tired of long hair. It’s such a hassle. She wants a wash and wear style, you know, something she can comb into place after a shower without any muss or fuss. I told her you’d be glad to help her out.”
“That so, darlin’?” Harry asked, leering in her direction.
Chrissie smiled nervously, but said nothing. She was petrified, fearful of what Gavin would do if she said no and dreading what the barber would do if she said yes.
The barber took her silence for assent. “In that case, why don’t you take off your jacket and step up to my chair?” he said with a flourish.
Gavin took the jacket and firmly shoved Chrissie toward the waiting chair while the second barber put down his newspaper to watch the unfolding drama. She timidly climbed into the throne-like chair, her slender body filling only half the roomy seat.
Harry tended to his unwilling client, spreading a fresh white cape around her shoulders and approaching with a long strip of tissue. “Lift up your ponytail, darlin’, so I can wrap this round your neck,” he instructed.
Chrissie did as she was told while the barber wound the tissue beneath her chin and snapped the cape snugly behind her neck. He pumped a pedal below the seat until he and his diminutive client sat eye to eye.
Chrissie looked anxious and vulnerable. Her lip trembled slightly and she appeared to be on the verge of tears. The barber tried to comfort her. “Now darlin’, there’s nothing to worry about. Hair cuttin’s pretty much the same whether you do it in a beauty parlor or a barber shop. Just tell old Harry how you want your hair cut and I’ll take real good care of you.”
“Ask Gavin,” she said, her voice barely audible. “He knows.”
“Is that so?” the barber said, mildly surprised. Turning to Gavin he continued. “The young lady says you know how I should cut her hair.”
“She needs a boy’s haircut,” he said without hesitation. “Short on the back and sides, close enough so her ears show. Longer on top, but not too long, and parted on the side. You know, a regular boy’s haircut.” The description of her imminent transformation came so easily from Gavin’s lips that it sounded rehearsed. He had come well prepared for this moment.
Chrissie blanched when she heard what Gavin had in mind, but swallowed her objection, not wanting to make a scene and knowing he would not relent.
“My, my, that’s gonna be quite a change,” Harry observed wickedly. Obviously, he was a willing collaborator in Gavin’s heartless scheme. “That all right with you, darlin’?” he inquired with false concern.
Chrissie trembled beneath the cape. She glanced at Gavin who glared back at her, a thinly veiled threat in his dark eyes. This was her last chance to escape with her hair intact. After a long silence Chrissie swallowed hard and said in a quavering voice, “Yes, that’s what I want. Cut it like he said.”
A smug smile spread across Gavin’s face as he settled into one of the plastic chairs to observe every detail of Chrissie’s impending haircut.
Harry picked up a pair of scissors and snipped the band holding Chrissie’s ponytail in place. She shook out her unfettered locks so they dangled nearly two feet down the back of the chair. The barber began running a comb through her immaculate chestnut mane; his victim struggled to maintain her composure. She closed her eyes, mutely enduring Harry’s grooming. She tried to will herself elsewhere, desperately straining to remember a happier place and time.
After three minutes of preparation Harry announced, “I’ll begin by cutting the bulk.” His words resounded like a death sentence. There was nothing Chrissie could do to fend off the impending disaster. The realization that he would begin chopping off her precious hair froze her helplessly in place. “This won’t take long,” he said, trying to comfort his terrified customer.
Harry placed his scissors near her jaw, slowly closing the silver blades. Chrissie watched helplessly as an eighteen-inch ribbon of her dark brown hair silently slid to the floor. An unsightly gap appeared in the locks covering her shoulder. Two tears rolled down Chrissie’s cheeks. If the barber noticed her distress, he didn’t let it interfere with his task. He quickly seized another section and casually sliced it off.
Gavin sat on the opposite side of the small room, keenly observing every detail of Chrissie’s haircut. From the delighted look on the face of the man she once considered her best friend she could see her ordeal was giving him immense pleasure. She thought, “I used to think he was a nice guy. How could I have been so wrong? What kind of man enjoys seeing a woman humiliated like this?”
The barber continued ruthlessly amputating Chrissie’s glossy mane, seemingly oblivious to her anguish. Each cut was a painful stab to her vanity, a brutal blow to her dwindling self-esteem. Because she was turned facing Gavin and away from the large mirror on the wall, Chrissie could not view the damage being inflicted to her hair, but his triumphant grin was an inescapable reminder of the magnitude of the catastrophe. Without a doubt, this was the worst moment of her twenty-four years.
Harry worked his way around Chrissie’s head, methodically chopping her long locks into a rough bob ending at her jaw. He even had the gall to hum a merry tune hinting that he was enjoying her anguish nearly as much as Gavin. After the last long strand was separated from her head he swiveled the chair so she could not avoid viewing her altered image the mirror. “There you are, darlin’,” he declared. “The worst part is over.”
Chrissie let out a gasp as she focused her moist eyes and beheld her drastically refashioned visage. “Oh my God,” she moaned. It was worse than she had imagined. The ends were hacked in a jagged, almost haphazard fashion. Harry had made no effort to make an even cut, knowing this was just an intermediate stage on her passage to a much shorter hairdo. Chrissie’s center-parted hair now flopped in front of her eyes. She angrily used both hands to thrust the hair away from her face.
The barber noticed her distress. “Don’t you worry, darlin’,” he assured her. “Harry’s gonna fix this up for you right away.”
Chrissie couldn’t bear looking her mutilated image a minute longer. Anything would be better than this ragged mop, she thought. Despite her aversion to short hairstyles, she knew her haircut must continue. “You better start right away,” she demanded in a mournful voice,
“You bet, darlin’,” Harry replied. “But first we need to locate the part. You want it on the right side or the left?”
She hadn’t given this question any thought. “It doesn’t really matter,” she answered.
“We’ll try the left. That’s where your natural part seems to be,” he proposed.
At this point she just wanted this ordeal to end as quickly as possible. “Fine with me. Go ahead,” she declared.
Harry grabbed a spray bottle and sent a mist of water over her head, thoroughly soaking her tresses. After combing her hair forward, he drew a sharp line down the left side of her head and combed the dampened hair across her crown.
“Now we’re gonna get down to business,” the barber announced eagerly.
Chrissie braced herself for the next round of cutting, dreading the result, yet anxious to get it over with.
Harry selected a lock from the top of her head, held it between his fingers and snipped it off three inches above her scalp. His shell-shocked victim silently mourned as he casually tossed the severed hair to the floor. A second cut followed, then a third and a fourth in rapid succession. Chrissie recoiled with each metallic crunch of the scissor blades. The beautiful locks she had lovingly groomed for so many years now lay carelessly strewn on the floor, trampled under the barber’s feet. The hair left on her head was being heartlessly chopped to a uniformly shortened length. In the mirror she glimpsed Gavin sitting behind her. He seemed engrossed in the unfolding scene, relishing the drama that he had orchestrated.
After he finished cropping the top Harry combed Chrissie’s hair down onto her forehead and sliced a neat line an inch above eyebrow level. These bangs remained in place for only a moment, however, before he brushed them back off her face, imparting a more masculine styling. Now she really looked like a guy. When is this going to end, she sadly asked herself.
The barber immediately went to work on the right side of Chrissie’s head, using the same technique he used on the top, but cutting it closer to the scalp, this time leaving only about an inch. He carefully trimmed around her ear, leaving it fully exposed. For a finishing touch, he trimmed her sideburn to a point extending down her cheek.
After repeating the same steps on the left side, only the back was left. Harry grasped a bunch of longer hairs and, holding them vertically between his fingers, cut it to the same length as the sides. Each bite of the scissors was a fresh source of grief, but Chrissie found some comfort in the thought her nightmare was nearly over.
When at last Harry lay down his scissors, Chrissie breathed a sigh of relief, assuming he was done, but she was mistaken. The barber picked up a small sliver clipper and switched on the power. Chrissie gasped, convinced he now planned to shear her hair even shorter.
Sensing her alarm, Harry quickly assured her. “Darlin’, I’m only using these clippers to taper the back and trim around the edges,” he explained. Chrissie swallowed her objection and sat perfectly still as the barber guided the clippers along the hairline at the sides of her head and clipped the fine hairs on her neck. For a finishing touch he inverted the clippers and neatly squared the inch-long fringe at the base of her neck.
Harry handed Chrissie a mirror so she could scrutinize her haircut from all sides. “Well, what do you think, darlin’?” he asked.
“It’s so short,” she said in a sorrowful voice. “I don’t know what to think.”
“But that’s what you asked for,” the barber replied defensively.
“Yeah, I guess so,” she sadly replied.
“That’s not what she asked for,” Gavin called out in a booming voice. “We asked for a boy’s haircut, but this is a girl’s haircut.” He rose from his chair and strode across the room to Harry’s side. “The length on top’s okay, but look at the sides and back,” he said, pointing to Chrissie’s head. “They’re way too long. You need to clip them to a proper length.”
“How much shorter?” Harry asked.
“Use the clippers with a number two attachment. And get rid of those ridiculous sideburns while you’re at it,” he added disdainfully.
“I need to hear that from the lady,” the barber said, talking back to Gavin. “I think she likes it just fine the way it is now.”
Both men turned expectantly to Chrissie. She had no idea how short a number two would be, but anything shorter than her present length would be too extreme. The barber was her ally in this power struggle with Gavin, she realized. If she said the word, her haircut would be over—a disaster, to be sure, but not as awful as what her so-called boyfriend had in mind.
Gavin glared at her. She could tell what he was thinking. If she didn’t agree to continue the haircut he would never stop bugging her about the debt he had covered. Most likely he would schedule her only for weekday shifts and her tips would drop to almost zero. She might as well start packing to go back home tonight. She saw no way out.
“Go ahead. Cut it like he wants,” she sighed with an air of mournful resignation.
“You sure about that, darlin’?” Harry asked, his concern evident.
“Another inch won’t make much difference, not after what you’ve already done,” she lied. Of course, this was not her honest opinion. The cut she wore was a passable woman’s hairdo, not particularly attractive, but still feminine. Gavin was right; it was a girl’s haircut. What she had just agreed to would cross the line from acceptably short to painfully short. Yet, she felt trapped. Gavin was going to win.
“Okay, if that’s how you want it, I can always cut it shorter,” Harry reluctantly agreed.
“Yes, that’s what I want,” she told him in a barely audible whisper.
Harry grabbed another clipper, not the small silver one he used to shave her neck, but a much larger black model obviously intended for heavy duty cutting. He selected one of the attachments arrayed on the counter and snapped it over the blades. He approached Chrissie with the clippers vibrating and a long electric cord trailing behind. She recoiled at the ominous droning emanating from the clippers, but was resigned to her fate. Harry took a position behind the chair, placing his left hand on top of her head, gently forcing her chin down toward her chest.
Chrissie felt cold steel resting on the bare skin of her neck. She couldn’t believe this was actually happening. It was like a bad dream from which she was unable to escape. The clippers’ inexorable drone drowned out all other sounds as Harry pressed them into her already seriously shortened hair. She felt its ravenous blades slowly mowing a path up the back of her head. When the clippers had climbed halfway up her head Harry withdrew them and returned to the base of her neck for a second pass. She couldn’t see the length of the clipped area, but she knew it had to be terribly short—much shorter than she had ever imagined.
It seemed like an eternity until the barber finished shearing the back of her head. Then he went to work on the right side. Chrissie watched with growing alarm as the pointed sideburn disappeared under the clippers’ steady advance. The shorn patch was barely a quarter-inch long, so short she could see white skin beneath the dark stubble. She tried to suppress the tears streaming from her eyes to no avail. The barber clipped around her ear and up to her temple. He shifted to the other side and continued working until both sides were equally short. Finally, Harry used his clippers to blend the longer top with the shortened sides. By this time Chrissie no longer watched what the barber was doing, her vision was clouded with tears.
Gavin looked on approvingly. “Now that’s more like it,” he exclaimed when Harry finally switched off the clippers. “That’s what I call a good short haircut.”
The barber returned with small hand mirror. Chrissie couldn’t really concentrate on her radically altered image, she was too distraught. Harry waited patiently. She realized he expected her to say something. “It’s fine, just fine,” she said between sobs.
Gavin held out two twenty dollar bills, congratulating the barber. “Thanks Harry. You’ve done a fine job. I’m sure Chrissie will love it once she discovers how easy it is to care for.”
Harry removed the cape from around Chrissie’s shoulders, dumping dark clippings from her lap onto the pile already on the floor. He stripped the tissue from her neck and she staggered down from the chair like a woman sleepwalking. After helping her slip into her jacket Gavin took her by the elbow and guided her out the door.
Back in his truck, Gavin tried to console Chrissie. “You look really great with short hair. Everyone’s going to be totally amazed when they see you.”
“I don’t want anyone to see me like this. I look like a boy,” she sobbed. “I hope you’re satisfied. Take me home; that’s all I want.”
They rode the rest of the way in silence, interrupted only by Chrissie’s sniffles. When he pulled in front of her apartment complex she jumped out and ran to her door. Gavin followed a few steps behind. “I don’t want to see you, not ever again,” she cried. “By the way, I’m calling in sick tonight.”
“Chrissie, I know you’re upset now, but I hope you’ll understand that I did this to help you.”
“I can’t believe you have the nerve to say that,” she screamed. “Once I thought you were a pretty nice guy, but now I see you’re on some kind of twisted power trip. You maneuver a defenseless woman into compromising position and then humiliate her like you did to me today. I can’t believe I used to like you.”
“One day you’ll say that I did you a big favor,” he said as he retreated.
As Gavin walked back to his truck he could hear Chrissie screaming, “I hate you. I hate you.”
Later that evening, after downing a couple of stiff drinks to calm her badly frayed nerves, Chrissie phoned Sylvia, the only one of her friends with short hair. “Sylvia, you gotta come over. I need your help.”
“Sure Chrissie, what’s up? Sounds like an emergency.”
“Well, it sort of is. I just got my hair cut short and I need some advice on how to style it. You’re the only one I know who can help me.”
“Wow, Chrissie with short hair. This I’ve gotta see,” Sylvia exclaimed. “Whatever got into you? I never thought I’d see you with a short haircut.”
“It was an impulsive thing,” Chrissie lied. “I got tired of long hair; just decided on the spur of the moment to chop it all off. Didn’t really think about styling options. Can you come over soon?”
“Sure, I’ll be there right away. I don’t suppose you’ve got any gel or mousse or pomade, do you? I’ll bring some products I use.”
“Nope, I don’t. That would be great, Syl.”
Half an hour later Sylvia knocked on Chrissie’s apartment door. When her friend answered she was amazed at the magnitude of the change she beheld. “Wow Chrissie! Turn around, let me see the back.”
Chrissie slowly turned to let Sylvia inspect her new barbershop haircut. “When you said short you weren’t kidding were you? I pictured a nice bob, collar length perhaps, or maybe chin length. I never imagined you’d go for such a radical makeover.”
“Yeah. I don’t know what I was thinking. It was a moment of sheer madness.”
“Don’t get me wrong, Chrissie. I think this was a good move. Your ponytail was nice but sorta passé, kind of juvenile, if you know what I mean. This cut will give you many styling options, especially after you let it grow out a bit.”
Sylvia spent the next hour coaching Chrissie on how to achieve different looks. First she brushed the bangs diagonally across her forehead, pulling most of the hair on top forward and adding some volume to create a striking pixie cut. “This is a really cute look for you but these bangs need to be cut differently—feathered rather than straight across. I can fix that if you like.”
She began the second option by applying a generous amount of pomade to the hair on Chrissie’s crown and brushing it straight back to fashion a shorter version of the Miley Cyrus style. “Your hair on top really needs to be a couple of inches longer for this style to work best,” Sylvia suggested. “If you bleached the top and kept the sides brunette it would really be rad.”
“Don’t know that I’m ready for that,” Chrissie replied.
Next Sylvia brushed the bangs back in place and twisted tufts of Chrissie’s hair, pulling them up to achieve a spiky punk effect. “This style will be great for going out for a night on the town, especially when it gets a little longer.”
Finally, she brushed her friend’s hair across the top of her head, with the bangs pushed back off her face. This slicked down look was a more stylish version of the boy’s haircut she had started with. “I guess you could call this style a dyke haircut,” Sylvia observed. “Wear it with a white shirt and tie if you want to do some gender bending. Of course, you’ll have to keep it short like this to attract the lezzies.”
“I never realized there were so many different looks,” Chrissie declared when Sylvia was done. “I like the first one best—the pixie cut. Can you trim my bangs so they look better?”
“Sure thing,” Sylvia agreed, drawing a pair of scissors from her bag. She combed the bangs onto Chrissie’s forehead and snipped at random intervals, reducing the length until they formed an irregular fringe framing her face. “This is called a gamine look,” she explained. “It works really well on shorter women like you.”
“Yeah, I like it,” Chrissie said. “I really do.”
Sylvia started packing up her hairstyling equipment. She embraced her friend. “You look really great with your hair short like this,” she confided. “I know you said it was an impulse, but it was a bold move. It was time for a new look. You’re gonna knock ‘em dead.”
For the first time since leaving the barbershop Chrissie began to feel better about facing the world with her hair cut short. “Thanks so much, Syl. You’ve been a life saver.”
“Any time, Chrissie. Always glad to help a friend in need.”
When Chrissie reported for work on Thursday she didn’t know what to expect. Her radical makeover was going to provoke comments from her coworkers and regular customers, but would they be favorable? Would they love her haircut or hate it? She braced herself for the worst while hoping for the best.
The first person she saw after checking in was Diana, a Long Branch veteran, fifteen years her senior. “Holy shit, Chrissie, what happened to you?” she blasted in her typically outspoken manner.
“Decided to cut my hair,” she replied. “Do you like it?”
“Looks good on you, but the guys are gonna hate it. You know how they dig chicks with long hair.”
“Well, I didn’t do it for them, I did it for me,” Chrissie bravely stated, although that was a long way from the truth. Somehow she felt the need to take ownership of her haircut, even if it hadn’t been her idea.
“Don’t you pay her no mind, Chrissie,” Max chimed in. He was one of the cooks and a special friend of hers. “That’s a dynamite look for you, very sexy.”
“Thanks Max,” she replied. “I appreciate a man’s opinion.”
It went on like that all night. Nearly everyone had a comment. They were divided, but most were complimentary. When people asked, “Why did you do it?” as nearly everyone did, she answered it was time for a change or she had grown tired of long hair. Both were lies, of course, but she had no desire to share the distasteful story of bargain she had made with Gavin. She spent most of the night doing her best to avoid the bartender who was responsible for her radical haircut. Although it was impossible to entirely ignore him, she was determined not to give him the satisfaction of gloating over her new haircut.
When the schedule for the next week was posted Chrissie was surprised to see that her hours had increased. She needed to find out why and approached Gavin for the first time since the episode in the barber shop. He explained that Nora, another part-time waitress, was going on maternity leave and wouldn’t return for at least six months. In the meantime, he needed a full-time replacement. “You’re a hard worker and I know you need more hours,” he told her. Was this a reward for getting her hair cut she wondered? Whatever the reason, she was grateful for the additional income.
“Thanks Gavin, I appreciate it,” she said.
“Good. While I’ve got your attention at last I want to tell you how great you look with your hair fixed like that.”
“Thanks again. It’s taken a while to get used to this new look, but I think I like it. Most of my regular customers have been very positive and my tips have improved.”
“Glad to hear that. Okay if I stop by after work?” he asked guardedly. “That is, if you’re done hating me,”
“Yeah, I guess that would be all right,” she shrugged. “I don’t hate you anymore, but I don’t understand you. There are things we need to discuss.”
“I agree. See you later.”
It was nearly one o’clock when she heard his familiar knock on her door.
“About time you got here,” she teased. “I nearly fell asleep waiting for you.”
“Sorry to be late,” he apologized. “The usual problem—the cooks couldn’t agree on their schedules.”
“You want a drink?” she inquired.
“Of course. When have I not wanted a drink after work?” Unlike most bartenders, Gavin never drank on the job, but he loved his single malt scotch. Sharing a glass after hours had become a ritual in the months leading up to her haircut, but this was the first time since then.
Chrissie poured two glasses and sat down facing him. “You’ve got some explaining to do, mister. I need to know what was behind this haircut of mine. Were you punishing me for something I did, or what?”
“No, it wasn’t a punishment, believe me,” he emphatically declared.
“Well then, why did you force me to have my hair cut so short in that barbershop?’
“This is going to be difficult, so bear with me,” he began. “For as long as I can remember I’ve obsessed over women with short hair. The first thing I notice about a woman is her hair. Most guys dig girls with long luxurious hair, but not me. If I spot a good-looking woman with really long hair I start thinking about how much better she’d look with a nice short haircut.”
“So I’m supposed to feel honored that you consider me good looking?” she demanded.
“I’m just telling you how it is with me,” he said.
“So when you had me in a position where I couldn’t say no, you used that power to make me get the haircut you wanted. You could have just asked me. That would have been the gentlemanly thing to do.”
“I suppose so. But would you have said yes if I asked politely?”
“Probably not,” she admitted.
“Exactly! That’s my point. I had to find a way to trick you into getting your hair cut. I’m not proud of myself, but that’s why I did it.”
“So having done the deed, how do you think it turned out?” Chrissie asked.
“You mean your haircut?” She nodded. “Well, I think you look really hot with your hair cut short. I know Harry cut it too short for your comfort, but I do hope you’ll keep it like this. I’d hate to see you go back to the ponytail.”
“I don’t think I’m going to do that. It would take years grow my hair back to that length.”
“But you’re planning on keeping it short?” he asked hopefully.
“I haven’t decided,” she told him, “but it is a possibility.”
“I’d like to make you a proposition,” he offered hesitantly.
Chrissie rolled her eyes. “Another one?”
“Bear with me. I think you’ll like this one.”
“Okay. Let’s hear it.”
“With short hair you’re going to need regular salon appointments to keep your hair looking good.”
“I suppose so. I hadn’t thought that far ahead,” she answered.
“Well, when you get to that stage—in two or three months—let me know and I’ll make an appointment for you at one of the best salons in town.”
“And you’ll tell the stylist how to cut my hair again? I don’t think I could endure that a second time.”
“No. We’ll negotiate to find a style that’s mutually agreeable,” he offered.
“Negotiation. That certainly sounds better. I’ll think it over.”
Chrissie noticed that both glasses were empty. “Would you like a refill?” she offered.
“I would, but I don’t want to drive home with Scotch on my breath and that much alcohol in my blood.”
“You could always spend the night,” she proposed coyly.
“Yeah, I’d like that. I’ve been missing your hot little body next to mine.”
“And I’ve missed your hot bod next to me. My bed seems awfully empty without you in it.”
Chrissie poured two more drinks. When she handed one to Gavin he took her wrist and pulled her toward him. “Come, sit on my lap for a while.” She slid into his embrace. As they kissed, she felt his hand reaching up to caress her bare neck and then to stroke the shortened hair on the back of her head. She caressed his bald dome.
She felt Gavin getting harder. “It really turns you on, doesn’t it? My short hair, I mean.”
“Everything about you turns me on,” he confessed. “You know I’m madly in love with you.”
“In love with me or in love with my haircut?”
“Could be it’s some of both.”
“I can handle that,” she said as they kissed again.