Banging the door so that it nearly came off the hinges Will barged into his living room completing his entrance by slamming the door shut with his boot. He ripped off his scarf and flung it up against the table lamp so that it draped across the shade, creating a jagged map of his anger. Then he threw off his coat and yanked off his boots, and sat down and steamed, muttering at intervals. “Belinda. Damn it and damn her,” or, “Belinda. Heh! Belinda!” or in a tone of female mimicry. “Relationships are built on trust Willie.” Mostly, he just sat and steamed.
Belinda. A year and a half, almost, of what Will had believed was a secure, loving relationship. “The relationship is important.” That was another one. Relationship. Lifestyle. Openness. Bah!
Belinda herself began to invade his thoughts. Smooth skin. Childlike face with brown eyes that were always searching his own face – and probably everyone else’s, for that matter. Mouth slightly open. Like a kid. Small waist – he could wrap his hands around it. And her long thick wavy dark hair would brush his clasped hands as he held her… was that creep in the A&W holding her like that now, running his hands through all that hair? He certainly seemed interested enough in it when Will was passing by the large window in the hamburger stand. The picture leapt to his consciousness: Belinda’s one.
The door opened and brought him out of his dream. Belinda was home. Beloved Belinda. The bitch. She smiled at him and tossed her long hair. He sat and tried to control himself, hoping she’d volunteer an explanation for the creep.
“What did you do today?” he asked as she walked to the bathroom hoping that he didn’t sound overly suspicious.
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“Mm – I went to the library, studied…” He couldn’t see her face, couldn’t tell if she’d blanched, hesitated or looked worried. He walked into the bathroom and found her examining herself in the mirror. “I think my hair needs trimming,” she said, holding up a long lock of it and making his anger return doubly.
“Why all of a sudden does your hair need trimming so badly?” Will found himself blurting out, then wishing he hadn’t.
Belinda looked at him oddly and said. “Well, look at these split ends.” He said nothing, and she added, “I was noticing them just now,” and as accusatory words started to rise to Will’s throat she said, “So can you lend me ten? I’m broke, and that’s about what they charge at the beauty school.”
Will, about to protest, suddenly stopped himself. Then he smiled. “Ten dollars. Belinda? That’s a lot of money, you know. Why are you so broke7”
“Oh, this and that. Food’s expensive….”
“Well, listen, B.,” Will continued, smiling, “until you learn to budget yourself better you ought to try to save when you can. Your split ends, for instance. That’s a cinch. I’ll cut them off myself. No problem.”
“I don’t know… Can you?”
“Hell, B.” Trying to control the arc of his smile, he took a length of hair in his hand. “What – about an inch, straight across and a little longer in back?” Sitting her on the stool, giving her no chance to protest, he went into the kitchen for the shears and returned clicking them. “Take off your sweater,” he said, “and your pants. We wouldn’t want to get hair all over them. would we?” He took her brush from the shelf and began to brush her long, thick hair. It glistened from a recent washing and crackled with electricity, as if stocked with energy.
“You know,” he said, stroking downward from the scalp, pulling the brush slowly through the thick tresses, letting them fall silkily onto his wrists and hands, “I’ve always loved brushing your hair. It’s such a delightful part of you. I’d recognize you anywhere just by seeing it from behind – ” Oops, almost let it slip. “I’ve always thought of it as mine, really.” He kissed the crown of her head. “And you are mine, too,” he continued, feeling her relax.
He drew the brush through her hair a couple of times more, then lifted the shears and snipped off a piece an inch and a half long from the back. Slowly he cut his way around to the right side of her face, watching the cut hair fall to the floor and onto her bare upper leg. Looking at the mirror. he saw that from his perspective, she could probably see no more than the top of her head reflected. She also seemed relaxed. And trusting. Good. this would work fine.
Belinda yawned, and Will remembered that she’d been up since six. It was now four in the afternoon. He patted her shoulder, put the shears in his back pocket. and told her to wait a minute. He got his pipe and bit of hashish from his dresser drawer.
“Taste this,” he said, taking in her nude body and lopsided hair, the floor littered with pieces of it. “I bought it last week from Warren and I didn’t think you’d had a chance to try it.” As Belinda lit the pipe. he cut two inches from the back to the left side.
“Am I done?” asked Belinda. exhaling a puff of smoke.
Will pretended to examine his work and said, “It’s a bit uneven.” As expected Belinda stood up, a little unsteadily, and looked in the mirror. She giggled.
“Tell Warren it’s good stuff ’cause I can’t tell. It keeps moving something.” She giggled again.
Will sat her back down. “If it’s that good, I’d better not smoke any considering what I’m doing. I might get carried away,” he said beginning to grin again. But Belinda was grinning herself, as she puffed greedily. “I will have a small glass of wine, though,” he added
Will fetched a bottle of Gallo white port and two glasses. He filled them both. “Here,” he offered Belinda, “join me. It’ll mellow out the hash.” He took the pipe. Belinda’s eyes closed had totally blissed out.
Now Will began his work in earnest. He whispered in her ear. “Now I’ll even it out for you sweetheart.” Holding up the hair, he began cutting, lock by lock, haphazardly to the right again, letting the pieces flutter to the floor: two, four, five inches long. The last chop left it a couple of inches below her shoulder.
“Still a little uneven, baby,” he growled in her ear and gave it a lick Belinda opened her eyes, and Will quickly brushed the hair on the right side of her face to the rear, but she seemed to be unaware of what was going on. “What’s this?” she asked in a monotone, focusing on the glass of wine.
Will saw that if he wanted to complete the task as he’d planned, Belinda would need to become as numb as possible as soon as possible. “It’s wine. Drink it. It’ll mellow out the hash,” he repeated. He took another sip, hoping that he wouldn’t start grinning. and proffered her the glass. She drank, and Will looked at her hair from the rear. It was slanted upward from the back in a series of choppy steps. The left side was several inches longer than the right. Will decided to fix that immediately. Holding up the hair covering her face, he brushed it backwards as he had with the right, and chopped it off level with her earlobe, the scissors making a gratifying gritty sound as they sliced through the dark thickness.
Will dangled the long hank in front of Belinda’s face and grinned triumphantly, but got no reaction. Her lids were half-shut from the combination of cannabis and wine. “All right,” muttered Will, “you’re in for a surprise, baby.”
As he cut off the rest of her dangling hair level with her neckline, Will realized that he was enjoying the act itself as much as he was anticipating Belinda’s reaction. It gave him a strange stirring feeling. He stood back admiring his work. Belinda’s hair was now as short as his own. He took one last look at her head with its covering of shining hair, and began snipping furiously, as close to the scalp as possible, until her childlike face bore a resemblance to a little boy’s, with a patchily-done crewcut.
Will stood and regarded her. With her closed eyes, open mouth and close-cropped head, she looked innocent and fragile. Will was momentarily overcome. She looked vulnerable, even prettier than before. He walked to the side, examining her more closely. He’d never thought about the shape of her head, but now he was enchanted by it, as though a mystery had suddenly been unveiled.
If he’d had any hesitation before, he had none now. He decided to carry the act to its ultimate end. “Just stay here a minute, sweetheart,” he whispered, and quickly fetched his safety razor and shaving cream, then stood over her and lovingly massaged her scalp with lather, feeling her hard skull fit satisfyingly in his palms. Then, standing in front of her, he made the first stroke upwards from the base of her skull to her forehead, leaving a clean, smooth path behind.
Belinda’s eyes snapped open. She shivered when she felt the coolness of her denuded neck and wet scalp. They widened further, and then, as she looked down and saw what had been her prized hair scattered all over the bathroom floor, she gasped then shrieked.
“What are you doing?” She jumped from the seat and backed against the cold tile wall, staring aghast at Will as he brandished his razor and moved towards her again.
“I haven’t finished yet sweetheart,” he smiled. “Here,” he continued, facing her to the mirror, “do you like it so far?”
Belinda made a choking sound. Tears welled in her eyes. She stood, unable to move, as Will finished shaving her, removing the last trace of lather from her scalp. Holding her hands firmly behind her with one hand he reached for the bottle of musk oil from the shelf. As he rubbed it gently onto her bare scalp, relishing the smoothness and the lovely contours of her skull. Belinda finally managed a few words. “Why, Will? My – my hair…”
“Your hair, Belinda?” Will asked, smiling. “You are mistaken. sweetheart. It isn’t yours anymore. It’s mine. Just as you are. And don’t you ever forget it… again.”