“Speak soft, you’ll wake the baby” •Los Lobos
Seven months of newlywed bliss wasn’t interrupted by the test. Ben grinned as the stick turned blue, Shannon felt her heart skip.
“A baby?” she said, almost disbelieving the facts in front of her.
“Yeah sweetheart, like you always wanted,” Ben said, his arms wrapping around his love, caressing her back, smelling her long, red, hair as the two rejoiced at their impending blessing.
After a few minutes of embracing, the two pulled away from one another, and the questions came fast: Boy or girl? What do we name it? Natural childbirth or epidural? Will I balloon up and lose my figure? They would all be answered in time. Nine months to be exact.
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That still left plenty of time for Ben to change the guestroom into a nursery, and for Shannon to hunt for the perfect crib, curtains and rug. The two were made for each other, and they’d have a great time hunting high and low – everywhere from IKEA to garage sales for anything and everything baby.
Ben, being the organized type, began buying diapers and formula every paycheck. The left side of the pantry quickly began to look like the baby food aisle at the local Vons. Everything he could think of was being stocked up on, and Shannon had busied herself watching “The Baby Story” on the Lifetime channel and reading every book from “Letters From A Pregnant Coward” to “What To Expect When You’re Expecting.” On weekends, Ben and Shannon spent their mornings looking through the ads in the local paper, scouring for just the right thing for the baby’s nursery.
Shannon’s figure gradually got larger, more full and there was no mistaking the fact that she was pregnant: cravings for Carl’s Jr. Santa Fe burgers at 2 a.m., root beer for breakfast (when she’d despised the stuff before) and her hair began to thin and thicken, seemingly at the same time. Her breasts got large and tender… this pleased Ben greatly. Shannon laughed at him, she often did, but the two enjoyed the experience as much as 5 a.m. trips to the bathroom fighting nausea can be enjoyed. They found ways around the morning sickness and around the late night dining.
Ben would brush her hair late at night, usually after the burgers with the green chilies, washed down with copious amounts of root beer. Shannon would moan with pleasure as Ben would brush her hair, which had grown to mid-back, and rub aloe vera oil on her body to fight off stretch marks. Her 5’5″ body had plumped up in front, and her hips had taken on a much wider look. This, of course, drove Ben wild with passion.
As Shannon got closer to the delivery day, her face rounded out, which changed the way she looked. Not a bad thing, but not a good one either. She rubbed her bulging stomach and figured it would return to normal when “Legs” was born. They took to calling him “Legs”, or “Pele” because he’d kick so often.
The day finally came, and all of those TV dramatizations are just so much garbage. The delivery room was quiet, the doctor was a calm, easy-going sort who knew that an epidural should not be discouraged. Ben did his best to rub Shannon’s back and offer up support. For her part, Shannon sort of screamed bloody murder about “just cut off my legs and get it the hell out already, would you?”
This perplexed Ben, and scared the hell out of him too.
Two hours of hard labor later, and the world stood still to welcome the final piece of Ben and Shannon’s little family. The couple smiled and held Legs while they looked at one another, and then back at him, then at each other, then back at him.
“The Padres have a new pitcher, sweetheart,” Ben said.
“Oh yeah, Tommy Lasorda is shitting himself up in L.A. right now,” Shannon said, exhausted, a mess of sweat, tangled hair, an unstylish hospital gown and bleary-eyed fatigue. She was also, at that minute, the most gorgeous creature Ben had ever seen. Ben stood there, with his two-day growth of a beard, his pajama bottoms on under his jeans and his ball cap on backward to keep his hair out of his eyes. He was the sweetest man, the most handsome chap Shannon had ever known.
Legs made odd sounds as he fed on Shannon’s breasts for the first time.
“Can you help me here honey?” she asked.
“Sorry, but I have no lactating bosom,” he said.
“No, wise-ass, scratch my nose. Okay?” she said. Ben did, chuckling.
Back home, the three got used to one another fairly quickly. Ben would get up with Shannon, or bottle-feed the boy they named Dylan (after Bob Dylan, not the Beverly Hills 90210 guy) instead of Legs. It would just be too cruel to dub a kid Legs.
Shannon was exhausted most days. Her back was in pain quite often, which meant Ben needed to give her massages when he’d get home from work. She quickly lost most of the weight she’d gained, but managed to keep the newly-wide hips that she said “make me look female.” She also kept the rounded-out facial features that she’d never had before.
Ben would brush her hair as she’d fall asleep, and he noticed more hairs in the brush than before. Shannon didn’t have the energy to do much with it in the mornings anymore, so she resorted to pulling it back and ignoring it as best she could. When she did wear it down it was a limp shadow of its former self. It also made her face look fat, not round like it did when she pulled it back.
She knew her husband, and she knew how much he liked short hair on women. He even bought a pair of manual clippers at a yard sale that he restored – partly because he liked gadgets, and partly because he (not so) secretly wanted to use them on his wife.
She always grinned when she saw him oiling them. He always asked if she needed a trim.
Five months into motherhood and Shannon was still feeling beat, still getting used to the front of her blouses getting wet at inopportune moments, still getting used to a sex life that was dictated by the sleeping habits of “The General” as Dylan had now been, lovingly, nicknamed. He did have his bossy moments. And a way of breaking up a sexual mood. Ben and Shannon became experts at the ultra-quiet variety of sex, at the other end of the house – sometimes on the sofa, with the baby monitor in hand and the comforter from their bed slung over their shoulders to keep warm.
One morning, Ben had kissed her good-bye and went off to work, and Dylan still lay sleeping. Shannon relished the quiet moment and headed for the bath. The relaxation was a rare treat she didn’t get often enough. She washed her hair, and lay back in the water to read a magazine. After about twenty minutes, she heard Dylan begin to stir in his crib.
Out of the water, pulling the plug with her toes, wrapping a bathrobe around her, tying her hair into a faux-turban and trudging up the hallway as only a mother can do, she looked in on him. His smile crushed her heart, like it did every time. His vocabulary was pretty advanced. He was content to lay in his crib and play while Shannon got dressed and dried her hair.
She pulled on a pair of jeans, and grabbed one of Ben’s hideous bowling shirts and tied the bottom half of it around her midriff. She walked into the bathroom to hang up her robe and towel and brush her hair. She caught her reflection in the mirror… her hair didn’t glisten anymore, it lacked bounce and it made her look like an older person struggling to look youthful.
She tied it back, and liked her face free of the shambles her mane was these days, and walked up the hallway to pick up The General. He cooed and gabbed all the way up the hall into the living room, where Shannon grabbed the remote as she sat down to feed her baby.
As he sucked away, making a gurgling sound that was endearing and disgusting at the same time, Shannon flicked around the channels and found nothing to her liking. Eventually, she settled on a rerun of “Northern Exposure” and smiled along with the show’s plot.
She stared at Janine Turner, with her hair cropped away to a near memory. It struck Shannon that Janine looked radiant, downright gorgeous. Dylan fell asleep as he ate. Shannon patted his back and put him back in his crib as he lay resting.
She went back to watching Ms. Turner on screen – pretty, smart, independent… all things Shannon had liked about herself, though she never said that out loud. Ben did an excellent job of making her feel pretty, and the two played off one another when it came to making decisions. This was one decision she was making by herself. But she figured Ben would be okay with it when he got home.
She prepared the study for this evening’s little moment. She got Ben’s manual clippers, dragged their full-length mirror from their bedroom into the study, fetched a barstool from the kitchen, spread newspapers underneath and grabbed her beach towel out of the hall closet. She changed her mind, suddenly, and began to put everything back. She’d always had long hair, and didn’t want to change, she was just sick of it looking so lousy. All she needed was an appointment with her stylist and everything would be fine.
As she grabbed the full-length mirror to take it back to her room, she looked at herself for a few seconds… She put the mirror back and retrieved the other things again. Everything was set for Ben’s little surprise.
Shannon smiled at dinner that night, Ben wondered what was up, she wouldn’t let on. Ben rarely went into the study these days, spending most of his time doting on his wife and son, and enjoying a game of darts when they’d both gone to sleep. Shannon and Ben played with Dylan until 8 o’clock, he fell asleep in his father’s arms.
The two walked him into his nursery and placed him gently into the crib.
“Come here,” Shannon said, “I have something to show you.” And she walked up the hall to the study and waited for Ben. When he caught up, she opened the door and pointed to the scenario she’d laid out before him.
“How would you like to cut off my hair?”
“You’re joking? Don’t play with me,” Ben said, suddenly noticing the room had been turned into a makeshift salon.
“I’m not kidding, my love,” she said, and planted a hug kiss on his lips.
She walked over to the barstool, and sat her hips that made her “look female” down and asked Ben to drape the towel around her shoulders. He did.
“Do you know who Janine Turner is?” she asked, Ben’s eyes glowed with anticipation.
“Well,” she said, reaching back to grab her ponytail, “what are you waiting for?”
Ben grabbed the scissors, looked Shannon in the eyes, she grinned back at him. He grabbed the ponytail and began cutting just above the band that held it back, away from Shannon’s face.
The scissors cut through with relative ease, by the third closing, Ben had cut away almost twenty-four inches of hair.
He held it up to look at it for a moment. He smiled.
“What should I do with this?” he asked.
“Maybe we can donate it to one of those companies that makes wigs for kids with cancer.”
Shannon smiled, inside she was terrified this would look horrible, she was excited it would look gorgeous and be incredibly low-maintenance. She worried it would take years to grow out and never look as good as it used to. Then she remembered that it didn’t look as good as it did before she got pregnant… and that was nearly 15 months ago.
Ben snipped away hair, Shannon giggled nervously as she watched in the mirror. He combed the front of Shannon’s hair down over her eyes. “As short as Janine’s, right?” he asked.
Ben slid the scissors along the top of Shannon’s forehead, watching hair tumble to her lap. The remaining bangs were short, damn-near non-existent.
She looked up into the mirror, and noticed that her ears were exposed. Her ears were now out in the open, as was her forehead. Ben worked the sides and back as best he could, “I think this is good as it gets,” he said.
“Naw, use your clippers,” she said… feeling so aroused at the thought, she thought she must be going crazy. “I’ve had long hair all my life,” she thought to herself, “why is this so damn erotic?”
Ben had done this in his mind a million times before. He knew exactly what to do. He combed up sections of Shannon’s hair and clipped away with the quiet, slicing hand-powered clippers.
Comb up, clip. Comb up, clip. Comb up, clip. Comb up, clip. He was in heaven. Comb up, clip. Comb up, clip. So was she. Comb up, clip. Comb up, clip. The two began to moan in unison. Comb up, clip. Comb up, clip. Ben was nearly finished.
He put down the comb to work on the hairline. Snipping, silently, he worked his way around her ears, down the neck and across to the other ear. When he finished, Shannon’s hair was a nearly uniform 1/2 inch everywhere, slightly longer on top, and much darker than it was previously. She looked into the mirror, her face was round and pretty, and her ears had an “Oh-for-the-love-of-God-nibble-me” look to them that made Ben weak in the knees.
She ran her fingers through her newly-cropped locks, she loved it. She moaned out, “Take me. Here. Now.”
“Speak softly,” Ben said, pulling his wife close, “you’ll wake the baby.”
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