Charlie, Charley, Cointreau and Clippers by Sabrina S.
“Alcohol can liberate you,” my boyfriend Charlie declared, pouring the last drop of wine into my glass. Hell, tell me something I don’t know! I drank it, clinking my glass against his. We were both pretty happy. We’d had a great meal – which I’d cooked in a rather amazing moment of domesticity – and Charlie had brought not only some superb Australian Chardonnay but a bottle of Cointreau, my absolute favourite. Bless him! We were celebrating all kinds of things – one year together and our new flat, which was costing us a fortune, near Hampstead Heath in London.
“To Charley!” said Charlie.
“To Charlie!” said I. It was our standard toast. My name was Charlotte. It was all a bit cute, but people called us the Charlies.
I got the coffee happening, Charlie got the Cointreau. I swilled the sweet liqueur around in my mouth and swallowed deliciously.
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My poodle, mercifully NOT called Charlie, but, almost as bad, Harley, whimpered. “Nothing left,” I said sternly. “You had leftovers.”
“Poor old Harley looks a bit ragged,” Charlie said. “What did you do to him?”
I giggled. “I bought a pair of clippers on sale. Got sick of taking him to the poodle parlour. I thought I could do it cheaper myself. I didn’t realise poodle hair was so hard to cut evenly. To say nothing of him struggling.”
Charlie roared with laughter. “Poor Harley! He can tell you’re not a hairdresser!”
I bridled. “Thank you! I thought I did quite a good job! After all, they were clippers designed for use on humans, not poodles. It was pretty hard going, as his hair’s so fine.”
Charlie grinned. “Think you could do a better job on me?”
I considered. Charlie has great hair: dark, thick, slightly curly, the kind of crisp hair that feels great to run your fingers through.
The Cointreau got to me and gave me a bit of bravado. I’d been terrified clipping Harley in case I made a mess of him. But Harley was only a dog. What havoc could I wreak on a human? “‘Course I could!” I declared, gulping my Cointreau. Charlie refilled it.
“Go on, then!” he said.
“Give me a haircut. See if you can do a better job than you did on the dog. Shouldn’t be hard!” He had that engaging grin that meant he was pulling my tree rather than being deliberately nasty. He ran his hands through his hair. “Look, it needs cutting! I was going to get it cut this weekend anyway.”
Charlie was pretty fussy about his hair. He got regular trims and wore it in a conservative, businessman’s style that befitted his management position. Me and my clippers weren’t capable of trimming the careful half an inch off that he required, but with the Cointreau making me bolshy I wasn’t going to admit that! The longest setting I had on the clippers was a half inch, and Charlie liked his hair a bit longer. Oh, well! He was getting a free haircut!
I unpacked the clipper set and wound the cape around his neck. Charlie was gulping his liqueur cheerfully. “Just a little off the bottom, thanks!” he grinned.
“You’ll get whatever I can do,” I warned, and Charlie laughed even harder. Quickly I scanned the instruction book, particularly the “Giving a Haircut” section. I oiled the clippers and fitted the longest blade, and turned them on.
Start at the back, the book said, so I did. Gulping, I looked at Charlie’s expensively styled hair. The man spent more on his haircuts than I did, and I was about to give him the cheapest – and probably worst! – haircut he’d ever had. Tentatively I pushed his head forward. Charlie giggled.
At least he held still, which was more than Harley had. I ran the clippers up his nape and all the way up the back of his head. While I was doing his head the Cointreau was going to mine.
“Charley, what are you doing?” Charlie said, sounding just a little concerned.
“Cutting your hair,” I said truthfully and a little drunkenly. “You needed a haircut, remember?” This was easier than I thought. I pushed the clippers through his hair again and watched the thick locks fall away. Oh, well, there wouldn’t be much left for me to run my fingers through for a while. Feeling more masterful, I flourished the clippers rather expertly and buzzed up behind his ears.
“That feels good,” Charlie murmured, pouring both of us another drink as I paused for a moment. He ran his hands over the back of his head experimentally. “You know, you’ll have to let me do the same to you. I haven’t had my hair cut with clippers since I was a boy. It’s a great sensation.”
My heart thudded. “What?”
“I’m cutting your hair after this. You’ll love it,” Charlie said dreamily, sipping his drink.
I touched my hair. It was long and red and straight, falling like a waterfall to my shoulder blades. Every so often I thought about cutting it short and then thought about the years it would take to grow if I didn’t like it. “I didn’t think you liked short hair on women,” I hedged.
“Depends on the woman,” he declared. “Anyway, short hair’s in fashion. And weren’t you saying you were sick of having to style it and it took forever to dry?”
He had a point. Maybe the Cointreau was getting to my head, because I said, “Okay,” just like that, and sentenced my long hair to the floor.
I took another sip and attacked Charlie’s hair again, buzzing up in front of his ears to the top of his head. Charlie’s eyes widened as he saw how much hair fell on his cape, but he was very manly and said nothing. Which was a bit of a worry. I’d have liked some encouragement on my first attempt as a barber.
I moved to the other side, clipped his hair, and ran my hands over the sides and back. “Feels good,” I said, surprised at my own expertise.
Before he could say or do anything, I’d placed the clippers at his forehead and drawn them back through the thick waves on top of his head, reducing them to a half inch crewcut. A couple more passes with the clippers and Charlie looked more like a street thug than a businessman. He didn’t know, though. He didn’t have a mirror. I got the scissors out and, peering owlishly through a haze of Cointreau, tidied up his hairline. Then I removed the guide from the clippers, pushed Charlie’s head forward and shaved his neck as close as I could.
Finally I dusted the hair from his neck. “All done.”
Charlie ran his hands over the top of his head. “Bloody hell! I’ve been shorn!” But he was grinning. “Now you!” he commanded.
“Aren’t you going to look at yourself?” I stammered, buying time. I was half dreading, half looking forward to my haircut.
“No, we’ll both look at ourselves later. Come into Charlie’s barber shop and take a seat, madam,” Charlie said grandly, waving the cape like a matador. Damn, he was drunk! We both were! And suddenly I didn’t care if he cut my hair off. What the hell, every woman tried short hair once in a while. And this was Charlie, the man I trusted and loved. He’d better love me when he’d scalped me or there’d be hell to pay!
Sighing, I sat in the chair and let Charlie tie the cape around my neck. He refilled my glass and drew my hair out from beneath the cape. Harley whimpered.
“She’ll look better than you, mate,” Charlie said to the dog. “How do you work these things?” he asked me.
Gulping, I said, “Read the book.”
Charlie scanned the pages. “Too easy!” He oiled the blades and switched the clippers on. He started to giggle and then I did too. “Short back and sides, madam?”
“Oh, just lop it to half an inch all over,” I said airily. I was off the planet at that stage, very cheerful indeed, thanks to the makers of Cointreau.
Charlie brought the clippers closer and closer to my forehead. Then they shrieked as they attacked my thick, long hair. I winced as they pulled a bit and then they were sawing over the top of my head, growling and devouring my hair right down the part line. It was too late to turn back, Charlie The Barber was in full flight. Now I knew how he’d felt: powerless, with someone shearing off your well-tended, beautiful hair. At the same time, it was terrific. The sensation of the clippers close to my scalp was something I’d never dreamed of, and Charlie’s evident enjoyment at reducing my hair to a crewcut was turning me on too.
Again he ran the clippers through the hair on top and I felt it fall away behind me. My head tingled. Then Charlie, frowning in concentration, tenderly pushed my head to one side and drew the clippers up in front of my ears and over my temple. I looked in disbelief at the inches of hair which fell over the cape and whimpered involuntarily.
“Ssh,” Charlie said gently, touching the cropped hair on top of my head and making me shiver deliciously. “It’s looking great. I’ve actually always fantasised about what you’d look like cropped. You know, like Annie Lennox or someone. I thought you’d think I was weird but you know what they say – in vino veritas.”
So Charlie told the truth when he was drunk. “So you’ll still love me in the morning, with all my long hair cut off?”
Charlie snorted. “Of course I will. Why do you think I’m cutting it?” And he pushed my head to the side again and placed the clippers on my neck behind my ear, gently holding my ear forward with one hand as he nuzzled the clippers slowly and deliberately up my scalp. Comforted, I let myself go to the sensations: Charlie’s hand on the top of my head moving it from position to position, the clippers snarling as they fought their way through my heavy locks and tingled up my scalp. They were at my nape now. Charlie lifted up my hair and pushed the clippers underneath, buzzing up the back of my head to the crown. Three passes and the back was buzzed, with Charlie holding my head forward and making a second pass up the back, clipping the hair short and even. I could feel tiny hairs land on the back of my neck. My neck felt cold and naked without the fall of hair lying warmly against it. Then he was attacking the last of my long hair, thrusting the clippers into the hair behind my other ear, and finally, so quickly, before I had the chance to finish my Cointreau, into the last remaining long lock near my temple.
The cape was covered in a red cloud of hair. Stunned, I picked one or two of them up, and then felt my head. It was soft as feathers, beautiful, downy feathers. Again and again I ran my hands over it, revelling in how light my head felt without the weight of my hair dragging it down.
“Not finished,” said Charlie, and, like I had with him, he picked up the scissors and trimmed my hairline. I quivered as he cut the hair at my nape as close to the hairline as he could, the scissors cold against my neck. He found a comb and I could feel him trying to taper the hair around my nape, lifting it away from my scalp and cutting it close over the comb. He cut my sideburns into short points, combing and concentrating. Then, as I’d done with him, he shaved the almost non-existent hairs from the back of my neck, pushing the unguarded clippers almost up into my hair again.
Harley took one look at me and howled. Charlie laughed. “Your dog has no taste. Come and take a look at yourself.”
Holding hands, we walked to the bathroom and, startled, gazed at our reflections. Charlie and Charley, we had the same haircut. We touched each other’s hair, enjoying the feel of the short tufts that greeted our fingers.
“You look gorgeous,” Charlie said, running a hand over the brush that had been my hair.
“So do you,” I said gently and truthfully.
Harley whimpered again.
“You know,” I said, “now we’ve both got some experience, we could tidy poor old Harley up a bit. How do you think he’d look with a number two at the back and sides?”
Harley fled. Charlie laughed, and stroked my hair, running his hands down the back of my head and then back up again. Now it was so short, it was a wonderful sensation. “Not as good as you.”
It was a challenge I couldn’t – didn’t want to – resist. There was a quarter of the bottle of Cointreau left. I sat in the chair, poured a glass, and waited for Charlie to fasten the cape.