The Curse of Baldlock Hall by Sabrina S.
It was the kind of wedding you only read about in books or see in movies. Despite the capriciousness of an English spring, the sun shone brightly on the huge marquee in the grounds of Baldlock Hall, the gracious Elizabethan mansion that had been the home of the Bagley-Whytes for many generations.
Amanda, glowing in her cream silk wedding gown, couldn’t believe her luck. She’d had a crush on Hugh Bagley-Whyte since she was a child living in the village and he was the boy from The Big House whose parents rarely let him play with the village kids. Adolescence had seen Hugh at Eton, then Oxford, while Amanda’s parents scrimped to send her to a small private school. Amanda had subsidised her own way through university by waitressing and cleaning. She had finally met up with Hugh again last year, when she, in her capacity as public relations consultant, met him at a party she had arranged for a client.
She had taken one look at Hugh and the crush of her childhood came back a hundredfold, with an adult sexual longing thrown in for good measure. He had grown to nearly 6 foot, and was broad shouldered. His body – fit with workouts at the gym – was superbly encased in an Italian suit. He had fair hair, flopping Hugh Grant-style over his dark blue eyes, a long straight nose and a firm, if generous mouth. The answer to any maiden’s prayer, in short. A deb’s delight par excellence. And to Amanda’s amazement, he couldn’t take his eyes off her.
Amanda, by her own admission, was good looking. She was slim, but had to work hard at the gym to stay that way. She was 5’7″ barefoot, and in her 3 inch heels was almost as tall as Hugh. Her aquamarine eyes almost always sparkled with laughter, and her wide mouth and full lips hid straight white teeth. Amanda’s hair was what usually caught the attention of men, though. Dark, dark chestnut brown, it swirled in gentle waves to the small of her back, glistening with good health. The kind of hair men want to touch to see if it’s as soft as it looks.
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Which is what Hugh did. He simply walked up to her at the party, glass of Krug in hand, and lifted a handful of her hair in disbelief. “Forgive me for being so rude, but this is just gorgeous! I had to touch it!” Then his eyes had met hers, and by the end of the night they’d flitted from the party and had gone back to Hugh’s pied-à-terre in Chelsea and shagged each other senseless.
Two weeks later they’d moved in together. Ten months after that Hugh had asked her to marry him, and Amanda, head over heels in love, had, of course, accepted.
They were married in the village church in a wedding that combined smart London friends with the villagers in a riotously happy occasion.
Hugh thought his heart would burst with pride when he saw Amanda walk tremulously up the aisle towards him, her hands shaking as she held the bouquet of long-stemmed champagne roses. Her head was hidden by a gauzy veil, but he could see the smile on her face and glimpsed her incredible hair twisted into a topknot creation with a long, long curl left loose to hang over one shoulder. Hugh was so rapt in the vision he didn’t notice the organist hit a disastrously wrong note, or the resulting giggles from all sides of the church.
“Dearly beloved,” intoned the vicar, who thought Amanda was so beautiful he was glad of his cassock – it hid a massive erection that was entirely Amanda’s fault. “We are gathered….”
Hugh and Amanda barely heard a word. They said “I do” in the right places with absolute fervour, and when it came to kissing the bride Hugh was so enthusiastic that more prudent members of the congregation squirmed awkwardly. As Mrs Norrie whispered to Miss Ames, it was like watching people have sex with their clothes on and it’s a wonder God didn’t strike ’em dead on the spot, doing that in front of the altar AND in front of the vicar, and him with a bad heart and all.
Amanda’s parents, proud to bursting of their only daughter, had hired a carriage and two white horses to take the bride and groom back to the reception at Baldlock Hall. Amanda felt like royalty as Hugh helped her into the carriage. She waved – Princess Amanda! – to the crowd outside the church as they threw rice and made the horses shuffle nervously.
“I can’t believe this!” she whispered to Hugh. “Isn’t it fantastic!?” Throwing back her veil, which the gentle breeze persisted in blowing onto her face, she waved frantically as the horses moved off at a relieved trot, snorting and swishing their grey tails.
“Not as fantastic as you,” Hugh said seriously, tracing a finger down her cheek. “I’ll never forget this moment. How you look right now…. That beautiful fall of hair…” He twisted the loose lock around his hand as if it were a rope, and Amanda leaned her cheek against his fingers when he had twisted it up to her ear.
“I wouldn’t care if you took a pair of scissors and cut it off,” she said sincerely, looking into his eyes. “I love you so much, you could do anything to me!”
Hugh looked a bit uncomfortable and wouldn’t meet her eyes for a second. “That’s a brave thing to say, considering what beautiful hair you have, darling.”
Amanda giggled. “Oh, Hugh, my love! I know you wouldn’t cut my hair off anyway! I have a feeling that if it wasn’t for my hair you would never have even said hello to me at that party and we wouldn’t be here!”
Hugh grinned, just a little bit sheepishly. “I must admit your hair was the first thing I noticed about you. But when I got to know you, I realised there was more to you than just long, flowing locks.” He kissed her, and when he finally pulled his lips from hers they had arrived at Baldlock Hall and Hugh’s mouth was covered in pale pink lipstick.
Amanda slipped inside to repair her makeup. For part of her life now, this would be her new home. Hugh was the only son, and his two sisters were both married and had moved away. Hugh’s father had died six months ago, and Hugh’s mother lived with a housekeeper in this rambling, mellow-bricked mansion. Amanda wasn’t sure she liked her mother-in-law well enough to share a house with her, despite Hugh’s assurances that they would be living in a separate wing. Arabella Bagley-Whyte was domineering, with her booming hunting, shooting and fishing voice. You could picture her keeping the most unruly members of the local pony club in line with a single glare from her bright blue eyes. Her grey hair was uncompromisingly cropped short; when she dressed up, as she had done today, she almost looked like a man in drag.
Arabella met her new daughter-in-law at the door with a continental peck on each cheek. “How are the butterflies, Amanda, my dear? Will you be able to eat the wedding breakfast?”
“Oh, I think so, er, Arabella,” Amanda said awkwardly, still feeling unsure about calling this martinet by her Christian name, as she had been encouraged to do. “I’ve got quite an appetite now! I must fix my lipstick though.”
Arabella followed her down an interminable hallway to the bathroom. Amanda thought idly as she walked that she’d love to redecorate and make the house a little brighter instead of all this doom, gloom and dark brown paint.
To Amanda’s surprise Arabella tenderly touched her long curl of hair, plumping it up and curling it arouind her fingers so it hung in a long sausage. Why, the woman was almost motherly! Maybe she’d misjudged her and things would be fine after all. Amanda smiled in the mirror, trying to meet Arabella’s eyes. But the other woman seemed fixated on her hair. Oh well, perhaps she’d once had hair like this, Amanda thought. A lot of middle aged women cropped their hair for simplicity’s sake. Amanda shrugged and repaired her makeup deftly.
Outside guests had started to arrive at the marquee, and were guzzling champagne cheerily. Hugh looked gorgeous in his morning suit, Amanda thought as she smiled and greeted people, trying to work her way to her husband’s side.
For Amanda, the wedding breakfast was almost as much of a blur as the wedding itself. She tried to commit the important things to memory – her father’s speech, cutting the elaborate four-tiered cake, the bridal waltz in Hugh’s warm arms – but was so excited she could barely concentrate. She didn’t really taste the exquisite food that appeared in front of her, but ate it unthinkingly, her eyes on Hugh.
Three hours later, the guests began to depart and Hugh and Amanda breathed a joint sigh of relief. Amanda kicked off her high heeled pumps and walked barefoot over the shaved turf from the marquee to the house, wriggling her toes in ecstasy.
“God, that feels good! I think I’ll become like your mother and tramp around in sensible brogues from now on! D’you mind?”
“You’ll feel silly in a little black dress.”
“Well, maybe there’ll be exceptions,” Amanda conceded, her stride easily matching his. She caught their reflections in the mullioned glass, little fractured Hughs and Amandas, like a mosaic in the sun. “We do look good together, don’t we?”
“Perfect.” Hugh kissed her, and detached the veil gently from her hair. He studied the elaborate topknot most of her lovely dark locks had been woven into. It was a mass of braids, swirls and hairpins. When he stroked it it was hard with lacquer; not like hair at all but like an inanimate creature produced by a taxidermist. “Good grief, how long did this take to do?”
“Ages,” Amanda replied. “Can’t wait to undo it. These hairpins are killing me.”
Arabella stood watching from the portico. Amanda felt Hugh stiffen beside her. “Darling, what’s wrong?” she asked, stroking his arm and trying to interpret the look which passed between mother and son.
Arabella walked over slowly, her high heels looking awkward on her; they sank into the grass and skewered her to a spot directly in front of the couple. “Hugh, have you told her yet?”
“No, Mother,” Hugh replied quietly.
“Told me what?” Amanda wrinkled her nose and forehead. She didn’t care for the look on Arabella’s face. It was quite eerie. Almost evil, and expectant. Arabella was looking forward to SOMETHING, but Amanda didn’t really want to know what.
“The curse of Baldlock Hall,” Arabella said gravely.
Amanda bit back a giggle. It sounded like something out of Agatha Christie, or a bad B-movie from the 50s. Curse indeed! But Arabella was serious!
“Mother – ” Hugh began in a frustrated voice, but Arabella shushed him and continued.
“Since the Hall was built, the family living here has been plagued with bad luck,” Arabella said. “This wasn’t always the home of the Bagley-Whytes. We moved here in the 1700s. And when we bought the house we bought the curse.”
Hugh rolled his eyes but Arabella ignored him. Despite herself, Amanda was intrigued. A centuries old curse, with the new millenium just around the corner. What was it, a ghost? Clanking chains at midnight, a clock that stopped at the same time each day, doors that mysteriously opened by themselves?
“Apparently the land Baldlock Hall was built on was once druidical sacred land. After the advent of Christianity the druid temple was knocked down, but nothing grew on this land. The land, being permanently fallow, was bought cheaply by a man named Blacklock, and he built the house you see here. Blacklock was plagued by trouble. Hauntings, fires, his immediately family taken mysteriously ill, his money vanishing. He consulted a wise woman, who told him that he must cut his wife’s hair off to the scalp, and throw the hair in the ancient well behind the house. His troubles would be over. His wife would have to stay bald until either he died, or his eldest son was married. And then the eldest son’s wife would have her head shaved. And so on.”
“What rubbish!” Amanda burst out, her heart beating as she could see where this was leading to. Arabella turned a gimlet eye on her and silenced her with a glare.
“So Blacklock shaved his wife’s head, and their lives turned around. No more mysterious illnesses, and the family fortune thrived. He changed the name of the house from Blacklock Hall to Baldlock Hall. They stayed there for four generations. Each time a new bride came into the Hall she refused to shave her head, and bad luck once again descended on the family. Finally the Blacklocks sold to the Bagley-Whytes, who hadn’t heard of the curse. They have stayed here till this day. Of course, from time to time the Bagley-Whyte wives have tried to keep their hair, but the misfortunes have been tragic. Lost children, miscarriages, drownings, fires, bankruptcy….”
“Why don’t you sell?” Amanda demanded, fingering her hair. “Let someone else believe in this silly curse and take it on!”
“Because we will all die,” Arabella said simply. “That’s what the wise woman told Blacklock when he consulted her. His descendents didn’t believe him. They sold to the Bagley-Whytes and within a month were dead in their beds from a mystery illness which turned their tongues black.”
“Modern medicine can prevent that!” snorted Amanda. “I’m not shaving my head – am I, Hugh?”
Hugh had that shamefaced look again and Amanda gazed at him in disbelief. “Oh, no! Don’t tell me you believe in this shit as well?”
“When my parents were married, Mother refused to shave her head. She had lovely long hair like you. She was pregnant when she married Father. She aborted a foetus with three legs three months later. Then she tried to get pregnant again and miscarried. Finally Father persuaded her to shave her head, and she was able to fall pregnant and carry me and my sisters full term.”
Arabella nodded. “And I tried to grow my hair back when the children were at school. Hugh’s father, who was much older than I, suffered a heart attack when I hadn’t shaved for a month. He was dying, getting sicker and sicker. I went to the bathroom and shaved my hair off again – it was barely half an inch long – and got a call from the hospital an hour later saying he had taken a miraculous turn for the better. Until he finally died six months ago of old age, aged nearly eighty, I kept my head shaved and wore a wig. This is the first time I’ve had hair in many years.” She brushed her hand over her head.
Hugh looked earnestly at his bride. “Amanda, my darling, you WILL have your head shaved – won’t you?”
Amanda looked defiantly at him. “And if I won’t?”
“Either one of us could die. I don’t want that. I’d rather live with you bald than without you.”
“What if I divorce you? What if I annul this marriage right now?” Amanda glared.
“Too late,” Arabella said. “Once the vows are taken, you’re part of the curse. I’m sorry, my dear, but that lovely hair of yours is going to go.” Swiftly she reached forward and grabbed Amanda’s arms in a vice-like clutch. Amanda tried to shake free but it was useless. The denizen of the Pony Club had muscles of steel. Arabella took one arm and Hugh grabbed the other. Together they began to drag a protesting Amanda to the house.
“Darling, you have to,” Hugh said persuadingly, ignoring Amanda’s four-letter curses. “I love your hair, you know that. That’s why I didn’t have the courage to tell you about the curse earlier. I knew what you’d say.”
“So you trap me! You marry me and THEN tell me! Well, what if we don’t live here? What if we live overseas? What about America, or Australia?”
“The curse is strong enough to follow,” Arabella said calmly. “Hugh’s ancestors tried that, too. Funnily enough it only affects the eldest son and his wife. Hugh’s sisters have lovely hair, don’t they, Hugh?”
Amanda felt sick. This woman was mad! And it appeared her perfectly sane, lovely husband was around the bloody twist too! “Look,” she said angrily. “Give it a month. If any of us appears to be dying at that point, then you can shave my head and see what happens. But I don’t believe in this curse! I don’t see why I should shave my head this very minute!”
“I’m not taking any risks,” said Hugh firmly. “I don’t want to lose you, and I don’t want to die either.” He guided her through the front door and down the long hallway again. Amanda found herself in the bathroom where, full of joy and optimism, she had fixed her lipstick before the wedding breakfast. It seemed months ago now.
Before she could protest the door had slammed shut on herself and Hugh. From the other side of the door Arabella was turning a key in the lock with a dreadful finality. “Yell when you’re done,” she called through the thick door, “and I’ll let you out!”
Amanda raised her fists and began to pummel Hugh’s firm chest. Helpless with grief at what he had to do, he let her hit him for a few minutes until she was crying so hard she couldn’t hit any more.
“Amanda, darling. We have to. Look, it might be sexy. You never know. You’ve never tried shaving your head. It might feel great!” Hugh put on his most persuasive voice, the one he used when trying to get a young horse to jump a fence for the first time.
Amanda met his eyes with a bitter, glittery glare. She knew Hugh was rather vain about his hair, and began to have an inkling that Hugh was actually going to enjoy shaving her head. He seemed, on reflection, a tad obsessed about hair, fussing over his own and drooling over hers. Could the man have a fetish? Was that part of the “curse” too?
Hugh gulped. How could he explain that the thought of cropping off every scrap of Amanda’s hair both thrilled and repulsed him? And the thought of Amanda, angry and hurt, rendered bald was giving him a hard-on. Wordlessly he opened the bathroom cabinet and produced the implements he’d stashed there for Amanda’s shearing: long bladed scissors, a comb, a pair of electric clippers.
“Right!” Amanda sat firmly on the stool that stood near the bath, obviously put there oh-so-conveniently for this purpose. She pulled a towel from the rail and threw it around her shoulders. “Don’t want to get any hair on my precious wedding dress, do we!?”
“Don’t hate me,” Hugh begged. “It’s the curse. It’s not me.”
But Amanda noticed his erection as he began to unpin the stiff confection that formed her topknot. It unravelled in wild curls, and three long braids, sticking out stiffly from her head.
Before Amanda could say a word, Hugh picked up the scissors and severed one of the braids, close to the top of Amanda’s head. She heard a SHIRRRRIIIIIIIK! And then a dark plait fell to the floor. Shit! Hugh was actually going through with this! She couldn’t believe it! A sensible, twentieth century man believing enough in some bloody curse to cut off the lovely hair she’d had all her life.
Amanda’s eyes filled with tears. She felt terribly betrayed. Disbelievingly she heard the scissors at her head again, and the long lock which had curled loosely over her shoulder all day hit the tiles. Amanda wiped her eyes with the back of her hand.
“Darling, I’m sorry,” Hugh said. “I promise it won’t hurt. Look, it could be fun, yeah? Why don’t we make this a kind of foreplay? You might really enjoy it, just relax. And bald is in fashion these days. I mean, haven’t you ever wondered what it would be like to have your head shaved?”
Amanda couldn’t believe she was hearing this! “No,” she said shortly, “I haven’t wondered. And if you think you’re going to have sex with me after this, you’ve got another think coming!”
Hugh knelt in front of her. “I love you, Amanda. With or without hair. Please love me and trust me. I’m doing this for us, for our future.” He put his arms around her stiffened body, trying to comfort her. Amanda didn’t respond, staring stonily ahead.
Then she felt Hugh’s hands in her hair again. He was running his fingers through it, trying to untangle the mess the lacquer had made of it. She felt him lift a handful away from her scalp at the back, then felt the scissors plunge into it, barely a couple of inches from her head.
SKRRRRIIIIIIIK! Twenty inches of shining dark hair floated free and danced to the floor. Amanda’s heart thudded and she put a hand up to feel the stump of hair the scissors had left. Tears filled her eyes again.
Hugh was at her left side, lifting up the hair at her temples. Wordlessly he maneuvered the blades around the lock, then equally wordlessly severed it. Amanda watched the hair fall free, slithering over the towel and onto the silk folds of her wedding gown.
He lifted and severed another clump, letting it drop onto her shoulders and wind its way, like a dark brown river, to her lap. Getting ambitious, Hugh gathered the hair at the back of Amanda’s head into a ponytail, holding it high near her crown. It hung in a wavy waterfall down her back, breathtakingly beautiful. Hugh stroked the hair briefly, then, almost a man possessed, began to severe it at the base, sawing the scissors through the thick strands. Amanda felt her hair pulling and pulling, then bit by bit the pulling subsided as Hugh hacked his way through the thick handful.
Short, bouncy layers fell down the back of Amanda’s head, barely caressing her nape. Near the crown her hair was so short it stuck up in tufts.
Finally Hugh sheared the ponytail off, and held it up in his hands disbelievingly. There was so much hair there! It wriggled like a live thing when he moved his hand. The contrast between the gorgeous fall of hair in his hand and Amanda’s roughly cropped head almost made him come in his morning suit. Much as he’d enjoyed playing with Amanda’s hair before they were married, he was absolutely relishing cutting it all off! Inspired, he attacked the last long hair left on his wife’s head, on the right hand side, and cut it simply into a bob half way up her ear.
Amanda gazed as the long, lush locks snaked over her dress and onto the floor. She put her hands to her head and ran them through the rough layers that now formed her crowning glory. Some of her hair was a few inches long. Some was barely there at all. Amanda shook her head in disbelief.
She jumped as she heard a buzzing sound. Hugh had plugged in the clippers and switched them on. Through the teary veil of her eyelashes Amanda saw him oiling the whirring blades. He came towards her and she shuddered in a reflex action.
Hugh stroked her ruined hair gently. “It won’t hurt, darling. Trust me.” He ran his fingers through the long inches left on top of her head, lifting the hair away from the scalp. Holding it up, he plunged the clippers into the hair at her forehead, pushing them back through the thick tangle of chestnut and clearing a pathway down the centre of Amanda’s head.
Amanda gasped. It felt – peculiar! She had an instant sense of coldness on her scalp, coupled with a tingle as the blades passed over, severing her hair to zero in their wake. Before she could say anything her husband had the shears at her forehead again, nuzzling the blades into her hairline and buzzing back over her scalp, peeling away her hair in clumps.
As Hugh stood in front of her Amanda noticed he had an enormous erection. So he WAS getting off on shaving off her lovely hair, was he? She felt a surge of anger as the blades nuzzled her scalp again, baring the top of her head completely.
Then Hugh went over the top of her scalp with the clippers several times, making sure all the hair was clipped away. Amanda closed her eyes as tiny snippets of hair fell in front of her face. It made her concentrate on the feeling of the vibrating blades against her skin, rotating over and over and over her crown.
Hugh pushed her head to one side, and began to clip away the hair in front of her ear. The clippers seemed obscenely loud as they shrieked through her thick locks, buzzing them off to a five o’clock shadow. Hugh’s hand on top of her shaven scalp was warm as he held her head firmly in position. Then he was delicately clipping away behind her ear, bending her ear forward like a barber so he could shave every scrap away.
Amanda’s head was feeling colder and colder as more hair was buzzed. She knew he’d finished the right hand side now, and that she had no hair at all around her ear or temple. Hesitantly she lifted a hand and ran it over her shorn scalp. Tiny prickles met her fingers; all that was left of the once-beautiful hair.
“See, it’s not hurting, darling,” Hugh said gently, stroking the bald top of her head and making Amanda quiver. She had no idea her scalp was so sensitive! Firmly he pushed her head forwards and positioned the clippers at the nape of her neck.
Then he began scraping up the back of her head. Clumps of hair fell away to reveal skin almost blue-tinged with the dark stubble of hair left in the clippers’ wake. Smoothly Hugh shaved up the middle of the back in one practiced stroke, the shining locks falling over his fingers and hand as they left Amanda’s head. He clipped the back of her head three times to ensure the hair had all been shaved away to a uniform zero. All that was left now was the roughly-cropped hair on her left side.
Amanda’s wedding dress and train were covered in hair of varying lengths. Where the silken folds of material lay on the floor, they were carpeted by soft chestnut locks. It was almost impossible to believe so much hair had been cut off only one head.
Hugh contemplated the last locks of hair left on his wife’s head. Once he shaved this, he – or she – would be shaving her head regularly for many years to come. Her hair would never even grow to the two or so inches left on her head now. Delicately he stroked the soft waves, noticing how erotic it felt when he ran his fingers from the shaved stubble up into the dark chestnut locks. He’d remember this moment until he died.
Shaking cut hair from the clipper blades, Hugh took a deep breath and prepared to cut off the last of Amanda’s hair. Holding her head firmly with one hand, and trying to ignore the tears seeping down her cheeks, he pushed the clippers into her hair and shaved away the hair behind her ears in careful strokes. The clippers howled as they encountered Amanda’s thick waves, but did the job effortlessly.
Amanda shuddered when she heard the wretched things buzzing at her head again. The sound when they were merely switched on was fine, but the dreadful crackling noise they made when they bit into her hair made her skin crawl. They were so loud in her ear, too. She closed her eyes as she heard the clippers in front of her ears, ready to shear away the last locks of hair on her scalp.
Tenderly Hugh stroked the sad locks, and, taking a deep breath, plunged the clippers up into them, watching as the last of Amanda’s hair fell onto her shoulders and down to her dress.
“That’s it, Amanda,” Hugh said with a sigh. “It’s all over.” He ran his hands over her denuded head. “How does it feel?”
Amanda didn’t answer. Shaking the locks of hair from her dress – they made a fine cloud of chestnut around her – she stood up and looked in the mirror.
A bald alien in a wedding dress stared back at her. Amanda touched her head in disbelief. She looked bloody awful! How could Hugh do this to her? And expect her to remain this way until they had a son to marry off or until he died?
Until he died….
Amanda looked at her new husband. He was standing under the window, calmly blowing hairs out of the clipper blades. He still had an enormous erection and was probably expecting her to do something about it. She looked from Hugh to the mounds of her hair covering – absolutely COVERING – the bathroom floor, and something snapped.
Picking up the long-bladed scissors, she bounded across the floor in one fluid motion and plunged the blades deep into Hugh’s neck.
By luck or design, she hit the carotid artery. Hugh’s eyes opened in shock as the blades severed his life blood supply and he turned towards her, a look on his face that distinctly said “That’s unfair!” With shaking hands he tugged the blades from his neck, and a fountain of blood spurted out wildly, spraying Amanda’s dress, her face, her shaven head and then the mirror.
Dispassionately, Amanda watched her husband convulse on the floor. When she estimated that an ambulance wouldn’t be here in time to save him, she rattled the doorknob.
“Arabella!” she called sweetly. “We’re finished in here!”