Elizabeth – An excerpt from “Moose Crossing” by DLBARGRILL
In their past, everyone has an Elizabeth. She’s the one who you fell hard for, but she only wanted to be friends. Eventually you get over her and she fades out of your life.
Dan thought she was gone forever. She left Philadelphia 5 years ago. She returned a month ago for law school and Dan had met her by chance. Sometime that night while they were having drinks, Elizabeth realized how much in love with her Dan had been. The thought of this was so erotic, she seduced him. The sex was incredible, probably because Elizabeth had never been the subject of a man’s fantasy before.
Today, they were to have their first date. She asked him to meet her on the corner of 20th and Walnut at 3 p.m. This would have been a wonderful experience for Dan, except he was already engaged to Stephanie.
Everyone was a bit flaky in college, but Elizabeth was flakier than most. That was five years ago. Dan wondered if Elizabeth had changed at all. Eight nights before, Elizabeth was not the girl he knew, but the woman he wanted her to be. He was foolish to think that since she was different on that one night, all her bad habits were gone.
Sure enough, Elizabeth showed up a few minutes later at 3:22. There was no apology, even though Dan wanted one. When she gave him a peck on the cheek, he no longer wanted the apology. She was there and everything was now okay. But why had she only given him a peck? He had not only slept with her, but ruined his relationship with Stephanie over her. He wanted more than that.
Elizabeth smiled her sweet lovable smile. He saw that despite her hellish schedule, she tried to be the Elizabeth he wanted. She left her stress at home. “Do we need a destination?”
Dan noticed how casually Elizabeth dressed. She had clipped her hair back in a barrette, and she wore no makeup. She wasn’t trying to impress him, and definitely wasn’t dressed for a date. He slept with her. She should have wanted to impress him. Dan filed this away, but he didn’t let it irritate him. After all, he wasn’t dressy either. He wore cologne, but like Elizabeth wore jeans and a sweater.
They walked east, then north to Market Street. In Philadelphia, the blocks surrounding Chestnut Street were a shopping district. Some of the more upscale stores were located there, but there were also many more affordable stores.
“Do you know where you’re going?” Dan asked.
“Kinda,” she answered. “But I just want to explore.” She linked elbows with him and asked in a syrupy tone. “Do you want to explore with me?”
He smiled. This was how he pictured the date. “Yeah.”
They browsed in the Sharper Image store, then in a bookstore. On the way out of One Liberty Place, they bought a small popcorn at a kiosk. Dan felt totally at ease. They were goofing with each other as if they did every day.
Two minutes later, Dan grabbed the bag of popcorn from Elizabeth. “Give me some of that.”
“Hey!” She stopped and poked her lower lip out.
Dan ate a few kernels. “First you get us thrown out of Sharper Image, then in the book store you…” She smiled at him. “You’re incorrigible.”
Elizabeth giggled and grabbed the popcorn. She yelled, “Not!” as she ran down the street. Caught by surprise, Dan quickly ran after her. She narrowly missed a group of pedestrians who had just crossed the street. Dan had to stop temporarily while they passed. Elizabeth turned back to Dan, and didn’t see the 19-year-old woman exiting a hair salon. Both women ended up on their rear ends and the popcorn was lost.
Dan was upon them in a moment. “Everyone okay?”
The woman stared at Elizabeth. Although she wasn’t hurt, her mood was foul. “You should watch where you’re going!”
Dan helped the woman to her feet and picked up her backpack. “You have to forgive my friend, she has a rare form of vertigo and she can’t keep her balance.”
“Thanks,” she looked at Dan confused. “Vertigo?”
Elizabeth was already on her feet. “Do you think she’s pretty?” Elizabeth asked Dan as if the other woman wasn’t there.
Embarrassed, Dan’s face was red. “Yeah. I guess.”
Elizabeth turned back toward the stranger. “I’m sorry I bumped into you. Can you tell me who cut your hair?”
For the first time, Dan looked at the woman’s hair. She had one of those cute faces, one which would always look 17. Her hair was as curly as Elizabeth’s, but a few inches short of her shoulders. The biggest difference, was the fresh style. Elizabeth’s hair was a mess.
The woman couldn’t keep up with Elizabeth “What?”
“In there.” Elizabeth pointed to the neon sign ‘Gilbert St. Jacques’ hanging in front window. “I assume you just got your hair cut. Who styled your hair?”
The woman was a little more composed. “Oh. Kiersten. I go to her all the time.”
“She did a terrific job. You look fantastic. Doesn’t she look great, Dan?”
“Yeah,” Dan said. He wasn’t sure why, but Elizabeth wanted his agreement.
The woman blushed, thanked Elizabeth, and went on her way. Despite being knocked down, she probably left the encounter a happier person. Dan marveled at Elizabeth’s ability to bump into someone and leave the situation with no damage to herself.
“Let’s go in.”
Dan asked, “What? Why?”
She walked up a step. “To buy some shoes.”
Dan stared at her.
Elizabeth was up another couple of steps. “Not. To get a haircut.”
She was on the landing, three feet above him. “Of course me. Who else is here?”
“You want to do this now?”
Elizabeth ran her fingers through her unruly curls. Dan couldn’t tell if she had brushed it, but if she had, her hair did not respond well. “Why not now? The sign says ‘no appointment necessary.'”
Elizabeth didn’t wait for Dan to agree before bolting in. She was immediately greeted by a man wearing a black pocket-T and white pants. “How may we help you?”
Elizabeth looked around. The salon was part of a chain which catered to economically challenged young men and women who didn’t want to spend an hour and a half in a salon. Elizabeth, with her time at a premium, fit into that category. The 22 area locations were a testament to the success of the idea.
The furnishings were funky, but inexpensive, the walls a fake wood. The 12 chairs were spaced just far enough apart so the place didn’t seem cramped. Seven of the chairs were occupied and Elizabeth saw two more clients getting their hair shampooed. Of those getting haircuts, six were women between 15 and 35, so Elizabeth knew she was in the right place. “Could I get Kiersten to cut my hair?”
The man looked over his appointment book and smiled. “You’re in luck. She just finished with a client and her next appointment isn’t for an hour. I’ll put you next, but don’t tell anyone.”
Elizabeth smiled and happily skipped to a sofa. Dan finally caught up with her and sat comfortably next to her. “Okay, we’re in here. I guess you’re getting a haircut. Why are we doing this now?”
“I have no spare time and we are here. It seemed logical.” She kissed him on the lips. “You don’t mind, do you?”
“E, I hope you realize this is not a normal dating activity.”
Elizabeth held Dan’s hand. “I know, but since we’re in the nebulous zone between friendship and dating, it can qualify as one of our activities.”
“That’s okay. But do we have to now?”
“I wasn’t planning on it today, but I think we can both agree I need a haircut.” She took her hair out of the barrette, looked at herself in the mirror, and was overcome with how much she hated how it looked. She held Dan’s hand tight. “I’m glad you’re here with me when I do this.”
Dan looked into her eyes, and decided the haircut was okay with him. He had never gone with any of his friends or girlfriends to get their hair cut, but maybe she was right. This was an activity for their nebulous zone.
An attractive blond a year or two older than Elizabeth stole Dan’s prized eyes and the rest of his companion. “Hi, I’m Kiersten and I’ll be your stylist.”
Dan considered what Elizabeth said, “Wait. What do you mean by ‘do this’? You’re just going to get a trim, aren’t you?”
Elizabeth ignored him while she walked to the sinks with Kiersten. She was far more concerned with her hairdresser than Dan. In a few moments Elizabeth would ask this stranger to alter her appearance, so she needed to size the woman up. There was an important element of trust involved, and no time to build it.
Elizabeth noticed Kiersten’s five earrings, Doc Marten boots, and short print dress. This was a bit funkier than Elizabeth’s personal style, but Kiersten’s hair was a very conventional long blunt cut with a center part. There was probably no need to worry that this woman was too weird. “Hi Kiersten, I’m Elizabeth.”
They shook hands and Elizabeth sat at the sink. “Nice to meet you Elizabeth. Let’s get you washed. Tell me a little about yourself.”
Elizabeth laughed as Kiersten washed her hair. “Is this a job interview?”
“I didn’t mean…”
Elizabeth put her hand on Kiersten’s arm. “I’m joking.”
Kiersten towel dried Elizabeth’s wet hair. “I just like to find out about a customer before I cut their hair. It helps me get the feel for who they are, how much time they have, and what they need.”
“I’m a law student at Pinkus who spends no time on my hair.”
As they walked back toward Dan, he asked, “Elizabeth, what do you mean by ‘this’?”
“Page 10, bottom silly. The one you liked last week. Check the backpack.”
While the haircut idea seemed weird to him at first, the idea now turned him on. He was initially disappointed she hadn’t taken more care to look nice for their date, but now she was getting her hair professionally done for the rest of their evening.
The first thing he found in her backpack was a law textbook. Why did she bring a textbook on their date? Maybe she’d come from the library or something. Sure enough, next to her wallet, keys, and sundries he found Celebrity Hairstyles. He didn’t know which haircut was on the bottom of page 10, but assumed it must have been the one he recommended the previous Sunday.
He arrived at page 10, and looked at the style. Back when Dan knew Elizabeth her hair was shorter, not nearly as short as the picture, however. Maybe he should have put more thought into the question. How would she look with shorter hair?
“Dan, would you give Kiersten the magazine?”
Elizabeth sat at Kiersten’s station, and saw his reflection in the mirror. “Yeah?”
“What if I wasn’t serious last week?” Dan grinned.
As much as she wanted to kick him, there wasn’t anything Elizabeth could do about the last comment. She was secure in the stylist’s chair. “Wipe that smirk off your face.”
Elizabeth knew Dan was truthful. This comment was just his way of teasing her. Dan planted the hairstyle in her head, and they both liked it. All she needed was a little push at the right time, and he provided that.
Kiersten showed Elizabeth the photo. “Are you sure you want this one?”
Elizabeth studied her split ends, snags, and mess of curls in the mirror. “Do you think I can’t carry it off?”
“Oh no. That’s not it. With your hair texture and facial shape it would look very good on you.”
Elizabeth frowned. “But?”
“It is kind of short.”
Elizabeth grabbed her split ends. “I want, no I need, to get rid of all the dead hair, plus get it out of my face.”
Kiersten skulked around Elizabeth, and combed her hair. “I could do that without cutting so much.”
Elizabeth turned her head, and looked Kiersten in the eyes. “Kiersten, have you ever wanted to just cut your hair? You know, really cut your hair?”
Kiersten held a section of her hair in her hand. It ran down to the middle of her back, almost a foot longer than Elizabeth’s hair. “Sure I have, but…”
“And you know, just know if you don’t do it now, you never will?”
Kiersten let go of her hair and pinned sections of hair up in clips. “Maybe that’s the reason not to.”
Kiersten whispered, “Does cutting your hair have anything to do with that guy over there?”
Elizabeth looked in the mirror and peered at Dan who was reading GQ and drinking coffee. “A little. Look, you have the magazine. Use your judgment on what style is best for me.”
Kiersten took the magazine and placed it on her station. Opening the drawer beneath it, she removed her scissors and went back to her charge. Kiersten immediately cut the right side of Elizabeth’s hair a half inch below the ear. A half-foot of wet curls fell to the floor.
Elizabeth laughed as she stared at her asymmetrical look. “No going back now.”
Kiersten continued by similarly dispersing dark curls on the left side of Elizabeth’s head. “No there isn’t. I was hesitant because I’ve had new clients go short and leave crying.”
The sides of Elizabeth’s hair were now much shorter than the back, which while wet, still stretched down to her shoulders. “I’m not a crier.”
“It’s tough to keep those clients. I prefer to get to know them before doing anything so drastic.”
Dan lowered his magazine to see Kiersten razor Elizabeth’s hair to her nape. It not only didn’t faze Elizabeth to lose so much hair, but she seemed to enjoy the experience.
This girl wasn’t Stephanie. In the two years he knew his fiancée, her long hair hadn’t changed. Dan remembered one time she was upset her stylist cut too much, while he couldn’t see any change. She admitted he cut an inch when she wanted him to cut half that.
Stephanie was so cautious and risk averse. Elizabeth was spontaneously at ease with herself. Until this moment Dan didn’t realize he might have lost that aspect of himself. He’d been playing things safe by coming home to Philadelphia. He proposed knowing Stephanie would come with him if they were engaged. He even took the safe job at the theater.
Elizabeth awakened a part of him he didn’t know was asleep, so he didn’t regret seeing her, even though he promised Stephanie he wouldn’t. Here was Elizabeth getting her hair cut in a style he chose. He couldn’t picture Stephanie doing that. Watching the hair cut gave him an erotic rush.
Kiersten was done with Elizabeth’s hair. Most of it lay on the floor, not on her head. She was nervous when she asked “What do you think? Your hair naturally has those big sweeping curls, so you’ll have to blow it dry like I did to get it wavy like this.”
Elizabeth studied the strange woman in the mirror. In the front, her hair was short and parted on the left. The horrible volume was gone, as there was only one long strand across the bridge of her nose. The sides were just above her now visible heart shaped earrings. She didn’t even remember she put those on in the morning, but she noticed them now.
“Will this be hard to manage?” Elizabeth asked as she ran her fingers through her shorn locks. They flowed easily, quite a change, and her hair felt light to her touch. All her dead hair was gone. The style was wavy, not her natural curly.
“Oh no,” Kiersten answered. “This is such an easy style, you can just wash it and go, although then your hair will end up curly.”
“Good. I don’t have time to blow dry.” Elizabeth tried to make a judgment, but the alteration was so drastic, she couldn’t. At the very least, she got what she wanted. Her hair was out of her face. “Could you show me the back?”
Kiersten tentatively handed Elizabeth a hand mirror. “I razored it shorter at the nape like the model.” She turned the chair around to let Elizabeth see the reflection. “Please tell me you like it.”
The back was even shorter than the sides. It was the first time in her life Elizabeth had short hair and this style was above the hairline. The mirror confirmed Kiersten had accomplished the magazine cut brilliantly. “You did an excellent job. It’s just like the picture.”
Elizabeth discarded the smock and tipped Kiersten. During the time it took for Elizabeth to pay the receptionist, and join Dan outside, neither said a word. Halfway down the block, Elizabeth finally spoke, “Aren’t you going to say something about my hair?”
Dan started to speak, but Elizabeth continued, “Just so you don’t let it go to that huge ego of yours, I didn’t cut it this way only because you wanted me to.”
“But I had something to do with it,” Dan answered as the wind blew his words. The outside temperature dropped eight degrees while they were inside.
“Yeah, but not everything.” He actually had more to do with it than she wanted to admit.
“I just have one question.”
“Do you like it?”
Elizabeth laughed and locked elbows with Dan. “Always the diplomat, aren’t you?”
“Okay. I guess it’s fair to know my opinion. The truth is, it’s so different that I haven’t decided yet. Now you tell me. Undecided isn’t an answer for you.”
“You know when I suggested this style to you I didn’t think you were going to actually do it?”
Dan took a deep breath. Here goes everything. “But I love it. You look even more beautiful than usual, if that’s possible. I’m sorry I was so quiet, but it’s a shock.” She gave him a kiss on the lips and he tingled.
“For me too. I know it’s what I asked for, but it’s a bigger change than I thought it would be.”
“There’s one thing I want to do.”
They continued down Market Street and were near City Hall, but neither of them noticed. They were far too lost in each other for the city around them to intrude.
Dan ran his fore and middle fingers along Elizabeth’s newly razored nape and felt the well-defined stubble. The ticklish nature of the deed made Elizabeth laugh.
“I haven’t even done that yet.”
Dan replied, “Then I was your virgin.”
They both laughed.