Ted’s Deal – DLBARGRILL
My latest work. It’s fiction with elements of truth. Hope you enjoy it.
Ted and Laura didn’t work on any of the same accounts and worked in different departments. So, their only interaction in Laura’s 2 months at the ad agency was when they happened to be having lunch at the same time in the company lunchroom. That all changed the night of the company’s first softball game.
The agency fielded a team in the ad league to create a positive work environment among the younger employees. Ted loved it, because it allowed him to play ball again, something he hadn’t done since high school. The team was co-ed, so the games weren’t played for strictly competition’s sake. That was okay with Ted. He pushed himself hard, but liked the camaraderie that occurred when people were able to relax.
Cristina usually drove to the games, because the team always went to T.J. McQuarters after the game, win or lose. Ted liked to have a few beers, and Cristina was cool with being a designated driver. When Ted went to Cristina’s office, he was surprised to see Laura there.
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“Didn’t know you were playing.”
“We needed another woman, so I twisted her arm,” Cristina responded.
Ted looked at Laura and smiled. She was around 5’2″, thin, with nice legs and soft features. Her long dark permed hair was pulled back in a ponytail under her baseball cap. “Your hair looks nice like that,” Ted said. “You ever have it short?”
“I’m just saying that seeing your hair like that, I think you’d look good with short hair.”
Laura laughed. “Thanks for the advice, but I’m Latina. Latina women have long hair.”
“Hey,” Cristina said pointing to her short bob. “That’s so old. All Latinas don’t have long hair.”
“That’s not what I meant. It’s just that…”
“You have her tongue tied,” Ted smirked. “That’s a feat.”
“As long as we’re commenting on hair, Ted,” Laura said all too sweetly. “When are you getting rid of that awful goatee? It’s so 80s.”
Ted ran his fingers through his Van Dyke, a goatee with the mustache. “I look better with it.”
Cristina laughed. “Trust me, Ted. You’d look so much better without it.”
“I used to be clean shaven in college. I wasn’t nearly as cute.”
Cristina asked, “Who told you that?”
“No one told me, per se. I just knew by looking.”
“We know better,” Laura said.
“How would you know?”
Laura replied, “We’re women. We know.”
Ted looked at the two of them, but got the same knowing look back from each. “I’ll shave it off right after Laura cuts her hair short.”
That ended the conversation and the three of them were off to play softball. The agency was very good at creating ads, but not very good at softball. That night they lost to one of those mid-town mega-agencies 10-4. Ted managed a couple of hits and Cristina had one. Laura wasn’t much of a ball player. She was certain she embarrassed herself with her pathetic swings and her inability to field a fly to right field. Everyone assured her they were just there to have a good time, but Laura wondered whether they would have asked her to play again if she wasn’t the necessary fourth female on the team.
As was the custom, they went to T.J. McQuarters. The losing team bought the first pitcher for the winners and several pitchers for themselves. No one noticed except for Cristina, but Ted and Laura hooked up that night. It began with some friendly banter, then, after a few beers, some flirting, but by the end of the evening they were sucking face over by the bathroom.
The next morning Laura demurred at Cristina’s inquisition, but eventually broke down under the hot lights. There was some chemistry between her and Ted, but they’d have to keep it secret. Office romances were often not a good move, especially if people found out too early. If it worked out, things would be okay. If it didn’t, it would just be between her and Ted. They didn’t work together, so things wouldn’t be awkward. Cristina left, wondering if the romance was all beer goggles.
It wasn’t. The two of them went to catch a band on Saturday and had as much fun completely sober. Something still bothered Laura about Ted. She had two choices of how to solve the problem. One of them would take time and might not work. The other was something she didn’t want to do, but it was pretty much guaranteed to work.
Laura sent Ted an e-mail. “Free tonight?”
“Sure, what do you have in mind?”
“Something. Willing to go along with a little mystery?”
“Sure. I guess. That’s all I’m going to get?”
“Meet me at the Publix parking lot. I’ll pick you up there.”
“You’re not going to tell me where we’re going?” Ted asked when he got in her car.
“I though you were game for a little mystery.”
“Sure. But I thought the mystery ended when we actually went out.”
“More fun this way. Now, there’s no asking questions about this. There’s going to be a point where you’ll need to sit quietly.”
Ted laughed. “Normally it’s the guy who initiates sex.”
“Who said anything about sex? I’m not that easy.”
They drove to the Jacques Michel Salon. Immediately upon walking in, Ted was confused. “I thought we were going to dinner or something.”
“I know what you thought,” Laura responded. “This is the point where you don’t ask questions. Just go along with it.”
“You couldn’t get a haircut without me?”
“No. Not this time.”
“Hi, Laura,” the perky receptionist said. “Phil says he’s doing you in the back tonight.”
“That’s right. You have a GQ or Sports Illustrated back there for Ted to read?”
“Yeah. Everything’s all set.” The receptionist sat Ted down in the back in a chair. Sure enough, there was this month’s Esquire ready for his perusal. Ted had never been in a fancy salon like this one, and felt uncomfortable. He buried himself in an article about “Women We Love” and zoned out.
A few minutes later, Laura, now in a smock and with wet hair, appeared with a man Ted could only assume was Phil. They sat in the chair in front of him and Phil brushed out Laura’s hair. Ted wanted to get back to the article, but he was half paying attention to Laura.
Phil took Laura’s long hair half way down her neck between two fingers of his left hand. He inserted a razor just above there and started cutting. Ted’s jaw dropped as he saw 16 inches of dark curls gradually come free of Laura’s head.
“Fuck. You’re cutting your hair off!”
Laura laughed as she looked in the mirror. Phil was still applying his razor and she couldn’t see what was happening. “Not exactly the reaction I was hoping for. Isn’t this what you want?”
“Well, yeah. I mean I did… do think you’d look good short, but I didn’t think you ever would. What happened to all that, ‘Latina women have long hair’?”
Laura’s hair came free. Most of the curls which she carefully maintained in the lower part of her hair were gone. Her hair was now a mess of different lengths halfway down her neck. “Sometimes a Latina woman needs to sacrifice her hair for a greater cause.”
Phil separated Laura’s hair into three sections, by brushing all the hair in front of the ears forward. He then scissored the hair at the occipital bone close to the head at a 45-degree angle. He would take a section, reduce it four inches, then take part of the section to use as a guide with the next section. It didn’t take long before the back of her head was reduced to 3/4 of an inch all over. Laura watched Ted’s reaction in the mirror. She couldn’t see what was going on and she knew he was going to like the results more than she would. Maybe all Latina women didn’t have long hair, but there was definitely a mindset many Latina women had about long hair. She was one of those women. Ted seemed to be enjoying the haircut, and that was enough to get Laura through the anguish of knowing her hair wouldn’t be flowing beautifully again.
Phil was taking the sides section by section, starting at the crown. As she saw him cut each subsequent section to 2-2.5 inches in length, she was glad Phil had kept his word and was quiet. This was as between her and Ted as anything in a public place like this could be. Phil cut a little further into the ear section, resulting in a diagonal of shorter at the top of the ear and longer at a pointy sideburn. He repeated the process on the other side snipping the hair to the desired two inches and change.
Laura wanted to look in the mirror and really see what she’d done. The only remaining long hair, in the front, was now brushed over her eyes, down to her chin. Phil took care of that. He picked up sections of the front and cut those to two inches apiece. Gradually, the hair no longer covered Laura’s eyes and she could see what he was doing. Parting the hair on the left, he brushed much of it over to the right, except for wisps of bangs 3/4 of an inch long.
As he blew her hair out, Laura’s worst fears were confirmed. The style was beautiful, but she didn’t like it. She no longer felt Latina with short hair. At least, Ted seemed pleased. This was good, because she needed him to be happy right now.
As Phil unsnapped the cape, Ted started to the entrance. Laura grabbed his shoulder. “Not so fast, Bucko.”
“What? You’re done, aren’t you?”
“I am, but you’re not.”
“I had my hair cut just last week.”
Laura led Ted to the chair and Phil put the cape around him. “It’s not your hair that needs cutting. It’s your goatee.”
“Wait a second. Just because you decided to cut your hair, doesn’t mean I’m cutting my goatee.”
“You’re right. I’m cutting it. Remember your proposal? ‘I’ll shave it off right after Laura cuts her hair short.'”
Ted gulped. “I know I said that, but I didn’t expect you to do it.”
“I cut my hair for you. Now, I get you clean shaven. That was your deal and I’m holding you to it.”
Ted took one look at Phil, who through all this still said nothing. “Go ahead. I can always grow it back.”
“Not as long as you’re dating me.” Laura took Phil’s scissors and cut off as much of Ted’s mustache as she could. She took long clumps of the Van Dyke, cutting them off haphazardly. She didn’t need to be methodical, it was all going. Laura would find a piece long enough to cut and trim it off.
“You’re enjoying this, aren’t you?”
Satisfied she couldn’t cut off any more, Laura held out her hand for shaving cream. “Oh yeah. Not nearly as much as you enjoyed watching me get my hair cut.”
Laura had never shaved a man before, but assumed it was like shaving her own legs. She took a razor and gently ran it along Ted’s chin. Once the blade was full, she rinsed it off and continued along the chin. She smiled at seeing it empty of all facial hair. With a new blade, she went for the mustache.
“Ow,” Ted yelled as blood peered through the shaving cream.
“Did I cut your smooth wittle face?”
“Just shut up and finish.”
She did and rinsed off his face. She was right. He looked incredibly cute clean shaven. He had an upper lip. She could kiss a clean shaven face. She hated kissing a hairy face.
Laura tipped Phil well, and the older man finally spoke. “You’ll have to come in once a month to maintain the style. I’ll get a subscription to Esquire.”
Ted and Laura left, neither that pleased with how they looked. That the other was pleased with how they looked was enough.