Testing Times For Sally by Sean O’Hare
Friday evening. Paul and I are cuddled up on the settee. We had both finished work early so that we could spend some time together. We had been out for a walk in the local park and had returned and settled down in front of the TV with a bottle of Australian Chardonnay. It’s so nice to feel so comfortable with someone once again. Except for the one thing I need to know.
As the final credits roll Paul says, “I love that film, don’t you Sally.”
“Yep, you know I like all the old James Bond movies. But of course we both know why you like that one in particular,” I added, perhaps rather too pointedly.
“Yes, well, Jane Seymour does have lovely long hair.” And seeing my expression change he hurriedly adds, “Almost as nice as yours.” We both laugh, although my laughter feels a little strained.
Paul proceeds to run his fingers through my hair as he often did. I love this feeling as the fingers slide through, and loose tendrils slide across my shoulders. The mood was mellow, aided by the Chardonnay which we have nearly finished.
“Yes well, perhaps.” I know he is right of course. My hair is dark – almost black – and very thick and glossy. It’s long too, reaching towards my waist and dead straight.
The ends are trimmed perfectly. Every 6 weeks Paul takes a pair of sharp and expensive scissors purchased especially for the purpose and snips the ends to keep them looking neat. I love the attention he gives my hair despite the time it takes to look after. I know Paul is very special to me. But, as with previous guys, the same old doubts shoot around my mind. The doubts which say ‘does he love me, or does he love my hair?’
And as before I know it is time to put Paul to The Test.
“Your hair is gorgeous, and you know it. But it will need to be trimmed in another 17 days.” He really is obsessive – not two weeks or so, but 17 days!
“Well actually it’s going to be trimmed a little earlier than that. I have an appointment for it to be cut tomorrow morning.”
“Cut! Tomorrow? But Sally I always trim it for you… every 6 weeks,” he almost whines.
“I know, but I’ve decided on a complete change. Not just a trim but a cut. Short I think.” And to emphasise the point I hold out the hair from one side of my head and, with my fingers close to my left ear, I make a mock cut. I suppress the shudder of fear I feel as I put aside the thought of this ever happening for real.
“But Sally, you can’t. Your hair is… well, er, it’s part of you. You know how much you like it. I….”
I observe his reaction closely. He looks surprised, almost close to tears. I feel a little guilty but I need to be sure. It is time to put Paul to The Test.
“Today it is part of me! But not after tomorrow. And I’d like you to come along to the salon and give me some support.”
“But I couldn’t watch all your hair be cut off Sally. Think about it… please.”
“I have thought about it… and it’s all coming off. Here, take this magazine. I’ve marked a few of the styles I really like.” I get up to go to the bathroom.
Like would be an overstatement. Intrigued, perhaps even feared, would be a better description. From time to time I buy hairstyle magazines and I feel drawn to those featuring short styles, particularly when they show models having their long hair cut short. Why would anyone with long hair want it cut short. OK some can’t grow it long and that’s unfortunate but I’ve seen some photos of smiling women, with hair longer than mine, watching as their locks are severed. As I look at such photos I always feel a strange nervousness as I try to imagine what it would feel like to be in a similar position.
“Sally, you’ve only marked short styles. Look, this woman’s hair is almost shaved up the back.” Most of the ones I had selected were like that. I didn’t need to remind myself further of those cropped styles. Some were unbelievably short – certainly intriguing but very difficult to imagine why any woman would willingly have her hair cut so short.
As I leave the room I call back, “That’s right. Perhaps mine will be that short tomorrow.” I flick the hair hanging over my shoulders so it flows down my back and give a little laugh… a nervous laugh.
I feel a little cruel seeing Paul’s double taking of my own hair and the pictures before him. But I have to know. I have to put him to The Test.
As you’ve probably gathered I love my hair and have no intention of cutting it. I haven’t even made an appointment. I’m certainly looking forward to Paul trimming it again in 17 days. He takes such care of my hair. But this is all part of The Test. I won’t tell him until the morning.
After about ten minutes I return. Paul seems a lot more composed. He is still seated in the settee and smiles up at me. He has a gorgeous smile and I can’t help but smile back.
“Well are you happy for me to cut my hair Paul,” I ask with as much assertiveness as I can muster under the influence of Paul’s smile and the Chardonnay.
“Of course I am Sally. I’m so sorry for getting so upset. It’s YOUR hair after all and I intend to support you.”
I’m slightly taken aback by his ready acceptance.
“Er, OK – thanks. Early start tomorrow then….” And the doorbell rings.
Paul jumps up. “I’ll get it.”
It’s getting late in the evening and we aren’t expecting anyone. Who could it be?
I quickly tidy the room, taking the empty bottle of wine and the glasses to the kitchen. As I return I see Paul standing in the door of the living room with a tall woman, dressed in jeans and T-shirt, with medium length blonde, curly hair streaming down her back.
“Sally, I think you’ve met my cousin Rachel before.” I remember that a couple of times we have met while in town, although never exchanged more than a few words.
“Hello again Sally,” she says cheerily.
“Hi Rachel, nice to see you. Can I get you a drink?”
“Perhaps I shouldn’t… you know, before. But you have one if you feel you need it”
Before what? If I need it? I feel I’ve come in half way through a play. I notice a brief look of worry cross Paul’s face as he looks at Rachel then me. I flash him an enquiring glance.
“I rang Rachel earlier when you were out of the room. I was a little surprised by what you said and needed someone to chat to. Rachel was an obvious choice under the circumstances.” He smiles at her.
Alarm bells are ringing. I know there is something about Rachel that I need to recall and my mind is going round and around trying to remember.
“I pointed out to Paul that this was a big step for a woman who has such long and beautiful hair as yourself. So, if you had decided to cut it then it wasn’t a decision you had taken lightly and you were bound to be feeling really churned up inside and you needed his support rather than a typical man’s reaction to the situation.”
“I’m sorry darling,” Paul said with genuine feeling. “I just didn’t realise.”
“Er, that’s OK. I, er….” I feel terrible now. I have clearly, really upset him and just to prove something to myself. If Rachel wasn’t here I would come clean.
But he brightens up. “But Rachel came up with a brilliant suggestion and that’s why she’s come over this evening.”
Now I remember – she’s a hairdresser!
“Yes, I will cut your hair for you. That way Paul will be here to support you and you won’t have to be in a crowded salon on a Saturday morning at what could be a traumatic time for you both. I’m so pleased I can help out.”
“Er….” I can’t think what to say. “Thanks. I….”
“That’s alright, you don’t need to say anything. It’s not a problem. Now I suggest we cut it in the bathroom. Paul could you set up a chair for Sally in there.”
I still feel something is missing. Some piece of knowledge. I watch her as she picks up the magazine that I handed Paul earlier. She flicks through the pages, looking at the styles I had ringed, nodding her head as she does so. “These styles are very short Sally. I’m surprised you want to go straight for something like this. But, of course, I am considerably more experienced in this area as you know.”
As I know? Got it! She’s a barber – she works in a barbershop! Phew, a let-out. No way is a barber going to cut my hair. In a weak voice I begin to speak. “I’m not….”
Rachel continues to talk. “Of course I’m trained in cutting all types of hair. I assumed I would just be trimming a few inches or perhaps giving you more of a definite style. But I do enjoy cutting hair short and I am really looking forward to helping you get rid of all this.” She pulls back the hair from my face, looks down at the open pages of the magazine, and nods several times. “Just as well I packed ALL my gear.” She pats the rucksack that she is taking from her back. I wonder what it contains?
So how am I going to get out of this? I can’t admit what I was trying to do to Paul in front of Rachel. That would just embarrass Paul. But Paul won’t want this to go ahead any more than I. So should I just wait until he stops the proceedings. Perhaps he realises what I am doing and also playing a little game too. I wish I hadn’t drunk quite so much wine. I can’t think straight.
“OK Sally let’s go through to the bathroom.” As we enter I see Paul has set up a chair in front of the mirror and he is standing beside it. He holds my favourite hairbrush in his hand.
“You girls finished chatting then,” he enquires cheerily. An act, or is he genuinely happy? “Come on Sal, let me brush all that hair one last time.”
My mind is still reeling. Not sure what to do. I approach the chair with a degree of trepidation and sit down. I tug the scrunchie which holds the top of my hair casually away from my face and all my hair falls loose. I need to think. I absent-mindedly began to twirl the scrunchie around my wrist only to feel Rachel reach out for it, toss it once in the air and then – without a word – consign it to the wastebin.
As Paul begins to brush, starting from the ends as usual, he casually states, “Rachel, I bought that for Sally’s last birthday.”
“Did you Paul. I’m sorry. I just assumed she wouldn’t want to keep it. You didn’t did you Sally?”
Of course I do. I’m not getting my hair cut so I’ll need it. Besides Paul bought it for me. “Well, I… perhaps if…,” I uttered but made no sense.
Sally is emptying the contents of her rucksack on the dressing table. I watch as brush, combs and scissors are removed. Then something was unfamiliar. She unwraps an electrical cord which is twisted around it and places the object next to the others. A hairdrier? No! Something from her day job – men’s hairclippers. Obviously she has removed these to find something else in her bag – but I could have sworn she gave a little smile as she took them out – and it is the last thing she has removed.
I look in the mirror and watched Paul’s familiar look of concentration as he completes the removal of any remaining tangles and now brushes from crown to ends with long vigorous strokes.
Feeling my long silky hair glide over my bare shoulders again and again makes me realise how much I love it. Seeing Paul’s look of care as he tends to my locks makes me realise how much I love him. How could I be so cruel to him. But if I say anything now I’ll really upset him.
“OK guys I think we’re ready to start,” Rachel pipes up. “Paul would you like to stay or will you find it too upsetting?”
“I promised Sal I would support her. I’m staying.” He places both hands on my shoulders and we stare at each other in the mirror. I can feel the warmth of his palms even through the thick mass of hair. He leans over and plants a kiss on my crown.
“Very well. Then perhaps it’s best we keep you occupied. Eh, Sally?” She gave a little giggle and I join in but feel no amusement. But he won’t be able to watch, so if he stays he’s certain to stop the proceedings.
But it is getting out of hand. Paul actually looks as though he could allow this to continue. I need to say something but how? What?
“OK, Paul could you fasten Sally’s hair into a ponytail. Here’s a rubber band to keep it in place.”
Paul began to brush my hair through once more, straight back from my face with long vigorous strokes, manipulating the mass of hair so that he was finally holding it firmly, at the back of my head. I knew the thickness of my hair made this difficult – I could barely do it myself – and the length made it more challenging.
He took the rubber band. “But this isn’t covered. It will split….” Rachel gives a little laugh. “Ah, I guess it doesn’t matter too much does it.” Paul laughs too. I don’t.
“Exactly. There will be no hair to split.”
This must stop now. Do I just say I’ve changed my mind? It’s as simple as that. There will be embarrassment. Perhaps worse. I may even lose Paul. But I’ll keep my long hair.
My ponytail now swings free. As I move slightly I can feel it gliding over my nape, catching my shoulder blades and feel the reassuring weight of the thick ends brush my lower back.
I watch Rachel reach down and select a pair of scissors – a large pair of scissors – that seem to glint in the light. Again a smile crosses her face.
I feel Paul gently lifting my ponytail with a sad look on his face. I relax a little as I know he won’t allow me to go ahead with this.
“I think it’s such a shame Sally.” He runs his hands along the length several times.
“It will be ages before your hair reaches your shoulders again if you have it cut short.” He holds my ponytail up to its full extent. I watch him dreamily in the mirror. I love the sensations from my long hair. A sensation I never want to lose.
“I calculate eleven months from a short bob, allowing for growth and regular trims.” I feel a slight sense of annoyance at his continued, precise obsession in the midst of these warm feelings. “Longer of course if you have cut the way you indicated you would.”
He caresses my ponytail once more and delicately lifts it and allows it to snake down over my right shoulder, the ends gathering in my lap. It feels so vibrant and alive as it curls around my breasts and its silkiness brushes my arm. I feel confident that Paul will now draw a halt to what was unfolding.
“But I respect your decision Sally. OK Rachel….”
Rachel stands alongside me.
Don’t I get a say in this? “Rachel, er… Paul, I er….”
“Very well Paul. Perhaps you could pull the ponytail nice and firmly for me. Don’t worry Sal, it won’t take long,” Rachel says cheerily.
“But I was only….” I am dumbstruck by the vision in the mirror. I feel Paul’s left hand on my crown around the base of the ponytail and the other pulling on the bulk. I watch as Rachel places the scissors at the base of the ponytail and immediately feel them tugging. Not tugging, but cutting! SCHNICK!
“Hmmm, you have very thick and healthy hair Sally. I’m rather surprised that you want it all cut off, but rather pleased you asked me to do the cutting. It’s difficult to explain but I get rather a sense of satisfaction to cut off so much hair in one go. Not that I get that many opportunities in a barbershop. I guess you must find that strange.” Yes! Visions of those smiling faced women in the makeover magazines flood my mind as I watch my own reflection showing surprise, or shock, as my own locks are severed.
She enjoys cutting off other women’s long hair? “No, I er… well, yes I suppose…,” I tried to articulate sensibly. But failed.
“Short hair is so much smarter and neater, and much easier to look after as you’ll soon find out when we’ve got rid of all this.” SCHNICK! SCHNICK! “Not that I could ever cut mine of course.” And to prove the point I watch as she tosses her head from side to side a couple of times and observe the blonde curls bouncing on her shoulders.
How have I let this happen? Watching in the mirror I try to convince myself it is someone else. I watch strands separating as Rachel opens and closes the scissors with intense concentration. Paul’s face, which I expect to show horror, seems to be intrigued by what is happening. It is all happening so quickly. And I know it is me. I can feel the pressure of Paul’s hands, the force of the scissors and ghostly noise they make as they close. SCHNNNICCCKK!
“Phew. Don’t think I’ve ever cut off such long and thick hair in one go before. But nearly there now Sal. There… all done!” I watch mesmerised as Paul almost staggers backwards as my ponytail finally separates from my head. He strokes it once more and then tosses it onto the dressing table. It slides slowly off and falls into the bin below. I am lost for words. They just won’t come.
Paul sort of sniggers and says “Oh well Sal, not much use now I guess.”
“What…” I state uselessly as Rachel busies herself at the dressing table.
Click! BZZZZZ! What’s that noise? “Head down please Sally,” requests Rachel. What’s happening now? I feel Rachel easing my head forward. I can no longer see.
“Right down please Sally,” Rachel almost commands and pushes a little harder. The buzzing gets louder and I sense something on my nape. A comb? Scissors perhaps?
I feel a sort of nibbling sensation at my hairline. No, she can’t be… “Rachel, you… you aren’t using hairclippers are you?”
“Yes of course. It’s much the best way for the type of style you’ve selected.”
The style I’ve selected? My mind’s racing – what style? It’s all such a jumble. A curtain of hair tumbles down into my lap.
I feel the clippers racing up the back of my head again and watch as more hair tumbles down. “B… but what style have you… have I… chosen?”
BZZZZZZZZ! Another pass of the clippers. More hair falls.
“Sorry Sally? Can’t you remember? Paul said you wanted it shaved up the back, just like in the magazine photo. That is right isn’t it?”
“Yes, but I….” BZZZZZZZ!
“A brave choice. I rather enjoy using clippers – they give such a clean effect particularly when used on a client for the first time. But even my gents don’t request a number 1 clipper guard on their neck… although they may after a little persuasion from me.” She gives a little laugh. “But for someone who a few moments ago had hair down to her waist… well, very brave. Head to the left please,” she adds matter-of-factly.
My head moves to one side under her direction. I watch as the clippers are being eased into my hairline at the temple. I hear the buzzing get louder and I see my hair fall to the floor. With my head no longer buried in my lap I see, for the first time, what a number one clipper guard means. Almost shaved!
“Other side please Sally.” I oblige. What choice do I have. “So Paul, what do you think.”
I can just see Paul’s reflection in the mirror. He’s just watched all the hair he has so lovingly tended over the past few months be shaved off. Oh sure there is some length still on the top – but for how much longer? – but the rest has gone. He looks sort of shocked – like me – but he doesn’t look sad. More a sort of fascination with the whole proceedings.
“Er, well, it’s short.” That’s my Paul – observant! “I guess I won’t be trimming it for some quite time,” he adds somewhat nervously.
“Well it will need to be trimmed more often now – every 3 or 4 weeks perhaps – to keep it in shape. Next time I could show you how to use the clippers to keep Sally’s nape in trim if you would like that Paul?”
“Yes please Rachel. That will be great won’t it Sal!” he states with enthusiasm.
“Will it? I thought you….”
“Now Sally, if you hold your head straight I’ll finish the top.” I watch as she combs the longer hair straight back – relatively long compared with the clipped sides which seem to be cut very high above the ears. She lifts my hair and picks up the clippers once more. “Paul do you really think a crewcut is such a good idea? I know you said….”
“Rachel!” Paul and I shouted at the same time, and I was beginning to suspect for different reasons.
“Ah. Sorry Paul. Perhaps just layered and texturised… like in the photo,” Rachel countered with a slightly sheepish look… which was nothing compared with Paul who suddenly seems unable to look at me.
My mind is still a bit muddled – partly from the wine, perhaps, and also from what was happening to my hair – but it was looking as though Paul was more than a passive participant in these events.
I watch the scissors completing their work. Rachel skilfully lifts and cuts, lifts and cuts. A distinct line has built up between the clipped sides and the longer top. I feel the scissors go in, high on my forehead, leaving me with a super short fringe which is joined by some textured longer lengths. Rachel chops into my hair, seemingly haphazardly, but I begin to see a spiky look identical to the style in the magazine take shape. The similarity is uncanny. I’ve seen the rear of the style in the magazine and I begin to feel nervous. Surely she won’t have done the same. Seemingly in answer to this Rachel puts down her scissors and comb and holds up a mirror so that I can see the back of my head. It’s virtually shaved! With a line of longer hair – perhaps a whole inch long – starting just above the bump at the back of my head.
“Well Sally, there we are. Just like in the magazine. Er, I hope you like it?” She is already throwing her equipment into her rucksack, clearly no longer wishing to be part of this situation.
“Well I think we should be asking Paul that don’t you? After all he is the one who liked my hair long and never wanted me to cut it. Paul?”
“Yes, er, I guess so. Well it’s rather late now, so I better be off. I’m glad you, er… well. I hope….” Rachel looks at both of us in turn and clearly can’t think of anything more to say. “Pop in to the shop if you decide on the crewcut Sally.” I stare straight back at her. “Right then, bye guys.” And she leaves.
I look in the mirror and watch Paul. He has no choice other than to return my gaze. We are both silent for several minutes. He doesn’t know what to do or say.
“So you asked Rachel to give me a crewcut did you?”
“I, er… well… ummm…,” Paul mumbles.
“I assume that’s a yes. Did you know I never intended to have my hair cut. It was just a test.”
“A test?” he acts genuinely surprised.
“To see if you loved me or my hair. The only reason I let the cut continue was that I didn’t want to be embarrassed in front of Rachel… that’s how much I love you.” At this moment my feelings are mixed. Anger? A little. Love? Certainly. Confused? Definitely!
“Oh Sally. I, er….” Paul looks sadly towards the bin where my hair now resides and then at my remaining cropped hair. He places a hand on my crown and runs it down my nape in a gesture of apology.
“Well Paul….” I feel the warmth of his hand directly on my scalp.
WOW! Phew, what was that? Oh my goodness! Suddenly a strange feeling is coursing through my whole body. My body’s tingling all over from the top of my spine to, er… down below!
“Oh Sally I’m so sorry, I thought that was what you wanted. You said….”
“Hmmm, I know what I said… but, could you just do that again… you know, with you hand.”
Paul looks surprised at my gentle tone but obediently reverses the direction of his hand so that it glides up my nape, lifting the short, prickly lengths and repeating the sensations of the previous pass… only doubly so! The feelings that are coursing through my body are surprising in their intensity. I’m melting!
I reach up with my own hands and gingerly explore my bare temples, my shaved nape, my cropped fringe. I move my head from side to side and take in the precision of the cut in the mirror. Oh my goodness! Phew! My whole body trembles and I somehow stop my hand exploring… down below.
Paul stands by and looks worried. He kneels down and puts an arm around me. “Oh Sally, I really am sorry. I shouldn’t have rung Rachel. And I only suggested the crewcut because….”
“Paul. Please be quiet!” I place a finger on his lips. “I love it! I simply love it! It’s different… but the feelings running through me as you touch my nape are astonishing.” I take his hand and gently place it on my neck and the feelings begin to stir within me once again. “Mmmmmm, that’s so nice Paul….” I’m melting again.
“Really! Well as I watched your ponytail disappear I felt odd too. Regret perhaps for all the time we spent together while I looked after it for you? I don’t know. But when those hairclippers started – the noise, the hair falling, the bare scalp being exposed – I found it very difficult to control myself.” Paul looks at me a little coyly, but with a smile curling at the corner of his lips.
“Well Paul, in future I want you to continue to trim my hair – every 3 weeks… at least!”
“You bet Sal!” As we kiss I feel his fingers caress the back of my neck, the tips gently brushing the stubble up and down, side to side… and, without separating, we walk slowly towards the bedroom where I anticipate dissolving into an amorphous (and amorous) mass on the bed.
I realise Paul does love me and I love him… and we both still love my hair!
I think we have both passed The Test.
I hope you have enjoyed reading this story. If you have any comments then please e-mail me at [email protected]