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Copyright © 2002 by JC Ramsey, all rights reserved.

The story in the newspaper prompted me to go to my upstairs closet and retrieve a small metal box that could only be opened with a key. I kept the key in a secure location, and had no difficulty finding it. I put the box on my desk, unlocked it, and opened the lid. Inside was a mound of green silk wrapped in plastic. I removed the bundle, pulled the silk from the plastic, and then placed the box and plastic on the floor beside me. I slowly unwrapped the silk, and while doing this, the memories came flooding back into my mind. As the last flap of silk was pulled aside, there they lay, still in pristine condition, perhaps not as shiny as they had been, but still smelling of flowers. The two, medium brown in color, exactly the same size in thickness and length, with elastic bands holding both ends in place, and with contrasting ribbons for the final touch. The two braids that I had cut from the head of one of my dearest grade school friends.

I can only remember that it all started in the second grade. Our school was very structured. We were always seated in alphabetical order from second grade on. So, I got to sit behind Diane all the way through grade school. It was not my choice, it was just my last name began with the same letter as her name.

It was probably a few weeks into the second grade that I first really took note of her hair. She always had it in two low braids. Each day she wore different color ribbons than the day before. When the second grade began, the ends of the braids just touched her shoulders. By the end of the school year, she could turn her head from side to side and the braids would stay in place, either in front or behind her.

I was fascinated at how carefully her hair was parted. Always exactly down the center, like a knife had carved her head in two pieces. Each hair seemed to be in place, and pulled tightly into the head of the braid. I would try to follow a particular hair as it stretched away from her scalp, only to disappear in the large mass of hair at the top of the braid. Sometimes I could follow one of the sections, usually the lowest one, as it had been pulled up and crossed over the other two before also disappearing in the braid that began just below and outside each ear.

My mother had trained me to be a gentleman around girls. I was not, therefore, inclined to try to touch her braids. But, as the year wore on, and as her braids lengthened, there were those times (and there were not many), when she would lean her head back, and those beautiful braids would dangle tantalizingly before me. I would think about taking hold of each one, so that I could hold her head in place and study the top of her head. Or, just let the end of each braid sweep across the top of each hand. But, I was able to control myself. And she, for her part, never seemed to be a tease with her hair. She seemed to prefer having her braids always in front of her.

In the third grade, nothing much changed, except that her hair continued to grow. It was the fourth grade that the problems began to occur.

On the first day of fourth grade, I noted that her braids were long enough to touch my desktop, if she was sitting normally in her seat. If she scooted down, or leaned back, or turned her head to the side, the appropriate braid would slowly descend and lie on my desktop. Her braids were getting ever thicker, and the last couple of inches of unbraided hair were very tempting to touch. I often wondered, as the year began, if I could touch that portion of hair that extended beyond the elastic bands and ribbons that kept the thick hair from flowing everywhere. Since we were both seated near the back of the room, I bided my time.

One day, near the end of class, we just had some quiet time to study on our own. As I was writing out a homework assignment, she suddenly sat back and flipped both braids carelessly behind her. One landed with a slight thud on my desktop, the other hit and rolled off, suspended from her head. I gazed at the two inches of braid, and the two inches of free hair that were calling me to touch it. Quickly I glanced to both sides and noted the busyness of the kids around me. I took my pencil and slowly drew it close to the end of the braid, and touched several of the hairs. No response. I touched a few more, and worked my pencil up from the end to the ribbon, gradually separating more hair from the tassel. Still no response. Then, she was moving to sit forward, and the hair disappeared. That was O.K. I had learned that there was a possibility that the ties on the end of the braids prevented her from feeling the ends being touched.

The year wore on and the braids grew more, both in length and thickness. I began to think a little bit about how, if given the opportunity, I could “play” with her hair. I would try on occasions to touch the hair with my fingertips. As I got away with this, I grew a little bolder, trying to capture a small number of hairs between my fingertips, being as discreet as possible. My neighbors were aware that Diane’s hair tended to fly all over the place, and would occasionally land on my desk. I observed other girls during recess time grabbing one of her braids and marveling at the length of her hair. Once in a while, one of the other boys would give a braid a brief yank as they passed by her seat. She never seemed to mind.

Which gave me my first clue as to what I could possibly do with her hair if given the chance. Just pull it a little bit and see if she would do or say anything to me. But, being a gentleman, I just continued to work my way into the position to touch and hold pieces of her hair more frequently. I learned that I enjoyed this very much, and in fact I became a little bolder around some of the other girls, especially those with ponytails. I would give an occasional yank on a ponytail, as I saw other boys do, and the pleasure of feeling the long hair in my hand kept me interested in Diane’s braids.

All too soon, the fourth grade ended, and just as quickly, fifth grade began. Now, there was a significant change in our class. We got new chairs! The old chairs had been connected together, with the fold up seats and fold up desks where you placed your materials. The new chairs were the kind that had space for your books under your seat. The desk was large, and the chairs could be moved about. It also allowed for you to have a little more distance between your neighbors.

As it happened this year, Diane was the next to last in the middle row and I was the last, still sitting behind her. On the first day of class, we greeted each other, and basically oriented ourselves to the new chairs, classroom, and the other rules and regulations for the fifth grade. In the afternoon, I took a good look at her hair for the first time. Still the familiar, brown, thick braids, but now the ends simply disappeared from view as they hung down the back of her new chair. And the bad news for me was that there was now so much distance between the chairs, even if she flipped them back toward me, they would not land on my desk as they did last year. So, I expected that this year I would have to come up with another plan on how I could get my regular “feel” of her hair.

As the months passed by, I did, indeed, have a few instances where she was close enough to me that I could touch one of her braids without being obvious. Most of the time I sat a little behind my neighbors, so I could move my fingers toward her without attracting their attention. The new problem was that her hair was now so long, I had to grab the braid, not the end with free hair to play with. But, I learned to be very careful, not keeping a strong grip on the braid in the event that she would move and feel my fingers holding her hair. Once or twice it happened, but she did not indicate she was bothered or even aware of my presence.

After Christmas, we were doing some math problems on a Friday afternoon. I noticed that after lunch she had moved her chair back toward mine, so that there was hardly any space between the front edge of my desk and the back of her chair. As the time passed, I noticed her sit up straighter, and then she dropped both braids behind her. Then, she slowly pushed her chair back toward mine, until one of her braids was caught between her chair and my desktop. As I sat up to watch, she then began to turn her head from side to side to determine which braid was being held. In this case, it was the one on the right. Then, she slowly began to tilt her head forward, and as she did so I saw the right braid go taut. She leaned farther forward, and as she did so the braid slowly began to move up, because it could not be held between the desk and chair back without slipping out. It suddenly dawned on me that she was pulling her own hair! Why?

Over the next few weeks, she would do this every afternoon. It was like she was bored, or needed to move around, or needed to wake up or something. But she was, in effect, using this system of moving her chair against mine to capture her hair, and then move her head in different ways to pull on the braids. I would see her hair being pulled from the deep center part as this was happening. A few times I was able to put my fingertips on the captured braid and feel it move upward as she pulled on it.

After a month of this, I decided to make a risky move. It was Friday afternoon again, and there were not many of us in class. I was literally the only guy in the back of the room. We pretty much had been given free time to do whatever we wanted, as long as we remained quiet. About mid-afternoon, her braids, which by the way had grown another couple of inches in length, were tossed back, and I watched her chair slowly come back toward mine. The left braid would not be caught, but before the right braid was captured, I reached forward and wrapped my right hand around the braid and gently moved it away from the back of her chair. When her chair bumped against my desk, she first tilted her head to the right, and her free left braid simply followed her head. Then she tilted to the left, and I simply held on to her braid, so that she could feel the resistance. Then she continued to tilt her head to the left and slowly lower her head. I felt the tension pass through her hair into my hand, and it felt really fine. Suddenly, she knew something had changed, because she released the tension, and then lowered her head again, rather quickly, to see what would happen. I maintained my grip on her hair, and she let the tension continue for a minute or so. Then she sat up straight again.

Then, I made a really risky move. As she was sitting perfectly straight, I began to slowly pull the braid toward me, increasing the tension again. I watched as the hairs in the middle of her head were stretched, but at the same time I watched her head slowly move downward. She was adding to the tension, and she was enjoying this “tug-of-war” with her braid. I pulled a little tighter, and she dropped her head a little lower. I expected her to begin crying or hollering in pain, but just the opposite was occurring. She was challenging me to really crank up the pressure. So, I did. I began to pull harder, and with that effort, her head began to come up. I maintained the pulling until her head was fully up again, then I slowly released the tension, and I could see her now relax. In a moment, I got a sign as to what she wanted me to do. She wiggled the left braid, so I let go of the right braid and grabbed the left braid, and we spent the next five minutes doing the same “tug-of-war” with that braid. When it was over, something marvelous had happened to both of us. She had communicated her needs to me, and her satisfaction with my helping her to do whatever it was that she wanted done with her hair. And I had discovered how much I really liked holding on to her thick braids, and pulling her hair.

As we left class for the day, she turned and gave me a big wink, and passed me a small note. Over the weekend, I read the note over and over again: “Frank, thanks a lot for pulling my hair today. I really like to have my hair pulled and played with. You can do anything you want to with my hair during class. Just give it a good pull every now and then. Diane.”

Wow! Total confirmation that she was not only aware of what I had done, but was inviting me to keep it up! I showed up at class on Monday with a completely new attitude about what I could do with those luscious braids every day. It was a game that we played for the remainder of the year, trying to find ways that I could play with her hair and keep pulling her braids without the neighboring kids seeing us and the teacher knowing what we were doing. And this had to be the place to do it, because we had a very structured recess, and no time at lunch to get together. Once or twice a month she would scoot down very low in her chair, tilt her head back, and I would hold each braid and give them a “milking the cow” series of pulls. She really loved this, and I enjoyed it because it got me as close to her head as I could get, meaning that I had the thickest portion of her hair in my hands. I loved watching the hair from her part stretch and relax with every pull and release. Sometimes I would play little tunes with her hair as I pulled the braids.

On the last day of fifth grade, I noted that her hair was almost long enough for her to sit on. We got to chat a little bit just before we finished our final day.

“How did you do this year?” I asked her.

“Not too well. I really have trouble with math and spelling.”

“Do you have any older sister or brothers who can help you?”

“No, I’m an only child.”

“How about your parents?”

“Well,” she began, then hesitated. I could see a little pain cross her face. “Well, I don’t have a dad; at least, he has never lived with my mom. So, it’s just my mom and me, and she works two jobs, so she is always too tired to help me with stuff. I can’t get her to do flash cards or things like that.”

“Maybe we could get together during the summer and I could give you some help.”

“Hey, that’s a great idea,” she said.

We talked about that for a few minutes, and then we both realized that it would not be possible, because she lived in the city and I lived in the country. We continued to talk for the remaining few minutes.

“Frank, do you go to the movies during the summer?” she asked.

“Sometimes, when there is a movie on I want to see.”

“I’ve got an idea. Look, because my mom works, she lets me go to the movies a lot. I don’t live too far from the theater. Could you start coming to the movies on Saturday afternoon, and we could sit together, and you could play with my hair?”

Wow, how about an “in your face” question and idea? I agreed instantly, with the qualification that my mom would give me permission to go, and I would have to arrange transportation. We set our first meeting for the following Saturday.

Mom gave her approval, as long as I was willing to earn the money for the movie, and she would provide the transportation. I was able to do my chores with a new enthusiasm, because I knew what I was going to be doing (finally!) in the theater. I also had received a pretty good chunk of change for my excellent grades at the close of the school year. Things just went really well during the week leading up to that first Saturday.

The afternoon matinee started at 1:30, and Mom got me there about 1:15. I had been to the theater before on a Saturday, and it was pretty crowded with everyone being out of school. As my mom pulled away, I heard my name being called and immediately spotted Diane. I strolled over to her, she gave me the trademark wink without saying a word, and she turned to lead me to the ticket window. We got our tickets, had them torn in half at the check-in stand, and immediately headed for the theater entrance. We picked a movie that would hopefully not be well attended by the many munchkins who were flitting about the corridor.

As I held open the door for her, I noted the length and size of her braids, which were as always perfect, down to the different colored ribbons. We turned the corner to the seating area, and started looking for a dark corner near the top of the seats. She led the way, and we ascended the steps, then cut across to the far side of the cinema. The top corner had two rows of three seats, so she took the seat against the wall and I took the seat directly behind her.

With the lights still on, we just chatted about stuff that we were doing since school had ended, and we watched as a few more people trickled in, both of us expressing our hope that no one would want sit close to us. We conjectured about what people would be able to see in a dark theater anyway, and we decided that if anyone asked about what I was doing, I would say to ask her, and she would say that she had asked me to play with her hair, and the case would be closed. Hopefully, it would not come to that.

“Frank, do you know how to braid hair?” she asked.

“No, I don’t.”

“Well, you have to learn. I want you to start taking my hair down and brushing it, and pulling it while it’s loose. So how about this? Next week, tell your mom that there is a double feature. We’ll leave after the first one, and go down to the library. I know a place behind the library where we can sit, and I’ll show you how to braid my hair. Then, we can come back to the theater and be there for your mom to pick you up.”

“Are you sure I can learn how to do all of this stuff?”

“Of course you can, there’s nothing to it. We’ll start out with the basic stuff like brushing and combing, then a ponytail, and then the braids.”

I was still unconvinced. “Do you like your hair in a ponytail, too?”

“Oh, sure, and I really like to have it played with and pulled in a ponytail. You can do all kinds of stuff with it when it’s in a ponytail, too.”

So, we hatched our plans, for a summer of playing with her hair, and my education in hair styling. What would the guys think if they saw me?

As the lights went down, she gave me final instructions, and we were ready for 90 minutes to fly by. She scooted down low in her chair, resting the back of her neck on the top of her seat. I surveyed the audience, and noted that the closest person to us was two rows forward, and five seats away. Perfect. Her head was still, and I reached forward with my left hand, finding the braid on the left, just behind her ear. I slowly wrapped my fingers around it, and began to gradually pull it upward and back toward me, letting the length slip through my fingers as it began to fall behind the chair. In a moment, I saw the ribbon on the end, and the loose tassel was at the top of the chair, and then the left braid was hanging in front of me, with the loose ends dangling perilously close to the floor.

So, now what do I do with this? I raised my left hand again and wrapped it around the braid just behind her ear, and slowly ran my hand down the length of the hair, feeling all the ridges of the crossed sections. In the darkness I could sense the gradual reduction in thickness, but it wasn’t much. Her hair was in fine shape, thick from top to bottom. I released the end of her hair, and did it over again with my right hand. For a minute or two, I just enjoyed sliding my hands down the long braid.

I wanted to do more. I sat back a little, pulled the braid up and laid it across my legs. Now I could just study it with my fingers, letting both hands grip and slide and wrap around the thick braid. I tugged on it a few times, noting her response, which was to basically ask for more tugging. The free end of her hair, what I called the tassel, was interesting. I was looking forward to the opportunity to play with her hair when it was completely loose. I could imagine just taking my hands and diving into her hair, and pulling out huge handfuls that I could hold and fondle. I quickly learned that I could twist the end of her hair around my finger, and twist the entire braid around my fist. What a great feeling that was, having all of that heavy hair in my hand.

I quickly decided that if one braid was great, two would be terrific. So I reached forward with my right hand and repeated the process of grabbing the right braid at the right side of her neck, pulling it upward until the tassel cleared the chair back, then letting if fall back, to join its twin. I pulled the new braid onto my lap, and just spent the next five minutes stroking both braids with my hands. What a feeling I was getting from this wonderful tactile experience. Never had I been able to take all of a girl’s hair into my hands and just hold on to it for as long as I wanted. In fact, I was able to do anything, and I did, sliding my hands up and down the long braid, tying them in loose knots, tickling my nose with the tassels, and of course, frequently pulling on the braids from all angles and in all ways, making sure that I kept Diane entertained in the midst of the boring movie. I was already looking forward to next week when I would be able to take these braids apart and comb and brush her long, loose hair for the first time.

Near the end of the movie, I just reveled in the feel of her hair, tightly braided, in my hands. I had such a peace about things, sitting there in the dark, behind a girl that I barely knew, holding one of her most prized possessions in my hands. And she, for her part, trusted me with that possession, and at the same time enjoying what I was doing for her. It was a great afternoon.

Walking out into the bright sunlight of the theater lobby, she gripped my hand briefly and whispered a quick “thank you”, then we parted company and went our separate ways.

The following Saturday, we repeated what we had done before, except this time she had a single braid. What a difference that made for me. Her hair was much thicker and heavier in the single plait. The tassel was bit longer, too. We didn’t seem to have as many play options in pulling her hair with the single braid, but we still had a great time. We left immediately after the movie and headed to the library. On the backside of the library, nestled in the trees that bordered on a park, were several park benches and tables where people could sit and read. She took me to a bench that was fairly secluded and we sat for a few minutes while she removed a comb and a brush from her purse and gave me some initial instructions on what to do with her hair. She also warned me that we had just over an hour so we could it make it back to the theater in time to make it look as if we were just coming out of the second feature. Finally, we were ready to begin.

I rose and stepped behind the bench, and she turned so that her back was facing me. I quickly picked up her braid and lifted it up so she could lean back against the bench. I went to the tassel and began to remove the elastic that was holding the braid together. Fumbling with the tight cords, I got the first wrap off, then it loosened enough for me to slide it off. Immediately, I saw her thick braid relax and begin to come apart at the end. Still holding on to it near the end, I moved my hand up and the twisted strands unraveled, revealing the thick sections that had been carefully separated by her mom when she had braided Diane’s hair. I changed hands, moving up the braid, and using my free hand to shake her hair out of the plait. It was joy to watch the silky strands dance in the air as they moved back and forth. I “climbed the ladder” with my hands, letting the sections unfold until her hair hung behind the bench in three huge locks.

Wow, oh Wow! What a sight to behold! Diane’s hair long and loose for the first time, and I was ready. I put my fingers into her hair at her crown, and slowly pulled my fingers through her hair, all the way to the ends. I did the same thing again, but as I filled my fingers with her hair, I paused and slowly made a fist with each hand, gradually pulling the hair in my hands, and slowly rocking her head back and forth. I could hear a low moan from her as she let her neck relax, allowing me to push and pull her head in any direction. After a few side to side movements, I gently pushed her head forward, watching the long hair come up the back of the bench, then I pull her head back, still keeping a tight grip on the hair I was holding just a couple inches from her scalp. A few of these forward and backward movements, and I finished another “raking’ of her hair. I continued the raking, working my way around her head, until I had run my fingers through every hair on head several times from scalp to ends. I had never experienced anything like this before!

She handed me a comb, giving me instructions on how to comb her hair, in sections starting from the ends and working my way up. I spend the next fifteen minutes rather clumsily at times combing her hair, and at the end, I was thrilled to see every hair in place, the long mass dripping over the back of the park bench, ready again for me to reach in with my hands and grab handfuls.

But, she was keeping good track of the time, and she also knew that I need some training.

“O.K., Frank, come up and sit beside me. I’ve got to teach you how to braid.”

A little surprised, I moved around the bench and took a seat beside her. Taking her right hand, she separated a rather thick lock of her hair and pulled it over her shoulder so that it was hanging in front of her.

“Now, this is what you do to braid. You take the hair that you want to braid, and first divide it into three equal pieces, like this,” she said, separating the thick lock expertly into three pieces.

“You begin by crossing one strand over another, then you cross the left over strand over the center strand, and you just alternate crossing strands. You take the strand that is left over after each cross, and use it to cross over. It’s just a back and forth crossing of the spare strand.” She was slowly demonstrating so that I could see what she was doing.

“O.K., have you got it?” she asked, eyeing me. As she waited for me to answer, she shook the crossed strands out so that she was back to the single thick lock. “You ready to give it a try? We haven’t got much time because you have to re-braid my hair before we go back to the theater so my mom won’t know what we’ve been doing. She hates it when I let people play with my hair.”

“Let me try,” I said, mustering my courage. I took the three sections, two in my right and one in my left, and using the visual cues she had given me, crossed one of the pieces in my right hand over the piece I was holding in my left. Then, I crossed the other piece in my right hand over the piece that I had been holding in my left hand, so now I had two pieces in my left hand and one in my right. Without really thinking much about it, I used the oldest piece in my left to cross back over, and I saw the braid begin to form. Now, it was just a matter of keeping the sections tight, and I smiled at her as she gave a giggle of approval. I braided about a foot of this lock, and she quickly called me off, saying that it was time to braid all of her hair.

She handed me the comb, and I got up to move around behind her again. As I did so, she lifted and tossed her heavy hair over the back of the bench, and there it was again, hanging in front of me, the rippling brown length of delicate yet soft strands. I ran the comb through her hair from scalp to ends a few times, and I was ready to begin. I gave her the comb, and looking at her hair, I moved my hands to either side of her shoulders, beginning the capture of two handfuls of hair that I hoped would be equal in volume to that left hanging in the middle. When I had separated the sections, I looked carefully, and I thought they were each about the same. Moving quickly, I crossed the section in my right hand over the middle section, then crossed the section in my left hand over the section that had been in my right hand, then gathering all three sections in my hands and keeping them separate, I pulled tightly on her hair, and began to do the crossing of sections that she had taught me, pausing after every third cross to pull her hair tightly downward (which she loved), so the braid would be as tight and long as possible. It took me a good ten minutes to braid her hair, and a good five minutes to tie it off with the heavy elastic band that had held her hair so far today. But, I finished, and all I could do was to pick up the long braid and once again let it slip through my hands several times before releasing it. She called out the time, and we walked together back across the library park, through the building, and out to the sidewalk, where the theater’s neon lights gave off a strange glow, even in late afternoon sunlight.

We walked back into the theater lobby and sat together near the video room. We didn’t talk, and I was afraid to play with her hair in public. We just enjoyed a few minutes, and then the movie was over and kids began to spill out into the lobby. When a crowd had formed, she got up and joined the throng, heading out the door. A minute later I did the same, walking through the far left side where I had entered, glancing right for one last glimpse of her beautiful hair that I had spend the last four hours playing with. A horn signaled the presence of my mom, so I focused on finding her, and with great expectations looked forward to the following Saturday.

And that was how I spent almost every Saturday during that summer. We would meet for the first movie, I would sit behind her and play with and pull her hair, then we would retreat to the library park where she would give me hairstyling instructions, and where I could do more playing. By the end of the summer, I could do most anything with her hair, and could do it quickly and tightly. Ponytails anywhere on her head, braids, pigtails, French braids, partial braids. But my favorite thing to do was just to dive right into her long, loose hair, pulling it up and letting it slide through my fingers, or using my fingers as rakes, going from scalp to ends. One of the favorite things she liked was to bend over while facing me, and I would rake all of her hair forward and let it dangle in front of me. Then I would start at the nape of her neck and rake my fingers through the length, over and over again, stopping sometimes to grab her hair and pull her head from side to side or up and down. She loved it!

At the end of our sessions, her hair would be glistening from all the raking, brushing and combing. For me, there was nothing like combing all her hair straight up from her head and capturing it in my right hand, knowing that I had all of her hair under my control, and I could, if I chose, do anything with it I wanted to. And of course all I wanted to do with it was to hold it, feel it, run my fingers through it, and just enjoy our play time. I certainly learned a lot about long hair.

Near the end of the summer, she had me do one thing that I was initially very reluctant to do, and that was to trim her hair. We had discussed this for a few weeks, because she noticed that the ends of her hair were getting a little frazzled. She had suggested that I get some of my own stuff, such as a good comb, a pick, a brush, and some elastics for her hair. The last thing she suggested was a good pair of scissors that would only be used for haircuts. Since I was making plenty of cash mowing lawns, I went to a beauty supply store and got all the stuff she had mentioned, and I also got a small pair of good quality haircutting scissors. They even gave me a little carry-all bag to keep the stuff in.

After I had taken her hair out of the braids one afternoon, she showed me how to section her hair for a trim. It was pretty easy, considering how much I had already learned from her. Her hair was too long to twist up and clip to her head, so we just twisted the sections, put a clip near the end, and dropped them in front of her. It was kind of a new way for me to play with her hair.

When the sixth grade started in the fall, I was again assigned a seat behind her, and we continued to make every effort during class to find ways to pull her hair, which was usually in single or twin braids. During our recreation time we rarely had time to get together, plus we really didn’t want the other kids to know about our special relationship. Perhaps once a month we would meet at the theater and enjoy an afternoon of hair play.

She was still struggling with her studies, particularly math and English. I have always been amazed at how native born Americans can have so much trouble with their own language. I assumed that she just did not have the mental maturity at this particular time. I would work with her via telephone at least two nights a week, trying to help her understand as much as I could. Ours was a small school, and the teacher tried to help her, but there were other kids who had real disabilities that took the teacher’s time.

As the year wore on, and spring came, and the final end to our elementary school time, she confided to me one evening that she was fearful of being held back. Her grades were very poor, and in a conference with her mother, the teacher recommended a repeat of sixth grade, because the teacher felt it would help her. Her mom was aghast at this news, putting all the blame on her. As a single parent working two jobs to make ends meet, she had no time to help Diane. She accused Diane of spending too much time on personal matters and watching TV, and not studying. Some of that could have been true to a point, but Dian was really trying, but she was just not getting it.

Two weeks before school was out, Diane told me on the phone that her mom had just lost her part-time job and was looking for another, and in the interim, they would have to cut back on spending money. She was concerned that meant no movies for the summer. I told her not to worry, that we could just meet at the library. She thought that was a good idea.

On the last day of the sixth grade for me, we had a great party to celebrate the end of the year. Just before we were dismissed, we received our final report cards. When the bell rang and we got up to leave, Diane stopped me, and I saw the big tears in her eyes. She had failed the sixth grade, and she would return to the school in the fall while I went on to middle school. We walked out together, talking about what we might be able to do over the summer.

Graduation day was on a Monday. She called me on Wednesday with terrible news. Her mother had not been too happy about her failure. She had decided to institute some changes. She had been talking to her sister who lived on the other side of the state about moving there and taking a job that paid a lot more money, which meant that she would not have to work two jobs and she could help Diane with her studies, plus they would have family nearby. But in the meantime, they were strapped for money.

Diane’s aunt was a hair stylist, and Diane had said before that she had been after Diane’s hair for a long time. Now she had proposed to Diane’s mom that they come for a visit, so Diane’s mom could interview for the job and begin looking for a place to live, and Diane could spend the summer with them. In order to pay for this arrangement, Diane’s aunt said that she could sell Diane’s hair and make enough money to help them with living arrangements for the summer.

As she told me this, she broke down and bawled like a baby. She couldn’t believe that her mom was going to allow her aunt to cut off her hair and sell it. She told me that her mom was in favor of this for a lot of reasons, as punishment for failing the sixth grade, as a cost saver because Diane was spending so much money on shampoo and conditioner, and to save time for her to study instead of caring for her long hair. The even worse news about all this was that they were going to be leaving Sunday for her aunt’s house and she expected to be there all summer, and forever if her mom got the new job.

I tried to be as supportive as I knew how, but it did little good, because I could not understand her mom’s point of view. I certainly did not want to see Diane lose her beautiful hair, either. Now, what was I going to do this summer? With my hairstyling knowledge, I could always find a new girl, but there was no one I had seen so far with hair that approached the thickness and length of Diane’s.

On Friday, she called me to say that her mother had agreed to let her go to the movie theater one last time. She whispered that she had a plan that she wanted me to be a part of. She said that we would meet in the theater lobby at the usual time and she would tell me what I was supposed to do. She asked me to bring along the scissors that I had bought to trim her hair.

Once my mom dropped me off, I bought my ticket at the window and entered the lobby. She was already there, and she made a big show of greeting me and saying how much she was going to enjoy watching the movie with me. We entered the right side doors and took our seats in the next to last row. She had whispered to me that we had to sit side by side today while she explained the plan.

As I listened to her whispers, I was ready to just run out of the theater. What she was asking me to do was almost the worst possible thing that could happen to her. But she explained that she had no choice in the matter, that they would be leaving tomorrow for her aunt’s place, and we both knew what was going to happen there. When she had laid out the plan, I was pretty much ready, but there was much I had to do to protect her and myself. Her braids were in front of her, and she had them crossed on her lap. I reached over and picked up the left one, gave it a gently tug, and told her that I would be back to do this. While the lights were still up, I rose from my seat, and said very loudly, “All right, Diane, that’s it. Have it your way. I’m out of here.”

I turned and stomped out of the theater, smashing open the theater door, and then continued out the lobby door into the street. I didn’t look back or pay attention to anyone. When I cleared the theater, I ran across the street to the library and then to our favorite park bench, where I had learned how to do so many things with her beautiful hair. She had hidden a plastic grocery sack in the bushes beside the bench. Inside was a very loud T-shirt, a stocking cap, a pair of big sunglasses, a leather necklace with a big spike attached to it, and some make-up. She wanted me to put a big red splotch on one side of my face to make it look like I wore the sunglasses to hide a big birthmark. She also had included some marshmallows to keep in my mouth when I bought my tickets and talked to a few people in the theater. I quickly made the change to “punk”, and then slowly, deliberately sauntered back to the theater. I ambled up to the window and asked with a big marshmallow in the roof of my mouth for a ticket. The girl gave me a really weird look as she handed me my ticket.

I entered the lobby, which was pretty vacant because the cartoons had started. I looked at the candy counter, gazed at the popcorn, stared at the three girls and one guy who were working the counter, then shrugged my shoulders and went into the lobby. I already knew that Diane had changed sides, so I entered the left side of the theater. With my shades on and the lights out, it was really dark in there. I stood for a minute or so letting my eyes adjust. I looked down the rows for a couple sets of girls that I could sit behind. Just a few rows up on the left side I spotted a couple of teen-aged girls, one with an unmistakable pony-tail. I made myself walk very slowly to the row behind them, and then plopped down in the second seat in. They were already leaning their heads back in the chairs, the pony-tailed girl’s hair hanging over the chair back. But when she heard me sit down, she immediately reached back and pulled the tail over her shoulder.

“Hey, ‘scuse me, there, hon, but I sure am sorry that you pulled that pony-tail away from me. I was kinda wanting to get a feel of that thing, that is, if you, uh, don’t mind?”

Her friend turned to look at me, and I could tell that she had long hair that was loose. She gave a grimace, then leaned her head over to talk to the pony-tailed girl. Now the pony-tail had to make a decision. She leaned forward and turned to look at me.

“Where do you go to school?”

“Babe, I’m not from this place, I’m just passing through with my sister. She’s out looking for a job and I needed a place to hang for a bit.”

“You’re asking me if you can play with my hair?”

“That I am. I certainly like to check out the ladies with ponytails. Course, I like all kinds of long hair,” letting her friend know that I was asking to play with her hair, too.

“What do you intend to do with my hair if I let you play with it?”

“Oh, don’t you worry, I just like to run my fingers through it a little, and hold it a little. I don’t pull on it or nothing like that. You got anything special you like done with your hair?”

She gave an audible sigh of mild disgust. “Are your hands clean?”

“Are my hands clean? What’s that supposed to mean?”

“If I let you handle my hair, I want your hands to be clean. I don’t want any grease or butter or coke or anything in my hair.”

“Lady, I just got here. These prices, man, they are ridiculous. I can’t afford any of the stuff here. I washed my hands after lunch, and they haven’t touched nothing since I got here except my pockets, my billfold, and a dollar bill.”

She glanced back at her friend, and I could see her mouth moving “What do you think?” Her friend shot another glance back at me, then gave a brief nod.

“O.K., you can play for a little while. Just don’t get too rough with my hair.”

“Please, please, you have no worries about that. Uh, you mind if, maybe, I can take it down, I mean, you know, let it loose for a time.”

“As long as you can put it back in the ponytail, yeah, I guess. And don’t lose my elastic band, it’s the only one I’ve got. You play around with hair a lot?”

“Oh, you know it, I do my sister’s hair all the time, because we travel together, and I’m the one that has to make her look good all the time.”

“We’ll see about that. My friend will be keeping track of you, and if there’s any funny stuff, we’ll start hollering.”

“That’s O.K., I’ll be very nice. Hey, how about you, young lady, mind if I play with your hair, too?” I had turned to speak to her friend, who was watching our conversation.

Her friend spoke for the first time. “You can play with mine, too,” she said, with a hint of resignation in her voice. “Just pull it over the chair when you’re ready.”

“Hey, this is mighty kind of you girls. I think I’m going to like this town.” Both girls now settled back into their chairs and the pony-tailed girl rested her neck on the chair back and allowed her foot long or so pony to dangle in front of me. Her ponytail was gathered at the back of her head, and it was a pretty full pony. I wasted no time in taking a good grip on it, and running my fingers through the brown strands. Her hair was not as full as Diane’s, and it had a softer feel to it. I allowed myself to play with the pony for about five minutes, doing all sorts of things with it. As I began to relax a little with the pleasure of having her hair in my hands, I began to realize that I was having fun. I was used to Diane’s yard long hair, and its heaviness. This hair was light, almost fluffy. I had to be very careful not to go out of character as her friend gave me a look now and then.

Watching the time, I reached for the elastic band and began to carefully remove it without pulling her hair. I slipped it off and placed it around my left wrist. I used my fingers to rake her hair and arranged it in a nice cascade that covered the back of the chair. I then began to run my fingers through the entire length, from the crown of her head to the ends. I began to sense that she was also beginning to relax, as her head seemed to move along with my fingers. After raking for a few minutes, I gathered handfuls of hair at various places on her head and just enjoyed slipping my hand through the soft hair from top to bottom.

It was time to move on. I raked her hair, gathered it carefully and slowly into a ponytail again, and tied it off with the elastic band.

I leaned forward and whispered, “How was that, sweetie?”

She gave a small start, then whispered back, “That was pretty good. You didn’t pull my hair at all.”

“Thanks, my aim is to please both of us. And, now, it’s your friend’s turn.”

I switched seats, and prepared myself to play with the quiet girl’s hair. I reached forward with both hands, carefully felt my way around her neck, and began to gather all her hair together. I could tell right away this hair was very different. It was coarse, thick and felt very heavy. Once I had all her hair in my hands, I began to slowly lift the mass up and began pulling it over the chair. It took a few seconds, and finally, success. Her dark hair spilled over the chair and headed for the floor. Wow, it had to be a couple of feet long. I really picked a couple of good candidates.

She had moved forward slightly to help accommodate my effort at pulling her hair from behind her, and now she leaned her head back on the top of the chair cushion and settled in for my play time. I was still holding all her hair in my hands in a loose ponytail, so I just stayed with that for a bit, letting my hands slide up and down the length of her hair. Awesome hair! There seemed to be so much of it. I let it all loose, and began to rake the entire mass with my fingers, slowly moving from the ends to the top of her head. In doing so, I started hearing an occasional soft moan from her, especially when I was close to her scalp. I made a note of that. Once the raking was finished, I decided to do twin braids. I divided her hair into two sections, then did standard braids on each section. I just let the ends open back up when I got finished with each braid. Holding the end of each completed braid and running my hand up and down the length was great. I noted that pulling on the braid slightly elicited more soft moans from her. I began to sense that she was much like Diane in that she liked having her hair pulled.

I raked out the braids with my fingers, and knowing that time was of the essence, I did a few around the head ponytails, and in doing each one, I would pull her head to one side or the other by the hair that I was holding, and that was clearly something that she really liked me to do. Finally, I did one more raking, then I very slowly gathered all her hair into a high ponytail, and I thoroughly enjoyed holding all of her hair in my right hand while I raked it through with my fingers. Lovely, heavy, beautiful hair. I was really beginning to like this hair play stuff. I kept a small amount of tension on her hair as I did one more raking, then I loosened my grip and let her hair fall softly behind the chair back. I stuck my tongue between my teeth as I finished this phase of the plan.

“So, hon, how did you like that?”

She turned her head to look at me. “That was real good, real good. You stay in town for awhile and I might let you play with my hair a lot.”

“Who, man, I think I could learn to like that,” and as I said the words I grabbed a thick lock of her hair and gave it a short yank. “So, girls, let me ask you something. I don’t mean to be a party pooper, but I also don’t want to wear out your hair. I may be back next week. So, you know any other girls who might be here today with really long hair? I mean, I’m looking for some girls with hair that will reach to the floor, so I’ll have to keep it on my legs.” I turned my head to look at both of them.

They were quiet for a moment, as if trying to decide whether to invite me to stay longer or whether to give me up to someone else.

Finally the ponytail spoke. “You know, there’s that girl who sits all the way in the back. She’s got the longest hair I’ve ever seen, usually wears it in braids. She hangs out with some guy most of the time. I don’t remember seeing her today, but we came in kind of late.”

“So, you say she sits in the back, do she?”

“Yes, always in the back.”

“Well, again, I just want to thanks you a lot for lettin’ me fiddle around with your hair for a time. You both have really nice hair. Hope you don’t get any ideas about cuttin’ it or anything like that. Try to keep it long for folks like me to play with now and then.” I got up from my seat, nodded to them, and slowly walked back up the aisle. I knew exactly where Diane was, on the other side of the theater, but I made it look like I was trying to find someone else on this side. I could feel their eyes on my back as I headed up the carpeted walkway. I stopped at the top of the walk and turned again, looking to either side as if trying to find this mysterious girl. In a minute or so, I opened the lobby door and walked into the lobby, around the food counter, and then through the other set of doors. Letting my eyes adjust again, I spotted Diane immediately, sitting against the wall in the next to last row of seats. She was hunched down in her seat, head barely visible. No one was in the row behind her. I began to step slowly into the aisle, and as I did so, she straightened up, threw her head back, and tossed one of her braids behind the chair. I looked right at her, took another step forward, then reversed myself, and stepped backward to the last row. I side-stepped in, taking the chair directly behind Diane. There was no one in the middle rows across from us, so the only thing I would have to watch out for would be the occasional presence of a manager looking out over the crowd.

As I slipped behind her, I grabbed the braid and gave it a good tug.

“You made pretty good time. Everything go O.K?”

“I don’t think those two girls are going to forget me.”

“Good. We’ve got about half an hour, then you’re going to have to get out of here. I’ve got the popcorn box, so we’ll make it look like we’re sharing.”

With that she passed back the empty box and I made motions of eating from it. All the while I was holding on to the left braid that she had tossed back. It was so nice to just feel her thick hair in my hand, with all those twists and turns in the braid that I could feel with my fingers. It was a thrill to just run my hand slowly along the length of her hair. After a few minutes I passed the popcorn box back to her, and then I reached forward and took hold of her right braid and drew it back across the chair. In a moment it dangled in front of me, and I pulled it into my lap. This was living. For the next twenty minutes I enjoyed alternately playing with and pulling her braids. It was a moment in time that just stood still for the two of us.

As the movie began to inch toward it’s climactic scene, she gave me the signal. I wanted confirmation one more time.

“Are you absolutely sure about this?”

“Absolutely. It’s the only way. Just make sure you make the ends look real ragged, like the guy was in a real hurry and didn’t know how to cut hair.”

“I am so sorry that I have to do this to your beautiful hair,” I said slowly, with a sniff. “I know you are, and I’m sorry that I have to do this. But I’m glad it’s you. Now do it and get out of here. I’ll write you when things settle down.”

That was it. She slouched down further into the seat, and let her head fall to one side, as if she were sleeping. I had to make sure the right braid was clear. I glanced to my left to check for any managers or attendants. They were probably busy preparing for the next batch of kids who would be coming for the second feature. I pulled the scissors from my pocket. I had already placed an elastic band high on each braid. That would be the point where I would start cutting. I grabbed the right braid with my left hand, took one more glance toward the door, looked back at her head, focused on the bright elastic that was just above my fist, opened the scissors, raised them to the braid, and I began to slowly snip off her right braid. I used the tips of the scissors, and worked them up and down. As I cut the braid off, strands of the remaining hair fell forward toward her face, and hung limply from her head. I could plainly hear the scissors doing their work, the crunching sound of hair being cut by ice-tempered steel. It took almost two minutes for the first braid to be free in my hand. I made sure the elastic was tight around the end I had just cut, and I folded the braid and put it in the popcorn box. Now I turned my attention to the left braid, and again making sure no one was watching, I slowly cut off the other long plait of beautiful, thick, healthy hair. What a waste! But the alternative was for her to go to her aunt’s house and have her hair chopped off and sold as punishment for failing the sixth grade. I know they would probably need the money her hair would have brought, but it was one of her most prized possessions. As I placed the other braid in the box, and carefully closed it to hide the contents, I took one look at my very good friend who I might not ever see again. She was a great, courageous lady, and she had taught me a lot about love and trust and values. In many ways, she was far smarter than I was. Her hair now hung in a ragged line just below her neck. She wanted enough length so that her aunt would be able to give her the semblance of a decent haircut.

The deed was done. I placed my hand softly on her shoulder to let her know I was going. I felt the return touch of her hand, a slight squeeze, and then she let go, the signal for me to leave. I got up, turned to face the door, and again slowly walked out. I pushed through the doors and walked into a lobby that was beginning to fill with kids. The counter people were already serving up soft drinks and popcorn. The managers were all focused on the kids who were coming in the doors. I sauntered over to the water fountain, bent to take a drink, then walked slowly to the exit door and out into the warm afternoon sun.

I had told my mom that I would just be going to the first show, then I was going to the library to look for some books. I walked slowly across the street, then to the park behind the library, where I quickly found the plastic bag and began to change back to my normal self. I had placed some paper towels in my pocket to wipe the red off my face. The stuff she had provided for me all went into one of the trash cans in the park, except for the make-up. I took it into the library bathroom, where I washed my face completely and then emptied the make-up container into the sink. The small plastic vial then went into the bathroom trash can. I waited for the sound of a police car, but none came. I guess the manager wanted to keep the situation quiet.

I got a couple of books that were about the size of the popcorn box, called my mom, and slipped the popcorn box full of Diane’s hair into a library book bag along with my books. Mom was none the wiser. When I got home, I wrapped her hair carefully in some silk cloth she had bought for me, then in plastic. I had found a good hiding place in my room, at the top of my closet. I had lock box into which I put a false bottom, in the event the police wanted to search the house. But, nothing ever came of it. I had been seen leaving the theater by everyone, then the strange dude had come in, and there was no connection. The newspaper had a front page story the next day, “Girl Has Braids Cut Off In Theater” and a report from the police chief that said it was probably a transient kid passing through town. A week later, the story was dead, because Diane was gone. In her first letter to me, she told me that her mother was livid with rage, first at the kid who did the cutting, then at Diane for letting her hair get cut off. She told her mom she let the guy play with her hair, and it felt so good she nodded off. She woke up to hair in her face, and that’s when she knew something had happened. Her aunt gave her an ear length bob when they arrived, and a tongue lashing about never letting your hair out of your sight.

Throughout the many intervening years, I had kept her braids safe and dry, getting them out on the anniversary of their cutting. To this day, as I held them again, the electricity was still there, charging through my hands and body as I remembered all those times I had pulled, combed, brushed, trimmed, held, raked, and just enjoyed the feel of her great hair. For half an hour or so, I reveled in the tactile sensation of her hair again, and all the great times we had shared. I wrapped the braids back in the green silk, but this time transferred them to a well made gift box, making sure they nestled down into the sheer white paper. I covered the silk with more paper, placed the top on the box, and carefully tied the box closed with colorful ribbon—red, white and blue. Because tomorrow, I would hand deliver this box to our state’s new United States Senator, The Honorable Diane Randall. Her braids would finally be back where they belonged, with their owner. And I would get to renew an old and dear acquaintance. Life is good!

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