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From the caf? across the road I watched her putting the money from the last customer in to the cash register. Well, it?s my turn now. I swallowed nervously ? I always felt a little awkward and uncomfortable whenever a haircut was about to loom. Ah well, that?s part of the ?buzz? so to speak, a response rooted in the past, childhood reverberations and all that?the fear of losing control?of feeling helpless?perhaps left looking ?butchered?. But I got up and walked across to her anyway; I was too far gone now, at that point of no return, a sense of inevitability wrapped closely round my thoughts, feelings, emotions?

She was leaning over the glass counter and flicking through a newspaper when I walked in. Lifting her head, she smiled and waved a hand at the barber?s chair. ?Hello, do have a seat?.

She was a little older than me, perhaps in her late 40?s and I found her appearance instantly appealing. A blonde, she wore a high-collared black turtleneck sweater with matching tailored trousers, her angular features highlighted by a mid-length bob framing her face. I moved to the chair.

She removed a length of tissue paper from the roll on the counter, picked up a cape and came and stood behind me.

As we viewed each other in the mirror for the first time, she asked ?And what?s it to be today??

?Well, I usually ?ummm?have it cut pretty short on the sides but leave it a little longer on top? I said as she placed the tissue paper around the collar of my sweater.

Her fingers touched the sides of my head lightly.

? A Number Two or Three up the sides then??

?Even?? I hesitated slightly, ??ummm, shorter.?

She smiled. ?You want a Number One then??

?Haven?t gone The One for a couple of cuts now. I need it. Badly. Here we go??, I thought to myself.

?Ah yes?yes?that?d be great??

?Number One high up the sides it is then. Then I?ll use scissors to blend in the front and top.?

She swirled the cape around me, did it up firmly then worked the tissue paper in along the neckline. My mouth started drying out and I swallowed again.

She walked over to the shelf below the mirror, all the while keeping her gaze on me. I took a deep breath and smiled back. It?ll be very short today?.

She picked up the clippers and removed the black comb from the face of the blade. Moving behind me, she placed her left hand on my head and gently pushed it forward slightly.

A sense of vulnerability rose up, borne out of feelings I no longer had any say in what was about to happen here in her chair. Then the clippers came to life. The blade touched my nape and with it my skin seemed ready to explode.

As the clippers started their run up my nape she asked, ?When?s the last time you had it cut??

?Five, maybe six weeks ago?.

??Thought so. You obviously like having your hair cut short?.

She tilted my head to the left and ran the clippers above my right ear.

It felt a little awkward talking like this ? it was too close to the truth! But then I figured, ?Ah, what the heck, I?m just another customer and we?re making the usual light conservation??

?Yeah, always have?, I said as the clippers did another run above my ear.

?Well, short hair definitely suits you.?

The clippers whirred their way up the nape again.

?I?ve not seen you in here before. You live or work locally??

?I work close by. Ah?my usual hairdresser?s on holidays.?

?So you couldn?t wait for them to get back! Well, you are keen on short hair, aren?t you?!?

I laughed lightly. ?I guess so. It?s just a look and feel I really like?.

?Guess the pressure?s on me to make sure I get that look and that feel just right for you then? she said with a chuckle.

She pushed my head forward another couple of inches.

?Well, I do like to give my customer?s exactly what they want. So welcome to Louise?s Barber Shop!? And with that, she pressed the clippers in very closely to my scalp?.

?I like the feel of clippers running over my head?, I said a little hesitantly?

?Now how did I know that!?? she said in a tone of mock surprise?

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