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This whole ordeal began when I won that stupid qualifying match. It had always been a dream of mine to swim in the Olympics, and after I won the final preliminary, I realized that my goal was finally in reach, I was going! As soon as I finished my last event, my best friend and teammate Janet came running over to my lane and helped my out of the pool, then we calmly and collectively walked to the restroom… where we burst into screaming for ten straight minutes. Both of us were in shock that I was really going, representing my country as a regular American girl.

“All I know is that we are so hanging out tonight Amy!” Janet said, who looked close to tears.

“Well, I’m going to take you up on that offer.” I replied as I pulled my bulging cap off of my head and unfastened my soaking bun. My usually light brown hair fell in a wet and tangled mess, and I leaned over and began to wring it dry, water pouring out of it in a flood. “Just you, me and Tom, nothing big. I could really use a nice relaxing…” I cut myself short when I noticed Janet staring at my dripping hair, a small smirk pulling at the edge of her mouth. A smirk which I had come to realize as a sign of her impending mischief. “What is it?” I asked, quickly throwing my hair back over my shoulders.

“Hmmm? Oh! Nothing, sorry just thinking about something else.” Janet replied, the smirk never leaving her face, “Anyways, I’ll call you later about tonight”. She walked past me towards the door and I continued to wring my hair out, but not before I caught a glimpse of her looking back at me and muttering something under her breath that sounded suspiciously like “Such a shame.”

That night when I got home I dropped my swim bag by my bedroom door and jumped in the shower, with her always impeccable timing, Janet called right as I was stepping in. I listened to the machine pick it up and heard Janet’s voice on the other end.

“Hey Amy, just calling about tonight.” I could swear I heard giggling in her voice as she talked, must be with some of her other friends. “Anyways, see you at our bar at eight o’ clock tonight, don’t worry about money, me and Tom have you covered for the night.” I smiled to myself, Tom was another good friend of mine, one I had know since my freshman year in high school when I began swimming.

I got out of the shower and spent almost a good half hour drying my hair. Sometimes it felt like an eternity to dry it, but it was worth every second since it was my pride and joy. My friends were always debating whether it was a very light brown or a very dark blond, but they always agreed that it was some of the most gorgeous hair on the planet, falling well past my hips and ending about two inches short of my butt, the ends usually turned softly inward depending on the style I decided to wear it in. Despite the constant chlorine, it was thick, soft, silky and shiny, and it was very enjoyable and easy to style for it’s length, whether I just let it dry into a natural wavy style, or spend some time and work it into the flowing cascade that it was right now. Occasionally I would get angry at my hair, and seek revenge by cutting off several inches in frustration. This act of anger always had the same outcome though, as I would weep over my lost locks and grow my hair even longer to try and compensate for the stupid act. Luckily my hair grew extremely fast, and I really loved the length it was at right now. I had already decided months ago that I would at least let it grow to the bottom of my butt before I tried anything drastic like that again.

Tonight I decided to straighten it, and it now fell in a perfectly shiny and smooth brown and blond waterfall that completely hid my back, shimmering and glowing under the lights. I quickly put it up in my favorite style, a small portion of the top tied in a ponytail with a blue satin ribbon while the rest luxuriously spilled down and the tips softly caressed the small of my back. I went to my bedroom and slipped into a tight pair of jeans and a red tube-top under a white collared blouse. Red white and blue, very appropriate for the night at hand and the celebration that was sure to compliment it. I called a cab to take me to our favorite bar that night, and climbed in when it arrived at my house.

Janet and Tom met me at the door with huge bear hugs. We walked inside and all took a quick shot of 151. After a few more drinks, we walked slightly crookedly to the pool table and began a quick friendly game. I noticed that Tom was playing with my hair a lot, much more than he usually did, especially with the small ribbon ponytail that lay perched above the rest of my flowing locks. I loved my hair being played with and the soft tugs on my scalp, so I didn’t mind at all, but I was secretly wondering what the occasion was.

When we finished we sat down, took another round of drinks, and began to talk. The subject kept coming back to the Olympics, and Janet seemed eager to bring something up.

“So Amy,” she said, the smirk appearing suddenly, “how long before you leave?”

“Well, I leave for training in 2 weeks, then I’ll be gone for a few months to train before the actual Olympics. After that, we’re all gonna take an extra two months just to view the landscape.” I replied, knocking down another drink.

“Oh OK,” Janet replied “so when are we going to go through with your promise?”

I turned to her, confused and a bit tipsy. “What promise?” I asked, trying to think back.

“Come on Amy, the promise we both made during the last summer Olympics, surely you haven’t forgotten!” Her smirk had become a full out beaming grin.

I thought back four years ago, then something came into my mind. Both of us sitting in her room, both of us watching the Women’s 200 free, both of us remarking how the girls had no dedication, that the caps were still slowing them down, that if we ever got into the Olympics we would show them by…

Suddenly my eyes widened as all the pieces began to click together. Janet’s strange look in the bathroom, Tom’s endless act of playing with my hair, the promise I had made to her and myself four years ago. A promise that if Janet or I ever went to the Olympics, we would shave our heads!

“But… no… wait!” I said, I reflexively reached up with both hands and began to stroke my hair protectively, if they wanted to steal my pride and joy from me, they were going to have to fight me for it. “We made that promise when we were 17, I didn’t know what I was doing, and my hair was barely past my ears back then!”

Janet shook her head slowly. “Amy, a promise is a promise, and you’ve gotta keep yours! I would have kept mine.”

I quickly looked at Tom, he had always loved playing with my hair. Even now he was tugging playfully at my ribbon ponytail, he must be willing to help. “Tom! Tell her I was young! PLEASE!” I pleaded, desperately trying to save my locks.

But Tom just shrugged a helpless shrug. “Sorry Amy,” he said “but I believe in a promise too, and face it, it will definitely help you when the Olympics come around.”

I could feel tears begin to spring in my eyes, and I continued to plunge my hands through my hair, trying my best to commit the soft luxurious feeling to memory if this really was the end. If I could have made one wish right then other than to save my hair, it would have been to go back in time a bit so that I could enjoy it a little longer before this night. I looked over and saw Janet pull a pair of clippers from her purse. “This isn’t fair!” I pleaded, tears beginning to roll down my cheeks, “Janet, you should have to cut yours too!” but Janet only smiled.

Suddenly, Janet burst into laughter and lowered the clippers, I looked over at Tom as a smile began to spread on his face. “Come on Amy!” Janet said, “We’re just screwing with you, we wouldn’t do that! Although I do have a strange feeling you’re going to lose your hair before long anyways.”

“You guys are assholes!” I screamed, half angry, half laughing, “I…” suddenly what she just said finally sank
in. My eyes quickly met hers “What do you mean?” I asked.

“Well Amy, you know as well as I do how you feel about promises, you always have to keep them or you go insane, but just know that if you want, I’ll let you back out of this one.” Janet said as she ordered another round of drinks.

“Wait, wait,” Tom said, “you aren’t really gonna do it are you Amy? I mean, Janet’s just joking right?”

I was seriously at a loss of words, I didn’t want to lose my envy-inducing locks, but despite what I had said a minute ago a promise WAS very important to me. Plus, something about the idea of losing my hair did intrigue me, however little. Suddenly, my mind snapped back to reality, cut my hair? No way in hell was I ready to give up my crowning glory. I turned to Tom and just sat there for a few seconds before replying “No, of course not Tom, I love my hair.”

“Don’t let her fool ya Tom, I’ve known her for eight years and I know that this promise will nibble away at her conscience until a pair of clippers are nibbling away at her hair”. Janet finished off with another of her trademark laughs as our drinks arrived.

I glared at her, but there was no menace in my eyes, it was a glare that both of us knew as a joking anger. “So you told me this thinking that I was just gonna do it anyways?” I asked, still committed to the feeling that Janet was way wrong on this call.

“No, no, I’m just trying to help clear any guilty feelings you may get later.” Janet replied, “Face it, you would have remembered anyways, I just told you so that you wouldn’t feel bad if you broke your promise when you realized it too late.”

“Well, all I know is that I’m glad to have my hair,” I said, still happily running my hands through my silky locks, locks that I could now keep forever “even if it’s only for another couple of weeks.” Tom looked understandably sad, he really did love playing with my hair. After looking at his sad eyes, I quickly added “which is very unlikely.” this perked him right back up. “Next round is on me.”

We enjoyed the rest of the night and I ordered a cab to drive us home, as I climbed out at my house, Janet handed me the small clippers and whispered in my ear “Just in case.” As I walked up to my front door and unlocked it, I dropped the clippers into the planter, Yeah right, I thought.

I brushed my teeth, undid my ribbon, put my hair up in a full ponytail, and went to bed, but as hard as I tried, I couldn’t get to sleep. I tossed and turned until I finally sat up and walked over to the mirror. I looked at myself in it for a long time, not sure what I was looking for. I pulled my hair very very tight, trying to imagine myself without hair, then let go immediately, realizing what I was doing.

“What am I doing?” I asked myself, nervous that the very idea had even popped into my head. Quickly, in a desperate move to counter this idea, I reached up and stroked my smooth ponytail. It was very thick, easily the width of my arm, but the texture was unbelievably soft, a trait which I took great pride in. I pulled out my elastic band to let my hair spill over my shoulders and down my back. With the exception of a small kink from the band, it was still as soft and shiny as the satin slip I was wearing. I went to bed with my hair loose, tossing it and arranging it in all sorts of ways to feel comfortable. I even piled it under my head and made it into a makeshift pillow. I finally ended up falling asleep with my hair covering me in a thick, soft blanket.

The next morning I woke up and hopped into the shower, my nightmares of broken promises from the night before echoing in my head. After the shower I had considerable trouble styling my hair, getting more and more angry with it. I finally got it dried and put it into a bun the size of two small fists, realizing I was late for my lecture. I raced to class and came in halfway through the lecture, quickly finding a seat without interrupting the professor. All through the day as I walked from class to class, my mind kept racing back to my hair. Several times during the day I stopped in front of windows and found myself trying many different styles, beginning with the bun, then a braid, then a ponytail, then just letting it hang loosely in a wavy brown waterfall down my back. I found myself having a lot of fun with my hair, more fun than I’ve had in a long time, and I began to think it may have been from the idea that soon I wouldn’t be able to have this much fun in an even longer time.

That very thought stopped me in my tracks, I walked to the ladies room and just stared at myself in the mirror. Running my fingers through my silky waves, I began to ask myself just how important a promise was to me, and even more pressing, how important that gold medal was. I left the restroom and sat on a bench for over an hour, my hands buried in my hair, just thinking. Finally, I came to a decision, I was going to buzz my head the day before I left for training and then shave it with a razor the day of the competition. A tear silently rolled down my cheek when I reached this conclusion, but at the same time, I smiled in pure delight at reaching a decision. This was the right thing to do! I could keep my promise, and I would save more money and time on my…. scalp. And besides, it always grew back. Both happy and scared beyond words, I stood up, tossed my auburn mane back over my shoulders, and began to walk back towards my car, my hair swaying and bouncing obediently behind me.

Once I got home I decided to take a nice hot bath and called Janet from the tub. I told her my plans and asked her if she would help with the actual deed. She happily agreed, and I told her that for the next week and five days I was going to ridiculously pamper my hair, since it would probably be at least three or four years before I could do it again. Janet agreed, and even offered to pay for everything. I declined at first, but then realized that she was the one who got me into this, and her wealthy parents practically handed her money on a silver platter, so I ended up agreeing to let her. Then she asked what I was going to do with my severed hair, mentioning that it would catch a big price on the market. I thought about it, but told her that I should give it to Tom for his birthday as a joke and she immediately burst out laughing. When I hung up the phone I glanced at my hair floating on top of the water, and thought that I may as well begin the pampering now as I reached for the conditioner.

I woke up the next morning and looked at the calendar, one week and four days left until that eventful and horrible night. That day on the calendar was marked with just one thing “Bzzzzzzz”. I hopped in the shower and styled my hair, taking a long time since I didn’t have many days of this left. My time paid off, and after about half an hour my hair easily came out as a straight and beautiful golden brown silken treasure, god I would miss it. I walked out on the front lawn and ran quickly to my car, careful to avoid the sprinklers. While my hair was as straight as an arrow right now, letting it dry normally led to a wavy style that I had reserved for another day, and I had my styles planned until that Tuesday night. Over the next week I wore my hair in every possible style imaginable, french braids, buns, pigtails, ponytails, and of course my favorite partly up/mostly down ribbon look. You name it, I wore it, and during that time I never once took it for granted.

The week passed quickly and quietly with Janet and I making daily trips to the salon to have my hair shampooed, conditioned and treated. Every day it gleamed and shined even more and more than the time before. It even became softer and softer until eventually it began to stop feeling like hair and began to feel more like living satin. By the time my last school day rolled around I began to question my decision, my hair had never been more beautiful, and there was no guarantee that it would grow back in this condition ever again. But the very thought of holding that gold medal quickly put me back in my place. Tha
t Friday night I had a formal Olympics party, this was a perfect opportunity for one final elegant style. I had it all up in one of those huge bulletproof buns with a few stray curls hanging loosely in my face and carnations randomly placed throughout. I made quite the impression that night, when asked to give a speech I announced my plans and evoked a good number of gasps, mainly from my family, who knew how I felt about my hair, but then a thorough round of applause rang out through the banquet room, reinforcing my decision.

Saturday morning Janet and I went to the salon and did something I had always wanted to do, put curls in my hair. I’m not talking about a perm, I’m talking about tight, bouncy and soft ringlets that most people related to Shirley Temple. We went to a movie and I noticed several heads turn as I walked by, something I wouldn’t be seeing for a long time. I reveled in walking that day, feeling my hair bounce up and down as I did, tugging the curls straight and watching them spring back up. Janet also had fun playing with them as we walked to Tom’s house and watched a flick there, Tom being more quiet than usual, and I guess I could understand why. When I got home, I was about to wash the curls straight when a thought hit me, this was going to be the last time I could probably ever do this to my hair, so I may as well enjoy it. I played with it for hours, pulling it, twisting it in my fingers, even jumping up and down just to feel it bouncing with my movements. When I finally had enough, I washed and straightened the curls until they were mostly gone. I was planning on wearing my hair long and wavy one final time before Tuesday, and having a hint of curl would only make it easier in the morning. I climbed into bed and lay there for a while, thinking about the Olympics and hoping for a gold while I quickly fell asleep.

Sunday morning, the remains of the curls leant a helping hand towards my final wavy style, but these waves were still as soft, silky and luxurious as my liquid satin look. I spent the day with Tom since Janet was working, we went to lunch and got ice cream, and it was there that he decided to plead with me.

“Seriously Amy,” he said, his eyes looking pleadingly at my mane, “couldn’t you just wear a cap or something? I mean how much is shaving your head gonna help you?”

“Sorry Tom,” I replied, shaking my head, sending my shining waves flying back and forth, but it’s all gotta go, and it’s not just about the time, it’s about keeping a promise.”

“But Janet said she wouldn’t hold you to that promise!”

“I know, but… well, it’s a promise I made to myself, and I can’t break that, it’s more important than even a promise to Janet.”

“I…” Tom’s eyes fell back to his ice cream “…understand, but we’re still up for that movie tomorrow night right?”

“You bet,” I replied, “I promise, and you know you can hold me to that!”

Tom smiled a sad smile and looked back up again. “Can I ask one more request? Can you wear your hair straight to the movies? Just for old times sake?” I smiled back at him, and we both knew the answer to that.

Monday morning, in less than two days I would be as bald as my uncle, even more so, since he at least has tufts on the side. As per request, I blow dried my hair straight and shimmery, letting it fall in a living waterfall nearly down to my butt and flipped it inward at the bottom. I debated putting it into my favorite ribbon style, but decided that Tom would have more fun with it loose. On the walk over to the theater I was constantly tucking loose strands behind my ear, and I realized that I was even going to miss the annoying aspects of my hair once it was gone. I met Tom at the movies, and we sat waiting through the trailers. I put my legs up over three seats and leaned my head back into his lap, my hair becoming a beautiful silken puddle around my head. I honestly don’t think he even watched the movie, because he spent the entire film running his fingers through my gleaming hair. I was really going to miss the feel of fingers sliding through my satin locks, these soft pulls and tugs on my scalp and the even softer feeling as my hair slid back down into place, but hopefully a gold medal could fill in it’s heartbreaking absence. Tom walked me home and gave me a kiss on the head like the gentleman he was.

That night after I finished packing I lay in bed like the night two weeks ago, unable to get any sleep. I got up two hours later, walked over to my mirror, and pulled out my elastic band once again. Despite Tom’s endless playing, my hair was still in perfect shape with the exception of a crease caused by the band. I lifted it up and held it at all angles, then let it drop back, trying to remember this moment for future reference. I picked up a brush and began to run it through my glistening hair, trying to get the crease out and watching it fall back into place under all it’s weight. I smiled to myself, thinking that soon I wouldn’t have to ever worry about this mess again, soon all of it’s weight would be gone, soon I would save countless dollars and hours on it’s appearance, soon…

My brush stopped halfway through, my hand sat motionless, some of my hair still a horizontal line from my head to the brush. I sat like that for a few seconds, then felt the sting of tears slowly filling my eyes. It finally hit me, my pride and joy, my gorgeous shining mane was soon going to be stripped from my head in a matter of minutes. Years of work to be stolen and gone faster than a song, replaced by a gleaming skull that only god knew would look like. I heard Tom’s voice in my head telling me it wasn’t too late to back out, and for a split second, I was going to. But I thought back to Janet, the people at the banquet, my country! I had to do it. I put down my brush and walked slowly back to bed. I sat on the edge and ran my fingers through my silky locks, crying harder and harder with every stroke. Finally, after running my fingers through the heavy mass one last time for the night, I went back to bed, burying my face in my hair as I tried to cry myself to sleep. I knew it would be years before my hair would be long enough to do this again, and god only knew how long before it would be this beautiful. Ironically, I dried my eyes on my soft tresses, almost as if they were saying that they would still be back if I wanted them.

I continued to cry, burying my face deeper and deeper into my locks, trying to remember why I was doing this again. I wanted more than anything to know what the haircut would look like, and even more importantly, what it would feel like, but I had absolutely no desire to go through it. I had an idea, and I slowly got out of bed and walked over to my desk. I reached into a drawer and pulled out a pair of scissors and held them in front of me. I still wasn’t ready to lose my locks, but I needed to feel what it would be like. I pulled a small strand of hair straight up from the back, making sure that it wasn’t anymore than I needed. I put the scissors at the base of the strand, doing my very best to get it as close to my scalp as possible and closed them around the lock. A sickening sound somewhere between a crunch and a snip rang out, and I shut my eyes almost in pain, realizing that this was only the beginning of my hair’s destruction.

I lifted the small severed lock in front of my face, surprised that such a microscopic part of my head had held so much hair, but I could easily cover up the tiny patch with the rest of my locks. Then came the hard part, I reached my hand back and slowly felt through my hair for the area that I just cut. It took me almost a minute to find the small patch, searching through mounds and mounds of lushness for a spot barely half an inch in diameter, but when I found it, my hand snapped back in surprise and terror. I felt the area again, a harsh and prickly sandpaper feeling surrounded in sharp contrast by the rest of my satin locks, and the feeling made my stomach lurch. Tomorrow night, my entire soft and shiny mane would be replaced by this, and I felt myse
lf ready to cry again, but this time I forced myself to calm down. I climbed back into bed and fell asleep a little easier now that one of my questions had been answered, however disappointing it was.

Tuesday morning, in less than eighteen hours I would be as bald as the day I came into this world. For my final day I straightened my hair again and put a small amount of it up in my ribbon ponytail, letting the rest flow down my back, a fitting end for my hair which had served me well all of these years. As I was tying the ponytail with the blue satin ribbon, I faltered for a second, thinking I was going to cry again. This was the last time I was ever going to style my hair for god knew how long, and I think I deserved to shed a quick tear or two. Luckily, I had cried myself dry the night before, and finished my favorite style without incident. I decided to dress nice for the event, so I put on a long black skirt, a white collared blouse, and my favorite leather coat, the soft black leather contrasting stylishly with my even softer golden brown locks. My hair was so long by now that I accidently tucked it into my skirt and got it caught in the zipper. I looked at my outfit in the mirror, and decided that it looked great with my hair done up like this, hopefully this was still in style in about four or five years.

Janet told me to be at her house at five for the big event, so I sat and watched TV until then, constantly running my fingers through my hair or brushing it until it shined. For some reason, I kept grabbing two handfuls of it and holding it in front of my face, maybe to catch some final glimpses of it that I had never seen before it disappeared for good. I also kept feeling the tiny patch at the back of my head, my hands now knowing where it lay. I noticed that five o’ clock was rolling around much faster than it should, time seemed to be slipping through my fingers, just like my hair. When four o’ clock rolled around I turned off the TV and sat in front of my mirror for a bit. Once again I picked up the brush and began to run it through my tresses, watching them shine and trying to remember what it felt like as I brushed my hair for the last time.

Suddenly I had another idea, jumping away from my mirror, I ran over to the closet, pulled out my video camera and set it up on a stand. Turning on every light I could, I spent a good fifteen minutes brushing and playing with my hair in front of the camera. I brushed it for several minutes, I flipped it constantly, I shook my head vigorously, I even bent backwards and let my hair hang down. For fifteen minutes I stood in front of the camera trying to catch every angle of what my hair looked like, the way it shined, how it moved, this way when I started to grow it back, I could have a point of reference with what I should do with it. Finally, after I decided that enough was enough, I put my ribbon back in and rearranged it the way it was before my modeling session.

I drove over to Janet’s and right as I pulled up, the garage began to open. I thought it was her parents leaving, so I stepped in to say hello… and got one hell of a surprise. Standing there was all my friends, my family, and anyone else I could imagine standing in front of a big sign that read “Good Luck Amy”. But what caught my eye the most was a covered hunk that looked suspiciously like a chair.

“SURPRISE!!!” Everyone yelled as I stepped through, my face stuck in a dumb look of amazement. Finally, I gathered myself, and greeted everyone quickly and politely as they wished me a fond farewell to train. Finally, I walked up to Janet and Tom and gave them both big hugs, Tom of course petting my hair as I did. I walked around the party and talked to everyone, many of them ran their hands through my hair one last time, noticing how much it had improved since Janet’s pampering, and even more of them continued to try and talk me out of my decision. We all talked and talked for hours, dancing, eating, having an occasional beer until about eight o’ clock. I was dancing and laughing with a large group, my hair flying around me in a shimmering whirlwind when the words I dreaded finally rang out.

“Alright everyone,” Janet rang out, “it’s time for the main event. Tom, would you do the honors?” I turned around to face Tom as he pulled the cover off the hulk, and sure enough, there sat a barber chair. A ring of applause and gasps echoed through the garage, letting me know that there was no backing out now. I slipped off my leather jacket and slowly made my way to the chair. In a matter of minutes, my glorious mane would be reduced to stubble, if I was lucky. Slowly descending into it, Janet lifted my hair and draped a Cape around my shoulders, whispering into my ear “It’s gonna be OK.” I felt like crying again, but I was still sucked dry from last night. She fastened the cape and let my hair fall back into place, it’s soft whisper by my ear and neck almost sounded like a plea. As Janet got a pair of clippers ready, I reached up and ran my fingers through my long thick hair one last time in a final goodbye gesture. When I was done, I reached back and pulled the blue ribbon from my treasured tiny ponytail, letting the small amount of hair join the rest of my soon-to-be-severed tresses.

Janet came around with a brush and slowly brushed out my locks for what seemed forever. I shut my eyes and enjoyed the feel, trying to get a good memory of it since it was the last time I would feel this again. She finally stopped, and my eyes snapped open when I heard a loud “pop” followed by a droning “bzzzzzzzz”. This was it, I turned my eyes to Tom, who slowly smiled. “So Amy, last chance to back out.” Janet said, a sparkle in her eye. I thought about for a few moments before shaking my head, my long hair slowly swinging back and forth. “Any last requests?” Janet asked. I thought about it a little bit longer before finally looking up and saying “Just make sure you don’t shave it, that’s for the gold medal race!” This led to a long drawn out applause from everyone, and I felt a little better.

Janet smiled her always friendly smile, “OK sista, here we go, right down the middle OK?”

“OK” I agreed, and leaned my head down, watching as an impenetrable curtain of my hair swung forward and then hung lifelessly in front of my eyes as I sat there, hair so think that it blocked all the light from the party. I heard the clippers getting closer and closer, louder and louder until it was almost unbearable, and finally heard their pitch change as they began to slowly nibble away at the hair on the front of my hairline. I saw glorious chunks of the light brown curtain fall to the ground, even larger chunks of hair landing in my lap, and it soon began to look like a brown pile of silk.

“Oh my god, oh my god!” I screamed, I wanted to cry, I even felt myself sobbing, but I kept it under control as the haircut continued. Janet stopped for a second to let me regain control, and I knew how guilty she must feel right now.

“Wanna feel?” she asked. As much as I wanted to, I shook my head. I knew that it would only feel like it did last night, a rough patch of sandpaper surrounded by a sea of satin. Janet continued the haircut and plowed the clippers slowly back, finally ending at the top of my head. Locks of hair were pouring down my head in what seemed like pounds, and I didn’t want to look in the mirror to see what I now looked like. Janet moved to the side and lifted up a long, thick piece of hair and began to slowly clip through it, for a second I remembered Tom running his hands through those silky tresses last night, the soft relaxing tug on my scalp helping me fall asleep in his lap. Now that feeling was replaced with the feel of my hair being softly tugged FROM my scalp, and it made me slightly nauseous.

The haircut continued, and longs locks of my luxurious hair rained down around me on all sides. More and more Light continued to filter through my formerly impenetrable curtain of hair, proof that my mane was slowly and cruelly being eaten away. Occasionally Janet would hand me a lock
of my former glory, and I would squeeze them as the rest of my rapidly vanishing pride and joy was stolen from me. My curtain of hair slowly changed from a thick wall into a heavy mass, then into dark lines, and then completely disappeared as it was severed from my scalp. Finally after what seemed like hours, the clippers fell silent, and I looked around the chair and in my lap. Mounds upon mounds of thick hair lay littered everywhere. Janet dropped the last piece by my head, and the soft whisper it made passing my ear reminded me of a poem I had read a long time ago. “This is how the world ends, not with a bang, but a whisper.”

“Well Amy, it’s over” I heard Janet say, “ready for your close up?” I slowly looked up to the mirror, and didn’t even recognize the girl looking back at me, the smooth head still covered with small traces of stubble. I rubbed it, and it felt as prickly and sharp as last night, a complete contrast to it’s former soft as satin feel. I was impressed, I didn’t expect myself to look nearly as good as I did now, but I still looked like a monster without my former glory surrounding my face. The rest of the party moved uneventfully, with some tearful goodbyes and good lucks. Janet and I scooped up all of my hair, which I would be sure to give to Tom before I got on the plane tomorrow. The entire time we were cleaning up, I kept reaching for a strand of hair that didn’t exist to play with, each time my hand falling back dejected. We tied the hair together with a ribbon, and it ended up being over eight inches thick at it’s widest point! We put it in a box and said our goodbyes, then I drove home. Despite the strange feeling of my head on my pillow, I fell asleep easily, and dreamed pleasant thoughts of gold.

The next day Tom and Janet drove me to the airport, and I gave Tom his present. When he opened it, he just raised an eyebrow at me and said “You know my birthday was three weeks ago.”

“Yeah, yeah, but you were a good boy this year.” I replied, then I gave them both hugs as I climbed onto the escalator. As I moved up, I took one more glance behind my shoulder and saw them still standing there waving goodbye. I continued to walk forward towards the security booth, and I could see my future coach waiting for me on the other side, his mouth somewhere between a smile and a gasp. I slowly reached into my jacket pocket and pulled something out, my new good luck charm. It was the blue satin ribbon I wore in my hair that final night, a symbol of my enormous sacrifice for all of this, and a reminder that I had to win that gold!

Two months after the Olympics…

I descended the stairs right next to the escalator I remembered going up on the way to the Olympics, strange how things always come full circle. I looked down knew what I was going to see, Janet and Tom standing there, almost like they had never left. I ran down the rest of the stairs and jumped into their arms, tears starting to form in my eyes, god I hated being so emotional. I pulled back and looked at them as they grabbed my bags and showed me the way to the car.

“So Amy,” Janet said, her trademark smirk already in place, “can we see them?”

“You bet!” I replied as I set one of my bags down and rummaged in the side pocket. I pulled out two small but thick wooden boxes and opened them up. In one lay a silver medal, in the other lay my new pride and joy (at least for now), my new Olympic gold medal, my prize from the Olympics where I had been tagged “America’s Favorite Underdog”.

“God, it’s beautiful,” Tom said slowly, the looked back up at me. “And it’s good to see something up there too.” he laughed as he russled my short hair.

“Hey, hey, hey!” I yelled, backing off and running my own hand over it. It had been almost two months since I had concluded my oath and shaved it smooth with a razor, and in those two months my hair had grown almost three inches, and was already amazingly soft and lush. Right now it was in a short parted style that would have looked great on a tomboy or a goth, but unfortunately I was neither. Luckily, my razor shave had brought in countless endorsements from BIC and Gillette, along with several others from Nike, Speedo, and many more. It felt good to be a multi-millionaire at twenty-one, but I still had another year of college ahead of me. Despite the promising start my hair was showing, I still had a long way to go before it grew back to it’s former beauty, but at least now I knew that it would take less than two years instead of four or five.

As we walked to the car, I reached into my pocket and felt my good luck charm. The ribbon was still soft, but in the last two months it was beginning to show wear from my constant rubbing, and when I got home I had to remind myself to take it out and put it somewhere safe for the time being. Janet saw my hand fiddling with something in my pocket laughed harshly. “What you got in there? A rabbit’s foot or something?”

I quickly pulled my hand back out and smiled back at her. “Something like that” I snapped, flashing her a joking grin.

“Ah….” she replied, “so at last we find out how you really won that gold. Anyways, you’ve got quite a welcome wagon waiting for you at your house, so you may wanna be ready.” She quickly ran to the front seat of Tom’s Civic, then changed her mind. “You can have shotty for now winner.”

I laughed loudly at that, first time she had ever let me ride shotgun without a fight. On the ride home I reached into my pocket and began to run the ribbon again, forcing myself to remember it once the party was over. After I had won my first medal, I had made a new promise to myself, one I would have no problem keeping. I promised that when my hair grew completely back the way it was, to it’s former length and beauty, I was going to straighten it, take this ribbon, and tie a small section of hair into a ponytail with it while the rest softly spilled down the way that I loved so very much before. Only then would I be happy again, and only then would I truly relax.

Two years and three months later, with the guidance of my home made video, I finally relaxed.

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