Home » Location » Barbershop » Blond, Black and Pink (Part 5)

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In Part 4, Penny, accompanied by Melissa, who has now been bald for more than a week, visits Kate’s barbershop where Penny has been given permission by her Mom, Heather, to have her hair cut anyway she wants it. She had gotten her formerly long hair cut into a pixie in early April and had cut it even shorter in May four weeks earlier. This time she gets an extremely short pixie as described in part 4. Another customer had arrived with a son and daughter and watched in fascination as Penny’s haircut proceeds. “Sandra” as her Mother Jan calls her asks if she can get her own hair cut like Penny’s. Her Mother knows that Sandy can never get her hair cut short enough and is tempted. Penny’s cut is finished and Jan’s son, Timmy, is ushered into the barber chair. Kate is preparing to cut his hair into a “Buster Brown, as requested by his Mother. Melissa had a brief conversation with Kate and was about to leave when Jan, the Mother of Timmy and Sandy asks about her shaved head. Sandy is extremely excited at the prospect of being allowed to get her head shaved like Melissa. After learning from Melissa how she keeps her head shaved she agrees to let Sandra get hers shaved. Melissa rushes outside to catch Penny before she leaves. She wants to watch the shaving of Sandy and to offer support to her. Jason, who had gotten his hair cut before Penny, is sitting reading a comic book while he waited for the return of his Mother, Abby Quinalt.

Week 2 Saturday Penny’s Special Day Continued

Kate had already pinned up Timmy’s hair so that it left a line of hair hanging down around his head. On the sides this hair would be cut a fraction shorter than the hair above it so that there would be a natural tendency for the side to curl under. It was just long enough to fall to his earlobes – a little longer in front and slightly angled upward toward the back. Kate did the opposite side exactly the same. She picked up her clippers and started to snap on a guide then changed her mind. She wanted the taper from the hairline to the weight line to be short, at least for now. She might want to adjust it later if the weight line was too heavy. Using the clipper over comb method she carefully tapered the back to achieve the effect she wanted.

She turned back to Timmy’s Mother. “Ma’am, how would you like his bangs done. I think wide bangs are more practical because there is less tendency for his hair to fall onto his face.”

“I’m sorry Kate. I should have told you before, I’m Jan. You already know my two, Timmy and Sandra. Yes, I think wide bangs would be good. How long do you think they should be?”

“Well Jan, if I make them wide they will start farther back, but I think they look best if they are not too short – about an inch above his eyebrows. You’ll need to keep them trimmed a little more often – about once a month, but keeping his cut looking good will mean having it done that often anyway.”

“You were recommended to me by a friend whose haircut I admired. It was beautifully done, and she said that you were the best. I wanted the same cut and my hairdresser did a pretty good job, but not as good as my friends. So, I’ll probably be coming to you to get my own hair cut and I can bring Timmy with me. Anyway, Go ahead and do Timmy however you think will look good and be practical.”

“OK. I like your cut. I can certainly do a good job with that. It’s one of my favorites. I would be happy to do it for you.”

Kate noticed that Melissa and Penny had returned. “Well, hello again girls. What brings you back so soon?”

“We wanted to watch you shave Sandra. And besides, not many girls want their heads shaved, and I wanted to be here to encourage her and tell her how great it is and how good she looks. Bald girls have to stick together you know.” Kate and Jan both laughed at this statement. They recognized that Melissa was quite happy with her smoothly shaved had and wanted other girls to try it.

“If people keep seeing you, Melissa, and deciding they have to copy your style you’re going to have a lot of girls to keep track of. This has already been an interesting summer and it’s just begun. I have an appointment for next week with a girl who says she wants to be shaved. So maybe I get to do another one.”

Kate had continued to cut Timmy’s hair as she had planned. She had pinned up the hair that would be his bangs and let down the lower part. Leaving the bangs for last she started cutting the sides, careful to make the top layer slightly longer then the under layer. At the back of Timmy’s ear she curved upwards a little so that she could form a nice wedge in the back. With the sides done to her satisfaction, she picked up her clippers once again. She started at the hairline using a very thin comb and trimmed the first half inch quite close. Using a wide tooth comb she used her barbering skills to achieve a perfect gradation from the hairline up about an inch and a half to blend with the longer hair of the bob she was fashioning. She combed the hair one way and another to be sure it looked right. Finally, it was time to cut Timmy’s bangs. She combed down a section of hair – just enough to form a thin line across his forehead. Working carefully she cut this first layer from temple to temple. She had decided to leave his bangs even longer than she had suggested – only about a half inch about his brows. She could always shorten them later. Using the same razor tapering cutter she had use for Penny she lightened the first layer of bangs. Bringing down a second layer, she cut it evenly to match the first. Once again she lightened it with her razor. Finally she brought down the final section which came from a point halfway to the crown of Timmy’s head. Once again she cut it evenly across his forehead from temple to temple. This time she also combed it to the side. She wanted the bangs to blend into the sides by actually extending over the sides. She began to adjust the cut of the top layer of bangs so that they extended into the temple area. When she was finished Timmy’s bangs extended from the temple beginning just in front of his ear to the same location on the other side. It was subtly done, so you had to look closely to realize that his bangs extended in almost a half circle around his head. She made a few tiny adjustments to the sides and decided she was done.

“Give you head a good shake Timmy’s.” He complied vigorously, his hair briefly standing out like a halo. Kate inspected it, combed it a bit and made a few more adjustments. Finally she misted his hair once again – much of the cut had been done on damp hair – and combed in a small amount of mousse. She use a small round brush and her hairdryer to give the sides and back a little lift so that they were slightly rounded.

“Would you like to inspect it Jan.”

Jan came over to look closely at the cut. She liked the way the sides began at about the level of Timmy’s lips and angled slightly up just covering the bottom of his ears. The wedge in the back extended upward to as high as the middle of his ears, about two inches, where it formed a definite weight line. The hairline had been outlined by Kate, forming a clean rounded line. Jan especially liked the way the bangs had been done. They had a little lightness because of the razor tapering done on the under layers. They extended completely around his forehead to blend into the sides.

“Kate, you did a beautiful job. I guess you left his bangs longer that you suggested. Will they have to be trimmed more often?”

“I thought they would look better that way. If they are too long after two or three weeks, I’ll recut them for you, no charge.”

“He looks very good. I’m happy with the result. Timmy what do you think? Do you like it?

“Timmy looked at his reflection very seriously. It’s OK. Can I get down now?”

Kate cleaned up his neck and face with her duster and unfastened the cape. “If he wants it longer I can do it next time he
comes in. I’ll bet his hair grows fast. You know Jan I like bobs on boys. And on men too. I have one customer in his twenties who has been wearing a bob for years. It’s a lot like Prince Valiant’s. A couple of teenagers have come in for bob cuts, usually with their girl friends.”

“He is cute with it cut like that. He had a Buster Brown last year. At first I thought it was too feminine and had it cut, but I’ve changed my mind. A couple other boys on his soccer team have long hair and no one gives them a problem. One has a pony tail. What is funny is that my girl wants her head shaved and my boy wants long hair. It seemed weird at first, but I’m OK with it now.”

“I noticed that lots of girl’s look better with short or no hair and a lot of boy look very good with long hair. So it’s nothing to worry about. I really laughed at that professional football player with the really long curly hair who goes flying all over the place during a play. And of course they all wear big diamond earrings. So it’s no big deal any more. It’s your turn Sandra. Are you ready for the big event?”

“YES!.” Sandy eagerly climbed into the big barber chair and sat down expectantly.

“Hum. Sandra I need to give you a little boost so that I can do this job easier. I have a pillow to go under you that will lift you up a little. Would that be OK with you.” Sandra was not very tall and her head did not quite extent above the back of the chair.

“Sure. That’s OK.”

Kate walked to the back of the shop to a small closet where she kept supplies. There she pulled out a leather covered cushion with a contoured bottom designed to fit the seat of the barber chair.

When it was in place Sandy energetically hopped up onto it and sat down.

Kate snapped the cape around her neck. “I guess there’s no reason to waste time is there? So I’ll just use my big clippers to take it all off. They’re a little bit loud. Is that OK?” She spoke directly to Sandy.

“Sure. Do they tickle or anything?”

“No, but they do vibrate a little. Everyone likes that feeling.”

Kate took a wide tooth comb, lifted up the hair on the back of Sandy’s head and ran the clippers up to the crown and straight up to shear off as much as she could. Two more passes with the same technique and and the back of Sandy’s head was mostly short stubble. First the right side and then the left was treated in the same manner, but without the comb. Using the comb again she started on the left front and went all the way to the back leaving some slightly irregular lines of longer hair where the overlap had been inadequate. Another three passes over the top and Sandy was left with irregular stubble and a few long strands that had been missed. The process had taken less than two minutes even though Kate had not hurried. Now she began to go over Sandy’s head methodically, ridding it of any stray strands of long hair and reducing it to an even cap of very short stubble.

Melissa and Penny watched with concentrated attention. It was almost as much of an experience to them as to Sandy, even though Melissa had already experienced it.

“Well, Sandra that part is done. How did it feel? Do you want to see it before I give you your smooth shave?”

“I like the way the clipper felt. It felt nice. I want to see it. Can I feel it?”

“Of course. Everyone ought to have a chance to feel it at least once. Come on over here Melissa. Did you ever feel your head before it was smooth shaved?”

“Only the bangs part which you cut off just before we left.”

Sandy had already felt her own head and felt the sandpapery bristles that was all that remained. She looked at herself in the mirror and grinned broadly. “It looks so neat. Really cool.”

Melissa had already felt Sandy’s bristly head. She leaned over toward Sandy. “Feel mine. You look great now, but you will look awesome with it smooth and the feeling is unbelievable.”

Sandy felt Melissa’s head. Her eyes got big. “Will mine feel like that?” She asked Kate.

Kate responded. “It sure will. I’ll make it as smooth and soft as silk.”

“I’ll be right back Sandy.” Hi Mrs. Quinalt. Jason is all done. Is that how you wanted his hair cut?”

“Let me see it Jason. That looks exactly right Kate. You certainly are good at doing all these different cuts. Did you do his?” She indicated Timmy.

“Yes. That’s Timmy and his Mother Jan and this is Sandy, her daughter.”

“Hi, Jan, I’m Abby. I really like the way your Timmy’s hair is cut. He looks adorable. What do you call it?”

“Thanks Abby. Actually Timmy hates having his hair short. So I let it grow out and told Kate to give him a Buster Brown. Kate says that is just a short bob. I’ll probably let Timmy’s hair get longer so that Kate can give him a longer version. I’m glad you like it. I like the way he looks too.”

“What is happening to Sandra? And Kate, what is going on with these girls.”

Kate burst out laughing. She could understand what a strange sight it must be for a thirty something Mother to walk into a barber shop and find two bald girls and a third with an extremely short cut. “It does look wild doesn’t it. I shaved Melissa and her sister a couple of weeks ago and they have kept themselves shaved smooth ever since and intend to stay bald for the foreseeable future. Penny, over there, likes her hair very short and so she came in today with Melissa. She had a picture of a haircut that she liked. Her Mom had told me she could do whatever she liked so now she has the cut that she really wanted.”

Jan laughed and explained what was going on with Sandy. “Ever since she was four or five years old Sandy has liked to get her hair cut and always tries to get me to let her get it cut even shorter. I was going to let Kate cut it short, but when she saw Melissa she was absolutely certain that that she wanted it cut that way. I couldn’t help but like the way Melissa looks so I gave in. I now have the job of shaving her every day, which I’m sure she is going to look forward to and give me a hard time if I’m late. Anyway Kate says that there is a lotion that makes it so you only have to shave twice a week. I think she is going to look like a cherub or angel or something like that.”

“This is so amazing. I never imagined in my wildest dreams that I would see two bald girls and one with the shortest haircut I’ve ever seen on a girl, all at once in a barber shop. My goodness, I almost forgot to pay you for Jason’s haircut.” She took money out of her purse and handed it to Kate. “Please keep the change Kate.”

Now that the excitement had died down, Kate got back to work. She got a handful of hot lather from her machine and applied it to Sandy’s head, making little circles with her fingers to work it in.

In the meantime, Abby turned to Melissa. “Can I talk to you for a minute Dear. I like the way you look too. I don’t quite know what it is. Did you know that you seem to have very big eyes? I think that may be part of it. Why did you get it shaved in the first place?”

Melissa had been asked that question so may times that she now had the answer down almost by rote. “I didn’t actually. My Mom brought me and my sister Christine here. I thought we were going to get trims, but instead she told Kate she wanted us to have short haircuts. Then she decided she wanted us shaved for the summer. I was mad at first, but when I saw myself in the mirror I liked it. Christine was really mad, but pretty soon she started to like it. She has a boy friend who says she is really beautiful bald. Anyway we shave each other every day. I’m going to keep mine shaved even after school starts because I really like it. I don’t want to have hair any more. Mom is going to get hers shaved too, as soon as she can. She has a new job and doesn’t want to do it yet.”

“That’s an amazing story. Didn’t you get a lot of razzing from other kids. I mean didn’t they laugh at you and say things?”

“Not really. One stupid kid did, but Tom
my stood up to him and he hasn’t bothered us any more. The kids on the soccer and volleyball teams all like it. If anybody says something they all tell them to shut up. Some of them say they would like to get shaved too if their parents would let them. A couple have already gotten short haircuts.”

“That is very interesting, Melissa. So kids don’t give you a bad time or make fun of you. I wonder what my Tess would think of that. I want to see how Sandra turns out. I think I’ll stay until she is done. By the way Melissa, I would really love to meet your Mom.”

“Mom works at Millennium Realty down town. Her name is Paula Jenner. I guess you could call her there”

“Thanks, Melissa. I think I will. Anyway, I’m Abby Quinalt. You can tell your Mother that I’m going to call her, so she won’t be surprised.”

“OK, I’ll tell her.”

Kate had already started to shave Sandy. She had stropped her razor and started at the front of Sandy’s head, taking short strokes closely spaced to each other. Penny watched with rapt attention. Sandy, who could see herself in the mirror when Kate moved aside had laughed at the way she looked with a head of white foam.

“That looks funny Kate.”

“It does doesn’t it. At home you’ll be using a gel, so it won’t look so funny. Hold very still now while I shave you nice and smooth. You’re going to look very, very good after I’m done.”

Kate continued her professional shaving, with care but with the steadiness of long practice. Soon the top of Sandy’s head and one side was done. Kate moved her towel to Sandy’s opposite shoulder and continued on that side. Continuing to the back she shaved from the top down and then around each ear. Her skill was demonstrated as she worked behind Sandy’s right ear where she had to hold her razor with her hand inverted in order to reach the hair just behind the ear. She cleaned off the razor once more, folded it and lay it on the counter behind her. Now she ran her fingers over Sandy’s head to see how it felt.

“Well, Jan, Sandra’s hair is fairly light and wouldn’t show even though it’s very thick, but I like to make it perfectly smooth, so I’m going to shave it again if that’s OK with you.”

“Sure Kate, do what you think best. Sandra seems to be enjoying herself. Right Sandra?”

Sandy grinned. “It feels funny. I can’t wait to see it when she finishes.”

Kate applied foam to Sandy’s head again and waited for it to have its effect. She stropped her razor again and, as before, began at the top. She worked a little more quickly this time. When she reached the crown she shaved it in several directions. The sides were done in a few minutes. Finally she went over the back carefully working around the slight bump of the occipital bone. She pulled the cape down and shaved down to the bottom of Sandy’s neck in case there were any stray hairs growing there. This time when she ran her hands over Sandy’s head she found nothing but soft skin. Sandy quite visibly shivered as Kate gave her a little finger massage.

“Wow, that feels so cool when you rub it with your fingers Kate. Are you done? I want to feel it.”

“Hold on a little bit longer. I need to clean you up, put on some moisturizer, and then I have a special treat.” She used a soft damp towel to remove any vestiges of shaving foam then patted her head dry. There was a large dispenser on the counter and Kate pumped a generous portion into her hand which she applied to Sandy’s head. “It’s going to feel cold Sandra. Jan, I’m using that shave reducing moisturizer I was telling you about. So this will get her started on it.”

Kate continued to rub Sandy’s head until all the moisturizer had been absorbed. She used a dry cloth to make sure that her head was dry.

“This is the special treat I was talking about Jan. It’s is a light bronzer and sun screen. It will give her head a little color and will protect it from getting sunburned. Remember her scalp has never seen the sun before and it’s very sensitive, so use a good sunscreen, SPF 40 at least. And she should wear a cap if she’s going to be out in the sun any time between ten O’clock and four O’clock. In a week or so she won’t need the bronzer.”

“I hadn’t thought of that Kate. Thanks for bringing it to my attention. Where did you get the bronzer and sunscreen combination.”

Kate had already applied the bronzer/sunscreen and was carefully spreading it evenly over Sandy’s freshly shaved head. The “farmer’s tan” effect that was visible a moment before gradually disappeared to be replaced with a nearly uniform light golden tan that almost matched the color of her face and neck.

“They have it at the Emporium. They have some large bottles of SPF 40 too. There. All done Sandra. You look wonderful. Have a look.” Kate turned the chair so Sandy could see herself. They all waited expectantly.

Sandy looked at herself and put her hand tentatively on her head. She broke out in a broad smile. “Oh wow! It’s awesome! I love it! Please Mother, I want to keep it like this forever.”

“Forever is a long time, but you can keep it that way for as long as you want.”

“You look really good Sandra. But you should get your ears pierced so you can wear some hoop earrings like mine. They look so cool with a bald head. ” Melissa had become somewhat of an expert in how to show off her bald head and was eager to share her knowledge. “Kate do you have something to make her head shine. Mom found some sun screen that really makes it shine. And we have some other lotion that is for giving you shiny legs and that works good too,”

“I don’t have either of those Melissa, but I do like the shine that you have on you head. It looks good. What do you think Jan?”

“Yes, a little shine does look nice. Maybe I can ask Melissa’s Mom what she found and where to get it.”

Kate had picked up on Melissa remark about earrings and decided to do a little lobbying. “I like Melissa’s hoop earrings. I think they do look good with her bald head. I’m surprised that you haven’t gotten Sandra’s ears pierced already. In fact I think Timmy would look good with his ears pierced. Lots of boys his age have pierced ears and wear earrings.”

“Sandra has been asking me to let her get hers pierced. Melissa does look good with those large hoops swinging about. I guess I’ll have to take Sandra in. Sandra, we have time, would you like to have it done today?”

“That would be great Mom. I’ve wanted to get them pierced for a long time! Could I get them double pierced like Melissa’s?”

“OK. We’ll do it, but double pierced? That might be too much Maybe later we can both do it. I don’t know about Timmy though. A couple of boys on the team do have pierced ears I’ve noticed. Maybe I will. Timmy would you like to have your ears pierced?”

“Uh huh. Joey and Robby already did.” This pronouncement was what passed for wild enthusiasm for Timmy. Like Paula, once she she had made the first big step the others were easy.

“Can I feel you head Sandra?” Penny had watched and listened in silence for the past half an hour as Sandy’s head was shaved and moisturizer and bronzer applied. Sandy was happily exploring every square millimeter of her freshly exposed scalp while staring intently at her reflection in the mirror. Kate had taken off the cape, but she patiently indulged Sandy’s absorption in her new look and feel.

“Sure.” Sandy finally responded. Penny went over to the chair and moved the tips of her fingers over Sandy’s now satin smooth head. She registered a little shock at the amazing soft smooth texture that her fingers recorded.

“That is really something Sandra. So soft and smooth.”

“Sandra, can you get down now. We should go and besides Kate has some more customers.”

Those two customers, a teenaged boy with longish hair that Kate didn’t remember having seen before and a young woman with a short crop of reddish blond hair who was a regular customer. They had taken seats and watched the show in fascina
tion.

Sandy finally climbed out of the chair. “Abby, You were going to call Melissa’s Mother. I need to call her also. I think we may have to form a club or something. The bald girls Mothers’ club. I can’t believe I let Sandra do it, and yet I can’t help liking the way she looks.”

“I know how you feel. Those two girls have really opened my eyes. I love the way they look – so innocent looking. I’ve almost convinced myself to have Tess shaved just like them. She might actually like it. Melissa gave me her Mom’s name and where she works. I wrote it down. I’ll make a copy. By the way, here’s my telephone number. I’d like to know how things go with Sandra.”

I’ll call you in a few days after Sandra has had time to get used to it and to interact with her friends.”

“OK, thanks. I look forward to it.”

Sandy was now standing beside her Mom who had put her hand on Sandy’s head. Her hand explored the silken smoothness for an instance. She had the strangest urge to hold Sandra head pressed tightly to her breast. She left her hand on Sandra’s head as they walked toward the small counter in front where Kate had her cash drawer and computer.

“Thanks, Mom for letting me get my head shaved like this. I love it.”

“It feels amazingly soft and smooth Sandra. You look like a special type of angel. I’m glad I let you do it.”

“I think you are a picture of innocence. It is a strikingly lovely picture especially when you smile. May I touch it?” Abby’s fascination was apparent.

“Sure. It feels really good.”

Abby touched it with finger tips and then with her whole hand. “Oh my goodness. What a wonderful feeling. Just like the softest of silks. I think Tess would be a beautiful bald girl just like you Sandra.”

Kate had found an order form and filled it out with the things that Jan would need to keep Sandy shaved smooth. “Here’s the order form for that battery operated wet/dry shaver that Melissa uses. Also the shaving gel and moisturizer. Sandra’s haircut adds another fifteen dollars.”

“Only fifteen dollars for all that work Kate.” That’s almost too much of a bargain.”

“It’s OK Jan, I get a cut from the other things you’re buying, and besides it’s a lot of fun to be able to do something like that, especially when the customer is so eager to have her head shaved. I would almost be willing to do it for free. When you decide to get yours shaved I will do it for free.”

“In your dreams, Kate! But if I ever decide to do something as crazy as that, you can do the job. I need to get going. Thanks for doing such a great job on Sandra.”

Jan went over to Abby who was still talking with Sandy. She reassured Abby that she would call her and left with Sandy and Timmy to go to the mall. As they left she once again put her hand on Sandy’s head, caressing it gently. Before the door closed she heard Sandy say “It feels nice when you do that Mom.”

Melissa and Penny had already left. It was half past noon and Melissa had told Paula that they would be back about noon. They were supposed to be at Beth’s house at one O’clock. They hurried back the way they had come and turned the corner where they got on their bikes and rode as quickly as they could to Elm St. They had to wait for the traffic light to change so that they could cross 25th St. They waited in the Elm St. bike lane. When the light finally changed they were on their way, but going a good bit faster than when they came. Five minutes later they were at 36th St. They waited impatiently for the light to change again. Finally they raced three blocks down 36th St. to Hickory St., another block to Juniper Court, the cul de sac where Melissa lived, and into the back yard.

Melissa jumped off her bike and ran inside. “Mom, I’m back. Sorry I’m late, but we had to stay to see a girl get her head shaved just like mine.” Melissa stopped to get her breath.

“Its OK Melissa, I wasn’t worried. You mean another girl got her head shaved while you were there. I’ll want to hear all about it this evening. Right now you need to get on over to Beth’s place. Her Mother called and said they had food over there and for you to come on over. Oh, where’s Penny. I’d like to see her new haircut.”

“She’s still outside. I’ll get her.” Melissa barged back out the kitchen door to the porch and call Penny. “Hey, Penny come on in for a minute. Beth wants us to come over right away.”

Beth came up the stairs to the porch where Paula had come out to meet her.

“My goodness Beth, that is a really cute short style. I don’t know how in the world Kate did it. It must be less than an inch long at the longest. It looks terrific on you. I like the way it lies down like that with a hint of a wave even though it is so short. What do you think of it?”

“I like it a lot. I wanted it very, very short. I had a picture of a girl with a haircut like this and Kate gave me the same haircut only a little bit shorter. I think it’s very neat. I have to have it cut every three weeks to keep it short, but Mom said I could because Kate only charges fifteen dollars for kids’ cuts.”

“I’m glad you like it. You and Melissa better get going if you expect to get anything to eat.” She laughed. “Melissa, call me if you’re going to stay for the swim meet this evening. OK”

“I will Mom. Let’s go Penny.”

They dashed out the door grabbed their bikes and took off in a rush. Ten minutes later they were at Beth’s house. They parked their bikes along the side of the house beside the other three bikes and headed for the backyard where they could hear voices. On the small patio the others were sitting and eating or standing at a table fixing their hamburgers and buns. Leigh Singletary, Beth’s Mother, stood at the grill watching a few more burgers sizzle. She was a petite woman with dark blond hair that had grown out from a short cut and was now simply pushed off her face. Beth’s family had run into hard times a few years back. Her father had lost his job in the downsizing that followed the dot com bust and had been out of work for a year. Leigh had helped by working as a cashier in the local supermarket. They had been forced to sell the house that they had purchased only a year before Roy Singletary had lost his job. When he finally got a new job, his salary was only a little more than half what he had been getting and he had a much higher health insurance deduction than before. They found this small three bedroom house in the Crown Hill community. It was a house that had been present when the community was being developed. They felt fortunate that they could afford it and that it was in a community that was was very comfortable and friendly. Leigh had continued to work to help make ends meet, but the strain showed in the lines in her face. Roy had vowed that he would expand the house and give Leigh a bigger kitchen, and a new master bedroom and separate master bathroom on the first floor, but that was years in the future. They still faced tight finances because they had several more years of payments on the second mortgage that they had needed to buy the house. Beth’s older brother Brian, a high school senior in the fall, would be attending Community College next year. Even State would cost more than they could afford.

“Hi Melissa. Hey, Penny, you got your hair cut again. Wow, that’s short!” Cindi was the first to see them and jumped up to get a closer look.

“Yeah, I got it cut this morning. Kate did it. I like it.” Penny grinned widely.

“It’s awesome, Penny, very cool. You look so good.” Audra reached out to touch it. “It’s really short isn’t it. It makes you look so cute. It’s great!”

Beth had held back, letting the long term friends interact.

“Beth, come on. Isn’t Penny’s new haircut great?” Melissa, was the groups’ natural connector and lubricant. She wouldn’t let any one feel left out and always found a way to mend hurt feelings. The group circulated about her without her seeming to be at the center.

Invited to join in, Beth was quick to respond. “I like it a lot, Penny. It’s really great. Weren’t you a little scared to get it cut so short?”

“I was scared when it was long and I got it cut short. That was really scary, but I wanted to do it so I did. After that it was easy. I like it short like this. Mom likes it short too, and Dad thinks I’m pretty cool to be different from all the kids who have long hair. He thinks Melissa is the coolest of all though. Some kids look good with long hair, like Cindi, and they like it , but I’m going to keep mine short. I never really liked it long.”

“These burgers are ready and these buns are hot too.” Leigh placed three more burgers and the buns on a platter.

“I’m hungry. We had to ride fast to get here in time. Can I fix a burger?” Melissa was ready to change the subject and get on with learning how to play croquet, a game she had never played. She went over to the table and began to fix a burger. Penny followed close behind.

Leigh had decided that she should wait until the girls had eaten before she grilled any more burgers. She went over to the table where the “fixings” were set out.

“Penny that is a super good looking cut. It’s suits you perfectly. Where did you get the idea for it?”

“Thanks, Mrs. Singletary. I knew I wanted it extra short. Ginny said she would try to find some pictures on the internet for me. She found one that was just like this, but a little bit longer. I took it to Kate and she cut it just like I wanted. Oh, I just remembered. I need to call Mom and tell her where I am. Can I use your phone?”

“Of course Penny. It’s right on the wall by the door.”

Penny put down her burger and went inside to make her call.

Leigh had been utterly enthralled by Melissa’s bald head from the moment she first saw her with it shaved. She had assumed that it would last a few days and disappear as it began to grow out. But here she was weeks later with her head still smooth as a kneecap.

“Melissa, how do you feel about being bald now that you’ve kept it shaved for a while?”

“Oh, I hardly think about it. It’s just me. I don’t want to have hair any more. I like the way I look, so I going to keep it shaved.”

“You look beautiful, like an angel. But don’t people stare at you or say things?”

“Well they do look at me, but I don’t usually notice. And kids sometimes say stuff, but it doesn’t bother me. Usually I just rub my head like this,” she demonstrated, “and laughed. Anyway lots of people tell me that they like it and that I look like an angel. I think that’s funny.”

“Its a very intriguing style and you seem so completely at ease and unselfconscious with it that people will see it as beautiful. It certainly opened my eyes. Well have fun with the gang.”

“Thanks, Mrs. Singletary, and thanks for fixing the burgers for us. They were great.”

“you’re very welcome. If you want more cooked just let me know. You are a wonderful group of girls. I’m so glad that Beth met you and made friends.”

“OK I’ll tell them.”

Melissa sat down with the others and grabbed a handful of chips. She saw they had fresh yellow/red cherries and small red plums. It was still too early in the season for most local fruit. She picked up some cherries and a couple of plums. She liked all kinds of fruit, but especially cherries.

“If anyone wants another burger, Mrs. Singletary will cook one. Any takers?”

There were a few murmured no’s. One large burger, chips and fruit had done the job for them. The conversation turned to how well they had played in their recent soccer match and their determination to do even better. They talked about their mistakes and praised each other for especially good plays. Beth was especially critical of herself for having missed with her pass to Cindi who had been running toward the goal with no one near. Penny was the first to defend her.

“That was a hard pass to make especially from the angle you had. You did just as good as any of us.”

“That’s right.” Cindi chimed in. “I was going fast. I should have slowed down so you could get it too me. I think you played better than I did.” Cindi was not one who offered a lot of praise. She was ambitious and determined to succeed, but she knew that Beth had played very well the whole match and had been responsible for three of their goals even if she only scored once herself.

Melissa offered her usual bonding thoughts, which she did unconsciously. “Everybody played well, as far as I’m concerned, but we can do even better. We’re a good team and we work together really well. Let’s keep practicing so we can read each other’s minds. We can be the best team in the summer league.”

“I’m for that.” “Me too.” “You bet”. ” We’re gonna be the best.” The girls had instantly taken up Melissa’s challenge.

“What about tonight you guys.: Melissa wanted to know. “Christine’s team will be in a meet. They came out and cheered for us. Do any of you want to go and cheer for them.?”

“Sure, we all do.” Audra was quick to respond.

“That’s right.” Penny agreed.

“It starts at six O’clock. Will we have time to go home for dinner?” Cindy.asked.

“Maybe we should just eat here and go straight to the meet” Audra suggested.

“I don’t know about that. Beth’s Mom has already fed us once today. We shouldn’t make her do it twice.” Melissa didn’t want to impose on Leigh.

“How about just going home and fixing a sandwich for ourselves and meet at the pool.” Audra usually had a practical suggestion for their activities which often got incorporated into what ever they did.

“Sandwiches is a good idea. We won’t need much, since we just ate big burgers and stuff. Everyone could bring a sandwich to my house and we can all eat there. Anyway I want Ginny and my folks to see my haircut.” Penny was eager to show off her new look. Even though her parents had given her complete freedom, she still worried a little that they might think it was too extreme.

“That’s a good idea Penny.” Melissa interjected. “You live the closest to the pool and you’re close to all of us. How about this. Why don’t we all bring some sandwich stuff to Penny’s house and make sandwiches. Beth’s Mom has already done plenty so Beth shouldn’t have to bring anything. I’ll bring bread and lunch meat. What can the rest bring. Penny maybe you can make lemonade or we can just have water.”

“Water!,” Cindi exclaimed. People don’t actually drink that stuff do they!”

“I read somewhere that it’s supposed to be good for you” Penny replied. “But I find that hard to believe. I think lemonade is safer. I’ll call Mom. I’m sure we have some of that packaged stuff for making it.”

Audra offered what she knew her family was never out of. “I know we have tomatoes and sweet relish. I’ll bring that.”

“And I can bring some Swiss cheese slices and a little jar of mayo that I saw in the fridge yesterday.”

“That’s great Cindi. I think we have every thing. What time should we set?”

“Wait a minute Melissa. I want to bring something. Everybody likes cherries, so I’ll bring some.”

“Good idea Beth. I sure like them. They’re just about my favorite fruit. OK, how about if we cut out from here at five O’clock and meet at Penny’s at five thirty?”

“That’s not enough time Melissa. We better leave at quarter to five.”

“Cindi’s right Melissa. Beth and I would have plenty of time but the rest of you wouldn’t have time to even make a sandwich.”

“I think quarter to five is the latest we should go. I should go a little earlier maybe. We should all hustle though.” Audra would have the furthest to ride.

“I guess we all agree on the plan Melissa. So let’s go play some croquet.”

“Wait for me, I have to call Mom again” Penny called as she rushed back into the Kitchen.

Five minutes later after a demonstration of lightening speed cleanup by five hyper-activated teenagers, mallets, balls and rudimentary instructions
were dispensed. The croquet game began in gales of laughter, the crack of mallet on ball, and squeals of delight or frustration at good or bad shots.

An hour later, having actually completed a game, they sat down for a break. Leigh had brought out a large pitcher of fruit punch and glasses. The day had gotten hot and the cold drink was appreciated. Beth had gone in to ask her Father Roy to help put one of the stakes back in the ground. Beth had been told not to pound on the stakes because they might split.

Roy appeared with a length of steel rod with a point and a small sledge hammer. “Hi girls. It looks like you’re enjoying yourselves. ” He had not met any of them before this moment although he had heard a great deal about them from Beth. “Ah, you must be Melissa. That is a good looking head you have. It suits you well.”

“Thanks Mr. Singletary.”

“And you young lady must be Penny. It looks like they quit before they finished your haircut. Still it looks good on you. And this handsome young lady must be Audra. I’ve heard about your prowess as goal tender. And here is the beautiful Rapunzel with her red brown hair, another terrific soccer player.”

“It’s Cindi, Mr. Singletary.” She corrected him with a laugh.

“Of course, Cindi. That’s short for Rapunzel isn’t it?”

Roy’s banter had them all giggling. He was an easy going, friendly man who related well to teenagers.

“Let’s see what we can do about that ornery stake.”

A few vigorous blows with the sledge onto the steel rod had not resulted in any appreciable change. “Looks to me as though you found the only large boulder in the entire yard Beth. That takes real skill you know. How about if we move everything back about three feet?”

A few minutes later the stake was well secured in the ground, and the two wickets had been moved to the proper location.

They played several more games, quickly developing their skills. Competition became intense, but remained friendly. Beth also introduced the game of “Poison” which was an immediate hit. By four thirty they were ready to call it a day. They helped Beth put away the set and after reaffirming their plans they headed their separate ways.

“Come on Beth. Let’s go.” Penny was eager to get home.

Beth grabbed her bag of cherries. “Bye Mom. I should be back a little after eight.”

“OK, come straight home after the match is over.”

“OK.”

A five minute bike ride brought them to Penny’s house where they parked and went in the back door and into the kitchen where her sister Ginny was stirring a large picture of lemonade.
?”Hi Ginny. Hey thanks for making the Lemonade. This is Beth. She is one the best players on our soccer team. She knows how to play croquet. That’s a fun game.” Ginny turned and looked intently at Penny.

“Hi, Beth. I’ve hear about you. Seems like the four amiga’s think you’re a great addition to the team.”

“I guess so. It’s a lot of fun playing soccer with them.”

“Well, what do you think of my haircut?” Penny asked Ginny.

“It’s terrific. It’s even shorter than the picture. You look really cool and cute in that style. Mom is going to flip. How do you like it.” Ginny’s enthusiasm was apparent. She had encouraged Penny to cut her long hair and to get an even shorter pixie. And this latest cut excited her. One side of her wanted to get a very short cut, but the other side kept holding her back.

“It’s just what I wanted. I’m going to keep it like this the rest of the summer at least. Kate showed me how to make it look right. You should get her to give you a haircut. She knows how to do every kind of cut.”

Ginny was about to respond when their Mother Heather came in. “So, you’re finally back. Is this Beth? I’m very glad to meet you. I’m glad that you and the girls get along well with each other.”

“Yes Ma’am. We have a lot of fun together. They’re pretty cool kids.”

Let me look at you Penny. That is really short.” She touched Penny’s head and ruffled her hair a bit. “But it looks good. I like it. It really shows off your eyes and makes you look very sweet.” She gave Penny a big hug. “I hope you got it cut exactly the way you wanted.”

“I did Mom. And I want to keep it this way for the whole summer, maybe longer.”

“Of course you can. Ginny, what do you think?”

“I like it too. I think maybe I’ll get mine cut again. I’m getting a little tired of it this way and it takes too much work to get it looking right. Maybe I’ll go to Kate to get it cut.”

“Well if you do decide too, let me know and maybe I’ll go with you and get mine cut too. It’s nice to have someone along to encourage you.”

“That’s a good idea Mom. Penny, when will you go back?”

“Kate said in three weeks.”

“That’s too long. Mom, I’m off work tomorrow morning. I don’t have to be there until three PM. How about if we go then?”

“Are you sure, Ginny. I’m ready if you are.”

“I just decided that I’m ready. Can we meet at Kate’s about 10 O’clock? I’ll take my car so I can go straight to work.” Ginny had turned eighteen in April. She would be a High School senior in the fall and now had a car and a job as waitress in the upscale restaurant of a nearby resort area. She had lost a year of school as a child because of a serious illness and had not made it up.

“I’ll be there Ginny. Penny, do you want to go call your Dad so he can see your ‘almost no hair’ cut? I’m sure he will like it.”

Penny went to the stairwell and called. “Dad, I’m back. Beth came back with me too.”

Penny’s Dad. Chris, arrived a moment later. “Introduce me to Beth Penny. I’m eager to meet her.”

“Dad, this is my friend Beth Singletary.” Penny was being very formal the way she had observed her parents do it on occasion.

“I’m very pleased to meet you Beth. Penny has had good things to say about you.” He reached out to shake her hand.?
Beth was embarrassed at all this formality. After a brief hesitation she put out her hand, and stammered “Thank you Mr. Brower. I’m glad to meet you too.”

Chris laughed. “We’re all glad to meet you and we’re happy that you and Penny have become friends.”

“Now Penny let me see this new haircut of yours. Hum. Yes, that seems to be a proper summer haircut all right. I can’t see a thing about it that could be improved. In fact it is the best haircut that you’ve ever had. Very attractive indeed and most suitable for such an athletic and active young woman.”

They all erupted in laughter at this speech. It was characteristic of Chris that he would shift into his didactic and proper mode when something came up about which he was very pleased. Penny knew that he strongly approved of her haircut.

“Daddy! That’s so funny. Thanks. I’m going to keep it cut like this. I like it.”

“Well so do I and I’m happy that you’re happy with it. Have fun, I have to finish a report for Monday. And Beth, come visit us again whenever you like.”

Chris left just as Melissa knocked on the door and came in. The three amigas had free run of each others house.

“It’s me” she called as she closed the back door and walked into the kitchen. “Hi, Mrs. Brower. Here’s the bread and lunch meat. Has anyone else gotten here yet?”

“Melissa you look absolutely fantastic. I love it.” Ginny hadn’t seen Melissa for two weeks and had almost forgotten about her bald head. Now she was newly impressed.

“Thanks, Ginny. I like it. It is really soft and smooth too. You can feel it.” Melissa had discovered that people had a great desire to feel her bald head and she was quite willing to be a missionary for the bald look.

“It feels amazing. Sooo soft and smooth. How do you do that Melissa?”

“It’s pretty easy. It stay smooth almost all day. It’s only a little bit rough in the morning before Christine and I shave each other. I shaved myself today.”

“You did?” Ginny was surprised at this revelation but didn’t have time to pursue it.

Another knock and another voice. “Anybody home.”

“We’re all in here Cindi. Come on in.” Penny called.

“It’s good to see you Cindi.”

“Oh, Hi Mrs. Brower. I brought the cheese and mayo.”

Yet another knock and another voice. “Hello, its me Audra.”

“Hey, Audra, come on in. Everybody is here.” Ginny had taken up the cry. The others were in the midst of a four way conversation that only they could possibly follow. There was a short hubbub as they incorporated Audra into the buzz.

“OK, lets make our sandwiches.” Penny had already produced paper bowls and plates and a ceramic bowl for the cherries that Beth had brought. Heather had brought out some lettuce and a bag of chips in case anyone wanted them. A production line was set up and about two minutes later five sandwiches were on plates on the table.

The girls arranged themselves around the table and sat down without a break in their conversation. Sandwiches, chips, cherries, and lemonade disappeared, again without any noticeable disruption in the talk. A watch was consulted.

“I think we should clean up here and go.” Offered Cindi.

Paper plates, bowls, napkins disappeared. Left over sandwich makings were stashed in the fridge and glasses and knives found their way into the dishwasher. A cutting board was cleaned and put away. They headed down the hall to the back door. One of the girls looked around and saw something that need taking care of. She dashed back and put something into the dishwasher.

At 10 minutes to six they were locking their bikes in the bike rack at the rec center and heading toward the indoor pool where the meet would take place.

“Who else is coming Melissa?” Penny had overheard Melissa talking with some other girls on the team.

“Hanna and Jamie can’t make it because they’re doing something with their parents. April and Joyce said they would come. Shirley and Debby said that they might come. The others didn’t know whether they could or not.”

They got to the bleachers that had been set up on one side of the pool and looked around.

“There’s Joyce and Debby.” Audra announced. And pointed them out. “Over there.”

“And here comes Nikki. We have a good gang.” Melissa was happy to see such a large contingent. The swim team had only 6 girls who competed. Some other younger girls practiced with them but weren’t ready to get into competition yet.

They got together in the first row of seats. Melissa looked around to see if Paula had arrived yet. She had assured Christine and her that she would be there.

“There’s your Mom Melissa. She just came in the other door.”

“There, I see her. Thanks Cindi. Hey guys, the first event is the fifty meter free style. That’s Christine’s best event. Let’s yell for her the whole way.”

“Here they come.” Janet announced.

“Well she pretty easy to spot isn’t she. She looks cool” observed Nikki.

“Isn’t that Tommy down there. How did he manage that Melissa?”

“I don’t know Beth. He works with her at the gym. Maybe the coach let him come because of that.”

The announcer began to announce the first race and say who was in each lane. There were four swimmers, two from each team.

There was a false start and they had to climb back out of the pool and get set a second time. The announcer reminded them not to yell until after the gun. This time when the gun sounded they all were off with Christine already in the lead with a powerful launch. The soccer team screamed for all they were worth. Christine kept opening her lead. At the wall she executed a good turn and made a big push off the wall. She was a body length ahead and Tommy was yelling and windmilling his arm. The soccer team yelled like crazy. When Christine hit the wall on the second leg the other three swimmers were far behind. When they announced the winner and her time they said that it was her personal best. Her teammate Janet came in third.

Christine pumped her fist and gave Tommy a high five from the water. She climbed out of the pool and Tommy gave her a towel so she could dry off.

” Hey, Melissa, Christine is really good isn’t she? The Wasena team is supposed to be good and she blew them away.”

“She’s been working really hard since practice started and Tommy helps her in the gym. She’s getting really strong.”

By the time the meet was over Christine had won the 50 and 100 meter freestyle, had been second in the 50 meter backstroke and third in the 100 meter backstroke. Janet had won both the 50 meter and the 100 meter butterfly, and had been third in both freestyle races. Their teammates had picked up a second in the 100 meter backstroke and four more third place finishes. The team was elated. The Dolphin’s best swimmer Tess had won both backstroke races and come in second in both freestyle races.

The Bulldogs were not expected to do particularly well against the Dolphins, and Janet was expected to be their only chance at a first place finish. Christine’s results of two firsts a second and a third had made them competitive. The team was jubilant to have done so well. They knew that if they worked at it they could be a top team if they were not already one. Two more second place finishes and they could have won. They celebrated while they showered and got into their street clothes.

It was Janet who was the first to congratulate Christine on her performance.

“Christine, you were fantastic! You blew away Tess. I could hardly believe it. If having you head shaved can make you swim like that, I’m going to have to shave mine too” she joked.

“Next time I swim I’m going to rub your head for good luck. Maybe that will work.” Gail giggled.

Christine laughed. “No, you have to be smooth as silk because that’s what reduces the friction. I put on some special wax so that I can go even faster.”

“No way!” Gail was momentarily taken in by this tongue in cheek remark.

“Sounds right to me. They wax boats to make them fast.” Jessie pretended to take Christine’s quip seriously.

They all laughed. “Tommy said that what I needed to do to get better was to work hard. Well actually he said I would have to work my tail off. Janet did just as good as I did and everybody else did great too. We can be the best this summer. Let’s prove it.”

“They all yelled in agreement.

When they came out of the locker room the soccer team gave them a rousing cheer and a lot of hugs all around. It had been a wonderful evening for them.

The girls all headed home exhilarated.

Christine was met by Tommy, Paula and Melissa.

“I’m very proud of you Christine. You’re really proving yourself and actually exceeding your goals. That takes a lot of work and determination.” She hugged her.

“That’s right Christine. You were like – wow! You were great. I’m really glad you’re my sister.” They hugged.

“Thanks Mom and Melissa, but Tommy had a lot to do with it too.” She took his hand. “He showed me how to do a real workout in the gym and exactly which exercises were the right ones for swimming. I watched the way he works out in the gym and it makes me look pretty wimpy. Coach wants all of us to work out the way he taught me. Janet has already started and a couple of others are beginning tomorrow. That’s why Coach let Tommy be with us at pool side.”

“Thank you Tommy. I think you have been a big inspiration for Christine and maybe even for Melissa and some of the other girls. Are you coming back to our place with Christine?”

“I don’t think so Mrs. Jenner. I have some things I have to get done at home.”

“I’ll see you tomorrow.” Christine spoke softly to Tommy.

“You bet.” He responded equally softly. “I’ll see you tomorrow Mrs. Jenner.”

“That’s right. I will and I’m eager to get to know you better. Take good care of Christine. I hope you too enjoy yourselves.”

“We will.” Tommy responded.

“We always do Mom.” Christine emphasized her words.

Paula and the girls headed
home, Paula in her car and the girls on their bikes.
It had been a rewarding day for them all.

To be continued in Part 6

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