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It all began with a question.

“Let me ask you something.” Mary said as she twisted a lock of her long strawberry blonde hair around her pointer finger. We were sitting around the table of one of our favorite haunts finishing up our meals when she asked “Do any of you ever think about cutting all your hair off?” We all looked around the table, waiting for someone other than ourselves to answer, and in that moment you could have heard a pin drop. Little did we all know that this was the question that was going to eventually cost all of us our hair.

My name is Tracie, and I, along with my three best friends Jennifer, Mary, and Nicole, had flat out amazing hair. The four of us have been best friends since our freshman year in high school. That was the year that all of us decided that we were going to make ourselves stand out from everyone else at the school, and we were going to do it with one thing, beautiful long hair. Ever since the end of the 90s beautiful long hair seemed to be a dying trend, and one semester into our freshman year we had all discovered that the only thing holding us back from growing our hair out long and spectacular was personal inhibition, so we all swore that as a group, we would overcome our fears and take the plunge towards a beautiful mane together.

And now here we were, no longer freshmen in high school, but in college, and each of us in possession of hair so beautiful that we could be shampoo spokespersons should we so desire. At the time of the agreement we had all looked completely different than we did now, not just in hair styles, but also in attitude and confidence. As our manes grew longer and our friendship grew stronger however, our lack of confidence began to vanish. Every time we were propositioned by a boy, or asked to a dance, or got a new boyfriend, we would divulge every secret with the group, and after high school graduation we could tell that we had each come 180 degrees from where we started thanks to our support group.

There was Jennifer, who had once worn glasses on a face devoid of make-up and framed by a fall of dark blonde hair that tumbled plainly to the base of her neck, hair the color of honey. Through high school we had helped her discover the wonders of make-up, and after trading in her glasses for contact lenses, letting her figure develop, and letting her hair grow out she had begun to blossom into the beauty she would eventually become. By senior year her hair had grown out steadily and beautifully until now she sported long, thick, shining locks that tumbled down her back to the base of her waist, and after realizing how good looking she actually was, she decided to go back to wearing glasses. Albeit they were much more stylish and trendy glasses then the coke-bottle spectacles she had worn when we first met, but on her the glasses actually fit her personality, and she pulled off the smart, sexy librarian look without a hint of nerd. Strangely, nerds were what Jenny was really into since she was an avid gamer and brilliant student, and with her long shining honey blonde hair, slim figure, beautiful complexion, and trademark glasses, she was every nerds’ wet dream.

Next was Mary, an incredibly shy but sweet girl when we met her, her confidence had been crushed from years of being overweight. She had once worn her beautiful strawberry blond hair to her shoulder blades, but after being told by a school bully that this made her face look fat she had traded in her locks for a short, chin length bob. Being the only girl in our group who didn’t play sports (I myself was quite adept at soccer while Jennifer and Nicole were both veterans of volleyball) we encouraged her to find a sport that appealed to her and she obliged, picking swimming. Before long she was losing weight by the barrel-full, and as her weight continued to melt off her hair grew quickly back to past her old style and now hung beautifully like a thick curtain of brilliantly soft and shining satin to the small of her back. By senior year she possessed the sculpted sun bronzed body of a Greek Goddess, and decided to accentuate her long mane by cutting thick bangs into it which always managed to fall perfectly and completely covered her forehead from her hairline to just above her eyes.

Then there was Nicole, the most intelligent of our group with a GPA that never dipped below 4.2 since she was in 7th grade. Unfortunately, jealous kids who envied her brilliance were cruel to her, making fun of her smarts, her skinny, gawky frame, and her worn out clothes handed down from her older sister. At the time we met Nicole her hair was a dark chocolate brown, almost black color, and it was also the shortest of all of us, cut into a short, pixie like style to help keep her hair maintenance cheap for her poor, but hard working family. As a group we encouraged her to flaunt her gift, and even though the first semester or so was hard on her because the other high school students continued to tease her initially, four things happened that helped her really grow out of her shell.

The first was that her gifts didn’t end in the classroom, but carried onto the volleyball court, getting her onto the Varsity team and making her one of the most valuable players her freshman year! The second was her body, which filled out and developed as high school carried on, being sculpted well by hours of volleyball practice. The third thing was her parents, both of whom got major promotions and massive raises at their jobs, and a hefty inheritance from a deceased distant uncle, moving them into a new house and truck loads of cash. This allowed her to go from dowdy hand me downs to stylish clothing she actually wanted, and being a natural fan of fashion she wore outfits that were expensive, trend setting and fashionable, but never ever slutty (Except on Halloween , which we think she secretly relished). The fourth and biggest thing was, of course, her hair. As her hair grew longer, silkier, and shinier with each passing month, her confidence seemed to grow with it. By senior year she too had reached her full potential with a lush mane of straight chocolate brown silk that spilled down her back beautifully and ended at the narrow of her waist.

Finally there was me, the blond of the group, and also the unofficial “queen” of our little hair group. When I joined the group my freshman year I had been incredibly self-conscious of my very pale complexion, being called mean names like “Casper” or “Ghost” for most of my childhood. What set me apart at the time of our agreement though was actually my hair. At the time I had the longest hair of us all, it was a very, very light blond, almost silver color, falling to my shoulder blades in a thick, poker straight lovely fall of shining silk which complimented my light blue eyes. As high school progressed however, my pale complexion began to even out ever so slightly with soccer practice. My body developed curves through high school as well, and of course I grew my hair out along with the rest of my best friends.

While I was very proud of my girls’ transitions and their amazing manes, it was clear from early on that my hair was in a class of its’ own. As my hair grew down past my back and my waist something about my development made it thicker, healthier, and shinier than it had ever been in my life, making it a head of hair that any girl would kill for. By the end of high school I still had the longest hair of anyone in our little group, and it fell in a perfect silvery blond waterfall all the way to the top of my butt with the ends usually flipped out slightly, and as my hair grew longer and healthier and my body filled out perfectly my nicknames gradually began to change as well into more flattering things than “Casper” and Ghost”. In fact, as our group began to come into their own we became known thr
ough the school as “The Sisterhood of Hair”.

So high school was a rebirthing process for all of us, and our senior year was like a whole new outlook on life with our new found confidence, looks, and most of all, manes of hair. Each of the four major dances that year ended with one of us taking the crown for queen (I myself had been crowned Homecoming queen), and although we had a great time during that year we looked onward to college after our high school adventure. We did everything together even during college, making sure to share a meal at least three times a week, but it was usually more like seven or eight, and most weekends we spent with each other as well.

But it was during one of those dinners that one of my dearest friends proposed undoing all the work we had spent years growing. What made things stranger was that this was our weekly “Pantene” night, where we would all deep condition our hair and make sure we wore it down and loose for the day. As Mary asked this incredible question I reflexively reached up and ran my fingers through my silky long mane defensively. Since high school I had been trying to grow my hair out even longer, and while I had allowed it to creep down to the bottom of my butt I had trouble lately motivating myself to grow it longer, instead opting to trim it more often to maintain its lovely condition.

“Mary, why?” Jenny finally responded as she cleaned her glasses with a napkin.

“I don’t know, I’m not sure if it’s just me, but it seems like everyone here is losing that great feeling we all shared while we were growing out our hair.”

“So we’ll get it back if we shave it off and start from scratch?” Nicole asked, “I don’t think it works that way.”

“No, probably not, but I miss that feeling. I mean we never dote on each other’s hair like we used to, and even Tracie can’t stand growing her hair out anymore!”

“That’s not true!” I lied “I’m just… taking my time so I can maintain how it looks.”

“Oh Come on Tracy,“ Jenny shot back, “we all know you don’t need to trim your hair because it’s so healthy.”

“Well at least I’m trying, don’t tell me you actually want to shave your hair.”

“What? No!” Jenny reached up and began stroking her hair protectively as well, “Well, I think about it every now and then… but…”

“Oh my God! You too?” Nicole shrieked.

“No! I just… think about it sometimes… don’t you?” Jenny asked. I couldn’t believe this was happening, was this the beginning of the end for all our beautiful hair?

“Well, sure I’ve definitely been slacking on my hair. And yeah, once in a while I’ll think about… but I never take it seriously!”

“You see? It’s been getting stronger and stronger lately too!” Suddenly Mary turned to face me and asked “What about you Tracie? Do you ever think about it?”

“I…” I started to protest, but stopped, remembering lately the trouble I’ve been having growing out my mane. Could I really be losing my love for my hair?

“I knew it, even Tracie is losing her love!” Mary said, her argument was beginning to gain steam.

“So what, we’re just supposed to shave our heads?” Nicole asked.

“No way.” I replied, “I couldn’t shave my hair, not my hair!” My love for my hair had come back full force because of this threat to my silky blanket of silvery tresses. Maybe Mary was onto something, maybe any perceived threat to our precious manes awakened a need to protect them.

“Well, I think I have a solution.” Mary added, “what if the decision to keep our hair or not was taken out of our hands and we left it to fate?”

All of us fell silent, interested in what she had in mind.

“OK, we each promise to shave our heads if a certain event happens to us.”

“What event?” I replied at once. This strange conversation had split me into two people, one wanting to shave my head, the other half more protective of my beautiful mane than ever. If I came out of this night with my hair intact I promised that I was going to spoil my hair like I had never spoiled it before.

“I don’t know, something unlikely to happen, but definitely could. Three of us will pick something for one person, and then they aren’t allowed to know what it is. If… or when that event happens… then the other three will let her know and BAM… that person has to shave their head before midnight that night.”

“This is ridiculous.” Jenny said as she continued cleaning her glasses, a habit which I recognized as her seriously considering something.

“Call it what you want, but you can’t tell me that this idea hasn’t reawakened your love of your hair. All of you! Do you have any idea how much the three of you have touched your hair lovingly since I brought this up?” Again… the rest of us sat in silence. “I thought so. So the way I see it we can do one of two things, we can either forget that this ever happened and go back to our normal lives, growing less and less interested in our hair until we decide to cut more and more of it off, letting it die slowly and uneventfully.”

“Or?” I said, I couldn’t believe I was entertaining this notion in the first place

“Or…” Mary continued as her smile blossomed, “we decide what the four events are going to be. We go back to our lives with a new love for our hair, adoring and loving our beautiful long manes now that we know they are living on borrowed time, knowing that they could be gone any minute. And when that day comes that we fulfill the secret events, we shave our manes in the company of friends, letting our amazing long manes go out with a bang and making the decision if we want to grow them back or not. So… the real question… who’s in?” She put her hand in the middle of the table.

For a long moment her hand sat alone, and I was worried that she might be embarrassed when no one else placed their hand on top of hers. Just when I thought she was going to drop her hand however, I suddenly saw another slap on top of it, and I looked up to see that it was Nicole’s.

“I’m in.” Nicole said with a grin.

“Nicole, you’ve got to be kidding me. Think about your hair!” I pleaded.

“I AM thinking about my hair, this could be the kick in the butt I’ve been searching for to fall in love with my hair all over again… or maybe even a sign that I need to change it.” Her other hand absently slipped her hair over the shoulder of her expensive and fashionable leather jacket, a jacket I would KILL to have myself.

“This isn’t going to be a perm Nicole, you might lose all of your hair! Are you really ready for that?”

“Yeah, I think I am.” but that wasn’t Nicole talking, it was Jenny talking as her hand joined the pile.

“What is wrong with you?” I asked my three friends who seemed determined to destroy their hair, and bring mine down in the process.

“Come on Tracie, we have to stick together, it’s all of us or none of us. If you don’t put your hand in, none of this is going to happen.” Mary pleaded.

I was tempted right then and there to walk out with my long hair swinging behind me and shining beautifully in defiance of this stupid bet, but there were some thi
ngs keeping me glued to the table. Mary was right, we did need to stick together, especially after all we had been through together. Plus, I would definitely find a new appreciation for my hair through this crazy bet, and after all, what were the chances that this event would even happen? For all I knew we could go through our whole lives and never trigger the events that would destroy our manes.

There was one other thing too that kept running through my mind, and even though it made the least sense of all it was stronger than all of the other reasons. Part of me… some HORRIBLE part of my mind… was actually entranced with the idea of shaving my head. I had, on more than one occasion, pulled my ponytail tight against my head to see what my unadorned head would look like, or sometimes I would wonder for minutes on end what it felt like when I saw clippers running over someone’s head. But was I really willing to risk my hair on these crazy visions and desires? My amazing, satiny, shining curtain of platinum silk? No way!

I started to get up, ready to protest this crazy idea and leave with my amazing mane of hair intact, but then something strange happened. I couldn’t will my body up, I almost felt like I wasn’t in control of myself, especially when I slowly put my hand on the others while my consciousness watched like an out of body experience.

“If I’m the first one to lose my hair, I’m going to kill you.” I told Mary as the other girls burst out smiling.

TO BE CONTINUED…

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