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Hi, Jill! It?s so wonderful that we?ve touched base again, after all these years! Isn?t the internet grand? It?s so sad that our paths separated and we lost touch with each other after we were best friends in high school. What?s it been? Twelve years since graduation, eight since we last met face-to-face, seven since we both moved and lost each other?s addresses? That?s pathetic, girl friend! Now that we?ve found each other, let?s always keep in touch, okay?

I?m so excited that you?ll be stopping off to see me (and meet my husband, Frank) on your business trip next month! You?ll love Frank, he?s a doll. (No, not the inflatable kind, silly.) He?s a big bear of a guy as you can tell from the digital shot of us that I emailed you, but he doesn?t have a mean bone in his body?sweet, gentle, considerate, and loads of fun. We love motorcycling together, and we?re in a motorcycle club. Please don?t read ?gang.? It?s actually a Christian motorcycle club. One of my girlfriends at work asked if we had tattoos saying ?Born to Raise Heaven.? Not a bad idea, really?maybe some day. [grin]

You commented on my hair in that picture, that I?d gone from really long to really short, and that it looked cute on me. I?m going to tell you why I have such a short style, and also why when you see me it will be even shorter! There?s some history to this, so be prepared to read for awhile. I?m cutting and pasting and editing from something I wrote so that if we?re ever blessed with children, they would know why their mommy has such short hair (or no hair, as the case may be.) For you, I?ll add a little hint of spice, since children never want to believe that their parents have love lives.

The last time you and I were together, Jill, my hair was down to the small of my back. It was a hassle to keep it untangled, but I liked the looks of it and considered it a trademark. The year after we saw each other last, I moved here because my software company transferred me?it was so lonely. I didn?t know a soul here! I wasn?t looking for a boyfriend when I visited the local Oktoberfest on my lunch hour, to grab a bratwurst. (No bucket of beer since I had to stay awake at work that afternoon.) Anyhoo, this big homely guy with shaggy hair and a beard and a small hoop earring smiled and nodded. I was a bit leery of him because of his size and appearance, but his eyes sent me a message?I was safe with him. The only thing that turned me off was the cigarette in his hand. He wasn?t rude with it, though, and held it away from me. I smiled and went on back to work.

Imagine my surprise when I saw him at Saturday evening Mass the next evening. He didn?t exactly look like the churchgoing type. ?Hello again,? he said to me as we walked down the front steps into the evening.

Since we were in a crowd, I felt that it was safe to respond. ?We saw each other at the Oktoberfest, right?? I asked, even though we both knew it perfectly well. ?My name is Claire Comstock,? I said, holding out my hand. He shook it surprisingly gently. ?My friends sometimes call me CeeCee,? I added.

?And I?m Frank Bellinni, Claire. I hope that some day we will be friends, but I think even then I will call you Claire. It fits you better.? I just smiled and nodded, and we went our separate ways, me back to my lonely apartment. As we separated, I winced a little watching him light up. (You may not know it, Jill, but my Mom died of lung cancer, so I carry around a lot of anger about tobacco. I?m not a crusader, but it?s a definite turnoff for me.) My thoughts kept going back to this big man, though. His face would pop up in my imagination. Not at all husband material, I thought, but he was interesting?almost courtly and definitely intelligent despite his wild and dangerous appearance.

The next Saturday after Mass, he invited me out for a drink at a little restaurant within walking distance of our church. I told the hostess nonsmoking in very clear terms, and Frank seemed okay with it. I encouraged him to tell me his story. He grew up in a factory town in Pennsylvania but escaped his blue collar background with a football scholarship. I don?t follow pro football, so his name didn?t ring a bell, but he played in the NFL for 7 years as a nose guard. I asked him how and why one guarded noses, and he just laughed. A knee injury retired him. He had always loved cycling but his football contract wouldn?t allow it. So after he retired, he took the money he saved during his athletic career and purchased the cycle shop in this town.

Once I got to know Frank, I realized that in spite of his appearances and his smoking, he was practically perfect?for me, at least. We went together on long motorcycle rides up and down the coast and inland to the mountains, with my long braid hanging down from my helmet, flying in the breeze. He courted me in a gentle, old-fashioned way and broke down all my reserves. Six months later, we were married. Three months after that, his head bookkeeper retired, and I left the software company that had transferred me to this town and took the job at ?Bellinni?s Cycle Heaven.? That way, we could spend more time together. It was great to work side by side with my husband and my lover.

He was always considerate about not smoking around me, and I didn?t nag?just expressed concerns that I wanted to be married to him for a long, long time and didn?t want that time shortened by a tobacco-related disease. That may sound funny, for me to be so protective since cycling is considered a dangerous hobby, but Frank is among the safest of cyclists.

Like I said, he was?and is?practically perfect for me. We are honest and open with each other, so he didn?t try to hide it when I saw him surfing the internet, looking at sites about short-haired and bald women. Well, actually, long-haired women becoming short-haired or bald. ?Gee,? I asked. ?If that turns you on, how did you ever fall in love with me?? He explained that he had a fetish about it, but that he separated his fetish from his real life. If you love your hair long, he said, I love it long, too. He promised that he would never try to coerce me or even talk me into cutting my hair. And he never did.

Once in awhile, Frank would try and quit smoking, but he would get grouchy and irritable, and then start up again. I guess that all the smokers who gathered around the bike shop were just too much temptation. Then I had my idea. ?Frank, you know that I love you and your health is important to me. I?ve never nagged you to quit smoking, but you know my feelings. You?ve never tried to talk me into cutting my hair, but I know your feelings. Let?s make a deal. If you stop smoking and stay smoke-free for six months and will do your best to stay that way, you can have my hair?all of it.?

His eyes gleamed. ?A tempting proposition, my love. I?m not sure if I can keep my end of the bargain, though. What if I fail?? I told him that he could stop again, and we?d wait another six months. I trusted his honesty, and knew that he wouldn?t lie to me about it. He agreed. It lasted a month, then a relapse. Two months, and then another. But then, six months later, he made it. Now I had to live up to my end of the bargain. He told me that I didn?t have to go through with it, but I had gotten used to the idea and I wanted to give him a wonderful reward for his accomplishment. At least I didn?t have to worry about my boss not finding my hairstyle acceptable, as might have happened with my previous company! Actually, the women who came to the cycle shop had all sorts of hair styles, from conventional styles to Texas big hair, to scalp-hugging crew cuts, and in all kinds of colors. None of them were shaved bald at that time, but I knew some gals who had previously supported the look. In my work world and among our friends, I wouldn?t be pushing the envelope very far at all. I was sure that it would gain looks and comments, not all of them kind, at the grocery store and around town, but that was okay. That was their problem, not mine. I had scarves for church, like grandma used to wear but more stylish, but no intention to buy a wig.

On a beautiful October Saturday, the week of his birthday, I plaited my hair into a long braid for the last time, probably forever, and he tied it off with a silk pink ribbon. I put on my leathers and helmet, we climbed onto his Hog, with supply trailer attached, and roared off to a primitive lakeside background in the National Forest. We set up our tent and made warm, tender love. We cooked supper and cleaned up. ?Are you ready?? he asked me gently. I smiled and nodded. ?Are you sure? You don?t have to.? I told him that I was sure. He untied my ribbon and slowly unraveled my braid. He brushed my hair and smothered his face in it. We kissed. I sat on a low stool with the back of my head toward the picnic table, my braid spread across the table. He slipped a rubber band up just below where he would cut. I could feel the tugging and twisting at the back of my head as his sharp knife began to sever my hair. ?Like cutting a hawser line on a ship,? he said. ?But this blade is scalpel sharp, and we?ll get there with a little work.? I could hear the grinding and tearing noises. Finally, my head jerked as it pulled free. How many knife gouges had he left on the table, I wondered. He gently, almost reverently, placed the braid on my lap. He was going to hang it in his office, he said, or maybe our bedroom.

I got up, stretched, and felt the loose, dangling ends of hair. ?It feels pounds lighter,? I smiled. ?Not so much neck strain anymore.?

?And you don?t have to worry about somebody coming by on a horse and grabbing you by the braid to carry you off, like the Mongolian overlords used to do with the Chinese coolies,? he said.

?But you can carry me off whenever you want to. You?ll just have to find a different handle.?

?Can?t wait to look for one,? he grinned. I sat down on the bench facing outward, toward the lake, and he straddled the same bench facing me. Frank picked up the scissors, stretched out a small lock of hair, and snipped it off, very close to my scalp. ?I?m not going to rush this,? he said as he continued snipping, even though it was starting to grow dark. ?We can finish in the morning. This part of your hair we?ll let blow away in the wind. Birds will find it, and make little brown mattresses in their nests. It?ll be our gift to them.? As he continued his leisurely cutting, a small lock at a time, I continued to be amazed and the gentleness and sensitivity of this man who had once made his living stopping other giants like him in their tracks and knocking them down. My hair had always been a big part of who I was, but since I was freely giving it away, it felt okay, somehow. I wasn?t being diminished as each clump fell away and dispersed in the breeze. ?Your hair was very pretty,? he said as he put away the scissors. I winced at the ?was.? ?But you have a lovely face and a wonderfully shaped head and pretty little ears. Your hair was like a huge, ornate frame around a tiny masterpiece of art. Tomorrow we?ll see the masterpiece, not the frame.? I felt my head. Naturally, it was all lumpy, with some tufts an inch or two long and other place soft and fuzzy, cut close to the scalp. It must look ridiculous. I went down to the lakeshore, kneeled on a log, and plunged my head into the cold lake water, rubbing out loose hairs. Frank wrapped a towel around it and we walked back to the tent in the darkening night.

?Funny,? I said. ?Your real name is Francis, right, after St. Francis of Assisi?? He grunted in affirmation. ?Mine?s Claire. Claire with no hair. I remember the sisters teaching us the story of St. Francis. Francis had come from a wealthy family and gave it all away. Claire came from a wealthy family, too, and wanted to start an order for women like the one Francis started for men. The night before her family was to send a posse to bring her home against her will, Francis gave Claire a haircut, just like you gave me. It seemed so romantic at the time, and they weren?t even lovers. When her family saw her haircut, they realized how serious she was, that they could never have her back.? In spite of such thoughts, or because of them, we didn?t hesitate to give ourselves to each other in love and passion that night.

The next morning, I climbed out of the tent and set things up for breakfast as I watched the sun rise over the opposite shore of Rose Lake. When the light was bright enough for the water to be reflective, I leaned down and looked at myself. It was bad, and it made me remember when my grandmother?s old farm dog had mange. ?Wow. Am I ever ugly,? I said aloud, laughing.

?Let?s finish the job, then, and you?ll be beautiful,? came the voice of my lover and husband behind me. ?Stay here. Sit on that fallen log.? He left and returned with a set of battery-powered hair clippers. I knew that they came with plastic guards, but none were on them now?just the metallic teeth. We kissed tenderly. He stood and the clippers came to life, their buzzing interrupting the near silence of the scene. With care and precision, he moved the clippers gently up from my sideburn to my occipital ridge. He continued around my head, until the sides were smooth. Then row by row, he cleared the top of my head, as little fragments of hair spilled past my eyes. I had thought that the clippers would excite or terrify me, but they were very relaxing, softly pleasurable, almost hypnotic. Too soon they were done. I walked to the lake and looked at my reflection again?much better now, and I smiled at the petite bald woman looking up at me. ?Not done yet,? he said. ?Brush the loose hair off and I?ll be back. I took off my tee shirt and shook the hair loose. Since the campground was still empty, I had put no bra on. I folded the tee across the downed trunk and sat down a couple of feet from it, so I could grab it if I heard a vehicle coming. As Frank walked back, I could see his eyes widening. He acknowledged my bare breasts with kisses. ?You are so beautiful,? he murmured. ?I can?t believe you love me so much that you would give up your hair for me.? I heard the whoosh of aerosol and felt the coolness of shaving gel being spread across my scalp. Deftly he began lifting up tracks of the foam with his safety razor, and flipping the mixture of foam and stubble?what little was left of my hair?into the lake. When he was finished, he lathered me up again and stroked from different directions, smoothly and gently?another sensuous experience. Scalp massages always feel good to me, but now my estimate rose as to how many nerve endings I head at the top of my head! He led me to the lakeside and again I saw my reflection in the water?my first look at the hairless me. We skipped breakfast. There were more important things to do back in the tent.

On the way back, it was fun to stop at gas stations or cafes and watch the changes on people?s faces as I took off my helmet. Everybody back home knew what we were up to, so there was a lot of laughs and hugs and head rubbing back at the cycle shop. With Frank?s eager help, we kept my head shaved almost daily for over a month. Finally, one day I asked, ?Is this bald look forever??

He asked, ?Is me not smoking forever??

?You wouldn?t go back to it now, would you?? I cried.

?No, no, I really wouldn?t, because I love you too much,? he said. ?I love the way you look right now much better than I liked the way you looked with your long hair. You have a beautifully shaped head, so I hope that if you get tired of it shaved, you?ll at least keep it short enough we can see those graceful curves.? His hands gently stroked my scalp down to my neck. ?But it?s your hair, kid. You gave me the greatest gift I?ve ever received when I married you. And when you sacrificed your hair, that was the second. You don?t have to stay bald if you don?t want.?

I remembered how I enjoyed the clippers. ?I?d like to grow it back, just a little, anyway. But let?s keep it clipped short, and use some of those plastic guides?if you?ll do the clipping.? Frank agreed. So after some trial and error, we ended up with the haircut you saw in my picture, Jill. Every week, we use number three guard on the sides and back. I keep the top trimmed so it?s never more than an inch and a half long, and style it so it stands up, but still following the curvature of my head. I love it, and never want to go back to long hair again?I didn?t know a hair fetish was contagious, but I seemed to have caught it from him. Every year on Frank?s birthday in October, on Christmas, and on our wedding anniversary in the Spring, I give him my hair again, what little there is. We keep it shaved for a month or so, then I let it grow out again to this length. And since you?re coming to town four days after his birthday, well, I told you my hair would be shorter. So I?ll be the bald biker chick with the big teddy bear of a guy waiting for you at the airport. We?ll bring the truck, don?t worry. And don?t worry about your own hair, it?s perfectly safe. Frank would never, never do anything against my will or yours. Of course, if you like what you see and you want to try a hairstyle completely different than anything you?ve ever had, then that would be okay, too.

Love, CeeCee. (Claire)

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