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?Earth to Michelle… Earth to Michelle!!?

?I am here,? Michelle answered as she tried to bring herself back to reality. Her body was in the chair where her hair was receiving the final touches, but her mind was exploring possibilities. ?Just thinking about work.? It was a good excuse, she did work too many hours, but it was not she was really thinking about.

?We have an intern, you know, the one I was telling you about last time? She is great and I can only hope we can find a position for her; I would hate to loose her. And so many people have asked if she is my younger sister! We are the same height, weight, everything but she wears her hair shorter,? Michelle paused. ?Much shorter.?

Kate stopped brushing her hair and looked at Michelle in the mirror. ?Now we have gone through this before. Yes, you have the features for short hair. Yes, your hair has the perfect texture for short hair. And yes, you are young enough and have the perfect attitude and confidence to carry it off. But look at it.? Kate gently ran her fingers through Michelle?s hair so that it framed her face and tumbled down, stopping just above her breasts. ?Look at how healthy it is, how thick, the rich color, the way the highlights capture the light! You were born with incredible hair! Women would give their fortunes for hair like this! And all you do is wash it every day, condition it twice a week, and brush it. That is it! No hair spray, barrettes, twists, nothing! You have it trimmed every other month. For hair so perfect, you do nothing to it! How could you even think of cutting it?!?

The salon was almost empty so Kate pulled up a stool beside the chair. ?Look, I know you have been thinking about cutting your hair for a long time. If that is what you really want, you know I will do it. But you are 35 now, and if you inherited your mother?s genes, your hair will turn white soon. You can go short then. Why not keep it longer now while you can still enjoy it??

Michelle sighed. She knew even if she told her to cut it, Kate?s heart would not be in it and she would end up with a style as short as Michelle really wanted. And she wanted ultra short hair.

?Okay, you win. I am not giving up on the dream, but will not fulfill it today.? Kate shot her a look. ?Or the next time I am here, or the time after that. Stop glaring at me! I know you have a point, and I guess you are right.? She had lost the battle today.

A couple of weeks later, Michelle was on a plane to New York for a meeting with her publisher. She noticed the stewardesses and wondered if they were permitted to wear their hair any way they wanted. On the way to the restroom, she noticed a lady with a pixie cut sitting next to what appeared to be her sister with hair almost to her waist. Michelle thought how much better the lady with short hair looked. How confident, how feminine ? she just looked like she had her act together. Her sister looked like she had just come from a protest, so sloppy, so lazy. Yet from the brief encounter, they had the same gestures, they sounded the same and really could be the same person, but for their hair. Michelle stared to think as she unconsciously touched the end of her hair.

The meeting went well and ended just after lunch. Because of previous meetings, Michelle learned to book a flight out the next day so not to rush negotiations. Since she was not far from Chinatown, she started walking. After an unknown amount of time, she wondered into a salon. The receptionist asked how what she could do for her. ?I would like a short haircut. Do you take walk ins??

The receptionist called to some others in the back and three Asian women came to the lobby and started touching her hair. While Michelle was never sure who was the main person, all made it clear they thought she was foolish for wanting to cut such thick, wavy hair. They started pulling it up and finally in broken English, the receptionist told her to leave and forget ?such a crazy idea.?

So there Michelle was, standing on the sidewalk watching the yellow cabs go rushing by. She must have made an unconscious motion because one stopped in front of her. As she got in, she saw an ad for a salon in Greenwich Village. Surely someone there would be willing to cut a little hair! But after she got the same response in three Village salons that Kate had given her, she gave up and went back to the hotel. While waiting for the elevator, she noticed a barbershop across the street. ?Are you going up?? Three people in the elevator were looking at Michelle, who was lost in thought again. ?No, I just remembered an errand I need to do first.?

Her hand was shaking as she opened the heavy door. She tried to convince herself it was a lack of food, but she knew better. A man sitting in one of the chairs lowered his newspaper and asked if she needed directions. ?No, I want a short haircut.? After being informed he only did men?s hair, Michelle started like a lawyer defending a client. ?Salons keep telling me I am crazy. I don?t care what you do to it and I don?t care what it looks like, just short enough where people in a salon would not be intimidated or offer resistance. Please! I have thought about doing it myself, but I keep loosing my nerve. Please!?

?Lady, I am sorry, but I have cut three ladies? hair in my life and all three complained about what a bad job I did. Sorry, but you won?t change my mind.? Michelle knew she could not win this battle, and thanked the man and turned to walk out the door.

?Nobody asked me if I would do it.? A voice came from the back of the shop.

?Well, I did not hear you come in. How long have you been back there? I have been waiting for you to come back. I have to get to my lodge meeting!? The old man turned to Michelle. ?That is my youngest son, Brian. I guess he can cut your hair, but he doesn?t have much experience with ladies? hair. Think about it! But I have to leave now; I am late already. You two work it out.?

Brian came from the back into the light of the shop. He was not quite 40, looked at her with a shy confidence, and asked her to sit down and tell him what she wanted. She slipped into the big chair and nervously began to tell of her discussions with Kate. Brian placed his hands on her shoulders and gently began to massage them. She relaxed and told of her rejections that afternoon. ?Well, I can?t promise a perfect style, but I will cut it short for you. How short were you thinking??

Surprisingly unprepared for this question, she did not know what she wanted. ?Not bald, please. Other than that, what do you suggest??

?Why don?t we see what style emerges.? With that, he went to the door, turned the lock, put up the closed sign and closed the blinds. He then handed her a cordless phone. ?For your comfort, so you will know I am not a rapist and will not hold you against your will.? He placed a cape around her and started to put tissue around the collar. ?Sorry, habit,? he said to her puzzled look. ?Why don?t we start by getting rid of some of this weight.?

He sectioned off part of her hair and secured it on top. He laughed. ?Some of the guys actually need clips to hold their hair in place. It took us awhile to find some that weren?t pink.? He sprayed some water on the loose hair and combed it out. Taking a small section in one hand and the scissors in the other, he looked at her in the mirror, but never asked if she had changed her mind. At this point, she was full of self-doubt, wondering what she was doing to her hair, But she felt him pull her hair tight and heard the scissors open, and knew it was too late. He closed the scissors slowly, watching her reaction. As the hair was freed from the restraint, it fell on her neck. A sensation of warmth shot through her, followed immediately by fear. If she could feel the ends on her neck, how short was her staring with? As if he could read her mind, he quietly said, ?I am starting with two inches at the back but will have a little more length on top.? He paused and drew in her perfume. ?At least for starters.?

Michelle realized the hardest part was over ? the initial cut. Now she might as well enjoy the cut. But she never realized she could actually be aroused by a haircut, but here she was, sitting in a strange barbershop, one snip and she was ready to explode. Brian took another small section and with equal slowness, closed the scissors two inches from her head. As he cut more sections, she found herself pulling her head away from his hand to create more tension, thus more of a release.

As he started to let more hair down, she reached to feel the cut. Brian grabbed her hand and kissed it. ?Not yet.? Because the cutting was all in the back, she could not see anything. She had only the sensation on her neck to tell her anything had happened. It was different, lighter, she could feel more air, so different than when her hair was up in a ponytail. As he cut the hair up the back of her head, she wondered how short her hair was. But she was having trouble thinking of that as the warming sensation grew in her.

Suddenly, he turned the chair away from the mirror. ?I want this to be a work of art revealed at once.? He pulled hair over her face and gently combed down over her nose and down to her breasts. ?Open your eyes.? Her eyelashes brushed against the hair. She never saw the scissors, but felt the cold metal against her forehead. The scissors vibrated every so slightly as they closed on the hair. She gasped as she watched the hair fall slowly down the cape. She looked at him and he still wore the shy look, but at the same time, one of determination. He picked up a section of her hair and held it straight up as he snipped, so when it fell it hit her in the face. He did the same with the rest so she could feel the freshly shorn ends hit her forehead, face and ears. He then took her hands and led them to her hair. It was so soft, so short and moved so easily!

She wanted to feel more, but he put her hands down. He started cutting with more speed and determination than before. The one, two and three inches now falling frightened her more than the fourteen inches than had just dropped in front of her face moments before. He was working in a pattern and so quickly! She did not know how much more she could stand! At this moment, she was eternally grateful to Kate and all of the women today who had discouraged her and inadvertently sent her to Brain.

But then he stopped. She was afraid to move. He was working with something on the counter. Unexpectedly, he firmly pushed her head down and the shop was filled with an electric sound. Then she felt the vibration. It started at the base of her neck and slowly moved up the base of her skull. It stopped just shy of the crown and started an identical path just to the left of the first path. Again and again, new paths of vibrations were formed until the vibration broke free and started again just in front of her left ear. Little hairs were flying everywhere, so Michelle shut her eyes. Somehow the vibration felt different on her temples, but it still stopped just short of the top of her head. Then as quickly as the vibration started, it stopped.

Michelle looked at the cape with mostly short pieces of hair all over it. What had she done? Maybe this was a dream? A snap behind her and then the vibration began again, just below her crown. This time, the vibration made a path straight across the top of her head. Not expecting much, she was shocked to see more hair tumbling down the cape. A few more paths and vibration stopped. Brian rubbed her head with something and then knelt down in front of her. ?Are you ready??

?Yes,? she whispered.

She did not recognize the beauty staring back at her. Her cheek bones, the eyes, the lips, they all stood out, yet complimented each other. But the best part of the image was Brian beside her, looking at her with the passion of a man returning to his love after being away at sea.

He took off the cape and drew her up to him. The forgotten phone fell to the floor as she melted into his arms.

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