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Margaret was shaking his hair from the cape. `I have to go to London on business for the next three weeks. Rather than leave you looking like a hippy’, she said smiling, `I think it’s best if we have Adele keep you thoroughly clean while I’m away.’

He was taken aback by this – it was one thing having this somewhat intimate experience with her, quite another to introduce a third person to the weekly `ritual’.

He started to protest but Margaret simply shooshed him quiet. `There’s no good reason why she shouldn’t Stephen, is there?’

He couldn’t think of one, and certainly not when he was mentally knotted like this. `No Margaret, I guess not’, he replied softly.

`She’s a very nice woman who doesn’t bite and she’ll do a very good job too, I know that for a fact. Now I expect you to show her exactly the same courtesy that you show towards me.’

`Ah.right Margaret, I will, of course I will, I promise.

`Good. All right, it’s time you cleaned things up.’

He gathered up the shaving equipment and moved towards the en-suite.

Adele didn’t worry about using the clippers, and she didn’t button the cape up as tightly as he’d had to get used to. Until now he hadn’t had much to do with her and he found her easy going and warm. Altogether the experience was quite relaxing, a reflection of Adele’s personality and approach. She liked a chat – the first week she asked him plenty of questions about the job. The second week, the focus became more personal, but not in any prying, uncomfortable way. He found himself opening up to her.

`Well, I’m all Dad has, in this town at least. My two sister’s have moved away and he’s getting on so someone has to look after him.’

`Oh yeah, it does get tough sometimes, but he’s been a good father and I want to make sure he’s cared for properly.’

`Yes, I was married, a long time ago. But there’s no one special in my life now.’

`No, not much time for anything else much. Dad has to come first.’

`Oh I have a couple of mates and we catch up when we can but.well, there’s the shopping and cleaning and cooking and paying the bills and the like.’

Adele was happy to talk about herself too. She was married, had a couple of teenage kids and had been with Margaret for fifteen years through three companies. The move up here was another adventure for her and her husband – he now had a job in the stores here. She had no desire to change bosses, not when she liked Margaret’s drive, vision and steadiness so much. Plus, she readily acknowledged and rewarded loyalty and a job `well done’. No, Margaret was a good boss, and despite her somewhat brisk demeanor and blunt approach, beneath it all she was a remarkably warm person, particularly to those who she took a shine to. Adele smiled at those words.

`She likes you, you know. A lot.’

He pulled a face. `Funny way to show it.’

`What do you mean?’

`This haircut stuff, the shaving. It’s.odd.’

`Oh come on, it’s not that bad is it? You don’t mind it really, do you?’

`Truth be, Adele, I’d rather have my pony-tail back and not have to sit under the bosses’ gaze and clippers.’

`Margaret likes the look.’

`I know.’ his words left hanging in the air.

`In the end, it’s all about attitude. Yours and hers. Just relax and get your head around that.’

`But it’s.well, it’s.ummm, awkward. And I don’t like looking like this.’

`Perhaps you simply need to focus on how much she likes the experience. You’d find everything a lot easier to deal with.’

`But what about how it makes me feel? I feel like I’ve lost control, like I’m just there as some object. Every week it’s the same, I sit here quietly accepting my lot. It.feels.umm, odd, strange.’

`You don’t strike me as some old-fashioned man who has a problem with women authority figures though.’

`No, I don’t have a problem with women in authority, they’re as welcome as men to their lot. But.’

`Can I give you some advice?’

He nodded.

`You mentioned losing control. Margaret’s obviously a woman who likes control. Embrace that.you’ll find this weekly experience develops very differently. Nothing else really matters. Not where Margaret is concerned.’

She undid the cape and shook it. He got up from the chair and started to gather up the shaving equipment. Adele put her arm on his shoulder. He stopped and looked at her. `She likes you, Stephen.’

Stephen spent much of the next week thinking a great deal about Adele’s words. Margaret likes me! She wasn’t exactly his type, what with her `proper’ voice and manner, the conservative outfits and the fact she was a good ten years older than himself. Attractive? Well, she wasn’t a classic beauty but she wasn’t unappealing – her pale green eyes were particularly arresting. `Yeah, mightn’t be my type, but then I haven’t had any `type’ for years.’ The reality was, he was enjoying the physical proximity between Margaret and himself somewhat, even if the closeness was along these `unusual’ lines. Other than his Dad, no one had touched him in any way for years – at least he was experiencing physical contact, some touches and brushes, even `knowing’ glances. And the comments – she was becoming more and more free with the compliments, whether about his clothes, his work or his attitude. But this sense of powerlessness in her presence…he knew instinctively he was incapable of challenging her authority, but he felt uncomfortable about this deepening submissiveness around her. Couldn’t he just get on and do his job?!

For the next two Wednesday’s the shavings proceeded as `normal’, Margaret directing the show, Stephen completely pliant. Few words passed between them, other than Margaret’s directions. That was the pattern. And then on the third Wednesday, Margaret produced a new cape.

`Fresh from London – I ordered it when I was there.’ She held it up to him. `I particularly like this style, it’s very.snug’. Superficially it looked like the last one – it was in the same colour and material – only it was about twice the length, narrower, had a couple of ties dangling off it and there was just a small opening at the top.

`Stand up, I’ll have to fit it over and around you.’ By now he was beyond dwelling on her words and directions, he simply obeyed. He got up and stepped towards her.

`Lean over. No, no, arms down, it’s not a sweater.’ His head popped through the opening.

`Stand up straight.’ She buttoned it up around his neck and like every other time, she made sure it was buttoned one size too tight. `Much better!’

Stephen gazed at himself in the mirror – he looked like some strange, plastic-coated, robed novitiate, nothing but his near-bald head and neck showing. `She has her likes.’his thoughts trailed off.

She moved him slowly back towards the chair. `Now you’ll notice there are arm sleeves inside. Put your arms into them and place them down your sides.’

He struggled awkwardly to get his arms in to the sleeves so she told him to bend over. She flicked the body of the cape over his head and pulled the sleeves up well above his elbows and then knotted the wrist ties on each sleeve to his belt. She pulled the cape back over him and looped its waist ties around him twice, tying it off at the back, not too tightly but just tight enough for Stephen to feel thoroughly enclosed. `Now grip the cape with your hands, clench them and then sit down. Very good!’

She bent down. `Legs together.’ She lifted his feet, folded the extra length up behind his legs, pulled the drawstrings in then tied the bundled material tightly around his legs. `There.’ She stood up, moved behind him and picked up the clippers. `You look fantastic! Mmmm, I do like a man who follows my whims’, she said with a twinkle in her eyes and a little smile. She flicked the clipper’s switch.

Stephen’s usual wave of t
repidation whenever the clippers started didn’t emerge this time; he was too stunned staring at himself enclosed like this to worry about them. He duly bowed his head when she told him to and as the blade touched his neck, he actually relaxed; it dawned on him that it wasn’t so strange to be clippered and shaved while done up like this. As the shears buzzed up his head, he smiled: Margaret loved all `this’. To his complete surprise his cock grew rock hard.

There was a knock on the door two weeks later while the clippers were running back and forth over his head. This was the first time anyone had wanted to enter the office since these Wednesday rituals had begun five months ago. Stephen was visibly mortified but Margaret simply said, `Come in’ and continued running the clippers over his head.

Adele came in carrying some papers and made her way straight over to the two of them. Stephen’s face blushed red and after giving him a quick smile in the mirror, Adele said to Margaret, `The Mallow contracts – I’ve finally finished typing them up. They just need your signature.’

`Of course – I’d forgotten, they have to be couriered out tonight.’ The clippers died. Margaret swapped the documents for the clippers, walked to her desk and signed them. While this was going on Adele waved the clippers at Stephen, winked and blew him a kiss. His face went beetroot.

Adele left.

`You were so embarrassed! But then it’s no bad thing for a man to go through a little public – or private – humiliation.’ She laughed. `Don’t worry, I assure you, Adele is very discreet. No matter what she happens upon.’

The Wednesday afternoons in Margaret’s office continued unabated over the next few months, always in the same manner. Stephen found himself growing more comfortable with the outcome – the shaved head wasn’t so bad after all. As for how it was shaved, well, he was adjusting to that too; it no longer felt quite so odd anymore – in it’s own way, he recognised how unique it was having her doing the deed, and in this particular way of hers. His passivity too no longer freaked him out, in fact he was finding it a relief to step away from responsibility for a while – he had enough of that already, whether at home or work. The flip side to that was the way Margaret obviously loved his passivity.

Adele stepped in for another fortnight when Margaret went away again; she didn’t bother about using the new cape.

`How are you finding it nowadays?’

`It’s somewhat more relaxing. I kind of like the.ummm.feeling of just sitting here now and doing whatever Margaret wants.’

`Margaret told me she likes that side of you.’

`I’d never have guessed,’ he answered ironically.

`Said it made her feel happy.’

`Has she ever done this stuff before, with other men?’

`She’d occasionally do the deed with someone for a week or so following the annual charity do but that was about it. As far as I know, there’s only been one other man who she liked doing regularly, like you.’

`When was this?’ he said with surprise.

`Oh years ago. Since then there’s been no one special – until you came along. Margaret’s very fussy about who she’ll treat to regular haircuts.’

`It’s rather an unusual.umm.`thing’ she has.’

`What is?’

`This haircut stuff of hers.’

Adele laughed. `Perhaps. But then if it harms no one and makes her happy.’

Stephen pondered her words. `I suppose so.’

`Has it ever struck you that all she’s doing is drawing something innate in you to the surface?’

`What, getting to like a shaved head?’

`No, silly boy, I mean your docility, your willingness to accept what she wants.’

Those words didn’t shock him like they would have not so long ago. `She may just have a point,’ thought Stephen, mulling over them.

Ten months after it had all begun, Stephen came to Margaret one Wednesday visibly upset.

As he sat there silently below her, freshly done up in his tight cape, Margaret realised something was terribly wrong.

It turned out his father had had a bad turn and was very ill.

Margaret didn’t go through with the haircut, instead insisting he take some time off from work. `Take the next month off and see how matters go.’

As he got up to go he broke down in tears. `Oh you poor boy.’ She put her arms around him and comforted him. `I’m all he’s got. And he’s all I’ve got.’ She felt awful for him – she knew something of this type of pain.

Stephen came to see Margaret a month later. His dad’s health hadn’t improved, in fact his condition was deteriorating fast. She gave him another month off, barely acknowledging to herself the four-week old beard and regrowth on his head.

Stephen’s dad died two weeks later. Margaret and Adele and several others from the factory came to the funeral to pay their respects; Margaret ensured the factory sent a large wreath. Stephen and her managed a few words after the service.

`Thank you for coming, and for the wreath, I really appreciate it.’

`It’s the least I could do Stephen. I’m so very sorry for you’, she said, her eyes filling with tears.

`I’ll be in soon.’

`No hurry, take your time, it’s not easy losing someone who means so much to you.’

He smiled. `Thanks for being so understanding. Thank you so much.’ They embraced. They parted slowly; she ran her hand through his hair. They smiled to each other.

Stephen came back to work two weeks later and went to see Margaret that afternoon.

`Not too soon I hope?’

`There’s only so much sorting out you can do. I had to get back.’

`A necessity?’

`Something like that. Hey, I noticed a few bald heads around the place. I missed the great event – how did it go?’

`Very good, we raised over 800 pounds.’

`So who’s the year-long “victim” this time?’ he said with a grin.

`Roberts from the floor.’

`So, you have another date on Wednesdays!?’

She smiled. `Oh he’s such a goody-goody he’s been shaving his head everyday before coming to work. Take’s all the fun out of it!’

They laughed.

`My hair’s getting long. Too long I think’, he said, looking at her a little shyly.

Margaret sat up in surprise.

`Yes, it is rather long’ she said, her eyes widening. `I’d say you needed to visit a barber – and quick smart.’

`Yes, I think I should.someone who’ll make sure it’s done in just the right way.’

`Very short, very short I think,’ she answered deliberately.

`Do you?’

`Absolutely. If I was your barber I’d insist your hair was kept extremely short.’

There was silence for a few seconds then Stephen pulled himself straight, looked directly at her and said, `Margaret, would you like to continue being my barber.’

Margaret broke out in a big smile. `Why Stephen, I’d love to.’ She looked at him playfully. `After all, someone has to make sure your hair is always cut properly.’

He swallowed before answering sheepishly, `Someone does.’

`But it can’t be on Wednesday’s, it has to be Saturday’s from now on. At my house.’

`Saturday’s.your house. Okay.’

`I have a few things to arrange first – we can get started Saturday week.’

`Saturday week it is. Your place.’

To be continued…

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