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It was just by chance that David had first met Karen. He had been dropping into his local book store as he had finished his current book and needed something new to distract him on his usual train journey to and from work. He had always liked going to a book store. As he browsed amongst the many shelves of literature he felt like someone was watching him. It was almost a sort of sixth sense as if he could actually feel a pair of strange eyes burning into the back of his head. David turned around and there she was – Karen – well someone who later he found out to be Karen.

He took a moment to take in the person who was watching him. He guessed that she was somewhere around his own age of 48 and she exuded an air of professionalism and efficiency. David had always found a woman who was well groomed to be something that he was attracted to and Karen certainly fell into that category. She was about the same height as he was and she was also round about the same build – slim and athletic. Her hair, light brown in color, was immaculately and clearly professionally styled. It was a simple straight shoulder length bob but it was obvious to even an untrained eye that it was the work of someone skilled in the art and practice of hairdressing. It wasn’t just the hair though, it was much more than that – the make-up, the clothes – it was very much a total look.

“I’m Karen” she said.

That had been about a month ago and things had progressed well from there. She worked for a large company in their HR department and she was clearly successful in her chosen field. She worked long and hard at her job which meant that it was often difficult for them to arrange times when they could spend time together. In fact it was Karen who usually decided when and where they would meet. On one occasion she even told him off for about ten minutes when he was just a couple of minutes late for one of their dates. However, he was more than happy to put up with her little quirks as they always seemed to have such a good time together.

David looked up from his work as his mobile phone range. He looked at the display and saw the now familiar number that belonged to Karen. He answered the call.

“Hello” he spoke into the phone.

“I can’t speak for long as I’m really busy but don’t forget we’re meeting at 7pm sharp” Karen instructed.

He smiled as he was now used to her no nonsense way of speaking, especially when she called him from work. It was never a conversation as such but more a list of instructions to be followed, and followed to the letter!

“And one more thing” she continued, “You need a proper haircut before our date so I’ve booked you an appointment for 6pm at a salon with my mother – don’t be late”.

David started to protest but, as usual, she simply cut him off.

“6pm – don’t be late, see you later”.

With that his phone went silent as the call was abruptly terminated. It had been about 5 weeks since his last haircut so maybe he was due for a slight trim, although he wasn’t keen on going to a different salon. He had never been that keen on getting a haircut – a legacy of too many childhood bad haircuts at the hands of over eager barbers. Still, if it was what Karen wanted…………..

David left his office in plenty of time to make sure that he wasn’t late for his appointment and to give himself time to find the salon. He finally found the place down a side-street. He stopped outside for a moment somewhat confused. He looked again at the address Karen had given him – this was definitely the place but the sign clearly said “ladies salon”. Most of the front window was obscured by a pair of frilly, white net curtains and the pale mauve paintwork clearly indicated that this was very much a women’s hairdressers.

With some trepidation David pushed open the front door and stepped into unfamiliar territory. As soon as he stepped across the threshold he was hit by an almost overwhelming aroma, a strange mixture of chemicals and hair spray. One wall of the small salon was lined by a line of old-fashioned hood hairdryers. As he glanced around the interior he noticed with concern that all of the customers were not only women, but they were at least over the age of 50, and some of them considerably over that age.  To his right he noticed a reception desk, behind which sat a girl who looked about sixteen years old.

“Can I help you?” she asked in a distracted almost bored manner.

David blushed, “I think my girlfriend has made an appointment for me” he stammered.

“For you?” the girl asked in surprise.

A woman in her late fifties appeared from the rear of the salon.

“This one’s booked in with me Carol”, she called across the room, “Over here young man”.

With shaking legs David walked deeper into this den of femininity and towards the rather stern looking woman into whose care he would be placing his hair. Although her somewhat advanced years he could see as he got closer that she was someone who took time and care over her appearance. Her slim figure was nicely showcased by the form-fitting royal blue silk blouse and the black pencil skirt. Although she was wearing quite a lot of make-up it had been carefully and thoughtfully applied to accentuate her features. Her hair was blonde and cut in the most blunt cut bob he had ever seen. The lines of the cut were clearly defined and not a single hair was out of alignment with the cut. The fringe had been cut with expert precision and sat high on her surprisingly unlined forehead. As she turned around he could see the bob was cut sharply into the nape of her neck.

“I’m Mrs. Stern – sit!”

She gestured towards one of the chairs and David sat somewhat nervously into it. He heard a swish of material behind him and then his seated form was enclosed by a heavy satin hairdressing cape. Except the cape was pink in color and decorated with a floral print. A second shorter cape was then secured around his shoulders. This one was a pale baby blue and was edged with a deep lace frill.

“I’m afraid we don’t normally have gentlemen customers so you’ll have to make do with our normal capes”.

David now recognized the firm tone that he had heard many times now coming from the mouth of Karen. He now understood from where she had acquired the same brusque manner.

“I did wonder when we were finally going to meet, as Karen has told me all about you”.

She picked up a comb from the shelf in front of the chair and started to rake it firmly through his hair.

“I normally just have a trim every 6 to 8 weeks” he muttered.

“No need to worry about that, Karen has explained to me exactly what needs to be done, and from now you are booked for a haircut at this time every 2 weeks” Mrs. Stern instructed.

David noticed that the 16 year old receptionist had walked over to them to watch what was about to happen.

“Take careful note Carol, this is how you do a proper’s men’s haircut” Mrs. Stern said to the young girl.

“I like your pretty cape” the girl said with a sarcastic smile on her face, “It suits you”.

He cringed and felt his cheeks reddening at this very public display he was now th
e center of. Mrs. Stern walked away for a moment and returned carrying a rather formidable looking pair of electric clippers. He blew some dust from the clippers.

“It’s not often I get to use my clippers” she laughed.

It had been many years seen a pair of clippers had been anywhere his hair. Since he could afford to pay for his own haircuts David favored salons and scissors over barbers with clippers. Surely they would just be used to trim the edges? Before he had chance to wonder anymore a hand was placed on the top of his head and it was pushed firmly over to one side. The clippers burst into life and he saw in the reflection them being placed against the side of his head. He noticed there was no comb on the clippers, just a bare blade. Instantly just one thought flashed through his mind – no comb means a zero, shaved.

 With brief flicks of her wrist she began to strip the hair from his scalp. With each stroke there was a brief pull on his hair and then the blades severed the hair cleanly from the side of his head. He was shocked at the ruthless efficiency of the clippers. It was like somewhat sort of nightmare of a magic trick where one second the hair was on the side of his head, and the next moment it was sliding down the shiny surface of the floral hair cape. Half an inch. An inch. An inch and a half. He felt a knot in his stomach as the expanse of pale white scalp above his ear began to grow. 

“Please stop” he begged, “it’s too short”.

Mrs. Stern and Carol both smiled at his discomfort, “It’s not short yet – bit it will be” she laughed.

She didn’t stop with the clippers until the strip of bare skin was a clear 3 inches wide. She then walked around behind the chair and began to repeat the process on the opposite side of his head. David was intensely aware of the presence of the young girl by his side who was clearly enjoying every moment of his humiliation. Once the other side of his head had been a victim of the same treatment he felt a hand on the back of his head. Somewhat reluctantly he lowered his head forward.

The clippers now began to strip the hair from the back of his head. At least he didn’t have to watch the process.

“Can I have a go” the young receptionist asked.

With horror Mrs. Stern agreed and she handed the clippers over to the young woman. The clippering of his head resumed once more. David was confused. Surely Karen couldn’t really have asked for this to be done to his hair – was this really what she wanted? Suddenly the clippers were turned off and placed on the shelf.

“Head up”.

David raised his head. He tried to turn his head so that he could see exactly how much damage had been inflicted on the back of his head but to no avail. Mrs. Stern now picked up a pair a scissors and began to work quickly over what was left of his hair. To his surprise, given what had just happened, she appeared to only be cutting a small amount of his remaining hair off. As she worked over what was left of his hair David couldn’t help thinking to himself – was this worth it?

After perhaps ten minutes of scissor work Mrs. Stern stopped cutting and put down the scissors. She picked up a small hand brush and began to sweep it briskly over his head flicking pieces of hair onto the polished tiles of the salon. Happy that no small pieces remained she again walked away only to return shortly afterwards carrying a small plastic pot. She unscrewed the lid of the pot and inserted her fingers into it. It appeared to be some kind of gel. She then then began to spread it all over his hair. Pausing only to wipe her hands on a small towel, Mrs. Stern then used a comb to create a sharp side parting in his hair and then combed the longer hair that was left towards the back of his head. By the time she put the comb down David was left with hairstyle that was more suited to an 8 year old boy from the 1950s.   

“Perfect – exactly what I wanted” said a familiar voice behind him. He turned to see Karen walking towards him with a broad smile on her face.

Mrs. Stern removed both of the capes and hung them on a hook at the back of the salon. Karen walked around the still seated David closely inspecting his new haircut. She ran a finger along the sides and the back where the hair had been shaved away with the clippers.

“Have you booked him in for the tidy-ups?” she asked.

“It’s all in the appointments book” Mrs. Stern replied, “Is it short enough?”

Karen paused, “Hmm, it will do for now but I think take off another inch or so next time”. 

From David’s lips came only one word – why?

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