Before the Shop Closes
Carrie raced down the bike path on her beach cruiser rental. Her thick, golden hair flopped against the back of her neck and shoulders to the rhythm of her pumping legs, and the bursts of sea breeze her inertia inspired. Not quite twenty-two, she had worked to save money for college the past four years.
Earlier in the summer, she had received her letter of acceptance to a prestigious university that, since its inception, had not permitted entrance to women. That had changed in the past couple years. She applied because she thought it was the ultimate challenge. She was in top physical shape. She had competed with the women’s cross-country team in high school. For the past four years, she had entered and won numerous 10K races for her division. She craved the challenge of doing things nobody thought she would – or could – do.
She steered off the path, across a small patch of sand, and onto the beachfront main street of the seaside community. It was mid-August. “Within a few weeks,” she thought, “the out-of-state license plates will disappear.” She loved this time of the summer, and the anticipation of what the autumn might bring.
The main street storefront had changed over the years. Her family made a ritual of vacationing each summer in this Carolina beach community when she was a child. She remembered the candy shop where she would spend her pennies on allowance day. The Nickelodeon Movie Theatre had played double bills every Saturday morning just for kids. She would take her little brother to the candy store and then to the movies every week so her parents could spend some time on the beach alone.
One little shop – that she remembered quite well – still remained. She nosed over toward the curb and found a space to park the bike. It was almost six in the evening, and she had just seen someone place a “Closed” sign in the window. She decided to see if they might take one more customer.
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She opened the door.
“Oh, hi…I was – um – just closing,” said the young man as he swept the floor around the big antique chair.
“I’ll bet you don’t remember me, do you?”
“Y-yes, I do. Give me a minute, and I’ll get it.” He studied her carefully. “Caroline? Right?”
She giggled. “That’s what my little brother used to call me. I go by Carrie.”
“So, I was right, though…right?”
“Yep.” She couldn’t help but smile. He always made her smile.
“Gosh, it’ s been what, seven years, or so?”
“Something like that. You were just beginning to apprentice with your dad…how is he?”
He set the broom aside. “He’s fine. Doesn’t come in much anymore. Retired, y’know?”
“Then this is your business now?”
“Yeah, hasn’t changed much, has it?”
Carrie looked around. It had changed – at least enough to cater to a younger clientele. She noticed several posters of contemporary music artists that had replaced the mounted fish and other trophies on the wall.
“So’s your brother – er, your family in town, too?”
“Huh? W-what?” She looked back at him. “Ah, no. No. I came down here myself for a vacation. He’s getting ready to start college up in Maryland. My parents are traveling in Europe for another week.”
“So, you just came by for old times, huh? I remember you used to tow your kid brother in here every summer – a few times, at least.”
“I know. That’s sort of why I decided to stop.”
“Well, you’re gonna laugh at me…”
“Naw. Try me.”
“Well, see I got accepted to The Citadel – ”
“No. I really did.”
“What?” she seemed confused by his reaction. “You mean in a bad way?”
“No, I mean it’s so tough to get in there and the stuff you gotta go through to graduate – wow! When do you start?”
“I report next Monday. It’s gonna be a real trip. I know I can do it, but it’ll be tough.” She walked over behind the chair and looked in the mirror. She ran her fingers through her hair. “See, I came here because I want to avoid the shock of the first few days at school.”
“Oh yeah, the initiation stuff.” He took a few steps closer…studied her hair more carefully.
She looked at him sincerely. “Would you?”
“Sh-sure. I’d love to. What do you want to do?”
She moved around to the front of the chair and sat down. He slowly rotated the chair so she faced the wall length mirror over the barber cabinet.
Running her fingers through her hair one last time, she made the request: “I want you to cut it short – just like my brother used to get his.”
A lump grew instantly in his throat. The kind of lump you got in the middle of your throat when you were a kid and contemplated doing something you knew you might get in trouble for. He swallowed hard to get rid of it. “Carrie, are you sure you want to be that radical? They really don’t cut the girls’ hair that short at The Citadel.”
“Yes. I’m really sure.” She directed her attention to his reflection in the mirror. “Ever since I got accepted I knew I was going to come here and have you cut it for me,” she giggled. “You’re cute, and I’ve always had a crush on you. C’mon, Trent, what’re you waiting for?”
With this revelation, Trent quickly set about to fulfill the special request. He’d cut lots of girls’ hair before at his shop, even though it was essentially a barber shop. A couple of times each summer a teenage girl would come in and get her hair clippered short, but they were different. Just nameless faces coming in on a dare from their boyfriends. Carrie? Well, he always thought she was something special. He loved her carefree demeanor… her easy smile… her playful, teasing nature. And, man, was she cute.
He rotated Carrie around in the chair so she was facing the front window. He took a black cape from the cabinet shelf and unfolded it. Then he shook it to open it up like a parachute, carefully guiding it into place around her. He gently lifted her hair off her shoulders so he could snap the cape at her nape. He couldn’t help but notice how soft her skin was, and the lemony fragrance she was wearing.
He placed a couple drops of oil on the clipper blades, and turned the clippers on to distribute the lubricant over the blades. “Number two attachment is what I always use for the type of cut you want, Carrie. But, I think I’ll use a number three.”
She turned in the chair and smiled. “No, use the two. I always used to love how Joey’s hair felt after you cut it.”
Trent grinned sheepishly. “You are adventurous, aren’t you?” He snapped the number 2 metal attachment onto his clipper.
She nodded. “I can’t wait to see what it feels like.”
“The best I can explain it is that it sort of tickles, and then you’re gonna feel like you’ve had a lot of weight taken off your head.”
“Okay! Let me shake it one more time, to remember what it feels like. It’ll be a long time before I can get it to this length again.” She shook her thick mane a few times and laughed. “Okay, ready when you are.”
Trent carefully ran his fingers up through her nape. He imagined how stunning she was going to look with her new haircut. He turned the clippers on. “Ready?”
Biting her lip with anticipation, she nodded.
Lifting her hair up at the nape with his left hand, he guided the clippers slowly up the back of her head. Eighteen-inch locks of gold fell to her shoulders, hanging for a moment, before dropping to the floor. “No turning back now,” he said, hoping that she wasn’t regretting her decision.
“Do it slowly. It feels so neat,” she said, running her fingers up the clippered path of hair. “I really want to remember this experience.”
Trent nodded, and resumed guiding the clippers from her nape up to the crown of her head – slowly this time. She loved the sound of the quiet, whirring clipper as it advanced up the back of her head. It made her tingle all over with excitement. She felt captive in his chair – in a very sexy way.
Within a minute, the back of her head was shorn to about a third of an inch in length. It looked a bit strange, since she still had lots of hair left on the top and sides. A pile of long, golden tresses lay on the floor behind the chair.
“Now we do both sides, and then the top,” he said.
“Wait one second.” She ran her fingers up and down the back of her head. “I love the way this feels, don’t you?”
He ran his left hand up her nape. He loved the way it felt, too. Like the soft down of a baby duckling.
She could see him out of the corner of her eye as he began to work the clippers on the side of her head. It felt so liberating; with every stroke of the clippers, a section of her hair fell into her lap. He moved to the other side and the pile of hair in her lap grew heavier, and deeper.
“Almost done, Carrie.” He moved to the front of her and looked at her. She was mesmerized by the eroticism of the experience. She had this look on her face…like she was breathless. “I gotta turn you around so the cord will reach, okay?”
She nodded. He could do anything he wanted, as far as she was concerned. She felt almost like she was on nitrous oxide in the dentist’s chair. She could’ve sat there all day under the intoxicating effect of this moment.
Trent spun the chair around so it faced the mirror. Hair hung over Carrie’s eyes. She giggled and tried to blow it out of the way, but it lifted a bit and then fell back against her face. They both laughed at the irony of the moment. Leaning against her leg from the front side of the chair, he lifted her hair away from her face and positioned the clippers at the base of her hairline on her forehead. Slowly, he guided them toward the back along the top of her head.
“You’re very good at this, I hope you know.”
“I’ve never enjoyed cutting hair more.”
Four more sweeps of the cool metal clipper blades along the top of her head and Carrie looked like Sinead O’Connor. Only much prettier. Her cropped hair was like a golden brush on her head. Mounds of wavy, golden hair lay in her lap, like wheat hewn from the autumn harvest.
“I’ve got to run the clippers over your hair one more time to catch any stragglers.”
“Mmm, okay. I guess you can do that,” she said, giggling again. She felt the hair on her head. It felt just like it looked – like an ultra-soft brush… the kind used to buff up shoes with a final soft polish. “In fact, you can do it anytime. I think I’ll have to come here on my breaks to get it touched up.”
He thought about how nice that would be and how stunning she looked. He loved this aspect of her personality – the fact that she was so confident about herself. Not many women could remove such a visible sign of their femininity and still be so feminine and sensual. He took his time running the clippers over her head one more time. He caught her staring at him in the mirror. They smiled at each other.
“What do you want to do with your hair, Carrie?”
“I want you to keep it. Promise you’ll remember me?”
“Are you kidding? You expect me to ever forget you?”
He pulled out a long, floppy, white barber’s brush and began swooshing it along the back and sides, then the top of her head. He noticed she was twitching her nose, so he quickly swept the few hairs off her face. She laughed. He laughed. They looked at each other. Their eyes locked. He bent over, across the arm of the chair and kissed her. She received his kiss. He cupped her tiny, feminine head in his hands, to bring her even closer. She loved the way his hands felt around her nape and ears and neck as he pulled her gently closer. He loved how delicate her features were, and how she felt close to him.
Outside, the sun dipped into the Atlantic. The day’s afterglow seeped out across the horizon. Her lips were full and moist with desire.