The Family Way - Part 2
Roberta and Nora
Sabrina S. and Sean O'Hare
"Roberta! How dare you make such a show of yerself by wearing them daft clothes outside of t'house," boomed Nora, as she saw her sister walking up the street. "If nothing else you'll catch your death of cold if you go oop t'Dales."
The rechristened Bob - at least in her own mind - thought that it wasn't quite the time to say that indeed she had been on the Dales. With her mind confused by recent events, nor did she consider it appropriate to discuss her parting of the ways with her childhood sweetheart Albert and the arrival of George upon the scene.
"Mebbe you're Nora but ah did buy 'em to wear. I want to be more modern," she said in a slightly conciliatory tone.
"Course I'm right. And 'ow did thy manage to get that daft, little 'at on thy nice hair Ah put oop f'or yer this morning? It must be - aaarggghhh!!"
Without thinking Roberta had removed her cloche hat to reveal her freshly bobbed hair and expose the severely clippered nape. Nora was having a major fit and was struggling to get out the words to express her feelings over the desecration of her sister's thick, long hair.
Roberta was looking in the hall mirror, and unnecessarily patting the smooth, glossy cap of hair into shape and running the palm of her hand over the denuded nape. Her hair fell perfectly, even after being trapped under the hat. Out of the corner of her eye she watched Nora going redder and redder in the face, for once lost for words. "Do you like it our Nora?" she ventured.
"Your hair -" Nora replied, somewhat uselessly.
"Yes, Ah've got t'bob. Tis tha fashion thy knows."
"Fashion? Fashion! But it's - it's all gone -" Nora stated, ever the one to voice the obvious.
"It's ma new look. And Ah loove it," Roberta declared, although inside her nerves were increasing how the rest of her family and the people of Glumsby would react to her alien appearance.
Slightly calmer, Nora asked, "OK which of your friends did this to you? Ah'm gonna get t'bottom of this and 'ave a word with her mam."
"I went t'barber," Roberta replied.
"Barber!" Nora boomed. "Men's barber? On Inkerman Street?" Roberta nodded. "Right, get thy 'at on. Ah'm gonna get t'bottom of this, you see if I don't."
Without thinking she jammed her own hat on and placed Roberta's similar one on her head. Without the mounds of hair upon her head it slipped on easily and, rather comically, slipped past her eyes. Roberta struggled to stifle a giggle.
"Thy reckons 'tis funny do you. Yer right, you'll be a laughing stock all over Glumsby." With a sniff of disapproval, Nora replaced the now redundant flowery hat on her sister's head with the new cloche hat and she marched out of the house dragging her sister along behind.
They walked quickly but, like fugitives, Nora attempted to avoid bumping in to anyone they knew by taking a circuitous route, popping into doorways and crossing the street. Roberta tried to dissuade her sister from this mission but she refused to discuss it and was clearly resolute on her course of action.
At one point Nora spied Mrs Batty, a good friend of their mother, walking briskly towards them and they ducked down behind the large shire horse, pulling the milkman's cart. The sound of munching caused Roberta to raise her eyes upwards to see Dobbin munching away at the array of flowers and sundry ornaments perched upon her sister's hat. The crop of vegetation was disappearing down the throat of Dobbin - or should he now be called Bobbin - Nora's getting an Eaten Crop she thought, trying to stifle her giggles. "Sssshhh!" demanded her sister, oblivious to the destruction of her hat.
Eventually they arrived outside the barbershop which was of course shut for the day. Nora banged loudly on the door. A window slid open above and Roberta heard George call out, "What dosta want? Ah'm closed. Come back t'morrow."
The sisters stepped back and looked up. "Bob!" George exclaimed, both pleased and surprised.
"Aye, and tha cut it," Nora boomed with a scowl on her face, not used to her sister's abbreviated name. "Ah wanna word with you. Get down 'ere. Now!"
Not knowing what to do under this onslaught, he nodded and a short time later opened the door of the shop. Nora marched in with her sister following, directing a coy smile at George.
"What does tha mean by dragging my sister in this place and cuttin' off all her hair. Ah'll 'ave the law on you, you see if Ah don't. Well?"
"George dinna drag me in our Nora. Ah asked him to cut it," she tried to explain for the umpteenth time. "Tis what Ah wanted."
"George is it? Well Master George," she said, treating him like a boy although he was probably older than she, "Ah'm not 'appy, Ah'm not 'appy at all. This is a right t'do and no mistake."
"Well, tis done now," he stated emphatically. "What do thy say Ah makes us all a nice pot of tea and we can talk proper like."
Not used to being addressed this way, but starting to fall under the charm of George, Nora pursed her lips and nodded. As he busied himself upstairs, Nora occupied herself by walking around the previously closed doors, handling the various cutting implements and even sitting in the barber's chair occupied earlier that day by her sister. Roberta kept quiet, but noticed the frequent glances from her sister towards her new hairstyle - now that she had had a chance to calm down, her expression had changed more from disapproval to one of interest.
"Tha looks right comfy there Miss," said George as he returned, carrying a tray laid out with the tea things, including some nice looking biscuits laid out on a plate. Nora sat up with an undisguised "Hmmph!" but then nodded approvingly at the young man's attention to culinary detail.
George placed the tea things on the counter before Nora, and pulled up two of the less rickety chairs for himself and Roberta. They sipped their tea, and Nora forced them to revisit the situation. But it became increasingly clear that Nora was mellowing.
"Aye, well it does look very smart Ah s'pose. And Ah'll save loads of time not 'aving ter put oop all thy hair every morning. And practical too - nay chance of it falling down into machinery at t'mill."
There was a pause after what appeared to be the resolution of the situation. As Nora drained her second cuppa and appeared to be making ready to leave her sister ventured softly, "Why don't you 'ave bob too our Nora?"
"What? Me? Nay, Ah couldn't -" Nora replied, clearly shocked but apparently not upset by the suggestion.
Roberta jumped up and stood behind the barber's chair, yanked off her sister's hat and proceeded to dismantle her hair. Nora was speechless - it was unusual for her to be out of control in any situation. George just looked on with a wry smile upon his face. Roberta began to play with her sister's hair, pulling it forward at chin level and curling it under to emulate her own new style. "Aye, yer'll look right smart with bob, our Nora. Right champion yer'll look."
"Aye, ah can see what thy mean, but ah really don't know -" stuttered Nora.
"Thy'll look right smashin' our Nora. George, please would yer bob our Nora' s hair too."
George got up smiling, and then he nodded. "Aye, if that's what she wants," he stated, and Roberta watched as he once more gathered together the necessary cutting implements.
Roberta was almost as surprised by the turn of events as Nora and George. But a strange feeling had come over her as she saw her sister perched on the barber's chair that she had sat in earlier. The butterflies she had experienced earlier at the thought of her own haircut, had returned as she imagined her sister's long hair being cut short. There was an undefinable strong urge within her to watch it happen.
"Aye that's what she wants. Thy wants to look right smart eh our Nora?" she asked enthusiastically.
Loss for words again, she merely gave a small nod. Nora felt that things were getting - most unusually for her - out of her control, but strangely enough she was willing to let it happen....just this once.
Perhaps as eager to see Nora cropped as her sister George dispensed with the need for the cape and, with scissors in one hand, quickly gathered up the hair that streamed down the back of the chair and held it firmly in a ponytail at the back of her head.
Unused to her hair being handled in this way by a man, Nora stared straight ahead into the mirror and let out a mild exclamation of "Oh ma goodness!"
There was a loud crunch as the large scissors bit efficiently and effectively into the tightly drawn mass of hair. The severed lengths began to swing forward on to her cheekbones and around her neck. "Oh my goodness, that tickles," she stated with a distinct lightness to her tone.
Roberta couldn't fathom her own feelings as she watched the scissors gnaw through her sister's thick hair. She could barely contain her excitement.
With a final flourish, George severed the ponytail and handed nearly three feet of thick and surprisingly heavy hair to Nora. She didn't know whether to look at that or the roughly cut bob that stopped abruptly at her chin.
Her choice was reduced as George threw a cape over Nora and silently began to carefully fashion a slightly longer bob than he had given her sister. It fell sharply on to her cheeks, just like Roberta's favourite actress, Louise Brookes. Nora was now silent, without even an 'oh ma goodness' coming from her lips.
As the style took shape, Roberta was delighted to note that the line of the bob at the back was cut above the hairline. Not as high as hers perhaps, but still exposing a significant proportion of her sister's nape. Well it would, once the hair still remaining there was removed.
Roberta became excited as George exchanged the scissors for the hand operated hairclippers. She couldn't resist saying, "George is now going to clipper your nape short like mine our Nora. Keep very still!"
Already still, she appeared to become even more rigid at this warning. He eased her head slowly forward and as the cold clippers touched her nape she was unable to suppress a low "Oh ... oh MA goodness gracious."
Roberta watched, fascinated, as the clippers nibbled into the short lengths of hair remaining on her sister's nape and watching it transformed into a velvet pelt like her own.
George took a small brush and flicked it over Nora's neck and cheeks to remove the small snippets that had attached themselves to her, and then he pulled away the cape.
"There Nora, tha's all done and yer look as smashin' as thy sister if yer don't mind mah saying so," George almost cooed.
Ignoring the unseemly familiarity of using her first name on such short acquaintance, Nora gazed for a long, long moment at her reflection in the mirror. A younger looking, fashionable woman gazed back at her. Finally she replied "Why, thank 'ee George, it IS smashin' innit. It's right champion is that." And a broad grin swept across her face.
"Aye, 'tis that," Roberta added, still glowing from her good fortune at watching this transformation.
"Well, we need to be a goin' now George. Ah have to say you're a very nice young man, isn't he our Bob?"
"Aye, he is that," Roberta replied, acknowledging the wink from George. A wink lost to Nora as she wondered what to do with her hat, remembering what happened with Roberta earlier. She was also a bit puzzled by the loss of some of its ornamentation which looked like it had been munched off by a horse.
"P'raps you'd take tea with us on Sunday George. I think our Bob would like that, wouldn't you?"
"Aye I would that," added Roberta.
"Aye, thank 'ee, that'd be champion," confirmed George.
As they walked back down Inkerman Road, Nora said, "I wonder what our mam's gonna say about all this our Bob."
"Well 'tis not much she can say now our Nora. 'Tis all gone. We need to sort you out with a new outfit to go with thy new haircut when we get back t'house."
She nodded as she took in her sister's clothes with a revised admiration. "Aye, but all this is not t'family way our Bob,"
"Mebbe, but 'tis tha NEW family way our Nora," Roberta stated, rather mischievously, and was surprised to see Nora smile in agreement.
The kitchen light shone a warm yellow glow, and through the gap in the net curtain they could see their Mam busying herself at the stove, her long greying hair caught up in its usual bun with wispy bits hanging down all over.
"She needs a bob too!" whispered Bob, and both girls giggled. Ready for the onslaught, for the howls of grief at the fate of their feminine hair, Roberta and Nora locked arms and, as one, marched into the house.
To Be Continued
© Copyright 2001 Sabrina S and Sean O'Hare.
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