The Family Way - Part 3
Mam Meets George
Sabrina S. and Sean O'Hare
"Hmph, I dare say you must be Master George, t'barber what chopped off mah daughter's lovely flowing locks," said Hilda Weaverthorpe, characteristically sweeping back the greying wisps of hair not secured in her bun.
"Aye Mrs Weaverthorpe, Ah'm George," he replied, smiling tentatively as he thrust a bunch of daffodils towards here. He stood to attention in his slightly too tight Sunday-best suit, flat cap clutched in his hand, awaiting Mrs Weaverthorpe's reaction.
"Why thank you George, they're right lovely. You better come in for thy tea. Roberta's waiting for you, and our Nora too of course," she said, gracing him with a little smile.
Phew, thought George, at least I didn't get the door slammed in my face as he walked down the hall into the parlour.
In fact Mrs Weaverthorpe's reaction to her daughters' recent cropping had been surprisingly restrained after her initial outburst. "Oh mah goodness, what have you lasses been up to. Thy hair! It's all gone!"
"Aye Mam, we've had t'bob!" they said together. "Doesta like it? It feels so comfortable and is right practical too.," added Roberta, but she felt the explanation that it was also fashionable would fall on stony ground.
"So Ah see. Ah don't know, you lasses today. Willing to sacrifice thy lovely hair just for fashion. Still, I dare say it is practical," she agreed, inspecting both haircuts carefully. "When I were a lass the only time a woman would find an acceptable excuse for cutting her hair off was to sell for wigmakers to help t'family budget. I remembers -" she started to say a little dreamily, and then mysteriously stopped herself abruptly. "So thy cut each others hair did you?"
"No we went t'barbers," blurted out Roberta, perhaps a little unwisely. Seeing her mother's shocked face she added quickly, "he's a really nice man. George he's called. Our Nora's asked him for tea on Sunday. It will be OK won't it?" Roberta asked eagerly.
"Aye Mam, he is very nice," Nora confirmed. "Taken quite a shine to our Roberta Ah thinks." Roberta blushed fetchingly.
"Ah see. Well I dare say he has taken a fancy if he's been meddling with tha lass's hair ... and her nape. You lasses should realise just how provocative the nape can be," she said curiously. Curious in that the daughters had never considered that before today, but a realisation was now dawning. "Well being a barber is a good trade. There'll always be a demand for barbers, especially if young lasses like you are going to start frequenting them. Very well, he may come for his tea," she agreed, once more closely inspecting her daughters' hair as she brushed away the wisps of her own around her face. Smiling, she added somewhat surprisingly, "Ah has to say though, you do look right champion."
And that had been that. The upset they had expected to last for weeks just didn't happen. So, as George entered the parlour followed by their mother, they smiled warmly from each side of the fireplace. Each was wearing their new chemise dresses, and their bobbed hair shone glossily in the firelight. They all exchanged greetings.
Delicate sandwiches and a selection of cakes were laid out on the table. Roberta had been preparing the meal all weekend. Her mother poured them all tea, before anyone spoke further.
"So Master George are you in t'habit of cutting off young lasses beautiful, long hair?" she enquired.
Spluttering over his tea, he was surprised that the conversation started with such a direct question, particularly as it related to such a personal woman's subject, and not usually the sort of thing to be discussed with a man over tea in the parlour. But he realised he had brought it upon himself.
"Well, not a habit Mrs Weaverthorpe. I'm a skilled gentlemen's barber. But they has no where else to go in Glumsby to get t'bob. Ah dinna like doing it at first, and that's a fact," said George, with a touch of sadness.
"But thy does now?" asked Mrs Weaverthorpe.
"Ah have the skill and, if that's what the lasses want then Ah'm happy to provide the service. Two of Roberta's friends from t'mill have already had t'bob too. One had hair down to her knees didn't she Bob - er, Roberta," feeling uncomfortable at using her diminutive name in front of her mother.
"Aye, it was right -", exciting she was going to add, but realised it might take some explaining as to why she accompanied her friends to the barber and stayed to watch. She hardly understood herself.
"But you don't want to talk all about that do you Mam," interrupted Nora, to save her sister from the need for further explanation.
"On the contrary - I find it all rather intriguing," she murmured mysteriously. "But it is important for me to know this young man's prospects," she added a little pompously, "if he has an interest in our Roberta."
"Mam!" hissed Roberta, blushing furiously. "We've only known each other a few days."
"So do you bob older women's hair too, George?" Mrs Weaverthorpe asked, dropping the 'Master' for the first time.
"Nay, Ah never have and that's fact. Ah dinna expect that to happen!" he laughed as if the idea was preposterous. "Tis a young lasses thing - the fashion tha knows!"
"Well tha's wrong there George. You're giving me t'bob too, and raht now!" she demanded, impatiently brushing the long wisps back from her face.
George spluttered over his second cup of tea. Her daughters blurted out together, "Mam?"
Recovering, George ventured, "you're not serious are you Mrs Weaverthorpe?"
"Aye, ah am that lad," she replied, smiling broadly.
"Well Ah suggest you think about it and if your mind's made up then come to the shop tomorrow morning. I'm never busy Monday mornings as a rule. Besides I haven't my equipment with me."
"Nonsense, tomorrow's washing day - I'll not have the time to walk all the ways up to tha shop. Roberta, go and fetch my brush and comb ... and my dressmaking shears."
"Mam!" the girls repeated, clearly appalled at the prospect of their mother giving up all her hair. Hair that she had always had. Hair that they knew her by. "But why Mam?" asked Nora.
"Well, it's just that Ah've always -" she said smiling, then stopped abruptly. "Oh, it's all these wispy bits they gets on mah nerves. Summat like t'bob will be much more practical. If tis raht for mah lasses tis raht for me," she said with a note of exasperation in her voice, although this wasn't reflected on her face.
"Do as I ask Roberta - get mah shears - come on, chop-chop," she ordered, laughing at her little joke, and even George joined in, if a little nervously.
She spread newspaper on the floor in front of the fire and placed a high backed chair upon it. She sat down and began to unravel her bun with a barely concealed excitement clearly showing on her face. Roberta returned with the requested items, handing the shears reluctantly to George while brushing out her mother's long hair which streamed down the back of the chair. For the last time. She continued much longer than necessary. None of them spoke.
"Well Bob, if thy Mam's mind is made up I better get on with it," said George. He took the hairbrush and tossed it aside. The ornamental hairbrush that the sisters had often used to brush their mother's hair as they grew up, and which she said she always enjoyed. Something they wouldn't be able to do again.
"Bob! Well that's appropriate for my bobbed lass isn't it," she said giggling.
Roberta stepped back and took Nora's hand. Both looked sad as they watched George place the blades of the shears level with the bottom of their mother's ears. The blades glowed in the reflection of the light from the fire.
"Is tha sure, Mrs Weaverthorpe/" asked George.
"Aye," she said simply.
The large, sharp scissors closed and half her hair slid languorously over her shoulder and down her back to coil in a thick rope on the floor. Without a pause, he moved the shears to surround the remaining hair and closed them and the rest slid down to the floor. The size of the scissors ensured that the bob was perfectly straight, balanced and fell almost perfectly.
"Aye, that feels much lighter. Much more practical. Tha's doing a grand job George," she said, as she shook her head to feel her now short hair brush her cheeks.
Roberta's grip tightened on her sister's hand. This was her mother, but those increasingly familiar feelings she experienced as she watched hair being cut were surfacing once more.
George made some fine adjustments to the length, and graduated the under layers to ensure it curled under neatly. He moved to the back with the large shears and thick comb and attempted to work with them to reduce the length of the hair at the nape and shape the hairline.
"Well there we are Mrs Weaverthorpe, that's the best I can do for now. Ah'd like to shorten it at the back like your daughters but Ah can't do it with these. Pop in the shop where I have me proper equipment and Ah'll happily finish it off for thee" said George.
She reached up a hand to her nape - a look of amazement flitted across her face. She could easily hold the hair that remained there, unlike the closely clippered napes of her daughters. "Nay, that's no good George. It feels all messy - wispy like, and I asked you to get rid of them wisps. And I already told you ah've no time to get down t'shop. Nora go fetch your father's - God bless 'im - his old shaving kit."
"Mam!" exclaimed Nora once more, but went upstairs to retrieve the kit of their deceased Father which still was on the bathroom shelf.
On her return, Mrs Weaverthorpe opened it, selected the cut-throat razor and handed it to George. "But - but - all I can do with this is shave your neck," he complained, testing the blade with his finger and realising it had remained exceedingly sharp.
"Aye just the bits showing. Make it raht neat that will." She bent her head forward and waited expectantly.
He had no real choice and gently placed the blade of the razor immediately below the line of the bob and he skilfully skimmed it down her neck, shaving the hair to the skin in one go. The bare white skin began to glow pink. Another pass, and another collection of fine clippings fell to her shoulders. This, George knew how to do well, but he had never shaved a woman's nape in this way. He picked up a serviette and dusted the snippets away, while saying, "well I does hope that's to tha liking."
She reached back and felt, "Aye well that's as smooth as the pebbles on Scarborough beach and that's a fact our George." And shining as brightly, thought Roberta.
The daughters looked at each other in amazement. What would their neighbors and friends say at their Mother having her hair bobbed and neck shaved.
Mrs Weaverthorpe jumped up and looked in the mirror over the fireplace, looking from side to side and trying to observe the back. "Well that's raht champion our George. You've got a good man here our Roberta and no mistake. Useful too. George, another cup of tea?"
* * *
Later that night, after both her daughters had retired to their bedrooms, Mrs Weaverthorpe stood at the window and looked out over the grim grey roofs of Glumsby. It had been a long time. A VERY long time. She'd been barely a lass, maybe sixteen, and had run away from her strict family and their old-fashioned ways. A daring girl, she'd gone to Leeds and tried to make her own way rather than be married off to that horrible young man Nigel that her father had picked for her.
Life had been difficult. She'd been on the streets at first, living rough until she found a cheap boarding house that was respectable enough for a single Victorian miss trying to get a job at t'mills.
It took a month for her to get a job. A month with little food, with racking pangs of hunger and frozen nights without the luxury of a fire. She sold all her precious possessions one by one to keep herself alive until she was down to her last.
Her long, shiny, wavy brown hair.
The wigmakers salivated at the sight of it. She walked into their dingy little shop and they pounced on her immediately, offering her far too little for her prize locks. Mrs Weaverthorpe - plain Hilda Sharpe as was - stood her ground until a fair price had been agreed on for the loss of her femininity.
It had been quick and ruthless. The wigmakers sat her down, unpinned the thick tresses, and sank the shears into them, right up to her hairline. She felt her neck go cold as the shiny blades cut her hair off in great clumps. Around her head they went with evil shrieking sounds, lopping away. Hilda wasn't sure which was falling harder, her hair or her tears.
But then there was another feeling, slowly overtaking the tears. A fear and loathing mixed with interest and the rarity of sexual awakening. Hilda reached up to her naked neck and gasped at the feeling of the short bristly hairs at her nape, and the thick, blunt, freshly-cut ends.
"Tidy it up for you," said the wigmaker, and began clipping her neck with a pair of little clippers, shaving it to the skin up under her hairline. She felt the blades against her and didn't know whether to feel terrified or ashamed of the flood of heat that suffused her whole body.
She walked out of the wigmakers a shorn and shaken woman. How could cutting her hair unleash these wicked, undoubtedly evil feelings? Was that why women wore their hair long and never cut it? Hilda Sharpe was a good girl. She was going to find a nice young lad, get married and bring up a family. And she must never cut her hair again. It just couldn't be the family way.
Hilda Weaverthorpe stood at the window, the grey roofs replaced with the fusty wigmaker's shop and its old fashioned lamps and candles. She never HAD cut her hair again - until now.
To Be Continued
© Copyright 2001 Sabrina S and Sean O'Hare. Comments welcome firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com