The Family Way Part 4
Sabrina S and Sean O’Hare
"Bah gum, this’ll be the smartest wedding Glumsby’s ever seen!" exclaimed George, looking at the lists of things Roberta had scrawled that had to be done before she and George walked down at the aisle at the ancient, stone village church.
"Aye, that it will," agreed Roberta. "What does tha think of these invitations, George? Engraved, they’ll be, and right pretty too."
George slowly read the invitations. He wasn’t a great reader, but he could cut hair beautifully. He noticed down the bottom of the invitation, Roberta had stated a dress code: Evening dress. All ladies to wear short, modish hair.
"Can tha really say that on an invitation?" wondered George.
"Oh, aye," Roberta said. "It’s MAH invitation to MAH wedding, and Ah want it to be right fashionable. Ah want to walk down that aisle and be surrounded by women wi’ bobbed hair. Or even an Eton crop. Which reminds me, George luv. Mah hair for the wedding. Bob or Eton crop, doesta think?"
Roberta’s brown hair was cut in a very short, angled bob with the nape clipped neatly to a mere 1/8 of an inch. It was a style that had set the old fashioned and staid women of Glumsby back on their heels when Roberta – or Bob as she was more commonly known now – first had it cut by George the local barber six months before. Now more and more of Glumsby’s young women were having their heads shorn in similar fashion, and George was doing a roaring trade. All you had to do was look around the mill and see the neatly pruned heads bent over their work to see evidence of George’s nimble scissor fingers. Indeed so successful had he been that he had brought in assistance in the shape of a young couple from London. It was planned they would operate his existing shop while, after the wedding and honeymoon, George and Bob would be moving to Harrogate to set up a larger and more fashionable shop to attend to the wealthy wives and their daughters of the town.
George regarded his fiancee. She had a pretty face that could easily carry the most severe of styles. "Ah doubt anyone else at our weddin’ will have an Eton crop, Bob. That’s a might too fashionable for these people. Tha’d stand right out in the crowd with an Eton crop."
Bob thought briefly that, as bride, she’d better stand right out in the crowd anyway! The head dress she’d selected was from a London catalogue, a fancy little twist of glittery paste with an art deco diamond shape in the middle. It was designed for a fashionable head, and nothing short of a bob or Eton crop would do it justice. The wedding gown, too, was sleekly chic, copied by the local dressmaker from a copy of Vogue, a simple, straight chemise with beautiful beading on the sleeves and down one side. It needed an appropriately simple, chic haircut to complement it.
The thought of getting her sleek bob clipped even shorter sent a shiver through her. "Oh George," she cried, "An Eton crop! Definitely! And do it just before t’wedding, too, so Mam doesn’t have a fit."
Her Mam wore her hair bobbed now too, but had been heard to loudly proclaim that Eton crops were unfeminine and boyish, and her daughters had better not even consider them. Which, of course, made Bob all the more determined to have her hair cropped sooner or later.
* * *
The beautifully engraved invitations landed in letterboxes all around Glumsby and as far afield as Leeds, Huddersfield and Scarborough to reach far-flung members of both Bob and George’s families.
"Good ‘eavens!" exclaimed Kate, George’s elder sister. "Ah doan’ know that we’ll go to George’s wedding, pet, Ah’ve gorra have all me hair cut off!"
Her husband, John, snorted. "Aye, ‘tis only a haircut! And tha keeps buying they posh clothes an’ grumblin’ thy hair doesna look any good wi’ ‘em. Come here, lass, and I’ll lop it off for tha!" John picked up Kate’s big dressmaking scissors, for she was a dressmaker by trade.
Kate screamed and giggled, and John chased her around the room, laughing loudly. Finally he caught her, and they tumbled onto the lush bolts of fabric that were piled on the floor.
"Now then lass," he grinned, "How abaht it?" Wickedly he snapped the scissors open and closed.
"Oh, tha wouldn’t!" Kate retorted, thinking John was joking.
"Oh, Ah would," he confirmed, pulling the hairpins out of her unruly brown hair and letting it tumble free.
The next thing Kate knew John had her perched on the kitchen chair and was carefully cutting her hair off. Snip! She felt the scissors close just under her earlobe, and about an acre of hair hit the scratched old linoleum. John travelled around her head, crunching the scissors into her hair. It bounced up in a riot of short curly bob where the length and weight had been cut away.
"Tha’s looking right pretty," John told her, snipping away at the back of her neck. He’d always admired his wife’s slender white neck. Luckily most of the time she wore her hair up so he could view it. Now, with her hair cut short – so wonderfully short, all the way up to the hairline – her neck would be on show all the time.
Kate shuddered as she felt the scissors on her skin. "Thy scissors are right cold!" she exclaimed with a giggle. "Eee, our John, Ah can’t believe Ah’m letting you cut off my hair like this."
John ran a rough, work-toughened finger down her naked neck. "Oh, nor can Ah, lass." He cut the rest of her hair quickly and neatly, then lay her down on the discarded tresses and began kissing her in a way he hadn’t kissed her since they’d been wed five years before. "Nor can Ah."
Kate gasped for breath, enjoying John’s fingers tugging through her newly short hair. "But Ah’m right glad Ah did."
* * *
"So do you still think this was a good idea, Seamus? I mean, do you think we can really make our fortune here," Serena asked in her southern cut glass voice, which had resulted in her nickname amongst the local people of 'Queen Serena'. "Moving away from Monsieur Michel's in London for this," she added, waving her hand expansively around George's barbershop where they had just taken up residence.
"We'll do alroight. It's the luck of Oirish in me, to be sure," Seamus replied in a parody of his Dublin accent, long since lost since he moved to London many years ago. "You know what Mr Utterthwaite told us. He's been doing a roaring trade."
"I know, but look at the place. It's so, well, dowdy."
"Well it is a barbershop. But we can spruce it up a bit and make it more of a salon. We can even put net curtains up at the windows," he added proudly.
"Well, that will certainly be an improvement. Push us up market a bit ... so we can push up the prices too," she nodded in agreement.
"It'll take time though. We've only been here a few days and the whole town is too preoccupied with the Utterthwaite and Weaverthorpe wedding to be bothered with haircuts," Seamus stated as he unlocked the door of the shop.
"That's true. We can't expect ..." Serena began to say, but was interrupted by a procession of smartly dressed women, some with daughters, entering the shop and sitting themselves on the line of chairs along the back wall.
It was Friday, the day before the wedding. The higher class woman of the town who were attending the wedding had already been visited by George in their homes to have their hair attended to in the manner dictated by Bob. And most had not been out of their houses since. The lesser gentry of the town, proud to have been invited to the wedding with wild horses standing no chance of keeping them away, had put off the fateful moment to the last possible moment. And this day was it as, on the following day Serena and Seamus would be giving all their attention to the bridesmaids.
So there they all sat, and others were still entering. Everyone had the same idea of getting to the shop at the start of the day so they could get it over with and not to have hang around worrying all day. But some would be waiting for quite a while as it was already standing room only. Although there were still two chairs free. The barber chairs.
Serena and Seamus looked at each other and smiled. Serena clasped her hands together in front of her in a way reminiscent of Scrooge's enthusiasm at making a tidy profit for the day. "Good morning ladies," said Serena grandly, " and who will be the first of you to come forward and allow us to perform tonsorial delights upon you?"
The tension surrounding the women was broken slightly at this announcement, with subdued titters and at least one mumbled "Aye, Queen Serena." But their nervous returned as Seamus translated. "Who's having their hair cut first?"
A large woman stood up and pushed forward a teenage girl. "Aye, mah lass'll be t'one to have t'bob first."
"Eh?" said Serena, looking at Seamus for an interpretation of what she had just heard but not understood.
"This young lady will be the first to be having her hair bobbed," he said. "Rather a shame really, it looks in lovely condition."
Indeed it did. Thick and shiny, and firmly held by red ribbons in two incredibly long braids. She was holding on to them tight as if reluctant to let them go. "Mam! No! I doesna even want t'go t'wedding," she bawled.
Serena's eyes lit up as she took in the braids. In the back of her mind, she knew this was one of the reasons she had agreed to move north. Virgin territory. Masses of long hair still awaiting the attention of her scissors. She had delighted in the initial period of frenzied cutting when Coco Chanel had led the way but, by now, most heads of hair that were candidates to be cut in London had already been cut. Her work then became trimming bobs together with the attendant clippering of napes which, nice as it was, didn't quite bring her the same thrill as those initial heady days. That was about to change.
"Come along young lady. Take a seat please," she said, putting an arm around her and swiftly guiding her to sit down and throwing a cape over her while pumping up the chair. She looked rather vulnerable. The mother looked like she might relent, until she too was led by Seamus, to the adjacent chair. This is how it should be he was thinking - the family way.
With a flourish Serena trawled the two thick braids from under the confines of the cape where she had imprisoned them and they dangled like anchor ropes down the back of the chair, the ribbons at the end almost skimming the floor. And, with similar style, she produced a large pair of scissors from the deep pocket of her apron and with an undisguised smile on her face proceeded to saw through one of the braids without a moment’s hesitation.
The gasp of horror from the girl was drowned by the collective outpourings of grief from the women lining the back wall of the shop. "There, that's one," Serena proudly announced tossing the three feet of immaculate beribboned hair into the nearby waste bin. "And there's the other," she said, repeating the exercise.
Without a pause she combed down what remained of the hair into a sad looking bob, which matched the girl's sad face. There was more than one person snuffling into their lace handkerchief behind her. But then, with smaller scissors, her fingers began to nimbly trim, then graduate, the ends until a shiny cap of hair began to form. The fine bone structure of the young girl's face began to be exposed and she started to realise just how flattering this style was to her. Out came the handclippers and Serena began to nibble at the hairline of the nape and three perfect points were revealed, peeping out from under the sharp line of the bob.
When finished, Serena held up a mirror briefly so the girl could see the back of her head. And again there was a loud gasp from her, but this time of pure pleasure. She felt she had matured from a girl to a young women in the space of the few minutes she had sat in the chair, all thoughts of her long pigtails already fading. "Ta, Miss," she said simply as the cape was removed and she returned to the crowd at the back of the shop who all took in the fine lines of the cut and began imagining the same treatment being applied to their own locks. "Next, please!"
While this was happening, the girl's mother was being prepared for similar treatment in the other chair. It wasn't quite so straightforward for Seamus as, under an elaborate hat, was an equally elaborate concoction of hair for which the description 'a bun' was far from adequate. He appeared to have removed a pound of grips and clips already and still the hair remained fully upright. He was very tempted to hack it all off with scissors or even his handclippers - he suspected that his wife would be more than tempted - but he was fearful that the remnants of such action could not be fashioned into the required bob.
Eventually the long hair came loose from its imprisonment as he removed the very last grip and it hit the floor with a loud thwack! It was certainly much longer than her daughter’s and probably thicker too. The waves flowed down the back of the chair like a glistening waterfall. The murmurings, even excitement, at the back of the shop became subdued once more as they feasted their eyes on something that probably only the woman's husband had seen before. And, very shortly, would never have the opportunity to see again.
He still wasn't sure of his feelings regarding the cutting of women's hair but as, Serena said frequently, 'business is business'. So, with a totally professional air he gathered the flowing hair in a ponytail and with visible effort, and audible crunches, he began to saw through the mass of rippling locks.
It came free and he briefly held it up high so the woman could marvel for one last time at its lustrousness before he tossed it into the bin where it lay upon her daughter's braids. The expression of the hard-faced northern woman began to crack slightly - again something the women of Glumsby had never seen. And then, with practiced ease the shape of an identical bob to that of her daughter began to appear under the scissors, guided by Seamus's skilful hands. Her expression softened.
Then, quite without warning, he combed her hair so it covered her face and with a few precise snips cut a perfectly straight fringe well above her eyebrows leaving her face exposed to the world. Six inch lengths of hair slid down her face and onto the cape, before hitting the floor. As she was coming to terms with this she felt the cool metal of the clippers on her nape as the hair was nibbled away.
A glowing smile appeared on her face as the mirror was held up. After a slight pause, she said, "Aye 'tis raht champion is that, Mr Seamus. Thank you." It was unheard of for her to be quite so demonstrative!
As he stood there to collect payment for the first work of the day, Seamus glanced over to his wife who was firmly engrossed in her next haircut. Predictably the huge bun sitting firmly at the back of her next client's head was now looking decidedly less firm as Serena stabbed her scissors into it and it began to separate from its owner. Never one to waste time is my Serena, he thought proudly.
By the end of the day and when the last client had left they flopped exhausted into their respective chairs. They had worked without pause all day - long past normal closing time - as a steady trickle of women flowed in to the shop. Not all were even attending the wedding - they had seen the haircuts of those who were and, if they hadn't already been cropped by George, they now wanted to receive a bob from Queenie or her husband.
Serena was counting up the pile of money they had taken that day, a tidy packet even without having raised their prices - although, with reputations already established, that would now happen on Monday when the net curtains were ordered. However the pile of money paled into insignificance with the piles of cut hair overflowing from the large bin used to collect. Hair of significant length and of every hue. And, naturally Serena's business mind kicked in to gear and she began to wonder if there was still a market for wigs ... for women who don't like their shiny new bobs.
* * *
At the same time as Serena and Seamus were shutting up shop, George was with Roberta were in her room. It was the night before the wedding and he really shouldn't have been there. But he had an important task to perform. Bob needed a trim before the wedding, her mother agreed and hence he was there with her approval.
It was a surprisingly warm evening and the windows were open. Bob was seated by the window, a towel around her shoulders, and stared dreamily at the sky.
George stood behind her, holding his silver hand-operated hairclippers in one hand and a comb in the other. He leant forward and placed a warm loving kiss on his beloved's cheek. She turned and stared into his eyes and, lightly caressing his face with one hand, placed an equally loving kiss on his cheek. No words were spoken. None were needed.
They held each other's longing gaze for what seemed forever and then slowly she reverted to gazing at the sky while George straightened and began to run his comb through the perfect angled bob of his creation. A quiet moan escaped from Roberta's lips as she moistened them in anticipation.
He delicately placed the clippers on the already short hair at the nape and, with practiced fingers, began to delicately nibble away at the little hair that grew there and fine snippets of brown hair showered over the towel. But the clippers did not stop there. They began to edge into the perfectly shaped bob of glossy hair and longer lengths began to fall.
The slow progression of the clippers continued up the back of her head, and Roberta could feel the warm air caressing her nape. They didn't stop until they reached the outermost extremity of the occipital bone. She knew they had gone high, very high. And she knew they had cut the hair very short. Very short indeed.
George slowly ran his palm down the back of her head and she could sense the contrast between the relatively long hair of the bob and the near shaved neck. And she knew there was more to come. "Ohhhh," she murmured, "Ohhhhhhh George ...."
The clippers repeated their action once more, equally slowly and equally sensuously. With love. She felt the hair fall away. As he moved to one side, she began to see the hair drop.
As her shearing continued, Roberta's thoughts drifted - at least in part - to their forthcoming honeymoon. They couldn't spend too long away as they had the new salon to get up and running in Harrogate. But they had secured a few days in a cottage overlooking the sea near Scarborough. The photograph she had seen made it look idyllic and she imagined herself on the balcony during the nights to come with George once again trimming her hair. A pristine set of silver clippers were already packed in her going away bag - a wedding present to George ... and also to herself of course. In the nights to come she would be experiencing the emotions she was feeling now and knowing that she would be able to release those emotions with her dearest love being the willing and fortunate recipient.
Roberta sensed that all vestiges of the bob that she had made famous in Glumsby were now gone. The back and the sides of her head had now been shorn, nearly to the bone of her perfectly shaped head. George set down the silver clippers and drew his comb straight back from a point on her forehead - she could feel the sharpness of the comb as he fashioned a perfect parting to one side of her head. He combed down the hair on one side of the parting and combed back the hair on the other side where it rested sleekly against her skull. Then with scissors and comb he fashioned the longer lengths of the top into a sharply demarcated line around Roberta's head. He graduated the longer layers so they perfectly caressed the curves of Roberta's head, but without losing the strong line of the cut.
He eased Roberta's head forward slightly and then took his freshly sharpened straight razor and, with unbelievably delicate touch, slowly scraped away the minute bristles at the hairline with a delicateness of touch that almost defied belief. But this was his one true love and she deserved only the very best.
He worked the razor higher up her neck so that the clippered hair faded almost imperceptibly into the alabaster whiteness of her nape. The hairline around the ears then received similar attention.
Roberta was fully aware of all this but, at the same time, was drifting in and out of another world of unbelievable sensuality. A world she was being primed for. A world she would fully experience one day hence.
The razor laid aside, George combed the hair delicately this way and then that. And, whatever he did, it fell perfectly back in to place. After a few minor adjustments he held up a mirror so, for the first time, Roberta could see her new look.
On seeing herself she couldn't believe just how much more beautiful she looked, even in comparison with the bob that had brought her whole face (and, indeed, her whole self) alive. She removed the towel and walked slowly to the dressing table mirror to get a better idea of how she looked. When George also held up the mirror behind her and she took in the almost bare back of her head and the completely bare nape, she gasped loudly and stared for a long time.
She then turned around, took the mirror from him and slowly and languorously enveloped him in her arms. Their lips briefly touched. "Thank you George, my love. Thank you so much," she breathed, and then their lips touched for significantly longer. The day had drawn to a close and now a full moon shone brightly in the sky. As they embraced, the silvery light of the moon reflected on Roberta's white nape.
* * *
Bob managed to hide her severe but perfect Eton crop from her Mam the next morning by wearing a scarf around her head until her sister Nora helped her into the silky wedding dress.
Its London lines falling and draping gently over her body, Roberta in her dress suddenly didn’t belong to Glumsby any more. Especially when she removed the scarf and Nora almost screamed at the sight of her shorn scalp.
"Oh, our Bob! What HASTA done? And on your wedding day, lass!"
"’Tis an Eton Crop our Nora. Why look, all they fine ladies in t’Tatler wear one." Bob thrust the Tatler under Nora’s nose and adjusted her sleek cap of hair in the mirror. It wasn’t much different to George’s own severe cut. Bob grinned. What if she’d been born a boy? Then she could have her head shorn just so, at very regular intervals, without anyone gasping. But then, she thought, she wouldn’t be wearing this beautiful dress and marrying the wonderful George Utterthwaite. She fixed the headdress on her chic skull and wandered downstairs.
Mam was curling under the ends of her grey bob in the hall mirror when she caught sight of her youngest daughter, looking like an angel in those shoes…that dress…but WHAT!? Her hair! Mam grabbed the nearest doorjamb and examined her daughter’s clipped head.
"Why, our Bob! What on earth possessed tha?!" she gasped.
"Ah wanted to be different," Bob stated. "Ah’ll have the shortest hair off all but ma George, I’m thinkin’, and that’s fine by me!" She patted her hair, loving the feeling of the bristly nape, and the way the carefully shaved hairline made her neck as long as a swan’s.
Proudly she and Nora walked the block to the church. Bob’s cropped head was held high, and she was aware of gasps as she walked down the aisle to meet her future husband.
"Why, lookit her hair!"
"What’s t’lass done to her head?"
"Where’s her hair gone, our Mammy?"
Serena and Seamus, in the back row, exchanged glances. My, my, if the Eton Crop were to take off in Glumsby, wouldn’t some hair hit the floor!
Bob smiled under the thin veil that didn’t cover much at all and showed every bit of her clipped hair through its sheer fabric.
And George thought he’d never seen such a beautiful sight in his life as the Eton cropped woman walking up the aisle to meet him.
To be continued
© Copyright 2001, Sabrina S and Sean O’Hare. Comments welcome email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org