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On Our Own by Sean O'Hare

1. The start of it all

"Thanks Dad. It looks, er well... fine. Thanks."

"Hmmm, Louise, not as good as your mum would do it, I'm afraid."

That's true. Since Mum went off a couple of weeks ago, he's been trying hard to look after us both and doing a great job with most things.

"No, it's fine, really." Except it wasn't really. Dad struggles with my hair. It seems to take him twice as long as mum to help me wash it, untangle it and then dry it. As for French-braiding it, it has to be said he's got much better but it still takes him at least two attempts and it never really lies close and neat to the head as when Mum does it. Although I can do basic braids and ponytails myself, my hair is so long and thick that it just won't stay out of the way unless it is braided close to the head. It's certainly the only style I can wear to school.

"Sorry that it's not neat and smooth - but at least it's reasonably tidy. And at least it isn't school today." And so I like to keep it loose, perhaps just held back at the front or with a hair band. But he wanted to practice once again. It does look and feel so great when it is loose that I wish I could wear it like that all the time but mum was always right - it just isn't practical.

"I think perhaps I'll just wear it loose today then." Dad nodded and I pulled out the rubber band and ran my fingers through the hair and it tumbled down in gentle, rippling waves. My hair was still damp when he began braiding - it's easier to handle that way - and it means that the hair comes out really wavy when I do undo the braid. It looks sensational... and I feel that shudder run through me as I had been experiencing increasingly over the last few months...

"Louise, do you think, er... well it might be a good idea if we arrange for someone to cut your hair. You know, perhaps cut it shorter."

What! That was a bolt from the blue. Both Mum and Dad have always insisted I should keep my hair long. Cut it? No way. Again that shudder coursed through me as I continued to comb out my hair... as I tried to imagine all my hair cut off. I continued to ease my fingers through my hair.

"I'd rather not thanks. I like it long."

"So do I Lou. But it takes so long to care for. Yes, I think we should seriously consider it." And then say no! "After all, you're at an age now where you should have a proper hairstyle. Yes, that will be much better for both of us. Do you know any hairdressers you can go to?" I shook my head. I had never even been to a salon - Mum always trimmed my hair.

"Well I'm getting mine trimmed today before we go shopping. I'll ask Phil, my barber, the best place for you to go. I'm sure he'll know."

Oh sure he will! This is crazy. Asking a barber's advice about cutting my long hair! Or anyone! I'm keeping it long. A proper hairstyle indeed.

"No, I don't think so, Dad."

"Nonsense Louise. Think of all the time we'll save in the morning. I can't think why your Mother didn't think of this before. That's typical of her. Anyway that's settled. We'll ask Phil for his suggestions - perhaps he'll even be able to help us with ideas for styles - and then we'll make an appointment for next weekend. That will give you a chance to get used to the idea. OK, let's go."

Get used to it? It's not going to happen. I vaguely follow Dad out of the house and although he's talking as we walk into town I'm not paying much attention. He's talking about anything apart from hair. But that's all I'm thinking of. I can feel the breeze lifting it as we walk and I can feel its comforting thickness bounce up and down on my bottom. Although I know people are looking at my hair as I walk along - they always do - I pay little attention. In the past old ladies often came up to me and say they used to have long hair like mine and I should never have it cut. I always want to ask why they cut theirs - why did they cut it off to have it replaced by a silly little permed mop of hair. Boys would say how much they liked it too... it gave them an opening to ask for a date! But not everyone liked it. A couple of times - women had come up to me and asked why I had to wear my hair so long. They said I should cut it off. It was quite frightening at the time. They seemed so angry for some reason. Were they jealous? Odd.

A gust of wind catches my hair and it whacks into my face as it so often does when it is loose. And that's OK. No problem. I like the sensation - the feel of long hair. I'm beginning to realise just how much. And now Dad is giving me a week to get used to the idea of having it all cut off. Well, I'm sure I'll be able to change his mind without too much trouble in a week. I'll practice braiding it myself.

I reach up and pull the hair from my eyes and hold it all in a loose ponytail on one side as we cross the road. It feels so good to my touch. No way was all this getting cut off. I lose myself in my thoughts... and the new, odd sensations I was experiencing relating my beautiful long hair.

"...Louise, I said at least you won't be bothered by all that hair after next week will you. You see, it really is a nuisance. Let's see what advice Phil can give us. Come on, I'm not holding the door open all day."

I come out of my daydream to see a red and white barber pole ahead of me and Dad holding open the door of the barbershop. I have passed this place many times and often felt a little shiver as I passed, especially as I caught a glimpse of hair being cut. It was worse than the ladies' salons further along the road as I sometimes viewed the electric hairclippers chew through the men's hair like on those army induction films they showed on TV. Yuch! But, even so... hmmmm...

It's still quite early but there are already a few people in there, sitting in a line of chairs down one wall. Several heads turn towards the door as do the two barbers, in their white smocks, as they stand poised over their clients.

"Come on Louise!"

"B... but I'm not going in there..." I felt really nervous for some reason.

"Look you'll have to wait for me before we go shopping. And I'm not letting you wander around town on your own. I won't be long." This feels strange. Very strange. I have never even been in a ladies' salon before, let alone a barbershop. I don't feel at all comfortable. Especially with all these men watching.

But I step inside. I notice the two barbers exchange words as they look at me - looking at my long hair perhaps - and they laugh. They nod towards Dad and then get on with their work.

I feel a little lost. Where do I wait? "Sit down there at the end and read something." There were two men and one boy waiting in the chairs, reading either newspapers or comics.

I pick up a magazine and begin to idly flick through it as I take in the surroundings. I look down and find I am looking at what appears to be a selection of men's hairstyles - all very masculine and very short. Something stirs a little within me - I don't understand it and it scares me a little. I stare a little longer at the pictures, but then I feel that little tingle start to grow within me and I shut it. And then drop it with a bang on the floor. All eyes turn towards me again.

"Behave yourself Louise!"

"Sorry." All I want is for Dad to get his hair cut, get the shopping done and get home so I can spend some time on my own to try to work out how I am going to change Dad's mind. After all it is MY hair!

The two men who had been waiting beside me were now in the chairs with the previous clients having left. The teenage boy had moved to the end of the row. I feel Dad nudging me so I move up as well, and he follows. No appointments here it seems - just a rather crude queuing system.

More people have come in. A rather good looking young guy sat the other side of Dad. Another guy follows but he has his wife or girlfriend with him - the only other woman in the shop. Presumably she will be waiting for him as she has gorgeous honey blonde curls beautifully styled around her face and halfway down her back. An image flickers through my mind - from where I don't know - of her sitting in one of the chairs and her curls bouncing on the floor. I look at her and she smiles. I smile back and am almost surprised to see her curls intact!

I decide to just sit still and wait, rather than try to read. I look through the window onto the street but there is little to see. I hear an odd buzzing sound - like a swarm of bees had come in through the door - and I look around feeling a little concerned. I was stung once when younger. But what I see is one of the barbers running what I recognised from TV and films as hairclippers up the neck of one his client. These hairclippers are really noisy and I jump a little. I see the barber notices my movement out of the corner of his eye and he appears to give a little wink. He looks OK. Late 20s, tall, nice looking. The other guy, in contrast, is around 45 - quite short and thick set, and stares through small round spectacles at the head in front of him. A typical-looking barber perhaps?

The younger barber with the clippers is moving them to his customer's neck. This man's hair appears already quite short. But I watch the clippers slide upwards. The hair is being shaved. I see a fine spray of clippings in the air. The dark hair is gone from his neck replaced by bare skin. Phew! So clean and precise. So final. One minute hair, the next minute gone. I'm fascinated. He's just sitting there with little expression on his face as he stares at his reflection. Does he know just how short his hair is being cut? Does he want it shaved? And as I ponder these thoughts I rather surprisingly begin to feel the strange sensations once more flutter deep inside my stomach. I need to look away.

I look to the other chair but see an older man having what I would describe as a businessman's cut similar to my Dad's - a little shorter but still over the collar and ears. So my attention returns to the younger guy. The barber is removing most of this guy's hair so quickly - especially over the ears and at the back - but he's left the top longer at around an inch or so. He's taking a great deal of care over the cutting and it's clear this barber is skilled at his job. And deep down I feel excited, but about what, I have no idea.

The barber swivels the chair to one side and spreads some white foam over the guy's hairline and then proceeds to shave it. With a razor, would you believe? The dark shadow of the hairline is gone - it is difficult to see the hairline at all. The guy catches me staring and smiles. I look away quickly and realise I am nervously fingering my own hair and have twisted a large hank of it around and around my hand. I feel quite odd, but I'm sort of enjoying being here and watching. I feel sort of queasy in my stomach. Sort of guilty too... but about what?

I watch the "businessman" get up and the boy who had been sitting next to me jumps up into the seat. His hair is in a typical schoolboy-type style, but grown out a little. It is parted to one side with the back and sides a little shaggy and wavy. Rather nice, especially the natural blonde highlights. The "businessman" - his Dad, I assume - announces that "He wants it buzzed. A crewcut."

The barber nods his agreement. "Sure." He picks up a set of clippers and fits a black attachment over the blades

The boy nods eagerly. "Yeah, really short please." Why, I wonder?

The barber looks up briefly, removes the black attachment from the clippers and replaces it with a smaller one. "Number 2 then?" he enquires of the father. What does that mean?

He looked undecided. "Go on then. I don't what his Mum will say, though." The boy let out a little laugh.

The barber, expressionless, turns on the clippers. I hear the sound of bees once more. And jump again. I want to shout out, "Wait - he has wonderful hair." But, of course, I don't. The barber swiftly moves the clippers to the hairline and with a practiced and smooth motion forces the clippers into the blonde waves covering the boy's forehead and then I watch amazed as he continues over the head and down the back, removing most of the hair in the process. This boy - perhaps he is a little younger than me - smiles broadly as a broad swathe appears through his hair. And he has - had! - such great hair.

I continue to watch. A little of me is upset and wants to look away. And another, deeper, part of me is excited and wants to continue watching.

Again the clippers glide over the boy's head and thick chunks of blonde, wavy hair fall to the ground.

I try to imagine how he feels. I try to imagine myself sitting there and I shiver uncontrollably.

A few more passes and all his waves are collected on his shoulders, in his lap or on the floor.

The boy's smile has lessened somewhat. He looks a little more concerned now his whole appearance has changed. The golden frame of hair around his face has now gone. His head resembles a pineapple!

The barber continues with the clippers and fine white clippings fly in the air, catching the light.

Two minutes later all his hair has been cut down to no more than a quarter of an inch.

I watch the barber flick off the black attachment and then continue briefly with the clippers around the hairline - over the ears and at the nape.

Less than five minutes have passed when the barber puts down the clippers. A lot less than the precise styling of the guy in the other chair whose hair was still being cut. A lot less precision. Is this the cut that boys get from this barber, or does he cut the hair of all his clients in this way? I hope this isn't Phil - Dad's barber!

The barber whisks away the cape and a rain of blonde hair falls to the ground.

The smile had returned to the boy's face. His hands rubbed his nearly bare head. "Hey, that's cool!" He looks around for admirers and saw me. I raise my eyebrows - I couldn't help it - in surprise that he prefers to look like this. He appears momentarily put back by my lack of enthusiasm, but then looks to his Dad, who says, "Hmmmm, I don't know what mum will say." And I watch them walk out the door

I feel so strange after watching the boy get all his hair cut off. Just thinking those words makes me tingle. Just remembering the action of the clippers makes me shiver all over. And the poor kid seemed pleased! It wasn't even as if his Dad was telling him to get his hair cut like I've heard some Dads do - like mine does... with me! Well I guess boys don't care so much how they look. The thought of my Dad insisting that I get my hair cut returns to my mind. I run my hands through my hair - smoothing it to the outside world - but inside confirming it is all still there... and remaining there!

I contemplate the blonde locks on the floor which had so recently been on the boy's head. I shivered a little. Why? I had no idea.

The man was still in the other chair having his precise cut attended to by the youngish barber. Clearly this cut required more precise attention than either the businessman or his son as they had both been completed while this guy had been in the chair. His hair looks really short and very precise now. The top has been cut in neat, short layers and as the barber lifts it with his comb he snips a little more off.

I watch Dad get up and sit in the vacated chair.

2. The Discussion

"Hi Phil." Oh, poor Dad. The squat, demon, four-eyed barber is Phil!

"Hi Dave, what'll it be? The usual?" The barber throws the cape recently removed from the young boy over Dad and picks up scissors and a comb and starts combing his hair through.

Dad clears his throat. "Well, actually no. I feel like a change. Something shorter." Dad has always had the same style. Quite long really - well over his collar - and I remember Mum often saying how much she loved his hair slightly wavy like that.

"Sure. Touching the collar then and still covering the ears. That will be quite a bit shorter." That's true - 2 or 3 inches at least, perhaps more. I'm thinking that Mum would be really annoyed.

"Er, well no. I was thinking of something like this guy here." He points to the guy in the next chair whose head-baring I had been studying so closely.

"Really! That IS short." The barber's expressionless face broke briefly and he looks surprised. "Are you sure about this Dave? I thought Mary likes it long."

"She does. But she's left us. So there's gonna be a few changes," Dad says abruptly.

"Oh Dave I'm sorry. I...."

"No problem." There's a short silence - Dad and the barber are clearly embarrassed. "Now, how about you getting rid of all this?" He tugs at a few of his long locks which fall over his eyes.

"Yeah, OK Dave. As long as you're sure." Dad nods with a look of determination on his face.

I can't believe Dad is going to do this. It seems like one of life's 'givens'. You know, this is how Dad looks and always will. But I feel a tingle go right through my body as I contemplate the thought of Dad being clipped to the bone like the guy next to him. I fidget in my chair and try to look elsewhere. I cross my legs. And I recross my legs. This tingly feeling isn't going away. It was sort of hanging around. Sort of "down there".

The barber slowly puts down the scissors and comb and picks up the clippers that had been used so effectively earlier. He selects an attachment - a much larger one then I had seen so far - and fits it over the clippers.

"Right Dave," he says matter-of-factly. "I'll be taking it down to an inch or so first ... all over." I try to imagine how Dad is feeling although his face is giving little away - the determined look still remains. I know how I am feeling!

With the same practiced hand the clippers are turned on, seem to float towards Dad's neck - not his forehead like the boy - becoming buried in the hair that gathers there. He forces the clippers upwards. The clippers sound a little choked - sort of overloaded - but slowly they move up and chunks of pure black 6-inch layers are peeled off, collecting in front of the buzzing blades. They pass over the top of Dad's head and the severed layers start falling past his eyes and into his lap.

Dad's eyes widen, but he said nothing. I get a strong feeling he has changed his mind but it is too late now as a trench has appeared through his crown.

I see my reflection in the mirror and I think my eyes are even wider than his! HE smiles back, but it seems a meek sort of smile - as if he has given in and has no control over the situation. The clippers repeat their work. Again and again. I feel myself holding my breath with each pass. The barber's expression has changed little. This was his job, I guess.

I can't believe how much hair was gathering in Dad's lap and around the chair.

When the clippers are turned off I see he still has a respectable amount left on his head... well an inch or so, but it all looks a little shaggy. He was starting to look quite different and, considering he's nearly 40 and also my Dad, quite good-looking. I was thinking that a lot of hair is still going to fall and, as I contemplate the other guy's shiny neck, the tingle within me multiplies.

Dad appears calmer now, the bulk of the shearing having been completed. Phil was busying himself cutting the longer hair around Dad's ears with scissors. Apart from the schnicking of the scissors it all seems rather quiet in the shop. But then my attention is very focused and I'm noticing very little around me.

Although it is my Dad having his hair cut, I am still finding it all rather exciting. But I can't put my finger on why. Once more I checked myself as I ran my hand through my long hair, feeling comfort in its length and softness.

Dad noticed me do this - I can see from his expression in the mirror. It was like a light bulb going - it seems to remind him of something. Oh no!

"Phil, I wanted your advice on something." Oh Dad!

"Sure." Schnick, schnick, schnick.

"Louise is going to have her hair cut soon and I wondered if you knew of the best salon to take her to. Given that you're in the business."

Dad was talking quite loudly. I could feel everyone's eyes were on me. Stop it Dad!

"Is she? Is she really?" Phil had picked up the clippers once again and was fitting a much smaller attachment. He is appraising me - or should that be my hair - in the mirror, clippers in his hand.

"I'll be using the number 1 guard right up the back and the sides initially." Dad looked queryingly. "It'll take it down to about an eighth of an inch." I gulp. The way he stares through those round glasses I could swear he was talking about me. My hair!

Dad appears confused too. Was this the answer to his question? For a second he seems pleased that Phil isn't proposing to cut off all MY hair... but I notice HIM gulp as he realises that Phil was referring to his hair.

"Oh, er right. Number one," he says nervously.

"Yep, before I shave the back and sides."

I wanted to move my position once more but this was difficult with everyone looking my way or, at least, listening. What's happening to me?

"It's OK - I'll leave the top longer." Dad seems to relax at the thought that he isn't going to be totally bald!

The clippers come on again. It was as if Dad's question had been forgotten.

"Well, I would suggest Julie's Place along the parade. She's a very good stylist." He is talking more loudly now the clippers are buzzing once more. I find my eyes drawn once more watching one inch tufts float to the floor. Black hair remains like a smooth velvet covering on Dad's nape, but the scalp shows through and is pure white in contrast with his tanned face. I guess his neck has never seen the sun! I tingled. I cross my legs more firmly. I had to!

"Well that's convenient. I'll make an appointment when we leave. Thanks...."

"But she'll be fully booked on Saturday. She's so good."

Good? The girls at school wouldn't touch Julie's with a bargepole. She stopped learning new styles about 20 years ago. It is all granny perms, and perhaps a bob if you are lucky, at Julie's. Still, this is academic: my hair's staying - but at least I am saved.

"Oh, how annoying. But perhaps I'll be able to do make it for next Saturday. I did say Louise could have the week to get used to the idea and decide on a style. Her hair is much too long for us to look after." Oh Dad, shut up talking about me in front of everyone. I could feel eyes appraising the length of my hair. I'm sure I can see the woman who came in with her husband nodding in agreement but perhaps I am just paranoid!

How can he concentrate on talking about me anyway? I'm struggling as I watch the clippers lay his neck bare.

I wonder how the clippers feel sliding over the skin that was recently covered in so much hair. I wonder how it feels to have a bare nape. I wonder how it feels to lose so much hair. Oh, what is happening to me?

"Possibly but she's usually booked up well ahead. Many of her clients go each week to have their hair done." Yeah permed grannies! "Saturdays will be a problem at most places."

This was so embarrassing. I want to leave - but knew Dad would be angry if I did. But then again I want to watch his hair being cut. The clippers are quiet now and I notice him jump as the shaving foam is rubbed into his neck.

"It's OK Dave, just a little foam. I'll shave your neck now and over the ears."

Phew! I imagine Dad's shining like that of the other guy. Phew!

"Most of my customers just want the hairline done with this style. You've got the head shape to go much higher. Would you like me to shave it higher Dave?"

"Er, well I don't know really." Dad seemed flustered. "Er, what do you think?"

"OK. I'll go higher. To about here." It wasn't interpreted as a question but more of 'do what you think best'. He was indicating a line, nearly 2 inches above the ears, and continuing around the back to the middle of the bump at the back of the head. "Need some more foam." And he covers it all... much higher up. At least the talk of my hair has been forgotten in my Dad's confusion.

"So what style is your daughter thinking of?" Excuse me, I am here. And I am not cutting my hair! But it isn't worth saying anything until we get out of here. Won't be long now.

I can hear the razor scraping away at my Dad's neck and saw that any sign of black hair had gone - replaced by pure white, glowing, skin. Does he know how short it is? My whole being tingles and there is a growing warmth between my legs.

"Well, we were going to ask for your views. I don't know anything about women's hairstyles - and neither does Louise as she has always worn her hair long - at least you're in the trade." And of course being a barber, he knows all about fashionable women's styles!

The barber turns to face me. I realise, self-consciously, that I was once more playing with my hair. I just sort of freeze. "Well it needs to be much shorter than THAT! Look at her playing with it." I hear faint titters to the side of me but dare not look. I feel my face going red, and the warmth and now dampness between my legs seems to be standing out like a beacon. Oh Dad! Stop talking about my hair like this, I want to say. I just want to get out of here.

Silence falls and I hope the discussion has finished. But the barber continues to stare at me. "It's very thick hair. If it's cut to her shoulders it will appear quite bushy I expect." Dad nods as if has become an expert on women's hair.

"Shorter, then bushier still." Dad nodded again.

"So it will need to be layered - probably quite short layers for it to stay in shape." Dad nods once more but acts a little out of his depth, luckily.

"But it all depends how it shapes up as you are cutting. With hair that's never been cut it is difficult to forecast how it will fall. But, if she has it cut, then I think it should be short. Yes, quite short." Short? I'm sure Dad doesn't want me to have it cut short, does he?

The barber returns to shaving the hair from above Dad's left ear, the right already glowing in an expanse of whiteness. I wonder how he is feeling now. The barber clears away the remaining foam and now begins to trim the short layers on top.

"So are you saying Louise shouldn't cut her hair? Can you imagine what it's like to wash, untangle and braid all that hair every day. It takes forever." I can see one of the guys a couple of seats along watching me in the mirror. His expression told me he could imagine it! I know as I get older the benefits of long hair will become apparent to me... with guys!

"NO, no, not at all Dave. It just may need to be rather short to look neat and smart." Neat and smart! I want it to look wild and sexy - well, in a year or so!

"So shorter than shoulders you think."

"Probably. We would have to see. Does she want it cut that short, Dave?"

"Phil, she wants it to be easy to look after. That's the main thing."

"I see." He's putting the finishing touches to my Dad's hair. The layers were now precise. He looks so different now. Really sharp and about 10 - well, 5 - years younger.

"So do you have any other recommendations for a good hairdresser?"

"Well, I do actually." What? Alarm bells are ringing. "In fact they could fit her in today."

"Really? That's great." Dad steals a quick glance at me and looks away. The week he had promised for me to come to terms with the idea seems to have gone. I just want to get out of here and then we will need to talk. "So where is it? Do you have their number?"

The cape is whisked away and loads of hair fall to the floor. As Dad stood up his new style looked incredible. I don't think it will take him long to replace Mum... if that's what he wants.

"Well Dave, it's me." What? Did I hear this correctly. Dad looks puzzled too. "Of course we don't normally do women's hair here but as you are a regular client I would be happy to attend to Louise's hair problem." Phil swung round to face me, with a smile on his face.

3. The solution?

GULP! I was just getting ready to go and now this. But Dad won't want me to have my hair cut at a barbers!

"Would you really?" Phil nods, and continues to smile. "Well Louise that will solve a problem for us won't it? You'd better come and sit over here, Lou. Before Phil changes his mind."

There are a few surprised looks from the waiting customers. The woman with the long, blonde hair waiting for her boyfriend in the other chair laughs and I hear her say "Yes!"

I don't know where to look. It feels like a 1000-volt electric shock wave going up and down my spine and finishing at each hair root.

"But Dad, I...." I don't move.

"Come on, don't keep Phil waiting."

"But I don't want my hair cut." Phil stands there, still smiling.

"Nonsense. We agreed." We didn't!

"Well, no... but... but not in a barber's."

"It makes no difference. Barbers, stylists, they're all trained. All cut hair. Right, Phil?" Phil nods. "Now don't keep Phil waiting. There ARE other customers. It isn't like you to be so inconsiderate."

I get up slowly trying to decide what to do. I feel the hair gathered in my lap and in the chair bounce reassuringly down my back as I get up. It is a comforting feeling.

Then I try to imagine how I would feel without my hair. How I would feel having it all cut off. My legs feel like jelly and the warmth at the top seems to expand.

I approach the chair. "Hello Louise. If you would like to take a seat then we'll begin to do something about all that troublesome hair." He stood facing me, by the barber chair, with a fresh cape in his hand which he flicked it open. I jumped!

It all seems to be happening in slow motion... but also much too fast. I'm now standing in front on the chair, ready to sit. But I don't want to.

Dad moves behind the chair and places his hands on my shoulders. He gently eases me back and down into the unfamiliar leather of the barber chair. My hair had got caught between the seat back and my back. Dad tugs it out and arranges it over the back of the chair. I knew it would be touching the floor.

Phil approaches me with the cape. "Good girl. Well Louise, I have to say your hair is very long. The longest that has ever been in this chair. I almost tripped over it!" He chuckles. "Let's see what we can do with it."

He drapes the cape over me. Dad approaches again and lifts my hair as Phil fixes the cape securely at my neck. I feel it is strangling me. Dad releases my hair and once more I feel it tug gently under its own weight.

Phil starts combing my hair with a wide toothed comb. I find this quite relaxing and soothing, allowing me a little time to think about my position. I'm confused by all the sensations I have been feeling. They are so strong but what do they mean?

Each time I had watched a haircut this morning I visualised myself in this chair, as I now sit, and I tried to imagine the scissors, the clipper, the razor on my own hair. I couldn't really but I still tingled right through. But never did I expect to be sitting here!

I feel fairly helpless now. I look at my reflection in the mirror. A head emerging from a pure white cape with lovely long hair being combed through by the tubby barber. What should I do?

Well, Dad won't want me to have it cut short, will he? They didn't really say what style I should have. And of course I will have some say. I need to know what is going to happen. But my mouth feels dry and I'm struggling to find my voice.

"Er, I... wha... what are...." They ignore me.

"OK Phil, you'd better get started. We have shopping to do and we didn't allow time for all this." That's OK Dad, let's leave it, I wanted to say. Shopping is much more important. But the words won't come out. No words will.

I feel my hair being gathered and tugged back. It was clear Phil was unused to handling long hair. Like my Dad! As he gathers it up, he drops it. I need to know what he intends to do. It would be OK if he left it reasonably long, perhaps to the shoulder blades, or even as short as to my shoulders. Yes, that might look OK I guess.

I can see in the mirror that he now holds all my hair in a ponytail. "So are you just going... you know... just...."

I feel him tugging at my hair as he moves his position to allow him to reach down to a drawer. I become speechless as I watch him remove a large pair of scissors.

Dad is still standing near me, just to one side. "OK, Dave, so I'll just remove the bulk of all this hair first. About here OK?" I have no idea where he is indicating. Dad looks down and visibly flinches. Oh my god, is this really happening. Am I not going to get any say in this?

"I, er... gosh that's an awful lot of hair... I really, er...." Dad doesn't sound confident in his decision any more. Should I be more or less concerned? I feel very concerned!

"Dave, that's why she's sitting in my chair. To have her hair cut off. OK?" He sounds impatient that his professional judgement is being called into question.

I needed to stop this. "Dad, how sh... how much... I don't want...."

Dad interrupts. "Yes Phil, that's fine." What is?

He nods. "Good." And at the same time I feel him tug my hair. I hear a dull schnick. Oh no, has it started, really started?

I try to relax the pull on my hair by leaning back.

"Lean forward Louise. We need to keep your hair taut. It will cut much more easily." I obediently lean forward feeling my hair pull taut. And a much crisper schnick follows!

It will cut more easily! Why am I making it easier? I don't want this. Just how short IS he cutting it?

"That's better! This won't take long now." I want to close my eyes but all I can see is the look of determination in the barber's face in the mirror. It is certain that some of my hair is being cut off. How do I feel about that? I try to keep the thought away... but the over-riding feeling is one of excitement. A sort of illicit excitement if that makes sense - I'm tingling all over like I never have before!

"You see, Dave, I'm cutting it off at the nape and then we'll see how it falls before taking the next step. Louise's hair is very long isn't it - this ponytail must be nearly 3 feet and so thick too. I can barely hold it all."

At the nape! I explode inside. My hands, covered by the cape, move down in an attempt to control the result of my feelings. But fail. Does anyone notice?

I feel so self-conscious in such a public place but the extent of these feelings are so sensational that I barely cared! But I still don't want to lose my lovely hair.

"Such a shame - I think she's a really brave girl to want to have all her lovely hair cut off in a barbers. I bet you're quite upset by this aren't you, Dave? Young girls, eh!"

What! How has this turned around? Dad just nods... and looks genuinely upset. But too late now of course as, with a final cut, my ponytail was severed and I feel short uneven lengths collect around my face. The barber holds up my hair and I hear a few cheers from the seats behind which became muted as I begin to cry a little.

Dad just looks shocked. "There, there," said Phil. "Don't worry, it will be a long time before you have to have that much hair cut off again. It would take 6 or 7 years to grow it that long at least." And that's supposed to make me feel better?

"And we haven't finished yet of course. You see, Dave, it IS quite thick and rather bushy." Looking at it hang around my shoulders it doesn't actually look too bad. Just needs trimming a little. "And of course it's much shorter at the back where it was cut so it needs a lot of evening up." He runs a hand a long the hairline at the nape and I realise he has actually cut off my ponytail at the hairline! "Will it be OK to bob it Dave?"

Dad automatically nods. "Good. It will look nice and neat... and short of course." A look of fear appears on my face which Phil saw. "Don't worry, not as short as your Dad's. Well, not on top."

Without another thought he picks up his scissors once more and quickly - and I mean quickly - slices though my hair at a level above the top of my ears. All the way around. And it looks dead straight.

"What...!" I said, but I think it came out strangled.

"Now it's even but very full still. Dave I'll need to undercut if that's OK." Dad nods again. I'm sure he doesn't know what this meant. But I did. He clips up the short bobbed hair on my crown, taking a line about a couple of inches above the ears.

He picks up the clippers he has been using and looks at the attachment. "Yep, number 1 will be just right." I don't think it was a question but he looks at Dad anyway. And he nods.

Below the pinned-up hair there are many uneven lengths. But not for long. I hear the bees approaching! A coldness on my neck startles me. Is this what I think it might be. Am I going to experience...?

Ohhhhh! There's an amazing, vibrating feeling on my neck. Unbelievable. I wondered what this might be like. I never expected to experience it. My eyes are closed but I can imagine what is about to happen.

I open my eyes and, as I feel the coldness creep up my neck I see all my remaining hair below the pinned up area fall to the floor. I see my own whiteness revealed.

He is shaving my hair off and, although it is frightening, I feel exhilarated. I'm trying not to let the movement of my hands show under the cape... but hair slips off the cape giving it away to anyone watching.

The clipping stops and Dad seems to be relieved as the crown hair is let down and provides a hint of some hair - a style - remaining. It looks striking - the smooth cap contrasting with the velvet-like appearance of the buzzed nape and sides. Phil sets to work on the cap... and makes it fall perfectly even all the way around my head. And it becomes even shorter of course.

Eventually he puts down the scissors and I contemplate my reflection. My shorn head looks very different! I reach up with one hand from under the cape and tingle all through as I feel the clippered nape. The Number 1 nape. Then I look at Dad - more specifically his nape - and think back to his hair being cut earlier. An uncontrolled thought rises up through me as I tingle. I look straight into Phil's eyes and I continue to rub my nape.

He appears slightly taken aback. Then smiles once more.

"Right Dave. And now I need to finish off at the hairline. OK to shave it like I did for you?"

Dad's eyes widened. "I er... Shave? But she's... a..."

"Yes, it needs to be done. OK?"

Dad just nods again. The hair is pinned up once more and the I feel cold foam hit my neck and smile at Phil in the mirror. He eases my head forward and I feel him scraping away all the remaining hair over my ears and right up the back of my head. I visualised the earlier shaving of napes and feel wave after wave of pleasure rising through me but keep myself under control... just!

I'm totally lost in my pleasurable feelings and imagination as he finishes off. I feel the cape whisked away and watch as hair flies everywhere. I look at my ponytail on the counter and feel a slight tinge of regret. Then I look in the mirror and reach up to my icy, clean nape

I shiver in pleasure.

"Thanks Dad. That's much neater and tidier isn't it?" He nods

THE END... but what will happen if Mum brings me next time...?