REUNION (part two)
c1998 jmhlhl

Joe was sitting at the hotel bar waiting for her. Though his friends told him otherwise, he always described himself with the tired cliche 'Average Joe.' Average in build and occupation maybe. He was an average salesman of computer power supplies. He was five-ten or so, just a few pounds overweight, and just athletic enough to avoid Monday morning backaches. Nose a little big, smile a little toothy, but generally handsome. He wore an open collar shirt and blazer like he almost always did when on 'unofficial' business. He still had all of his dark hair, and he obsessed over it. It was unfashionably long - over his shoulders - and always looking just right. Perhaps it was a spillover from his love of women's hair. He was constantly brushing it and checking it in mirrors.

He nursed a beer, and looked occasionally towards the door. No need to be buzzed when she came, though a few more would sure hit the spot, nervous as he was. He glanced at the TV, and checked out the baseball highlights on the news.

Since Joe didn't know his way around very well, Karen had agreed to meet him at his hotel. She loved going into the city, but hated to do so alone. If nothing else, meeting Joey was a chance to check out a restaurant she had heard about. She ducked out of work an hour early - no one seemed to notice - and set about preparing for her first night out of the house in a while. Dressing was easy, but her hair was definitely not suited to a spur-of-the-moment night out. A night out period was cause for doing something different than her basic work 'do, a coiled braid. She took down her hair, undid her braid, and half brushed/half straightened out her lengthy tresses. "I wish I had more time!" she repeated as she worked through the entire length. Finally satisfied with her hair laid out on the floor, she began pulling it back up, slowly twisting and wrapping, foot by foot, until she had a huge swirl perched behind and somewhat on top of her head. Her favorite casual style was also one she had practiced often through the years, and a model of simplicity. If she had done everything right... there! Three sticks held it all up, and a couple - well, a dozen well hidden pins kept it all in place. "Not bad for a rush job!" she said as she checked the mirror one last time on her way out her door.

She attracted a few stares on the train ride in, but she didn't notice. As usual, she sat with her back to the car wall. She didn't like the idea of her hair in someone's face. She gently leaned back and her mind drifted back to high school. Moving after sophomore year was devastating, but meeting Janet was the best thing that could have happened. They shared so much! They had kept in contact through college and grad school, but lost touch as they both got married, had kids, and moved.

Arriving at Joe's hotel, Karen walked into the bar and looked around. She had no idea what he looked like, or even how tall he was. All she had to go on was her memory from twenty years ago. She was dressed conservatively, though casual. The ankle length dress was more to combat the early evening San Francisco chill than anything else.

She stood for about for about five seconds before Joe turned back towards the door. His heart jumped, and he took a second to gather himself. He would know that face anywhere - features just a little large, beautiful eyes, and holy shit! "Karen?"

"Joey? Is that you?" she said, as a beaming smile came across her face. "Look at you! Little Joey's all grown up!"

"Karen, you look fabulous!" Joe stammered, trying to take in the vision in front of her. She hadn't changed a bit. Same slim figure, same smile - yeah, she looks a little older, but... Is all that her hair? Oh, my goodness! The light was a little dim in the bar, but wow!

"Joey? You there?"

"Uh, yeah. You really look great."

"Thank you. Ready to find the restaurant? It's a few blocks away."

"Lets go," he said, finally gathering his wits.

"So tell me about Janet. I'm dying to hear!" Karen said as they turned up the street. Joe gave her the basics: husband, kids, house, job; but studied her hair as much as the sidewalk would let him. Not a hint of gray, still that beautiful chestnut brown, and it didn't seem to end! He thought he would get dizzy if he tried to trace it.

They reached the restaurant, and sat down to a conversation packed two hours of dinner. They warmed to each other quickly as they talked about old memories and common experiences. Joe could feel her casting her spell over him, just like she did twenty years ago. His anxieties were gone, he was enjoying the moment. His eyes never left her face, except when they were in her hair. Her 'do was huge! As much as he tried, he couldn't begin to figure out how much hair was piled up on her head. It all seemed to be held in place by surprisingly few pins and three sticks- how, he had no idea. Though they weren't arranged that way, the sticks seemed to remind him of an asterisk, as in: 'Oh, by the way, there's a ton of hair back here!' It looked heavy, and seemed to defy gravity.

Beyond that, his memory of Karen as a sweet, unpretentious girl who always seemed to have a kind word for everyone, especially him, came back to life across the table from him. The thought that her husband was a lucky guy, and that he was jealous entered his mind.

For Karen, Joey was a pleasant surprise, a good kid who grew up to be a neat, decent, and handsome guy. In some ways, good ways, he was still the kid she remembered from way back when. His toothy grin betrayed his barely contained exuberance, and a happy go lucky nature, yet his experiences belied a comforting maturity.

One could say they connected, much like they briefly did twenty years ago. She even touched on her marriage to Bill, and her impending divorce, and he mentioned his brief marriage out of college, and also the death of his second wife, Marie, in an auto accident. The feelings of compassion and empathy were genuine as their hands touched across the table.

For the umpteenth time, the conversation went back to Janet. "You know, you really had a big impact on Janet in one way," Joe said.

"What's that?"

"She let her hair grow long. She's had it to her knees for almost as long as I can remember. She blames it on you! It looks great, in my opinion."

"That's wonderful!"

"Looks like you kept yours," Joe said, breaching the subject he wanted to mention all night.

"Yes I did, Joey," she replied, her left hand automatically going up and feeling the back of her huge 'do. She lowered her eyes somewhat, and quietly said "I let mine grow some, too."

Joe noticed a somewhat absent look in her face as she mentioned her hair, a look that told him not to push the subject at the moment.

Dinner was over, dessert was delicious, and they split the check. Walking out the door, Karen said, "It's still early, why don't we go back to my house for something to drink? You don't have any plans, do you? It's in the East Bay, but a quick trip on the train."


"I think you will like the house. Bill and I had it built a couple of years ago. Come on, you'll have an easy trip back later tonight."

"I'm all yours," he said. "I have a late morning meeting tomorrow, so I can stay up a little past my bedtime." What was he going to do, sit in his hotel room all night? He had no expectations, no desires, except to spend more time with this woman who captivated him once more, just like she did in school.

When Joey mentioned her hair, Karen decided she wanted to show it to him. It was something she had thought about off and on since their phone call. She knew he was curious, and she wanted to see the look in his eyes when he saw how long it was, but she wanted more. She remembered when Joey had given her the brush, and how he had stroked it through her hair twenty years ago. She knew in talking with him that the same little Joey that gave her the brush was still there. It had been a long time since anyone else had held her hair with love and caring, and she wanted it - no, needed it.

Joe held out his arm, she took it, and they walked down the street to the station.

"Well, here it is," she said, 40 minutes later, as she opened the front door. Joe walked into a tastefully decorated contemporary, halfway up the side of a small, isolated valley. She took him back into a large living room/den with a sloping ceiling and full window view. They stood and admired the view, which at this time of day consisted of lights from several other houses. He looked up at the ceiling, and noticed the second and third floors opened to this room, with a balcony or alcove close to one wall. On the wall was what looked like a cabinet that went from floor to ceiling. Curious...

She slipped into the kitchen, and quickly returned with two glasses of wine. She placed them on the table, and slipped out again, saying "If you don't mind, I'm going to slip into something a little more comfortable. Make yourself at home."

Five minutes later she returned, finding Joe tucked into a corner of the large leather sofa, leafing through a magazine. She was dressed in baggy blue jeans and a very loose sweatshirt with a large neck, short sleeves, and just a hint of bare midriff. Her left shoulder was exposed, and a few wisps of hair fell over it. She plopped down next to him and took a sip of wine.

"I hope you don't mind. I've been in heels all day, and just need to relax a little."

"No problem," Joe replied, pointing to his blazer laid out over the back of the couch.

They sipped at their wine while they talked about the house, but it seemed inevitable that the conversation would lead back to their connection over the last twenty years: hair. Joe was anxious to find out about Karen's hair. The thought that it was longer than he remembered drove him crazy. He had a feeling, though, that Karen would bring the subject up, and he was right.

"You said earlier that Janet let her hair grow long?"

"Yeah, it is to her knees now, and she loves it. She said that you inspired her. For a long time, she would say that she wanted hair like Karen's, down to her ankles, but I think once it got to her knees she was happy enough."

"I'm happy for her. Long hair can be a real joy."

"I tell her she looks ten years younger when she wears it down. She looks so happy with it."

"And you certainly have gone for the unique look, Joey." Karen reached out and touched his shoulder, half covered with well-kept hair.

"It got real long in college - close to my waist - but I guess I decided I only wanted to push the envelope, not destroy it. I like it, and it certainly is unique! And Marie liked it too."

"It looks good on you," Karen said, and Joe smiled a thanks. "Did Marie have long hair?"

"Oh, yes. It was close to her knees, almost as long as Janet's is now, and the darkest black you could think of." He paused for a second as the memories hit him. "It was beautiful - almost as beautiful as..." He stopped and stared straight ahead. "Beautiful as what, Joey?"

After what seemed like a minute, but was only five seconds, Joe decided to dive in in. "It was almost as beautiful as your hair, Karen. I have a confession to make."

"You had a crush on me, I know. It was hard to miss."

"But it was more than that, Karen. Every single woman I've met after you has been compared to you. It's been twenty years, but the memory of your hair flowing down to your ankles still stands out in my mind like it was yesterday. Even Marie. I loved her more than the world, but I still wound up comparing her to you. In twenty years, I haven't seen anything to compare with your face surrounded by that cape of hair. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't put you out of my mind completely. And now, seeing you again just reinforces those memories."

"That's pretty heavy, Joey."

"I'm sorry, I don't want to make you uncomfortable, Karen, maybe I said too much."

"No, Joey, I'm glad you felt you could share it with me."

"I'm not some obsessed maniac, or anything like that."

"Of course not. I have some memories from twenty years ago, too. Maybe not quite as vivid or strong as yours, but I do remember a very sweet 14 year old boy who gave me a gift I still cherish. I thought of him often as I took care of my hair over the years, and i still see a lot of him in you now. But I have a feeling that we have obsessed over the same thing the last twenty years."

"What do you mean?" Joe asked, a puzzled look on his face.

"Let me show you," she said. "Close your eyes for a minute. Don't open them 'till I say, OK?"


"Promise me."

"OK! I promise!"

Karen stood up and moved to a clear spot on the floor. She quickly pulled out the pins that held her massive bun/twist in place, and finally put both hands on the remaining sticks. Swirls of hair had fallen on both shoulders, and hid half her face. She felt the excitement rise inside her as she said "OK, now!" As soon as she saw him focus on her, she pulled the sticks out with a flourish. Her hair fell to the floor behind her with a heavy plop, and she shook her head so that she was nearly cloaked in thick, shiny hair.

Joe sat transfixed, his mouth open, his heart pounding. Nothing moved as she looked at him, hands on hips, her head cocked to one side in curiosity. For years, Joe had kept three images of Karen in his memory - the first time he ever saw her at the school bus stop, her hair swaying about as she gracefully moved; her graduation, where her ankle length mane was shimmering, silky perfection, set off perfectly by her white graduation gown; and finally, when he gave her the brush, and felt and saw her hair close up for the first and only time.

The Karen standing in front of him obliterated all of those memories. Like it had a few times that evening, time froze for Joe as he gazed at the most perfect woman he had ever set eyes on. He caught every detail as his eyes moved slowly up and down. Her hair seemed so thick that her shoulders couldn't hold it all behind her. As she tilted her head, hair fell over her shoulder in slow motion, almost strand by strand, and she did nothing to stop it. Placing her hands on her hips allowed her hair to spread out more behind her, creating a backdrop for her slim figure. He somehow noticed her waist amongst all of that hair. About two inches of bare skin peeked at him between her jeans and the rough edge of her sweatshirt. He looked below her knees, where even more hair seemed to lay against her legs, an endless pile of soft, shiny silk. So much hair!

"Joey?" she said quietly once, then a second and third time.

He looked back up at her face, which though half hidden by hair, looked suddenly years younger. He saw complete youthful delight in her eyes, as if letting down her hair had released something.

She carefully stepped towards him, maneuvering around the coffee table, her hair trailing behind her. He moaned softly, and managed a whispered "Oh, my. Karen!" as she bent over him, hair cascading over her shoulders into his face.

"Does that mean you like it?" she joked, her eyes meeting his, a foot away.

Joe swallowed hard, and had to swallow again to get his heart out of his throat. "It's incredible!" he finally said. "I'm speechless, Karen!"

She stood back up, tilted her head back, reached behind her, and pulled her hair forward over her right shoulder, and sat down, this time touching him.

"I haven't been able to cut this for thirty years now, Joey." She looked at him, and then followed his eyes down the length of her hair. Back beyond the coffee table to the spot where she stood, where a small heap still remained. Every bit of it smooth, thick, and silky. "All of this has been my obsession."

"I knew you had grown it a little longer, and i always hoped you would keep your hair as long as I remembered, but this can't be real, Karen."

"It's real, alright," she said, and pulled his hand across her lap so he could feel for himself. He slowly stroked a handful of strands, and let them fall between his fingers. He lifted a section and absentmindedly examined it. Shiny, glossy, healthy, and... perfect.

"How do you......what..." Joe stammered,trying to make sense out of what was laid out before him. "I've never seen anything close to this. How do you do it? How did you do it? My God, Karen, this is..."

"It's all mine, Joey, and it is a lot of hard work. Sometimes I think it is too much. Like now. I really need to spend some time with it and brush it out, but that would be rude of me." Joe's eyes grew larger as he stared at her. "Unless, of course, you would like to help me? I can tell you a little of how I got all this. It's kind of a long story," she said, and they both laughed at the unintended pun. Joe smiled and seemed to come out of his incredulous daze.

"I'd love to help you," Joey replied, and they both stood up.

She reached into her pants pocket and pulled out a brush, and handed it to him. He looked at it for a second. It was wooden, and very well worn. "Look familiar?"

"Is this - "

"Yes," she cut in. "That's the brush a sweet little kid gave me when I left for college. I've used it almost everyday since."

"That's pretty cool that you have been able to keep it so long. I'm glad you liked it."

"It's a very good brush," she smiled, "and was a wonderful gift. Thanks again!" She playfully pecked him on the cheek.

Joe looked at the brush, and at her, then down the length of her hair, as if to say, where do we begin? She seemed to read his mind, and reached for his hand. She gathered her hair in front of her with her other hand, and placed it in his hand.

"Let's start at the ends, and work our way up," she said. "Go ahead and pull up the last couple of feet. But take your shoes and socks off first."

Joe obeyed, puzzled over the shoes, then carefully running the length of her hair through both hands, stepping back, and keeping enough tension that it all looked like a brown bridge to her face. But what stuck most in his mind was the phrase 'last couple of feet.' He had what he felt was the most beautiful, and possibly the longest hair in the world in his hands, and he was still backing up to reach the last couple of feet!

"OK, now come back here." He was nearly ten feet away. He slowly walked back, watching his step. "You're wondering about the shoes, aren't you?" He nodded yes. She gathered hair until she had most of her length in both hands, then slowly laid it down over both their feet. Joe looked surprised. "How does it feel?"

"Wonderful!" he replied.

"There's one reason why I have this. You never get tired of hair on your feet, but it's so long, it gets tangled in my toes if I'm not careful."

"It must get tangled in a lot of things."

"I'm pretty careful about it, but my hair is always finding ways to get in trouble.

Joe started brushing, and Karen immediately realized he had a soft, careful touch. He certainly didn't need much coaching. They stood next to the couch, her hand on his shoulder. With little prompting from him, she started talking about growing her hair while he brushed and slowly worked his way up.

He laughed as she told the story of how she started growing her hair out of spite, back in third grade. Jeannie Thompson had hair close to her waist, while Karen's hair just fell over her shoulders. Jeannie always teased her about her hair, mercilessly, at times. She wasn't bold or crazy enough to get back at Jeannie by doing something to her hair, but she decided to show her she could have long hair too. By the eighth grade, Karen could sit on her hair, and Jeannie Thompson had cut hers into a poor imitation of a 'wedge.'

Karen said she felt some satisfaction at that irony, but more than anything she realized she really liked her long hair. It became her identity in high school, and she was glad to be unique. More and more girls cut their hair, and some pressured her to do the same, but she couldn't do it.

"Janet and I used to have long talks in her bedroom about my hair - she was always talking me out of cutting it."

"I'm glad she did," Joe replied. "I knew she was good for something!"

Karen slapped him on the shoulder, smiling, and inched closer to him. "You are pretty good at this," she said, leaning her head against him.

He sensed the growing intimacy, but aside from an occasional look, and a sip of wine or two, he concentrated on her hair. It felt so soft in his hands. The thickness and consistency stayed exactly the same as he moved up the length. He was loving every stroke, and could tell that she was enjoying it also.

She told him about college, and having to get used to hair that dragged on the floor. It got stuck everywhere, and she stepped on it quite a few times before she figured out that she had to become more careful. With hair on the floor, she had to figure out ways to wear it, and loved experimenting with different styles. Ultimately, she settled on a simple braid, which hung, then was carried or stuffed into a backpack.

"I had thought about cutting my hair, at least cutting it back a little, once it reached the floor, but i finally decided to let it continue to grow while the great state of California continued to educate me. Of course, I stuck around for eight years, so my hair was nine feet long when I got my doctorate!"

"So when did you realize that you wanted to grow it this long?" Joe asked.

"This long? I never thought it would get this long, but I realized I wanted to see how long it would get. Maybe junior year or so. I was beginning to realize how lucky I was, that someone upstairs was smiling on me. It was long, it was fun, it was beautiful... I couldn't ask for any more."

As she said this, Joe got on his knees, careful not to kneel on her hair, and began long strokes from her hips, to as far as he could reach. Karen fell silent as she felt the gentle tugs as the brush pulled through four feet of hair at a time. She was going to continue, and tell Joey about her more recent history with her hair, but what she was feeling as he brushed overwhelmed her. She had forgotten how much she missed having a man work with her hair. Bill stopped doing anything about four years ago, but he hadn't been this gentle and caring since just after we got married, she thought. Joey's touch was so soft, and he was so loving. He held her hair like it was a long lost love. She sighed audibly, and felt aroused. Each brush stroke set her insides going just a tiny bit more.

For his part, Joe was experiencing similar feelings. He had been hard most of the night, and continuously since she let her hair down. He had to struggle to keep control as his hands moved through her hair. She had moved closer to him as the evening wore on, and her silence as he moved closer to her head just served to heighten the sexual tension. Where Karen thought Joe's silence and preoccupation with her hair curious, Joe was just trying to maintain control while literally in the face of the ultimate turn-on.

He had imagined incredibly long hair before, but the reality in front of him was so much more. The fact that all of this hair was attached to someone as incredibly sweet as Karen just blew his mind. He wanted her in the worst way, but felt as though he was playing out a script, and he needed to be patient. Of course just playing out the script was already an experience he would never forget.

He stood up next to her, and began brushing from the nape of her neck, and then the crown of her head. With each stroke, his hand would slip along her shoulder, or along the corners of her face, and would linger for a second before starting again. After fifteen strokes, she turned to face him. She pulled the brush out of his hand, and blindly tossed it on the sofa behind her. Her arms went around his neck, his around her waist, and they kissed. They stood silently, kissing and swaying. Her hair slid back and forth over his arms.

Joe softly whispered, "This is like a dream, Karen."

She stiffened slightly, then pulled back slowly, grasping both of his hands. She looked down, and hair cascaded once again over her shoulders.

"What's wrong?"

"It's not a dream, Joey, it's very real, and..."

"Is it me?"

She looked back at him, a tears welling in her eyes. Joe saw a different Karen, a vulnerable Karen, who was afraid of something, but he couldn't tell what.

"No Joey, you've been wonderful. It has been great to see you after all these years. It's just..."

Joe wanted to hold her, and somehow comfort her, but something told him he needed to keep his distance and not force things. She leaned her head back, shook her head, and reached behind her for her hair. She pulled it forward over her shoulder, then slowly gathered the remaining length. It took her about twenty seconds to pull it all to her and loop it over her left arm. She wound up with two distinct loops, Joe noticed, and both fell to within a few inches of the floor. The ends of her hair just reached the floor, and she moved them subconsciously to dangle over her feet.

"It's too much, Joey," she finally said, breaking the awkward silence. "I absolutely love my hair, and always have, but there is just so much of it now, I can't keep up with it, not by myself. It just takes so much time! You just saw me take how long to gather it? I've been late for work, and have very little free time anymore, I have to give it all to this." She gestured at the hair looped over her arm.

"I love long hair dearly, but I never thought mine would get this long. Everything I'm holding here just sits there. I don't feel it, it doesn't move, it just lays there and holds me prisoner. I'm even having nightmares about it!"

She looked more and more desperate, and tears began streaming down her face as she said, "I don't know what to do, Joey! It's all I have, but I just can't handle it anymore!" She dropped her hair, sobbing, and fell into his arms.

She cried quietly into his chest, repeating, "I don't want to cut my hair, Joey!"

He held her gently, sliding one arm under her hair to stroke her back. Her head was nestled under his chin, and he kissed her on top of her head. He looked down at all of her hair, and realized that indeed it could be both a blessing and a curse. He followed the lines of silk as they fell towards the floor from her head. He looked at the silky pile of deep brown tresses on the floor behind her. He had only thought of his own joy and pleasure while brushing her hair over the last minutes. He didn't realize what she had to go through to keep it so soft and beautiful. He thought of how long it must take her to braid it, and drying it, holy shit!

"Oh Karen, I'm so sorry. Things will be okay," he whispered, still holding her. Her crying stopped, and she finally looked up at him, a weak smile on her face. He brushed her hair off of her face and wiped the remains of her tears off of her cheeks.

"I'm sorry you had to hear that. It's been a tough six months, a tough couple of years."

"That's alright, Karen. I'm glad I was here to help. Are you feeling a little better?" he asked, still straightening the hair around her face.

"You're so sweet." she smiled and then kissed him, passionately.

They remained silent as they kissed again. she picked up her hair which was laying on the floor, handed it to him, and took his hand, leading him up two flights of stairs to her bedroom. She undressed him, taking off his shirt and unbuttoning his pants. He stood almost completely still, his heart pounding as he stared at her. She then undressed herself, letting her jeans fall to the floor, and pulling her sweatshirt over her head and through about half of her hair before dropping it and turning back to look at him.

This night of superlatives jumped one level higher for Joe as he saw her standing there, cloaked only in her hair. The only memory he would carry from this moment was that he was more excited than he was his first time with a woman. They made love, each with a passion driven by the past. For Joe it was finally being with the woman of his dreams, always in the back of his mind over the last twenty years. For Karen, all of the pent up frustrations and hurt evaporated in Joey's tender embrace.

She awoke in his arms, her hair half covering both of them, and spilling onto the floor at the foot of the bed. She laid and savored the moment, not moving for fear of waking him. After fifteen minutes, she moved, and carefully climbed out of bed. she gathered her hair, and he woke up, feeling her hair being pulled over his legs.

"Hey, we both have to go to work today!" she said as he stirred.

"I hate you!" he groaned, sitting up and blinking his eyes.

"Want to help me braid my hair? Then we'll have time for breakfast."

They dressed, and set about the task of braiding her tresses. It took them 45 minutes to brush, then weave the strands together to form a thick rope that Joe thought was at least twelve feet long. She then wound it into a coil on top of her head that added the most part of a foot to her height.

They ate a quick breakfast, and she drove him to the train station on her way to work. His flight back east was that night, so she agreed to pick him up at his hotel, and they would have dinner on the way to the airport.

All day long, Joe was distracted by memories of the night before, the fantastic night before. The sight of Karen standing, surrounded by all that beautiful hair appeared whenever he looked at anything. Time went slowly while waiting to see her again.

She pulled in front of his hotel a minute early, having come directly from work, and they had dinner at a family restaurant near the airport. They arrived at the airport well before his flight, and walked to his gate, holding hands. Their whole time together this day, the subject of her hair never came up. there was a slight tension between them, which Joe attributed to saying goodbye after such an incredible night last night.

They stood among the waiting crowd in a loose embrace. Joe stared at her coiled braid, which rose higher than his height, and attracted stares from passers-by.

Finally, he asked, "What are you going to do?"

"What do you mean?"

"About your hair."

She looked away from his eyes as she whispered, "I have an appointment to get it cut next Tuesday."

He winced as if he had been stabbed, and his stomach immediately hurt. "But Karen..."

"No, Joey," she said, putting her finger on his lips. I have to do it. You understand that , don't you?"

"I understand, but you love it. You've put so much time into it. You can't do that to yourself! You will hate yourself."

"Please, Joey," she pleaded, still looking down the concourse. "I can't, I have to do it!"

"How much? How much will you cut off?"

"I don't know yet. Maybe to my waist or my knees, I don't know."

"Karen, PLEASE," Joe said, placing his hands on her cheeks and turning her head so she was looking at him. Tears were forming at the corners of her eyes.

"You have the most beautiful, the most perfect head of hair I've ever seen, Karen. I wouldn't be surprised if it was the longest in the world, and it is yours, YOURS! You have something that can't be replaced, and will never be again if you cut it." He stroked her head, and caressed the coil which rose above it.

"You love your hair, Karen. This much hair could never look so beautiful if you didn't love it. I know you are feeling overwhelmed right now, but cutting your hair will only make things worse. You will hate yourself if you do it."

She struggled to hold back a sob, and looked at him with pleading eyes. His hands returned to her cheeks, and he wiped away tears. He kissed her, and whispered, "Please don't make a mistake you'll regret for the rest of your life. Things will get better, I promise."

They hugged tightly, his face in her hair, and then they kissed once more.

They separated, their hands barely touching, and before he turned to board his plane, he said "Please don't, Karen. For Joey, please..."

"Oh Joey, I have to..." was the last thing he heard as he walked down the jetway.

Karen collapsed in the nearest chair and sobbed, her face in her hands.


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