AUTHOR'S NOTE: This little story continues to track Karen and Joey, familiar characters in my previous stories about Karen, a fantasy woman with fantastic hair.

fourth in a series including "First Love," "The Brush," and "Reunion"
c1998 jmhlhl

"Ten years," Joe thought, as he sat in Friday rush hour traffic on his way home. "I canít believe it has been ten years already." Traffic wasnít moving - obviously another wreck in the tunnel - so he found himself thinking back on his life with Karen. Saturday was his tenth wedding anniversary, and he counted his blessings nearly every single day of those ten years.

Life with Karen was magic. That was the only way to describe it. She turned fifty a few months ago, but had the looks and energy of someone much younger. She still had her figure. She was a slim and petite 5í3", and everything was firm and smooth. She had a 'joie de vivre' that seemed to grow with each year of their marriage. She had an inner strength that still amazed him - it seemed like she could do anything she wanted. Karen was also the most loving person he ever met. Her smile still melted him every time he saw it. So warm and sweet.

And then there was Karenís hair. Talk about the frosting on the cake! Just to say it was the most fabulous, incredible hair on the planet wasnít enough, Joe thought. He had always loved long hair. He dated exclusively women who had long hair, and his first wife grew her hair to her knees before losing her life in an auto accident. But Karenís hair, now that was beyond long, beyond comprehension, beyond belief. He had lived with her the past ten years, but still had trouble sometimes realizing how long, how thick, how healthy, how perfect her hair was.

He met her over thirty years ago, when he was in junior high school, and she was the best friend of his older sister, Janet. In those days, Karen had a fabulous cascade of lively silken tresses to her ankles, and he had a huge crush on her, even though she was four years older. She hadnít cut her hair in ten years. Just before she left for college, he gave her a brush. He had saved up a summer of odd-jobs money to buy it for her, and it became one of her prized possessions. Now, she still hasnít cut it, and it is back in his hands every night as he brushes her hair before they turn in.

Karen was on his mind ever since that fateful meeting. Every woman he ever dated, and even his first wife, bless her soul, was eventually compared to his childhood memories of Karen and her magnificent hair. They stayed in touch for a while, but their lives took different turns and wound up on different coasts. Twenty years after she left his life and went to college, he looked her up on a business trip in San Francisco, and their reunion changed their lives forever. His crush and memories of her hair, and her remembrances of a sweet eighth grader turned into love in a matter of hours when they met again, and ten years ago Saturday, they tied the knot.

Traffic wasnít moving at all, so Joe shut the engine off, and his thoughts quickly went back to their wedding. It was a small wedding, with family and a few close friends. Janet made the trip from Pittsburgh, and completely freaked out when she saw Karenís hair trailing behind her on her bridal train. He remembered having to talk her into that, as she wanted to wear it up. She was worried about the problems all of her hair would present; he wanted to see the blushing and beautiful bride framed in her silky, magnificent glory. The wedding pictures were proof that they made the right decision. Some of the poses with Karenís hair were remarkable.

Joe and Karen quickly fell into a routine. Ever since her hair was waist length, Karen had washed her hair twice a week, on Wednesday and Sunday. Every once in a while she would vary a little on the Wednesday part, but she hadnít missed a Sunday in over twenty seven years. She was bombarded with expert advice from all quarters, some saying twice a week wasnít enough, and many long hair experts saying it was too much, but all she had to do was look at her hair to see she was doing the right thing.

Their house, built by Karen and her first husband Bill, was designed with her hair in mind. Joe remembered the breathtaking sight of her hair hanging above the vaulted-ceiling living room, like a waterfall from the third floor. A lift was built in to the wall that allowed easy and safe access to any part of the length of her hair. Joe tinkered with an automated drying system, which essentially let her hair dry in a soft breeze in a quarter of the time. Of course, on many Sundays, they just let her hair hang, and they cuddled together on her special 'drying' chair for five or six hours of solitude

Joe didnít want to mess with success either, and just slipped into her routine, helping Karen handle her ever growing tresses. She welcomed his help for many reasons. She appreciated the time that was saved by having an extra pair of hands helping out, but more importantly, she could feel her hair actually respond to Joeís loving touch. And some days, she let him do all the work, loving to be pampered. They both agreed that the sex was best after he had washed, dried and brushed her hair. The slower and more caring he was with her hair, the better they were afterwards.

This morning was like most, Joe thought. Amanda and David were at college, but when they were still home, Amanda occasionally needed help with her blonde tresses. Joe and Karen both felt that Amandaís hair could wind up better than her momís some day, if she stuck with it. She recently celebrated her 22nd birthday, and the measurement on the wall was almost ten feet of honey blonde perfection. While Karen was still surprised that she hadnít cut it yet, Joe could see that Karen was a constant inspiration to her, and short of a disaster, Amanda would happily and proudly follow in her motherís remarkable footsteps.

To Joeís surprise, David grew his hair. Joe had always kept his own hair unfashionably long, varying from just touching the shoulders, to about six inches below. Over the last few years, Karen had talked him into letting it grow longer, and it now was nearing his waist. He had to admit he liked it, and secretly hoped he could grow it longer than he did when he was in college, and it was barely above his belt. Karen was definitely taking an interest in it.

When David met him, he and most of his friends had crewcuts, but upon seeing Joe, his verdict was 'cool!' and he immediately got his motherís permission to grow his hair long. Neither Joe nor Karen batted an eye as David grew his hair past his waist by high school graduation, and sported a full beard and mustache. He was basically a good kid, and kept the grades up at school, so they let him grow. Now, as a sophomore in college, Joe thought, shaking his head, Davidís hair reached his knees, and his beard was over a foot long. Neither showed signs of stopping anytime soon. He certainly inherited his motherís predisposition towards long hair! He also inherited his motherís hair, thick and silky, and well behaved - fairly easy to care for.

Though Joe was not their father, Karenís three children liked him almost immediately, and grew to love him. It wasnít easy, as Joe had an instant family, one that had been through a lot, and he had to adjust to life with what he had formerly thought were the scourge of the earth: teenagers. Joe knew that his complete and sometimes desperate love of their mother had a lot to do with it. They adored her, and upon seeing that he felt the same and treated her with love, they adopted him and accepted him.

While Amanda was very much like her mother in looks and personality - self assured and somewhat reserved, with an analytical mind; younger sister Susie was much more expressive and artistic. Where Karenís smile came from deep inside, and was warm and inviting, Susieís smile was spontaneous, fun and mischievous. In many ways, Susie was a polar opposite to her mother and sister.

Joe developed a special relationship with Susie. While Susie also wanted and enjoyed very long hair like her mother and sister, hers was a completely different story. She was blessed, or cursed, depending on how the day was going, with curly hair. Like Amanda, her hair was as thick, no, much thicker than her motherís, and like her mother, Susieís tresses were a deep brown. Unlike both, Susie had soft, silky, voluminous curls. So voluminous, that Joe gave her the nickname of 'mop'. When he first met her at the age of six, she already had two feet of curls to her rear end, and her hair was just as wide. She was happy, bouncy, and innocent, and didnít seem to mind the 'mop' that overwhelmed her face.

As her hair grew, Joe and Karen, while understanding her desire to keep her curly locks, made subtle attempts to get her to submit to a trim that would make her hair a little more manageable, but she vehemently refused any such attempts. "My hair is fine!" she would exclaim. "How could you of all people tell me to cut even a little of this?" They both understood completely, but saw that Susie had to struggle much more with her hair than Karen or Amanda ever did.

What Susieís hair lacked in length, it more than made up for in volume. Wet, it was 9 feet long, but as it dried, it shrank and billowed until it was just five feet long, and almost just as wide. When finished with her lengthy and often tiring hair care routine, Susie was completely covered in a massive heap of curls that fell to within six inches of the floor, and completely dominated and obscured her tiny frame. Sometimes, it seemed to be as wide as she was tall.

She liked to wear it down and free around the house, but it was a lot of work. It got stuck in everything, and whenever she sat down, she had to position it so it didnít spread out into something it shouldnít. She almost always had a hand in it, keeping it off her face. It was way too much to keep behind her shoulders, and she gave up trying a long time ago. As unique as her mother and older sister were, Susie always stood out when the three were together, and always enjoyed the attention.

Joe decided the next best thing to trying to get Susie to trim her tresses just a little was to help her, so once a week, he took part in the amazing transformation that happened while her hair was drying. He came to look forward to this quality time together as they talked about everything under the sun, and bonded in a way that he didnít with Amanda or David. He also spent 15 or 20 minutes every school morning helping her bind her hair into something barely manageable for class. Not once did Joe ever hear her wish she had anything different than her giant mass of curls, but they both wondered what would happen when her hair grew longer, as both of them knew it would.

Joe snapped out of his reverie long enough to hear on the radio that a truck had hit the wall in the tunnel, and had both lanes blocked. He wasnít going anywhere for a while, so he reached into his briefcase and pulled out a book - THEIR book. After a couple of years of marriage, Joe thought it would be fun to try to capture Karenís tresses on film. He was surprised to find how few pictures Karen had of her glory through the years, so in a way, he felt it was important, too. Joe was strictly an amateur at the photography business, but these pictures would only be for family and friends, and would be preserved for the kids and their kids to remember Karenís magnificent tresses. He started slowly, shooting a roll of film one Sunday. Most of the results were poor, but one picture struck both his and Karenís eye, and convinced them that he should try some more.

The photo sessions grew to where they were devoting one Sunday afternoon a month to photographing Karen and her hair. She would leave it down around the house, or put it up in different styles, and he would hover about snapping picture after picture. After a couple of months of making do with an adequate camera and being conservative with the film, he decided to spring for a more professional rig and bulk film, and they averaged over 500 pictures a Sunday. They kept everything, but enlarged the best of each session, mounting and framing some for display in the den. Now, the walls of the den are plastered floor-to-ceiling with framed 8x10ís and the occasional larger shot.

One day a few years ago, while reviewing the previous monthís efforts, Joe got the idea of making a book that would show off Karenís hair, and maybe tell a little of her story. She was very sensitive about her privacy, and while her hair could give her a moderate celebrity, she preferred to remain basically anonymous. Joe fed the idea to her very slowly over the next year, while consulting with a literary agent friend. They couldnít do a whole lot with what the major publishers felt was a risky subject, but a small local publisher agreed to a deal. The book would be extremely well done, with a limited printing, and would show Karen and a few of her favorite styles, as well as plenty of 'wow' shots showing her coping with all of her hair. The shots would be done by a professional photographer, but Joe would never leave her side.

She finally agreed, and the shoots were set up, just like their own amateur sessions, on Sundays over four months at home. The photographer they chose, it turned out, had a passion for long hair. It took him the whole first morning to get over his amazement and speechlessness to the point where he could run a productive shoot. Karen and Joe also sat for an interview, and many of their quotes served as captions for the 60 pictures that were chosen for the book. The book title, 'Great Lengths' was chosen by Karen.

The book was published four years ago, and did moderately well, providing some extra income. It was something of a cult classic among the small, but loyal group of long hair enthusiasts in the US, and was surprisingly popular in Europe. It also put Joe and Karen in touch with several women across the country with extremely long hair, and many of these women and the lucky men in their lives are now close friends.

Joe flipped through the pages, stopping at his absolute favorite pictures. In front was a simple one - her hair loose and free, and held in her hands up close to her shoulders, and drooping three times to within two inches of the floor. He especially liked the look on her face - a mischievous, 'where did this come from?' look. A series of photos focused on motion. Karen stood on the third floor with her back to the rail, while Joe stood on the stairway to the side and let her tresses filter through his fingers at varying rates, only to fall back into a silky column. To his delight, they shot that sequence at least twenty times, Joe remembered. Some pictures showed her hair up. Joe and Karen practiced for two weeks before shooting these pictures, making ever larger swirls above her head. Some were held together by an amazing number of pins, others were held in precious check by as few as three long sticks.

But Joeís favorite picture of all was one of the simplest. In a full length shot, Karen stood, dressed in her favorite loose white sweatshirt and baggy faded jeans, her hair falling behind her and just covering her shoulders. Her hands were in her pockets and her head was tilted slightly to one side. The contrast between her dark hair and her light clothes served to show off her still slim figure. Some of her hair was brought forward to cover her feet. The photographer set the light up so that it seemed he could see every shiny strand. Hair framed her face and her warm, joyful smile. This was the Karen that Joe loved the best: warm, simple, uncomplicated, relaxed, and cloaked in beautiful hair. He had copies of this picture everywhere; in his car, his briefcase, his office, his suitcase...

As Joe lost himself for the millionth time in this photo of Karen, traffic began to crawl again. A second book was in the works, concentrating more on some of the unique ways Karen styled her hair, and they were contemplating a video. They wanted to walk the line between moderate notoriety, and the financial independence that could bring, and their privacy, which they both fiercely defended and treasured. Her first book generated a number of personal appearance requests, but they refused them all. The only 'meeting' Karen appeared at because of her hair was one of women all over California with extremely long hair. It was quite an exhibition of hair, and Joe spent nearly the entire four hours snapping pictures.

"If Iím lucky, Iíll be home in a half hour," he thought. His mind slipped again into memories, of trips and times out and about. Before she met him again, Karen had rarely gone out of the house in anything but a towering up-do. She didnít feel secure carrying a long braid, and definitely ruled out trying to handle her hair loose and unbound. Joe slowly convinced Karen to cut loose a little more out of the house, and often held, carried, or otherwise helped her keep her hair safe out of the house. He especially loved when Karen decided she could let her tresses hang free, with him holding the rest of her hair so it stayed just above the ground. She seemed at her best when she felt her hair caressing her body as she walked or stood, as if she got energy from the motion of her hair.

She had her bad moments, too, and occasionally showed a temper. Weíve had some fights, Joe thought, thatís for sure. They usually revolved around him being overpossessive of her hair, or trying to push her to do something she didnít want to do. It was rare that she raised her voice, but when she did, it got his attention. He secretly loved it when she was mad with her hair down, and he occasionally egged her on, because she would jump up and down, and send her tresses into a flurry of motion. Luckily, their fights were fairly short, and making up, well, that was special. He liked to think that they were made for each other, they were soul mates, and the fights and disagreements were just very occasional bumps in the road.

He remembered making Karen mad on their weekend trip up to Seattle a year ago. He was in a playful mood while they were getting ready to go, and contrived to put her hair up for her. He did so, but in a weak and wobbly do that only made it as far as the airport concourse. He then helped her put it up again, only this time into a towering braided column. She became somewhat uncomfortable at the stares they attracted as he wound her thick braid around and around, pulling pin after pin out of her hand. This time it was much more secure, but added close to two feet to her petite frame. Of course, that meant she had trouble fitting into the small airplane they were flying. "You knew this would happen, didnít you," she said, glaring at him as he held a heap of braid in his lap. She pulled it back onto her lap in a huff, saying "You did this on purpose!" By the end of the flight, they were both laughing about it, as he had an hour to fondle her wonderfully large and long braid.

That was one of the very rare times where Joe was the least bit careless with Karenís hair. She almost instantly trusted him with her hair because of how gently he always handled it. For Joeís part, he couldnít help it. It was so soft and silky, there was no way he could yank, grab, or hold it harshly. The gentler he held it, the better it felt as it went through his hands and fingers. Of course, the one place where her hair felt better than in his hands, was almost anywhere else on his body. Joe had to admit that the one time their relationship was not equal was when she used her hair on him in bed. Just the thought of her hair sliding across him was enough to give him a hard-on. At first, she didnít know just how much of an effect her hair had on him, but as she learned, she found out she could render him completely and absolutely helpless, a trembling heap. Joe shuddered in his seat as he recollected their latest session in bed.

Traffic started moving even faster, and Joeís thoughts shifted to home. The house that Karen and her first husband built really was wonderful - three stories, with a beautiful full window view from the living room out into a small, quiet valley. It was built with her hair in mind twenty years ago, with room for her hair to hang from the third floor to dry, but she recently outgrew even that. They added to the house on top, building a fourth story loft so that her still growing hair could hang again without touching the floor. They also put a large shower, similar to Karenís, for the girls, and put a lot of effort into 'snag-proofing' the whole house, to make it easier for Karen to leave her hair down more often.

Not that she could drag it around behind her for long - it was just too long and heavy for that - but she enjoyed just plopping it down somewhere so she could surround herself in freely hanging locks as she moved about and did things in the house. Whenever she wanted to move any distance, she just picked her hair up and carried it, then plopped it down again. Joe was always amazed at how she could do this quickly, without creating a tangled mess. Recently, they had returned to cuddling on the sofa with the lights out, looking out over the valley, her hair spreading out in front of them like a brown carpet.

Karen stopped working five years ago, thanks to a well-timed downsizing. Their marriage had helped her rediscover a part of her, and what her incredible hair truly meant to her. The urge to spend more and more time with her hair was almost to the point where they had agreed that she should quit. Then a nice severance bonus offer came along and clinched the deal. Professionally, Joe was a changed man after their marriage. He built his companyís West coast operation into the most profitable division in five years, then started his own business. It was a little hectic at times, and the first year was a little scary, but now the business provides them with a comfortable living. Between an expanding business, and the book and video deals, Joe was hoping to retire early with a nice nest egg. Then they could both completely enjoy Karenís hair, and keep it healthy for as long as possible.

He finally reached their exit, and his thoughts moved to the present, and the very near future. Susie was on her way to her cousinís house, so all that he and Karen had for the weekend was each other. Tonight? Tonight was Karenís. She had something planned, but wouldnít clue him in. She just told him this morning (with a wink) to make sure he had plenty of rest. Tomorrow was a night out in town, and Joe was planning to recreate the night ten years ago where they did the town with her hair down - a romantic, candlelight dinner, a touring Broadway show, and instead of a ferry ride, a chartered boat to cruise the bay for as long as they wanted. Sunday would be as always - brushing, showering, combing, drying, brushing, styling, and maybe some photographs - but much slower than usual, to celebrate their life together. They had even talked about taking Monday off, to extend what they both knew would be a very special time.

He finally pulled into the driveway, an hour late, and as usual, he sat in the car for a minute before heading to the door. As much as he wanted to see her, this minute allowed her to get ready for him, to get into position. Her continual present to him, and about the only thing he had asked of her in ten years, was her greeting him whenever he came home from work or a business trip. It had always been a dream of his, from when he was a kid, for his long haired wife to greet him at the door shrouded in hair. Of course, while she was still working, he was more than occasionally the first one home, so he made a similar production out of greeting her. Her hair was almost always down, or up in some dramatic or exotic fashion. It was a moment he always looked forward to, it cemented into his mind that he was living out a wonderful dream with an incredible woman.

As he walked up to the door, he could feel his heart starting to thump. They had acted out this scene a couple of thousand times, but it still never failed to thrill him. He opened the door, and started a timeworn ritual. "Hi Joey!" she said, with an especially wide and welcoming smile. Nobody had called him Joey since grade school until Karen did when they met again. He liked it coming from her. He dropped his briefcase, threw his jacket on top of it, and stopped for a second to look at her.

That was something else he had grown to love about Karen: she absolutely refused to grow old. She credited her hair, and he had to agree. They talked at length about the effect of her hair on the rest of her, and developed a couple of pet theories. One based on fantasy and folklore paralleled the story of Samson, who gained strength from his hair, and lost it when it was cut. As Karenís hair grew longer, she gained more strength, physically, mentally and spiritually. The stronger she got, the less she aged. Joe boiled it down to "the longer your hair grows, the better you get." And of course, unlike Samson, a haircut would never be a possibility.

Another theory had to do with the comforting effect Karenís hair had on her. She let it surround her like a cocoon as much as possible, loving to feel the silky strands against her skin. She thought of being in the womb, or in the hands of a gentle lover. Joe always felt that Karen was at her absolute best when her hair was down. Maybe the sense of security and contentedness that came with being wrapped in her own hair had something to do with it.

They had many conversations (and still do) exploring why she grew her hair, and why she let it get so long. The reasons were complex, they discovered, but Joe was able to distill them somewhat adequately into a few main points. The first reason had to do with the comfort factor. The more hair she had, the more comfortable she felt with it, even at extreme lengths. Second, they both agreed that she enjoyed being different, and having something nobody else did. Third, her hair gave her confidence and solace, she enjoyed spending time alone on it. Fourth, it just seemed to be destiny. It was like Karen was meant to have unbelievably long, beautiful hair. But the biggest reason Joe felt that she had and kept her hair was love. Karen loved her hair like nothing else, and despite all her troubles with it, she always, always treated it with love and gentleness, like it was a newborn baby.

Both of them knew that Karenís hair wouldnít grow forever. Someday, it was going to turn gray and start thinning out, and she would reach a point where it just wouldnít grow anymore. But they also knew that she was an exceptionally special case. Most women couldnít grow hair past their waists, no matter how hard they might try, and most womenís hair of any length paled in terms of thickness and consistency when compared to Karenís. You could pick ten women with beautiful long hair, Joe thought, and all of their hair put together wouldnít equal Karenís. She had been growing it for over forty years now, with nothing more than the occasional minor trim. She lost very little hair, and while he enjoyed finding hairs around the house and pulling them out like some kind of magic trick, he was grateful that she didnít leave them very often. Maybe her time was up, maybe the man upstairs would smile on her for a long time to come. Joe knew he was with her all the way, no matter what happened to her hair. Ten years ago, he described Karen to a friend as a 'keeper,' wonderful with or without the hair. He never believed it more than today as they looked at each other.

She was wearing all of his favorites today. Loose white pants that showed off her slim waist and nice (still!) ass, and a short, well worn sweatshirt, the sleeves torn off, the collar wide open, and the bottom cut to barely expose her waist. "Oh, man," Joe thought, "sheís looking so good!" She was smiling, her head slightly tilted to one side. There were a few wrinkles to tell her age, but her smile and eyes said she was much younger. Her petite, white clad frame seemed dwarfed by the brown cascade behind her. She reached up with one hand to push her hair back off of her forehead - she never wore a part, and never had anything in her hair to pull it back.

She said once that she depended on gravity and her shoulders to keep her hair in place, but some days, gravity won. The bulk of her hair went back and stayed behind her on command, but to either side of her face, hair fell forward, creating a frame for her features, just a half-size too big for her face. As soon as her hand came down, hair flowed in slow motion over her bare left shoulder, almost strand by strand, and half obscured her left eye and cheek. Joe traced her hair down to the floor. She was blessed with such smooth, silky hair, and he thought he could see each strand as it fell past her hips to the floor. Her hair was solid, no light came through between her legs or under her arms - nowhere - and he knew it was at least four inches deep covering her back. A disorderly carpet of brown silk spread out behind her. Joe thought he caught a glimpse of her ends back toward the kitchen. Some days he spent a little extra time trying to trace her hair back to the ends, but not today.

There was a step up into the living room, and Karen was standing at the top of this step. Only about five seconds had elapsed since he had stepped in the door, but time always seemed to stand still for Joe during this moment every day. He kicked off his shoes and walked to her, still silent. He deliberately stayed at the bottom of the step so they could stand face to face. His hands went to either side of her face, slipping under the hair, and he slowly moved closer and kissed her delicately. This first touch, her soft cheeks, her hair caressing the back of his hands, aroused him, and he slid closer. Her arms went over his shoulders, his hands slid under her hair to her waist. She leaned into him, allowing her hair to completely cover his arms, and they kissed again. Only now did Joe speak, but instead of the ritual "Hi Beautiful," he whispered, "Iíve got to be the luckiest guy in the world." At that, she fell completely into his arms, and her hair engulfed them both.

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