by Tairish

Mandy lie on her bed, listening to the pleasant rhythms emanating from the radio while she double checked the polish job she had finished only 30 minutes ago on her nails. She was expecting to hear her door chime any second now, knowing that Matt Johnson would be on the other end, and that they would finally be together again after much too long.

Satisfied with her nails, she looked down at her outfit. Black dress pants, four inch heels that were blatantly sexy, and a bright colored long sleeve top that was just a bit too tight. She had to admit she looked good.

The door chime rang, and she practically sprinted to the intercom. "I’ll be right down Matt," she said a little too loud into the speaker. She ran back to turn off her radio, and then quickly checked her look in the mirror over the dresser as she grabbed her jacket.

Her makeup was perfect, with eyes that captivated and lips that were wet and full. Her hair was parted on the side and drawn over from left to right tight to her head. No bangs hung forward as they had been drawn to the side with the rest, and both ears were totally exposed. It even looked a bit dark from whatever product she had used to keep it looking so slick. It was quite a stark and different look compared to what she would normally do with her hair, but actually looked quite appropriate with her outfit. Kind of a ‘Spanish Flamenco’ look, she decided.

Satisfied, she reached for the door to her room. Instinctively the other hand reached behind her to catch her pony tail so that it wouldn’t get caught on the way out.

Her hand couldn’t find it.

She paused, trembling a bit, as her hand fumbled behind her higher and higher in search of her long tresses. Her hand finally made its way up to the back of her head, ready to at least feel a large bun of hair at the base of her neck. However all her hand was greeted with was the foreign feel of extremely short stubble at her lower hairline, and it only got fractionally longer as she reached higher up the back to the crown.

Stunned, she dropped her jacket and once again checked her look in the mirror. Her eyes opened wide in complete shock as she realized both ears were exposed not because her hair had been drawn back, but because her hair was now so short it didn’t even reach her ears. She grabbed at the short hair on the sides of her head, nearly gasping as she found it was only about ¼ inch in length. Her fingernails could barely get a hold of it, and whatever greasy product was in it wasn’t helping any. She grabbed at the top hair, totally messing up the side parted style. It was perhaps two inches in length at best, and coated in some type of thick masculine smelling product forcing it to lie flat to her head. When it was released it fell right back in place, plastered tight to her scalp.

She grabbed a hand mirror and surveyed the damage on the back of her head. It was worse than she feared, as it was extremely short, like a man’s Crew cut, running almost clear to the crown. Her pale scalp even showed through. In fact, since her hair was so blonde, the stubble was hardly noticeable at all. From a distance it could easily appear completely shorn.

Both hands now were grabbing at her hair as tears flowed freely down her face. Her luxurious long tresses were….gone! She now had hair shorter then most men on campus. She looked awful.

She screamed.

Mandy’s eyes opened quickly. She was lying on her back looking up at a white ceiling that slowly came into focus. She discovered she was in a hospital room. It had four beds in it, but hers was the only one occupied. Her right arm was all bandaged up. She remembered faintly the sight of the scissors cutting a gash in her arm. It surprisingly didn’t hurt her, though she imagined there was enough painkiller in her to mask any potential discomfort.

"Thank God it was just a nightmare," she said to herself.

Her next natural instinct was to touch her head, fearful that her hair actually had been cut off. She discovered it too was wrapped in a bandage, though she couldn’t recollect anything happening that would require this dressing. She felt it, trying to determine if there was hair underneath it. She couldn’t tell one way or another, which left her quite flustered.

She rang for a nurse, and a middle aged, heavy set woman came in quite quickly.

"How are we feeling today?" the nurse asked as she found her patient awake.

"Confused. How long have I been here (She squinted to read the nurse’s nametag) …Dolores?"

"You were brought in yesterday."

"Why is my arm bandaged?"

"You had quite a gash. The police mentioned it was from… (Dolores consulted her chart) a pair of scissors."

"OK. I remember that. Why is my head bandaged?"

"You had quite a gash there too. Apparently the scissors cut into your scalp first, and then caught your arm on the way down."

"I don’t remember that. Was it a bad cut on my head?" (Mandy was feeling her scalp for any signs of pain, and any signs of her hair. She could find neither. The layer of bandages was thick and extensive.)

The nurse continued reading the chart. "Actually, it took 23 stitches to close. Fortunately it was on the back of your head, so when your hair grows back the scar shouldn’t be noticeable at all."

"When my hair grows back!!! What do you mean?"

"The doctor had to shave your head of course to clean the wound and apply the stitches."

"Shave my head! You mean I’m….bald now?!"

"Well…..yes. But don’t worry, it will grow back. Let me go tell the doctor you’re awake, as he’ll certainly want to talk to you."

Dolores left the room seemingly unaware of the agony she had just put Mandy through. Mandy looked around the room and saw a small hand mirror next to the bed. She picked it up and looked at her head. It was totally capped by a long white bandage. She didn’t care what others would say, she needed to see what had come of her hair herself. She quickly started unraveling the long strip. She soon unveiled her front hairline, or what had used to be her front hairline. Just as the nurse had said it had been shaved down to nothing, though the slight remaining stubble indicated it had only been taken down as short as the electric clippers would go and not shaved smooth with a blade. Still, she was, for all intensive purposes, totally bald. Mandy could actually hear her heart pounding as more and more barren scalp was exposed. She prayed this was another nightmare but with each passing moment knew it wasn’t. By the time the entire top of her head had been unveiled, totally devoid of anything but stubble, it became too much for her. The mirror crashed to the floor as she once more fell into unconsciousness.

Mandy’s eyes opened, blinking rapidly to mask out the bright light from the fluorescent bulb just above her hospital bed. She slowly looked around, trying to get a grasp on where she was. The room was smaller now. It was a single room. She started to reach for her head, only to feel an intense throbbing pain shoot through her right arm. She looked at it, wrapped in bandages, as she tried to suppress the urge to cry out in pain. She couldn’t, and she screamed as she thrashed out for the nurse call button.

A male nurse came running into the room. "You’re awake! I’m so glad. We were all wondering when you would wake up."

"How long have I been out?"

"Almost 5 days now."

"Five days!?" The loud cry made her cringe in pain once again from the throbbing of her arm.

" I’ll bet you’ll be wanting some pain killer."

Mandy looked confused. "Where’s Dolores?"

"Who’s Dolores?"

"She’s a nurse. She waited on me when I was in the other room."

"What other room? After the emergency room you were brought directly to this room." He quite expertly gave her a shot of painkiller.

"Then I guess she’s a nurse in the Emergency room."

"I’ve worked here for a number of years and don’t ever remember a Dolores working here. I’m going to step out real quick to tell the doctor you’re awake."

With that the nurse was out the door.

"Wait! I need to ask you something!" said Mandy as she sat up quickly hoping to stop him from leaving. The jerky movement of her head resulted in her being slapped in the face by something. She looked down to see a sloppy braid fall forward of her right shoulder. A very long sloppy braid. A sloppy braid of blonde hair.

Her braid!

Her hair!

She reached up, thrilled to discover not only was her head not bandaged, but it wasn’t bald either. She still had her hair. Her bangs, unfortunately, were basically gone, but besides that she still had the rest. She quickly unraveled the makeshift braid, determined to see if it truly had survived this ordeal. She totally forgot about the pain in her arm now: a mixture of the drug and her attention being focused elsewhere.

As she finger combed through the length she had to conclude that except for the sliced off bangs it was no worse for wear. She set about putting it into a much cleaner braid. Apparently her last little episode with Dolores had all been a nightmare. It had all seemed so real. She had suffered through so many nightmares in the past months she thought she could have better recognized truth from reality. Apparently she had some ways to go still. She tugged on her hair a bit, confirming that this was reality and not another dream.

The nurse (his name was Dean) and Dr. Bouchard entered the room. But Mandy didn’t even really look at them. She looked at the crowd who stood in the hallway peeking into the room. There was the police officer, Shirley Portman, plus her entire family (Mom, Dad, sister Gail with her husband Hank, her brother Paul), some of the girls from her floor of the dorm and, most notably, Matt Johnson.

During the five days Mandy had been out her family and friends had all been caught up to date about the entire episode with Janice Henderson. Matt Johnson even went to the morgue to confirm for himself that this deranged woman was truly dead. She was. The bullet Shirley Portman had put through her temple had killed her instantly, and not a moment too soon.

At first Matt was both shocked and angry, as were other family members, that they had not been told of what was happening by Mandy though they all had to admit they would have insisted she leave State College and the killer might never have been found. In the past five days they learned how courageous she had been to help the police without sharing her burden with others. They all felt she merited some type of award from the force for her help in the case. She was a true hero.

It was another three days before Mandy left the hospital. Her days there were full getting caught up with her studies, doing a few interviews with the local media (since this was a huge story in the local papers) and spending as much time as she could with Matt. She didn’t realize how much she missed her boyfriend until getting the opportunity to spend some precious moments together in the hospital. Unfortunately he had to leave before she was discharged, so she never got to spend any real quality time with him. She so wanted to dress up for him and sweep him off his feet but she didn’t have the chance. She didn’t even get the chance to do something special with her hair for him.

Here in the hospital all she did was twist back the front sections so the remnants of her bangs were drawn back into the length, successfully disguising the makeshift chop job done to them. Mandy guessed she would be doing something like this, or gelling them back, for quite some time until her bangs were long enough to be worn as bangs again. She figured it would take six months at least before such an opportunity would present itself. The remaining length she either braided, put up in a makeshift bun or twist, or simply let hang down so Matt could brush it for her. It felt so good to have him brush it again. He hadn’t lost his touch.

Mandy was in tears for almost an entire day when Matt left to return to Santa Fe. But she knew he couldn’t afford to be away too long from the studio. It was just so amazing to her that he was truly here at all, as missing a week of work had to be killing their business back in New Mexico, (fortunately his students were very understanding of his sudden leave) much less getting the money for the airline ticket at such short notice. That couldn’t have been cheap. What she discovered is the ticket was purchased by Jolene and Tony Ramirez, who by now felt such friends with Mandy almost came out themselves also.

Each day that followed only strengthened her resolve even more that she would find the funds to go out and visit Matt that summer. Ideally she’d like to live out there with him, finishing her education at the University of New Mexico or the like. However that would require a good sized chunk of capital, and she had no idea of how to acquire such funds short of winning the lottery.

There was a good side to this dilemma. Combined with her studies it gave her little time to think of anything else, and this allowed the trauma of the entire Janice Henderson ordeal to pass much quicker than it perhaps normally would have. Student services at the University provided a helpful counselor for her to talk with when troubled, and her friends and family were always there for her. The bandages and stitches (17 total) on her arm were removed several weeks later. The resulting scar was hardly noticeable, but would remain as a lifelong reminder of the incident.

Of course she had her share of setbacks. The vivid nightmares continued for a while, though the extreme ones of Janice trying to kill her faded quickly. Instead they were replaced by just visions of herself either scarred or injured. Often these included the sight of herself after an extreme haircut.

The University counselor actually advised her to cut her hair, figuring by doing this the fear of a haircut would be gone, and the nightmares would subside. Mandy couldn’t knock her logic but didn’t follow her advice. She did recognize that she was putting entirely too much importance on her hair, and once she mentally accepted that found the nightmares vanishing. By the time Spring was in full bloom she was well on her way to being her former self.

With only weeks left in the semester Mandy was no closer to accumulating any funds for a trip to the southwest that summer. But then Brenda, herself looking for some funds to hopefully go on a cruise with some friends came up with a suggestion. Since Tony Ramirez was willing to pay good money for illustrated directions from Mandy for her hair creations, it made sense that others might be interested also.

She suggested taking her creations to the top hairdressers in town, and see if they would pay to learn her secrets. At first Mandy dismissed the idea, but as she gave it time started agreeing that it had possibilities.

Although the end of the term marked crunch time, with term papers and finals to prepare for, the two found the time to put together a presentation package of five styles, including the ‘Faux Short Hair’ look that Matt had fallen for not once but twice. While there presentation was all printed on paper, the actual product they wished to market was on computer CD, showing step by step in real time how to do each creation. On a warm late April weekend the two girls, dressed in the Business best, both with their hair up in unique styles courtesy of Mandy (Brenda had been giving it her best to grow her own hair out, and it now hung a good three inches below her shoulders, which was longer than it had been since she was quite young. However, since she was desiring the length that Mandy had, it still seemed much too short to her.) set out to try to sell their product to the local salons.

To say that they met unfavorable response would be putting it mildly. They were rejected almost rudely, like the very notion that these girls could offer anything to the salon ‘Professionals’ was absurd. At first the girls thought it was the attitude of a few individuals, but eventually left for home convinced it was an industry-wide virus, as they got a cold shoulder (more like a freezing shoulder) at every stop they made.

Brenda, her head hung low, was ready to give up. Mandy, while disappointed, wasn’t ready to give up yet. She was convinced she had a product worth selling, but knew she had to find a way to get these people to admit they didn’t know how to do it first, and then go for the sale. She had a plan that would take a little of her computer trickery, and a fair amount of time. But she did have a plan.

The next weekend found Mandy setting out to visit some different salons. Actually, she had ‘appointments’ at all of them approximately three hours apart, each with their very top ‘long hair stylist.’ For today she planned to come across as a client, and then become the salesperson.

She brushed her hair out straight, making no attempt at all to put it in any kind of style. It fell full and healthy, ending in a straight line just below her bottom. She recalled often as a child being told her hair grew faster than normal which she had of course dismissed, but the quick recovery of her bangs from the Henderson affair made her concede that others were probably right. In just a few months they had grown out enough to actually pass as bangs. While still too short for her liking, she no longer had to twist them back into every style. Today she let them hang down, not even making any effort to curl them under. She was dressed in casual jeans and a light jacket, again not trying to look like anything more than a typical college client. However she carried with her a professional attaché filled with a good deal of paperwork.

Her first ‘appointment’ was at 9 that morning with Shawn at the Hair Boutique. Shawn was male, mid 30’s, and very effeminate. Mandy was a little concerned as the Salon robe was pinned around her that he would start chopping at her hair before she had even said hello. But after fondling her tresses for a bit he finally asked her "What are we going to do today?"

At this point she reached into her attaché and pulled out a picture of a rather heavy set redhead with her hair in a elaborate updo. The front was a series of twists, and the lower back looked like a French Twist, but at the top of the crown was what almost looked like a molecular design, as it was arranged in a grouping of small buns one on top of the other. It was totally unique and quite becoming.

"I was wondering if you could put my hair up like this woman’s?" she said.

He took the picture and looked at it for a bit.

"I also have pictures of it from the back and the side. Maybe that will help," she said, handing him these photos also.

He took the photos, looked at them a bit, and then looked at her.

"This was obviously done with the help of hairpieces."

Mandy kept her best poker face, feigning surprise and disappointment at his response.

"You mean you couldn’t do it just with my hair? I have a lot of it," she said, holding it out for him. "I would think I have enough not to require any hairpieces."

He looked at her again, and then at the photos once more. "I can see how long your hair is. Actually you have far too much. If you want me to try to do this without using any hairpieces, I’d have to cut yours back some."

"How much?" she said, playing her hand perfectly.

He placed his hand, like a Karate chop, four inches below her shoulders.

"Remember, I can’t promise it will come out the same since we wouldn’t be using hairpieces, but

this length would probably work."

"You’re kidding!" she said. Over half of her length would have to be sacrificed.

"No, I do not ‘kid’ about hair," he said, looking insulted. "So is that what you wish me to do?" he said, turning his back to her as he reached for his scissors.

"No! I don’t wish to cut my hair at all."

"Well, in that case do you have an alternative style in mind?" he said a bit smugly.

"Actually, I think I’ll be leaving." And with that Mandy surprised Shawn by standing, retrieving her photos and removing the salon robe. As she started leaving the shop, she paused by the receptionist and asked if there might be a restroom she could use. She was directed to one in the back of the shop.

Five minutes later she came out of the restroom and walked over to Shawn. He did a double take when he saw her, unable to hide his shock. Mandy stood in front of him with her hair up exactly like the photo. Exactly in the style he said couldn’t be done with her length, or without hairpieces.

She showed him the photo once more, then pulled out another showing him that the girl in the picture actually was her hair superimposed onto another woman and the color altered. Then she quickly showed him a series of photos showing how the updo was done in, as she had demonstrated, a matter of minutes.

"Why have you done this?" he asked.

"I was wondering if you might be interested in a business transaction." And with that went into her sales presentation. At first she felt very good about it all, but soon she learned that his ego would not allow his common sense to win out, and she left the shop again without any takers.

She repeated this performance at her three other ‘appointments’ that day. Each went almost identically to the one with Shawn, although the last one almost started washing her hair before asking what she wanted done. She had to be a bit rude to put a stop to that. Unfortunately all ended just as badly as the first, and she returned to her dorm that evening totally defeated. Perhaps Tony in Santa Fe would pay for her ideas, but no one else would. She put away her attaché’, disappointed that so much time and effort resulted in absolutely nothing. While she didn’t figure on selling a great deal of them, at $15 dollars each (they only coast about $1 to make) it wouldn’t take too many to buy her a round trip plane ticket to the southwest. Yet she had garnered absolutely nothing.

Curt Barcley found himself the centerpiece of numerous articles in the paper that year. Of course, as starting quarterback of the Nittany Lion football team he was destined to be in the spotlight. A fine senior season, capped off by leading the team to victory over Florida in the Orange Bowl ended his college career in high style. A finalist in the Heismann Trophy race, he narrowly lost the award to a running back from Oklahoma. Still, he was certainly the top quarterback that year going into the NFL draft, and he made the headlines again as the top pick of the draft, selected by the New York Giants. Since he had a great deal of family and friends in and around the New York area, he was quite pleased by the choice. At the end of the school year came the photo spread on Curt with the other members of the football at the graduation commencement. Over 80% of the senior football players would graduate that day amongst the other students, a much higher graduation rate than the general student body. It was yet another true testament to the quality program run by Head Coach Joe Paterno.

But it was two other articles that came out that spring, within days of one another, that would greatly affect his life, and Mandy’s. The first came when he signed his contract with the Giants to the tune of $15 million per year. By week’s end out came the second, from a woman named Claire Trentham, claiming that Barcley had raped her a few months earlier, and had threatened her to keep things quiet if she knew what was good for her. While Barcley admitted knowing Trentham, as she was a regular at many of the team parties and functions, he said he never dated her and certainly never raped her. The problem was that for the date in question, February 11, his only excuse was that he was alone in the library studying. He had no witnesses to back up his story, as he always sought the most remote parts of the huge building to study in peace. Otherwise he found himself constantly being asked questions by other students. The story was quickly picked up by the National news media and ESPN, all reporting with an obvious bias that he was certainly guilty until he proved himself innocent.

Mandy read the articles each day, sickened by what they said, as she knew the Curt they were portraying was not the one she knew. She was reading one of the biggest, most disparaging articles while sitting at a table in the lunchroom surrounded by other girls in her dorm wing. All were engrossed following the story closely and fretting that the rapidly nearing trial would go badly for the star quarterback.

It was Peggy Saladna, a cute young history major who had a marvelous memory of dates, who first put two and two together.

"Oh my God! Oh my God!" she found herself saying.

The rest of the table had no idea what she was talking about.

"There was no way Curt Barcley was guilty of rape. He couldn’t possibly have been in Claire Trentham’s room the night of February 11th."

"How do you know?" Mandy asked, wondering how the freshman could have solved a puzzle that the finest detectives couldn’t.

"Because he spent the night in your room," she said, staring Mandy in the face.

Mandy just stared at her blankly, wondering if she was really right.

"The whole tree branch in the hair thing…."

"I remember it well," Mandy said.

"Well," Peggy said proudly, "that happened on the evening of February 11th."

All the girls went flying back to the dorm, checking their calendars, diaries, journals and notebooks. The mini scandal (that really was no scandal) of seeing the star quarterback in Mandy’s room was well documented. IT WAS THE EVENING OF FEBRUARY 11TH.

The girls took their journals, etc… as evidence and went to the campus police station. In turn representatives of Curt Barcley’s defense team quickly arrived. A thorough check of all the evidence and the complete story from Mandy (which of course was easily supported by her whole involvement with the Janice Henderson case) had the defense leaving confident they had an airtight defense. Later that day Mandy got a phone call from a much relieved Curt Barcley.

"I’m just sorry I didn’t realize that all happened on the 11th of February," Mandy confessed.

"I feel just as stupid for not having known that either. I’m just so thankful to all the ladies on your floor for their help."

The next day Mandy spent a long day with the lawyers giving her full testimony of the event, as did other girls on the floor supporting her statement.

Later that week Mandy would spend a good deal of time with Curt’s lawyers, being prepared for the trial. They were very thorough, and by the time she returned to her dorm no stone had been left unturned. She even knew what she was going to wear. She even knew how she was to wear her hair.

Mandy kept Matt Johnson well informed of what was going on now, and he knew she was going to be the star witness in the trial which was certainly going to be a media circus. Matt looked forward to seeing the negative media tuck their tails between their legs when it was obvious this Rapist was in fact absolutely innocent, and that they had done him a huge disservice.

State College was ill prepared for the deluge of media covering the trial. While the football stadium was designed to accommodate a large number of reporters, the small courthouse was not. Since he was drafted by the New York Giants, the entire New York media was present to see if their new quarterback would even make it to his first practice. Plus all the Pennsylvania news media, as well as ESPN and the major sports publications.

Without a courtroom vast enough to fit the mob, camera feeds were fed into a special media center. There was a feeding frenzy as each lawyer or individual involved in the trial drove up and was police escorted in. Clair Trentham had to have bodyguards clear a path for her. Curt Barcley had some of his Penn State teammates act as bodyguards for he and his lawyer.

When Mandy arrived and was escorted in, even she needed a police escort. All that was leaked about her was she was the key witness in his defense. Rumors were flying about a relationship between the two, which was easy to imagine looking at her. After all, she was simply stunning. What was disheartening is she was being labeled as a tramp by those who had no idea about her true story, and the national media was picking up on this campaign. Back in Santa Fe Matt was livid when he read all this, and was anxious for his girlfriend to have her name cleared now as well.

Mandy arrived wearing a very stylish yet practical pant suit. It made her look very professional and probably a bit older than she really was. However her hair was hanging in a simple pony tail that was gathered by her left ear so it would constantly fall in front of her. She was instructed to have it this way, and that it be perfectly straight so its full length was obvious to all. For today her bangs were curled into tiny tendrils that delicately fell across her forehead softening her look. The idea for this style was worked out between her and her lawyers, who wanted the jurors and all in the courtroom to be able to see her hair at all times and see how long it was so they could better appreciate and thus accept her testimony of the tree branch incident.

Once the chaos was under control and the trial actually started, ii didn’t take long at all. Once Mandy got up on the stand, plus a few of the girls on the floor to substantiate her story (more were prepared to testify but by then the prosecution had thrown in the towel), the trial was over. The lawyer took his time developing the background on the entire Janice Henderson incident before he ever talked about the evening of February 11th, so there would be no denying not only the fact that Curt Barcley had been with her, but that he was acting as a concerned and helpful citizen of high moral character and not that he was with ‘a tramp.’ Mandy was magnificent on the stand, perfectly calm though sometimes found it a bit difficult to talk about how the whole Janice Henderson affair ended. When the prosecutor grilled her trying to shoot down her story, claiming she was lying to help a friend, he was quickly painted not only as a poor lawyer but as a cruel person.

By day’s end Claire Trentham was exposed as the liar that she was, and both Curt and Mandy left as two outstanding individuals falsely accused.

The television coverage that evening and the newspaper stories the rest of the week were jammed full declaring the innocence of Curt Barcley, though besides mentioning Mandy Harper by name never really talked about her story. There were a few jokes on Sports Center saying Curt Barcley went free because he was busy playing hairdresser. It was only the Penn State papers and a few New York papers that went into more detail about the trial and Mandy’s role in it.

It was the New York Times article on the case that caught the eye of Katie Couric as she drank a cup of coffee after finishing taping ‘The Today Show’ that next morning. It included a short sidebar story on Mandy and the ordeal she went through.

What caught Katie’s eye was Mandy’s lovely long hair, and the hair related theme of the story. She knew hair related stories garnered consistently strong ratings on television, plus the show had lately had a great deal of changes in that area, what with her constantly changing style that was clearly longer now than years previous, and the obvious extra length on Anne Curry, plus Matt Lauer’s new short buzzcut. Later that day she researched the Penn State stories about the Janice Henderson case and was stunned she hadn’t heard about this earlier. It was the type of story that should have made national news, but somehow never escaped the confines of ‘Happy Valley.’

She copied off the articles, along with as many photos as she could find. She was very impressed by the numerous different hairstyles Mandy was wearing in the photos. No two were alike, and all were very unique. The fact this woman styled her own hair was almost a story in itself. At least it was to her.

Katie took all the information to her producer, and wondered about the possibility of bringing Mandy on as a guest and sharing her story with the rest of the nation. He wasn’t too keen on the idea at first, but as he perused all the documents a gleam came to his eyes that this could be a real sleeper for the show. Besides, they had to cancel a recent interview with Shania Twain due to a touch of the flue. By the time the Couric’s were sitting down to dinner he gave Katie a call and confirmed with him that the story was a ‘Go’ as long as Mandy was willing to come on the show.

Matt Johnson flew out of bed and answered the phone. He was genuinely concerned, because the only reason someone would call at 2:30 in the morning is if they were bearing bad news. He wondered if someone were ill, or injured, or in the hospital, or even worse. Did his dad have another stroke? Was the studio on fire? Was a friend in trouble? Was Mandy in trouble?


"Hi Loverboy! Did I wake you up?"

Matt immediately relaxed. It was Mandy, and by the tone of her voice she clearly wasn’t bearing bad news.

"Um…actually yeah. What’s up?"

"I just wanted to make sure you got your sweet ass out of bed this morning and turned on ‘The Today Show.’"

"Whatever for?"

"Because I’m going to be on it!"

Matt was wide awake now.

"You’re kidding! What? You and Curt Barcley?"

"Nope, just me!"


"They want to do a story on me and the Janice Henderson thing. Right now I’m calling you from inside a limo on my way from the airport to the studio."

"You’re in New York?!"

"Yep, the Big Apple! Uh Oh, gotta go. We’re pulling up to the studio right now. Will you be watching?"

"What kind of stupid question is that?! Of course I will! Good luck!"

"Thanks. I love you."

"I love you to." And then the phone went dead. Needless to say there was no reason for Matt to try to get back to sleep. He just wondered how long he should let his parents sleep before he woke them up. He also felt he should call Tony and Jolene Ramirez.

Mandy was brought into the studio and shown to a room where she could rest and get dressed. She brought two different outfits with her, one a business suit and one a dress, wanting to get some advice from the ‘Today Show’ staff before making a final decision.

Her hair was right now up in a simple bun, if there was such a thing for Mandy. It was still non-traditional in that it was gathered: very off center (for comfort as she leaned back against the seat in the airplane) and featured the main mass of the bun encircled by two coiled sections that wrapped around it snugly giving it the appearance of a snake coiled around a rock. But she had no intentions of wearing it like this on television, figuring she’d make that decision at the same time as her clothing choice. The bun was simply for the plane flight over and the hectic pace of the early morning thus far. She didn’t want to worry about catching or any pulling of her hair in all the commotion. She brought a bag full of hair items, including her hot rollers, and no sooner was she left alone in the room than she rapidly took her long tresses down and started brushing them out. In a matter of minutes her hair was perfectly smooth and silky, the straight and healthy bottom line hanging just below her bottom.

At this point she was visited by one of the staff members, who instructed her that Katie Couric would be doing the interview which came about halfway through the show, and that Katie would be by in about 30 minutes to meet her and do a small informal interview with her to better familiarize herself with the story. She was also told of the angle the interview was probably going to take, although Ms. Couric had often changed that direction after meeting the guests so that wasn’t locked in stone.

After the staffer left Mandy felt the professional business attire would be much more appropriate for this occasion than the dress, so she quickly changed and then tried to relax knowing Katie Couric was going to be knocking on her door any moment now. This was all so exciting even if it concerned the darkest chapter of her life. She sat brushing her long hair out yet again, still unsure what to do with it. She figured she’d ask the host for her opinion. She thought if this story was centered on the trial and was very serious she would wear it up so it was out of the way and not a distraction so she could come across much more professionally. However if the interview was going to be a little more personal she’d wear it down or perhaps half up and half down. To soften it she considered a head full of waves with some spot teasing here or there for balance and fullness would be nice. She wanted to show off her hair but not so much that it was all the audience would look at. This wasn’t a date after all, so she didn’t want to do some of the extreme styles she wore for Matt which were obviously planned to garner as much attention from him as possible. And of course they always worked too. She smiled thinking back of some of her dates with him, and just how mesmerized he had been by some of the styles she had done.

Then again Ms. Couric might just want it down and straight, as the lawyers had wanted, to show everyone how truly long it was. That would be fine too, and obviously quite easy. Thus she held off making any decision at that moment.

The morning in Santa Fe was turning into a special event. Jolene Ramirez, always enjoying getting together with friends, suggested that everyone get together at her favorite restaurant to watch the show over a leisurely breakfast. It would be her treat. And so Matt, Richard and Elaine Johnson were the guests of Tony and Jolene bright and early that morning. It was an excited group looking forward to the show, although Matt reminded everyone that it was over a dark subject, and she was only going to be on for a few minutes.

Jolene showed up with her thick knee length hair hanging free behind her, with one section on each side of her center part rolled back slightly and fastened just behind each ear to keep it from falling forward into her food. It had been so long since Matt had seen her hair down, as it was now always up in one of Mandy’s signature styles for their dance practices. Although he knew quite well how long it was, it was a bit of a thrill to actually see it like this again, as it was so very thick and healthy. In fact it even looked a bit longer than he recalled. When she sat in her chair and it hung down behind her, the ends actually gathered in a small pile of the floor. It immediately made him think of the last time he was with Mandy, in her hospital room. He recalled the tender joy of brushing her hair once again. Seeing Jolene’s made him secretly wish Mandy had so much length. Imagine the thrill of brushing all of that. He started recalling the many different hairstyles he had seen Mandy in, including the full head of teased out curls on their very first date. He wondered if that could have been accomplished with hair as long as Jolene’s. Believing Mandy could certainly pull that off, he then found himself trying to picture Jolene with her long black hair transformed into a huge mass of curls. He’d love to see that. Fortunately the waitress came bringing them all coffee, snapping him out of his daydream before anyone caught him staring.

The television lounge of the dorm wing was party central at Heritage Hall, as all the girls were excited about seeing Mandy on ‘The Today Show’. They still couldn’t believe this truly was going to happen, and probably wouldn’t until they actually saw their floor leader on the screen.

Of course all of them dearly loved Mandy, and looked up to her like a big sister at least, and more like a role model. It had been so difficult seeing her go through the Janice Henderson ordeal, and all were glad that finally something good was coming out of it.

And then of course there was Mandy’s fabulous hair. All of them admired it so, adoring all the wonderful things she did with it. Looking around the room it was easy to see the impact she had on the group. Every one of them was in the process of growing their own hair out, or were extremely content if they already had long hair, never entertaining the desire to get a shorter haircut like most of the ‘trendy’ people were getting. Mandy was more than ready to share her knowledge with anyone, and so this group of ladies was easily the best coiffed on campus. While none were near as competent at working with their hair as Mandy, all had learned at least a few styling tricks and secrets and made the best of them.

Mandy was giddy with the thrill that she was actually sitting here talking with Katie Couric. The hostess even insisted she be addressed as Katie and not Ms. Couric.

During their 15 minutes or so together Katie adeptly pried into her private life, learning about Matt Johnson and why he now lived in New Mexico. She also learned about the CD of hairstyling tricks she was trying to sell to stylists (with absolutely no luck) to raise enough money to move out and join her boyfriend. She seemed genuinely interested in this, and inquired about what kind of styles might be on it. When she learned about the ‘Faux Short Hair’ updo that Mandy said could make her hair look no longer than Katie’s own shoulder length ‘bob’, she found herself requesting that Mandy wear it so for their on air interview.

"I imagine that would take a good deal of time though," said the hostess.

"No, I can do it in about 15 minutes," said Mandy quite casually.

"In that case what I’d like to do is get a camera crew in here filming you putting it up, so we can have a before and after look. Then maybe I can help your cause a bit by mentioning on air about your little project."

"Well,…..OK," said Mandy, never expecting this interview to be a sales promotion.

As Mandy wrote down her E-mail address Katie sneaked a quick feel of her long blonde mane, quite envious of how beautiful it was. How wonderful it would be to have such glorious tresses.

A few minutes later the two ladies bid each other farewell until their on air interview coming up later. A make-up man came in to do Mandy’s face for her, soon followed by a middle aged, balding and quite obese camera man who looked more like a construction worker than someone filming a hairstyling session. Yet he was quite polite and actually seemed almost mesmerized by the transformation that was happening in front of him as Mandy recreated her ‘Faux Short Hair’ style. A little over 10 minutes later she was using a curling iron on the ends, curving them under so they fell not even to her shoulders.

Her bangs she left hanging down in front of her with just the slightest hint of a curve under. They still only reached just below the middle of her forehead and looked quite out of place, but seemed appropriate for this interview and really didn’t look bad. She couldn’t wait for another month or so to pass when they would at least reach her eyebrows and look like real bangs again.

As the camera man was putting away his tripod he almost nervously spoke up. "That’s a pretty good trick you do there with you hair. I bet my daughter would like to know how to do that."

Mandy found herself mentioning the CD she had to sell, and was surprised when the cameraman gave her cash for it and wrote down his address on a business card. He felt it would make a great Birthday gift for Hannah this summer.

As Mandy was led to the small set for her interview, Katie Couric was stunned by her updo as she doubted it would be as believable as it actually was. From the front Mandy truly looked to have hair as short as Katie’s own shoulder length style, if not a little shorter.

Matt Lauer, in his own comfortable way, read the tele-prompter.

"The past few weeks, especially out here in New York Giant country, a great deal of attention surrounded the Curt Barcley rape trial. Of course it was learned the Penn State Quarterback was totally innocent, as he was found to be helping a young woman named Mandy Harper the evening in question. What most people don’t know is the truly horrifying ordeal this young woman had to endure herself. Ms. Harper is here in our studio today to talk with Katie about her own amazing story."

(Katie) "I’m here with Mandy Harper, who has had a junior year of college fit for an adventure novel."

Mandy blushed a bit and let out a hint of a giggle. It felt so strange knowing she was being seen coast to coast.

"Now back on February 11th you were in the middle of a terrifying ordeal. Tell us about it."

"Well, I was being stalked by a woman who was obsessed with me at that time."

"Her name was Janice Henderson who, in fact, had actually killed another lady, a hairdresser named Sheri De La Court, about a month earlier."

"That’s right. Eventually this woman drugged me, tied me up, and was planning to torture and kill me. If it weren’t for the police breaking in and shooting her dead I’m quite sure I wouldn’t be here today."

"Really frightening to think about. What’s interesting is Janice’s obsession with you was centered around your hair."

"I guess that’s true. From what the police could gather she had been trying to copy the things I do with my hair for quite some time and I guess got a little frustrated."

"I should say so. Talk about your bad hair days!" Both ladies laughed a bit over the host’s most timely joke. Mandy was impressed how comfortable Katie was doing this, and how she made her guest feel so at ease.

Katie continued, taking the interview in a different direction. "I know it’s hard for our viewers to believe, but Mandy actually has extremely long hair. (a picture of her that morning in the waiting area with her hair hanging down was superimposed on the screen) On February 11th you thought you were being attacked by Janice when returning from the library late one night."

"Yes. At the time the police were still trying to locate her. I wasn’t supposed to go anywhere by myself, but that night was up late studying and ended up returning to my dorm alone."

"It was then that you thought you were being attacked, which actually was just getting your hair caught in a tree branch."

"I know it sounds rather stupid now, but I was so stressed out by being stalked for many weeks that I was just a bundle of nerves at the time. The sudden pull of my hair just made me snap."
"And that’s where Curt Barcley entered the picture."

"Yes, he was just returning from the library also, and he noted my predicament. At the time I was screaming and in total panic. He calmed me down, broke the branch free from the tree, and escorted me back to my room Once there he kept me company and held the branch still while I detangled my hair from it."

"From what I understand that was no easy task."

"It did take a while."

The hostess took the interview in yet another direction. "Seeing you today it’s quite easy to understand Janice’s fascination with your hair." (Unknown to Mandy her hair was now being shot close up from behind so the people at home could get a look at the intricate mass of coils consuming most of her length so that just the ends were released and curled under to appear so much shorter.) "I understand this is just one of numerous unique styles you do with your hair."

"It’s kind of a hobby of mine that I must credit to my older sister Gail. She’s a stylist who taught me most of what I know when I was growing up." (As she spoke the footage of her putting her hair up in her current style, run in fast motion, was shown to the viewing public.)

"Tell us about 6th grade."

"Well my sister and I wanted to make a point about how versatile long hair could be, so we ended up styling my hair different every day for the entire school year. Some ended up pretty crazy, but we made it. That year taught us both a lot of different styling tricks."

"In fact you’ve put together a computer CD showing instructions to numerous styles for very long hair, including the one you’re wearing now."

"I was hoping to sell them to salon professionals. I’m trying to raise enough money to move to Santa Fe and join my boyfriend Matt Johnson. He’s living there now to help run his family business."

"Would these be available to the general public?"

"I suppose so, if anyone were interested." Again unknown to Mandy, her E-mail address was displayed on the television screen.

"Well I know I’d want one if I had hair as long as yours. I’d like to thank you for coming here today and sharing your story with us. You’re a very, very brave young woman."

"Thank you for having me here."

"And good luck with your CD sales. Back to you Matt."

The red light on the camera went off, and Mandy let out a huge sigh of relief.

"You did wonderfully," said Katie. "I’ve got to say I love your hair that way. I hope I can get a CD from you. My daughter’s hair isn’t that long but maybe she can learn something from it. Plus she’s been wanting to grow it out."

"I’d be happy to. I’ll send you one as soon as I get home."

Matt Johnson had to hold back a tear seeing his beloved Mandy on television. He so wanted to be with her again and was happy for her morning celebrity status. The rest of the day was spent recalling her interview.

The Harper clan had all gathered together at the McCormick residence to watch the show. When it was over they were all beaming in pride over how young Mandy had handled herself.

In State College the girls of Heritage Hall were busy putting up banners to welcome home their new celebrity when she returned later that day. They were all very excited about her interview and how great she came across.

Mandy was overwhelmed by all the well wishers who greeted her that afternoon, and the decorations were truly appreciated. She broke down in tears of joy, and spent the good part of an hour hugging everyone. It wasn’t until this moment that she knew the nightmare of the Janice Henderson incident was truly behind her. Then she made a point to call her parents, her sister Gail, and Matt Johnson.

It wasn’t until later that evening that Mandy turned on her computer and checked her E-mail. When it took an unbelievably long time to import all her mail, she first worried that her laptop had broken down. Then the reason behind the delay became apparent.

Brenda Harrington had never seen Mandy acting like this. She was beyond hyper. Her pounding on her door was so hard it nearly dented the wood.

"What’s up Mandy?"

"Did the ‘Today Show’ give out my E-mail address?"

"Yeah, it was on the screen. You didn’t know that."

"They said they might, but no, I didn’t know that."

"Is there a problem?"

She sat down, staring at the wall wide eyed. "Well, kind of, yeah."

"It’s not bad news is it?"

"No, it’s not bad news. But we’ve still got a problem. I’ve got over 3,000 E-mails wanting to buy a copy of our CD."


So how did I do? Please send me any comments, criticisms, ideas for the plot of part 6 or any other story ideas you might have. Thank you to all who submitted their ideas after reading Parts 1-4.

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