by Tairish
Thrust into a grown-up world so quickly had been hard for Matt.  Forced to take the reins of his father’s business, be caretaker for his recovering father and make sure his mother kept her emotional state in balance was just the start.  Leaving school unfinished, leaving the love of his life only to learn she was stalked and nearly murdered was quite another thing.  Matt needed someone also to keep his mental balance in check, and he sure couldn’t afford a psychiatrist.

Fortunately there was Jolene Ramirez who was more than just his star pupil.  She was a friend, a confidant, and helped him get acclimated to this far different lifestyle.  The fact that she was so refined and beautiful didn’t hurt any either.  He never realized how beautiful until he saw her at a Dance School swim party in a very stylish bikini.  Matt knew her body was sculpted by daily workouts with a personal trainer.  He didn’t know if any surgery had also enhanced her figure but wouldn’t doubt it.  She was simply stunning.  And then there was that head of hair.  Of course he usually saw it up for dance practice in one of Mandy’s trademark styles, but he was still getting the opportunity on occasion to see it down.  At the pool party she wore it in a simple braid that still reached nearly to her knees.  Sometimes the two would study dance films looking for style points or new moves to learn and she would show up with her hair free falling down her back.  He had even been invited over to her house for dinner several times.  It was all very proper including her husband Tony plus some other friends.  Still, watching the magnificent straight wall of thick nearly black hair that now extended just a little past her knees, yet was absolutely healthy, was a sight to cherish.  At first it made him always think about Mandy, but nowadays he just looked at it as pure Jolene.  It was, after all, at least a foot longer than Mandy’s, even more since Jolene was about 4 inches taller, and it was much thicker.  That was saying a lot, since he always considered Mandy to have extremely thick hair.

By now he was absolutely addicted to women with long hair, noticing it everywhere he looked.  The southwestern United States, with its larger Hispanic population, seemed to have a much higher percentage of long haired women than Pennsylvania.  That was fine by him.  Of course hair much longer than waist length was still a rarity anyplace.  But the two key women in Matt’s life, his girlfriend and his best female friend, both had as wonderful tresses as anything he could imagine.

Jolene once showed him the simulated pictures of her with the short haircut she was planning to get before being introduced to Mandy.  Matt couldn’t believe how different she would have looked.  She still would have been gorgeous, no denying that, but totally lacking the all-encompassing aura that her long mane added.  He was so thankful that fateful haircut never happened.  He also wondered how he would react if it ever did happen, with either Jolene, or Mandy, or even some other long haired women that he knew.  He certainly wouldn’t be able to dismiss it so easily like he used too not even one year ago.

Mandy wanted to make sure she did nothing wrong about this business opportunity, so she spent a good deal of time with some of her Professors making sure she could do this the most cost-efficient, and legal way possible.  They were happy to oblige, all of them not only familiar with Mandy but also with the entire Curt Barcley story.  Some were willing to float her a small loan, with interest of course, to help her get the necessary materials to get the ball rolling.  They also helped her get a Pay-Pal account going, and all the legal conditions covered.  She happily accepted any assistance she could get, and then set out rounding up all the girls on her dormitory floor.

Henry Ford himself would have been proud of the amazing transformation of Heritage Hall into an efficient production line for Mandy’s hair videos.  Since all the girls on the floor had computers, it was simply a matter of getting the materials, making sure all the computers had the capabilities to burn the videos, and then giving all enough incentive (a percentage for each CD made) to help out.  Night and day the computers did their work, and in no time the product was being mailed out to customers.

Over 4,000 orders were eventually placed that first week, and several dozen more each day came in after that.  All the girls showed a fine little paycheck for their efforts.  Mandy and Brenda had more than enough money to see them through the summer in style, plus their school expenses for the next year would not be a problem.  It was strange that this horrible chapter in her life, and in Curt Barcley’s life, would result in such a positive.  Mandy had never experienced a time where she didn’t have to count pennies.  But at least for this summer, she had the money to follow her love to New Mexico if she chose to do so.  Now that was one of the simplest decisions she would ever make.

Matt couldn’t stop the tears of joy as he learned of his loves newfound fortune, and the fact the two of them would be together so soon.  She at first turned down his invitation to stay with his parents, not wanting to be a burden.  But after being convinced that her presence could do more good for her ailing father than perhaps any medicine, she eventually agreed.  Fortunately their new house had a guest room with its own bathroom.  She did insist that she pay several hundred dollars of rent each month at least as well as be responsible for her own food expenses, etc…

Mandy was going to spend a week at home with her parents first, and then another week with Gail and Hank, then would fly out of Pittsburgh en route to Albuquerque.  Matt would pick her up there and the two would make the quick 60 mile drive to Santa Fe.
As good as Mandy was at making decisions, most of her time spent with her sister was on advice of what to pack for her one month stay in New Mexico.  The most efficient thing to bring was numerous separates that could be mixed and matched with each other, providing an almost endless combination of outfits.  As departure day neared, it took her hours just to decide what to wear on the plane trip our west.  It had been months since she last saw Matt, and she was in the hospital at the time not exactly looking her best.  She was much better now though still suffered some occasional nightmares and, at times, some flashbacks.  The scar on her arm was fading a bit more each day.  Even her bangs were at least to her eyebrows now.  That was good news as she was getting tired of limiting her hair exclusively to styles with the formerly short bangs drawn back.  They looked too short when curled under, but were OK if hanging straight down.  By the end of the summer they should be back to where she liked them.

Originally she considered wearing a short skirt, but the spring in State College had been quite cool and overcast, and she really hadn’t acquired any tan whatsoever yet.  Going to New Mexico, where it was probably quite hot (she knew Arizona was in the 100’s regularly and figured New Mexico was the same) her pale white legs might not make a great first impression.  So she opted for a nice white and tan pant suit, tight in the right places.  Not blatantly sexy, but not overly conservative either.

She had first considered wearing her hair down, knowing straight and free had always been the look favored by Matt.  But a full day of air travel, including switching planes in St. Louis, made having her hair down rather impractical.  She tried to think of which updos would be both appropriate and a favorite of his. That was tough, because his favorites were the more extreme ones she used on special events: like the ones that involved curling, and teasing, and tons of hair spray. They would be less practical, and frankly ruined, by the long hours in the plane more than just leaving it hanging straight.  An updo of some type, like she would wear for dance class, was really what was appropriate for this trip. She tried to remember all the different versions she had worn for him, giggling remembering his reaction to her ‘Faux Short Hair’ updo, which Jolene now wore on occasion for him (she was told his initial reaction to Jolene wearing it had been quite the same).  She wondered if she should do something similar, something to make her hair look shorter than it was, but had nothing really in mind.  She got a very good idea from Gail.  Actually it wasn’t a hairstyle idea rather than introduction to a new product: basically just a traditional horse-shoe shaped plastic hair band, but several inches thick rather than quite thin as you would usually find in stores.  Mandy picked out a fake tortoise-shell finished one that would go quite nicely with her pant suit.  If the hair band were wide enough, and flexible enough, she might be able to get away with a rather devious style.

She spent a few hours on her own that evening playing with her hair in hopes of accomplishing her desired look.  It took a bit longer than anticipated, but once the hair band was in place and she studied her look from all angles she had to admit this was ‘it.’  She ran her hand along it, giggling.  The secrets of the style weren’t obvious to the touch.  She shook it around well, making sure it was sturdy and fell back in place correctly even with the headband on.  It worked like a charm.  She smiled a sinister grin.  She was going to have fun with Matt with this one.

It was only 3 days until Mandy would set out west when Matt got the call.  It was only a few hours after they had just talked, so he wondered what possibly could have come up.  But Mandy’s voice sounded terrible, all emotional and distressed.
“What?  What is it?’
“Something horrible just happened.”
“Are you all right?!  Are you hurt?”
“No, I’m not hurt.  But I’m not all right.”
“Do you need to see a doctor?”
“No, I need to see a hairstylist.”

Matt was speechless for a while, not sure if this was a joke or what.  His silence beckoned Mandy to continue.
“I was trimming some split ends when I had another flashback.  I just phased out or something.  When I snapped out of it I….(he could hear the tears flowing)…I found I’d cut a big section of my hair.”
Matt summoned the nerve to ask.  “How bad is it?”
 “Real bad.  And there’s no way to cover it up.  I’m afraid I’m going to have to have Gail even it up.  Oh God it’s going to be so short!  You’re going to hate me.  I’ll look terrible!”
Matt felt like he’d just been kicked.  But still he needed to be there for his girlfriend.  “I’m not going to hate you.  I love you, with or without hair.”
“Well, you’re going to get your chance to prove that soon.”  She started crying again.  “I gotta go, Gail is here.  Please don’t hate me.”
“I love you….”  The phone clicked off.  Matt put the phone down very depressed.
Gail grinned at Mandy.  “That was positively evil.”
Mandy laughed.  “I know.  Think I should call him back and tell him?  He might really hate me after all.”
“Are you kidding?  This new style you created deserves a grand introduction.”  Gail touched Mandy’s seemingly shorter hair, trying to figure out how is was done.  “Please let me take it down so I can figure it out.”
“Oh, all right.”  She sat at the foot of the bed with her back to her sister so she could deconstruct her new hairdo.  “I just hope Matt doesn’t agonize too much.”
“I can’t wait to see what he comes up with to get even with you.”
“I’m a bit worried about that too.”
“I’d be afraid.  Be very afraid.”
And with that both girls started laughing together.

That evening Matt couldn’t sleep.  He felt so bad for his girlfriend, and for himself.  He absolutely adored her hair, and couldn’t imagine seeing her without it.  He wondered how short ‘so short’ was.  Mid back?  Shoulder length?  Above her shoulders?  Obviously it would grow back if she chose to.  Wonder if she learned to like it short and wished to keep it that way?  Would he be as attracted to her that way?

The next few days he was miserable, and angry at himself that Mandy’s hair should be that important to him.  Yet when he was practicing with Jolene, seeing her in one of Mandy’s creations, he grew even more distraught.  Jolene pressed him on what was wrong.  After all, Mandy would be in town in just a few days.  He did not share with her this information though, possibly more out of shame that it should impact him so then anything else.  She’d find out soon enough anyway.
He talked with Mandy each day, triple checking flight times and numbers and running down lists to make sure she didn’t forget anything.  He tried to get her to tell him how short her hair was now.  She did share that it wasn’t above her shoulders which was a huge relief to him, though it could mean it wasn’t much longer than her shoulders which would still be a horrible blow.
“Actually it doesn’t look too bad.  I’m even starting to like it,” she said.
“Really!?”  It was all he could think of saying.  He hoped she wouldn’t like it too much to grow it out again.
“It sure requires less shampoo.”
Matt was almost doubled over in pain.  How short was it?  He was going to find out the very next day.

It was going to be a long day of travel, especially since Mandy gave her herself plenty of time to do her hair.  The sun wasn’t even up yet as she started brushing through her length.  Once finished she separated her hair in two sections, all the hair that would be in front of or under the wide hair band (which she quickly rolled up into a makeshift bun on the front/top of her head, and all the hair that would be behind it.  It was the back hair that had to be work with first, which was actually the toughest part of the style as she needed to constantly double check her work.  She started by splitting the back into three different sections (top, middle, bottom) and pinning the top two up out of the way while she started with the bottom.  This she further separated into smaller sections, which she smothered with some gel and coiled carefully so it lie as flat to her head as possible.  The very end was not coiled though, rather allowing the last 6 inches or so to fall down the back of her head, splayed out by a flat clip so it seemed to hang naturally.  It was similar to her ‘Faux Short Hair’ style, though the extra hair fell about 4 inches below her shoulders, and this one was a good deal more complex.  Once the bottom section was done se started on the middle, repeating the gel and coil process, making sure the extra length hung down just a fraction shorter than the bottom section.  Once finished, the upper portion of the back of her head got a similar treatment.  Of course the section not coiled was now nearly a foot in length to hang down past her shoulders the same length as the rest. When finished the back gave the illusion, at least from a distance, of being no longer than the four inches below her shoulders.  She could even run a brush over it without harm.  Now she set out to make the illusion look real even with closer inspection.

She took down the front part and smoothed it with a brush.  It would require a similar touch as the back.  However the coils of extra hair would be covered by the wide hair band.  Knowing the coils would still rise up a bit, Mandy knew the front would have to have some height to equalize it to pull this off successfully.  So she teased the roots a bit vigorously of the entire front part of her hair, then smoothed it straight back, pinning it carefully but securely right where the headband would cover.  It first looked a bit too bouffant which was not the desired effect, so it took a bit a doing to make it go in place with just the right amount of lift.  Her bangs were refusing to cooperate to lie back with the rest, but some super strong gel quickly changed their mind.  Another very long layer of spray insured the front section would stay in place all day (at a minimum).

Now she started again dividing her head into much smaller sections, gelling and coiling, leaving out enough that would hang down to the same length (actually just a fraction shorter) as the hair in the back.  It took a fair amount of time but fortunately she had allotted plenty, and when the last pin was placed Mandy now looked to have quite full hair only 4 inches below her shoulders.  Only the subtle mass of coils running horizontally across the top of her head suggested otherwise.

Next she took out some hot rollers and started setting the hair hanging down the back.  This was quite a strange sensation as she almost truly felt like she now had much shorter hair.  When the last roller was in, she took a break to have some breakfast, and then to do her makeup and finish up her packing.

An hour later the rollers came out, giving her some nice full curls.  She then took another 10 minutes or so brushing the curls in place, coaxing them to form a perfect full flip that bounced just to the top of her shoulders.  A very long blast of spray locked the final style in place, though Mandy packed a portable curling iron just in case.  As the spray dried, she packed away her hair tools in one of her suitcases, then ran through her packing list making sure she hadn’t forgotten anything.  Finally, she took the extra wide hair band and gently put it on, making sure it hid all the coils. She couldn’t help but laugh as she swung her hair around.  It absolutely looked, from every angle, like her hair was now this shorter length.  The front hair smoothly was drawn back to the hair band, and then it all fell down the back into the flip which looked perfectly natural.  Only by removing the hair band or reaching under the flip in back so you could feel the coils could the illusion be discovered.  She could even tug on the hair in back with no harmful effect, which she planned to do if Matt thought she was wearing a wig.  Heck, he could give it a tug if he wanted.  She sat down very satisfied.  It had been some time since she had created any fun new hairstyles, and this one certainly qualified.  In fact it opened up a whole new world of possibilities.  It would be quite simple just to alter it slightly so her hair appeared a few inches shorter, or quite a bit longer.   Sometime she’d have to explore some of those possibilities.  Right now she was having a lot of fun seeing herself in this very trendy hairstyle. It had a lot of movement and bounce to it.  Not that she thought she looked better with her hair at this ‘more practical’ length, or so hairdressers consider it.  Just it was so very different, which was the whole thrill of it all.  And to know she could experience these thrills without having to sacrifice even an inch of her long hair was even better.  The myths about the impracticality of long hair were just that, myths.  They were formed by an industry that is in the business of making money, and salons don’t make money off of women who grow their hair long.  They make it off the people who are forced to come in every month for regular exotic cuts, or colors, or perms. Or better yet, all three.  And all trends still consider the bottom line before becoming trends since they are invented by hairdressers in the first place.   Well, Mandy would have none of that, and she was living proof she could be as trendy as the next person any time she wanted, and still keep her fabulous flowing mane just the way she liked it.
Gail and Hank both drove her to the airport.  Hank was astounded how real Mandy’s short hairstyle looked.  She allowed him to touch it, and not until he touched the back fairly firmly could he tell it was just an illusion.  But what an amazing illusion!  Gail promised she would do hers the same way some time which he was all in favor of.  As Mandy left down the jetway, the couple left for home hand in hand.  They were so happy for Mandy and what an exciting and joyful summer she would be having.

Matt didn’t need to leave for the airport until mid-afternoon, so he agreed to get together with Jolene and watch some new competition videos she had just come across.   The two met at her house, and were soon immersed in some exciting new routines.  On occasion Jolene would freeze the video to point out something she particularly liked.  She was so excited about it all she didn’t even seem to notice Matt was a thousand miles away.  He was looking at her, but really he was looking at the thick wall of hair that fell, when she was sitting on her couch, clear to the floor gathering in a small, luscious pile.  Sometimes she would toss it behind her or over the other shoulder, or gather it up in one hand with a practiced and automatic movement so that it didn’t catch on anything as she got up.  He watched every movement she made with it that morning, noticing how it graced her every move and how ever mannerism was dictated by her tresses.  He remembered seeing Mandy in the same way, and wondered how she was handling things now.

When a woman has very long, very beautiful hair, getting noticed, getting looked at, getting complimented by men and women alike is a very common occurrence.  Mandy didn’t realize how common until now.  She had been in the airport for several hours now and no one had even given her hair a second look, or given her any compliments.  Only the ticket taker, upon noticing the long hair in her ID, made a comment about her ‘cuter’ short hairstyle.  Yet the way she said it was obvious she was really saying “Why in the world did you cut your long hair?”

She also found herself always doing a double take each time she passed a mirror.  Her illusion looked so real it was scary.  Plus the feel and bounce of the large full flip was such a different sensation upon her skin.  In a way it was a bit irritating.  She was glad she wasn’t stuck with this length of hair as it would lose its charm quite quickly.  The feel of it running far down her back and touching at her bottom was such a delight.  She couldn’t imagine willfully choosing to lose that possibility.

The plane trip was rather uneventful.  Heavy cloud cover made her window seat basically worthless, robbing her of the opportunity to see the changing landscapes beneath her.  The man in the seat next to her to St. Louis seemed more occupied with his sports magazine than anything else. On the next flight it was an older lady who fell asleep before the plane was even airborne.

Mandy visited the restroom knowing the plane would soon begin its final descent.  She touched up her makeup and made sure her hair still looked right.  Her flip was drooping a bit, but the portable curling iron soon took care of that.  A once over with hairspray and she was again good to go.  She grinned, imagining Matt’s reaction when he saw her.  She wondered how long she should go before telling him the truth.  She felt bad for all the suffering he might have experienced the past few days. At least she hoped he was suffering a bit.  What if he liked her with this length better?!  No!  That couldn’t happen.  Could it?!

The one hour drive to Albuquerque gave Matt time to collect his thoughts.  How could he be so selfish?  Here he was, out to pick up the love of his life, the most incredible woman he had ever met, a woman who had been through more than he could possibly imagine in the past 6 months, and he was distraught because she had to get a haircut.  He didn’t dare mention this to anyone lest they think him an idiot, or gay, or a gay idiot.

Somewhere during the drive, perhaps it was the bottom of Embudo hill, Matt came to terms with it all.  He was ready to welcome back Mandy into his life, no matter what she looked like.  She probably looked great even with short hair and if she wanted to keep it that way then that would be fine by him.  He smiled a smile of relief as total acceptance flooded over him.  It was genuine too.
He got to the airport with hours to spare and just sat and watched people.  People shedding tears saying goodbye, people shedding tears saying hello. The hellos were so much sweeter.  He would soon be saying his own hello to the love of  his life.  He couldn’t wait to be in her arms again, hair or no hair.

As the airplane descended out of the clouds Mandy got her fist look at the desert Southwest.  The first thing that struck her was how brown everything was.  Ugly brown.  Only an occasional almost black looking small shrub here or there seemed to break up the desolate landscape, nothing like the lush green of the east.   Matt had said there was some of the most beautiful scenery in this state he had ever seen.  Well, from 20,000 feet she sure couldn’t see it.

Just prior to arriving in Albuquerque the plane passed over a high range of mountains that caught her quite by surprise.  She wasn’t expecting mountains in New Mexico, and these were larger than anything she had ever scene back east, including at the lush Vermont ski areas.  As the plane started descending more and making a long slow left turn Mandy got to see many more mountains, one with snow on it (in June?), basically every direction she looked.  They were all huge, making the mountains out east seem like nothing but hills.  Mount Nittany looking down on Penn State University was nothing but a speed bump compared to the terrain she was looking at now. Then suddenly a large city just appeared, far larger than she imagined though almost exclusively of one or two story buildings with flat roofs.  Few of the homes even had a pitched roof, and though there were trees in the yards none were lush green areas.  Other parts of the city seemed less remarkable, including a downtown area only a fraction the size of the large eastern cities she had visited.  Even though she knew Albuquerque was the largest city in the state, it was clearly not a ‘city’ like the ones back east.

The airport, like everything else, was brown too.  Vast areas of nothingness surrounded the runways.  But no matter how she felt thus far about her initiation to the state, being greeted, being hugged, being kissed, being hand in hand with Matt Johnson once again would make even this a little piece of heaven.  She could feel her heart pounding as the plane taxied in.  She originally thought it would be fun to be the last to leave the plane, building up so much drama, but by the time the plane door was opened she was ready to get off as soon as she could.

Matt could hear his heart pounding as he watched the plane taxi in and the first of the passengers start unloading.  He held in one hand a big red rose.  And then he saw her: Her smile and bright eyes were unmistakable.  She waved a hand at him and seconds later the two were arm in arm, hugging and finally kissing.
“Oh God you look so good,”  Mandy said, her breathing furious.
Matt finally looked at her hair.  It was a beautiful full flip, bouncing off the top of her shoulders, looking very full and thick and healthy.  Leave it to Mandy to pull even this very common hairstyle off in a way that looked great.  And she did, she looked great.  “You look fantastic,” Matt said.
“Really?!”  Mandy knew sincerity when she heard it, he was totally sincere.  “It’s pretty short, isn’t it?”
“But on you it looks terrific.  I like it.”  The amazing thing was, Matt really did like it.
The amazing thing was, Mandy believed he really did like it.
The two set out to baggage claim, hand in hand.
Airports, at least in Mandy’s brief experiences, all seem to look the same.  Albuquerque International was unique, with brick floors, oversized Southwestern chairs in the waiting areas, wood beamed ceilings in the main reception area, and a turquoise theme running throughout.  Plus numerous displays of Southwestern art everywhere one looked.  It was too bad more airports didn’t reflect more of the culture of their area as this one did, she noted. This immersion into another culture momentarily took her mind of her predicament:  When to tell Matt her hairstyle wasn’t real.

The two were soon on Interstate 25 heading north to Santa Fe.  Matt felt so good to be with Mandy again, and constantly was looking over at her.  The air conditioner made her hair billow out a little bit so he could see her neck, amazed at how erotic he found that.  They quickly got lost in a sea of conversation topics, easily bouncing from one to another.
Mandy never thought she could be more in love with Matt.  She was wrong, because right now she felt stronger about him than ever.  It wasn’t just the ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’ metaphor, it was that he was so totally accepting of her with short hair.  He truly loved her, Mandy, for who she was and not just for what she looked like.  Suddenly she didn’t even know if it was necessary to tell him about her true hair length.  It didn’t even seem important.

As the two were on the outskirts of town Mandy cried out,  “Oh My God stop the car!”
 Matt panicked and pulled over as fast as he safely could.  Then looked toward his girlfriend with total concern.  “What’s wrong!”
 “Look at that sunset!  It’s amazing!”  The sky was absolutely filled with brilliant shades of purple and pink.  No picture or painting could ever do it justice.
 “And the mountains, they look pink now.”
Michael couldn’t help but chuckle.  The extreme sunsets here had taken him by surprise too.
  “Those are the Sandia Mountains.  They mean Watermelon in Spanish, because of the way they turn pink in the sunsets.”
 “They look like this every day?!”
 “Pretty much every day.  The sunsets are truly amazing here.  One of the reasons the state is called the Land of Enchantment.”

The next thing that was strange was the many miles they could drive with absolutely no town in sight.  The east was an endless connection of towns and cities by comparison.  Civilization simply came to an end, broken up by a random shed here, or Indian Casino there, and then suddenly another city, in this case Santa Fe, began.

The terrain itself was amazing.  It wasn’t just a long flat brown surface as it appeared in the air, there were plateaus and small little hills and mountains everywhere, even some ancient volcanoes.  It was very harsh, very dramatic, very cruel type of landscape.  And somehow the three factors came together to be very…beautiful.
 “Wow,”  she said as she looked over yet another mountain, then giggled recognizing she had said the same word countless times in the past hour.

 As they entered the Santa Fe City limits, Mandy asked that Matt quickly pull the car over once again.
 “What’s wrong?”
 “I need to confess something.  I hope you don’t hate me.”
 “How in the world could I hate you?”
 “Well, we’ll soon find out.”  With that she took off the thick headband, revealing the intricate series of coils it was hiding.
 Matt looked at end dumbfounded, then started laughing.
 “I didn’t really cut it.”
 “I see that now.”
 “Did you honestly think I had.”
 “Yeah, I really did.”  He reached up and touched the coils, then touched the back, discovering the numerous hidden coils there too. Then his hand just ran over it all, as Mandy closed her eyes, treasuring his attention.  It was now obvious she had teased the front slightly, allowing it to rise up high enough to hide the coils once the headband was on.  The flip was held in place with a heavy dose of spray, although it still had movement and life to it.  It was quite simply one of the most fantastic styles he had yet seen her do, and the thrill of her creativity and the efforts she went to with him filled him with joy. Plus he was happy she still had her long hair, though proud of himself that he was able to separate his love from her from his love of her hair.
 “I’m not sure why I did it.  It was kind of a cruel joke.  Maybe I was feeling a bit insecure.”
 “You don’t need to explain.  In fact, I’m almost glad you did.  It made me come to terms with how I really feel about you.”
 That statement worried Mandy a bit.  “And that is….?”
 Matt reached over and planted an absolutely passionate kiss on her lips.
 It was a full 5 minutes before either considered finishing the drive to the Johnson home.
 “Do you think I should take my hair down so as not to freak out your parents?”

For a moment Matt considered continuing the illusion, but backed down.  “No, leave it like it is, just don’t wear the headband.  I think they’ll get a kick out of it.  Then you can show them how it looks with the headband.”
 “All right.”

Elaine and Richard Johnson were joyous to see Mandy again, and also both stunned by her style, even thinking she had cut it despite seeing all the coils.  Only after she had unpacked and returned with her hair all long and fairly straight (the coils had given her a fair amount of wave, plus the ends still wanted to flip up) were they convinced she truly hadn’t.  All of them talked deep into the night about Mandy’s entire past semester without Matt, including the trial, the Today Show, and her newfound source of income.
 Later that evening, after all others had gone to bed, Matt lovingly brushed Mandy’s hair for her as she sat back and purred.  It had been too long and she really needed this.  It was the ultimate stress relief for her.
 Matt so enjoyed brushing Mandy’s hair.  It was the ultimate stress relief for him.

The next morning Matt brought Mandy with him to the studio to see it all, and to meet Jolene who was going to be there to review tapes of the two of them dancing the previous week.  They were starting to put together a routine for their competition, using Anastacia’s ‘I’m Outta Love’ as their piece of music.

The first moment Mandy saw Jolene Ramirez she was glad she was already friends, because she was totally intimidated by just the sight of her.  She was taller, obviously wealthy, obviously more endowed, even her hair, a thick black waterfall ending just below her knees in such a straight line it looked to have just been trimmed, was more impressive.  It would be very easy to be jealous of this woman.

Jolene came up and gave Mandy a warm hug and was quick to start a girl-to-girl conversation.  Matt let the two meet each other as he opened up the studio and got the video machine all fired up.  By the time he came back he got to see Mandy admiring Jolene’s magnificent mane.  Seeing the two ladies next to each other now, both with their hair down and straight, made it clear just how much longer Jolene’s hair actually was.  It was probably a good 18 inches longer, and much thicker.  Mandy’s looked almost plain in comparison, though it was hard to imagine ever considering her hair as ‘plain’, especially with all the wonderful styles she did with it.
Over the next hour Mandy got to watch the video footage of the two dance partners working on their routine.  She knew Matt was a good dancer, but didn’t know he was ‘this’ good.  The pairing was electric, and very sexy.  Almost too sexy.  She had never seen dancing like this (she had never learned West Coast Swing) but knew a hot dance couple when she saw one.  This duo danced like they were in love with each other, and probably were just as fabulous in the bedroom as they were on the dance floor.


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 waited for this installment. I promise the next won't take nearly so long. (In fact part of it is already written). Send any ideas for this or any other story to:

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