The Regular: Part 6
By Tairish
It was one week later that Kim learned she had been promoted with a hefty raise, in light of her recent successes with the Buchanans and in New York. She was, quite naturally, delighted. She was also rewarded with a new office, and Dawn informed her was right up there on her list for important assignments. Then Dawn set a card down in front of her.

"What’s this?" It was a card for Barry Whitstein, a local photographer (probably the best in town).

"You’re scheduled for 9 A.M. this Friday. Just a basic shoot for new business cards, advertisements, etc… Give him a call and he’ll fill you in on the details."

Kim was thrilled and later that afternoon contacted the photographer. He instructed her she was to bring several of her business suits, including one with pants and one with a skirt, although most of the photos would be head shots. Also, he said that Dawn had requested that her hair be worn up, and that when he learned how long Kim’s hair was in agreement.

"Couldn’t I just pull it back in a braid or something? I really don’t ever where it up, and these pictures should at least look like me, shouldn’t they?"

"I think there is a certain image we’re trying to get across. Wear it up."

After getting all the final instructions, she hung up and just buried her head on her desk for a while. She couldn’t believe she needed to have her hair done yet again so soon. She was still inspecting it each day for damage from her last experience with her hair up. She was still amazed that it was truly undamaged from being curled, teased, and sprayed stiff, and then left that way for an entire week.

But this was certainly an event that required it, and it only needed to be up for one afternoon photo session. She might even get away with little to no hairspray. With a sigh she called ‘The Bella Donna,’ to schedule an appointment with Gail for Friday morning.

Unfortunately she learned that the stylist would be out of town on Friday. At first she thought she was stuck.

"What about Thursday?" Kim realized having it done a day early meant she would have to suffer the indignity of the hairspray again.

Gail would be leaving that afternoon, and was over-booked in the morning.

"What about Wednesday?" This meant wearing it up for the good part of the week again. It also meant she would have to be spraying it again herself at home. She wasn’t looking forward to wielding the can of spray again.

Again she was booked. In fact her only opening all week was a 3:30 appointment that afternoon!

"You could have one of the other girls do it for you on Friday," the stylist suggested.

This was awful enough with a now-familiar person doing her hair. She couldn’t imagine trusting anyone else.

"No. I’d like you to do it."

"Then I guess I’ll see you in two hours."

Kim’s heart started pounding. It was already 1:30. Amazingly she confirmed the appointment, trembling all the while. Except for the first time, she’d always had a good number of days to mentally prepare for the ordeal. Now she had only hours, and would be faced with wearing it up for another five days in a row. She called Michael, informing him of what was happening. He seemed very excited, not at all concerned about the risks to her hair.

"So how long do you have to keep it up this time?"

"The photo shoot is Friday morning. I suppose I can take the afternoon off and take it down then."

Silence on the end of the line. "Hello?! Michael?! Are you still there?!"

"Yeah, I’m still here."

"I thought I lost you for a second. Are you OK?"

"I was just wondering…. Well, I was just wondering if you would keep it up for my company staff party Saturday night."

Kim had almost forgotten about the semi-formal affair.

"I’d understand if you didn’t want to, but I’m hoping you will."

She could hear the hopeful pleading in his voice. She reluctantly agreed, especially since she had often asked his opinions or wishes about what she should wear, etc…, and was sometimes even disappointed that he didn’t just volunteer them. What kind of message would she be sending him if this one time he asks something of her she shoots it down. By the time the call was over she had only about one hour before she needed to set out for the salon. She took care of some pressing paperwork, then spent a good 15 minutes undoing her French Braid, brushing, and just appreciating her beautiful tresses, verbally apologizing to it for what she was about to put it through yet again.

She was almost numb walking into ‘The Bella Donna’ this time, so unplanned as it had been. Diane greeted her. "Back again so soon? You’re practically a Regular."

Kim knew it was just a polite joke, but it still brought back images of the nightmare that found her hair a broken, ruined remnant of her present mane due to daily visits to this establishment. She forced a smile. It didn’t help that Diane’s own hair was silky straight again, looking perfect and healthy. At least her hair would get a week off, thought Kim.

Soon she was called back by Gail, and explained what brought her back again so soon. The concern on her face was apparent as she asked for her ‘usual’ French Twist.

"Was there any damage to your hair from last time? I know you were worried about it."

"No, there wasn’t."

"Then why would you suppose this time would be any different?"

"I don’t know. I think I just feel like I’ve been lucky or something."

"Luck has nothing to do with it my Dear," she exclaimed, tenderly smoothing the long mane with her brush. "This is what I do."

Kim hoped one day she’d be able to truly trust Gail. She already trusted her more than any other stylist, though couldn’t imagine anyone but Jill taking scissors to her hair for her twice yearly trims. It was just this whole ‘styling’ thing she couldn’t see ever trusting. Ever. But she figured, if she had to have this done, she was in as good of hands as any. She gave a supportive nod and smile to her stylist, as sincere as she could make it under the circumstances. And with that she was led back to start the procedure again.

Soon Kim was once more taking in the aura of the salon from under the hood of a hairdryer. It was remarkably busy with mostly senior citizens. She talked with those next to her, who she noted were very warm and genuine people. But she couldn’t relax. All around her were heads of hair being viciously ratted up to unnatural heights, and the odor of hairspray was dense and pungent. Just walking through this salon probably resulted in a thin layer of spray being deposited on a person’s hair.

And then there was some cutting going on, which she really rarely noticed here. She watched the entire process of one middle aged lady with lovely mid-back length hair (similar in color to her own) get it chopped into a short bob with full bangs and the nape clippered short. It was done in stages, getting progressively shorter and shorter until the agreed upon finished look. While the stylist did it very well, and the client seemed very pleased with the result, Kim couldn’t help but think she looked much better walking into the shop compared to when she walked out. Kim watched the stylist sweep up the long clippings, hoping she’d never have to be the one in the seat getting butchered. But her fears of damage were very much alive, knowing that it would soon be her hair that was being teased and sprayed.

The now familiar sight of Kim in a head full of waves was soon looking back at her. She regretted a bit that Michael had never seen her like this. She even considered coming in just to have her hair curled like this for an evening. Then the teasing commenced, looking every bit as sadistic as ever. Kim amazingly kept her emotions in check, but Gail still politely covered her face with the finished sections anyway so that she could weep if she wanted. She could hear comments and laughter from some ladies around her, not used to seeing someone so young, with hair so long, being transformed into a modern-day Bride of Frankenstein. Her eyes welled up a bit, but were dry and composed long before she got to see the final layer of hairspray administered to the now all-too-familiar style. It was every bit as comfortable as usual, and didn’t take long at all for Kim to adjust to. Of course she’d had quite a lot of practice only one week ago wearing this ‘do.

As she gently touched it, confirming she could once more be called ‘helmet-head’, she looked to her stylist.

"I suppose it’s just like last time? Spray it at night before be and again each morning?"

Gail nodded with a casual grin. "You got it."

Moments later she paid, said her goodbyes, and was out the door.

The week seemed to drag. She was constantly dodging hair questions with co-workers, wishing that they would just talk about any subject but her ‘do. It was a relief to be with clients, although familiar ones all seemed to comment positively about her hair too. Fortunately she had some new clients that week who didn’t know her in any other look, and so she could get down to business without the subject of ‘hair’ ever coming up.

She was amazed how at ease she was in the updo now, enjoying never having to fret about stray hairs, blocked vision, tugging or pulling, etc… It was almost like having all the so-called advantages of short hair without having to cut off a thing. Maybe even better, because the short haired ladies still had to be constantly fussing with their short wisps, especially if there were any wind. While her hair might feel horrible, it certainly was more than a match for the elements. Apparently the teased, pinned, and sprayed concoction had its advantages.

Kim hoped it was just coincidence, but this week was also going extremely well. She sensed once again that air of respect and dignity she first felt in New York, and felt again that week with the Buchanans. Now it was happening again, over and over with almost everyone she met. The logical common link seemed to be her French Twist, though she searched constantly for other potential conclusions, dismayed to come up empty.

Her twice daily duels with the hairspray bottle weren’t any easier for her, and she was glad. She remembered that odd period of days where she went absolutely crazy with the stuff, like a child with a new toy, and noted that proved to be a longing that had absolutely gone away.

The photo shoot went very well, and since it was all done digitally she was able to see the results immediately. It would be odd though handing out a business card with her pictured in this hairstyle, with no intention of ever being seen looking like this again. For print advertisements she wondered if family and friends would even recognize that the woman in the ads was her.

That evening she was dying to take down her hair, but was able to fight off the urge for the sake of her boyfriend and his party the next night. In the end she was grateful for several reasons. First, it made it that much easier and quicker to get ready that night, confident he would approve of what she looked like. Secondly, the party was so fancy she fit in much better than with her hair hanging down free and loose as she had planned. Third, the crowded room that required people to eat standing up, etc… would have been an obstacle course to keep her hair out of harm’s way. And finally, that evening the sparks in the bedroom flew again. By the surge she sensed from Michael each time he touched her ‘do she knew it made a difference. While at first she was almost hurt by this realization, she came to terms with it eventually and accepted it. After all, she expected such behavior from him when she made changes to her clothing or make-up or perfume or whatever. Why not with changes to her hair? It wasn’t like he was wanting her to cut it or anything.

It wasn’t until Sunday, late in the morning, when she finally dragged herself from slumber and took her hair down. It had been up for six days this time, meaning it had been up for 13 of the past 20 days. She realized that such a staggering number like that would surely result in some kind of tell-tale signs of damage. She slid out the pins, wrestled with the spray to unroll it, and then hit the shower. Less than an hour later it was restored to mint condition. Like every other time it was perfectly fine despite her quest to find some evidence to support her fear of getting it done.

Unfortunately the only evidence she could determine that next week was that she was much more successful and productive at work when her hair was up. It was driving her crazy to constantly be pushing it out of her way, so eventually she wore only French braids. But she didn’t get that feeling of respect from clients, including the new ones from the previous week. In fact one client, a single man in his late 20’s who had been a model of good manners the previous week, was particularly rude. When he saw her with her hair down looking far younger than he first believed, he started hitting on her. He also called her names like ‘Darling,’ ‘Cutie,’ and worst of all…’Babe.’ He even pinched her in the bottom once, which was answered by a look that could kill. Tail between his legs he backed off, but it was no surprise to Kim when she and the firm lost him as a client. The week before she had been confident he was going to be buying soon too, as he even had plenty of money to spend.

Another set of new clients, who she saw once the previous week with wonderful results, inexplicably switched to another realtor in the firm (one of the men) after spending one morning this week with her. She recalled the look the couple gave her when she greeted them that day. A mixture of surprise, disappointment, and mistrust. They simply didn’t take her seriously looking like she did.

All of Dawn’s beliefs she had shared with her on that trip to New York seemed to be supported. Had Kim not experienced life from both sides she might not have cared, but she had. She liked how it felt to be respected and looked up to. She hated how little she felt now. To add insult to injury, one of Dawn’s juicy new assignments was given Tanya, another member of the firm far less competent than she. They were similar in age and appearance except for one fact: Tanya had short hair. Hence, Tanya was one to take seriously.

So the question was, what did she plan to do about it? As always she turned to Michael for encouragement and perhaps a clear assessment of her choices.

"It sounds to me like there are really only three choices if you want to stay at your present firm," he said. The thought of leaving to another firm was the furthest thing from her mind, so that possibility was thrown out.

"Keep in mind I’m saying these because you asked, regardless of my own personal wishes."

Kim nodded. It was just like Michael to distance himself sometimes. It was one of the reasons she so valued his opinion. She wasn’t sure she wanted to hear them, but was fully attentive.

"You’ve obviously come to the conclusion that you are more successful, and happier, when you are treated with ‘professional courtesy.’ You also contend that your hair is the key stumbling block. When it’s up you get great results, but you hate what potentially it could do to your hair. I’d say choice number one is you leave your hair down the way you always do and accept that there is a consequence for that and just live with it."

Kim looked down, realizing that was a choice and she wished it weren’t so but it was.

"Choice number two is to wear your hair up all the time for work, and accept the risk it involves."

Kim couldn’t believe he would actually make that suggestion, but then it did make sense.

"Choice number three is to cut your hair short enough to give you that ‘professional look’ without needing to put it up, or to wear a wig that would have the same effect."

She looked at him wide-eyed in disbelief.

"I’m not saying that’s something I want you to do, but it is a choice."

She sat there silently pondering the dilemma. "What do you think I should do?"

"Honestly?" When he put things that way she knew he wouldn’t hold back, and she braced for the worst.

"Yeah. Honestly."

"I think you should wear it up for work. You’ve learned it’s possible to leave up all week, you get the results you want, I think you look great with it up, and your fears of damage have thus far proved unfounded."

"Wouldn’t you miss not seeing it down ever?"

"Take it down at the end of the work week and keep it down all weekend. Sort of the best of both worlds."

She couldn’t believe they were actually talking about her becoming a weekly customer of the salon, and seriously considering it.

"But what if it destroys my hair?"

"At the first sign of damage then you’ll have to rethink this all through and determine if the sacrifice is worth it. But if it doesn’t damage it, there seems to be no reason not to give this a try."

"And it would be OK for you to have a girlfriend with hair that feels like a helmet all the time?"

"What’s important is if you can handle it. I’ll support any decision you might make, though I’d truly hate to see you cut your hair."

"Well, that’s not going to happen. Let me think about it."

By the end of the week Kim came up with a plan. She would give herself a couple of more weeks with her hair down just to make sure it wasn’t a bad streak, etc… But if her hair really did make such a difference then she needed to do something. She even visited a wig shop one day, and was stunned how realistic the high end ones looked. It was almost scary seeing her reflection in a variety of styles ranging from a shoulder length Bob to a short Pixie length (which didn’t look right due to the bulge from her own mass of hair stuffed under it). It was also kind of fun being able to so radically change her look in a matter of seconds. Although they looked and felt real enough to come across as totally believable, Kim decided this really wasn’t an option. Trying to explain such a thing to her co-workers would be bad enough. Dawn would never buy it no matter how real it looked, and what if it came off in front of a client? But mostly she just didn’t feel right trying to come across as a person she wasn’t, almost like she was living a lie. Even if others bought the lie, it was still a lie. A wig clearly wasn’t a choice. She wished she could just accept things and leave her hair down, but she couldn’t any more. So she opted, against her better judgment, that she would risk weekly trips to the salon. However at the first sign of damage that option would be gone. She’d rather change jobs than lose her beloved hair.

She called Gail and explained her predicament. Gail supported her, agreeing that she shouldn’t keep having it done if it meant destroying her mane. Monday morning would be tough to squeeze her in but said she’d try to finagle something. The next day she called back saying she convinced Jeannette to start 30 minutes earlier, meaning she could fit Kim in at an 8:30 time slot.

"Actually Jeannette was happy to do it as it would give her an extra half hour each day to get things done.

The significance of the time struck her. It was the same time that had been written on the calendar every day in her hair nightmare that she had recalled time and time again. Was this a sign of things to come?

"And that time will be available each week?"

"You’ll be a ‘Regular’ if that is what you want."

It wasn’t what she wanted. It was what she needed to do to get what she wanted. "I’ll call you back in one week to confirm. By then I should know one way or the other."

"Then I’ll plan on hearing from you in a week."

One week.

One week to determine the potential fate of her hair.

It was only a matter of day before Kim truly had her mind made up, but she gave herself the courtesy of the full grace period. It was obvious that she wanted to be treated ‘professionally,’ and that even her most tasteful braids wouldn’t do the trick. She called Gail and locked in the Monday morning time slot. Then she called Michael letting him know of her decision. He was supportive as always, and almost seemed enthused.

Bright and early that Monday morning she stepped into the salon. It was already a full house, and Gail was strategically placing the last series of large rollers before Jeannette was ready for the dryer. Kim couldn’t get over how long the client’s hair was, as the damp ends dangled inches from the floor despite the chair being raised up quite a bit.

Diane greeted her, this time sporting a huge tower of hair that was clearly hideously teased. It was both awful and amazing, especially since she actually looked good in it. But it acted as a catalyst returning Kim’s fears of the torture and damage that this place represented. Her pulse quickened.

Diane consulted her appointment book, then looked up with a ready smile. "Congratulations, I understand you are now a ‘Regular.’

It sounded so odd she didn’t know what to do. ‘Congratulations’?! It hardly seemed worth celebrating. She offered only a reluctant grin. But as she walked back to Gail’s awaiting chair, wading through a sea of curling, teasing, and spraying, she realized Diane was correct. Kimberly Ann Jacobs, with chestnut brown hair falling nearly to her bottom, was now a ‘Regular’ of The Bella Donna.

The End of Part 6

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