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Coal Black by Joelsweet
Jonah struggled up the stairs, juggling all of the groceries. He had bags looped over his arms and was carrying some against his chest. Who would have thought that two people would need so much food? Every step was like a balancing act; every breath threatened to topple everything.
‘Just two more.’ Carefully, both feet lifted up onto the next step. ‘One more.’ Gingerly, Jonah lifted himself off of the staircase and onto the next level. It was easy from here. Second door on the right. It was muscle memory at this point. With his elbow, he knocked on the door, hoping that his boyfriend wasn’t in the shower. He sighed in relief as the door opened.
Nathaniel smiled when he saw Jonah and grabbed several of the bulging bags from him.
"The neighbors must think we’re feeding an army," he joked. Breathing heavily from walking up all those stairs, his boyfriend laughed shakily. It was cut short when he entered and saw a strange man sitting on the couch, grinning at him.
"Who’s that?" he asked, narrowing his eyes.
"Oh! Sorry, I forgot to warn you. This is Caesar, my cousin," Nathaniel explained.
"Huh," Jonah replied, slightly annoyed. His lover’s relatives had a tendency to drop in unannounced. He followed his partner to the kitchen, where they set the bags of groceries, which resonated around the silent room with a loud thump. Nathaniel opened the fridge to start putting items away, but his phone dinged. He pulled it out and cursed.
"I can't believe I forgot about that!" he cried as he anxiously ran a hand through his brown hair.
"What is it?" Jonah asked, slightly concerned.
"I said I'd volunteer today," the brunette explained as he rushed towards the door.
"Well, can I…" Jonah’s eyes shifted untrustingly to Caesar. He was not leaving him alone in their apartment. "Can we come with?" he suggested flatly. An apologetic Nathaniel shook his head.
"You have to have pre-registered, and I can't fit all three of us on the motorcycle anyways. I'll be back in a couple of hours."
"Oh, alright," Jonah agreed, disappointed.
"Thanks for understanding." He received a quick kiss, and then his boyfriend was out the door and gone. With a sigh, he walked over and pulled it shut.
"So, are you guys, like, a thing?" Caesar drawled behind him. Jonah whipped around, his braid slashing the air behind him.
"Yeah. You got a problem with that?" he challenged, bristling.
"No. It's just-"
"Just what?" Jonah demanded.
"Well…" Caesar smirked, then continued. "It's just that he normally doesn't date people with long hair." Jonah froze.
"Excuse me?" Nathaniel’s cousin feigned innocence.
"I'm surprised, is all. He normally goes for guys with buzz cuts and stuff."
Without noticing, Jonah had started stroking the end of his braid. When he caught himself, he abruptly stopped.
"So?" he asked defensively.
"Nothing, I just thought that he might be more attracted to you if you had short hair," Caesar suggested nonchalantly. Jonah’s hands curled into fists at his sides. "I could cut it for you if you want," he offered. He leaned forwards a bit and lowered his tone. "Unless you're scared, of course." Jonah tried to remind himself that this guy was just egging him on, but it didn't work.
"I am not scared," he hissed through gritted teeth.
"Great, take a seat then." Caesar patted the sofa beside him with a devious look in his eyes. Rigid, the braided man stalked over and plopped down next to the insufferable man.
"Turn around." Jonah complied reluctantly. His muscles tightened when he felt Caesar’s hand running down his plait. "It's okay," he heard his remark in an unimpressed tone. "But I'm sure my dear cousin would like it better in a neat, tight style." Jonah’s jaw clenched, but he would not show intimidation.
"Well, go for it then!" he commanded, trying not to let his voice waver.
"Alright. Where's your hair cutting supplies?" Jonah considered telling him that he was unsure of their location, but then decided that that was the coward’s way out.
"Hall closet, bottom shelf," he muttered. The sound of Caesar’s footsteps grew quieter as he walked away.
Inwardly, Jonah wondered why Nathaniel pretended to like his long hair if he really didn't. Was he just faking? Secretly longing to have him cut it all off.. He always seemed to enjoy brushing and playing with it. But this man was his cousin. Surely he'd know his tastes well. Jonah sighed and fiddled his the soft, paintbrush-like end of his braid. Caesar soon returned, holding a black kit with a white logo embroidered on it.
Jonah’s head jerked back as his braid was viciously grabbed.
"Way too wavy. Should have chopped this off a long time ago." Caesar observed bitingly. Jonah told himself not to fly off the handle.
‘Don't react. You're being teased,’ the rational part of his mind said. Nervously, he twirled the little ringlet that hung down over his face. Nathaniel always called it his superman curl. And soon, he wouldn’t have it. All because of his stupid pride.
The couch squeaked as Caesar scooted closer. He unzipped the kit, and Jonah heard a click as a tool was extracted. With a deep, shaky breath, he prepared himself. He was set and focused. He would not show any emotion. The strong scent of Caesar’s cheap cologne stung Jonah’s lungs as it reached him. He wrinkled his nose in disgust. His head was shoved into the bowed position, where he was forced to stay.
"Hold still!~" Caesar warned in a sing-song voice. Jonah closed his eyes in quiet acceptance. He kept hoping that Nathaniel would walk in just then and put a halt to this, but he didn’t.
Snip. He gulped nervously. This guy hadn’t been kidding. A blunt-ended, shortened lock swung out from behind his ear and hung in front of his face. Gradually, he lifted his eyelids to see the piece dangling in front of him.
Snip. A small amount more hair was severed.
Jonah’s hair was so thick that the scissors seemed to bounce off of it like two magnets repelling each other. Yet every snap of the blades cut off a little bit more as Caesar slowly but surely sawed off the plait. It made a sharp slicing noise that seemed to chop through the very air. The cold shears kept touching Jonah’s neck, which caused him to shiver and goosebumps to rise on his tan arms. Caesar noticed and laughed under his breath. He continued the attack with more zeal, cutting faster and more roughly.
Regret burned in Jonah’s heart, and he cursed himself for letting this happen.
"Almost done!~" Caesar announced. Two more cuts, and he was holding the full braid in his hand. Jonah looked over his shoulder, determined not to show how upset he was. What had just taken place began settling in his stomach with a wave of nausea. Playfully, Caesar tossed his hand through Jonah’s new, haphazardly cut bob. Mockingly, he tried to pull the thick and fluffy strands into a ponytail, but it was way too short, and slipped from his fingers. "Doesn’t really fit your face, huh?" Jonah avoided eye contact, simmering. His mouth was drawn into a thin line as he tried not to yell. "Don’t worry, we’ll fix that soon."
Jonah moved back to forward-facing position in disgust so that Caesar could get it over with.
"Hey, turn back for a second." Exasperated, he complied, and Caesar held up the truncated plait next to his face.
Click! Jonah’s off-guard, annoyed expression, chopped-off braid, and mussed up hair was captured, saved, and a couple taps later, posted on the internet. "There! Let’s see what people think of your new hair!" Caesar crowed, laughing. Jonah found that he could not mask his horror.
"What?" he demanded in dismay and indignation, his nut-brown eyes wide.
"Posted it," Caesar chirped, and smirked. "People are already commenting on how glad they are you cut off that hair." Jonah bit his cheek so hard that the tangy, iron taste of blood entered his mouth. In fury, he dug his fingernails into his thighs, gripping the jean material to keep from clawing the man. How dare he? He must be trying to start a fight.
But Jonah restrained himself. He was sure Nathaniel didn’t want his cousin to be beaten up. With a movement that knocked the breath out of him, Caesar shoved his chin back to his chest. Trepidation filled his chest as he heard the clippers firing up.
This wasn’t over yet.