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Coal Black Part 2 by Joelsweet
But then, just as soon as they had been turned on, the clippers were switched off.
"Go and sit down on that barstool over there. I don’t want you to get hair all over your couch."
‘Wow, what a gentleman,’ Jonah thought bitterly. He obeyed, trudging his feet along. The stool was dragged from under the counter out into the middle of the room, squeaking like a chalkboard against the hardwood floor. When he passed the microwave, Jonah looked down to avoid seeing his reflection. He sat down and bowed his head again, not wanting any more neck pain. Outside the window, he could hear the pitter-patter of rain starting up, and the crescendo increased until it sounded like a full-on torrential monsoon.
Caesar’s feet made a tapping sound against the floor as he closed the gap between them, the sound blending in with the rain. Jonah gasped when he felt hands of ice touch his neck, gently feeling his shortened mane.
"I think I’m going to have some fun with this," Caesar purred. The formerly long-haired man clenched his jaw.
"Can’t you just get it over with?" he spat. Caesar laughed dryly.
"Nope. You’re not backing down, are you?" he asked sweetly, but a hint of aggression lingered in the air afterwards.
"No," Jonah growled, his eyes narrowing in anger. ‘I’m not weak and I’m not afraid,’ he told himself. But it was a lie, and he knew it.
"Don’t worry, you’re going to look fabulous," Caesar assured mirthfully. Jonah snorted. Sure he would. "Aww, relax." He didn’t comply. He did, however, fall into silence in solemn acceptance. Whether he liked it or not, his fate was in Caesar’s hands. He could only hope that mercy would be shown.
Again, the buzzing noise filled the air, but it was almost completely drowned out by the pouring rain. When Jonah closed his eyes and tried to picture something other than the situation he was trapped in, he pictured the raindrops hitting the window and then sliding down the glass. Over and over and over again. An orchestra of water splashing and swelling and crashing. He was snapped out of his thoughts as blades ran up his neck.
"I’m using a #0 on the back and sides, and then a #2 on top," Caesar explained.
Jonah didn’t respond, chewing his cheek alternatively. He wasn’t going to let the other man know that he had no idea what length the numbers corresponded with. The cold air stung the back of his neck; it was so cold. He sighed, dejected. He wondered if he would have to start wearing a headscarf. Without a cape, the fluffy shorn locks slipped down the back of his shirt. But, through his terror and anxiety, he felt a surge of something else. He immediately pushed it away when he recognized it. Excitement. The vibration against his head was something he hadn’t felt since he was very young, and he had forgotten it.
"Finished with the back," Caesar announced, and switched off the clippers. Tentatively, Jonah reached up to feel his head. It was so alien to him that he was confused at how this could be his head. Although he was horrified, he couldn’t stop feeling the bristles. "Huh. You have a huge scar on your nape." Jonah froze.
"Yeah, and?" he demanded.
"Oh, nothing," Caesar replied angelically. "I just thought that maybe you started growing out your hair to cover this gruesome scar." Panic flashed throughout Jonah. His tormentor had hit the nail on the head.
"No, that’s ridiculous," he lied unconvincingly.
The clippers were turned back on and Caesar started bringing them around the sides of his victim’s head. Without him realizing it, Jonah’s eyes rolled back into his head and a shiver ghosted down his spine. His system was such a confused blend of exhilaration and terror that he could barely process what Caesar was saying.
"What?" he cried, a little too breathlessly. The other man, amused, chuckled.
"Oh, I just said that Nathaniel is coming back soon." The knot in Jonah’s stomach tightened.
"That’s fine," he declared, indignantly lifting his chin, which was promptly shoved back to his chest.
"You don’t have to keep acting," Caesar remarked as he finished shaving the sides of Jonah’s head. The black-haired man’s heart accelerated.
"Wha-what do you mean?" he stammered defiantly.
"Ha. I bet you’re secretly scared that your dear Nathaniel won’t find you attractive anymore."
"Tha-that’s not true. I know that he won’t care," Jonah claimed, but there was thinly hidden note of uncertainty in his tone.
"If you say so."
Caesar switched off the clippers and looked over his shoulder to see what was happening. The long hair on the top of his head tickled the sides and back uncomfortably. Caesar snapped an attachment onto the clippers and started them up again. Quickly, Jonah turned back and bowed his head. He was jerked back up again by the hair, making him feel dizzy and a bit faint. In a fell swoop, the chattering blades slid through his locks from his hairline to the crown. Against his will, he gasped at the sensation. The superman curl was no more.
"Don’t be so rough," he complained.
Caesar yanked on Jonah’s hair again and he could picture him smirking. Four strokes later, and almost all the long hair was shorn from his head and covering the floor, his shoulders, and his face; it clung to him like moss. He glared blankly into space as Caesar began blending in the edges. He was sure it looked awful. Already, he was compiling a list of all the things he could say happened that made him cut his hair.
With a feeling of relief and concurrent sadness, Jonah heard the buzzing noise silence. It was over. Caesar patted the newly-clipped man’s head.
"Well, I’d better go. Places to be." Jonah flipped his head to look at him, and was stunned by a flash. Another photo. He blinked away the bright spots and his bottled-up anger exploded.
"Get out of my apartment. Now," he commanded darkly. He gestured to the door with his head, and some locks slid down his face from where they’d been caught. Caesar bit back a grin and held up his hands in defeat.
"Alright, navy boy." He backed away to the door and opened it, winking cheekily before exiting.
As soon as he was gone, Jonah yelled in frustration and took off his shoe. It hit the door with a resonating "BAM!". He stomped to the sofa and sat down next to his discarded braid, arms crossed. Through his cutting resentment, he reached up and touched his scalp. It was soft and velvety on the top, but sandpapery on the back and sides. Although he hated having his hair this short, he couldn’t stop feeling it. It was so strange and new. It was like a dream, although he hadn’t decided completely whether it was a good or bad one yet.
Jonah looked over to the kitchen and realized that he hadn’t put the groceries away. As if in a trance, he moved over and packed them into the refrigerator and freezer, feeling his head all the while. He returned to the couch and lost track of time as he rubbed his clipped head. When the key clicked in the lock, his hand dropped like lead and his ears perked up. Nathaniel was home. He sat up and faced the door, gripping the back of the couch and alert he was deciding what he should do. He sighed, and slumped back down. It was useless to try and hide his hair. Nathaniel would certainly find out anyway.
Jonah laid down and lolled his head back onto the couch, vanquished. This was the coward’s solution. To wait for the situation to come to him instead of facing it head on. But that flippant attitude from earlier was gone. He no longer had to pretend that he was braver than he actually was. Nathaniel knew his heart, and it was that of an insecure mess. It was carefully guarded by defensive words. It had taken a long time, but Nathaniel had eased his way past that spiny barrier. And what was he under that armor?
‘A weak, worrisome child,’ Jonah thought bitterly. He heard his partner walk in and set his keys on the counter.
"Sorry I had to take off like that," Nathaniel apologized.
"It’s fine. How’d it go?" Jonah called from the sofa, his words stumbling over each other.
"Well, it was hard work, but it was definitely worth it," Nathaniel answered cheerily, although fatigue tinged his voice. "You know, I have the funniest story about April Ross. You know her? Anyway, she said-" Abruptly, he fell silent. "What’s this?" he asked, confused.
"What’s what?" Jonah replied, dread settling in the pit of his stomach. He knew what it was.
"There’s a barstool over here in the middle of the room. And there’s… hair all around it." His cheeks burned as he heard this, and his heart jumped. He opened his mouth to speak, but before he could say anything, Nathaniel was standing over him.
"Oh my God," he whispered, eyes wide.
Jonah winced. He felt like a child who’d been caught stealing from the cookie jar.
"What.. What happened to you?" Jonah bit his lip and bit back tears. "Where’s Caesar?" Nathaniel looked around as if his cousin was hiding somewhere.
"He left," the formerly braided man informed quietly, and then sat up. Self conscious, he avoided looking at his boyfriend’s gaping mouth.
"Did Caesar do that?" Nathaniel finally made out.
"Well, why’d you agree to it?" he implored incredulously.
"Caesar said you’d think I’d look better with short hair," Jonah admitted.
"And you believed him?" He didn’t respond to this, only lowered his eyes. "Oh, sweetheart…" Nathaniel edged around the couch and sat next to his lover. He glimpsed the severed braid on the other side of him and picked it up. "Caesar loves to tease and prank people. I guess he just went farther than normal this time. Cut of your beautiful hair… I bet he was just seeing how far he could go." Silently, Jonah leaned against his shoulder. Nathaniel encircled him in a warm embrace.
"My stupid pride wouldn’t let me say no," Jonah growled.
"Aww..," Nathaniel purred. "You shouldn’t think refusing will make you seem weak. And," he added sternly, "don’t make decisions about yourself based on whether I’d like you better, okay?" Jonah let out a shaky breath.
"You don’t need to worry, though," Nathaniel assured, and nuzzled his cheek against his boyfriend’s head. "You’re still f***ing hot, just in a different way." Jonah bit his lip.
"You sure?" he asked, a tad skeptically. Without missing a beat, Nathaniel responded.
"Are you kidding me? Have you seen yourself?" The black-haired man shook his head. "Well, let’s fix that."
Nathaniel brought out his rose gold iPhone and pulled up the camera. He flipped the view and handed it to Jonah, who warily peeked, one eye and then both, at his reflection. At first, he thought he was looking at a different person. When it set in that this was him, he could hardly believe it. Gone were the silky black waves that had framed his face. He had nothing to hide behind. In its place was a short layer of stubble and fuzz. He wanted to look away, but his eyes kept being drawn back to that military-like style. It was so radically different… Embarrassingly, clumps of hair covered his head, neck, and upper torso. He hadn’t brushed them off yet. Quickly, he gave the phone back to its owner.
"What do you think?" Nathaniel asked. Jonah mulled this over. He didn’t really know what he thought. He didn’t even know the person he’d seen staring back at him.
"Well, I miss my hair a lot.. And this will take some getting used to, but… it’s not as bad as I thought it would be," he admitted. "I don’t know if it’s really me though," he added. Nathaniel nodded.
"Grow it back, keep this length; really, it’s up to you. What makes you happy." Jonah smiled and kissed his partner. "I need to talk to Caesar about what happened," Nathaniel half-jokingly told him, but there was seriousness in his words. "In the meantime, though," he winked at his boyfriend, "let’s give this hair a test drive, huh?" Jonah grinned wider than he had in months.
"Hell yeah," he breathed playfully. The two scrambled off the couch and down the hall, leaving the shimmering, coal-black braid behind.